Chapter 3 - Methodology

Chapter 3 – Methodology
This research is concerned with understanding women’s’ thoughts around
breastfeeding and how they chose to feed their infant. It also hopes to discover whether or
not the mothers received support and information regarding breastfeeding, which could
have influenced their decision. While it was established in the previous chapter the
numerous benefits of breastfeeding, this study aims to understand why the rates of
breastfeeding are low Ireland. This chapter focuses on what methods of data collection
were used to receive the most suitable information for this study. It will explain how
participants for this research were selected, such as who and how many people were
involved in order for the appropriate data to be received. Ethical considerations will also be
explored such as ensuring informed consent was received from all participants. The
reliability and validity of this research will also be discussed and what limitations this study
was faced with. Finally it will consider how the data established was analysed. These factors
were taking into consideration when looking at the nature of this study.
Method of Data Collection
As a result of understanding the aims and objective of this study and exploring
previous research similar to this topic, I feel using a Quantitative Method of data collection
would be most suitable. Quantitative Research refers to research doing numbers and is the
collection of facts and the study of the relationship between these groups of facts, (Thomas,
2009 and Bell, 2010). From this information, this method of data collection would be
suitable for this study as it hopes to discover why rates of breastfeeding are low in Ireland.
For example it will provide information relating to the percentage of mothers who have
breastfed, in the area of choice. Once these figures have been gathered, it will then allow
opportunities for comparing the differences and similarities between the number of
mothers who have breastfed and their economic status or personal characteristics such as
their age. Overall, the use of numbers and percentages is most useful for obtaining
information for this topic as it relates to rates in Ireland.
The method of Quantitative Research this study focused on, in order to collect its
data, was questionnaires. Questionnaires are a quick written procedure of questioning
(Kumar, 2011, Thomas, 2009, Bell, 2010 and Walliman & Buckler, 2008). According to
Creswell (2009) it also allows the researcher to explore and understand an individual or
groups view towards a social or human problem, which in relation to this study are the low
rates of breastfeeding in Ireland. The questionnaire involved various types of questions such
as dichotomous, attribute, multiple choice and Likert scale questions. However, it also
included some open ended questions, which yielded a qualitative component, to allow an
in-depth insight into mother’s opinions and recommendations around breastfeeding. This
added richness and depth to the study and provided a context for numerical data. In order
to ensure there were no leading questions and that personal questions were asked in a
suitable way such as the mother’s age, questionnaires were changed and reworded by the
researcher with the help of their supervisor.
This research topic concentrates on breastfeeding and how woman in a town in the
South East of Ireland, decided to feed their infants. Vogt (2007) states, when you are
representing the population in a study, the group can be very big. Therefore you must
choose and study a small group of a population in order to aid data collection. As a result of
this it will use purposive, non-probability sampling. Research will be carried out through
questionnaires and will be focused towards mothers with children attending early childhood
settings. One reason for this was, the population of mothers is quite large and this study
required a smaller sample.
160 questionnaires were distributed among 6 early years’ settings. The manager was
first contacted by phone and invited to take part in the study. If they agreed to, they
received a consent letter explaining what was required of them. They were then given a
number of questionnaires, consent letters and consent forms, which they distributed to
mothers of children attending their setting. When mothers finished filling out the
questionnaire and signing the consent form they returned it to the setting, where it was
kept in a concealed box, provided by the researcher. The researcher then returned to the
setting the end of that week to collect the questionnaires.
Ethical considerations are necessary for research projects as all participants have
moral and legal rights. For this study, the researcher ensured they interacted with the
participants in a personal way, that they did not invade their privacy without consent from
them, that the research did not hurt their feelings and that all information received from
them was acknowledge and accurately represented. These are important features according
to Greetham (2009) and Walliman and Buckler (2008). Some ethical considerations this
study insured for the participants was: Privacy and Confidentiality:
Guaranteeing that information provided will be unidentifiable by anybody other than
by the researcher.
The particular town in the South East the questionnaires were dispensed was
Ensuring they were knowledgeable that if any of the information resulting from the
research is to be used for presentations or reports, all identifying information will be
changed to maintain privacy and confidentiality.
