Research Methods in IAQ Overview

Research methods

Survey methods are used when one plans on collecting descriptive information. They may be structured, unstructured, direct, or indirect. Researchers can use the survey method, through questionnaires and interviews, to collect data about various variables. One then uses analytical techniques to make inferences between the variables (McBurney & White, 2009). They are quite helpful because one can collect different types of information. Furthermore, when compared to other techniques such as experiments and observations, surveys are easier to administer, or they take less time (Bryman & Bell, 2009). The information obtained through survey methods is quite easy to generalize to other populations. The researcher under consideration can collect a high volume of data in a short amount of time. This is because it can be done through mail, fax or the internet. However, surveys may result in inaccurate information that emanates out of the participants’ reluctance to respond to questions from unknown researchers (Coleman & Briggs, 2007). Alternatively, surveys can lead to distorted results when participants give insincere answers to impress interviewers (Walton, 2006). Some people may be too busy to participate. This method often makes it quite difficult to understand the processes behind certain findings. Surveys should be done when uniqueness is an important quality in the research (Randolph, 2007a). The approach allows one to collect information that would, otherwise, not be found in other sources. When a person needs unbiased representation from the population under analysis, then this method should be used. Surveys can also limit an individual because they are quite costly to administer (Singleton & Straits, 2010).

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The case study method of research entails examining a certain occurrence in its natural setting, through several data collection methods, in one group or more (Repko et al. 2011). This method does not allow one to manipulate the occurrence in any way. It is a useful approach because it allows one to analyze the issues under investigation in their natural setting. Furthermore, it gives the researcher flexibility to know the processes involved by responding to questions that deal with ‘why’ and ‘how’ (Christensen & Allison, 2008). Besides these qualities, case studies allow one to carry out an investigation in areas where other researchers have not covered. The method is quite appropriate for scenarios where few theories already exist. Additionally, they should be used where no variable manipulation is necessary. In most scenarios, the case study method requires several methods of data collection in order to improve construct validity (Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2011). These methods include structured and unstructured interviews, indirect and direct observations, documentation, and recordings of technologies used within the research. This method is quite advantageous because it facilitates detailed capture of reality. Furthermore, the number of variables that the researcher can find is much more than one can analyze in other types of research. On the other hand, this kind of research cannot be generalized because it is specific to one group (Wendy et al., 2007). This is true because one may find it difficult to find similar researchers that provided almost equal data for statistical analyses. Additionally, it may be extremely difficult to establish whether the research was interpreted in an accurate way by another researcher. Since the case study method involves a series of data collection methods, then the researcher should possess multiple abilities or experiences. If the individual uses outsiders, he may find that they are naive. For scientific purposes, the total lack of control makes such an approach quite problematic. In this community, most researchers recognize the need to make comparisons or contrasts. When one’s report contains isolated knowledge, then he or she may appear illusionary.

Literature reviews may also be regarded as research methods because they allow one to support one’s arguments (Denzin, 2009). A literature review is therefore defined as a comparison and evaluation of the major arguments, theories, controversies, and methodologies found in scholarly papers. In certain instances, literature reviews may stand alone as articles or they may be part of a research dissertation, proposal, or report. The purpose is to link one’s research with the work found in other literary pieces. First, they facilitate the process of determining some research gap in one’s line of research (Liu & Fellows, 2008). Literature reviews prevent replication of work because they will allow one to determine an area that has not been covered. The researcher can find inconsistencies in certain matters and may try to correct that wrong through a literature review (Randolph, 2009). The process may not necessarily provide thorough support for one’s ideas; however, it allows one to take in a particular slant concerning one’s area of interest. One may also carry out an evaluation or a review based on a literature review. However, this approach is restrictive because, for the method to be reliable, the information used must come from very reputable sources (Grey, 2011). In academic research, these are usually peer-reviewed articles. The challenge with this requirement is that sometimes, one’s area of research may be inadequately addressed in previous work in the field. Alternatively, this method is limited by the proficiency and the ability of the previous researcher. Therefore, one must take the time to ensure that the research covered in that primary source was accurately and reliably done. Additionally, such an approach needs to depend upon the most valid, reliable, and appropriate materials (Hair and Money, 2006). These criteria may be difficult to meet when the concerned researcher has a wide range of sources to select. Literature reviews contribute tremendously to research processes because they delimit research problems, provide new lines of inquiry and provide support from theory.

