Defining Research Quality through Instrumentation

By: Jenifer L. Kuadli – Research Assistant

“What makes a quality research?” is indeed a very broad question. There are many things to look at when trying to evaluate the soundness of a research output. Perhaps the starting point is to check on the validity and reliability of data employed being the main ingredient of a study. Furthermore, the quality of findings depends on the relevance, adequacy and reliability of data. Definitely, a poor quality data will yield a doubtful research output whereas a highly reliable and valid one will yield the best result.

However, how can a researcher, especially a neophyte one, ensure the defensibility of data to be used in a study? The answer greatly lies on the method by which these data were gathered. The employment of inappropriate data gathering tool will not be at help since this would not accurately measure the exact information needed hence, arriving at an insignificant result.

Data gathering is a critical step in the conduct of research. The quality of research depends to a large extent on the quality of the data collection tools. In choosing the most appropriate data-gathering instrument to use, the first thing to consider is the type of research one has to conduct. This allows the researcher to determine the data requirements of the study by which the data gathering process is dependent of. On the other hand, data requirements depend on the research design. The domain of research designs is divided into three categories of research questions: descriptive, differences and relationship (Marion, 2004). Each of these categories gives rise to various types of designs. For example, Descriptive Research Questions give rise to observational designs. Observational designs use three general ways to gather data: observation, interview, or survey. Differences Research Questions give rise to three types of designs: simple experimental designs (pre/post, two-group and three-group), factorial designs, and time-series designs. Relationships Research Questions are concerned with prediction, which lead to correlation/regression designs. Correlation/regression designs are ex post facto designs because while we may define independent variables we do not manipulate them. These designs are similar to observational studies except that we hypothesize a correlation between variables, rather than simple descriptions.

These particularities of data gathering, when combined, form the instrumentation part of a research study. Instrumentation plays a significant role in gathering information from the field and in changing the field parameters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumentation). Hence, this is one among the areas of a research study being evaluated to guarantee the quality of the research output. That is why before proceeding to the data gathering process, most researchers need to test the validity and reliability of the data-gathering instrument using various methods available depending on the type of research tool to be employed because a high quality research instrument, to a large extent defines what we call a quality research.