There are four major elements when it comes to designing research. These four elements are enumerated as follows:
- theoretical perspective;
- methods (Gray, 2009, p.12).
These four elements will be used to critically analyse two published research in the study of autism. After the analysis, the proponent of this study would compare the two articles that came from respected scientific journals.
Before going any further it is important to point out that the research design can be understood by first looking at the methods and then moving backwards the methodology. After analysing the methods and methodology it is now possible to determine the theoretical perspective and then the epistemological framework used by the researchers (Coady & Lehman, 2008, p.10).
In the case of both research the epistemological framework used was constructivism.
It is the view that “all knowledge, and therefore all meaningful reality as such, is contingent upon human practices, being constructed in and out of interaction between human beings and their world, and developed and transmitted within an essentially social context” (Crotty, 1998, p.42).
Autism Spectrum Disorder: Early Identification and Early Intervention
The article was written by Boyd, Odom, Humphreys and Sam. The purpose of the article was to address a need for early identification and early intervention for the said disorder. The goal of the research was to find out if an infant or toddler has symptoms of ASD to be able to provide early intervention. The researchers said that early identification can increase the effectiveness of the intervention tools.
The method used was to gather information regarding ASD. The review of current knowledge about ASD was achieved through the collection of data from reliable sources. The researchers gathered information regarding early diagnosis tools. They also identified the various intervention practices.
The researchers also wanted to understand comprehensive treatment models. They also gathered information regarding the implications for early intervention. Finally, the research team determined the effectiveness of the service delivery systems when it comes to dealing with ASD.
The methodology can be described as the gathering of second-hand information culled from medical journals and other scientific papers. There were no experiments conducted and there was no scientific discoveries made. The methodology can be compared to a review of related literature.
The methodology can be described as document analysis. Therefore, the research was just an echo of what was discovered by scientists and experts in the quest to know more about ASD.
For example, the researchers heavily relied on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association (Boyd et al., 2010, p.76). The researchers simply re-packaged the information to highlight an important fact regarding early intervention.
The researchers simply collected information from reliable sources. The bulk of the research is the result of a review of related literature. These were taken together to form an opinion regarding ASD. The opinion that was formed concerns the effectiveness of intervention tools and the positive implications of early intervention.
The methods and methodology were rooted in an epistemological framework based on constructivism. This is based on the premise that human behaviour is subject to interpretation.
In fact, ASD is a disorder that is not yet fully understood and therefore people have to be informed on how to detect and evaluate if the child has autism or not. As a result the theoretical perspective utilized in this study is interpretivism; the researchers simply utilized the scientifically acceptable interpretation of the symptoms of ASD.
The value of the study is dependent on the user. A scientist or expert in the field may appreciate how the researchers took time to collect the information and presented it in a way that the average person can understand and yet for these professionals there is still a dearth of information of regarding ASD.
They would prefer that experimental researches are conducted regularly to know more about the disorder. However, parents and students can greatly appreciate the amalgamation of information since it saves them the time to conduct a review of literature that would allow them to have an overview of symptoms about ASD, intervention tools and its effectiveness.
Adult Attitudes towards Behaviours of a Six-year-old Boy
It is hard to understand what it feels like to be the parent of an autistic child. Those who have children with mental or physical disabilities may have an idea what it is like raising a handicapped child but raising up an autistic child has its own unique challenges.
One of the most important differences between an autistic person and other disabled individuals is the absence of external signs that would help identify that this person is not normal. This means that children with autism may be subjected to harsher criticism from strangers that are unaware that there is a reason behind the maladaptive behavior.
As a result parents are forced to reveal to strangers the reason why it seems that their child is exhibiting rudeness and undisciplined behavior. In their view informing strangers regarding the true condition of their autistic child will lessen the criticism levelled at them.
The research was conducted by Chambers, Auxiette, Vansingle and Gil. The researches were impressed by the fact that a parent having an autistic child often suffer from the double-standard imposed on them when it comes to their children’s behaviour.
This is especially true if the stranger judging them have no idea of the medical condition of the child. As a result parents are often judged as having no parental skills needed to control or train a rude and undisciplined child. It was therefore the goal of the research to find out if the negative attitude of people towards autistic children can be altered to the benefit of the parents.
The purpose of the experiment was to determine if the negative attitude towards an autistic child can be altered if the observer learns that the child is not normal but suffers from autism. The method used was to randomly select 88 adults between the age of 17 and 68.
They will be tested using a video of a six-year-old boy with autism but having on physical stigmata that he has a form of neurological disorder. There were four contrasting behaviours that were recorded; two were problematic while the other two behaviours were non-problematic.
The participants were ushered into a room and in silence given the chance to study the videos for ten seconds. Afterwards they were instructed to rate the behaviour of the boy on ten continuous scales. They needed to rate the behaviour with the scale type: Not aggressive __________ Very aggressive.
At the same time they were given five social-dimensional scales on which they had to indicate the extent to which the child was “well-raised, aggressive, unruly, nice, and well-behaved, three cognitive-dimension scales for indicating the extent to which he was intelligent, quick-minded, and alert, and two emotional dimension scales for indicating the extent to which the child seemed anxiety-ridden and worried” (Chambers et al., 2008, p.1320).
The participants were randomly assigned to two groups. The first one was the “informed group” and the other one have no idea that the child was autistic.
It was an important feature of the experiment that all the 88 participants had no clear idea of what autism means. Thus, they were considered naive in the subject of autism and yet this mindset made them the perfect observers.
The researchers used statistical analysis to analyze the results of the experiment. It was discovered that the participants judged severely if they were informed about the child’s condition. However, those who were told about the child’s autism judged less severely.
