Jul
24
Filed Under (program evaluation) by Molly on 24-07-2015

survey image 3The use of a survey is a valuable evaluation tool, especially in the world of electronic media. The survey allows individuals to gather data (both qualitative and quantitative) easily and relatively inexpensively. When I want information about surveys, I turn to the 4th edition of the Dillman book Dillman 4th ed. (Dillman, Smyth, & Christian, 2014*). Dillman has advocated the “Tailored Design Method” for a long time. (I first became aware of his method, which he called “Total Design Method,” in his 1978 first edition,dillman 1st edition a thin, 320 page volume [as opposed to the 509 page fourth edition].)

Today I want to talk about the “Tailored Design” method (originally known as total design method).

In the 4th edition, Dillman et al. say that “…in order to minimize total survey error, surveyors have to customize or tailor their survey designs to their particular situations.” They are quick to point out (through various examples) that the same procedures won’t work  for all surveys.  The “Tailored Design Method” refers to the customizing survey procedures for each separate survey.  It is based upon the topic of the survey and the audience being surveyed as well as the resources available and the time-line in use.  In his first edition, Dillman indicated that the TDM (Tailored Design Method) would produce a response rate of 75% for mail surveys and an 80%-90% response rate is possible for telephone surveys. Although I cannot easily find the same numbers in the 4th edition, I can provide an example (from the 4th edition on page 21-22) where the response rate is 77% after a combined contact of mail and email over one month time. They used five contacts of both hard and electronic copy.

This is impressive. (Most surveys I and others I work with conduct have a response rate less than 50%.) Dillman et al. indicate that there are three fundamental considerations in using the TDM. They are:

  1. Reducing four sources of survey error–coverage, sampling, nonresponse, and measurement;
  2. Developing a set of survey procedures that interact and work together to encourage all sample members to respond; and
  3. Taking into consideration elements such as survey sponsorship, nature of survey population, and the content of the survey questions.

The use of a social exchange perspective suggests that respondent behavior is motivated by the return that behavior is expected, and usually does, bring. This perspective affects the decisions made regarding coverage and sampling, the way questions are written and questionnaires are constructed, and determines how contacts will produce the intended sample.

If you don’t have a copy of this book (yes, there are other survey books out there) on your desk, get one! It is well worth the cost ($95.00, Wiley; $79.42, Amazon).

* Dillman, D. A., Smyth, J. D. & Christian, L. M. (2014)  Internet, phone, mail, and mixed-mode surveys: The tailored design method (4th ed.). Hoboken, N. J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

my two cents.

molly.

Nov
07
Filed Under (Data Analysis, program evaluation) by Molly on 07-11-2013

I had a topic all ready to write about then I got sick.  I’m sitting here typing this trying to remember what that topic was, to no avail. That topic went the way of much of my recent memory; another day, perhaps.

I do remember the conversation with my daughter about correlation.  She had a correlation of .3 something with a probability of 0.011 and didn’t understand what that meant.  We had a long discussion of causation and attribution and correlation.

We had another long conversation about practical v. statistical significance, something her statistics professor isn’t teaching.  She isn’t learning about data management in her statistics class either.  Having dealt with both qualitative and quantitative data for a long time, I have come to realize that data management needs to be understood long before you memorize the formulas for the various statistical tests you wish to perform.  What if the flood happens????lost data

So today I’m telling you about data management as I understand it, because the flood  did actually happen and, fortunately, I didn’t loose my data.  I had a data dictionary.

Data dictionary.  The first step in data management is a data dictionary.   There are other names for this, which escape me right now…know that a hard copy of how and what you have coded is critical.  Yes, make a back up copy on your hard drive…have a hard copy because the flood might happen. (It is raining right now and it is Oregon in November.)

Take a hard copy of your survey, evaluation form, qualitative data coding sheet and mark on it what every code notation you used means.  I’d show you an example of what I do, only they are at the office and I am home sick without my files.  So, I’ll show you a clip art instead…data management    smiley.  No, I don’t use cards any more for my data (I did once…most of you won’t remember that time…), I do make a hard copy with clear notations.  I find my self doing that with other things to make sure I code the response the same way.  That is what a data dictionary allows you to do–check yourself.

