It is paramount to choose an appropriate research topic which features a high degree of scientific merit and a good research methodology. This paper discusses two possible studies (the quantitative and the qualitative ones) which have been previously proposed by the author, and evaluate the components of their scientific merit. The expected scientific merit and the methodology of the studies will then be discussed.
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The Quantitative Study
The topic that has been proposed for the quantitative research pertains to the problem of the relationship between self-esteem and depression. More specifically, it is offered to check whether specifically increasing the self-esteem of a depressed person might be able to decrease the levels of their depression.
Advancing the Knowledge Base
According to the literature, there exists an association between an individual’s self-esteem and depression. However, the mechanism of this relationship is not completely clear (Orth & Robins, 2013; Orth, Robins, Meier, & Conger, 2016). More specifically, two models have been proposed in order to explain this relationship: the vulnerability model, according to which low self-esteem causes an individual to be more vulnerable to depression, and the scar model, which states that depression “scars” people, decreasing their self-esteem (Orth & Robins, 2013; Orth et al., 2016).
In spite of the fact that the literature presents a greater amount of evidence supporting the vulnerability model than the scar model, not all aspects and consequences of the vulnerability model have been tested as of today (Orth & Robins, 2013; Sowislo & Orth, 2013). In particular, if the vulnerability model is true, that is, if low self-esteem causes individuals become more vulnerable to the detrimental factors which cause depression, it appears logical to assume that increasing self-esteem might enhance one’s resistance to depression, and possibly reduce the levels of depression which an individual is currently experiencing.
Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that the vulnerability model has received considerable support in the recent research literature (Orth & Robins, 2013; Orth, Robins, Widaman, & Conger, 2014; Sowislo & Orth, 2013), no recent studies have been found which investigate the outlined assumption that enhancing self-esteem might help reduce depression. Several older studies were found, in which researchers conducted interventions aimed at increasing self-esteem and lowering the levels of depression of their participants, but it should be stressed that the interventions used there were designed to target both self-esteem and depression, so these studies do not permit for making rigorous conclusions pertaining to the relationship between these two phenomena.
Consequently, there currently exists a gap in the literature, for it has not been tested whether purposefully increasing self-esteem only (as much as it is possible to isolate it from other factors) is capable of decreasing the levels of depression.
Therefore, the proposed study can become instrumental in advancing the psychological knowledge base by providing evidence about the capability of enhanced self-esteem to help a depressed person in dealing with their depression. If the proposed research hypothesis that enhanced self-esteem lowers the levels of depression does not find support in the offered study, however, the psychological knowledge base will also be advanced due to the fact that such a result will provide evidence that there is probably no need to devote efforts to purposefully enhancing a person’s self-esteem if the self-esteem is not too low and the main goal is to address their depression.
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Contributing to Theory
The study that has been offered has the potential to contribute to psychological theory by testing some of the possible corollaries of one of the models which explain the relationship between self-esteem and depression, namely, the potential corollary of the vulnerability model that enhancing self-esteem might be capable of reducing the severity of depression that an individual is suffering from. If the results of the proposed study are positive, that is, if it shows that enhanced self-esteem does result in lower levels of depression, this will provide a certain degree of support for the vulnerability model by showing that better self-esteem makes one more resistant to depression.
On the other hand, if the results of the offered research are negative, that is, if no significant difference is found between the levels of depression of individuals who underwent an intervention for increasing their self-esteem and the severity of depression of people who did not undergo such an intervention, while statistically controlling for the pre-study levels of depression, in a situation when the intervention successfully increases the self-esteem of the participants of the experimental group, this will also provide a contribution to the theory by showing that the hypothesized potential corollary of the vulnerability model does not hold true, consequently limiting the number of conclusions which can be made from the vulnerability model of the relationship between self-esteem and depression.
