Methodology: Gender Differences in Awarding Grades in Peer Assessment



The methodology section of this research paper is the most important part since it offers the information needed to evaluate the validity of the study. Therefore, offering a clear description of the research methodology and the rationale for the choice of the method are crucial in affirming the validity of this thesis. Babbie (2010) defines the research methodology as a structured set of activities/guidelines to help the researcher to come up with reliable and valid results. The research methodology adopted depends on the research context and the nature of research questions. Fisher (2007) points out that empirical research aims at explaining the existing state of affairs using predetermined measurement variables. It is also essential to take into consideration that fact research relies significantly on probability; as a result, the methodological framework adopted in this study aims at offering an explanation why a given predetermined variable plays an integral role in influencing the outcome. The main objective of this chapter is to discuss the research design adopted in this study to investigate the possible gender difference in awarding grades in peer assessment whilst working in multicultural teams. The chapter provides a detailed research process that was adopted and the data collection and analysis techniques deployed by the researcher during the study as well as a rationale for the methods and the research approach. In addition, the chapter discusses the sampling methods deployed by the researcher as well as its justifications. The chapter also outlines the instruments and procedures used and their respective reliability, a concept map outlining the methodology and the data collection processes, data analysis, and a brief overview of how the research findings will be organized and presented.

                                                            Research Philosophy                                                           

Fisher (2007) asserts that the research paradigm and philosophy is a significant component of the research methodology that allows the researcher to gather data in the most appropriate and effective way. According to Gulati (2009), research paradigm is a point of view that draws upon a set of shared practices, concepts and assumptions. Simply stated, the research paradigm is a function of how the researcher thinks with respect to the development of knowledge. In this regard, Gulati (2009) points out that a research paradigm can assist the researcher to undertake the study using the most effective approach. Research paradigm comprises of the research philosophies and the research methods, which play an integral role in helping the researcher to build up knowledge and understanding of the topic being investigated.  Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill (2007) defined research philosophy as “the development of knowledge and the nature of knowledge. The significance of the research philosophy with regard to the research methodology is threefold. There are a number of research philosophies that can be adopted in social research, as outlined in the research onion developed by Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007) in figure 1 below.

The research philosophy adopted for this study was pragmatism. The pragmatism research was chosen for this study because it places emphasis on the practical problems that people face, the research questions posed, and the outcomes of inquiry. In addition, Monette, Sullivan & DeJong (2005) point out that the pragmatic researcher is extremely sensitive to the political, historical and social context from the which the research inquiry commences and takes into consideration the issues of ethics, morality and social justice as being important in the course of the research process, which are vital requirements given the nature of this study. According to Monette, Sullivan & DeJong (2005), pragmatic researchers opt for theories and methods that are more constructive to humanity in specific contexts, such as answers to practical problems as stipulated in this research. As Mitchell & Janina (2009) pointed out, pragmatic researchers are differentiated from scientific realists and positivists who are of the view that there is an objective view of the world that is not obstructed by subjective biases and socio-cultural conditions. According to Laurel (2003), pragmatic researchers perceive this alleged truth as being irrelevant to the needs and practices of humankind; this is because this worldview does not take into account the peculiarities that we observe in our world.


Figure 1: The Research Onion

As Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007) noted, pragmatism research philosophy draws upon the notion that an inquiry/study/research is supposed to make a different to the world. From the pragmatic point of view, science should serve humanity and not just be a freestanding system. In this regard, pragmatic researchers are of the opinion that there should be consequences ensuing the inquiry and research, which should be helpful in addressing a number of problems that humankind faces. In this regard, it can be argued that pragmatic research is more problem-oriented rather than curiosity-driven (Nardi, 2003). As a result, the researcher designed the research activities in a manner that they should serve to address some pressing human problems. This research offers an ideal picture of the application of pragmatism in social research in the sense that it assesses the gender differences with regard to awarding grades in a multicultural environment; the consequences of this study can be applied in the learning environment (Ness, 2010). Overall, pragmatic researchers analyze the research findings by drawing upon their moral, social and practical consequences whilst taking into consideration the human condition. Pragmatists view the problems being studied and the particular research questions as more significant when compared to the fundamental philosophical postulations of the method. In addition, pragmatics utilizes one of more methods that are considered suitable to the specific research question being studies whilst at the same time taking into consideration the outcomes of such inquiry (Neuman, 2003).

