Social Research Activities Whether Empirical Literature Review Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Social Research

Research activities, whether empirical, literature review sponsored, descriptive, or historical, must exhibit and command interest, enthusiasm, and passionate commitment. It is vital that the researcher catch the essential quality of the excitement of discovery that comes from research well done if expected results are to be gained. If this sole tenet can be achieved then the difficulties and frustrations of the research performance, while they never completely vanish, play a much less significant role (Ferguson, 1967). To the enthused researcher there must be debate, discussion, and even argument if there is to exist intelligent conviction regarding the nature, design analysis, and inferences regarding the phenomenon or topic under investigation (Kerlinger, 1964). The remainder of this paper will examine two research studies from the perspective of data certification and whether or not the author's have adequately fulfilled the research requirements associated with the principle of data certification. The two selected articles are as follows:

1. Davis, Matthew P. And Darden, Paul M., Use of complementary and alternative medicine by children in the United States, Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine. 2003;157:393-396.

2. Friedman T, Slayton WB, Allen LS, Pollock BH, Dumont-Driscoll M, Mehta P, Graham-Pole J. Use of alternative therapies for children with cancer. Pediatrics December 1997, vol. 100, no. 6, p. e1.

Although the two selected studies are in the area of medicine they have been deemed social research inquiries as they primarily attempted to ascertain the degree to which alternative medicine selection is made on the basis of personal acceptance and attitude as well as employing the survey and questionnaire methods for collecting necessary data.

Before a critical review of the Davis and Darden (2003) article entitled Use of complementary and alternative medicine by children in the United States and the article authored by Friedman, et al. (1997) and entitled Use of alternative therapies for children with cancer there must be a discussion on the criteria under which research reviews are undertaken. First, research investigations, regardless of type, must be based on a sound investigative question. Without the statement of a question in research form the data gathered has no authenticity. Second, to accomplish meaningful research the investigator must be able to grasp the intimate and often difficult relations that exist between a research problem and the design, and the data and the methodology of its solution. Herein lies the task placed before the researcher, namely to think relationally, structurally, and architectonically (Ohlson, 1998). Last, the investigator must possess an ardent understanding of the data being gathered, why it is being gathered, how it is being measured, and how the data analysis process will take place in achieving the intended research goals. It is on the basis of these aforementioned doctrines on which the remainder of this report will be based in order to determine whether or not a scientific understanding can be garnered to advance the social phenomenon of a chosen topic, namely, to understand the significance of using alternative medical practices to heal children.

Research, when conducted properly, must adhere to the strict principles of best practices scientific inquiry. To this end conducted research, albeit descriptive, historical, or empirical, must present a researchable question, a testable hypothesis, an analysis of data, and the drawing of sound conclusions (Kerlinger, 1964). By not following the aforementioned tenet of research acceptability that which is investigated results in an exercise in ineffectuality. The article by Davis and Darden (April, 2003), Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine by Children in the United States will be the basis for a critical analysis of a scientific article as to style, format, statistical data analysis, conclusions drawn, and future implications based on the appropriateness of the conclusions drawn.

The primary purpose of the Davis and Darden investigation was to estimate the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine usage in treating pediatric patients. According to the authors CAM is not a well-known or acceptable practice within the American medical community for lack of medical trials and safety controls. The authors do concede, however, that such practice has been prevalent for thousands of years and within many cultures. Knowing that CAM practices do, indeed, take place in the western world medical community the authors conducted a survey to determine the existence of such treatment. The MEPS (Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Household Component) developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (1996) was administered to a population of 6262 children. Results from the survey were to provide the researchers with answers on the frequency of use for treating pediatric medical conditions through use of CAM. The independent variables being looked at included sex, age, race, geographical region, poverty level, and metropolitan statistical area. The resulting data was subjected to a Chi square analysis.

Analysis of the data brought the authors to conclude that the practice of CAM was far less prevalent than initially suspected amongst medical professionals, with the exception of chiropractors. Further, the study concluded that CAM practices may or may not be a useful medical technique in treating pediatric patients.

Critiquing a research article is never easy and all rules for forth an evaluation on an investigators research endeavor there is a code of research ethic to which must be adhered; namely objectivity, subject knowledge, and professionalism. The article under investigation does not meet the requirements of effective empirical investigation on a number of levels. First, no research question was evident no was there a testable hypothesis against which to conduct a statistical analysis. Second, the survey employed to collect the data was not referenced as to its reliability and validity. Third, the sample was not described as being random, (stratified or grouped) or non-random. Fourth, there was no rationale given for the statistical tool used to analyze the data. Using a Chi-square method is reserved for the comparison of theoretical vs. observed and recorded data. In the present research endeavor there was no citation as to what the theoretical data was. Fifth, although some literature was presented there was nothing cited in support of the researchers' position. This likely occurred as no position was stated via a statement of the research question or testable hypothesis. Sixth, the use of a Chi-square does not permit the researcher to make predictions about future research from the data collected. The Chi square simply permits the research to draw conclusions about the here and now. The data gathered and analyzed by Davis and Darden, although purposeful in intent did little to advance the understanding of CAM, its usage, or its effectiveness in treating pediatric illness.

The second article chosen for review deals with the same topic, i.e., alternative care/therapies with children, but is different from the first in that the topic was more specific. Fiedman, et al., in their article (1997) entitled Use of Alternative Therapies for Children with Cancer, sought to determine whether or not parents with cancer-afflicted children were more likely to seek alternative medical therapies than those parents with non-cancerous children. The study consisted of 81 cancer-afflicted children and 80 non-cancerous children patient. The research investigation revealed that parents with cancer-afflicted children were more likely to seek alternative medical treatments beyond what is traditionally offered than those not afflicted with cancer. One of the more unique aspects of this particular study is in the fact that prayer was a form of alternative medicine being evaluated. Other forms of medicine reported upon included therapeutic massage, acupuncture, medicinal herbs and imagery -- all of which were similar to the alternatives reported upon by the authors of the first article reviewed. Similar to the Davis and Darden (2003) study the research investigation, although noble in social research intent, failed to include a definable research question and testable hypothesis from which data could accurately be collected. As noted earlier, should a scientific investigation be executed without the two aforementioned components the resulting conclusions are suspect and the advancement of scientific knowledge is significantly reduced.

As close as the authors came to the identification of a research question was in the presentation of a statement that the study was a comparative study of 81 cancerous children and 80 non-cancerous children patients to determine which group was more likely to use alternative medical care. What was not included in the research investigation however, was any form of control group (i.e., cancerous patients not using alternative medical care and non-cancerous patients using alternative care) -- a significant omission when data is to be interpreted concerning any scientific investigation. Although stated by the authors, and on the part of investigative error, the fact that the sample of 161 patients was not randomly chosen (i.e., one university medical oncology clinic and one outpatient pediatric clinic) has important consequences in the area of data interpretation and future research implications. However, this particular omission will be discussed later on in this report.

In addition to the non-randomization error the research investigators employed measurement tools and statistical data analysis techniques that are not in line with the purpose of the study. When measurement instruments…

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