Every researcher wishes to carry out a study whose findings will be reliable, accurate, and generalizable. Depending on the nature of the subject under investigation, the age and number of participants, and the available resources, scholars gauge the research approach to use with the view of delivering valid results. In other words, research approaches vary from one study to another. A scholar may use qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, and ethnographic research approaches. This study examines how different researchers have utilized various approaches such as interviews, ethnographic contents, and mixed methods to gather data and/or draw conclusions concerning children’s experiences in life.
Scholars deploy different research approaches based on the nature of the issue they wish to investigate, the age of participants who are expected to take part in the study, or even the resources available to facilitate the process. Edwards et al.’s (2016) study, which involves children aged 4 to 5 years as participants, deploys the interview method, which forms part of the qualitative research approach.
Here, questions are developed seeking answers concerning young children’s perception of the Internet, including their responsiveness to cyber security. Other scholars deploy ethnographic research approaches such as participant observation or key informant discussions, especially when they intend to find out more about a certain group of people’s way of life or the nature of a particular disease in children.
For instance, Peterson, Ridley-Johnson, and Carter (1984) deployed a structured and naturalistic observational approach to examine children’s extent of selflessness. This approach is suitable for this subject since researchers are well-positioned to report findings based on what they see in terms of how some children demonstrate their concern for other individuals’ welfare. Using this method, Peterson, Ridley-Johnson, and Carter (1984) created an environment, specifically a day-care center, which was meant to enhance the chances of helping among children. From another angle, researchers who wish to derive conclusions based on findings from both qualitative and quantitative information deploy the mixed methods approach.
Orkin’s (2012) article demonstrates how this approach can be applied to investigate the impact that being employed has on learners’ level of participation in schools, specifically from emerging economies. Based on results from both qualitative and quantitative data (mixed methods), the study reveals factors that influence children’s level of contribution in schools from developing countries. The identified factors include the duration that working and schooling take and features that define each activity.
Factors that Influence the Choice of Research Approaches
Scholars have identified various approaches whose application in a given study yields the most appropriate conclusions concerning the subject under investigation. Mixed methods, interviews, and ethnographic approaches are some of the techniques that have been deployed largely in research. Researchers have to consider various factors before deciding the approach upon which their studies will be based.
Depending on the subject being investigated, the level of accuracy of the conclusion arrived at is one of the factors that scholars consider before settling on a particular research approach. In other words, any approach that compromises the accuracy of the expected findings may be deemed unfit for a particular study. Edwards et al. (2016) sought to investigate the degree of the Internet and cyber security responsiveness among young children.
Despite using tender-aged children of 4 to 5 years old, the authors emphasized the use of interviews, owing to the accuracy that is associated with this research approach. Although they might have considered applying the literature review approach, such a method would have compromised the accuracy of their results because very few studies have been conducted using children aged 4 to 5 years. They developed questions and provided other items such as iPads to help in getting accurate answers from the sampled children concerning their understanding of the Internet, how or the means to access it, and issues that may threaten their safety, for instance, the need to keep their names concealed when interacting with other people on the Internet among others.
Hence, one may argue that Edwards et al. (2016) relied on the interview approach because of the accuracy they intended to achieve in their study. In fact, “responses from children would be used by educators to inform the development of cyber-safety learning experiences for enactment in the children’s classrooms” (Edwards et al. 2016, p. 323). Implementing the most appropriate cyber-safety mechanisms can only be attained if the responses given are sufficient to provide accurate findings and conclusions.
Hence, scholars who select the interview method aim at delivering accurate results since the method paves the way for participants to open up when responding to one-on-one questions. The approach also makes it difficult for participants to lie when asked about details such as their age or level of Internet awareness. It is crucial to point out that children aged 4 to 5 years may not intentionally give false information. Hence, subjecting them to a one-on-one interview may be the best approach to getting accurate results.
Researchers also regard cost as another factor that determines the choice of a particular approach. Some studies, especially those that cover a significantly large area, maybe expensive to the extent that a researcher may not proceed unless guaranteed financial support from donors or other sources. Such studies also take quite a long time to be concluded. However, scholars are also keen to ensure that any selected, cost-effective approach does not compromise the validity of the results.