Instruments are used in order to analyze or measure a certain quality in the subjects (BYU, 2011). The instruments provide a mechanism for obtaining the data that must be used in the study. In research, the instruments can take the form of unstructured or structured interviews. They may be done through questionnaires or observations. Sometimes, diaries can be regarded as instruments. Documents or record reviews may also be plausible instruments. An instrument should measure a certain attribute accurately; otherwise, it will lead to the wrong conclusions (Beverisge & Andersson, 2007).

Advantages of using more than one research method

Using more than one research method is useful because it facilitates cross-checking between research findings (Babbie & Rubin, 2008). For instance, if one was analyzing students’ perception of a certain assessment process, one may use survey research in order to determine their opinions. Then one might cross-check this information through an analysis of the student record data in order to determine how well those students performed. Their opinions can then be cross-referenced with their actual assessments (Creswell & Clark, 2007).

Using more than one method also provides different ways of looking at the problem. Alternatively, mixed methods allow an investigator to expand upon previously acquired information (Pickard, 2008). This makes the research richer and more applicable to the concerned field. Quantitative research methods such as surveys often focus on general relationships between variables. However, they do not provide answers about the reasons behind those observations. Qualitative methods are useful in such instances because they provide great insight. Therefore, they bring in fresh revelations about a certain phenomenon (Meyers et al., 2006).

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The methods provide a basis for triangulation. All research methods have their limitations. In order to increase the validity and reliability of research findings, one must overcome these limitations by using more than one method (Kuhfeld, 2009). Therefore, when selecting the types of research methods to be used, a researcher must look for methods that complement each other. In other words, instances of overlapping weaknesses should not arise in the methods chosen (Oliver, 2010). It is assumed that when many methods are used, then they will strengthen the effects of the research tremendously. If one research method finds a certain relationship between two variables, and a second research method also finds that the same relationship exists, then this second or third research method will act as evidence for the first one. It somehow corroborates the information that was asserted in the previous findings (Randolph, 2007b).

In most researches, the investigator may choose an inductive or deductive approach. In the deductive one, the analyst will normally come up with a hypothesis or theory and will try to test it through research (Dane, 2011). On the other hand, a researcher may first collect data from the field and then use it to establish hypotheses or come up with a theory on the same. This bottom-up approach is called inductive research. Mixed methods allow scientists to do both (Thomas et al., 2010). They can have the flexibility to choose between the inductive or deductive approach. Alternatively, researchers have a choice of applying one in a certain part of a research and another one in another section.

This approach is also quite advantageous because it allows the concerned researcher to analyze behavior under different conditions. One may choose to control or manipulate the conditions. One may also opt to view the subjects in their natural settings. This provides a multi-lens focus hence an insightful analysis of the same (McNab, 2008).

Dubai weather conditions

Summer in Dubai is quite hot. This occurs between the months of June to September. Sometimes, temperatures can reach a maximum of 45 oC. On average, Dubai summers lie in the mid-thirties. In the month of August, temperatures are likely to be 35oC. This is the reason why air conditioning is a must in buildings. The months of September and June are relatively high too. Most of them will have an average of 30oC, and may peak at 35oC. During the summer, it is very unlikely to find rain. In fact, hot sunshine may last for 11.5 hours a day. The driest month of the year is June (Holiday Weather, 2011).

During the winter, temperatures may drop a little bit. The months between December and February are the coolest. They may average 20oC, but may sometimes increase to 25oC (Trip advisor, 2011). There is the possibility of rain in the winter, but this is still not a substantial amount. One is likely to find an average of 150 mm of rainfall in that period. Once in a while, some heavy rainfall may occur during the month of January as was the case in the year 2008. Humidity averages approximately 60% all year long. However, winters tend to be more humid than summers. Shown is a summary of weather conditions in Dubai.

