Undertake a research project within Services for Health and Social Care or Children and Young People

Unit Aims

The purpose of this unit is to enable you to demonstrate that you have the knowledge, skills and understanding to undertake a research project in Services for Health and Social Care or Children and Young People.

This guidance will help you to set out and develop your project so that you cover all the steps required to achieve the unit.

Learning Outcomes

  • Be able to justify a topic for research within services for health and social care or children and young people
  • Understand how the components of research are used
  • Be able to conduct a research project within services for health and social care or children and young people
  • Be able to analyse research findings

Sources of information

Here are some sources of information which you may find useful:

Books

  • G. Wisker – The Postgraduate Research Handbook ISBN 9780230521308
  • C. Robson – How to do a research project: A guide for undergraduates ISBN 9781405114905

Websites

  • www.angelfire.com/biz/rumsby/ARES.html- how to do research
  • www.enquirylearning.net/ELU/Issues/Research/Res1Cont.html – an introduction to qualitative research
  • www2.chass.ncsu.edu/garson/pa765/survey.htm – a guide to survey research
  • www.enquirylearning.net/ELU/Issues/Research/Res1Ch4.html – an introduction to action research
  • www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR3-2/tellis1.html – a guide to case study research

Your assessor may request which approach they wish you to use for them

Undertake a research project

Let’s start with some fundamentals.

Firstly you need to consider what is to be the focus of your research project and to develop its aims and objectives relating to health and social care or children and young people. This may be something which has interested you for some time, or it may be an issue which is topical.

For example you might want to try and establish to what extent your service is delivering personalised experiences to individuals and their families.  By doing this you will try to prove that delivering high quality services to vulnerable individuals combines safe, effective, caring, responsiveness and well led attributes that meet the inspection criteria.

Research projects usually fit into one of four categories of research:

  • positivist/post positivist (mainly quantitative)
  • social constructivist (mainly qualitative)
  • pragmatic
  • participatory

Researchers have different world views or belief systems which guide them in their research, influencing the decisions they make about how to conduct their studies, what counts as valid knowledge, what is the right way to obtain that knowledge, how it should be analysed (e.g. using quantitative or qualitative-based methods) and what their own role in the process is.

The post-positivist tradition emerged in the 19th century. They challenged the positivist attempts to seek “absolute truth” arguing that this was not appropriate when studying the behaviour and actions of people. This led to an acceptance that absolute truth can never be found and that research evidence is not infallible or perfect.

According to the social constructivist paradigm, people try to make sense of the world they live in. Through interaction with other people, they develop subjective understandings and meanings of their experience and they do this within a specific social, political, cultural and historical context. Social constructivists believe that there is not one reality but rather varied and multiple realities. Based on this theory of reality, researchers are interested in trying to understand the way people experience and make sense of the world.

Compatibility theory acknowledged the different philosophical assumptions but stated that each approach had its strengths and weaknesses, that neither was right or wrong and that methods typically used by each could even be mixed in the same study. This is known as the pragmatic paradigm and is generally accepted nowadays as being a valid approach to research.

Once you have decided upon a possible area for research, you will need to consider a number of constraints or influences which might impact on this. For example:

  • Are there any ethical considerations to take into account?
  • What research methodologies will be most appropriate and effective for this project?
  • What time or budgetary constraints are there which could impact on the research?

Undertaking research, particularly in health and social care or children and young people, carries with it significant responsibilities both in terms of how the research is carried out and how the findings are used/published. Much, if not all, of the data you will use will be confidential and it is imperative that the rights of all individuals involved in the project are respected. As such you need to take into account any legal restrictions, for example confidentiality of information or sensitivity of protecting identity of participants that could impact on your research.

You also need to be clear about the aims and objectives of the project:

  • What is the purpose of the research?
  • What do you hope to achieve?

