Social science, as an academic discipline, deals with the study of broader society and the relationship among various entities within such a society. Research in social science facilitates the collection and analysis of authentic information which can be used to get a better understanding of the underlying issues and from effective strategies to tackle them. Social science researchers work in almost every sector whether it is healthcare or corporate world. They also contribute to the formulation of theories, social planning, development of methodology and control. Like any other scientific research, social science researchers include several steps such as review of existing literature, collection of data and its analysis.
However, one of the key aspects of scientific research is that of its methodology. A research methodology is a systematic way to solve the problem under consideration and is a science of studying the way researches are executed in a scientific manner. Simply put, it is the procedure through which the researchers conduct their work of assessing, describing and foretelling phenomenon. The methodology includes the overall research design, methods of collecting data and analysis, along with ethical considerations. Each of these components of a research methodology includes different approaches which have different levels of validity and purposes. Apart from forming the underlying framework of a research, research methodology also provides evidence regarding the measure of validity associated with the research.
This paper presents a critical evaluation of the rationale, methodology and findings of the research conducted by Zhou, Liu, Niu, Sun & Fan (2017), titled Bullying victimization and depression in Chinese Children: A moderated mediation model of resilience and mindfulness. The paper further discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the methodological approach showing and also suggests what could have been done differently. Issues of validity and reliability should are also discussed in the analysis.
Bullying victimization has been a recurring topic in the current discourse on social issues and is most commonly associated with schooldays. The research mentioned that the adverse impact of bullying is not limited to an immediate effect, but also involves depression, which even persists into adulthood. Furthermore, bullying victimization also increases the risk of suicidal ideation and substance abuse. Resilience, on the other hand, refers to the ability of the subject to cope with the stress, and studies revealed that resilience is negatively correlated with anxiety and depression and is positively correlated with life satisfaction. The third element included in the research is of mindfulness, which refers to the state of being aware of psychological, cognitive and physical experience in self-empathetic, accepting and non-judgemental manner.
The paper under consideration studies the examines whether the relationship between symptoms of depression and bullying victimization was mediated by the resilience and whether the mediating effect of resilience and effects of bullying were moderated by mindfulness.
The rationale of the study states that despite the robust association between depressive symptoms and victimization, the underlying moderating mechanism and mediating mechanism have not caught much research attention. This means that there is a gap in existing literature in terms of how and when bulling results in depression and the way interventions can be used to buffer the adverse effects. Such an understanding would facilitate the development of effective policies and interventions to protect children against the long term deleterious effects of bullying victimization.
Research methods provide a structure to resolve the problem in a systematic manner. Therefore, it is critical for researchers to choose a sound research methodology according to the problem at hand.
The present research employs interpretivism research philosophy to examine the subjective reality of the bulling and the way individual students interpret the way it affects them and their perceived level of resilience and mindfulness. Moreover, for data collection, the researchers used questionnaires with a 5-point scale to measure bullying victimization, a 3-point scale questionnaire for resilience and another 5-point scale questionnaire with 10 items for mindfulness. Convenience sampling was used in the research to randomly choose two classes of students in each grade from third to sixth. The total numbers of participants in the study included 448 children between nine and thirteen years.
For data analysis, researchers used correlation analysis among variables to test their hypotheses. The research under question is survey research which uses data collected from the survey to draw meaningful research conclusions through statistical analysis. In addition to this, the research methodology includes the usage of a deductive approach which tests their initial hypothesis. Under this approach, the researchers form a hypothesis and test it against the analysis of the collected data. By doing so, researchers can find their hypothesis is supported by data or not. Authors also mentioned that they took informed consent of children’s parents and the school.
Before addressing the methodology used in the research, it is important to assess whether the rationale of the study is strong enough. A research rationale is a reason to conduct the study as it answers the need behind conducting given research. The rationale of the research is also referred to as the justification of study because it justifies the research is important and its novelty. Mohajan (2017) stated that the ideal structure of research should include the observations, rationale behind the research and key hypothesis, along with methods, results and conclusion. Rational of this research is sound as the researchers first conducted a literature review of the current literature regarding the research which has been done on the topic under consideration.
Form this; the researchers identified that in the existing literature, not much attention has been given to the way bullying victimization affects depressive symptoms and when the mediating process is most effective. After the identification of this gap in the literature, authors presented whether it is important to fill this gap and suggested that by answering such questions their research could contribute to a more thorough and improved understanding of when and how bullying results in depression symptoms in the victim. Moreover, researchers also claimed that this will not only lead to a better understanding but will also help to carry out targeted interventions to mitigate the adverse effect of bullying. By identifying a gap in the existing literature and addressing the importance of filling the gap, authors form a sound rationale for their research. The rationale of the research is followed by hypothesis and the overall aim of the research which forms a coherent base for the research.
Kumar (2019) mentioned that research can be defined as an activity which includes finding out what the researcher does not know, in a more or less systematic manner. Within such research, methodology acts as a foundation or a philosophical framework on which the research is based. Zhou, Liu, Niu, Sun & Fan (2017) did not explicitly mention the entire research but includes key aspects like data collection and sample size. As mentioned above, the methodology of the research includes interpretivism approach, with deductive reasoning, and convenience sampling for data collection, along with correlation analysis for data analysis.
Pruzan (2016) claimed that the while conducting research, the underlying methodology should follow two criteria, namely, it should be most suitable to realise research objectives and researchers should make it possible to replicate the methodology in other researchers.
