Chapter 1: Research design

Wiseman, N., Harris, N. and Lee, P. (2016) ‘Lifestyle knowledge and preferences in preschool children: evaluation of the Get up and Grow healthy lifestyle education programme’, Health Education Journal.

With growing concerns about childhood obesity in children there has been a growth in initiatives to increase the level of physical activity in young children and to help them make ‘healthy’ food choices. This article evaluates one such programme.

  • Read the abstract and the section at the end called ‘Implications for research and practice’. Notice that in this journal the abstract is divided into headings. What methodological approach has been taken?
  • No formal hypothesis or research question was stated in the paper, but reading through the abstract it is possible to understand the aim of the study. In your own words explain what the aim is.
  • What sort of sampling was used? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this type of sampling?
  • What methods were employed to maximize the reliability of the sample selection?
  • What did analysis of the demographic data reveal and how does this relate to reliability? (Look at the end of page 6 and the beginning of page 7.)
  • What were the overall conclusions of the research?

De Gioia, K. (2013) ‘Cultural negotiation: moving beyond a cycle of misunderstanding in early childhood settings’, Journal of Early Childhood Research, 11(2): 108–22.

In this fascinating Australian study, De Gioia uses qualitative methodology to investigate the differing expectations of parents and practitioners in early childhood settings, with emphasis on communication and continuity of care practices between the home and the setting. We will use this article to help you understand more about the design of qualitative studies.

  • Read the abstract and the discussion. This will help you understand the article when you read it in full. Note how you can get a good understanding of the research just by reading these sections. Also note how the methodological approach is ‘flagged up’ in the abstract. This is often the case in qualitative studies, but rarely seen in quantitative ones. The ‘conversation’ about methodology is often given more prominence in qualitative studies.
  • The next section (from after ‘Keywords’ to the heading ‘The Research Study’) constitutes the literature review. Different journals set out their articles in different ways. Sometimes you will see a heading ‘Introduction’. Read this section and note how the content includes information about the demographics of families who use childcare and education services and current practice regarding parental partnership.
  • Skim through the literature review and note the headings that are used to organize the material. These are the main themes of the literature review which will underpin the current research study. Now read this section in detail and note how both research findings and theory are used to explain the key themes.
  • What is the aim of the study?
  • How were participants recruited for the interviews and what sampling method was used for the semi-structured questionnaires? What factors were taken into consideration when choosing which centres were to be included in the study?
  • What were the main findings of the study?
  • In the discussion section, a ‘cycle of misunderstanding’ between parents and settings is suggested. If you are involved in the work of an early childhood setting, reflect on how this explanation may be affecting relationships between parents and practitioners.