Doing Science: Design, Analysis, and Communication of Scientific Research

By Ivan Valiela | Go to book overview

4
Principles of Research Design

4.1 Desirable Properties of Research Design
We discussed in chapter 1 how a fundamental step in scientific inquiry is to ask, exactly, “What is the question?” Explicit formulation of the question is essential, because it determines what we do in the design of the study that is supposed to answer it. This might appear trivial, but much experience with student-designed studies shows that insufficient critical thought is given to (a) stating the question exactly and (b) designing the work explicitly to answer the question.Just what is it that we need to do in science? Offhand, one might think that we will want to compare a “treatment” with an untreated “control” and that's all. It turns out that ensuring that the treatment and control differ in just the one aspect that tests the question, that the treatment is effective and unbiased, that the measurements we collect from treated and control units are precise and accurate, and that the results are widely applicable, as well as accessible to available methods and tests, is considerably more demanding. There is no “correct” experimental design or statistical analysis; both depend on the question being investigated. Once we really know our question, however, we can more effectively look for appropriate ways to answer the question.Whether we propose to do a sampling survey for comparative studies, long-term monitoring, perturbation studies, or manipulative experiments, certain characteristics are desirable in the design of a research plan. These characteristics include1
1. good estimation of treatment effects,
2. good estimation of random variation,
3. absence of bias,
4. precision and accuracy,
____________________
1
I am tempted to add that the research question should be interesting. Many of us focus too narrowly; if we seek the underlying generalities, even when dealing with local, everyday questions, our work will be more interesting to more people, and the consequences of our results will reach farther. This matter of interest is important, but I did not add this idea to the list simply because “interesting” is such a value-laden concept that it seemed too subjective.

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Doing Science: Design, Analysis, and Communication of Scientific Research
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Doing Science 1
  • 1 - Obtaining Scientific Information 3
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 2 - Elements of Scientific Data and Tests of Questions 29
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 3 - Statistical Analyses 49
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 4 - Principles of Research Design 79
  • Sources and Further Reading 97
  • 5 - Communication of Scientific Information: Writing 99
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 6 - Communicating Scientific Information: the Scientific Paper 127
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 7 - Other Means of Scientific Communication 147
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 8 - Presenting Data in Tables 171
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 9 - Presenting Data in Figures 183
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 10 - Case Studies of Graphical Data Presentation 219
  • 11 - Perceptions and Criticisms of Science 255
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • Index 285
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