By Design: Planning Research on Higher Education

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Do students who work longer and harder learn more in college? Does joining a fraternity with a more academic flavor enhance a student's academic performance? When are the results from an innovation that is tried on one campus applicable to other campuses? How many students and faculty members must participate in a research project before findings are valid? Do students learn best when they study alone or in small groups?

These are just some more than fifty examples that Richard Light Judith Singer and John Willett explore in By Design, a lively nontechnical sourcebook for learning about colleges and universities. These authors believe that careful design of research on college effectiveness is the single most important step toward producing useful and valid findings. In that spirit, By Design is a pathbreaking textbook of modern research methods that both practitioners and students will find useful.

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Editorial Reviews

Addresses the first phase of research--design of the project. The authors discuss the basic principles of research design and illustrate their points with sixty examples of recent research in higher education. Requires almost no technical background. For faculty, administrators, and students. Paper edition unseen, $10.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674089303
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1990
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard J. Light is Professor in the Graduate School of Education and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Judith D. Singeris an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Education, Harvard University.

John B. Willett is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Education, Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

1. Why Do Research On Higher Education?

Many Questions, Many Options

Our Philosophy of Research Design

How This Book is Organized

2. What Are Your Questions?

Why Are Research Questions So Important?

Getting Specific

Building on the Work of Others

Correlation versus Causation

The Wheel of Science

3. What Groups Do You Want to Study?

Specifying the Target Population

Where Should you Conduct the Study

Selecting Your Sample

More Than One Type of Respondent

Nonresponse Bias

4. What Predictors Do You Want to Study?

Types of Predictors

The Important Role of Variation

Other Reasons for Selecting Predictors

The Integrity of Your Treatment

Choosing Which Predictors to Study

5. Compared to What?

Why Do You Need a Comparison Group?

Randomized Control Groups: The Best Comparisons

Requiring Informed Consent

Volunteer Bias

Comparison Groups without Random Assignment

Retrospective Case-control Studies

Design Effects Can Swamp Treatment Effects

6. What Are Your Outcomes?

Different Kinds of Outcomes

Will You Measure Status or Development

Short-term versus Long-term Effects

Are Your Measures Valid?

7. How Can You Improve Your Measures?

What is Measurement Error?

Reliability and Measurement Error

Six Strategies for Improving Measurement Quality

Looking at Measurement Quality

8. How Many People Should You Study?

Why Is Sample Size So Important?

What Size Effect Do You Want to Detect?

What Type of Analysis Will You Use?

Instruments Precision and Sample Size

What If Students Drop Out?

9. Should You Try It out on a Small Scale?

The Advantages of Pilot Studies

Piloting Instruments

Relational Studies

Informal Small-scale Experiments

Generalizing From a Small Study

10. Where Should You Go From Here?

Getting Started

Lessons From Our Seminar

Decisions You Must Make

Planning a Longer-term Research Program



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