Research Approach

When undertaking any form of research inquiry, it is imperative to determine the approach to be adopted since “scientific inquiry entails alternating between deduction and induction and that both methods encompass interplay of observation and logic” (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2007). In addition, Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007) consider both as routes to the development of social theories. According to Neuman & Kreuger, 2006), in any form of research, there are two broad reasoning approaches, which include the inductive and deductive research approaches. The relationship between the hypotheses and the study act as the significant point of difference regarding the use of these two research approaches. As Ramsey et al. (2009) notes, the two main functions of hypotheses in a scientific inquiry include facilitating theory development and stating the components of an existing theory in a manner that it can be tested. According to Fisher (2007), deductive research approach makes use of a top down approach, wherein conclusions are derived from available facts. Fundamentally, deductive research entails analysis of the existing theory, formulating the hypothesis, observation, then conforming or refuting the hypothesis. According to Ritchie & Lewis (2003), the deductive research approach places emphasis on the development of hypothesis by drawing upon existing theories followed by the design of a research strategy that can be used to test the hypothesis. Ritchie & Lewis (2003) further elucidates the deductive approach using the concept of hypotheses, which are derived from the components and propositions of existing theory. Simply stated, the deductive research approach places emphasis on deducting conclusions from the theoretical propositions. In this regard, the deductive research approach commences with an anticipated pattern or relationships between variables, which tested using observations. According to Ruane (2005), deductive implies reasoning from the specific to the general. For instance, if a casual association appears to be implies by a given theory between two variables, it is likely that the relationship can be true in a number of cases.

When using a deductive research approach, the researcher devises a number of research hypotheses to be tested, which is then proved as right or wrong by deploying the appropriate research methodology (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2007). In contrast, inductive research approach makes use of a bottom up-approach and is usually linked to the qualitative research method. Laurel (2003) infers that the inductive research approach plays an integral role in theory formulation and draws upon research questions or tentative hypotheses to achieve the research objectives. The inductive approach was considered for this research; however, it was not adopted given the nature of inquiry adopted in this study in the sense that the study was confirmatory rather than exploratory (Sherri, 2011). This research utilized a deductive approach; this is because the study commences with a review of literature, followed by the formulation of research hypothesis and evaluating these hypotheses empirically using the findings. The deductive approach was also selected because of the quantitative nature of the study, which is synonymous with the deductive research approach. The following figure below shows a diagrammatic illustration of the research approach adopted in this study. The rationale for the choice of the quantitative method draws on the premise that social phenomena can be expressed numerically, measured and quantified. Ritchie & Lewis (2003) assert that quantitative research methods are effective in expressing a social phenomenon using numeric variables that can be analyzed statistically. In the context of this study, the observations, which include gender differences in awarding grades, will be classified into numeric variables for analysis using statistical quantities. The strengths of quantitative research method as regards this study is that it will facilitate the explanation and analysis of casual dependencies existing between social phenomena, which in this case will be gender differences in awarding grades in a multicultural environment (Neuman, 2003).

Figure 2: Research Approach

Research Strategy

            According to Ruane (2005), the research strategy is a framework that guides the study whereas the research design specifies a general plan detailing the steps needed to answer the research questions and meeting the research objectives. As a result, the research strategy should be structured in a manner that specifies the variables and determines the relationships existing between variables. This study adopted the archival research strategy, which makes use of data archives or historical data that have been already documented implying that archival research eliminates the need for actual observation or survey (Ness, 2010). Archival research was adopted because the researcher was not involved in the first hand acquisition of the data; rather, the study used data stored at earlier date. Several archives contain information specifically collected to answer some specific research topics.