Confirming that they were well-informed that the results will be presented in the
thesis and they will be seen by the researcher’s supervisor, a second marker and the
external examiner.
Ensuring that they understood that the thesis may be read by future students on the
course and may be published in a research journal but anyone reading this thesis
won’t know who they are.
Guaranteeing that all data will be stored in a password encrypted laptop for 5 years
and will then destroyed.
Eliminating any risk elements
Ensuring safety will be consistent overtime.
Confirming that the research is not harmful for participants and certifies proper use
of information.
The researcher ensured that the participant’s contribution is completely voluntary
and that they may withdraw from the research at any time. From here there will be
no further collection or analysis of data and all existing date will be removed.
Any unreturned questionnaires and any mothers who refuse to take part in the
project will be counted in the research.
All participants had the freedom to make their own fully informed decisions.
All participants were treated with great respect.
Informed Consent:
Each participant received a consent letter explaining some of the key elements of this
study and what is expected of them as the participant and the researcher. A consent
form was also supplied with the letter which participants signed if they agree to take
part and understood their participant in the research.
Validity and Reliability
Research validity is related to the accuracy and credibility of the findings. Validity
according to Ary, Jacobs, Sorensen and Walker (2013) is the extent to which theory and
evidence support the proposed interpretations. This study is valid as:
It has more than one data source.
Literature Review
Quantitative questions in questionnaire.
Qualitative questions in questionnaire.
It compares contrasts and combines themes that arise within these sources, (Jarvis,
Newman, Holland and George, 2012).
It drew these themes from several perspectives of participants, (Creswell, 2009) 59
out of the 160 questionnaires handed out.
It used direct quotations to describe participant’s outlooks.
It precisely represents the voices and real life experiences of the participants and
drew upon these in order to understand their attitudes and opinions. (RobertsHolmes, 2011).
It reported on discrepant information and these diverse opinions were discussed.
(Creswell, 2009)
It ensured there was no bias by guaranteeing there were no leading questions in the
Data analysis
Deductive data analysis will be used to analyse the quantitative questions and
answers. This will be achieved by using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS).
This program is very beneficial for Quantitative data as it allows you to score and analyse
information very quickly and in various ways, (Bryman & Cramer, 2011). Firstly each
questionnaire will be identified by a code such as Questionnaire 1, Questionnaire 2 which
will later be abbreviated as Q1, Q2 etc. depending on the number of questionnaires. Each
question and answer will also be coded and then inputted into this program.
However, the qualitative answers required a different method of data analysis,
which is inductive data analysis. This method allows you to collect, categorise, compare,
synthesise and compare the qualitative data. This information was coded and the most
common trends were extracted from them in order to compare this to previous research.
This method of coding is a form of linking and directs the researcher from the data to all the
data pertaining to that idea/concept (Richards & Morse, 2007). Inductive data analysis was
used in order to obtain information about the mother’s recommendations around
increasing rates of breastfeeding in Ireland.
This research encompassed numerous limitations. These include:
The time constraint as it was necessary to complete this study within 12
Only a small sample was gathered which cannot generalise to the population at
Students were only allowed to use one method of data collection.
Purposely choosing the settings didn’t allow for equal representation of the
various socio-economic classes, geographical locations, ages etc.
Not meeting the participants face-to-face did not allow the researcher to
extend on the participants answers.
Some mothers didn’t fill out all the questions or some did not fill it out
Only received 59 (37%) out of the 160 questionnaires.
The research question was adjusted in the consent letter and the word
breastfeeding was changed to feeding method. This ensured mothers answers
weren’t influenced and mothers that did not breastfeeding were also
encouraged to take part.
To conclude, in order for the data of this research to be analysed a lot of
considerations have been made. This study hopes to discover more about breastfeeding
rates in Ireland and in order to compare this study with these rates it was necessary to
acquire Quantitative research. Questionnaires allow you to gather information in the form
of percentages and statistics through the SPSS program which can then be compared with
data discovered in Chapter 2. Ethical factors were also taken into consideration and the
importance of them for not only the participants but also the researcher. The validity of this
research was also recognised in many ways along with the limitations this research showed
for the researcher. Many issues were deliberated to ensure the relevant data was gathered.
These findings will now be discussed in Chapter 4 through various graphs and written
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