The current study utilized a quantitative research design. This design emphasizes objective measurements as well as the statistical, mathematical and numerical analysis of data obtained through various approaches, including surveys and polls. The quantitative approach was selected over the qualitative approach because of the need to obtain objective data, something that cannot be achieved under qualitative research design. Additionally, the researcher opted for the quantitative design due to the need to establish causal relationships between different variables in the study and test hypotheses, a feat that cannot be accomplished when using a qualitative research design. The quantitative approach was also preferred to the qualitative approach due to the need to present outcomes that are logical and have scientific validation (Taylor et al. 2010, p.173).
Besides, using the quantitative research design as opposed to the qualitative design facilitates the gathering of data using an objective approach. In this case, the researcher is able to select scientifically the most appropriate instruments that would facilitate the collection of data without the researcher having to get emotionally involved with the subjects and the entire project (Terry 2014, p.83). Another important reason for selecting the quantitative research design as opposed to the qualitative design is that it allows for early identification of potential risks to research participants, making it possible for complications to be addressed before the research continues (Terry 2014, p.83).
The specific quantitative approach that the current study used is the cross-sectional study design. According to Robertson and Williams (2009, p.532), cross-sectional studies observe a sample population at a nominal single point in time. It measures the frequency of outcomes at one point in time. It utilizes a group of enrolled subjects who are then assessed for all the existing variables during the time of data collection (Macera et al. 2013, p.151). The main rationale for using this design is that it is the most appropriate approach that can be used to identify the prevalence of a known phenomenon. This is unlike cohort studies that are usually used to access relatively new phenomena, which is not the case in the current study (Babbie 2016, p.124). The prevalence of inappropriate use of over-the-counter drugs had never been measured before, a fact that prompted the researcher to employ the cross-sectional study design as a means of first establishing the prevalence rates as well as risk factors as a basis for establishing whether a further qualitative study or intervention is required (Taylor et al. 2010, p.173). The fact that the researcher had not received any external funding and, thus, faced financial constraints also made the cross-section survey the most appropriate study design to use since it is relatively cheaper compared to cohort studies (Macera et al. 2013, p.151). On the downside, establishing causal relationships from observational data collected in a cross-sectional time frame is quite difficult. Additionally, sampling under cross-sectional studies is more complicated given the different subjects involved at the different levels of the study, and who might be incomparable (Cohen, Manion and Morrison 2013, p.270).
Data Collection Method
The study used self-administered questionnaires as the main tool for data collection. With this tool, respondents are asked to complete the questionnaires by themselves. They are commonly used by behavioral scientists, special interest groups, manufacturers as well as magazine publishers. The self-administered questionnaires are mailed or dropped off to individuals in their homes with instructions on how to complete the surveys (Mitchell & Jolley 2012, p.286). The fact that the respondents take full responsibility of reading and answering the questions makes self-administered questionnaires different from personal and telephone interviews. In the current study, the researcher could not directly deliver the questionnaires to the participants’ home or email addresses because being an overseas researcher there was a logistical problem of getting the home and email addresses of each participant. As such, the researcher opted to hand out the questionnaires directly to the participants during classes. To ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the participants, no names or addresses were requested. This is one of the tool’s strength since the anonymity gave participants the freedom to report controversial or deviant issues, which they would be reluctant to report in face-to-face surveys or telephone interviews (Cohen, Manion and Morrison 2013, p.56). It was also impossible to send the self-administered questionnaires through each college or university website as the researcher could not have access since he was an overseas researcher. One of the advantages of a self-administered questionnaire over an online questionnaire is that it allows the researcher to check whether it is the right people or not who have completed the survey (Rubin & Babbie 2010, p.405). For an online questionnaire, the researcher is in no position to confirm whether the intended respondents are the ones who completed the survey. Another advantage of self-administered questionnaires over postal questionnaires is that they are easy and cheaper to distribute to a large number of participants (Cohen, Manion and Morrison 2013, p.56). The researcher also opted for the self-administered questionnaires due to the need to prevent bias in the manner the questions were asked, a fact that is common in face-to-face and telephone interviews (Rubin & Babbie 2010, p.405).
However, self-administered questionnaires have several disadvantages that the researcher took into consideration when making the decision to use it over personal and telephone interviews. The first disadvantage is that it can result in serious self-selection biases in cases where the sample selection procedures give the participants the freedom to decide whether to participate or not participate in the survey (Cargan 2007, p.88). The approach is also prone to high non-response rates. Additionally, the questionnaires may at times produce incomplete or ambiguous answers that the researcher may find difficult to clarify in the same manner that it could be in the presence of an interviewer during the data collection process (Hulley 2007, p.89).
Babbie, E. (2016). The basics of social research. 7th ed. New York: Cengage Learning.
Cargan, L. (2007). Doing social research. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2013). Research Methods in Education. 7th ed. London: Routledge.
Hulley, S. (2007). Designing clinical research. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Macera, C., Shaffer, R. and Shaffer, P. (2013). Introduction to epidemiology. Clifton Park, N.Y.: Delmar, Cengage Learning.
Mitchell, M. and Jolley, J. (2012). Research design explained. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Robertson, D. and Williams, G. (2009). Clinical and translational science. Amsterdam: Academic.
Rubin, A. and Babbie, E. (2010). Research methods for social work. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage.
Taylor, B., Kermode, S., Roberts, K. and Roberts, K. (2010). Research in nursing and health care. South Melbourne, Vic., Australia: Thomson.
Terry, A. (2014). Clinical research for the doctor of nursing practice. Montgomery: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
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