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Research Basics

Research Basics
Design to Data Analysis in Six Steps

October 2016 | 424 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Research Basics: Design to Data Analysis in Six Steps offers a fresh and creative approach to the research process based on author James V. Spickard’s decades of teaching experience. Using an intuitive six-step model, readers learn how to craft a research question and then identify a logical process for answering it. Conversational writing and multi-disciplinary examples illuminate the model’s simplicity and power, effectively connecting the “hows” and “whys” behind social science research. Students using this book will learn how to turn their research questions into results.

For Instructors: Why This Book?
What Lies Ahead

About the Author
Why a Six-Step Formula?

Looking Ahead

Chapter 1 Step 1: Develop a Good Research Question
Start With a Research Topic

From Topic to Question

An Example: Mass Transit

Making Decisions

Search the Literature

Recraft Your Research Question

Questions Based on the Literature

Three More Possibilities

Start Your Research Proposal

The Parts of a Proposal

A Proposal in Brief: The Concept Paper

Review Questions


Chapter 2 Step 2: Choose a Logical Structure for Your Research
Three Examples

1. Comparing Outcomes

2. Systematic Description

3. Seeking Correlations

Ten Logical Structures for Research

1. True Experiments

2. Quasi-Experiments

3. Ex Post Facto Research

4. Correlational Research

5. Descriptive Research

6. Case Studies

7. Historical Research

8. Longitudinal Research

9. Meta-Analysis

10. Action Research

Matching Logical Structure to the Research Question

Review Questions


Chapter 3 Step 3: Identify the Type of Data You Need
Fourteen Types of Data

1. Acts, Behavior, or Events

2. Reports of Acts, Behavior, or Events

3. Economic Data

4. Organizational Data

5. Demographic Data

6. Self-Identity

7. Shallow Opinions and Attitudes

8. Deeply Held Opinions and Attitudes

9. Personal Feelings

10. Cultural Knowledge

11. Expert Knowledge

12. Personal and Psychological Traits

13. Experience as It Presents Itself to Consciousness

14. Hidden Social Patterns

Review Questions


Chapter 4 Step 4: Pick a Data Collection Method
Match Your Method to Your Data

Data Type 1: Acts, Behavior, or Events

Data Type 2: Reports of Acts, Behavior, or Events

Data Types 3, 4, and 5: Economic, Organizational, and Demographic Data

Data Type 6: Self-Identity

Data Types 7 and 8: Shallow and Deeply Held Opinions and Attitudes

Data Type 9: Personal Feelings

Three Examples (that include data types 10-12)

Example 1: Mass Transit and Property Values

Example 2: Mass Transit and Street Life

Example 3: Best Places to Work

Data Type 13: Experience as It Presents Itself to Consciousness

Hidden Social Patterns

Research Ethics

Unethical Research

Implementing Ethical Practices

Institutional Review Boards

Review Questions


Chapter 5 Step 5: Choose Your Data Collection Site
Demographic and Economic Data

Opinions, Identities, and Reports of Acts at a Shallow Level

Populations and Samples

Sample Size, Margin of Error, and Confidence Level

Observable Behavior

Deeply Held Opinions and Attitudes

Cultural and Expert Knowledge

Hidden Social Patterns

The Remaining Data Types

Review Questions


Chapter 6 Step 6: Pick a Data Analysis Method
Preliminary Questions

What Kind of Analysis Does Your Research Question Require?

What Form Does Your Data Take?

What Is Your Unit of Observation? What Is Your Unit of Analysis?

Working With Numeric Data: Describing

Working With Numeric Data: Comparing

Interval/Ratio Data

Ordinal and Categorical Data

Identifying Cause

What Statistical Test Should I Use?

