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RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY

Introduction

In order to create scientifically obtained knowledge using objective methods and procedures, the research process should involve the application of various methods and techniques (Welman and Kruger, 2001). The purpose of this chapter is to present the methods and techniques applied to reach the objectives of this research. It begins with a discussion of the mixed methodologies (triangulation) approach used in the study. Included in the chapter are details of the population selected for the study, sampling procedures, qualitative and quantitative instruments used, data collection methods used, and how data was analyzed.A research design is a strategic framework that guides research activities. According to Durrheim (1999), a research design has four components:  the purpose of the research,  the research paradigm,  the context, and  the research techniques/methods employed.In this chapter I discuss these components as applied to my research. The chapter will accordingly be organised as follows: I discuss the purpose of the research. In Section 3.3 I discuss the research paradigm relevant to this study. Section 3.4 deals with the context of the research. In Section 3.5 the overview of the research process is given. The research techniques are explained in detail in section 3.6. In section 3.7 I discuss validity of measurement instrument and reliability of results and finally ethical cconsideration are discussed and conclude .

The Purpose of the Research

In describing the purpose of the research, the researcher has to specify who or what the objects of investigation were and, secondly, what approach was followed in studying them (Durrheim, 1999). In my description of the purpose, I will also give the thesis statement.

Objects of Investigation

The objects of investigation were adult and child users and specifically their behaviour while learning a new software application.

The Research Approach

According to Terre Blanche and Kelly (1999), research can be: exploratory, explanatory or descriptive, applied or basic, and quantitative or qualitative.
The type of research described in this dissertation is descriptive research. Descriptive research is viewed as representing a picture of the specific details of a situation, social setting or relationship (Neuman, 2003). I used this design as it is a scientific method that involves observing and describing the behavior of participants without influencing them in any way. The aim of the research as noted in the objects of investigation is to make a comparison between adults‟ and children‟s behaviour while learning a new software application. The use of this design will help me capture the different behaviours.My research is basic as it seeks to increase understanding of fundamental learning principles. Basic research generates new ideas, principles and theories, which may not be immediately utilized, though they are the foundations of modern progress and development in different fields. It stimulates new ways of thinking that has the potential to dramatically improve how practitioners deal with a problem. In my research I will be comparing the meaning of the learnability principle for children and adults. My aim is that readers especially designers of software, achieve a deeper understanding of the learnability principle in the context of how children and adults learn new software applications.In my research I selected a qualitative research design and methodology as the main method for analysing my data. I did this because I wanted to capture data about the participants‟ learning behaviours. Qualitative research aims to help researchers understand new ideas and improve their way of thinking. Durrheim (1999) states that qualitative methods are naturalistic, holistic and inductive. They investigate the relationships that exist in nature, with the aim of deducing important meanings. Rubin and Babbie (2001) add that the advantage of qualitative research is that it provides a richer and deeper understanding of a problem or question being investigated, which often leads to better understanding of the human experience.Crotty (1998) rightly mentions that research methods can be either qualitative, quantitative or both. In this study, some quantitative research was done for triangulation purposes. Triangulation is viewed as an important methodological issue in naturalistic and qualitative approaches to evaluation. It helps to control bias and to establish valid propositions. Traditional scientific techniques are often lacking in this regard (Golafshani, 2003).

Thesis Statement

The thesis statement that is examined in this dissertation is as follows:
In the context of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), the learnability principle has a different meaning for children and adult users.

Paradigm

Various research paradigms exist that help researchers to make data collection, analysis and interpretation decisions. Research paradigms provide a conceptual framework for the justification of choice of research methodology. According to Burrell and Morgan (1979, p.24), “to be located in a particular paradigm is to view the world in a particular way”. The different research paradigms are based on varying philosophical foundations and concepts of reality that are implemented by associated methodological approaches and strategies (De Villiers, 2007). Galliers (1991) identifies positivism and interpretivism as major research paradigms.The positivist paradigm views scientific knowledge in its purest form, basing it on pure observation that is free of environmental influences (Howe, 1988). The positivist paradigm supports the selection of quantitative methods as the methods of data analysis.De Villiers (2007) points out that the positivist paradigm holds that knowledge is absolute and objective and that a single objective reality exists.The interpretivist paradigm is characterised by a belief in a socially constructed, subjectively-based reality, one that is prone to the influences of the environment. Interpretivism rejects the positivist view of pure observations, but rather recognizes the inevitability and desirability of environmental impacts on observation.The underlying assumption of interpretivism is that the whole needs to be examined in order to understand a phenomenon. As a consequence of this, qualitative methods of analysis are well-suited to interpetivist investigations. Howe (1988) proposes that investigations must employ broad-based understandings of phenomena (as opposed to the narrower aims of explanation, prediction and control that characterise the positivistic viewpoint).In my study, I drew upon both the positivist and interpretivist research paradigms in the collection, analysis and intepretation of data. When I conducted experiments in the usability laboratory and used quantitative methods to analyse the data, this represented an application of the positivist research approach. Using qualitative methods, I also analyzed the observed differences in the understanding of the meaning of the learnability principle by adults on the one hand and children on the other. This analysis resulted in the interpretation of observed differences as a series of insights. Such qualitative data analysis and interpretation represented an application of the interpretivist research paradigm.