Meeting the Hallmarks of Good Research
The proposed study should meet the hallmarks of good research. In particular, the proposed methods should allow for good internal validity. The scales which are to be used in the study (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale) have been empirically tested extensively, and are known to have good reliability and construct validity (Al Nima et al., 2013; Falavigna et al., 2012; Huang & Dong, 2012; Julian, 2011; Mullen, Gothe, & McAuley, 2013; Supple, Su, Plunkett, Peterson, & Bush, 2013; Tinakon & Nahathai, 2012).
Also, it is planned to use participants who have mild to moderate levels of depression and take no additional measures against it (such as antidepressants, visits to a therapist, extensive physical exercise (which may also reduce depression), and so on). A problem might emerge, however, when choosing/creating an intervention for increasing one’s self-esteem, for this intervention needs to be aimed at self-esteem only, and to attempt not to target other aspects of the participants; problems with creating/selecting an intervention might negatively affect the rigor/precision of the study.
The proposed hypotheses should be capable of being precisely tested using the means provided by statistics, such as ANCOVAs and t-tests. The use of the proposed scales of measurement and the named statistical procedures should also allow for a high degree of objectivity of the study.
As for external validity, it is expected that it should be rather decent, because the participants will be selected from the population of adult individuals who have a medical record of depression and currently receive no intervention against it, and no other criteria are planned to be used. However, some unexpected problems might emerge in the process of recruitment; for instance, it might occur that the sample will not include all the age groups, or will not include individuals of all races, etc.; also, on the whole, the sampling procedure will apparently not be random.
In addition, it is worth pointing out that the proposed study will also be replicable by other scholars, so it will be possible to confirm or disconfirm its results in future research.
The Qualitative Study
The topic that has previously been proposed for conducting a qualitative study pertains to the problem of single motherhood and fatherless children among the African American population. More specifically, it was offered to study how single Black mothers from the U.S. with fatherless kids perceive their process of developing parental self-efficacy.
Advancing the Knowledge Base
Nowadays, single motherhood is known to be a serious problem not only in the U.S. but also in many other regions of the world. One of the populations that are most exposed to this problem is the Black mothers who live in the United States of America. In particular, it is known that nearly two-thirds (69%) of African American kids live in single-motherhood households (Parent, Jones, Forehand, Cuellar, & Shoulberg, 2013).
Being raised by a single mother and without a father is known to be associated with a wide range of adverse outcomes for children as they grow, as well as with problems in the relationships between the mother and their kid (Bernal & Keane, 2011). Therefore, it is pivotal to develop programs which would permit single mothers to better bring up their children, in particular, interventions which would educate young African American mothers, help them become better in raising kids, and increase their parental self-efficacy. Nevertheless, to do so, it is first needed to better explore the views of these women on their effectiveness as mothers.
On the whole, it is stated that a very small number of studies investigated the effects of different socio-economic variables on the parenting practices of single Black females in the U.S.; in particular, the research pertaining to perceived self-efficacy of these women has also been rather limited (Leopold, 2012). Thus, whereas parental self-efficacy and maternal behaviors are an important factor in raising children, it is not known how single African American mothers perceive their effectiveness as parents (Seltzer & Bianchi, 2013).
This means that conducting a study aimed at unveiling the perceptions of Black American single mothers on their maternal self-efficacy could be instrumental in covering the gap in the currently existing research literature, thus advancing the knowledge base in general psychology, for the latter also includes the issues pertaining to family psychology.
Contributing to Theory
The offered research methodology for the proposed study is that of grounded theory, that is, a theory which is built on the basis of the data that was gathered during the data collection stage of a study. The use of such a methodology is warranted by the fact that few theoretical explorations of the psychological perspectives of Black American females who are single mothers on their parental self-efficacy have been conducted so far. Consequently, it is clear that gathering the data related to this problem and creating a grounded theory on the basis of this data may allow for covering this theoretical gap.
Apart from that, it should be stressed that conducting the proposed study may help gain new insights pertaining to the topic in question, and to better explore the complex structure of parental self-efficacy among African American mothers who raise their kids without a father (Sevigny & Loutzenhiser, 2010).
