Discussion 1: Relationship Between Purpose of Study and Data Analysis Techniques
In order to make decisions about the value of any research study for practice, it is important to understand the general processes involved in analyzing research data. By now, you have examined enough research studies to be aware that there are some common ways that data are reported and summarized in research studies. For example, the sample is often described by numbers of participants and by certain characteristics of those participants that help us determine how representative the sample is of a population. The information about the sample is commonly reported in tables and graphs, making use of frequency distributions, measures of central tendency, and dispersion. Information about the variables (or concepts) of interest when quantified are also reported in similar manner.
Although the actual data analysis takes place after data have been collected, from the initial planning of a research study, the researcher needs to have an awareness of the types of questions that can be answered by particular data analysis techniques.
For this Discussion, review the case study entitled “Social Work Research: Measuring Group Success.” Consider the data analysis described in that case. Recall the information presented in the earlier chapters of your text about formulating research questions to inform a hypotheses or open-ended exploration of an issue.
By Day 3
Post an explanation of the types of descriptive and/or inferential statistics you might use to analyze the data gathered in the case study. Also explain how the statistics you identify can guide you in evaluating the applicability of the study’s findings for your own practice as a social worker. Please use the resources to support your answer.
Discussion 2: Statistical Significance and Variables
Research studies often compare variables, conditions, times, and/or groups of participants to evaluate relationships between variables or differences between groups or times. For example, if researchers are interested in knowing whether an intervention produces change in the desired direction, they will want to know whether the change is due to chance (statistical significance) or possibly due to the intervention. In this case, researchers could use a pre and post measurement of the same participants on the condition being treated, or they could compare a group of individuals who receive the intervention to a group that does not receive the intervention. Researchers could also compare two groups of individuals who receive different interventions. The rigor of the research design helps control for other factors that might account for the changes (e.g., time, conditions, group differences in other factors, etc.). To prepare for this Discussion, consider the concept of statistical significance.
By Day 5
Post your explanation of how the difference between statistical significance and the true importance (clinical significance) of the relationship between variables or the degree of difference between groups affect your practice decision making. Be sure to include an explanation of what statistical significance means. Include an example from a quantitative study that found statistically significant differences. Discuss whether the results of the study would—or should—influence your practice as a social worker. Please use the resources to support your answer.