Taking the example of  scrutinising your own service it is one of the best ways to learn about what things your team and you do right and what needs adjusting. In developing the aims and objectives of the research it should help you to understand your service better but also to understand the needs of the individuals, their families, friends, advocates etc. The project should help you to put things more into practice and be more reflective of your actions. The research should help you to put things into perspective and find out different approaches, ideas from others, and how you can adapt those to your service if applicable.

Finally, you will need a title for your research project!

The title of my research project is:

Task 1

Define and explain your research area, state what the aims and objectives of the project are and identify any ethical or other considerations inherent in the topic and the research methods to be used.

My research area is:              
The aims and objectives of the project are:              
Ethical considerations:                

Your next step is to track down and examine the sources of information which will help with your research topic. These may be:

  • web sites
  • journals
  • text books
  • films/videos/documentaries
  • presentations
  • other research papers

Think about research looking across a wide range of literature relating to health and social care or children and young people. Perhaps you might include the findings of media and general public perception about the changes and progress through the years within the sector, if this is applicable, and perhaps consider some of the information and findings from fellow managers and their experiences, as well as attending service provider’s forums and relative seminars.

Task 2

Provide a summary of your literature review findings. As you find potential sources of information and opinion, make a note of the source, when it was published or originated and the author(s). Enter these in the space below or keep a spreadsheet with the details on.

                                           

Research is generally divided into:

  • the approach(s) used
  • the data gathering and analysis

Once this stage is completed, the job of the researcher is to sift through the data, considering whether it is reliable and from a trusted source or authority, whether it is still current and whether it is authentic. There have been some famous or infamous cases where “research” has been published which ultimately turns out to be based on inaccurate or even false data. Finally, having considered all the data and information gathered, then the researcher proposes their findings, conclusions and judgements.

So, let’s start with deciding which approach you wish to use for your research. In order to decide on this, you will first need to establish what each method is.

Listed below are some common research approaches:

  • qualitative
  • quantitative
  • experimental
  • grounded
  • basic
  • correlational
  • descriptive
  • ethnographic
  • historical

You may not use more than one of these approaches, but then you may use several – depending on the type of research and the way in which you need or want to collect data.

In order to do so it is important that you understand what they are.

In order to carry out a critical comparison of different types of research you need to review a wide range of methods and come to justified conclusions of your method(s) choice.

Task 3

In the table below, critically compare each of the following research approaches, and give an example of how they could be used in relation to your research or work context.

Methodology Advantage/disadvantage of using this approach for this project Uses
Quantitative          
Qualitative          
Experimental          
Grounded theory          
Basic          
Correlational          
Descriptive          
Ethnographic          
Historical          

Now decide which approach(es) you will use for your research.

It may help you to justify your conclusion(s) by considering the following questions:

  • What do you think your methods will enable you to discover?
  • What might they prevent you from discovering?
  • What kinds of research methods would be best suited to the kind of research you are undertaking and the research questions you are pursuing?
  • What sort of problems do you envisage in setting up these methods?
  • What are their benefits?
  • What will you need to do to ensure they gather useful data?

Task 4

Which research approach/method have you chosen to use for your project?

Explain why you have selected this.

       

Having considered the various research approaches, now you need to decide how you will gather the data or information and what tools you will use to analyse it. Your project might lend itself to case study formulation, or you may need to use observations. Or you may need to collate data that has already been gathered and analyse this.

Examples of the range of methods that can assist researchers when collecting the data are:

  • experiments with completion of various tests measuring different abilities normally linking performance and other factors
  • surveys where collecting data usually comes from large groups using questionnaires or interviews – set time/event point or “before and after”
  • questionnaires that obtain information from large number of people (more private and honest with no time pressure). Questionnaires can contain multiple choice questions, attitude scales, closed questions and open-ended questions. Questionnaires can be administered in a number of different ways (e.g. sent by post or as email attachments, posted on Internet sites, handed out personally or administered to audience (such as people attending conferences)
  • interviews which are usually carried out in person i.e. face-to-face but can also be completed by telephone or using more advance computer technology such as Skype. The approach can be formal or informal depending on the structure agreed with the individual (check list, form, and questionnaire)
  • case studies that involve a detailed study of a particular case (a person or small group). Various methods can be used (mainly observation and interviews)
  • participant / non participant observation which involves observing people and being part of the observed group or “distance observations”
  • observational trial study, usually of health issues in large groups of people (sharing certain characteristics) in natural settings (increase of cases of diabetes related to age/life style/diet etc)