Then I run a frequencies and percentages analysis.  I use SPSS (because that is what I learned first).  I look for outliers, variables that are miscoded, and system generated missing data that isn’t missing.  I look for any anomaly in the data, any humon error (i. e. my error).  Then I fix it.  Then I run my analyses.

There are probably more steps than I’ve covered today.  These are the first steps that absolutely must be done BEFORE you do any analyses.  Then you have a good chance of keeping your data safe.

Sep
04

Wow!  25 First Cycle and 6 Second Cycle methods for coding qualitative data.

Who would have thought that there are so many methods of coding qualitative data.  I’ve been coding qualitative data for a long time and only now am I aware that what I was doing was, according to Miles and Huberman (1994), my go-to book for coding,  miles and huberman qualitative data is called “Descriptive Coding” although Johnny Saldana calls it “Attribute Coding”.  (This is discussed at length in his volume The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers.) coding manual--johnny saldana  I just thought I was coding; I was, just not as systematically as suggested by Saldana.

Saldana talks about First Cycle coding methods, Second Cycle coding methods and a hybrid method that lies between them.  He lists 25 First Cycle coding methods and spends over 120 pages discussing first cycle coding.

I’m quoting now.  He says that “First Cycle methods are those processes that happen during the initial coding of data and are divided into seven subcategories: Grammatical, Elemental, Affective, Literary and Language, Exploratory, Procedural and a final profile entitled Themeing the Data.  Second Cycle methods are a bit more challenging because they require such analytic skills as classifying, prioritizing, integrating, synthesizing, abstracting, conceptualizing, and theory building.”

He also insists that coding qualitative data is a iterative process; that data are coded and recoded.  Not just a one pass through the data.

Somewhere I missed the boat.  What occurs to me is that since I learned about coding qualitative data by hand because there were few CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software) available (something Saldana advocates for nascent qualitative researchers) is that the field has developed, refined, expanded, and become detailed.  Much work has been done that went unobserved by me.

He also talks about the fact that the study’s qualitative data may need more than one coding method–Yikes!  I thought there was only one.  Boy was I mistaken.  Reading the Coding Manual is enlightening (a good example of life long learning).  All this will come in handy when I collect the qualitative data for the evaluation I’m now planning.  Another take away point that is stressed in the coding manual and in the third edition of the Miles & Huberman book (with the co-author of Johnny Saldana) Qualitative data analysis ed. 3 is to start coding/reading the data as soon as it is collected.  Reading the data when you collect it allows you to remember what you observed/heard, allows/encourages  analytic memo writing (more on that in a separate post), and allows you to start building your coding scheme.

If you do a lot of qualitative data collection, you need these two books on your shelf.

 

Jul
16

I’m about to start a large scale project, one that will be primarily qualitative (it may end up being a mixed methods study; time will tell); I’m in the planning stages with the PI now.  I’ve done qualitative studies before–how could I not with all the time I’ve been an evaluator?  My go to book for qualitative data analysis has always been Miles and Huberman miles and huberman qualitative data (although my volume is black).  This is their second edition published in 1994.  I loved that book for a variety of reasons: 1) it provided me with a road map to process qualitative data; 2) it offered the reader an appendix for choosing a qualitative software program (now out of date); and 3) it was systematic and detailed in its description of display.  I was very saddened to learn that both the authors had died and there would not be a third edition.  Imaging my delight when I got the Sage flier of a third edition! Qualitative data analysis ed. 3  Of course I ordered it.  I also discovered that Saldana (the new third author on the third edition) has written another book on qualitative data that he sites a lot in this third edition (Coding manual for qualitative researchers coding manual--johnny saldana) and I ordered that volume as well.

