Strengths of research

Saturday 2 June 2012

Students seem to do really well at discussing the limitations of studies, but when it comes to strengths, students appear to have difficulties. Many students write that the results of the research are its strengths.  This is not really a valid response.  Here are some ideas for strengths of studies

  • Ecological validity – Is the study done in a naturalistic setting?
  • Sample size - This one is rarely valid.  However, in a study like the Whitehall study, this is a real strength of the study.
  • Triangulation - Case studies often use method or researcher triangulation.  This is a strength because then we know that it was not the method or research alone that led to the findings.  This establishes a higher level of credibility of the results.
  • Longitudinal – Shows consistency or change over time; it allows to rare behaviours that may not be observed in a short-term study.
  • Methodology  - experiment: establishes cause and effect
  • Controls – for example,  “matching participants” - in the Whitehall study, participants were matched for smoking, alcohol consumption and diet.  Simply writing "the study was well controlled" is not a good response.
  • Is the study supported by other research?
  • What are the strengths of the method that was used?  For example, experiments may allow us to establish a cause and effect relationship.
  • Is the study prospective study?  This means that valid data is available to begin the study, making it possible to draw better conclusions.
  • Was the situation realistic?  That is, did it have mundane reality?

Comments about cross-cultural validity, gender equity and ethics are often weak descriptions of strengths, but in some cases they could be applied.

Tags: critical thinking, research, exam

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