ASID: The Right Method for the Right Data: An introduction to research methods
A majority of us are aware of the "process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes", or Evidence-Based Design (EBD), as defined by The Center for Health Design (2009). Our hope: EBD will better inform design decisions to improve health, safety, and welfare of patients and staff.
Further familiarity presents four levels of EBD-practitioners as identified by Jain Malkin's A Visual Reference for Evidence-Based Design. Level-one practitioners review current literature while Level twos create and test hypothesis by gathering and analyzing data. Levels three and four publish findings through various channels; the highest being peer-reviewed journals (Malkin, 2008).
As a Level-one practitioner pursuing qualified studies, recognizing methods utilized by authors will help evaluate validity. For Level twos involved in initial research, choosing appropriate methods to test hypotheses will yield more reliable results.
Rosalyn Cama's work, Evidence-Based Healthcare Design, names five methods from the Picker Institute Action Kit for Healthcare Design: Casual Observation, Systematic Observation, Cognitive Interviews, Focus Groups, and Surveys (2009). Interviews and Focus Groups can be combined into one category "Focused Interviews" found in John Zeisel 's Inquiry by Design (2006).
Casual and Systematic Observation require monitoring environments and subjects in an environment while recording similarities or dissimilarities. Although cost-effective and relatively unobtrusive (Zeisel 2006), observation may permit human error as it is open to misinterpretation (Cama 2009). Cama shows observation data as more detailed while less generalizable (2009).
Focused Interviews (individual and group) are flexible, appropriate for various populations, and provide first-hand patient insight (Cama 2009). Depending on the analysis, interviews afford both quantitative and qualitative data; conversely, they are time-labor intensive and make comparison and generalization difficult (Cama 2009).
Surveys (including questionnaires), by contrast, allow easy comparison of specific data and offer control and efficiency of collection of data (Zeisel 2006). However, they are inappropriate for answering complex issues (Cama 2006) and are highly intrusive (Zeisel 2006).
Knowing pros and cons to research methodology will not only make for a more advanced practitioner, but may also help in finding limitations in your own or other's research. Regardless which method(s) you choose, know that results won't always be what was expected and that the information, whether supportive of the hypothesis or not, is still valuable and worthy of sharing.
Cama, Rosalyn. Evidence-Based Healthcare Design. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
"Definition of Evidence-Based Design." 9 July 2009.
A Visual Reference for Evidence-Based Design. Concord: The Center for Health Design, 2008.
Inquiry by Design. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.