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Research Design and Associated Research Activities

The research team is using a longitudinal research design. This type of design involves the collection of data (i.e., information) from students at several points in time. A major advantage of using a longitudinal design is that it allows for the examination of how variables assessed at the beginning of the research can help the researchers understand important student outcomes assessed at the end of the study. This type of research design can also help them understand change in outcomes over time.


Here’s a hypothetical example.  
NSF is very interested in understanding variables that are related to whether or not students who declare STEM majors upon entrance to college, graduate with degrees in STEM disciplines 4 to 6 years later. One possible influence might be interest in a STEM-related career. While researchers can relate “interest in a STEM career” during students’ first year to the majors they have at graduation, this only tells us about the relationship between interest at the beginning of students’ college experience with an outcome that is measured 4+ years later. Measuring interest at each of the years in which students are enrolled in college, provides information about how interest in STEM careers might fluctuate over time, and how those changes are related to “college major at graduation”.

The research team is also using multiple methods to obtain data from research participants. The first method, survey research, uses quantitative data analyses of responses to surveys. In the first year of the study, participants will be asked to complete 2 surveys that are conducted by the research team. In subsequent years of the study, participants will complete one survey conducted by the research team. These surveys are in addition to the surveys that are conducted by the evaluation team.
Other methods used by the research team are qualitative in nature and employ interview and journaling to gain more in-depth and nuanced data that goes beyond what can be gathered through survey questions. Due to the nature of these methods, not all persons who participate in our surveys will be able to participate in the qualitative component of our research. During each year of the study, participants in the qualitative component of the research will be asked to write one journal entry and participate in one interview

Although some questions asked by the two teams may seem very similar, the analyses that our teams conduct have different purposes. The research team’s primary goal is to generate new knowledge, while the evaluation team’s primary goal is to assess program efficacy and effectiveness.