IDENTIFYING A RESEARCH INSTRUMENT
It is important for a researcher to select the appropriate instrument for the experiment. Having the right instrument reduces the degree of error in the experiment and thus it enhances the credibility of the research results. To ensure that a researcher has the right research instrument the following considerations have to be taken in to account:
- Length and complexity of the instrument-most experiments take place in a field setting and may involve numerous participants. Therefore, the instrument’s instructions need to be simple and straight forward to help the participants to easily understand. Moreover, a shorter time ensures the researcher is able to obtain unique and quality information (Creswell, 2014).
- Reliability and validity of the instrument-the researcher needs to find out whether the reliability and validity of the instrument has been determined by other peer reviewed sources. A researcher should only use instruments whose reliability and validity has been verified.
- Educational impact of the instrument-the researcher should choose an instrument that not only helps to fulfill the research objectives but it has an educational impact on the participants.
- Specificity of the research instrument-the more specific the measure of a research instrument the more accurate is its research results. The researcher should look for a specific research instrument.
It is worth pointing out that developing a new research instrument takes a lot of time and tremendous research. Therefore, adapting an existing instrument may save the researcher the agony of developing a new instrument. Most of the research instruments are found attached as appendices to journal articles and other peer reviewed sources. Moreover, a researcher can write to the publishers and authors of peer reviewed sources to get the instruments used. Also, there are other instruments that are available for purchase. Moreover, there are online databases such as ETS Test Link that provide access to numerous research tests and instruments.
A questionnaire is one of the best instruments for collecting research data in experiments. Basically, a questionnaire is used to collect opinions of people in a sample population regarding the subject matter of the research. The structure of a questionnaire is such that is comprises a set of formatted questions that are intended to obtain specific information from the participants. Therefore, the importance of a questionnaire is the opinion from participants. The advantage of a questionnaire is that is cheap and efficient in collecting a large amount of data in a short time. However, a questionnaire should be as clear and as precise as possible because in an instance of confusing questions the researcher is not there to clarify the questions (Wiemer & Dominick, 2013).
When using a questionnaire, the researcher should first identify the research objectives i.e. the interest of the research. Secondly, the researcher needs to identify a sample population that is appropriate for the questionnaire and consider whether this population has the desired knowledge for the experiment. Thirdly, the researcher should design the questionnaire questions. In doing so, he/she should keep adhere to the anonymity of participants and ensure that questions are clear and precise.
Fourthly, the researcher should pilot the questionnaire and this helps the participants to know the information that is required and also familiarize them with the research process. Piloting also helps the researcher to find out whether the questionnaire is aligned to the research objectives. The fifth step involves administering the questionnaire to the participants. The final step in a questionnaire is the analysis of the results. In the analysis quantitative data can be analyzed through statistical methods while opinions can be analyzed through soft wares that help to sort the data to establish patterns.
Creswell, J. W. (2014). A concise introduction to mixed methods research. Sage Publications.
Wimmer, R. D., & Dominick, J. R. (2013). Mass media research. Cengage learning.