Writing Chapters 3 and 4
Dallas Residency, January 2010
Martha King, Senior Dissertation Editor
Annie Pezalla, Dissertation Editor
Things we’ll be talking about…
Overview of the chapters.
What info should go in chapters 3 and 4 –
following Walden’s rubric.
A few tips on writing about quantitative or
qualitative data.
Overview of chapters
Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
Chapter 3
- Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method. What
does each entail?
Commonalities among all chapter 3 methods
ALL approaches should provide the following:
- Clear intro to the major areas in chapter
- Description and justification of the research design
- Research questions
- Setting and sample
- Data collection and analysis
- Measures for ethical protection of participants
First, a Qualitative Study
Exploring the Intrinsic Role of Agency and the Extrinsic Role of
Social Expectations for Adults Who Learn to Read:
A Life History
The primary purpose of this qualitative life history study
was to explore the roles of agency and social expectations for
adults who have learned to read. The secondary purpose of
this study was to describe the lived experience of adults who
did not learn to read in school. This study also explored the
potential applications of adult agency behaviors in reading
intervention curriculum for adolescents who struggle to read.
This chapter describes the qualitative research paradigm
and life history design for this study of adult non- and limited
readers and will discuss the rationale for choosing each in this
context. In addition, this chapter describes the methodology
for this study, including a description of the participants, how
participants were selected, the researcher’s role, and ethical
issues. An explanation is included of the data collection tools,
how data was collected and analyzed, and threats to data
Research Design
Paradigm and Tradition
According to Creswell (1998) the qualitative research paradigm
should be undertaken based on the following rationales: (a) research
questions begin with how and what, (b) the topic requires exploration
because of multiple variables and/or a lack of theory, (c) a natural
setting is required…Thus, the paradigm of qualitative research was
chosen because words are more indicative of the experience of
learning in reference to the cultural invention of reading than the
numerical data of quantitative research…
Research Design
Research Questions
1. What is the lived experience of an adult who does not read
proficiently or who has learned to read proficiently as an
2. What is the role of agency in learning to read as an adult?
3. What is the role of social expectations in learning to read as
an adult?
4. How are agency and social expectations connected or
revealed in the pivotal moments in the narratives of adult
non- or limited readers?
Participants were chosen for this qualitative life history because
they had the shared experience of struggling to learn to read…
The participants for this qualitative life story were selected by
the researcher from a rural central Florida community. A
convenience sample of 18 men and women who self-identified as
having learned to read as adults was located through (a) referrals
from teachers in public school adult education programs, (b)
notices sent to community volunteer adult tutoring programs, (c)
referrals from the researcher’s professional contacts…
Researcher’s Role
According to Creswell (1998), the researcher is an
“instrument of data collection who gathers words or
pictures, analyzes them inductively, focuses on the
meaning of participants, and describes a process that is
expressive and persuasive in language” (p. 14)…As the
instrument of investigation, the researcher must recognize
and acknowledge the bias that cannot be left outside the
research space shared by the story teller.
Data Collection Plan
Data collection occurred in three distinct phases:
prescreening with initial brief interviews, screening with written
questionnaire instruments, and inclusion in the study with
extended interviews…
Data Analysis Plan
Data analysis included construction of a visual display of
Information (See Figure 1) based on the three-level Ladder of
Analytical Abstraction developed by Carney in 1990 and
Presented by Miles and Huberman (1994). This data analysis
plan was chosen because it allows for the correlation and
corroboration of the written instruments with the interview text in a
systematic and visual format.
Threats to Data Quality
Unlike quantitative research, which is based on calculation
and comparison of numbers and generalizations, qualitative life
history research requires a check and balance system because it
is based upon interpretation of words and pictures...
To ensure validity, this research study of adults who learn to
read will adhere to the three ideas presented by Merriam (2002)…
Ethical Considerations
It is a researcher’s ethical responsibility to safeguard the
story teller by maintaining the understood purpose of the
The researcher is also ethically bound to the institution that
supports or sanctions the study. No participants were
contacted, and no data were collected until I received approval
from the Walden University Institutional Review Board (IRB)
and received permission (IRB approval # 07-14-08-0314171) to
begin research. After IRB approval was received, I began
soliciting for participants, arranging interviews, and collecting
Pilot Study
A pilot study entitled “Pilot Study: Qualitative Life History
Exploring the Intrinsic Role of Agency and the Extrinsic Role of
Social Expectations of Adults who Learned to Read” (IRB# 01-1708-0314171) was conducted in January 2008 with a single
participant using instruments and an interview protocol established
in conjunction with a Walden University Knowledge Area Module
(KAM) study entitled “Learning to Read: An Adult Perspective on a
History as a Struggling Adolescent Reader” (IRB#10-19-060314171).
