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Section 1 Foundations of Doctoral Study / Chapter 6 Critical Thinking: The Means to Inquire
Remember, that comparative analysis means that component characteristics of a problem or question are being examined in order to develop an informed discussion. For example, if one starts with a generic statement, such as "Kelly (2012) used a sample of 14 African American men who played football at a university in the Southwest," there is nothing within this passage that necessarily provides anything more than a cursory understanding of who was included in the sample or why they were included in the study. However, if the understanding of purpose and wider application is advanced with a statement, such as:
To better understand the experiences of African American male football and basketball student-athletes pursuing undergraduate degrees while competing in Division 1 college sport, Kelly (2012) included a sample of 14 student-athletes who met the following criteria: ranged in age from 21-23 years; were in their junior year; had eligibility remaining and had not completed a degree; had expired eligibility but had not completed a degree; or had graduated but were still competing with eligibility remaining. These particular indicators were used because students in their junior year of college would, generally speaking, be in at least their third year of college, likely close to completing their undergraduate degree, and could be expected to have more experiential information to share longitudinally about their experience in college athletics. As a comparative measure, Kelly (2012) presented each participant with a demographic questionnaire to provide a general cross-sectional analysis of socioeconomic status, family size, level of education their parents achieved, age, and description of geographic location of residence (urban, rural, metropolitan).
This information becomes more relevant when the tables are turned and one examines scholarly information from the perspective of the reader. More specifically, the learner's effort is as much about identifying gaps in the literature in pursuit of potential research as it is about identifying research opportunities by including variables or groups that are not included in the methodology.
Given a task to identify, present, and discuss empirical research, readers are provided a summary of component characteristics of the study sample, why the researcher selected a specific sample, and how the sample supported the study’s research questions. Further, the reader is provided a framework for understanding the purpose of the study and the results and conclusions that come out of the research questions.