Foundations of Behavioral Research

Introduction

According to Ford-Martin and Frey, Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) refers to a number of various illness and symptoms that health experts have noticed in the US soldiers and their allies who took part in the Persian Gulf War between the years 1990 to 1991 (Ford-Martin and Frey, 2005). Scholars have started to contemplate other causative agents of GWS other than warfare stress. Experts in the field of medicine both Veterans and from other private health institutions have studied several potential factors to GWS. Their investigations have included chemicals, biological weapons, smoke from oil well fires, presence and exposure to uranium, immunization and preventive treatments, and common diseases of the Gulf region. Despite all these efforts, experts’ investigations have not reached a consensus on possible causes of GWS. In addition, these health experts even disagree on settling on a specific cause of a particular syndrome.

Statistical studies and analysis have identified wide ranges of possible causes to GWS ranging from sexual dysfunction to asthma. However, before there is a conclusive definition of GWS and its causative agents, diagnosis and studies have focused primarily on identification of Gulf War soldiers who show symptoms of undefined health problems in order to learn further about the GWS. Health experts from the Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD) have embarked on further investigations regarding GWS. At the same time, they also use existing data to perform further studies on possible causes of GWS.

Previous studies show that outcomes of the research on GWS are always unclear. As a result, this quantitative study seeks to examine 50 service members of Persian Gulf War who suffered from undiagnosed illnesses. Likewise, the study will also use a sample of 50 veterans who never took part in the Persian Gulf War.

Purpose Statement

Locke, Silverman, and Spriduso note that a purpose statement establishes a direction of research by indicating why a researcher wants to carry out a study and what a researcher plans to achieve (Locke, Spirduso and Silverman, 2000). Some authors look at a purpose statement from a point of view of research objectives and questions whereas other scholars put it as a part of the research problem. However, Creswell notes that purpose statement is also not the research question. The purpose statement reflects the objectives, study intent and main idea of the study. The research should derive its purpose statement from the problem statement and at the same time refine it in the research questions.

Quantitative studies use variables to measure various aspects of study samples. Creswell defines variable as “a characteristic or attribute of an individual or an organization that can be measured or observed and that varies among the people or organization being studied”. The variables researcher measures in the study often include age, gender, behavior, attitude, and socioeconomic status among others (Creswell, 2008).

The works of Kerlinger provides different accounts of variables a researcher may use in the study. We can identify variables using two aspects (Kerlinger, 1986). First, variables occur in temporal order and measurement or observation. This means that a variable must come before the other in time. This aspect of time results into a variable affecting another, which result into a probable causation. Researchers have indicated that it almost impossible to prove the absolute cause and effect relations in a natural setting of the study. Further studies note that time ordering in a quantitative research makes researchers put the variables in a purpose statement, and questions to highlight cause and effect relations. Consequently, we have independent and dependent variables. Independent variables are variables that most likely cause or affect the outcomes. Some researchers refer to independent variables as predictors, manipulated or antecedent variables. Conversely, dependent variables depend on the independent variables. Therefore, dependent variables are the results or outcomes of the independent variables.

It is critical to note that a purpose statement design begins with the identification of preferred variables of the study. The researcher must also identify relationships between the variables and how he or she will measure or observe these variables. The use of variables in a quantitative study aims at relating and comparing the samples in the survey.

The purpose of this survey is to identify potential link between war veterans who physically served in the Gulf War, and service members who served stateside during the same period in relationship to the Gulf War Syndrome. The background information of the study shall look into veterans’ health conditions before and after participating in the Gulf War and information about health complications and experiences during the war. The clarification of background factors is necessary for this study to enable the researcher establish factors contributing to differences in soldiers who physical participated in the Gulf War, and those who remained at stateside. The study will also present respondents with opportunities to identify health issues of concern to them during and after the Gulf War. We shall use some health conditions like depression, chronic fatigue, asthma, sexual dysfunction, cognitive dysfunction related thought processes and memory, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, and fibromyalgia. The findings may show that service members who served in Persian Gulf have some unknown medical illness while serving in the Persian Gulf.

