Three Types of Studies

Using examples, explain when the following would be used in research: Cross sectional study, Case study, Participatory Action Research.

Different types of studies are appropriate in differing contexts. This paper will look at three such types of studies: cross sectional studies, case studies, and participatory action research. Each will be considered in reference to a potential dissertation research project, and the context within which each method would have utility.

Cross sectional studies are a snapshot in time across a selection of people. These can be compared to case-control studies which are selected for outcome, or cohort studies which are selected for exposure. Cross sectional studies can be used as an initial point from which to plan a more advanced study across time. (Setia, 2016; Wang and Cheng, 2020)

My initial proposal for my MSc dissertation was a cross sectional study. There are two strong logistical reasons that support this, low cost and a quick turnaround. The idea is to assess and compare motivation, meaning, and deception as perceived by local elected officials in Muskegon County, Michigan. This would be done through a 28 question survey that would be delivered in-person, through mail, and email. Technically, a questionnaire is one technique that can be used in different study methods including case studies, surveys, and experiments. (de Vaus, 2002, pg 3-6) I believe that connections can and will be found between different factors in motivation, the types of meaning pursued, and the encounter of deception in the role. Understanding how the expectation changes over time is of interest. This can be done through questions that ask what the person was expecting versus what they now think, but it's still a snapshot of their thoughts at the present time.

The case study can be viewed as almost the opposite of the survey approach. In a survey you're looking at collecting data from a range of instances. In a case study you collect data from one instance, or a few cases. This allows you to go in-depth and try to determine causes and effects, relationships and processes between component factors, with "The aim is to illuminate the general by looking at the particular." The type of study changes the scale and scope of the project, but the methods that can be used in the pursuit of the information from and for the study are wide. (Denscombe, 2010, pg 52-54)

If the dissertation concerning motivation, meaning, and deception with local elected officials was going to be pursued with a case study approach I would focus on potentially one or a few cases. Three uses for a discovery led case study are: description, exploration, and comparison. Three uses for a theory led case study are: explanation, illustration, and experiment. (Denscombe, 2010, pg 70) A case study can be pursued with : questionnaires, structured and unstructured interviews, in-depth interviews, observation, and content analysis. (de Vaus, 2002, pg 6)

A case study could potentially be valuable in that I could go more in-depth, especially in an exploratory manner, in my attempt to find answers to my proposed question, "What changes are there in the factors of motivation, the feeling of meaning, and the perception of deception in elected officials since taking office?" The relations between the factors of motivation: valence, expectancy, instrumentality, time delay, and effort; the types of meaning: creative, experiential, and attitudinal; and the expectations of lying; may be connected in a way that would be difficult to generate surveys questions for. A single case could be pursued to still limit the logistical aspects to meet the scope of the project within time and budget constraints.

Participatory action research uses collaborative methods for the researchers and participants to work together to create "knowledge production and real-world action conducted in a democratic, collaborative manner." The participants are considered stakeholders and involved in all steps of the process: partnering, designing, collecting, analyzing, disseminating, and acting; with a view to inform, consult, involve, collaborate, and empower the community. Traditional and non-traditional data collection methods can be used. (Vaughn and Jacquez, 2020) 

In the context of the dissertation on motivation, meaning, and deception this would mean bringing in and together some of the elected officials to work out the goals and methods on this general theme. A key difference , other than the participation process throughout, is the focus on action. My original proposal suggested that a greater understanding of the intersection of motivation, meaning, and deception can lead to greater mutual understanding and possibly help to lower expectations of deception.

However, with a focus on action, change, and community impact I may change my subject focus if I was going to pursue this. For instance, I am working on policy reforms concerning food sovereignty, which are currently in discussion at the township level, and probably will be at the county level within the next year. This could be a great focus for participatory action research, although the time frame and maybe budget would put it outside of and beyond the scope of the MSc dissertation project.

Different approaches to research can be used on the same subject, and even with the same methods, but there are important differences in what will be learned and how that research will be pursued and carried out. It's important to consider the goals, scope, scale, objectives, logistics, feasibility, viability, and context of the situation in assessing which approach to use. Cross sectional studies, case studies, and participatory action research can all be useful when selected and enacted when appropriate and useful.

Reference List

Denscombe, Martyn (2010) The Good Research Guide. Fourth Edition. Maidenhead, Berkshire, England: Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education.

McMillan, Kathleen and Weyers, Jonathan (2011) How to Write Dissertations and Project Reports. Second Edition. Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited.

Setia M. S. (2016). Methodology Series Module 3: Cross-sectional Studies. Indian journal of dermatology, 61(3), 261–264.

Vaughn, L. M., & Jacquez, F. (2020). Participatory Research Methods – Choice Points in the Research Process. Journal of Participatory Research Methods, 1(1).

de Vaus, David (2002) Surveys in Social Research. 5th Edition. St Leonards, NSW, Australia: Allen and Unwin.

Wang, Xiaofeng and Cheng, Zhenshun (2020) Cross-Sectional Studies: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Recommendations, Chest, Volume 158, Issue 1, Supplement, 2020, Pages S65-S71, ISSN 0012-3692,



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