Cancer is a critical health concern, and one of the main challenges of this disease is the fact that its prevalence among children has been increasing over the last five decades. However, despite the terrifying scope of this medical problem, there have been significant improvements in treating cancer over recent decades, so the level of recovery is increasing as well. For this reason, it is essential to be aware of the significant impact of cancer on children and their social activities so that it may be possible to obtain enough knowledge to help children reintegrate into society upon recovery (McLoone, Wakefield & Cohn 2013).
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At the same time, this knowledge is paramount to improve the emotional wellbeing of children with cancer so that they can be helped along in their recovery. Therefore, the main objective of the proposed research study is to find a relevant and accurate answer to the following research question: What is the connection between childhood cancer and the social activities of those living with this medical diagnosis? Based on the findings of past literature, the central assumption is as follows: Cancer is associated with significant changes in the social activities of children who are diagnosed with it due to a variety of psychological concerns, including self-esteem problems and a loss of motivation to be socially active. This assumption was reached after reviewing several sources on the impact of childhood cancer on those diagnosed with it.
In general, the influence of cancer on children’s social activities can be viewed from different perspectives, such as their relationships with their peers, social inclusion, social support, and the overall role of communication between children with cancer and other people. While conducting the literature review, it was concluded that it is extremely challenging for children with cancer to communicate effectively with their peers.
This fact holds true both before treatment and after recovery when these children return to their schools. The primary difficulty can be explained by the fact that peers commonly perceive cancer survivors differently compared to their perceptions before treatment. In most cases, children with cancer are isolated and rejected by their peers, and a common reaction to such children is negative (Pini, Hugh-Jones & Gardner 2012). Such attitudes result in the inability of children to reintegrate into their initial community, leading to significant challenges in social inclusion (McLoone, Wakefield & Cohn, 2013).
In addition to the existing issues regarding their relationships with peers and social inclusion, problems also arise when it comes to the social support of those undergoing treatment. The main challenge is a lack of adequate social support not only due to the inability of children who have survived cancer to reintegrate into their communities but also as a result of people around them failing to understand the emotional needs of young cancer survivors who are often coping with loneliness and isolation (A’Bear 2014).
More than that, peers are commonly rude, and teachers and social workers do not know how to address this problem, which results in a lack of social support. All in all, these challenges are connected to a general misunderstanding of the critical role of communication in helping children cope with cancer-related stress. In this case, the focus is on communication with peers, families, and school administrators (Bruce, Newcombe & Chapman 2012). It is essential to note that schools are emphasized because they are most often the community of reintegration after cancer recovery (Thompson et al. 2015).
To conclude, regardless of the comprehensive nature of extant literature in the area of interest, it is still essential to investigate the influence of childhood cancer on social activities within the UK context. For instance, it is paramount to focus on children’s perceptions of cancer because these perspectives may be valuable for developing effective social support systems to reintegrate children into the community after their recovery and to significantly decrease the risk of isolation and rejection so that they are seen as equals, not as a threat.
As mentioned above, the central objective of the proposed research is to understand the nature of the connection between cancer in children and their social activities. To address the stated research question, it is essential to develop a comprehensive methodology plan. All of the relevant details of the chosen research methodology will be described in the following subsections.
There is only one research question for the study at hand: What is the connection between childhood cancer and the social activities of those living with this medical issue? Nevertheless, this primary question is associated with several smaller research questions that may make the research more focused and comprehensive. These additional questions are as follows:
- What are the main social activities affected by a child’s cancer diagnosis?
- What are the main factors that contribute to the emergence of challenges related to the social activities of children with cancer?
- What is the prevalence of issues connected to social activities among children diagnosed with cancer?
Type of Study and Research Design
For the proposed research, a descriptive study has been selected. This choice can be explained by the specificities of this type of study. In general terms, a descriptive study commonly aims at obtaining a better understanding of a particular phenomenon or problem (Bendazzoli & Monacelli 2016). Because the proposed research aims to determine the influence of a cancer diagnosis on children’s social interactions—thus describing the existing connection between two phenomena—the choice of a descriptive study is appropriate.
In this case, it is essential to note that descriptive studies may be both qualitative and quantitative. In most instances, the quantitative method is chosen to increase the comprehensiveness of descriptions (Bendazzoli & Monacelli 2016). Therefore, the selected research design is quantitative. Beyond the valuable contribution of the method of conducting comprehensive research, there are other reasons for choosing this type of descriptive study as well.