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Dec Nov Oct Sep Aug July June May Apr Mar Feb Jan
Rainfall(mm) 10 4 2 1 3 2 1 1 10 34 38 11
Temp (oC) 26 30 35 39 40 40 39 38 33 29 25 24

The excessively hot temperature in Dubai emanates from its desert terrain. When temperatures reduce in Dubai, then the opposite thing happens to humidity; it increases. For example, most nights have a temperature that may be lower than 30 degrees. However, the humidity could increase by 10 or 20% (Visit Dubai, 2011).

It should also be noted that the weather in Dubai depends upon one’s geographical location. If one lives in the mountains, winters may go as low as 7oC. This is substantially lower when compared to the average winter temperature of 22oC. If one lives near coastal areas, then humidity levels average at about 60%. However, at the sea, this changes dramatically to approximately 90%.

Dubai also experiences sandstorms now and then. These conditions arise out of low pressure and strong winds emanating from the North West. The sandstorms often reduce visibility on certain days as they increase the amount of sand in the air.

Importance of a Walkthrough investigation when managing a case study of an office

A walkthrough is an important part of a case study investigation because it provides first-hand information on the ventilation system in the building, its floor plan as well as its design. The walkthrough offers enough information to create a hypothesis on the indoor air quality issues under analysis (Health Canada, 2011). It also provides adequate information to make certain recommendations on the office building. In the walkthrough, one may check on a number of factors to determine the problem indicators in the building. Issues such as odors, stained or discolored ceilings, walls, molds, dust, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions are important indicators of the problems that may exist in that area.

In the walkthrough, one may check on the nature of the odor in order to relate it to specific indoor air quality problems. For instance, if the investigator smells some diesel fumes, and the workers report cases of nausea, tiredness, and headaches, then chances are that there could be carbon monoxide in the office. Alternatively, if the analyst finds a strong body odor, then there are minimal levels of carbon dioxide or low ventilation rates. Such workers are likely to suffer from headaches, stuffiness, and exhaustion. If the investigator finds a musty smell, then this could indicate the presence of dump surfaces or microbial materials (Heseltine & Rosen, 2009). Smells of chemicals indicate the presence of volatile organic compounds or pesticides, formaldehyde, and other types of chemicals (Aerias, 2011). If the walkthrough reveals a dusty and chalky smell, then the office could have problems with its particulates or the humidification system in general. In other scenarios, if the office has sewage or gas-like odors, then there may be water traps in the drainage or the office’s basement.

The walkthrough is also quite helpful in determining how effectively the office has used its office space. If the place is overcrowded, it is likely that ventilation rates will be much lower. This investigation allows the analyst to look at the seat arrangements in the case study. If the office has recorded recent complaints, then the walkthrough can allow the concerned analyst to look at the arrangements of the equipment such as computers or printers and photocopiers. Furthermore, the walkthrough provides information about room usage.

One can easily identify areas that are undergoing renovations, repairs, or replacements as these may be vital sources of pollution. The analysts can also check on the presence of paint fumes or dust in the concerned building. Other contaminants such as molds may be spotted easily in this first encounter. These may come from water leaks or other dump environments in the office (US Environmental protection agency, 2010).

A walkthrough may also allow the investigator to assess the general indoor air quality. He or she may record the sensations of humidity and temperature that he or she experiences. One will need to determine whether one feels stuffy or hot.

Importance of surveys and the need for modifying them to adapt to local conditions

Surveys are quite important because they provide standardized measurements (Creswell, 2010). This means that the same information is collected from all respondents. If one has found secondary sources for one’s research, then one can use surveys to complement the data obtained from that research (USAID, 2006).

It is vital to adapt surveys to the local context because sometimes the population size may differ from the standard survey estimates (Zikmund et al., 2010). One must first consider the population size in order to ensure that the research is carried out successfully. Sometimes, the kind of precision needed in one location may be different from another. This may depend on the standards used in that geographical location (Neuman, 2010). A survey needs to consider the homogeneity of the participants. If it requires contributions from certain members more than others, then the questionnaires or interviews should be altered to accommodate this (Smith, 2008). The research media used in the survey should suit local conditions too. If the method involves the use of the internet, and most of the participants have no internet access, then the survey would fail.