Significant of Leadership to the study

The GWS has attracted several debates, both from experts and leaders alike. This is because Persian Gulf War veterans present varied medical conditions suspected to be related to GWS. According to a survey conducted by the office of Michigan Senator, Donald Riegel from 600 veterans showed that 77 percent of the veterans reported similar symptoms in their spouses, 65 percent reported post war damages babies, and 25 percent of the soldiers children born before the war show signs of illnesses associated with weakness. This is because the syndrome is equally contagious. One medical expert states that it is an epidemic, just like AIDS (Kennedy, 2007). As leaders continue to argue over the possible causes of GWS, researchers have declared that the possible cause of GWS is sarin gas. These researchers have advised more than 300,000 troops to avoid smoking, alcohol and certain sprays. According to Senator Patty Murray, Veterans Affairs told Gulf War veterans that the syndrome was all in their heads, and simply making it up. Murray insists that Veteran Affairs should make studies that provide the direct links to the possible causes of GWS public. Initially, leaders denied that there were no problems. However, the studies now suggest that there are links between the Gulf War activities and the associated syndrome. He insists that leaders must support such studies and inform more than 300,000 troops of the Gulf War.

The controversial nature of the GWS in terms of symptoms and possible causes need leadership to support every study findings in that area. According to Miller, the state has exposed veterans to experiments without their consents. The unethical nature of such studies puts the role of leadership into question. Consequently, Veteran Affairs never make such findings public.

Research Questions and Hypotheses

Quantitative research either uses research question or hypotheses. Research questions or hypotheses contain study variables that the researcher describes, relates or groups in order to measure differences between dependent and independent variables. Hypotheses reflect the predictions concerning the possible outcomes of the study. Occasionally, the researcher may state hypotheses in order to clarify the expected study results. Some studies may use null hypothesis to show that there is no link or relationship between the variables. In questions, the researcher begins by stating independent variables and then dependent variables. Studies suggest that the appropriate model begins with the descriptive questions, and the researcher may follow with inferential question for comparing or relating study variables.

The research questions and hypotheses look at the Gulf War veterans and their health conditions before and after the war. The study will also attempt to establish these conditions with the activities that occurred in the battle fields. In this regard, the research questions are as follows.

  1. What are the different types syndromes Gulf War veterans exhibits?
  2. What were the soldiers’ prior health statuses before getting involved in Gulf War?
  3. How do leaders react to study findings on Gulf War Syndromes?
  4. Does all post-war syndromes in veterans relate to Gulf War Syndromes?
  5. What are the health statuses of soldiers who never participated in the Gulf War?

Study hypotheses will investigate post-war syndromes in veterans, in relations to different symptoms exhibited by soldiers. Then, the researcher will collect information related to the post Gulf War syndromes. Thus, the study hypotheses are as follows.

  • H10: There are no differences in undiagnosed illnesses extant in service members who served in the Persian Gulf as compared to those who did not serve in the Persian Gulf
  • H1a: There are differences in undiagnosed illnesses in service members who served in the Persian Gulf as compared to those who did not serve in the Persian Gulf.

Assumptions

Some studies indicate that quantitative study has some underlying philosophical assumptions. These assumptions posit that reality is one, and tangible. Therefore, facts have objective reality. The researcher can also trace causality in such studies. Assumptions of quantitative study indicate that the researcher can identify, separate, and control variables. Therefore, quantitative research strives to find a general consensus in studies. Thus, the research design controls relationship between dependent and independent variables. The researcher aims at eliminating statistical difficulties by using control groups. For instance, in studying GWS the researcher uses soldiers who did not participate in the Gulf War as control or constant variables. As Neumann and Robson indicate, a research must guard against possible errors or obstacles that may interfere with the inferences from the data (Neumann and Robson, 2012).