The research design refers to the set of techniques and methods chosen by the researcher to conduct the research. The research design explains the type of research, including the method of data collection, measurement and analysis. Moreover, Mohajan (2017) mentioned that the research problem under question determines the research design and not vice-versa. Gregory (2019) proposed the characteristics of impactful research design and suggested that such a research design creates a minimum bias in the collected data and makes the research more reliable.
Moreover, the authors mentioned that research design should be neutral, reliable, valid and generalized. Neutrality suggests that the results projected in the research design should be unbiased and reliability means that design should indicate the way research questions are formed to set a standard of results. In addition to this, the research design should be valid and should help the researcher to gauge findings with respect to the research objectives. Lastly, the research design should apply to a wide population, rather than a small sample. Such a generalized design implies that similar design can be used to conduct research on any given strata of the population with adequate accuracy.
Zhou, Liu, Niu, Sun & Fan (2017) in the research begin by describing the key concepts involved in the study, namely bullying victimization, resilience and mindfulness. However, it would have been better if they also provided information regarding depressive symptoms that are analysed in the research. By excluding depression, authors reduced the validity of the research as other researcher and readers will be unable to determine what is being analysed in the study. This is especially deleterious for the validity and usefulness of the study as depression does not have a clear definition which makes it difficult to understand the perception of authors regarding the same.
In addition to this, the researchers used a survey to measure bullying victimization to understand the subjective view of children regarding the effects of bullying. For measuring depression, authors used the Chinese version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale for children (CES-DC). Andrews, Cho, Tugendrajch, Marriott & Hawley (2020) mentioned that this scale is one of the most widely used measuring tools for depression among children and adolescents. However, it should also be noted that the results of CES-DC do not necessarily match up to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which is an authority on mental disorders (Andrews, Cho, Tugendrajch, Marriott & Hawley, 2020).
Also, Griffiths (2018) mentioned that CES-DC is a good psychometric tool for adolescents, it is not so reliable and valid in the case of children. Since the underlying measurement is not based on reliable techniques, one cannot rely on the findings of the research. For resilience and mindfulness, researchers used a three-point scale and a five-point scale questionnaire. But authors did not mention the details of questionnaires and in the absence of such information, it is not possible to analyse their reliability or validity. However, it can be said that by not including such key details, researchers formed a hole in the credibility of the entire paper.
The research design used by Zhou, Liu, Niu, Sun & Fan (2017) in their research involves quantitative research design which is suitable for the research question as it aims to determine the relationship between different factors and it also is less bias prone as compared to qualitative research. Moreover, researchers use surveys to collect relevant data for further analysis. Survey is used for data collection as data regarding the effects of bullying cannot be collected from direct observations or experiments. From direct observation, researchers will only be able to collect evidence of physical abuse, not the psychological ones, and since the research deals with depression symptoms, understanding psychological effects are vital for effective analysis.
Furthermore, since the researchers are dealing with psychological effects, children themselves are the best source for gathering information. However, it should be taken into consideration that children can be easily influenced by leading questions and by researchers themselves. The research would have been more reliable if researchers provided the questionnaire they used to conduct surveys. Since no such information is mentioned in the research, the reliability of the research comes into question.
Survey are suitable for gathering information from such a larger population of children and using a Likert scale questionnaire allows researchers to convert survey findings into numerical data for further analysis. As already mentioned, without access to the questionnaire used in the research one cannot analyse or rely on the findings of the survey. Moreover, researchers use convenience sampling to select sample population for the conducting research which is a form of non-probability sampling and relies on collecting data from members of the population who are conveniently available. This method of data collection is simple and easy for researchers. It is also cheaper than alternative sampling methods (Taherdoost, 2016).
However, as Etikan, Musa & Alkassim (2016) mentioned, convenience sampling is highly vulnerable to influences and selection bias which is beyond the control of the researcher. In addition to this, a relatively high level of sampling error is associated with this sampling method along with less credibility. In theory, it would have been better if the researcher used a random sampling approach in which every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected in the study. This method of sampling is more credible and less prone to biases. However, in the given research, random sampling will entail a significant cost for researchers in terms of efforts and time. This means that there is a trade-off of less credibility for the ease of conducting research.
In terms of data analysis, correlation analysis was used to test the hypothesis and to ascertain the relationship among different variables. It is one of the 2 key means of conducting research, the other being experimentation. While experimentation includes controlling variables to determine the effect on other variable and to infer the relationship, correlation only assesses the positive and negative nature of the relationship. This has resulted in the mantra that "correlation does not necessarily show causation" (Gogtay & Thatte, 2017).
In the given research, researchers only illustrated the relationship between the variables but were unable to show whether there is causation among the two or some other variable was behind the relationship. However, this does not necessarily mean that the correlation approach is not useful. It provides great insights for broad but meaningful observations which can facilitate further research into the topic.
Finally, in terms of ethical considerations, researchers took informed consent of school and the parents of children which suggest that the research is in accordance with ethical standards of the research community.
In conclusion, the paper mentions that research methodology is a vital aspect of research as it forms the underlying framework for reliable and valid research. The critical analysis of the journal article under consideration suggests that the article is not highly reliable as its methodology is prone to biases and employs less reliable techniques for data collection. In addition to this, researchers did not include the questionnaire they used for data gathering which further deteriorates the quality of the paper.
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Zhou, Z. K., Liu, Q. Q., Niu, G. F., Sun, X. J., & Fan, C. Y. (2017). Bullying victimization and depression in Chinese children: A moderated mediation model of resilience and mindfulness. Personality and individual differences, 104, 137-142.
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