According to Ness (2010), archival research strategy is ideal for research purposes having the most information as it regards the characteristic of the sample and has the most comprehensive collection of records; therefore, data from these sources can be easily utilized in the form of computer accessible formats, which can be fed directly into data analysis software applications. Archival research has a number of distinctive advantages relative to other research methods. First, the data is already gathered, relieving the researcher off the cost, time and effort to invest in data collection. Second, since data has already been collected, there are less concerns regarding institutional review while undertaking archival research. Singh & Bajpai (2008) assert that nearly all archival studies are free from review because participants usually give permission for the respective data to be utilized in studies. However, in this instance, the research was not planned in 2011, a time which the data was being recorded; as a result, the students were not informed that the data will be used for this research. Besides these practical advantages, archival research also has a number of empirical advantages since it facilitates the investigation of difficult research questions (Walliman, 2009). Nevertheless, there are a number of disadvantages associated with archival research; first, it is highly likely that the archival data may not be in a format that makes it relatively answer to address the research questions. Second, it is highly likely that the archival data may not have information relating to the variables that the researcher may be interested in. In some cases, the archival data may have information that relating to the required variables, but the population may not be that of interest for the researcher. In order to address these limitations, the researcher selected the most appropriate source of archival data that contained the population and variables of interest (Ness, 2010).

Overall, archival research was the most preferred research method because the study began with the development of hypotheses, designing ways to test the hypotheses and identification of an archival source followed by the development of operational definitions for the concepts outlined in the hypothesis with the goal of applying the archival data to the research questions highlighted in the research hypotheses. It is imperative to note that the same issues raised in observational research are equally applied in archival research; therefore, there is the need for sample archival data instead of examining the data comprehensively (Vogt, Gardner & Lynne, 2012).

The reason underpinning the use of archival data for this study is that archival data is less time consuming and easier to collect than embarking the researcher on gathering the data by himself. In addition, it is highly likely that the archival data used in this study may have been processed by highly qualified statistical expertise, which makes archival data relatively easier to use in the analysis. In this regard, Sherri (2011) asserts that archival data is instrumental in saving resources and time. Moreover, using archival data increases the likelihood that the researcher will gather more information than while collecting the data all by himself. Another reason for the choice of using archival data is that it eliminates the necessity to rectify problems associated with observer bias. However, Ramsey et al. (2009) provides a criterion for using archival data, which includes availability, relevance, lack of time to gather the data by oneself, and when it is meaningful to the evaluation at hand. In this regard, all these factors were taken into consideration before embarking on the use of archival data as the main data source. In addition, it is also imperative to determine who may have gathered the data in the archival source (Sherri, 2011). There are several uses of archival data, which include providing better understanding the context of the study evaluation, identification of the areas to address, establishing the baseline for measuring the results of the study and identification of the existing trends that are likely to influence on the results of the study; providing data for comparison or control groups and providing data to be used in a longitudinal study. In the context of this study, archival data will be used to provide an insight on the context of the study evaluation and identifying the possible areas to be addressed (Ramsey et al., 2009).

While working with data gathered from archival data sources, Vogt, Gardner & Lynne (2012) point out that the researcher should attempt to maximize on the fit between the data and the research hypothesis. In order to achieve this, two approaches can be undertaken. First, the research can search for life-record data in order to fit a specific research question. The researcher can also opt to modify the research question and the respective analytical model (Ness, 2010). Second, the researcher can opt to put the research question aside and embark on studying a researchable problem using the available data. The first model was adopted in the sense that the research hypothesis was not changed; therefore, it was upon the researcher to search for specific record data that matches the requirements of the research hypothesis.