In research, possible errors can occur at any stage. These may include research design processes, defining variables, data collection and analysis, and in interpretation of research findings. The assumptions of this study are that the researcher will get reliable information from war veterans. The second assumption is that the researcher will analyze the collected data using appropriate statistical tools to eliminate chances of errors in the findings.

Limitations

Study limitations aim at identifying possible study weaknesses. The researcher must take note that it is difficult to identify study weaknesses until the process begins. Despite this, the researcher can identify these weaknesses from the methods of data collection and analysis. In fact, all research strategies have limitations. The negative debates and publicity about the GWS syndrome may affect the quality of data the researcher may collect. At some point, Veteran Affairs told soldiers that GWS was all in their imagination i.e. it never existed. At the same time, varied symptoms of GWS syndromes may lead to collections of a large amount of data that the researcher may find difficult to analyze and generalize. Therefore, the researcher will generalize the findings of this study to every area of imaginable GWS. At the same time, study findings may also have related interpretation due to undiagnosed conditions.

Delimitation

Researchers use delimitations to narrow the scope of the study. For instance, the GWS study will focus on specific areas that will reflect health status of the post-war veterans, particularly in the collection of data related to symptoms of GWS. This will ensure that the researcher does not collect much information about unclear conditions of war veterans. The study will also limit its sample to only those soldiers who directly participated in the combat zones in the Gulf War, and to some extent, soldiers who specifically took part in specific activities, such as destroying war chemical.

Purpose Statement

As the researcher has noted above, purpose statement is a vital part of any research study since it gives research the direction. It provides the reader with the research purpose and provides direction for research questions and hypotheses. This survey strives to establish the distinctions of GWS between war veterans who served in the Gulf War and those who did not. The study will examine 50 soldiers from the Gulf War Registry who served in the Gulf War, and suffer from different undiagnosed illnesses, e.g. fatigue, sleep disturbance, headaches, skin irritation, joint pains, and memory loss.

Research Methodology

Most researchers consider quantitative research method as appropriate choice in scientific research because it has precise measurement and analysis system. Quantitative design allows the researcher to count and group the variables, and then create statistical models that the researcher uses to explain the findings. In most cases, the researcher collects data which is almost in numbers. Quantitative research design depends on empirical information in order to derive interpretation from the findings. This design involves deductive reasoning whereby the researcher uses appropriate tools to gather data. This method also results into precise observation or measurement of variables.

Past inquiries involving quantitative design have relied on post positivist perspectives as sources for justification. Some researchers believe that true experiments, quasi-experiments and correlation are popular. This study shall use survey questionnaires or structure interviews to collect data from war veterans with the intent of providing generalization from a sample of population as Babbie indicates (Babbie, 1990).

The researcher shall use correlation research design because of the relation to service members who served in the Gulf War and have shown signs of Gulf War Illness. The researcher shall ask all participants to complete a survey questionnaire and be assigned to control groups. The research shall adopt the use of quantitative method study because the researcher plans to investigate using statistical, and data analysis based on the theory that service members who served in the Gulf War are suffering from an unknown illness.

The researcher notes some of the weaknesses of the quantitative methodology as stated by Creswell. Creswell states that quantitative research can fail to provide expected data based on the conditions of the survey and the environment in which the informants respond to the questions in the survey. However, the researcher in quantitative studies knows clearly beforehand what he/she expects from the survey.

Quantitative studies provide scientific merit because these studies provide measurable results that can be used to accept or reject the present study’s hypotheses. The location of the research will be the Baltimore Veterans Administrative Hospital, downtown Baltimore and an Internet database. The gathered data may provide leaders with information and ways of helping service members who may suffer with an undiagnosed illness.

Appropriateness of Design

Research design introduces readers to the rationale and purpose of the survey. In quantitative research, the purpose of the design is to enable the researcher generalize from a sample to a population in order to make inferences about variable characteristics using measurement or observation.