In the care environment the dominant method used is the qualitative approach, as results may be established by measuring the changes in outcomes measured against management tools (such as performance targets i.e. number of complaints, compliments etc.)

There are various I.T. programmes which can be used to sort and analyse data. But some types of information require something other than “number crunching”.  Again, this is your decision and you will need to consider the type of information and data that you will be gathering and what you are looking for within that data/information.

These are some examples of tools used to collect and / or analyse data:

  • box and whisker plot displays and analyses multiple sets of variation data on a single graph
  • check sheet is a structured, prepared form for collecting and analysing data
  • control chart is a graph used to study how a process changes over time (current vs historical data)
  • design of experiments process of carrying out planned experiments
  • histogram is a graph for showing frequency distributions, or how often each different value in a set of data occurs
  • scatter diagram graphs pairs of numerical data, one variable on each axis, to look for a relationship
  • stratification separates data gathered from a variety of sources so that patterns can be seen
  • survey where data is collected from targeted groups of people about their opinions, behaviour or knowledge

Task 5

In the table below, note down the different data or information that you will need to gather for your research and how you will analyse this. Then note down any issues regarding the data that you will need to check e.g. for reliability, authenticity and currency.

Data/information to be obtained Means of analysis Checks required  
           
           
           
           
           
           

Finally it is important to plan the logistics of the research carefully. So, you now need to set out the “nuts and bolts” of the project:

  • timescales
  • who will be involved
  • any financial needs
  • what support is required
  • any permissions or licences to be obtained (some data requires authorisation)
  • how you will present the findings

You need to formulate an action plan of things that will need doing:

  • evaluate current provision and meeting the outcomes
  • compare findings with any past standards / information
  • establish what is it that you want to achieve
  • select research method and tools to be used
  • develop research questions to be used
  • conduct the research
  • record and collate data
  • analyse findings and act upon them
  • reflect on the research and what has been achieved

Remember that your research project must explain and demonstrate that you:

  • gathered data effectively with regard to any legal and ethical considerations
  • analysed the data gathered and ensured that it was accurate, complete and reliable.
  • used qualitative and quantitative methods
  • considered issues of reliability, currency and authenticity of sources/data

Your research report or presentation should set out your findings and conclusions based on your analysis.

For example:  

  • Has the research gone well and its findings satisfactory?
  • Has the research been productive in giving you the evidence?
  • Has your initial reading materials, information obtained from various sources helped you in a way to influence future working?
  • Has it helped you to look for any ideas on how to improve things?

You should make recommendations (which should follow the original aims of your project)

For example by analysing and reflecting on the data gathered what recommendations can you make with regards to the area of your research?

You should suggest how your findings could be used e.g. policy changes, recruitment, safeguarding, training, duty of care.

For example potential uses for the research within your practice might include:

  • promoting positive change in practice
  • identifying and removing potential barriers
  • introducing long term benefits for service users
  • having more aware and better trained staff
  • promoting the research findings (so that information is available to the service users)
  • re-evaluating  current methods

The next pages are set out with headings to help you gather your research together. You do not have to use these, but should try to follow the same headings in your report.

Research project title        
Research area          
Aims and objectives              
Sources of information and data                          
Outline of methodology and approach (attach examples of tools used e.g. questionnaires, observations etc)                                      
Considerations taken into account                                          
Data analysis (continue on a separate sheet if needed)                                                            
Validation of data                                          
Summary of findings                                                                  
Conclusions and recommendations                                                          
Possible application or uses of research findings                                              

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