The Research Process


The study took place in a Food and Beverage class for post graduate students during January 2011 and December 2012. The teaching time for the entire class was 45 contact periods. During the teaching time, the instructor distributed a project a timeline and presented all the information regarding the self and peer assessment form at the first 2 periods of the class. The assessment project represented 40 percent of the final grade and peer assessment represented 5 percent of the 40 percent. The students were given five weeks to complete the project. During January 2011, it was the first time this tool was being used; as a result, the teacher spent a lot of time informing the students how the form should be used. The following semester’s criteria we explained during the first 2 hours of the course. In addition, since the research was not planned by the time of this assessment in 2011, the students were not informed that the data gathered by their teacher was going to be used for this research; therefore, the student name was not given. The students worked in groups and provided a peer assessment. This study analyzed the differences in awarding grades based on gender.


Sampling allows the researcher to scale down the population according to the limitations and resources available for the study. This study used purposive sampling, which is a form of non-probabilistic sampling, where the researcher selected the sample basing on whom the researcher deemed appropriate for the study with respect to the purpose of the study and the knowledge of the population. Purposive sampling was adopted for this study because proportionality of the sample was not the main concern (Monette, Sullivan & DeJong, 2005).


The sample comprised of 111 participants drawn from 32 nationalities and was grouped basing on their nationalities. The table below shows the characteristics of the participants selected for this study.

Table 1: Characteristics of Participants

Nationalities Number of Students
Group 1: China and Taiwan 29
Group 2: Russia 15
Group 3: Canada and United States 7
Group 4: Europe 26
Group 5: Asian 15
Group 6: East Europe 12
Group 7: South America 4
Group 8: Middle East 3
female 80
Male 11
Less than 22 24
23 years old 27
24 years old 22
25 years old 17
More than 26 years 21

Data Collection Instrument

The main data collection instrument that was used in the recording of the archival data was the assessment form given when the project was completed. In cases where there was some conflict in the group, the form was given directly to the faculty. The students were supposed to award their peers a grade (out of 100) basing on the assessment criteria shown in the Table 2 below.



Works effectively as a member of a team Identifies and solves routine and non-routine problems Manages time in achieving objectives Participates in oral and non-verbal communication Overall contribution to the group project
100 Helps getting the group moving without dominating it Supports others to find appropriate solutions Cam be counted to finish tasks and undertake additional tasks Always contributes and is able to publicly justify a course of action Would not be possible without him/her
80 Always participates, makes sure everyone has a chance to participate Able to give creative and credible solutions which are helpful Always gets things done on time Provides thoughtful, meaningful suggestions Above average contribution
60 Acceptable participation Some helpful ideas for solutions to tasks Usually gets things done one time Is helpful and makes some suggestions Acceptable contribution
30 Participates, but does not accept the team decisions Provides limited solutions to tasks Get things done, but usually late Contributes from time to time Minimal contribution
10 Never shows up or is disruptive of the team process Never identifies problems or provides solutions Never turns anything in Never says anything None


Research Choice

            Depending on the nature of the study and the variables, Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007) highlights three methods that the researcher can adopt: the mono method, mixed method, and multi-methods. The mono-method entails the use of a single quantitative data collection technique; multi research methods entails using several data collection techniques together with the application of the respective quantitative data analysis procedures; mixed method involves the use of both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis procedures and techniques in a sound and reasonable combination. The research choice for this study was the mono method; this is because only a single technique was use in the retrieval of data, which involved analyzing the grades differences in terms of gender among students placed in a multi-cultural environment. The researcher did not conduct any surveys or interviews to make this research multi method. In addition, the nature of the data required for this study did not pose the need to conduct surveys on a population; rather, they only required dealing with statistical quantitative data as recorded by the teacher. Therefore, it can be concluded that the selected mono method was rational and the most effective research choice for the current study (Fisher, 2007).