The design must also highlights why a researcher prefers a certain method of data collection. The use of survey questionnaires will enable the researcher to collect a large amount of data within a short time frame, and at the same time, the researcher also has the advantage of identifying a suitable sample from a large population of post Gulf War veterans in Baltimore (Fowler, 1988).

According to Neumann and Robson, quantitative research follows a linear path with defined steps that occur in sequence. Each step guides the researcher to the next phase in the study (Neumann and Robson, 2012). The study begins with the formulation of research questions that direct the planning of the design, measurement, sampling, data collection, and analysis. The survey approach is the most common method of generating and collecting primary data and is the best method available to social scientists interested in collecting data for describing a population too large or too dispersed to be observed directly. The researcher will use the data and methodological triangulation, which entail use of more than one method to gather data: interviews, questionnaires, and documents. The purpose of triangulation in quantitative research is to increase the validity and reliability of the results. The researcher’s methods of gathering data will be survey questionnaires, and interviews. However, if responses are low from the internet survey and documents with data collected, the researcher will apply the use cross-sectional method whereby the he or she collects data at one point in time.

Sampling

A researcher must identify characteristics of population of the study and sampling techniques. The researcher has identified the population of study has post Gulf War soldiers. The researcher intends to use a total of 50 soldiers who participated in a combat, and another 50 soldiers who never directly got involved in a battle. The researcher may need to contact Veterans Administrator to provide a list of potential respondents for a survey. The survey will use a single-stage sampling where researcher will have access to a specific list of veterans, and he or she can perform the survey directly.

Creswell recommends the use of random sampling to provide equal opportunity for the researcher to select any sample from the population. This randomization enables the researcher to make a conclusive generalization. For effective data collection and access varied symptoms of GWS, the researcher will stratify the sample so that he or she can collect data from both male and female veterans.

However, the researcher may use an alternative sampling, the snowball sampling, if respondents’ participation is low. Cooper and Schindler note that a snowball sampling is one way of selecting a sample that is representative of the average population (Cooper and Schindler, 2011). The snowball sampling approach is a key way of reaching out to respondents that may know anybody who may have the characteristics for the research (Heckathorn, 2008).

Instrumentation

The researcher must also provide real survey instrument he or she intends to use. The researcher intends to use both primary and secondary data. Therefore, in using primary, the researcher will design survey questionnaires specifically for the study. The questionnaire design will use an open-ended technique in order to allow respondents give account of their experiences with regard to GWS. At the same time, the researcher may also use a closed-ended questionnaire to enable participants choose from a pre-existing set of answers, such as true or false, or yes or no, and with an option of other. The advantages of using closed-ended questions are; they are easy to analyze, their response rate is higher and consume less time, and they are less expensive to the researcher.

The use of secondary data is also crucial for this study. This is as a result of ongoing debate over GWS, with others doubting its existence. Therefore, the researcher will turn to secondary data from health experts and other scholarly journals and publications to ensure validity and reliability of the collected information. However, the researcher must also establish the validity and reliability of such existing instruments, and establish whether he or she can draw useful generalization from the data of such instruments. The researcher must establish whether or not the results measure the target content, predict the result, and measure hypothetical concepts. Likewise, the researcher must also identify chances of consistency, and possibly notice causes of any possible error in the findings.

Data Collection Procedures

This research is a quantitative research. However, the researcher should recognize elements of qualitative data as a result of using open-ended questions. Likewise, the researcher must convert information of a qualitative nature into figures i.e. quantify them. This is because quantitative approach uses numbers for analysis.

Some researchers argue that a correctly drawn sample should have the same characteristics as the whole population. Quantitative research uses non-probability such that every potential part of the population has an equal chance of selection. The researcher will recruit participants by phone, electronic mail, Gulf War Registry database, or mail. Participants will receive surveys through an on-line survey. According to Creswell, obtaining permissions from organizational personnel requires contacting them before the start of a study and obtaining their permission to participate. The researcher will ask each participant to sign an informed consent form before they participate in the study. The survey will consist of 50 randomly selected veterans from on-line database. The researcher will solicit war veterans based on their availability to participate in the survey and their ability to provide feedback on the survey instrument’s content, ease of completion, and overall measurement (Cooper and Schindler, 2011). The researcher may decide to administer the survey questions on-line participation, and via the electronic means (e-mails). The researcher will ensure that gathered data remain confidential, and participants’ information will remain anonymous.

