How not to conduct research

by | Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Note: This post has been edited somewhat to (a) clearly hide the url, which I had not done a good job of before; and (b) to add a few suggestions in the last paragraph for some strategies to make it easier for the participants to take part in the study.  (September 18, 2013).

There are many pitfalls one can face while engaged in conducting research with humans. For instance, if you are designing a survey it is important to make it easy for participants to actually complete it. Matt Koehler pointed out to me one person who just got it totally wrong.

Here is a flyer, recruiting participants for a study on college students’ use of social media, that has been posted near the elevators here at Erickson Hall.

surveyWhat stands out (to both Matt and me) was the fact that the student (name blurred) running the study had included an URL for the survey in the flyer itself. Here it is in greater detail (with some details blurred).


Now think for a moment what this student was expecting users to do. They needed to memorize or write down the complicated address ( and go back to their office or computer and then type this sequence of letters in and then participate in the survey. Just how many people would be willing to do this? Imagine actually going through the process and making just one mistake in typing out that crazy list of characters and getting to a “404 Not Found page!”

It would have to be someone highly motivated to help you with you research to go through all this.. and frankly nobody I know is that motivated.

Now, designing your research instrument (in this case a survey) is just half (an important half but just half none-the-less) of the research enterprise. The end goal is ending up with data that you can then analyze to answer the research questions you started with. The approach shown here just about ensures that you will not have any data in hand to test your hypotheses or theory!

There many-many ways this process can be made easier for the participants—and I do hope the student researcher is also looking into these alternative methods. A few ways could be to (a) take advantage of social media itself to contact participants; (b) a mass emailing to MSU students with the link embedded; or (c) just go ahead and buy a simple domain name that would be easy to remember. A search shows that is available, as is! The current approach, quite surely, will not work!

Topics related to this post: Design | Good | Bad Design | Learning | Research | Technology

A few randomly selected blog posts…

Slumdog night (and Rahman)

Slumdog rolled into the Oscars tonight. More important to me were the two Oscars for A. R. Rahman for original score and song. It is time that the world recognized his genius. Here is a cartoon by Kaladhar Bapu from his site Point Blank A.R. Rahman by Kaladhar Bapu

Open source conferencing

Just found out about Dimdim (bad name!) from Manas Chakrabarti's blog, At Any Rate. Dimdim is an opensource, free web conferencing service where you can share your desktop, show slides, collaborate, chat, talk and broadcast via webcam with absolutely no download...

Making it in academia! Hmmm…?

Making it in academia! Hmmm…?

The question of impact of one's work is something that all researchers and scholars care about, particularly in applied fields like education. The question, however, is how is impact to be measured? Over the past few weeks I have had a few instances where my work has...

Creativity, Technology & Teacher Education

Danah Henriksen and I recently edited a special issue of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (Volume 23, Number 3, July 2015) devoted to Creativity, Technology and Teacher Education.  This special issue is organized thematically around eight articles...

Playing with Droste (on my iPad)

I have, for a long time, been interested in the Droste effect - a "specific kind of recursive picture... [in which] an image exhibiting the Droste effect depicts a smaller version of itself in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear....

From being to becoming: Keynote by Shawn Loescher

From being to becoming: Keynote by Shawn Loescher

It is rarely that I hear a talk that blows me away. We have all seen the TED talks, and their mutant offspring. The over-hyped music and catchy taglines; the speaker in front of a rapt audience; the crafted delivery with its carefully punctuated pauses and reveals,...

Meta poems too

Meta poems too

Layout is the first to go Lines of poetry are sacred to both the author and the reader. To alter the specific construction in line length is to alter the look and rhythm of the poem. However, as ebooks and eReading devices have become more prevalent, readers have come...

The Postman always rings twice: Unpacking McLuhan (3/3)

The Postman always rings twice: Unpacking McLuhan (3/3)

This is the third of three blog posts about how media influence our thinking. This is the second of three blog posts about how media influence our thinking. The first post, uses the invention of writing and print to unpack the meaning of McLuhan’s statement, “The...

Qualitative research in an age of AI

Qualitative research in an age of AI

Qualitative data can be extremely rich, complex and insightful, allowing us to uncover the complexities of human experiences, perceptions, and interactions. It can also be complicated and messy. And the way we make sense of it is through the one-two punch of thematic...


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *