A Descriptive Analysis of Research Methods Classes in Departments of Kinesiology and Physical Education in the United States. (Special Topic)
Silverman, Stephen, Keating, Xiaofan Deng, Bennett, Simon J., Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport
Research training takes many forms and is generally a part of graduate education. A common and important aspect of research training is the introductory research methods class offered by many departments. The purpose of this study was to examine the content, process, and instructors of introductory research methods classes in departments of kinesiology and physical education in the United States. A survey was designed and extensively pilot tested. The sample was selected from all departments offering graduate degrees in the United States. Among the many results, the data indicate that one book was required reading in more than half the classes and class size averaged about 19 students, A number of objectives were stated for most classes, with understanding research, applying research to professional situations, critiquing the research literature, and planning research indicated most often. Quantitative design and analysis topics were emphasized more strongly than qualitative design and analysis topics. Profes sors indicated that more than half the class time was spent lecturing and most grades were based on exams, preparation of a research proposal, and regular assignments. The professors were relatively experienced, had a variety of specialty areas, and were reasonably productive researchers. The trends suggest that alternative research methodologies have not been quickly added to the research methods curriculum.
Key words: graduate education, research preparation
Graduate students are the next generation of researchers. The research preparation they receive will influence their performance in the profession and their ability to conduct research (Aiken, West, Sechrest, & Reno, 1990; Spirduso, 1987). The quality of their research training may set the stage for other learning experiences and for their subsequent research consumption and scholarship activities.
Most graduate programs and some undergraduate programs in many fields offer introductory research methods courses to foster their students' ability to read, understand, and conduct research (Aiken et al., 1990; Anastas & Congress, 1999; Barner et al., 1998; Bogal-Allbritten, Marcum, & Raspberry, 1982; Chamberlain, 1986; Fowler, 1986; Frey & Botan, 1988; List, 1995; Todd & Reece, 1987, 1988). Research methods courses are widely used as a first step in the research training process (Viehland & Plucker, 1987) and are cited as one of the best ways for preparing students to consume and produce research (Giesbrecht, Sell, Scialfa, Sandals, & Ehlers, 1997; Mundfrom, Shaw, Thomas, Young, & Moore, 1998; Todd & Reece, 1988).
While research and scholarship have been included increasingly as job responsibilities for faculties in kinesiology and physical education departments, little is known about research training as a field. Large research universities tend to hire those who graduate with doctoral degrees from other large research universities (Spirduso, 1987), but little else is known. If our field is to advance, the quality and focus of these courses will likely play a role. In some fields, (e.g., psychology; Ellis, 1992), there have been suggestions for consistent topic coverage in research courses. In kinesiology and physical education, there has been some discussion about topics and the teaching of introductory research methods courses without proposing a standard content (Thomas & Silverman, 1999), but there has been no empirical investigation of research methods courses to provide an understanding of what is taught and how classes are conducted. In other fields, such as communication science (Frey & Botan, 1988), education (Mundfrom et al., 1998; Todd & Reece, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990a), journalism (Fowler, 1986), library science (List, 1995; Smith &Adams, 1992; Stephenson, 1990), nursing (BogalAllbritten et al., 1982), occupational therapy (Peterson, Roberts, Loughlin, & Ludwig, 1992), psychology (Chamberlain, 1986; Giesbrecht et al. …