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tences of an empirical journal article, the author draws the reader’s attention to the scope, impact, and current status of the problem or issue being investigated. This orientationismosteffectivelyachievedbyapplyingthe broadest-possible perspective to the concern. A study of success rates among participants in a stress inocula- tionprogramforpeoplewithdiabetesmellitusmightbe introduced by citing national statistics concerning the incidenceandprevalenceof this verycommondisease. An article describing the effects of a model job place- ment programfor women with breast cancer might be- gin with a review of existing literature concerning em- ployment and breast cancer, with a particular focus on the difficulties that women have in re-entering the la- bor force following diagnosis and treatment. Authors reporting a longitudinal study of the post- school em- ployment outcomes of secondary students with devel- opmental disabilities would likely introduce their arti- cle with a review of the disappointing adult outcomes which that populationhas experiencedsince the incep- tionofformalizedtransitionservices in themid–1980s. The framework for the study. The specific theoret-

ical and empirical framework for the particular inves- tigation is another important part of the Introduction. Authors summarize existing literature related to the identified problem, then build a logical rationale for a study that addresses gaps or inconsistencies in the lit- erature. The author should present the theoretical or conceptualmodel that informsthe inquiryandprovides enough background to enable the reader to appreciate the rationale of the current study. This framework elu- cidates the purpose of the current study (e.g., to eval- uate the effectiveness of a job placement program for women with breast cancer), which is then operational- ized in the research questions or hypotheses. Social scientific theories which have figured pominently in

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the frameworks of recent rehabilitation investigations include Hershenson’s [10] model of work adjustment, Bandura’s [2] concept of situational self-efficacy, and BoltonandBrookings’[5] integratedmodelofempow- erment. The research questions and hypotheses. The Intro-

duction section of a research article typically includes a statement of the research questions and/or hypothe- ses that served to guide the study. A more specula- tive research question tends to be used in descriptive research designs (e.g., surveys, program evaluations, empirical literature reviews) or in qualitative studies. Examples of research questions could include: “What concerns do college students with disabilities have re- garding their future career prospects?”; “What themes areevident in thepsycholinguisticdevelopmentofdeaf women?”; and “What steps are Fortune 500 employ- ers taking to provide on-the-job accommodations for workers with disabilities?”. The hypothesis, on the other hand, is predictive by

design. Its specificity is dependentupon the theoryun- derlying it or previous, relevant research, but it should include the direction of the expected results when- ever possible. Independent and dependent variables neednotbeoperationalizedin theory-basedhypotheses (because this is done in the Method section), but the expected relationship among study variables must be clearlyarticulated. Examplesofdirectionalhypotheses could include: “Participation in a cognitive-behavioral stress inoculation program will decrease symptom on- set and magnification”; “Anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem will be collectively, positively, and signif- icantly related to work interference”; and “Rehabilita- tion counselors will rate people with severe disabili- ties as less favorable candidates for employment than similarlyqualified peoplewith mild or nodisabilities”.

2.4. Method

The Method section delineates how the research questions were addressed and/or how the hypotheses were tested. It shouldprovidethe readerwithsufficient information so that one could replicate the investiga- tion, and it should leave no question as to what was “done”to theparticipants. Because theMethodsection is theprimarysourcefordeterminingthevalidityof the study[4], thequalityandclarityof this sectionaregen- erallyregardedasthestrongestdeterminantsofwhether an empirically-based manuscript will be accepted for publication [9,16].

 

 

