Research Methods

We are highly adept at both quantitative and qualitative methodologies.  Much of our research requires the triangulation of both methodologies in order to strengthen our research conclusions.  Examples of our methods include:

Quantitative

Survey Research


Whether our clients need simple or highly complex surveys, we can accommodate their request.  We design and develop custom surveys for telephone, online, or self-administration (paper).  Further, we are very adept at applying complex sampling designs and weighting formulas if necessary.  See more in the Types of Research section.


Experimental/Quasi-Experimental Design


Program evaluations often require a robust research design that can accurately and effectively measure program impact.  In order to do this properly a comparison group, or groups, must be utilized to measure against the group receiving the intervention (experimental group).

Ideally, a true control group would be used as the comparison group.  In this scenario, participants are randomly selected to participate in the research and then randomly assigned to either the experimental or control group.  However, this is often impossible due to budgetary constraints and/or ethical considerations.  Alternatively, quasi-control groups are used whereby a group not receiving intervention is used as a comparison group.  In this scenario, random assignment is not utilized.  Instead, a comparison group is chosen and matched to the experimental group based on variables such as key demographics (e.g., age, gender, race, socio-economic status or other measures (e.g., achievement scores/measures in education).

In this example, the comparison group would be sizeable enough to make statistically significant comparisons with the experimental group.  This will allow us to compare the outcome measures of two similar groups where only one has had the intervention.  


Secondary Data Analysis/Inclusion


Secondary data inclusion of both widely available data (e.g., data from public databases, such as the U.S. Census) and secondary data collected by our clients (e.g., student attendance or performance data for a study on educational intervention) to lend support to our research conclusions.  Secondary data is an important complement to primary data collection and is necessary for the full research picture.


Qualitative

Focus Groups


Focus groups are important and powerful research tools producing dynamic, scientifically valid, and meaningful research results that are useable to clients.  VIP Research and Evaluation moderators base their moderation style in communications theory and small group interaction dynamics (e.g., the steps a group goes through to come to a decision, styles of communication among group participants).  Taking this approach enables the VIP team to generate rigorous research results by combining a carefully crafted and highly structured moderation guide with moderation techniques that avoid biasing results while enabling participants to feel comfortable exploring and discussing the topic under investigation in great depth and detail.  This type of guided interaction provides clients with the rich, detailed information not available through more traditional research methods such as survey questionnaires.

Additionally, the focus group format and setting will allow in-depth exploration of health-related issues while benefitting from group synergy, with participants building off one another’s ideas or comments.  In addition to recording powerful, detailed personal stories and experiences in respondents’ own words, focus groups also can uncover important issues researchers had not anticipated.

We often use focus groups when we want to focus on specific subgroups or subpopulations.  For example, when conducting Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) we often seek feedback from those vulnerable to health care issues, such as older adults, low income groups, the uninsured and underinsured, and single mothers with children.


In-Depth Interviews


Our senior leadership conducts many in-depth interviews annually with a wide range of individuals via telephone or face-to-face.  Some of the people we interview at great lengths are key stakeholders, key informants, community leaders, decision-makers, and policymakers:

  • Professional educators – teachers, principals, Department Chairs, Curriculum Directors
  • Health Care Professionals – physicians, nurses, hospital administrators and CEOs, clinic directors
  • Business Leaders – CEOs, COOs, CFOs, Executive Vice Presidents, Executive Directors
Since the individuals we interview have a certain expertise and knowledge base that we want to tap into, our approach is to guide the respondents through a series of questions, letting them do the talking, ultimately capturing the richness of their perspective.   


Observations


Observations are often conducted as part of our overall approach or design to a program evaluation.  Trained observers are used to capture program activity, behavior, or performance in a natural setting by taking notes and/or utilizing observation checklists.  Observation checklists are often used as a pre-post design where changes in performance or activity can be measured as a product of the intervention.


Document Review


Document review is often necessary in program evaluation to determine if a program has been implemented according to plan or implemented consistent with the mission, core values, goals, and objectives of the program or initiative.  A review of existing internal and external documents can also be helpful in gathering background information to aid our understanding of the historical context and operation, organization and structure of the program.  Additionally, document review helps us better understand the program and may lead the evaluation team to discover that they need to develop new data collection tools or ask new/different research questions.  Examples of documents eligible for review include memos, meeting minutes, internal reports, performance evaluations, proposals, newsletters, marketing materials, etc.

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