Chapter 3 has described the methodology used to design
this qualitative life history research, including a discussion of the
qualitative paradigm and the rational for those choices. A
description of the population and participants, the researcher’s
role, the data collection tools, data collection plan, and data
analysis plans was also incorporated. I discussed threats to data
quality, validity and reliability, and ethical considerations in
reference to the current research study. The pilot study was
presented as a tool for designing the research study.
Now, a Quantitative Study
Graduation Rates at Ohio 2-Year Colleges:
A Comparison of Adult Students Taking and Not Taking
Developmental Coursework
The first section of this chapter includes a description of this
quantitative research study. The design was quasi-experimental
to test the primary question about the impact of developmental
coursework on graduation rates. The next section, focusing on
the setting and participants, includes a description of the
population, reasons to use a purposive sample, and the criteria
for selection of participants. The final portions of this chapter
describe cross-tabulations of the nominal data, and the analysis
process utilizing the likelihood ratio chi-square technique.
Quantitative research is used when a hypothesis or theory
proposes that a relationship exists between variables (Creswell,
2003). The purpose of this study was to examine whether taking
developmental coursework had an impact on the graduation rates
for adult students. Although demographic information was included
to describe the participants, much like qualitative research data, the
frequencies of graduates in a particular year represent data that are
quantitative and are appropriate for this type of analysis. This study
was also designed to test a hypothesis, not develop one.
Rather than true experimental, a quasi-experimental research
design was viewed as the most appropriate for this research,
because the participants were not randomly distributed within
treatment conditions…
Research Questions and Hypotheses
The primary research question for this study was: Are
there significant differences in the rate of graduation for adult
learners who take developmental coursework compared to
adults who do not? Additional questions included, Are there
significant differences based on gender or race for graduates
who took developmental coursework?
Research Questions and Hypotheses
Developmental vs. No Developmental
H0 : There is no significant difference in the graduation rates of adults taking
and not taking developmental coursework.
HA : There is a significant difference in the graduation rates of adults taking and
not taking developmental coursework.
H0 : There is no significant difference in the graduation rates of adults taking
developmental coursework, based on gender.
HA : There is a significant difference in the graduation rates of adults taking
developmental coursework, based on gender.
H0 : There is no significant difference in the graduation rates of adults taking
developmental coursework, based on race (non-White or White).
HA : There is a significant difference in the graduation rates of adults taking
developmental coursework based on race (non-White or White).
Setting, Population, and Sample
Setting of Study
College students in the state of Ohio have the option of
attending private or public institutions that provide certifications
required for employment, applied degrees in various technologies,
associate of arts and sciences degrees, and bachelor, master, or
doctoral degrees. According to the Ohio Board of Regents
(2006a), there were 638,146 students enrolled in these
institutions, with 172,118 of them at community and technical…
Setting, Population, and Sample
Population of Study
A study population can be defined in two ways (Trochim, 2001).
The theoretical population is the one to which the researcher
wants to generalize. The accessible population is composed of the
individuals to I had access. For this study, the theoretical
population was adult students, defined as age 26 and over at entry
and enrolled full-time in public 2-year colleges in the United
States. The accessible population was the group of adult students
from the state of Ohio who were enrolled full-time and for the first
time in 1999 (n = 840), 2000 (n = 884), or 2001 (n = 894) which
produced a total N = 2,618.
Setting, Population, and Sample
Sample for Study
According to Champion (2002), purposive sampling is used
when there are “clear criteria for selecting the participants for the
sample group to be studied” (p. 62). Rather than gathering a
random sample of the accessible population from all of the 2-year
institutions in Ohio, a purposive sampling of students from the 16
schools that used the COMPASS test for placement was
The primary focus in this study was graduation rates for adults
who take or do not take developmental coursework.
Developmental coursework is curriculum that has been designed
to prepare students for subsequent college-level courses. The
independent variable for this study was whether students took
developmental coursework prior to attempting college-level
coursework. Hence, for purposes of this research, students who
took developmental coursework defined the treatment group.
Students not enrolled in developmental coursework constituted the
control group.
Instrumentation and Materials
A college placement test is used to identify the need for
developmental coursework for students attending community
colleges with an open access mission. To eliminate the
extraneous effect of the variance among placement tests,
students completing the COMPASS placement test were targeted
for this sample.
The COMPASS is a computerized assessment tool
distributed by ACT….
Data Collection and Analysis
This study utilized data compiled by the Ohio Board of Regents
(OBOR). To obtain this information, a request was made to the
OBOR. The de-identified data, as delivered to the researcher,
contained information compiled by OBOR and recorded on a CDROM in comma-delimited format.