Consequently, ethnographic approaches, particularly participant observation, are selected based on their cost-effectiveness and capacity to provide convincing conclusions. Observation enables the scholar to deploy a real-world case to attain a superior perception of the issue under investigation while using minimal financial and time resources.
Using participant observation to assess children’s level of altruism, Peterson, Ridley-Johnson, and Carter (1984) manage to take note of various children encounters, despite the claim that young people have limited opportunities where they can demonstrate their willingness to help other people, not only their age mates but also those who lie outside their (children) age brackets. In addition, researchers who apply this method stand a better chance of putting the problem being examined into context based on the scenarios or elements they observe in line with the set aims and objectives.
In other words, observing subjects in the course of a study and taking notes based on the information sought from participants enhance researchers’ chances of availing convincing results. Moreover, according to Peterson, Ridley-Johnson, and Carter (1984, p. 236), a structured and naturalistic observation approach is cost-effective since it “relies on the use of a real-world situation, which is structured to yield higher-than-usual rates of a target behavior.” Participant observation can also provide credible results when deployed to investigate experiences that children go through when forced to travel from their homes to other regions where they are introduced to new people and cultures. The approach can help to highlight children’s views based on emotions that ensue and/or elements they observe when relocating to new regions.
The need for triangulation is another key factor that influences scholars’ choice of their research approaches. In other words, some researchers select approaches that allow them to rely on a wide range of data gathering and analysis mechanisms. In this case, the mixed methods research approach fits the demands of such scholars since it paves the way for the use of both qualitative and quantitative techniques, as opposed to deploying one of the said methods in the entire study. This approach allows them to enjoy the strengths of both methods. At the same time, weaknesses associated with each method, when used separately, may be minimized when the two are combined in one research.
Orkin’s (2012) study sought to find out whether being employed and schooling competes or go together for Ethiopian children who come from the country’s rural regions. Being driven by the need to rely on diverse ways of gathering and analyzing data on this subject, the researcher chose the mixed methods approach that allowed him to gather qualitative information from a single rural community and quantitative statistics from 13 other villages.
While the obtained qualitative information enabled the researcher to point out various characteristics that made employment and schooling competitive, quantitative data helped to reveal the “correlation between proxies for some of the identified characteristics and decisions about children’s schooling and work” (Orkin 2012, p. ii). The quantitative element of the mixed methods approach allows scholars to avail quantified statistics that can be presented in the form of graphs and tables, among other forms, hence enabling the reader to get a clear picture of the researchers’ findings. For instance, it is apparent that the researcher may not have determined the existence of any correlation if he had deployed the qualitative approach alone.
Here, he would have only identified features that qualified the issue of being employed while still a student as competing activities. On the other hand, if he had chosen to focus on quantitative statistics, he would have missed the opportunity of visiting the existing body of literature to first find out the already identified features that define schooling and working. In other words, his choice of the mixed methods approach was sufficient to satisfy his need for benefiting from a variety of data capturing and analysis techniques.
Based on the expositions made in the paper, it suffices to conclude that virtually all research approaches are selected based on their capacity to satisfy the particular researcher’s demand for cost-effectiveness, including accurate and valid results. This paper has recommended the use of ethnographic techniques such as participant observation, owing to their cost-effectiveness and capacity to guarantee valid results. Factors such as the need for accurate findings encourage researchers to consider the deployment of the interview approach.
In addition, researchers who wish to benefit from the use of a variety of data gathering and analysis strategies in a single study adopt the mixed methods research approach. The paper has expounded on the reasons why scholars prefer each of the above methods to others.
Edwards, S, Nolan, A, Henderson, M, Skouteris, H, Mantilla, A, Lambert, P & Bird, J 2016, ‘Developing a measure to understand young children’s Internet cognition and cyber-safety awareness: a pilot test’, Early Years, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 322-335.
Orkin, K 2012, Are work and schooling complementary or competitive for children in rural Ethiopia? A mixed methods study, Young Lives, Oxford.
Peterson, L, Ridley-Johnson, R & Carter, C 1984, ‘The supersuit: an example of structured naturalistic observation of children’s altruism’, The Journal of General Psychology, vol. 110, no. 2, pp. 235-241.