Theory, Methods, and Literature--Oh My

This post has been "updated" (see Parental Homework Help Leads to LOWER Academic Achievement and Three Schools Before Thanksgiving)

What I read this week:

---Part One of Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches by W. Lawrence

School Personnel's Perceptions of Family-School Communication: A Qualitative Study

Parent Involvement, Cultural Capital, and the Achievement Gap Among Elementary School Children

My goal:

The second two sources were both articles; one qualitative and one quantitative. Both dealt with the issue of parental involvement and the effects on children's success (with a focus on success in school). My goal was to compare and contrast them and offer any insights about them based on what I read from Neuman this week.


Parent Involvement, Cultural Capital, and the Achievement Gap Among Elementary School Children

This was the first of the two articles that I read, and this was a quantitative study. Not only did the authors describe the study as being quantitative, but there were several clues in the research to indicate this as well. At a glance, a reader can see charts and graphs characteristic of a quantitative study, and these results were from chi square tests and t tests, among other methods. Data collection was through surveys with mutually exclusive answers that did not allow for extended response. By the way, one flaw that I noticed about the study was that the researchers had the parents fill out a survey on how involved they were in their children's lives, which probably meant that parents were biased because they wanted to feel good about themselves as involved parents. The data may have been inaccurate since the only method of survey-taking was self-assessment by parents of themselves. When the researchers discussed results at the end of the article, they made overarching conclusions applied to all (or at least most) members of a group based on similar situation of group members (race, etc).

School Personnel's Perceptions of Family-School Communication: A Qualitative Study

There's no mystery here; it's obvious that this is a qualitative study just by looking at the title. Let's say that there was no mention of the word "qualitative"--could the reader still figure it out? First of all, data gathering was based on interviews and extended response questions that allowed participants to elaborate on their answers. There were many direct quotes from these interviews throughout the article. In the discussion part of the article, the researchers mentioned common "themes" that arose, instead of analyzing specific statistics. Most importantly, the researchers admit that "the teachers and families portrayed here are not necessarily representative of the general population..." (page 15). All of these details place this study in the "qualitative" category.


Yes, these studies are different because they are fundamentally different approaches to researching a topic (even if it's a very similar topic). However, there are several ways that these studies are similar. Both obviously began with a literature review, and discussed their review in the beginning of their articles. Both define their variables and state their hypotheses as well as their plans to investigate the hypotheses. Both discuss how they went about their data collection, and the findings that resulted. Most importantly, both performed an acceptable way of doing research. That's the main idea that I learned this week: qualitative and quantitative studies differ in several important ways, and not all sociologists agree with one of the other, but both ways of researching can help add more knowledge to the field, and that's what's most important.


About Molly

Hi, I'm Molly and I'm a Sociology major at Ohio University (OU). I will have to write an honors thesis in a year, and I want to prepare myself as much as I can. I am currently taking a tutorial in research methods, and this blog is to help me store and share the basics of what I learn, as well as some applications. I will be posting about once a week about what I have read and thought about.

I am in the Honors Tutorial College here at OU, and a big requirement is the thesis as a senior project. Since I am probably graduating a semester early, I will start it spring semester 2014. After I graduate, I would like to work with children and/or adolescents, so I would like my thesis topic to reflect that. I haven't completely chosen a topic yet, but I hope to do so in the next few months.

I developed an interest in working with adolescents because I have done volunteer work with them for the past several years. The main influence for my interest is an organization called Young Life, in which I participated in high school, and volunteer for while in college. Young Life is a Christian-based organization which encourages "contact work" between college students and students at one of several local high schools. In April 2012, I was assigned to volunteer with the students of Athens High School (AHS). I have enjoyed volunteering for the program very much and try to be a role model for the young women of AHS as I devote 10-20 hours per week to Young Life.

Beginning in August 2012, I also had the privilege of assistant coaching for the AHS junior varsity (JV) girls' cross country team. Coaching was a very rewarding experience, and the fun thing about JV girls was that they were proud of themselves for every second shaved off their personal record (PR), and for every mile at practice they didn't have to stop and walk. I enjoyed working with them and encouraging them during practice, as well as cheering them on during meets.

College wasn't the first time that I worked with children and adolescents, because I even worked with them when I was a teenager myself. I have been involved in programs such as Vacation Bible School (leading elementary-age children through games, snacks, songs, crafts, and storytime), Girls on the Run (encouraging fourth grade girls to be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy while teaching them to run a 5K race), and I have also spent quite a lot of time babysitting.

Hopefully now you know a little bit more about me and are interested in learning with me this semester!