Three Fallacies

Working With Qualitative Data

Respondent-Centered Versus Researcher-Centered Analysis


Internal Versus External Coding

Qualitative Data Analysis (QDA) Software


Review Questions

Summarizing the Six Steps


Chapter 7 Comparing: Economic, Demographic, and Organizational Data
About Comparing

Comparing San Antonio and Portland

Comparing the 50 U.S. States

About Correlations

Three Examples

Comparing Places: Do Walkable Neighborhoods Improve Health?

Comparing Organizations: Does Treating Employees Well Increase Company Performance?

Comparing Schools: Do Charter Schools Improve Student Test Scores?

Research Ethics

Review Questions


Chapter 8 Surveying: Shallow Opinions, Identities, and Reports of Acts
Three Reminders

Two Examples

Studying School Safety

Kids’ Attitudes Toward Reading

Survey Data Analysis

Analyzing Interval/Ratio Survey Results

Analyzing Ordinal and Categorical Data

Practical Matters

Creating Your Questionnaire

Sampling (Again)

Surveying Online

Research Ethics

Review Questions


Chapter 9 Interviewing: Deep Talk to Gather Several Types of Data
Hermeneutic Interviews

An Example: “Motherloss”

How to Write an Interview Protocol

Coding Your Data

Interviews With Experts

Critical Incident Interviews

Focus Groups

Phenomenological Interviews

An Example

How Is It Done?

Other Types of Data

How Many Subjects?

Research Ethics

Review Questions


Chapter 10 Scales: Looking for Underlying Traits
Scales of Psychological Well-Being

Creating Scales

Using the Scales

Analyzing Scale Research

T-Tests and Analysis of Variance

Control Variables

Research Ethics

Review Questions


Chapter 11 Recording Behavior: Acts and Reports of Acts
Watching People

Watching Gender Speech

Collecting Self-Reports

A Variation: The Beeper Studies

Watching Animals

Watching Chimps

Ravens and Elephant-Shrews

What If They Hide?


Experiments About Stereotype Threat

Experiments About Discrimination

Rules for Experiments

Research Ethics

Review Questions


Chapter 12 Finding Hidden Social Patterns: In Life, Texts, and Popular Culture
About Hidden Patterns

Analyzing Texts

Dreams as Texts

Other Texts

Analyzing Discourses

Critical Discourse Analysis

Two Examples

Analyzing Popular Culture: The Soaps

Research Ethics

Review Questions


Chapter 13 Ethnography: Exploring Cultural and Social Scenes
The Three Goals

Goal One: Seeing the World as the Participants See It

Goal Two: Watching What Participants Do

On Taking Field Notes

Goal Three: Understanding Hidden Patterns

What Doesn’t Matter

Steps to a Successful Ethnography

Gaining Access

Developing Rapport

Listening to Language

Being an Observed Observer

What About Objectivity?

Writing Your Results

A Word About Grounded Theory

Research Ethics

Review Questions


Chapter 14 Extended Example: Counting the Homeless
What Caused the Homeless Crisis?

Who Is Homeless?

How Can We Find and Count Street Homeless?

Peter Rossi’s Chicago Count

Martha Burt’s Weeklong Method

Counting San Bernardino

Conflicting Results

Correcting National Figures

Research Ethics


Summary of the Six Steps


Research Guides and Handouts
Six-Steps Graphic: From Research Question to Data Analysis

What Is a Concept Paper?

How to Choose a Data Collection Method

A Template for Field Notes

How to Write an Interview Protocol

How Many Subjects? (for interview studies)

Interview Rule-of-Thumb Flowchart for Nonrandom Samples

What Statistical Tests Should I Use?

Author Index
Subject Index


Instructor Resource Site
Calling all instructors!
It’s easy to log on to SAGE’s password-protected Instructor Teaching Site for complete and protected access to all text-specific Instructor Resources. Simply provide your institutional information for verification and within 72 hours you’ll be able to use your login information for any SAGE title!

