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Module III Assignment: Dissecting an Article 1 – Research Design & How We Know What We Know (750 Words)


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This assignment asks you to dissect an academic article with the objective of demonstrating how a research designs informs “what we know” about a social problem, in this case, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

INSTRUCTIONS: The link above you will find an article entitled “Domestic Violence in Atlanta, Georgia Before and During COVID-19,” by Dabney Evans, Shila Hawk and Carrie Ripkey 8(3): 2021 (That the article focuses on Atlanta is conincidental. I’m using this article because it is brief and easy to read, with the research question and scope of the problem clearly stated and elements of the research design clearly laid out). Read this article in its entirety. Then, do the following (I also go over this assignment in my recorded lecture for the week):

1) First, describe the “research question” & “scope of the problem.” A research question lays out the reasons for why a study is being conducted and the justifications for doing so, i.e., the scope of the problem. What is the research question of the article you’ve been assigned to read, i.e., what do the researchers want to find out, and why? What evidence or arguments do the researchers provide that justifies their investigation? Consider the introductory material provided in the opening of the article about the problem of IPV generally and about how disease and disaster may make IPV worse.

2) Next, turn to describing the research design as a basis for understanding how the researchers “know what they know.” For the purposes of this assignment, the Research Design is defined as including the following. You should provide details describing these elements: 

A) Unit(s) of analysis (or sample) & setting. Units of analysis might include individuals, groups or whole communities. Who or what are the researchers studying in this article on domestic violence, and how are their experiences expressed in terms of statistical data used? Where are the units of analysis are located, i.e., what country or place do they represent? 

Note: Note that units of analysis are sometimes referred to as “research samples,” especially when doing survey and interview research.

B) Research Method: Data Collection & Data Source. Methods are the techniques by which researchers collect and analyze their data. Data collection techniques may include interviews, first-hand observations, archival research (e.g., on statistical databases or government documents), experiments, or other approaches. Describe the data collection technique used in this research to study domestic violence, and also indicate the data source , i.e., where did the evidence used in this study come from? Methods used for purposes of analysis are discussed below.

C) Variables & Measurements. To answer their research questions (or confirm, specify or reject a theory or hypothesis), researchers attempt to track key indicators, typically referred to as variables. The phenomenon the researcher is trying to explain is referred to as the “dependent variable” (or outcome), and the phenomena thought to be correlated with a dependent variable, or perhaps causal of it, is referred to as the “independent variable.” For example, if you are trying to explain changing rates of lung cancer, the cancer incident rates would be your dependent variable and smoking might serve as your independent variable. There are also “intervening variables,” which are used to understand how one independent variable may impact another in determining given outcomes. For example, we may argue that smoking causes cancer, but also find that the relationship is strongest when the intervening variable of age is also taken into account. Note that there are commonly multiple variables examined in a single study.  Measurements are the ways that researchers operationalize key variables to measure their effects. For example, if you want to measure the problem of violent crime in a community you might use murder incident rates as reported by the police as your measurement of violent crime. If you hypothesize that inequality is the primary cause of violent crime, you may use poverty rates to measure that impact.

For this part of the assignment, identify key variables and explain how they are being measured. In the article assigned, the researchers are interested in the causes of IPV. So, IPV is the primary dependent variable. But how do the researchers further define this dependent variable for purposes of measurement, i.e., what specific data do they track (hint: note what the authors say in the last paragraph of their “Measures” subsection on the “subsets” of Part I crimes). Next, explain how the researchers define their key independent variable. The researchers hypothesize that CO-Vid 19 influences rates of IPV. But how do they measure the influence of the Pandemic? Hint – the answer to this question has to do with specific interventions and not the disease itself.

D) Analysis. An analysis involves examining the relationships between two variables to determine any correlations (or associations) among them that might ultimately provide clues about causality. To do this, researchers employ various methodologies or logics to isolate and convincingly determine that one variable has an impact on another. For this section of the assignment, explain why the researchers analyze the data the way they do to determine the impact of Co-Vid-related regulations on IPV. First, why do the researchers compare three years of Part I domestic crimes data to assess whether the study’s primary independent variable has any impact on these trends (see Figure 2 of the article & the discussion in the “Results” section)? Two, why do the researchers compare the percent change in total Part I Index Crimes against the subset of Domestic Crimes in Figure 3 to understand the impact of the independent variable on these data, i.e., what explains the “reverse trajectory” of total Part 1 Crimes versus Domestic crimes occuring between 2019 and 2020 (again, read “results” section)? Third, explain why the authors attempt to “control” (or hold constant) population increases in the City of Atlanta as a way to isolate the increased frequency of Part I Domestic Crimes. How might changes in a population mask whether something is actually a growing problem?

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