Research methods

Essays are generally scholarly pieces of writing giving the author’s own argument, but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of an article, a pamphlet and a short story. Essays can consist of a number of elements, inclRESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The chapter focused on the methods used by the researcher to collect data on the causes of poor performance in mathematics at secondary schools in Gokwe District central cluster. The chapter looked at the research design adopted, research instruments used, the population, the sample, the sampling technique, data collection procedures and data analysis. The chapter ended with a summary.
Walliman (2006) said questionnaires refer to a technique of data collection in which respondents are asked to respond to the same set of questions in a predetermined order.
In a questionnaire there are reduced chances of evaluator bias because the same questions are asked to all respondents. There are some people who feel at ease when responding to a questionnaire than being involved in an interview. According to Ary et al (2010; 384) a questionnaire guarantees confidentiality thus perhaps eliciting more truthful responses than would be obtained in an interview. Another advantage is that the tabulation of closed ended responses is an easy and straight forward process. A questionnaire is time saving since one obtains data from relatively large samples covering a wide geographical area. The researcher would also easily translate her objectives into specific questions.
In a questionnaire there is a low response rate since some people might decide not to complete the questionnaires. According to Fowler (2002) a low response rate reduces the sample size and may bias the results of the study. Ary et al (2010; 380) observes that in questionnaires personal contact is missing and people are more likely to refuse to cooperate.” Given this lack of contact with respondent the interviewer will never know who really completed this survey and this would reduce the validity and reliability of the results. The illiterate people are left out in a questionnaire hence this reduces the size and diversity of the sample. Ary et al (2010) argued that in a questionnaire respondents may misinterpret the question and in some cases the items may not have the same meaning to all respondents. This scenario is worsened by the fact that there is no room for probing and clarifications for additional details. According to Ary etal (2010 ) a questionnaire is inadequate in understanding emotions and it is difficult to tell how truthful a respondent is. Good questions are hard to write and they take considerable time to develop.
Leedy (2001) argues that interviews are a two way dialogue initiated by the interviewer to acquire information from the respondents. The interviewer used face to face interviews. Mahlase (1997) says, an interview refers to a situation in which answers are directly drawn out from the respondents by an interview and usually records responses. The researcher used structured interview guide .The interview enabled the researcher to gather comparable data in surrounding secondary schools under study.
According to Ary etal (2010; 380) there is a high response rate since personal contact increases the likelihood that the interviewee will participate and will provide the desired information.” The interviewer will get answers to all or most of the questions. There is room for clarification since questions can be repeated or their meanings explained. The interviewer can also press for relevant additional information when a response seems incomplete or not entirely relevant. In an interview the interviewer has control over the order in which the questions are considered since in some cases it is important for the respondents not to know the nature of later questions because their responses to earlier questions may influence earlier responses. Interviews supply large volumes of in depth data in a short space of time. Interviews provide first hand information and also insights on participants’ perspectives.
Interviews are time consuming and expensive compared to other data collection methods According to Ary et al (2010) interviews are prone to socially desirability bias in which respondents want to please the interviewer by giving socially acceptable responses that they would not give in any anonymous questionnaire. They may say want they think the interviewer wants to hear. The interviews are prone to interviewer bias since the interviewer may reward, correct or encourage responses that fit his or her expectations ( Ary et al 2010 ) through verbal and nonverbal cues. In an interview there is no anonymity hence the respondents might fail to cooperate fully for fear of victimization. An interview may seem intrusive to the respondent.
Delamont (2002) asserts that, an observation schedule is an analytical form or coding sheet filled out by researchers during structured observation. It carefully specifies beforehand the categories of behaviors or events under study and under what circumstances they should be assigned to those categories .Observations are then fragmented or coded into more managerial pieces of information which are later aggregated into usable quantifiable data.
The researcher gets a real picture of the behaviors and the events as they manifest in natural settings .Systematic and unbiased observations can yield a true picture of individuals ‘natural set of behaviors .Certain phenomenon can be accessed and properly understood only through observation ,for example interaction can be meaningfully assessed and understood only through observation .
The researcher has little control over the situation he or she is interested to observe .Croll (1986) observes that ,the presents of the researcher may influence the phenomenon itself .In other words those people under study may change their activities in the presence of the researcher .As a result the observer would fail to get a true picture of people’s behaviors that would have taken place ,if the observer would not have been present .At times the researcher has to wait until the appropriate event takes place ,hence the exercise will be time consuming and labor intensive .However the researcher choose this method so that she gets certain behaviors in their natural state .
According to Walliman (2006) population is the total number of individuals who fits the criteria the researcher has laid out for research participants. The targeted population was the teachers of mathematics, Heads of mathematics department, Heads of selected schools in Gokwe South central cluster and District officer of Gokwe south central cluster. The cluster sampling technique was used to select the schools. The characteristics of the students under study are that they are all doing mathematics at Ordinary level; they come from the same geographical place and have the same socio —economic background. The teachers too all teach pupils using the same mathematics syllabus, have almost the same economic status, they are all trained from teachers’ colleges that offer almost the same teacher education curriculum in terms of content coverage and they also have experience working with pupils of different backgrounds and abilities. Among the three schools chosen .one of the schools is a boarding school whilst the other two are day schools.
According to Walliman (2006) a sample size is the number of data sources that are actually selected from the total population. Therefore a sample is part of a population. The purposive sampling technique was adopted .Chiromo (2006 ) posits that ,purposive sampling is a judgemental form of sampling in which the researcher purposely selects certain groups of individuals for their relevance to the issue being studied .The researcher was interested in the Heads of the schools, Heads of the mathematics department , the teachers of mathematics and pupils learning mathematics at ordinary level. According to Palys (2008) purposive sampling involves the researcher’s judgment in selecting respondents that will best answer the research questions. It enables the selection of the key informants on the basis that they understand the challenges faced by teachers in the teaching of mathematics. According to Ary etal (2010) purposive sampling also known as judgment sampling, sample elements judged to be typical or representative are chosen from the population. The assumption is that errors of judgment in the selection will counter balance one another. It is useful in attitude and opinion surveys. Three Head teachers of schools, six mathematics teachers, three heads of the mathematics department and one District officer were interviewed and thirty pupils responded to questionnaires. The District education officer was automatically selected because of his or her responsibilities and relevance to the study. In selecting pupils for sampling, a hat method was used where by pupils were asked to write their names and put the names in a hat according to gender. A boy was picked by the researcher at random and was asked to pick five names of girls in the hat, one at a time likewise a girl was randomly chosen to pick five names of boys in a hat and the chosen pupils were the ones representing a sample at a school .Five girls and five boys represented a school. For anonymity purposes selected schools were named A, B and C.
The researcher upheld individual’s rights to confidentiality and privacy by ensuring participants that information gathered from them will be used for academic purposes only and names of the respondents will not be used.
The researcher made sure that the participants were informed that their participation was voluntary, they could withdraw at any time, choose not to answer certain questions and that withdrawal bears no consequences.
The participants’ identity was protected to make it impossible to link certain responses to certain names. The names of the participants were not written on the questionnaires. The participants’ identity was protected to make it impossible to link certain responses to certain names.
The researcher visited the Head Office of the ministry of Education and culture with an introductory letter from Midlands State University seeking permission to collect data from schools. From there she visited the District office to sought permission to visit the schools and proceeded to the schools to collect data. The interviews were conducted and the questionnaires were administered and collected immediately after completion. It took the researcher three days to complete the process of data collection.