Instructor Resources include the following:
    • Microsoft® Word test bank is available containing multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions for each chapter. The test bank provides you with a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity for editing any question and/or inserting your own personalized questions to effectively assess students’ progress and understanding.
    • Editable, chapter-specific Microsoft® PowerPoint® slides offer you complete flexibility in easily creating a multimedia presentation for your course. Highlight essential content and features.
    • Discussion questions help launch classroom interaction by prompting students to engage with the material and by reinforcing important content.
    • Lively and stimulating class activities that can be used in class to reinforce active learning. The activities apply to individual or group projects.
    • EXCLUSIVE! Access to certain full-text SAGE journal articles that have been carefully selected for each chapter. Each article supports and expands on the concepts presented in the chapter. This feature also provides questions to focus and guide student interpretation. Combine cutting-edge academic journal scholarship with the topics in your course for a robust classroom experience.
    • Video and web resources include links to multimedia that appeal to students with different learning styles.

Student Resource Site
Use the Student Study Site to get the most out of your course!
Our Student Study Site is completely open-access and offers a wide range of additional features.

The open-access
 Student Study Site includes the following:
    • Mobile-friendly web quizzes allow for independent assessment of progress made in learning course material.
    • EXCLUSIVE! Access to certain full-text SAGE journal articles that have been carefully selected for each chapter. Each article supports and expands on the concepts presented in the chapter. This feature also provides questions to focus and guide student interpretation. Combine cutting-edge academic journal scholarship with the topics in your course for a robust classroom experience.
    • Video and web resources include links to multimedia that appeal to students with different learning styles.

"An extremely well organized text covering basics of research design and methods that consistently uses the six steps in the text and in examples to assure that students understand."

Anne Rothstein
Lehman College

"As Spickard explains, students tend to fear and shy away from research and particularly statistics courses. This textbook is designed in such a manner that it engages the student and keeps the student's attention through case illustrations and an easy-to-read format."

Manuel Zamora
Angelo State University

"It incorporates much of what must be pieced together from multiple resources into one text. The six-step strategy breaks the process down into manageable units, and it is clear to me how each step contributes to the overall process."

Terry Webster
Pacific Oaks College

"It's a textbook with lots of unique features, such as question-method match, data type-analytical tool match, as well as ethical theory-practice match. It's easy to follow and it acts as a textbook and a practical guide for undergraduate students. Chapters are organized as cooking recipes and examples are interesting and inspiring."

Lei Zhang
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

"Scholarly but not threatening to students who are scared of the word "research". The layout, language, and images make a challenging subject easier to understand and much less overwhelming."

Timothy Gunnells
Amridge University

"Research is hard. This text helps explain a complicated process and guides students through research design in simpler terms. As an instructor, I appreciate authors who understand the challenges associated with teaching research methods courses."

Marquita Walker
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

"While many research design texts struggle with integrating statistical applications within the broader design process, this text is a notable exception."

Ryan McGill
The College of William and Mary

“A logical and thoughtfully designed text that brings together a preferred approach with the right amount of rigor.”

Robert H Buckham
Whitworth University

“A refreshing, holistic view of introductory research methods.” 

Stephanie Morgan
Alaska Pacific University

“This is an excellent introductory text for students that are interested in quantitative analysis. A nice feature of the book is that incorporates the increasingly important aspect of ethics in data collection and analysis.”

Andreas Kern
McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University
Key features

  • Individual chapters on the six research steps help students conceptualize their projects and see how each step contributes to the design process as a whole.
  • A wealth of examples from fields including sociology, business, education, psychology, and environmental studies illustrate key concepts.
  • Quantitative and qualitative data presented as different approaches to data analysis underscore the connection between types of data and the methods of gathering them.
  • An emphasis on research ethics as central to all forms of research can be seen throughout the book; the concluding sections in Chapters 7 – 14 specifically examine the ethical issues raised by each chapter's data-gathering methods.
  • The entire six-step model can be seen in action through a concluding chapter that explores various ways to count America’s homeless population.
  • Think About It questions, chapter-ending review questions, helpful research guides, and additional handouts offer robust pedagogical support and resources.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 4

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