Data Collection Methods

Data collection is a significant requirement for the success of any social research since it determines the success of the research in terms of facilitating the inference of conclusions. This implies that a social research should significantly rely on statistical data since it deploys a probabilistic approach to offer a rational explanation to the ways things are currently in the social context. Data consists of two types: primary data, which is collected by the researcher, and secondary data that has been collected or documented by other scholars or researchers. Primary research involves the data acquisition based on first-hand information by the researcher (Ness 2010). This is often be carried out through the use of questionnaire and semi-structured interviews, based on a one-on-one approach with the respondent. Primary data sources serves as an effective method of carrying out a research because the information gathered is usually raw and has not been manipulated, this in turn increases the accuracy of the research study. In addition, the primary data collected can be used to match against the secondary sources for accuracy purposes. On the other hand, secondary data sources involve data sources documented by other researchers that are relevant in answering the research question. Since the study deployed the archival research strategy, which entails the use of already documented data, there was no need to make use of primary data, despite its advantages.

            When making use of secondary data, Monette, Sullivan & DeJong (2005) assert that, there are a number of important things that the researcher should do beforehand. Laurel (2003) points out that the researcher should evaluate the secondary data in terms of availability, relevance, accuracy and sufficiency; these are imperative in addressing the limitations associated with secondary data. Availability involves making sure that the kind of data needed for the study is available and accessible; relevance implies that the data should meet the requirements of the research problem; accuracy entails an determining the dependability of the source; whereas sufficiency involves ensuring that adequate data is accessible and involved (Mitchell & Janina, 2009). The secondary data selected for this study involved the records documented by the teacher regarding the peer assessment; this implies that the data was applicable with the research objective, the data was accurate, and that there was not cost of acquiring the data. This justifies the use of secondary data for the purposes of this study. In addition, other advantages associated with the use of secondary data for this study is that there was no need to devote the energy, time, money and other resources in the data collection phase. Mitchell & Janina (2009) also points out that, when using secondary data, the process of gathering data is usually guided by professionalism and expertise, which the researcher may not have. In this case, the teacher documented the data of his students, relieving the researcher of the need to have expertise in that field in order to facilitate the study.

Data Analysis

According to Ramsey et al. (2009), data analysis entails an examination, conversion and modeling of gathered data with the main purpose of highlighting helpful information to infer conclusions and support the process of making decisions. With regard to this research context, the role of data analysis will draw conclusions and answer the research questions. The study will utilize both descriptive and inferential statistics to draw conclusions from the gathered data. Descriptive statistics will be helpful in summarizing and describing data by statistical variables like mode, mean, percentage and proportions in order to evaluate the patterns and trends arising from the collected data (Babbie, 2010). The significant limitation associated with descriptive statistics is that it cannot be used in inferring conclusions; rather, they are used for describing data. Inferential statistics will be helpful in generalizing the data gathered during the study. Inferential statistics make use of statistical variables such as independent t-test used to evaluate the relationship between the independent variables and the main outcome variable. Cross tabulations will be used to compare the data such as grades awarded by males and females in order to determine whether there are statistically significant differences between them. The technique that was deployed to analyze data will entail both univariate and bivariate data analysis. Univariate data analysis involves assessing the distribution of one statistical variable at a time, whereas bivariate analysis entails the use of contingency tables for comparative analysis.

The findings of the quantitative analyses were compared with the findings reported in literature and the theoretical framework that was being evaluated. According to Fisher (2007), the triangulation of several sources of evidence plays an integral role affirming the validity of the research. Concerns regarding reliability are acknowledged by the researcher; however, the researcher opted to refrain from the debates on whether there or not an objective research exists, instead, the researcher opted to address the practical task at hand, as advocated by pragmatic research. Nevertheless, this study sought to guarantee validity of the findings and conclusions by making sure that the conclusions draw upon an accurate data documented by the teacher, who is assumed to have no reasons whatsoever to alter data (grades) of his/her students.