260 P. Rumrill et al. / Guidelines for evaluating research articles

Although the type and order of sub-sections found in the Method section of a research article vary de- pending upon the design of the study and the author’s judgement related to the flow of text, most articles in- clude descriptions of the study’s subjects/participants, instruments/measures/variables,materials, design, and procedures. Subjects/participants. According to Heppner et

al. [8,9], theMethodsectionshould include(a) the total number of subjects and numbers assigned to groups, if applicable; (b) how subjects were selected and/or as- signed; and (c) demographic and other characteristics of thesamplerelevant to thestudy’spurpose. Someau- thors also include a description of the population from which thestudysamplewas drawn,adescriptionof the specificsamplingprocedureused(e.g., simple random, stratified, cluster; [4]), an indication of the represen- tativeness of the sample vis a vis the broader popula- tion, the circumstances under which subjects partici- pated(e.g.,whether theywerecompensated,what risks theyassumed),statisticalpoweranalyses,andresponse rates (if applicable). Instruments/measures/variables. The Method sec-

tionmust includeadetaileddescriptionofhowallstudy variables were operationalized, measured, scored, and interpreted. All instrumentsormeasuresthatwereused in sampling, conducting the study, and evaluating re- sults must be specified in terms of content (e.g., num- ber of items, response sets), how measures were ad- ministered, scoring procedures, relationship to study variables, and psychometric properties (e.g., standard- ization, reliability, validity). Authors should also in- clude a rationale for selecting each instrument, that is, why that instrument was the best choice for measuring a particular construct. Materials. Researchers should also include a de-

scription of any materials that were used to carry out the investigation. Written guides for participants, in- structional manuals, media or technology, and scien- tific apparatusor equipment shouldbe described in de- tail. Some authors include a description of the setting inwhichthestudywasexecutedordatawerecollected. Design. One of the most important features of the

Method section is a clear description of the design of thestudy. This is essentialbecause thedesignservesas the link between (a) the research questions/hypotheses and the scientific procedures used in carrying out the study and (b) the findings of the study and how these are interpreted. Authors typically label their designs in terms of how variables were manipulated,observed, andanalyzed. Thereby, thedesign is theunifyingforce

inconnectingtheresearchobjectives toboth the results and the knowledgeclaim that is made. To every extent possible, a direct reference to the hypotheses should be made when authors identify the design of a particu- lar investigation. For example, Rumrill, Roessler, and Denny[19] described their design as follows: “The re- searchers selected a three-group, posttest-only (exper- imental) design to assess the intervention’s univariate and multivariate effects on (a) self-reported attitudes (situational self-efficacy and acceptance of disability) and(b)participationintheaccommodationrequestpro- cess.” Procedures. The most important component of the

Method section is the easiest to describe. In chrono- logical order, authors simply list every step they took in developing, administering, and evaluating the study. Beginningwith the recruitmentofparticipants, follow- ing the study through collection of the last datum, and includingeverything in-between – the Procedures sub- section should provide the reader with a step-by-step protocol that could serve as a guide for replicating the study. Descriptionsofany interventionsshouldbepro- vided in detail, along with summaries of the qualifi- cations of project personnel who were instrumental in executing the investigation. Procedures should also in- clude how the investigation ended, along with a state- ment of any debriefing or follow-up services provided to participants.

2.5. Results

The Results section of a research article should in- clude a complete inventory of all relevant findings ob- tainedby the investigators. In articles that reportquan- titative studies, results are typically presented in two parts – (a) summary, or descriptive, statistics related to participants’performanceon the measures that were taken (e.g., means, standard deviations, frequencies, percentages) and (b) statistical analyses related to the specific hypotheses of the study (e.g., analysis of vari- ance, multiple regression, factor analysis). We believe that all analyses conducted as part of the investigation shouldbereportedin full,notonly thosewhichyielded statistically significant results. The Publication Man- ualof theAmericanPsychologicalAssociation[1]pro- vides considerable guidance related to how statistics should be presented in the Results section, but it does notalways provideadequateguidelines regardingwhat statistical information should be included. Heppner et al. [9] identified a pattern in recent social science lit- erature whereby researchers tend to err on the side of

 

 

262 P. Rumrill et al. / Guidelines for evaluating research articles

providing too little statistical information: “The trend has been to report less; for example, one rarely sees analysis of variance source tables anymore. More dis- turbingis the tendencynot to report important informa- tion (suchas size of test statistic andprobability levels) whenresults arenon-significant. Thisminimalistpoint ofviewputstheemphasisonstatisticalsignificanceand ignores concepts such as effect size, estimation, and power.” In recent years, the “minimalist” perspective (in

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