Internal and External Validity

Validity refers to the appropriateness of the measurement instrument and how well it measures the variables or concepts in the study. In order to ensure internal validity, the researcher must ensure that he or she uses triangulation method in data collection so as to obtain data using several sources such as observations, survey interviews, and analysis of existing research findings. The researcher will also ensure that there is a checking of all the collected data throughout the process. This will ensure that the war veterans’ meaning, intentions, and reality experiences are a part of the collected information. The use of participatory approach will ensure that informants are a part of the process, and in turn, they will help the researcher guard against possible bias.

Merriam notes that a researcher should ensure external validity by providing thick, rich, detailed description of the research as a solid framework for transferability (Merriam, 1998). The researcher will ensure external validity through focusing on the study, clarification of researcher’s and respondents’ roles, basis for participation, and context of data collection. Triangulation will also ensure strength, and reliability of collected data. Data analysis process must also be clear from the start with details and accurate information.

Data Analysis

The researcher must conduct data analysis after pretest and after actual data collection for research analysis. The most common quantitative statistics analysis includes standard deviations, means, frequency, and mode. The researcher will also show inferential statistical tests for hypotheses examination. At the same time, he or she will perform univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) or a multivariate analysis of variance (MABIVA) in order to understand the correlations in both the independent and dependent variables.

The common initial stages of data analysis take account of cleaning and organizing data. The researcher then codes the data and creates different ideas from the responses. What follows is using appropriate data analysis tool to generate meanings out of raw data. The researcher may present results in the form of tables, frequencies, and charts, among others. Some researchers may also give personal experiences in the research process, review past publications and compare with research findings. The researcher may also raise pertinent questions depending on the research findings. The researcher may also raise pertinent issue depending on research findings. The researcher should also provide a means of validating his or her findings.

Reporting the Findings

Lofland says that reporting of research findings is different. Miles and Huberman advise researchers to use narrative texts and create data displays in presentation of research findings (Creswell, 2008). Description will ensure that the researcher gives the whole findings as they are, including the informants’ accounts and meaning. This also gives the target groups opportunities of comprehending the challenges the researcher encountered during the survey processes. In addition, it provides the audience with the means of improving them.

Research Matrix

Time Schedule March April May June July
Research Design
Questionnaire formulation
Pre-test of research questionnaires
Adjusting the research questionnaires
Data Collection
Data Analysis and interpretation of findings Presentation of research findings, conclusion and recommendation

References

Babbie, E. (1990). Survey research methods, 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Cooper, D. R. and Schindler, P. S. (2011). Business Research Methods, 11th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Creswell, J. W. (2008). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and mixed methods approaches, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Ford-Martin, Paula and Frey, Rebecca. (2005). Gulf War Syndrome. Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 7(3), 50-60.

Fowler, F. J. (1988). Survey research methods, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Heckathorn, D. (2008). Sampling and estimation in hidden populations using respondent-driven sampling. Sociological Methodology, 34(1), 23-25.

Kennedy, K. (2007). Study: Sarin at Root of Gulf War Syndrome. Veterans Advantage, 2(3), 3-5.

Kerlinger, F. (1986). Foundations of behavioral research. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Locke, L.F., Spirduso, W.W., and Silverman, S.J. (2000). Proposals that work: A guide for planning dissertations and grant proposal, 4th ed. Thousand Oadks, CA: Sage Publication.

Merriam, S. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San Francisco: Jossey-bass.

Neumann, W. and Robson, K. (2012). Basics of Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, 2nd ed. Toronto, ON: Pearson.