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Thesis Chapter 3 - Prison Governors (England and Wales) Leaders or Managers?

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Chapter III



Research Methods

There are three kinds of research methods, correlational, experimental and descriptive. (Walliman and Baiche, 2001) The correlational kind of research method is used due to ethical problems with experiments. Moreover, it is also used due to practical problems with experiments. Moreover, inferring causality from correlation not actually impossible, but very difficult. This mode of study is widely applicable, cheap, and usually ethical. Nonetheless, there exist some "third variable" issues and measurement problems. The correlational research refers to studies in which the purpose is to discover relationships between variables through the use of correlational statistics (r). The square of a correlation coefficient yields the explained variance (r-squared). A correlational relationship between two variables is occasionally the result of an outside source, so we have to be careful and remember that correlation does not necessarily tell us about cause and effect. If a strong relationship is found between two variables, using an experimental approach can test causality.

On the other hand, the experimental method is the only method that can be used to establish cause-and-effect relationships. (Creswell, 1994) That is, it is the only one that can be used to explain the bases of behavior and mental processes. In this method, the subjects are split into two (or more) groups. One group, called the experimental group gets the treatment that the researcher believes will cause something to happen (this treatment is formally called the independent variable). The experimental and control groups are compared on some variable that is presumed to reflect the effects of the treatment, or outcome. This is formally referred to as the dependent variable.

And lastly, the descriptive research method uses observation and surveys. In this method, it is possible that the study would be cheap and quick. It could also suggest unanticipated hypotheses. Nonetheless, it would be very hard to rule out alternative explanations and especially infer causations. Thus, this study will use the descriptive approach.  This descriptive type of research will utilize questionnaires, interviews, and observations in the study.  To illustrate the descriptive type of research, Creswell (1994) will guide the researcher when he stated: Descriptive method of research is to gather information about the present existing condition.  The purpose of employing this method is to describe the nature of a situation, as it exists at the time of the study and to explore the cause/s of particular phenomena. The researcher opted to use this kind of research considering the desire of the researcher to obtain first hand data from the respondents so as to formulate rational and sound conclusions and recommendations for the study.

The research described in this document is based solely both qualitative and quantitative research methods. This permits a flexible and iterative approach. During data gathering the choice and design of methods are constantly modified, based on ongoing analysis. This allows investigation of important new issues and questions as they arise, and allows the investigators to drop unproductive areas of research from the original research plan.

The primary source of data will come from a questionnaire and interviews conducted by the researcher.

The secondary sources of data will come from published articles from social science journals, theses and related studies on prison management.

For this research design, the researcher will gather data, collate published studies from different local and foreign universities and articles from social science journals; and make a content analysis of the collected documentary and verbal material.  Afterwards, the researcher will summarize all the information, make a conclusion based on the null hypotheses posited and provide insightful recommendations on the dealing with property management.

Respondents of the Study

The general population for this study will be composed of randomly selected prison governors, numbering a hundred thirty-seven (137) respondents. The researcher shall also provide semi-structured interviews with four (4) governors, a couple from high performing prisons and the rest from low to medium performing prisons. This endeavour shall provide the study with key informants from the penal sector.

Instruments to be Used

To identify the related processes of leadership management of prison governors in England and Wales in relation to measures of performance assessment of their respective prison leadership strategies, the researcher will prepare a questionnaire and a set of guide questions for the interview that will be asked to the intended respondents. The respondents will grade each statement in the survey-questionnaire using a Likert scale with a five-response scale wherein respondents will be given five response choices. The equivalent weights for the answers will be:

Range                                                            Interpretation

      4.50 – 5.00                                                    Strongly Agree

3.50 – 4.00                                                    Agree

2.50 – 3.49                                                    Uncertain

1.50 – 2.49                                                    Disagree         

0.00 – 1.49                                                    Strongly Disagree

Validation of the Instrument

For validation purposes, the researcher will initially submit a sample of the set of survey questionnaires and after approval; the survey will be conducted to five respondents.  After the questions were answered, the researcher will ask the respondents for any suggestions or any necessary corrections to ensure further improvement and validity of the instrument.  The researcher will again examine the content of the interview questions to find out the reliability of the instrument.  The researchers will exclude irrelevant questions and will change words that would be deemed difficult by the respondents, to much simpler terms.