Saldana, in the third edition, talks a lot about data display, one of the three factors that qualitative researchers must keep in mind.  The other two are data condensation and conclusion drawing/verification.  In their review, Sage Publications says, “The Third Edition’s presentation of the fundamentals of research design and data management is followed by five distinct methods of analysis: exploring, describing, ordering, explaining, and predicting.”  These five chapters are the heart of the book (in my thinking); that is not to say that the rest of the book doesn’t have gems as well–it does.  The chapter on “Writing About Qualitative Research” and the appendix are two.  The appendix (this time) is an “An Annotated Bibliography of Qualitative Research Resources”, which lists at least 32 different classifications of references that would be helpful to all manner of qualitative researchers.  Because it is annotated, the bibliography provides a one sentence summary of the substance of the book.  A find, to be sure.   Check out the third edition.

I will be attending a professional development session with Mr. Saldana next week.  It will be a treat to meet him and hear what he has to say about qualitative data.  I’m taking the two books with me…I’ll write more on this topic when I return.  (I won’t be posting next week).

 

 

 

Jun
19
Filed Under (Methodology, program evaluation) by Molly on 19-06-2013

Miscellaneous thought 1.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a long time friend of mine.  When we stopped and calculated (which we don’t do very often), we realized that we have know each other since 1981.  We met at the first AEA (only it wasn’t AEA then) conference in Austin, TX.  I was a graduate student; my friend was a practicing professional/academic.  Although we were initially talking about other things evaluation; I asked my friend to look at an evaluation form I was developing.  I truly believe that having other eyes (a pilot if you will) view the document helps.  It certainly did in this case.  I feel really good about the form.  In the course of the conversation, my friend advocated strongly for a odd numbered scales.  My friend had good reasons, specifically

1) It tends to force more comparisons on the respondents; and

2)  if you haven’t given me a neutral  point I tend to mess up the scale on purpose because you are limiting my ability to tell you what I am thinking.

I, of course, had an opposing view (rule number 8–question authority).  I said, ” My personal preference is an even number scale to avoid a mid-point.  This is important because I want to know if the framework (of the program in question) I provided worked well with the group and a mid-point would provide the respondent with a neutral point of view, not a working or not working opinion.   An even number (in my case four points) can be divided into working and not working halves.  When I’m offered a middle point, I tend to circle that because folks really don’t want to know what I’m thinking.  By giving me an opt out/neutral/neither for or against option they are not asking my opinion or view point.”

Recently, I came across an aea365 post on just this topic.  Although this specific post was talking about Likert scales, it applies to all scaling that uses a range of numbers (as my friend pointed out).  The authors sum up their views with this comment, “There isn’t a simple rule regarding when to use odd or even, ultimately that decision should be informed by (a) your survey topic, (b) what you know about your respondents, (c) how you plan to administer the survey, and (d) your purpose. Take time to consider these four elements coupled with the advantages and disadvantages of odd/even, and you will likely reach a decision that works best for you.”  (Certainly knowing my friend like I do, I would be suspicious of responses that my friend submitted.)  Although they list advantages and disadvantages for odd and even responses, I think there are other advantages and disadvantages that they did not mentioned yet are summed up in their concluding sentence.

Miscellaneous thought 2.

I’m reading the new edition of Qualitative Data Analysis (QDA).  Qualitative data analysis ed. 3  This has always been my go to book for QDA and I was very sad when I learned that both of the original authors had died.  The new author, Johnny Saldana (who is also the author of The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researcherscoding manual--johnny saldana), talks (in the third person plural, active voice) about being a pragmatic realist.  That is an interesting concept.  They (because the new author includes the previous authors in his statement) say “that social phenomena exist not only in the mind but also in the world–and that some reasonably stable relationships can be found among the idiosyncratic messiness of life.”  Although I had never used those exact words before, I agree.  It is nice to know the label that applies to my world view.  Life is full of idiosyncratic messiness; probably why I think systems thinking is so important.  I’m reading this volume because I’ve been asked to write the review of one of my favorite books.  We will see if I can get through it between now and July 1 when the draft of the review is due.  Probably aught to pair it with Saldana’s other book; won’t happen between now and July 1.