Time Horizons

            From the research onion developed by Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007), the time horizon is the second layer and is vital factor when planning the study. According to Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007), the two time horizons that the researcher can adopt are the cross-sectional and the longitudinal design. The cross sectional design involves gathering data on more than a single case a particular point in time with the goal of collecting a set of quantitative data to determine the relationship between two variables. As Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007) notes, the cross sectional design involves gathering data at one point in time on a number of variables. Given the progressive nature of this study, the cross sectional design was not appropriate. As a result, the study used the longitudinal design, which needs a relatively long duration of time to take into consideration the changes that are likely to occur. Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007) assert that the main advantage of longitudinal research is that it can study development and change. The proposed hypothesis cannot be proven within a given time; therefore, the study is longitudinal.  The study relied on a peer assessment that took place within 45 class periods, which affirms that the time horizon of this research is longitudinal.

Limitation of the Study Design

            The first limitation associated with this research is that it made use of a purposive sampling, which is a non-probabilistic sampling approach. According to Babbie (2010), probabilistic sampling does not allow the making of generalizations from the findings gathered from the study. This will be reduced through the steps outlined above such as ensuring that participants are selected from diverse cultures and gender.

Limitations of Quantitative Research

According to Fisher (2007), there are inherent limitations that are associated with quantitative research. The first limitation is the likelihood that the researcher may miss the actual phenomena because of the researcher tends to focus on hypothesis or theory testing.

Limitations of Archival Research

Despite the fact the archival research strategy was devoid of observer influence, there are a number of limitations stemming from this research strategy. First, the data was documented by someone at some point in time who thought the records were worthwhile cataloguing, preserving and saving; however, this strategy disregards the inherent bias associated with people and the probability of error during the process of documenting the data. Gulati (2009) asserts that data documented by surviving institutions are ideal for archival research; however, this research drew upon data stored by a teacher in his individual capacity, which raises concerns regarding the accuracy of the data.

Ethical Issues in the Study

            Any social or business research must put into consideration the various ethical and legal concerns associated with conducting a social research. According to Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007), participants have a number of rights, which include:

  1. The right not to participate
  2. The right not to be harassed or provided with inducements that are not within the scope of participation
  3. The right to be contacted at reasonable times
  4. The right to determine when they will take part in the data collection process
  5. They expect the researcher to obey and act in accordance with the consent provided
  6. The right not to provide answers to any question
  7. The right not to be put in a situation that results in discomfort or stress
  8. They expect the researcher to observe the agreed confidentiality and anonymity with respect to discussions, and when the researcher reports his findings.

With respect to the rights outlined by Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007), the following are the ethical considerations that study took into account.

  1. The principle of voluntary participation: it requires that no participant will be forced into participating. In order to achieve these, the informed consent was provided to participants so that they could allow the researcher to use their data.
  2. Preservation and anonymity of the respondents: all social researches should aim at guaranteeing the anonymity and confidentiality of the respondents. No information gathered was revealed to anyone under any circumstance. In addition, the researcher was not asking the participants to give their names and associated personal information.
  3. The research should guarantee no harm to participants and researchers before, during and after the research study. It is an ethical requirement of a social research study that the researcher should not put the participant in a harmful situation through his participation in the research.

The research adhered to the rights of the participants and they were provided with the informed consent as modelled in the table below:

Lack of consent Implied consent Informed consent
Participant lacks knowledge The participant does not fully understand their rights The participant consent is provided freely and is based on the full information concerning the participation rights and the use of data by the researcher
The researcher makes use of deception to gather data The researcher implies consent regarding the use of data from the fact of access  


Summary of the Chapter

This chapter has discussed the research process as well as the rationale for the selected research philosophy, research approach and strategy. In addition, a rationale for the data collection methods and the data analysis techniques is provided as well as a discussion on the research design adopted, and the sources of data used in this study. The chapter has also described the analysis of data and the limitations linked to the study design adopted as well as the ethical concerns that the researcher took into consideration.



















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