References

Aerias (2011). IAQ investigations in the workplace and other buildings. Web.

Babbie, E. & Rubin, A. (2008). Research methods for social work. Belmont, Thomson learning.

Beverisge, A. & Andersson, B. (2007). A guide to assessments and skills in SCCA. Perth: Edith Cowan University.

Bryman, A. & Bell, E. (2009). Business research methods. London, Open University press.

BYU (2011). Instruments and procedures. Web.

Christensen, P. & Allison, J. (2008). Research with children: perspectives and practices. NY, Routledge.

Coleman, M. & Briggs, A. (2007). Research methods in education leadership and management. London, Sage.

Creswell, J. (2010). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches. California, Sage.

Creswell, J. & Clark, V. (2007). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. California, Sage.

Dane, F. (2011). Evaluating research: methodology for people who need to read research. California, Sage.

Denzin, N. (2009). The research act: a theoretical introduction to sociological methods. London, Transaction publishers.

Grey, C. (2011). Critical management studies. Oxford, OUP.

Hair, J. & Money, A. (2006). Research methods for business. Web.

Health Canada (2011). Indoor Air Quality in Office Buildings. Web.

Heseltine, E. & Rosen, J. (2009). WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: dampness and mould. Berlin, Druckpartner.

Hesse-Biber, S. & Leavy, P. (2011). Approaches to qualitative research. California, Open University Press.

Holiday Weather (2011). Weather overview for Dubai. Web.

Kuhfeld, W. (2009). Marketing research methods in SAS experimental design, choice, conjoint, and graphical techniques. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania University Press

Liu, A. & Fellows, R. (2008). Research methods for construction. Oxford: Blackwell.

McBurney, D. & White, T. (2009). Research methods. South-western, Cengage Learning.

McNab, D. (2008). Research methods in public administration and non profit management. London, ME Sharpe

Meyers, L., Gamst, G. & Guarino, A. (2006). Applied multivariate research: design and interpretation. Thousand Oaks, Sage.

Neuman, L. (2010). Social research methods: quantitative and qualitative methods. London, Pearson.

Oliver, P. (2010). Understanding the research process. California, Sage.

Pickard, A. (2008). Research methods in information. Web.

Randolph, J. (2007a). Computer science education research at the crossroads: a methodological review of computer science education research. Doctoral dissertation, Utah State University.

Randolph, J. (2007b). Multidisciplinary methods in educational technology research and development. Finland, Hameenlinna.

Randolph, J. (2009). A guide to writing the dissertation literature review. Practical assessment, research and evaluation. Applied research, 14(13), 26-34

Repko, A., Newell, W. & Szostak, R. (2011). Case studies in interdisciplinary research. California, Sage.

Singleton, R. & Straits, B. (2010). Approaches to social research. Oxford, OUP.

Smith, J. (2008). Qualitative psychology: a practical guide to research methods. London, Sage.

Thomas, J., Nelson, J. & Silverman, S. (2010). Research methods in physical activity. Illinois Human Kinetics.

Trip Advisor (2011). Dubai weather and where to go. Web.

UAE Interact (2011). UAE Weather Information. Web.

USAID (2006). Exploratory study on household energy practices, indoor air pollution and health perceptions in southern Philippines. Web.

US Environmental protection agency (2010). Indoor Air Facts No. 4 Sick Building Syndrome. Web.

Visit Dubai (2011). Weather in Dubai. Web.

Wendy, C., Eby, L., Bordeaux, C. & Lockwood, A. (2007). A review of research methods in IO/OB work family research. Applied psychology journal, 92(1), 28-43

Walton, D. (2006). Examination dialogue: an argumentation framework for critically questioning an expert opinion. Pragmatics journal, 38(5), 745-777

Zikmund, W., Babin, B., Carr, J., Griffin, M. (2010). Business research methods. South Western, Cengage Learning.

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