For instance, it is beneficial for establishing cause-and-effect relationships (Johnson & Christensen 2014). Within the context of this research, these relationships may be established in finding out whether it is cancer that leads to common issues with social interactions in children or whether social concerns are associated with other factors that are unrelated to cancer. More than that, the quantitative research method is generally used to prove hypotheses (Lund 2012).
The proposed research is based on the assumption that cancer is connected to significant changes in the social activities of children diagnosed with it due to a variety of psychological concerns, including self-esteem problems and a loss of motivation to stay socially active. That being said, because it is necessary to test the hypothesis to answer the research question, the choice of the quantitative method is appropriate.
Even though the quantitative research method is commonly associated with large samples, it is not a necessary or fundamental requirement. In some cases, it is permissible to focus on small sample sizes so that there is an opportunity to pay closer attention to the respondents and the analysis of data. Smaller samples may also be appropriate in the case of limited resources, which does apply to the proposed research.
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Therefore, the sample for this study will be small. It will comprise 30 children who have been diagnosed with cancer. The rationale for focusing on children, not their parents or peers, is the desire to obtain a better understanding of the children’s perceptions of the situation so that it may be possible to better address their needs in the future based on the findings of the current research. To select participants, a combination of random and convenience sampling techniques will be used. From this perspective, respondents will be selected randomly (representing the element of the random sampling technique) among those easily available (representing a feature of the convenience sampling technique) (Frels & Onwuegbuzie 2013).
As for the availability of respondents, it is paramount to mention that a local hospital will be chosen as the research setting. This decision is connected to the opportunity to obtain access to children’s records and select recovered patients who are ready for reintegration into their communities. Moreover, hospital administration may also involve those who have already re-entered their communities so that it is possible to collect information about the challenges these children are facing.
That being said, the sample will comprise 15 respondents who are getting ready for reintegration and 15 who are already reintegrating to make the study more comprehensive and to determine whether the social issues of children differ when in hospital and once back in the community. Also, only children will be included in the sample. In this case, it is imperative to pay special attention to the age of those engaged in the study, focusing on children between 8 and 10 years old. This limited age range can be explained by the small sample size; it is assumed that relative age uniformity will be associated with decreased risks of failing to collect relevant data and analyze it properly.
Data Collection Tools
Based on the specificities of the proposed research methodology, there is a need to collect qualitative data. One of the ways to achieve this objective is to choose surveys as the data collection tool. Beyond the established connection of this tool with the quantitative research method, there are also several other reasons for giving preference to it. For instance, surveys are less complicated to analyze because of the universality of answer choices and the lack of necessity to transcribe the collected information.
Moreover, they are beneficial for identifying existing trends in the problem under consideration, which is certainly valuable in the context of the proposed research. Nonetheless, surveys are also connected to significant limitations, such as failing to understand participants’ motivation for picking a particular answer to a question and being unable to pay closer attention to more critical issues. Nevertheless, a survey is the best option for collecting data that will be used to determine the possible connections between two or more phenomena, making it an appropriate choice for the proposed study (Clark et al. 2014).
It is also imperative to note that the questionnaire will include only close-ended questions—those that ask the participants to choose one or more answers that best describe their perceptions of the situation. All questions will be grouped into several categories, the first of which will focus on collecting a minimum amount of personal information necessary to identify the existing trends and issues, such as gender and age.
Participants will not be asked to give their names to guarantee confidentiality and avoid ethical concerns. Another group of questions will focus on participants’ self-image so that it will be possible to conclude whether self-perception is associated with the impact of cancer on social interactions. Finally, the third group of questions will pay attention to participants’ experiences and their perceptions of social interactions once they were diagnosed with cancer and underwent treatment. The underlying idea is to collect information about the way people treated these children with cancer and view it from the perspective of the children’s self-perception. All obtained data will be coded once enough completed questionnaires have been collected that it is possible to analyze the data.
As mentioned above, descriptive studies are commonly based on an analysis of quantitative data. Although quantitative studies involve calculation, simple statistics will be used for the proposed research. The responses of each participant will be analyzed from the perspective of trends in survey answers (i.e., the percentages of particular responses) and correlations between the two phenomena under investigation: childhood cancer and social activities.
All information will be analyzed through Microsoft Excel functions. In this case, it is also essential to pay special attention to the visual representation of the collected information so that it will be easier for a reader to perceive the data. For this reason, all details measured in percentages will be demonstrated in figures, while coded answers will be listed in tables so that readers have all necessary and interesting information to understand the research findings and conclusions.
While completing the data analysis, it will of course be necessary to test the hypothesis mentioned above. To achieve this objective, a t-test will be used. Although t-tests are one of the most basic statistical tools, at the same time, they are also one of the most valuable ones. This instrument will be used to find out whether the connection between the two phenomena under consideration is statistically significant or insignificant. In this case, the statistical significance will mean that the hypothesis is proven and that the impact of childhood cancer on children’s social activities is robust. On the other hand, a statistically insignificant result will indicate that the hypothesis is not proven and that the connection between the two issues is weak.
As mentioned above, this research study is limited in resources, one of which is time. To collect the necessary information, analyze it, and prepare a report, six weeks have been set as the timeframe. The proposed schedule comprises three interconnected steps: two weeks to develop surveys and collect data, two weeks to analyze the data, and two weeks to complete the final report. The timing of each stage is flexible; any changes in the time required to complete a particular stage may be compensated at the expense of the other two.
Still, it is believed that this timeframe will be sufficient because the sample size is small and there is already a comprehensive background for the study in the form of the literature review conducted during one of the earlier stages of research. No time changes or delays in completing the report are expected.
Like any other research study, the proposed one has several critical ethical considerations that must be addressed to maintain professional standards and respect participants. First and foremost, it is imperative to collect informed consent forms to make sure that all participants are aware of the research objectives and do want to become involved in it. Also, it is paramount to guarantee confidentiality, which can be achieved by not sharing collected information with third parties before completing the study and by not communicating any personal data of the participants. For instance, to reach this goal, participants will not be asked to give their names in the questionnaires.
Moreover, their names will not be mentioned in the description of the sample. Furthermore, it is critical to avoid sensitive subjects when developing survey questions as well as language that contains bias in gender, age, or background. Also, some technical issues will be noted, such as citing all borrowed thoughts and ideas to avoid plagiarism and being thorough in the documentation of research findings. Finally, there are also some ethical considerations related to security issues including the risk of losing or compromising participant data. To minimize these risks, all information will be stored in a document that has been locked with a password. This document will be stored in the cloud so that the risks of losing it due to any technical force majeure are minimal.
Evaluation of the Potential Research Significance
Value of the Project
The proposed research may be of significant value to achieving higher reintegration rates of childhood cancer survivors as well as easing the re-entry of those who have recovered from cancer into their initial communities. This contribution can be explained by the fact that the research will identify the major challenges related to the connection between social activities and childhood cancer within the United Kingdom.
Moreover, a relevant answer to the research question is inseparable from making the recovery and reintegration processes more emotionally comfortable for children who have survived cancer due to the potential decrease in isolation and rejection risks that they commonly face. Still, beyond the practical value mentioned above, it is also essential to point to the potential theoretical significance of the proposed research because it aims at filling a gap in the existing knowledge about the impact of childhood cancer on children’s activities: UK-specific risks and concerns.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Research
Based on the research methodology and potential value of the proposed research, the study has both strengths and weaknesses. Both practical and theoretical significance is the major strength of the proposed research. The findings can be supplemented with an opportunity to develop comprehensive programs and plans aimed at diminishing the negative impact of childhood cancer on children’s activities as well as addressing the unique emotional needs of those diagnosed with cancer and recovering from it.
Still, there are some critical weaknesses with the study as well, the most significant of which is the sample size. Even though the small sample size is a benefit in terms of avoiding complications while collecting research data and analyzing the obtained information, as well as paying more attention to participants, it is also associated with significant risks to data validity (Flick 2014). These risks are based on the potential for error when selecting appropriate respondents, especially keeping in mind that random sampling has been selected as the sampling technique.
Moreover, small sample sizes are connected to an inability to generalize the findings of the research (Caruth 2013; Lund 2012). As a result, regardless of the value of the study, the findings will apply to one local community only—the one that surrounds the selected hospital—rather than the UK environment at large.
Relevant Audience and Strategies for Reaching It
The target audience comprises of several different populations: children, their parents, educators, social workers, policymakers, and the general public. In this case, no focus is made on the geographical locations of these people. Even though the research will be conducted in the UK, the idea is to make it generally acceptable and help audiences around the world overcome common issues in social activities related to childhood cancer. To reach the target audience, several strategies will be deployed. They include the following: pointing to the criticality of the problem at hand, including statistics of children diagnosed with cancer and the current research findings, and offering ways to eliminate social barriers and reintegrate recovered children into their communities.
To reach the target audience, several dissemination plans have been developed. First and foremost, the research findings will be shared with the administration of the hospital selected as the research setting so that the personnel will be able to apply the findings to practice. Another dissemination plan is to publish the research in a scholarly journal so that readers around the globe may access it (Clark et al. 2014). Finally, it is planned to share the findings with local schools to help them reintegrate recovered children more comfortably and effectively.
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