Data Collection and Analysis
Descriptive and Inferential Analyses
Individual student information of age, gender, and race…was
totaled and cross-tabulated across the control and treatment
conditions of the independent variable.
Subsequent to these tabulations, an inferential analysis was
conducted to test the research questions. For the primary
question, the independent variable was having taken or not taken
developmental coursework, and the dependent variable was the
frequency of student graduation in a year across 5 years. Because
both variables are nominal level, a test of independence required
a chi-square analysis of the 2 x 5 contingency table.
Description of Pilot Study
The population for the pilot study (IRB # 08-22-06-0272517)
included students attending their first college who were enrolled
full time, age 25 and over, and who graduated within 3 years of
beginning college. The population was divided into two groups,
one containing individuals who took at least one developmental
course, and the second containing individuals who did not take
any developmental coursework.
Implications of Pilot Study
With the limited research conducted on the specific
population of adult students who go on to graduate after taking
developmental coursework, additional studies must be
This chapter contained an explanation of the research
study, research questions and hypotheses, and additional
factors relating to the project. After the discussion of the pilot
study, including the implications found, the next step was to
conduct the research study. The next chapters will describe
what process was followed for conducting the study and
analyzing the results. Then the findings are presented and
discussed. Finally, a presentation of the conclusions drawn
and recommendations made are included.
Big picture
• Chapter 3 lays out your plan of attack: How will you
actually carry out your study?
• Your methods should be logically connected to your
research question.
Commonalities among all chapter 4 results
Data collection
Data analysis
Findings (raw data)
Conclusions – a summary of findings (Just the facts,
Tips on writing a quantitative chapter 4
Summarize patterns
If you merely provide a table or chart, you leave it to
your readers to figure out for themselves what that
evidence says.
Instead, digest the patterns to help readers see the
general relationship in the table or chart.
Common mistakes in a quantitative chapter 4
Reporting every number from the table or figure
Paint the big picture, rather than reiterating the little
details. If readers are interested in specific values
within the patterns you describe, they can look them
up in the accompanying table or figure.
Guidance in the APA 6th edition manual on reporting
statistics is on pages 116-117 and in Chapter 5,
Displaying Results.
Example: Narrative
Of the total superintendents surveyed, 61 (39.1%) had
obtained a doctorate degree. Within this category, 34 (55.7%)
were servant leaders, and 27 (44.3%) were nonservant
leaders. A total of 15 superintendents were education
specialists, an official title defined in this state as having all of
their doctoral credits for formal coursework; however, deficient
the credits and final product of a doctoral study. Within this
cohort of 15, 7 (46.7%) were servant leaders, and 8 (53.3%)
were nonservant leaders. In the most widespread category of
this demographic, 80 (51.3%) superintendents had obtained a
master’s degree as their highest level of formal education. Of
these superintendents, 38 (47.5%) were designated servant
leaders, and 42 (52.5%) as nonservant leaders. Table 10
presents a visual summary of the data from SASL response
Table that followed
Table 10
Self-Assessment of Servant Leadership Information for Highest Academic Degree
Obtained Results
Servant leaders
Ed. Specialist
Common mistakes in a qualitative chapter 4
Providing little detail about data analysis.
“And then there were themes…”
How did you categorize your data? What was your
process? Be specific.
Common mistakes in a qualitative chapter 4
Assuming objectivity as a researcher
If you have a preestablished relationship with your
study participants, you cannot assume that your role
is unbiased.
What potential disadvantages might your study have
due to your personal experiences?
What potential advantages might your study have
due to your personal experiences?
Presenting data in a qualitative chapter 4
• Identifying participants
• Editing transcribed material for readability
• Formatting transcribed material
A few notes on tables
Summarize data in visual form
Make relationships easier to see
Use horizontal lines only
Making horizontal lines
Horizontal lines
Horizontal lines
Table headers
• Two components
– Table number (e.g., Table 1)
– Table title
Clear and concise description of the table
Italicized underneath the table number
Use title capitalization
No period at the end
• Table headers go above the table
Example table
Table 1
Mean Heights of Young Boys and Girls
Tables within the text
• Refer to tables by numbers (not title or “the table
– Example: “…as displayed in Table 1.”
• Like tables, also summarize data in visual form
• Include graphs, charts, diagrams, maps,
photographs, etc.
• Labeled
• With units
• Y-axis written
• Contains zero point
• Just long enough to
include all data
Figure caption
Placed below the figure
Contains italicized figure number
Has figure caption/description
Period at the end.
Figure 1. Mean heights of different aged children.
Figures within text
• Same as tables
• Refer to figures by number (not by title or “the
figure above”)
• Example:…as displayed in Figure 1.

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