THRIVE: Understanding the Language of Research

By / Posted on June 30th, 2014

The Green House Project has partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s THRIVE (The Research Initiative Valuing Eldercare) collaborative to learn more about the Green House model as well as other models of care. Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the THRIVE team is conducting a series of interrelated research projects that together will comprise the largest research effort undertaken to date in Green House homes. Each quarter, a member of the THRIVE team will contribute a blog post to the Green House Project website.

As the THRIVE research projects head toward completion later this year, our research team has developed plans to share our research findings.  In addition to publishing articles in a special issue of the journal, Health Services Research, we also will share findings through conference and webinar presentations and blog posts.

Because some commonly used research terms may sound like jibberish to non-researchers (after all, who really knows what a p-value is?), we will devote our next few blog posts to explaining a few terms that will help non-researchers better understand the THRIVE articles, presentations, and posts.  We’ll start by reviewing Quantitative and Qualitative research designs.

When people think of research, they’re usually thinking of a Quantitative research design, which essentially measures and compares things.  Quantitative research asks questions like “How many residents in one nursing home have falls compared to residents in another?” or “Does providing one type of care work better than providing a different type of care?”  A quantitative research design allows a researcher to establish “how much”, whether one thing is related to another (such as whether falls are less frequent when certain care is provided), and also – depending on the details of the design – to establish cause and effect.  The data collected are usually in numerical form, and findings are expressed in terms including percents, means, and p-values (to answer the earlier question, a p-value denotes whether or not a number is or isn’t significantly ‘different’ from another…..we’ll come back to this in a future blog post).

Qualitative research designs essentially answer “how” and “why”.  Qualitative research asks questions such as “Why are so many falls occurring?” or “What conditions are necessary for a nursing home to provide a certain type of care?”  A qualitative research design permits a researcher to better understand events and the circumstances under which they occur and vary.  The information gathered in these types of studies are usually textual, and include the researchers notes and observations, as well as in-depth interviews and quotes from people who have knowledge of the event being studied.  This information is analyzed by looking for common themes across all of the information collected and reporting these findings – often contextualized using exemplative quotes.

The THRIVE team is using both quantitative and qualitative methods in their research, which is considered mixed-methods.  This is the best of both worlds, and is allowing us to answer questions such as:

Quantitative:    What was the annual turnover rate for shahbazim over the past two years?
Was this turnover rate statistically different (higher or lower) than that found
among CNAs in other nursing homes?

Qualitative:      What was the role of the Director of Nursing in the Green House homes?
How might variations in this role relate to shahbazim turnover?

Stay tuned for the next THRIVE blog post.  In the meantime, if you have questions about this post, or suggestions for future ones, please let us know.

Questions about THRIVE can be directed to Lauren Cohen (lauren_cohen@unc.edu or 919-843-8874).