In addition, as a result of the offered research, new theoretical psychological models may be created, which might then allow for further investigating the grounds on which the processes of parenting and mother-child interaction develop (Taylor, Manganello, Lee, & Rice, 2010). Finally, because the proposed study may provide insights related to the connection between some of the socio-economic variables and the psychological factors which impact the parental self-efficacy of single African American mothers, it might serve as a basis for the future explorations of this problem (Taylor et al., 2010).
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Meeting the Hallmarks of Good Research
The proposed study is expected to meet the criteria for a good research. As a qualitative study, it should satisfy the criteria of credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability (“Qualitative Validity,” n.d.). Because the study will investigate the perceptions of single African American mothers on their maternal self-efficacy by conducting interviews with participants and creating a grounded theory from the gathered data, it is expected that the results of the study will show sufficient credibility, for the core concepts of the resulting theory will be based on the obtained data.
The study is also expected to demonstrate a decent degree of transferability because of two factors, namely, a) that the interviews will be conducted with a sample of African American females aged 25 years or more, and selected regardless of their socio-economic status, neighborhood, or other characteristics, and b) that the context in which the interviews will be gained, and the possible hidden assumptions of the researcher pertaining to the interviewed individuals, will be documented.
The study should also be able to show a sufficient level of dependability thanks to the documentation of the general context in which particular interviews will be conducted (although the identity of the participants will still be preserved). Finally, the confirmability of the proposed study will be gained thanks to the capability of other researchers to conduct similar studies, as well as due to the fact that the procedures for conducting the interviews and gathering the data will be thoroughly documented.
Choosing the Research and Methodology
On the whole, both proposed studies might be able to provide a considerable contribution both to the knowledge base in psychology and to the theory of the latter. The quantitative study should provide information pertaining to the impact of self-esteem on depression, in particular, to the ability of increased self-esteem to decrease the severity of an existing mild or moderate depression. Its theoretical implications may be instrumental in further advancing the vulnerability theory of the relationship between self-esteem and depression, or for limiting its possible corollaries in case of the negative results of the study.
On the other hand, the qualitative study can supply important information pertaining to the perceptions of African American mothers on their maternal self-efficacy, which currently have been poorly investigated in the scholarly literature. Its theoretical implications might also be considerable if a grounded theory is successfully created from the conducted interviews; such a theory could be used in future studies on the same topic. Thus, either of the proposed studies can be chosen for conducting research.
As for methodological issues, it can be concluded that the methodology for the proposed quantitative study pertaining to the problem of the relationship between self-esteem and depression might be stated to be more thoroughly developed than that of the offered qualitative study investigating the development of parental self-esteem among single African American mothers raising their children without a father.
This is, in part, due to the fact that the proposed quantitative study will use the methodological apparatus that has been developed in previous research and extensively tested in a number of studies (Al Nima et al., 2013; Falavigna et al., 2012; Huang & Dong, 2012; Julian, 2011; Mullen et al., 2013; Supple et al., 2013; Tinakon & Nahathai, 2012), as well as statistical methods (such as ANCOVAs and t-tests) which are known to be highly trustworthy when used properly; whereas the offered qualitative study will have to create a grounded theory almost from scratch, so it probably is, by its very nature, less methodologically dependable.
In this respect, however, it might be added that quantitative studies, in general, tend to use more rigorous procedures of data collection and analysis that qualitative studies. Nevertheless, the proposed quantitative study has a considerable limitation, the crux of which pertains to the difficulty of finding/creating an intervention which would specifically target the self-esteem of individuals and not affect other factors associated with depression, which could prove an additional reason for the author of this paper to conduct the qualitative research that was discussed above.
All in all, it can be seen that both proposed studies appear to feature a decent degree of scientific merit. As for the offered methodology, the methods for the quantitative study are more rigorous than those for the qualitative study. Nevertheless, the author may still elect to choose to conduct the qualitative research due to a possible limitation in the implementation of the quantitative study.
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