When Research Goes Off the Rails : Why It Happens and What You Can Do About It book cover
1st Edition

When Research Goes Off the Rails
Why It Happens and What You Can Do About It

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ISBN 9781606234105
Published November 11, 2009 by Guilford Press
398 Pages

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Book Description

Few behavioral or health science studies proceed seamlessly. This refreshingly candid guide presents firsthand vignettes of obstacles on the bumpy road of research and offers feasible, easy-to-implement solutions. Contributors from a range of disciplines describe real-world problems at each stage of a quantitative or qualitative research project—from gaining review board approval to collecting and analyzing data—and discuss how these problems were resolved. A detailed summary chart helps readers quickly find material on specific issues, methods, and settings. Written with clarity and wit, the vignettes provide exemplars of critical thinking that researchers can apply when developing the operational plan of a study or when facing practical difficulties in a particular research phase.

Winner--American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award!

Table of Contents

Going Off the Rails: An Introduction, Souraya Sidani and David L. Streiner

I. Ethics Approval

1. When Mountains Move Too Slowly, Melanie A. Hwalek and Victoria L. Straub

2. The Ethics of Sex Research on the Internet, Alissa Sherry and Amy Amidon

3. When Safeguards Become Straitjackets: How Ethics Research Board Requirements Might Contribute to Ethical Dilemmas in Studies with Marginalized Populations, Mechthild Meyer, Alma Estable, Lynne MacLean, and Nancy Edwards

4. Going Off the Rails for “Love or Money”: Implementation Issues Related to Payment of Research Participants in an Addiction-Research Project, Brian R. Rush and Dominique Morisano

II. Accessing the Participants

5. Frailty, Thy Name Is Macho, José Quirino dos Santos

6. Power in Numbers: Research with Families in Long-Term Care, Julie M. Dergal Serafini

7. Getting the Wrong Gatekeeper, Lynne MacLean

8. Breaking into Court, Mandeep K. Dhami and Karen A. Souza

9. The RDC Archipelago, Scott Veldhuizen, John Cairney, and David L. Streiner

III. Recruitment and Retention

10. Small Colleges and Small n’s, Christopher Koch and Anna Tabor

11. Mitigating the Impact of External Forces, Souraya Sidani, David L. Streiner, and Chantale Marie LeClerc

12. A Trip to the School of Hard Knocks: Recruiting Participants from Health Service Agencies for Qualitative Studies of Aging, Kathleen W. Piercy

13. All Aboard!: Using Community Leaders to Keep Clinical Researchers on Track, Philippe Barrette

14. Changing Horses in Midstream: Transforming a Study to Address Recruitment Problems, Anthony S. Joyce

15. When Cost Meets Efficiency: Rethinking Ways to Sample a Rare Population, Julian Montoro-Rodriguez and Gregory C. Smith

16. The Story Is in the Numbers, Robert van Reekum

17. Strategies for Retaining Participants in Longitudinal Research with Economically Disadvantaged and Ethnically Diverse Samples, Elizabeth A. Goncy, Michelle E. Roley, and Manfred H. M. van Dulmen

18. Culturally Specific Strategies for Retention and Adherence to Physical Activity Interventions in Hispanic Women, Colleen Keller, Julie Fleury, and Adrianna Perez

IV. Study Implementation

19. When a Beautiful Intervention Meets Ugly Reality: Implementing an Intervention in the Real World, Souraya Sidani, David L. Streiner, and Chantale Marie LeClerc

20. When Saving Blood Goes Wrong, Claudio S. Cinà and Catherine M. Clase

21. PDA = Pretty Darned Awful: The Trials and Tribulations of Running Trials of PDAs, Geoffrey R. Norman

22. When Sugar Is Not So Sweet: Camera Shyness and Intentional Cointervention Almost Derail a Study, Françoise Filion and C. Celeste Johnston

23. Placebo Problems: Power and Persecution, or Paranoia?, Robert van Reekum

V. Data Collection

24. Revisiting Traditional Survey Methodology to Recruit and Survey Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Older Adults, S. Melinda Spencer and Julie Hicks Patrick

25. Technology: Help or Hindrance?, Nasreen Roberts

26. Hoist on Our Own Postcard, David L. Streiner

27. On the Finer Points of Handling Googlies: Reflections on Hits, Near Misses, and Full-Blown Swings at the Air in Large, Population-Based Studies Involving School, Parents, and Children, John Cairney, John A. Hay, and Brent E. Faught

28. Pets, Pies, and Videotape: Conducting In-Home Observational Research with Late-Life Intergenerational Families, Brian D. Carpenter and Steve Balsis