Based on the methods used it can be argued that the researchers used constructivism as the study’s epistemological framework. The theoretical perspective is interpretivism. The methodology was based on experimental research and the specific method used was observation using 88 people as participants.
The experiment was enhanced by the careful design of the experiment such as the random selection of participants that had no expert knowledge about autism and therefore could not identify a child suffering from the said condition.
The research conducted by Boyd, Odom, Humphreys and Sam can be considered as the lowest form of research. There was nothing that was added to the body of knowledge concerning autism. The researchers seemed to have conducted an elaborate form of literature review gathering pertinent information regarding ASD, the availability of intervention tools, and then the effectiveness of the intervention tools.
The researchers utilized existing information. They collected data not through experimental research or survey research. But this was done with a purpose. The end goal was to emphasise an idea that the researchers wanted every parent to know. They wanted to inform people that as early as two years of age, a child can be diagnosed of autism. They also highlighted the pertinent details regarding the symptoms of autism.
Taken as a whole, the article was simply a basic guide to understanding ASD and the basic intervention tools. It also serves as an eye-opener that it is best to utilise intervention tools as early as possible in order to increase the effectiveness of the said intervention tools.
The research article written by Chambers, Auxiette, Vansingle and Gil is a good example of the use of experimental research. It is a study designed to discover new knowledge regarding a particular phenomenon. It is not proper to say that this article is better than the first one. However, from the perspective of research and the need to learn more about autism this article has far greater value than the first.
The first article was just an amalgamation of previous research conducted by other researchers. There was no discovery of new knowledge and therefore no additional contribution was made aside of course from highlighting the importance of early intervention.
In the experimental research aimed at discovering the effect of informed decision-making it was discovered that those who knew about the condition of the boy judge less severely than those who were uninformed regarding the fact that the boy had autism. The experimental research did not echo what was already known about autism and the behaviour of those who interacted with children suffering from the said condition.
However, the experiment was based on well-known problem – the negative experience of parents having to shoulder the brunt of harsh criticism regarding their child’s behaviour.
Concerning philosophical and theoretical integrity the research article written by Boyd, Odom, Humphreys and Sam cannot be criticised for failing to achieve its goals. It has to be pointed out that they did not design a research that would allow them to discover new knowledge regarding autism.
This was not their goal and this was plainly stated in the beginning of the article. They seek to interpret the information that they gathered and this is the way they would contribute to the growing body of autism research.
There is nothing wrong with their methods, these are perfectly acceptable methods when it comes to analysing a particular problem. They sought to know if there is a way to have an early diagnosis of ASD. They sought to know if physicians can determine if a two-year old child can be diagnosed with ASD and if that diagnosis is stable.
It can be said that the value of the research is dependent on the one using it. For physicians, scientists and experts in the field of human behaviour and child psychology the research may not be appreciated because of its inability to yield new knowledge regarding the subject matter. However, for those who knew nothing about ASD can use the article as a foundation for learning more about the disorder.
The philosophical and theoretical integrity of the research was maintained all throughout the process. The researchers were able to deliver what was promised. They satisfied their need to know more about ASD and they were able to pass along what they have discovered about the disorder.
The research article written by Chambers, Auxiette, Vansingle and Gil is the result of an experimental research. The researchers were able to develop a research design that would yield new knowledge regarding autism. This approach was very different from the other one where researchers simply conducted an elaborate review of literature.
The researchers took great pains in designing an experiment that would give them reliable data that they can analyse later on. It is noteworthy that they randomly chose their participants. These participants were all adults and therefore capable of making mature decisions regarding the behaviour of a child.
The next important thing they did was to ensure that the participants knew nothing or knew very little about autism. The most crucial factor here is the inability of the participants to diagnose if the child has autism or not. It is therefore imperative to bar the participation of experts and physicians knowledgeable about autism.
This is in keeping with constructivism as an epistemological framework and interpretivism as the theoretical basis of the experiment. It has been pointed out earlier that knowledge is the byproduct of how people interpret the world around them.
All the participants saw the same four videos but they had different interpretations of the child’s behaviour. The “uninformed group” simply blamed the parent for their inability to properly raise-up a child.
The behaviour of the “uninformed group” is consistent with the theoretical perspective that people’s interpretation of a certain phenomenon is based on knowledge regarding that particular phenomenon.
A child may have autism but the behaviour of that child cannot be judged as someone with autism because the observer had no idea that this disorder exists. The observer also has no idea on how to focus on the symptoms and how to make sense of it.
The significant difference in the interpretation of the child’s behaviour is an important breakthrough in the experiment. The researchers were able to prove that attitudes towards autism can be modified if people are made more aware of the condition.
This is an important contribution to the study of autism and even to special education purposes. It is also an important breakthrough considering that parents with an autistic child can be comforted with the fact that they can alter the perception of people by simply informing of their child’s condition.
The research article by Boyd, Odom, Humphreys and Sam may not yield new information regarding autism but it is a good source of information regarding the said disorder. From the point of view of research, the group was faithful to the philosophical and theoretical framework of the study.
With regards to the second article the researchers were able to design an experiment that yielded new knowledge regarding autism. The researchers were faithful to the theoretical and philosophical framework of the study taking great pains to design an experiment that would yield reliable results.
Boyd, B., et al. (2010). Infants and toddlers with autism spectrum disorder: early identification and early intervention. Journal of Early Intervention, 32, 75-97.
Chambers, P., et al. (2008). Adult attitudes toward behaviours of a six-year old boy with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1320-1327.
Coady, N. & P. Lehman. (2008). Theoretical Perspective for direct Social Work Practice. New York: Springer.
Crotty, M. (1998). The Foundations of Social Research. London: Sage Publications.
Gray, D. (2009). Doing Research in the Real World. London: Sage Publications.