Thursday, March 26, 2009

Week 9: Quantitative Descriptive Studies

Lauer and Asher: Quantitative Descriptive Studies

-Go beyond ethnographies and case studies to further define variables, quantify them (either roughly or accurately) and interrelate them.

-Correlate variables by various statistical means to look for strong, weak, or no existing relationships

-Report statistical analyses on variables

-Are descriptive, not experimental research, because no control groups are created and no treatments are given.

-Have larger number of subjects required than for case studies and ethnographies—this is because variables will be quantified. At least 10 times as many subjects as variables.

-Use subjects selected based on their appropriateness to the variables and their availability

-Divide variables into independent and dependent variables

-Have alternative hypotheses to test the variable against

Brenton Faber: “Popularizing Nanoscience: The Public Rhetoric of Nanotechnology, 1986 – 1999.”

Begins with literature review to give grounding to social construction of arguments and a scientist’s ability to persuade and lend credibility to his work through socially constructed rhetoric. He then shows how popular media is affecting the way the general public and scientists alike perceive science. Hypotheses are given that 1) the introduction of nanoscience would be a social and rhetorical process, that 2) the introduction of nanoscience would create a persona—a presentation of the author in the text—and insertthe work within an existing understanding of science, and that 3) the public image of nanoscale science and technology would emerge transitionally.

History of nanotechnology is given. Faber shows how the media has used terms such as “Buckyballs” and a discussion of cryogenics, cures for cancer, self-repairing highways, bulletproof clothing as thin as a jacket, and affordable energy have “popularized” nanotechnology.

Subject selection is described (though labeled ‘data collection’ in the article). Articles were chosen from a library database and were limited to newspapers, general interest magazines, and popularized scientific publications. Data was analyzed based on theme and rheme and article topic. While this was thorough, there appears to be a noticeable interrater reliability issue here. Faber is the only one determining the “39 representations of nanotechnology in 262 occurrences” and he alone determines the social-rhetorical nature of these articles.

Discussion: I am left wondering what variables were precisely being examined in this study. Other than showing us that nanotechnology is being presented in popular media, I don’t understand what else Faber gives us here. What I would like to know is the how this rhetorical phenomenon within the field affects the way the field is perceived. This is never really decided and what little is given is based on Faber’s opinion. Faber needs to work through his subject selection and determine why they are important and how they relate to the variables that he wishes to explore.

Steven Golen: “A Factor Analysis of Barriers to Effective Listening”

Golen begins by explaining some of the listening barriers that were discovered in Watson and Smetlzer’s study. He suggests that these barriers (the variables) need further study and he claims to factor analyze them in more detail. He also increased the number of barriers from 14 to 25. Other studies are mentioned where barriers are discovered but Golen claims that none of these studies identifies factors or dimensions of the barriers.

Golen makes a very presumptuous statement when he says: “only one instructor taught the class; therefore, all the students received the same instruction.” Subjects were chosen from business communication lectures. Because the purpose of the study was to investigate listening barriers amongst business college students, this seems like a good subject selection. 25 barriers were examined, 279 subjects were chosen. This meets Lauer and Asher’s variable: subjects ratio requirement.

Literature review is briefly given, letting us know where the 25 variables came from—the most frequent barriers occurring in several studies.

The data analysis is a bit confusing to me. I’m unsure what the “loan on a factor” refers to. I believe Golen is trying to say that in order to make managing the data more efficient (easy), worthless variables needed to be eliminated, so they got rid of several after the fact. I just don’t understand how he came to that conclusion. It is found that gender influences two of the six independent variables (barriers) and thus instruction may need to be adjusted to meet that need. Overall, it appears that this meets Lauer and Asher’s requirements, but I believe more description about the instruction students are given about listening is important. It is hard to determine where subjects are at when going into the study because of this.

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