29. Underfunded but Not Undone, Dianne Bryant

30. Community-Based Participatory Research: A Lesson in Humility, Dennis Watson

31. Where Did All the Bodies Go?, Harry S. Shannon

32. Measures for Improving Measures, Katherine McKnight, and Patrick E. McKnight

VI. Data Analysis

33. Drowsing Over Data: When Less Is More, Lynne MacLean, Alma Estable, Mechthild Meyer, Anita Kothari, Nancy Edwards, and Barb Riley

34. Bigger Is Not Always Better: Adventures in the World of Survey Data Analysis, Sylvia Kairouz and Louise Nadeau

35. Taking Aim at a Moving Target: When a Study Changes in the Middle, Arturo Martí-Carvajal

36. Lack of Normative Data as an Obstacle to Neuropsychological Assessment, F. Richard Ferraro and Kaylee Trottier-Wolter

37. These Data Do Not Compute, Lynne MacLean, Mechthild Meyer, Alma Estable, Anita Kothari, and Nancy Edwards

38. Avoiding Data Disasters and Other Pitfalls, Melinda F. Davis

39. When Interpretation Goes Awry: The Impact of Interim Testing, Dale Glaser

VII. Collaboration

40. What Happened to Cooperation and Collaboration?, Nasreen Roberts

41. Presto! It’s Gone: When a Study Ceases to Exist Right before Your Eyes, Katrina L. Bledsoe

42. Building Stakeholder Capacity to Enhance Effectiveness in Participatory Program Evaluation, Debazou Y. Yantio

VIII. Final Thoughts

43. Sometimes It Is the Researcher, Not the Research, That Goes “Off the Rails”: The Value of Clear, Complete, and Precise Information in Scientific Reports, Joseph A. Durlak, Christine I. Celio, Molly K. Pachan, and Kriston B. Schellinger

44. A Healthy Dose of Realism, Souraya Sidani and David L. Streiner

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David L. Streiner is Senior Scientist at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.


Souraya Sidani is Canada Research Chair, Tier One, in Health Interventions Design and Evaluation at Ryerson University in Toronto.


This unique, thorough guide offers inspiring testimony about how to persevere in the face of unexpected setbacks when designing or implementing a study. Contributors describe the untold story of research--the real-world intrusions that almost never make it into the publication of record. Topics include the ethical review process, recruitment contingencies with formal and informal gatekeepers, missteps in data collection and analysis, roadblocks and detours when implementing the study, and conflicts and personality factors associated with collaboration and intervention. The cautionary yet inspiring vignettes will resonate with experienced researchers and will appeal to graduate students just learning the ropes. This text will enliven a standard research methods course with a wonderful collection of stories from the front lines.--Gregory J. Meyer, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Toledo
Most books for social and behavioral science researchers assume that faithfully following certain protocols will produce useful results. In contrast, this book shows that the unexpected almost always strikes. There is as much to learn from these real-world situations of research gone awry as from textbook examples of 'perfect' designs that lead to straightforward results. The underlying message of all of the chapters is that serious mishaps are best avoided by focusing on prevention. Drawing on diverse studies using different designs in multiple disciplines, the book illustrates broadly applicable approaches to navigating the vicissitudes of research and evaluation practice.--Henry M. Levin, PhD, William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University; David Jacks Professor of Education and Economics (Emeritus), Stanford University
Nobody told us this stuff! This is the information that is missing in graduate courses and professional texts on research methods, experimental design, and statistics. From distinguished interdisciplinary editors and contributors, this book fills an extremely important niche. It should be required reading for all graduate students considering a career in the health and social sciences. It will be extremely valuable to experienced researchers, knowledge brokers, and policy makers in the health and social service fields.--Charles E. Cunningham, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences and Jack Laidlaw Chair in Patient-Centred Health Care, McMaster University, Canada

In typical 'Streineresque' style, this book is easy to read, grounded in reality, and solution oriented. The contributors use accessible language, which makes reading the book feel like you are having an informal dialogue with colleagues. Social science researchers experiencing challenges at various stages of project implementation, graduate students who want to avoid and learn from mistakes made by others, and reviewers of grant proposals or manuscripts who are in a position to help others keep their research on track should seriously consider making this book a 'must read.'--Lucyna M. Lach, MSW, PhD, School of Social Work, McGill University, Canada

This book is a useful reference that could help you anticipate potential problems when planning your thesis or dissertation study.--Amanda L. Garrett, graduate student, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

-An eye-opening text that pushes the reader to think about solutions to real world problems that occur in the field as one performs research....An essential read for new researchers and will be thought-provoking for those in the field....As a graduate student new to the field, I found this book useful for exploring the realities of research....The text reads more like a novel than a traditional scholarly text, which is a welcome addition to the reading list of most doctoral students. This text would be excellent material to pair with a traditional textbook for a research design course....Regardless of your position, social researchers will find the honest discussion of research problems and solutions to be an enlightening and interesting read.--Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 5/28/2013