In this study, data collected through interviews, questionnaires and observed schedule was analysed and the data was shown through tables and bar graphs .On the issue of reliability the researcher followed proper research procedures and observed the ethics. Anonymity on the questionnaires was highly observed so as to allow the respondents to give accurate information. As for validity the researcher made sure that the methods used complemented each other.
The chapter outlined the research methodology which was employed by the researcher. Under the discussion the following topics were dealt with, research design, research instruments, population, sample and sampling techniques, research ethics, data collection procedure and data analysis .The next chapter will look at data analysis and presentation of data collected .

Ary, D, Jacobs, L.C. and Sorenson,C. ( 2010 ) Introduction to Research in Education. ( 8th Ed ) Wadsworth. Cengage Learning
Fowler, F. J. (2002 ) Survey Research Methods. ( 3rd Ed ) Thousand Oaks, C. A. Sage.
Johnson, B. R. and Onwuegbuzie, J. A. ( 2004 ) Mixed methods researcher, Educational Researcher. Volume 33, ( 7 ) p 14-26
Leedy, P. ( 2001 ) Practical Research: Planning and Design, New York, Macmillan.
Morgan, D. L. ( 2008 ) Sampling. The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods. Volume 1 and 2. Los Angeles. Sage Publication.
Palys, T. ( 2008 ) Purposive Sampling. The Sage encyclopeadia of qualitative research methods. Volume 1 and 2. Los Angeles , Sage Publication
Popper, M. (2004 ) Leadership as relationship. Journal for the theory of social behavior. Volume 34 ( 2 ) p 107-125
Walliman, N. ( 2006 ) Social Research methods. London, Sage
uding: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. Almost all modern essays are written in prose, but works in verse have been dubbed essays (e.g. Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism and An Essay on Man). While brevity usually defines an essay, voluminous works like John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Thomas Malthus’s An Essay on the Principle of Population are counterexamples. In some countries (e.g., the United States and Canada), essays have become a major part of formal education. Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills; admission essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants, and in the humanities and social sciences essays are often used as a way of assessing the performance of students during final exams.

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