The target group

The three pieces of literature to be reviewed are a journal called ‘Supporting disaffected pupils: perspectives from the pupils, their parents and their teachers’ (Vulliamy, G and Webb, R. 2003), a research report ‘Absence from school: a study of its causes and effects in seven LEA’s (Malcolm, H et al 2003) and a report ‘Parents carers’ attitudes towards school attendance’ (Dalziel, D ; Henthorne, K, 2005). The methods used to support the research were field work observations, semi structured interviews, questionnaires, a collection and analysis of statistical data from school, face-to-face interviews, postal questionnaires, telephone interviews, developmental work, telephone survey and depth interviews.

To begin with the question needs to be asked, what is research? Green (2000) suggests that research is an investigation of a topic for a purpose. (Green 2000) Quantitative research produces results which can be expressed using numbers or statistics. This type of research is useful if you are exploring the extent to which something happens or if the focus is on how many, how often, how many people think and so on. (Bell, J. 1993)Qualitative research obtains view points and personal feelings from its participants. These are not easily measured. Qualitative researchers wish to gain insight into their topic rather than make an analysis of statistics.

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They are less concerned with how many and more concerned with why and what. The outcome of the research may not be so easily measurable but would be useful as a point of discussion. (Brannen, J 1992)There are many methods of research. Interviews are useful for both quantitative and qualitative research depending on the questions asked. They can also be structured or unstructured or a mixture of both.

They are particularly useful if the researcher is trying to find out peoples individual opinions or experiences. Interviews are usually set up in advance but occasionally they may be carried out spontaneously for example when people are asked at random to participate when visiting the supermarket, or shopping in town. (Rickinson, M. 2005)Structured interviews are when an interviewer follows a pre planned set of questions for all its participants.

This is useful for the qualitative method. They are mainly made up of closed questioned. The advantages of this method are that the questions are set in advance and all participants are asked the same questions. The disadvantages are that there is no flexibility and that any additional information that a participant may have will be missed.

(Carlson et al 2000)Unstructured interviews have a far more relaxed process and are open to discussion. Each participant is asked the same set of questions, but they can be elaborated on. The advantages are that the questions are set in advance and used simply as guidelines or a prompt and flexibility is offered to explore points further if appropriate. The disadvantages are that not all participants are asked exactly the same questions, questions about the reliability of the outcomes may be raised and the interview can become simply a chat if not carefully controlled.

(Carlson et al 2000)The semi structured interview consists of having lots of questions that the interviewer is willing to expand on when it is felt appropriate. This helps the interviewer remain in control whilst having some degree of flexibility. The advantages are that the response rates can be very good, the depth of information in improved and the researcher can give help and guidance on what is required. The disadvantages are that recording information can be difficult, interviews can be time consuming and the reliability of data can be poor and difficult to compare. The lack of anonymity may restrict some of the answers given. (Carlson et al 2000)Questionnaires can be an ideal method of gathering information if you are seeking views of many people or if the topic could be seen as being sensitive.

Offering anonymity can be an important consideration when deciding on how to obtain the information that is needed. Questionnaires can be distributed in a number of ways, sent by post, handed out personally or on the World Wide Web. The wording must be clear, the questions relevant and kept as short as possible to encourage people to complete it fully. Again open and closed questions can be used and the language should be appropriate to the target group.The advantages of questionnaires is that they offer anonymity, avoiding embarrassment, the same questions are answered by all participants, time is used effectively, participants can complete the questionnaires at their leisure and a good return is possible. The disadvantages are that the return rates for postal surveys are often low, there is a cost involved in posting out questionnaires, if participants miss out questions it can alter the balance of the outcomes, unless carefully set out questions can be misunderstood, preparation time should not be under estimated and careful planning time is essential as is piloting of questionnaires.

(Berk, L.E.2003)Oppenheim (1973) suggested that researchers should follow basic rules when designing questions.

These are questions should be limited to 20 words, avoid double barrelled questions and double negatives, use simple words and be aware of words which have alternative meanings. Also be aware of ambiguous questions and leading questions that make assumptions and questions about recurrent behaviour. (Oppenheim cited in Sidell, M 2003)