Administration of the Instrument

The researcher will exclude the five respondents who will be initially used for the validation of the instrument.  The researcher will also tally, score and tabulate all the responses in the provided interview questions. The use of questionnaire is due to the fact that it is an inexpensive way to gather data from a potentially large number of respondents. Often they are the only feasible way to reach a number of reviewers large enough to allow statistically analysis of the results. A well-designed questionnaire that is used effectively can gather information on both the overall performance of the test system as well as information on specific components of the system. If the questionnaire includes demographic questions on the participants, they can be used to correlate performance and satisfaction with the test system among different groups of users. It is important to remember that a questionnaire should be viewed as a multi-stage process beginning with definition of the aspects to be examined and ending with interpretation of the results. Every step needs to be designed carefully because the final results are only as good as the weakest link in the questionnaire process. Although questionnaires may be cheap to administer compared to other data collection methods, they are every bit as expensive in terms of design time and interpretation. Moreover, the use of the Likert scale in the questionnaire intends to present a set of attitude statements. Subjects are asked to express agreement or disagreement of a five-point scale. Each degree of agreement is given a numerical value from one to five. Thus, a total numerical value can be calculated from all the responses. In this study, the questionnaires are going to be sent to the Prison Governors through e-mail and hard copies through the mail. Responses of from the respondents will be ensured by constant follow-ups through telephone or electronic correspondence.

Moreover, the interview shall be conducted using a semi-structured pattern. This technique can be used to obtain feedback and offers the interviewer the opportunity to explore an issue or service. It allows the interviewee to express their opinions, concerns and feelings. The fact that it is semi-structured allows the conversation to flow where it needs to in order to deal with issues as opposed to cutting someone off because they stray from the topic. As stated by York 1998, “The semi-structured interview is one with predetermined questions with an open-ended format that are asked of all respondents in the same manner (p 40).”   It is also important to ask the predetermined questions in the same sequence.  There are several guidelines one should follow when conducting a semi-structured interview. In a semi-structured interview, open-ended questions provide the interviewer with greater freedom and less restriction (Kadushin, 1990).   An open-ended question is one in which allows the participant to answer in his/her own words. This allows the participant to feel as if they are partly in control of the interview.  By asking open-ended questions, the interviewer portrays his genuine interest in what the participant has to say regarding the topic of study.  Open-ended questions provide the possibility of the participant to introduce relevant information, ideas and concepts that the interviewer may not have thought of during the question selection. 

According to Kadushin there are many advantages to asking open-ended questions in a semi-structured interview.  One advantage, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, is that open-ended questions allow the participants to introduce significant material the interviewer may not have thought roughly. Open-ended questions give the participant the freedom to answer in a variety of ways.  The response may be verbal or the interviewer may use direct observation of the participant’s non-verbal cues.  Examples of non-verbal include; gestures, body language, facial expressions and tone of voice.  Open-ended questions are more likely than closed-ended questions, which are used in quantitative analysis, to provide, “information about the interviewee’s feelings and intensity of feeling and are more likely to provide information about the interviewee’s explanation of his attitudes and behaviors (Kadushin, p. 183)”.  Questions that are asked in an open-ended format give the participant a sense of individuality.  “An interviewee is gratified when given a greater measure of freedom in permission to tell his story in his own way (Kadushin, p. 183).” 

Although there are many advantages to asking open-ended questions, there are also disadvantages that are important to be recognized.  Open-ended questions are ambiguous.  This could pose as a problem when the interviewer interprets the response in a different way as intended by the participant.  As stated above this is why it is important to engage in the validation of the interviewer’s notes.  It will increase validity and decrease the chance of misinterpretation.  “Open-ended questions are threatening to the interviewee who has little experience and/or competence in the role of the interviewee (Kadushin, p. 184).” 

The questions posed in a semi-structured interview may produce feelings of uncertainty upon the interviewee who has not experienced this role.  “For such an interviewee, open-ended questions give him little structure, little guidance about what he is supposed to talk about and how he is supposed to talk about it (Kadushin, p.184).

Statistical Treatment of the Data

When all the survey questionnaire will have been collected, the researcher will use statistics to analyse all the data.

The statistical formulae to be used in the survey questionnaire will be the following:


1.     Percentage – to determine the magnitude of the responses to the questionnaire.


% = -------- x 100        ;           n – number of responses

            N                                 N – total number of respondents




2.     Weighted Mean


            f1x1 + f2x2  + f3x3 + f4x4  + f5x5

x = ---------------------------------------------  ;



where:            f – weight given to each response

                        x – number of responses

            xt – total number of responses


The researcher will be assisted by the SPSS in coming up with the statistical analysis for this study.



Creswell, J.W. (1994) Research design. Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Kadushin, A.  (1990).  The Social Work Interview.  New York:  Columbia University Press.

Walliman, Nicholas and Bousmaha Baiche. (2001) Your research project. SAGE Publications


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