Research Methods Week 6 – 3 June 2014

Posted by Hugh on June 15, 2014 in Reflection, Research Methods |

This week we looked at validity and reliability as well as ethic approvals.


It was stated that validity is quality control for your research. Validity encompasses the entire experimental concept and establishes whether the results obtained meet all of the rigors of the scientific research method. For example, there must have been randomization of the sample groups and appropriate care and diligence shown in the allocation of controls.

Internal validity

how an experimental design is structured and encompasses all of the steps of the scientific research method. Even if your results are great, sloppy and inconsistent design will compromise your integrity in the eyes of the scientific community. Internal validity and reliability are at the core of any experimental design.

External validity

the process of examining the results and questioning whether there are any other possible causal relationships.

Control groups and randomization will lessen external validity problems but no method can be completely successful. This is why the statistical proofs of a hypothesis called significant, not absolute truth.

There is always the chance that another unknown factor contributed to the results and findings. This extraneous causal relationship may become more apparent, as techniques are refined and honed (Shuttleworth).


The idea behind reliability is that any significant results must be more than a one-off finding and be inherently repeatable. Other researchers must be able to perform exactly the same experiment, under the same conditions and generate the same results. This will reinforce the findings and ensure that the wider scientific community will accept the hypothesis.

Without this replication of statistically significant results, the experiment and research have not fulfilled all of the requirements of testability. This prerequisite is essential to a hypothesis establishing itself as an accepted scientific truth.

For example, if you are performing a time critical experiment, you will be using some type of stopwatch. Generally, it is reasonable to assume that the instruments are reliable and will keep true and accurate time. However, diligent scientists take measurements many times, to minimize the chances of malfunction and maintain validity and reliability.

At the other extreme, any experiment that uses human judgment is always going to come under question (Shuttleworth).


Delimitation were also discussed and how they define the scope of your research and the limitation you set on yourself. For example I know that Moodle is the choice of Learning Management System that will be deployed in the Department. This limited was external influenced by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.


Dr Steve Meeney from the DIT Ethic Committee then gave us a presentation on ethics in research. He stated the key principles to research  are:

  • Respect for the person
  • Beneficence
  • Justice

These principles were also stated in the literature (Bell 2010; Denscombe, 2010; Flick, 2007). Steve gave us a brief history of ethics and how they came about. Unethical research was cited such as Nazi doctors experimenting on live humans deliberately causing pain and death. Other experiments cited were the Milgram Experiments and the Stanford Prison Experiment. It was clear from these examples that abuse of power needs to be taken out of research.

I found this session very informative as I did not believe there would be any ethic issues for me but after discussion in class I will need to look at the issue further to see if I should apply for ethical approval. The main issues would be that the participant, for questionnaires – interviews – focus groups, are fully informed prior to commencing the research and they opt-in to the process.



Bell J., (2010), Doing your research project: a guide for first-time researchers in education, health and social science, Open University Press, Maidenhead.

Denscombe M., (2010), Title The good research guide: for small-scale social research projects 4th Edition, Maidenhead, Open University Press, 2010.

Flick U., (2007), Designing qualitative research, SAGE, London.

Shuttleworth M., https://explorable.com/validity-and-reliability

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