The Context

Research always takes place in a specific context. The way the researcher views the context will depend on the research paradigm. Positivists, whose research is mostly experimental and quantitative, usually try to control and manipulate the context of the research. Interpretivists, on the other hand, regard the context, both their own and that of the object of their study, as having a material impact on the investigation. For this reason, interpretivists take environmental impacts on the investigation into account in their research designs. My research was conducted in the general context of the HCI discipline.Another aspect of the context is the current situation where children are often more comfortable with technology than adults, as children are exposed to computers from a very early stage. This played an important role in the study as prior experience and social and cultural characteristics necessarily influence how users approach a new software application.The empirical work took place in the usability laboratory at the University of South Africa in Pretoria. The children used as participants were drawn from two different schools in Pretoria. These specific schools were chosen because they have fully equipped computer laboratories, where all pupils attend computer lessons during school hours. After school hours there are computer clubs and extra lessons, thus all the learners have had equal exposure to the use of computers. The schools were also easily accessible to me. Adults were drawn from employees in different departments of the University of South Africa (UNISA). The reason for choosing UNISA was because it was easily accessible and the computer laboratory is situated there, so the participants could easily visit the laboratory for the experiments.

Overview of the Research Process

The study consisted of a pilot study and a main study.

Pilot Study

A pilot study was conducted using two children and an adult. One was the expert and the other one a novice. The purpose of the pilot study was to gather data to reduce risk and uncertainty about the actual study. Olivier (2004) says that a pilot study helps to eliminate annoying problems which can be encountered when one is doing the main study. This pilot study, therefore, was to test the feasibility of the research design and research methods, and to make changes in the main study in the light of lessons learned from the pilot study. Based on the pilot study, a number of activities were redesigned to be able to be used by the participants. In the pilot study I used an expert child to teach both the child novice and the adult novice. I realised that the behaviour of the „teacher‟ also provides useful information, therefore I decided to include the following:
Child experts teaching children and adult novices one of the software applications,
Adult experts teaching children and adult novices one of the software applications, Child novices teaching themselves one of the software applications,
Adult novices teaching themselves one of the software applications,
Eye-tracking was used when collecting data on participants who taught themselves.

Main Study

The main study involved 28 people participating in the usability laboratory experiments. Each experiment involved 3 consecutive stages. In Stage 1 the participants were asked to complete a few demographic questions aimed at obtaining information about their computer experience with the software applications used in the study. The questionnaire appears in Appendix B. In Stage 2, various activities were conducted for data collection. These will be discussed in detail below. In Stage 3, unstructured interviews were conducted immediately after each session to determine some of the parts where clarity was required .In the sections below I will discuss the details of the experimental setup, the organisation of the different experiments, and the research methodology.

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND AND MOTIVATION
1.3 RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.5 STUDY OBJECTIVES
1.6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.7 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1.8 ASSUMPTIONS, DELIMITATIONS AND LIMITATIONS
1.9 LAYOUT OF DISSERTATION
1.10 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 THE LEARNABILITY PRINCIPLE
2.3 THE LEARNING PROCESS
2.4 LEARNING STRATEGIES
2.5 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 THE PURPOSE OF THE RESEARCH
3.3 PARADIGM
3.4 THE CONTEXT
3.5 OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH PROCESS
3.6 THE RESEARCH TECHNIQUES
3.7 VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY
3.8 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
3.9 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 DATA STRUCTURE
4.3 DATA ANALYSIS AND DATA INTERPRETATION
4.4 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 THE LEARNABILITY OF SOFTWARE APPLICATIONS FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS
5.3 THE LEARNING PROCESS
5.4 LEARNING STRATEGIES
5.5 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 CONTRIBUTION OF THE STUDY
6.3 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
6.4 FUTURE WORK
6.5 CONCLUSION
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
COMPARING THE MEANING OF THE LEARNABILITY PRINCIPLE FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS

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