When looking into how the use of methamphetamine affects the learning behaviour of young teenagers, many researchers would argue that quantitative methods are the best way of gaining an understanding of the issue. Through analysing data such as school test results, we can provide a comparison between pupils who use methamphetamine, and those who do not. Theoretically, this data could indicate a difference between users and non-users of the drug.
However, it could be argued that a study of this nature would produce misleading results for a number of reasons. Firstly, the only pupils we can be certain are taking methamphetamine are those who take it for medicinal purposes. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often treated with the use of methamphetamine. However, we also know that methamphetamine is used for recreational purposes among young people. Therefore, unless we were to carry out drug tests before examinations, there would be no way of knowing how many pupils were users of the drug. If a pupil were taking the substance illegally, they would be unlikely to admit this for research purposes.
Indeed, for this reason, it would be very difficult to carry out a research study on illegal drug use. Not only would the researcher be unable to know if a pupil is telling the truth when they say they are not a drug-user, it would also be highly unethical to allow a child to take an illicit drug for the purposes of research. To complicate matters further, we know that the use of methamphetamine has different effects on different people. When taken for recreational purposes, methamphetamine can cause hyperactivity in the user. However, when it is taken as a treatment for ADHD, it is intended to have the opposite effect. Therefore, a researcher would be wrong to generalise about methamphetamine use without distinguishing between the groups of people who take the drug.
Another problem we would encounter is that if pupils with ADHD were to produce lower test scores, we would not necessarily know if this is due to their use of methamphetamine, or whether it is related in some way to their condition. In either case, there would be problems with treating pupils with ADHD as a single group, as ADHD can produce a broad range of patterns of behaviour. As Dr David Coghill suggests,
“… a child’s behaviour can be anything from being ‘very dreamy’ (or unable to pay attention) through to being ‘always on the go’ (or hyperactive).” (www.netdoctor.co.uk.)
This would perhaps suggest that children with ADHD should be examined on an individual basis, rather than studied as a whole group.
Another problem with using quantitative data would be the subjective nature of the subject. What, for example, do we mean by “learning behaviour”? Can learning behaviour be quantified? If by learning behaviour we mean school test results, then learning behaviour can indeed be quantified. However, the term “learning behaviour” encompasses far more than academic success. Social skills, for example, are learned over time, but social skills cannot be quantified in the same way that test results can. What is required in this case is a deeper level of understanding.
This essay will approach the question of how the use of methamphetamine affects the learning behaviour of young teenagers from the point of view of a qualitative researcher. I will also consider the possibility of combining qualitative research with elements of quantitative research in order to build up a fuller picture of the issue. It may be the case that the key to understanding the learning behaviour of young people who use methamphetamine lies in a fusion of qualitative and quantitative methods.
In his book, Quantity and Quality in Social Research, Alan Bryman illustrates the differences between quantitative and qualitative research, and highlights some problems regarding qualitative approaches. He also investigates approaches that combine both qualitative and quantitative research. Bryman’s book is particularly useful for a researcher using qualitative methods, as it explores both the positive and negative aspects of this kind of research, and acknowledges the debates surrounding the different approaches. (Bryman, 1988.)
Applied Qualitative Research, edited by Robert Walker, looks at the various methods associated with qualitative research, including depth interviews, group interviews, and participant observation, and outlines how these methods are put into practise. (Walker, ed. 1985.) These methods are also discussed in detail in Introduction to Research Methods, edited by Robert B. Burns. (Burns, 2000.) Both of these books are useful from a research point of view, because they outline the available options for a researcher, and provide information about how these methods are put into practise. Burns’ book also features case studies, which serve as concrete examples of qualitative research in practise.
As the title suggests, Analysing Qualitative Data, edited by Alan Bryman and Robert G Burgess, focuses on the practise of data analysis from a qualitative point of view. This process is often perceived as being more problematic than quantitative data, which produces more clear-cut results. This book acknowledges the changing attitudes towards qualitative data, which is becoming more and more popular, even amongst more conservative researchers. From a researcher’s point of view, it is important to consider the differences between quantitative and qualitative research when it comes to data analysis. (Bryman and Burgess, 1994.)
Critical New Perspectives on ADHD by Gwynedd Lloyd et al, contains up to date information about ADHD as a condition, and about the use of methamphetamine as a treatment. It features a number of case studies, which are useful to consider when putting forward a proposal for a study dealing with the same subject matter. (Lloyd et al. 2001.)
Elliott and Place’s Children in Difficulty: A Guide to Understanding and Helping contains a chapter on ADHD, which suggests that the principal causes of ADHD are environmental rather than organic. This perspective is of particular interest to my proposed study because Elliott and Place’s view can be used to support the argument that the learning development of a young teenager with ADHD may be due to environmental factors rather than the use of methamphetamines.
Selecting the Group to Study:
In conducting a study on how the use of methamphetamine affects the learning behaviour of young teenagers, I would prefer to focus on young people who take methamphetamine for medicinal purposes, rather than as a recreational drug. As I have already suggested, it would be difficult to find a sufficient amount of participants for a study on recreational drug use, because a young person would be reluctant to share information about their illegal activities. Moreover, if I were to promise the child anonymity, this would put me in the unethical position of studying children without obtaining permission from their parents or their school.
If I were to interview parents or teachers about a child’s illegal drug use, there would be very little doubt as to their opinions on the subject. Both parents and professionals will be expected to be heavily biased towards the view that illegal drug use has a detrimental effect on a child’s learning development, and will therefore be likely to exaggerate the extent to which the child’s education has been affected. Again, it would be difficult to find participants for a study of this nature, not least of all because parents and teachers will often be unaware of a young person’s recreational drug use. They may also be reluctant to share their views on such a sensitive issue.
An alternative to this problem would be to interview adults retrospectively about their experience of illegal drug use as a young person. Although this would undoubtedly be a fascinating study, there would be various problems associated with this research. Firstly, there may be a problem with the interviewee’s reliability, as they would be speaking about events in the past, which may be distorted by memory. Secondly, it would be difficult to ascertain whether difficulties experienced in a person’s learning were due to their use of methamphetamine, or if there were other causal factors. This second issue will also be a key problem in studying the effects of methamphetamine use in young people with ADHD.
As I have suggested, it is very important to recognise the fact that young people with ADHD should not be treated as a single group. A number of factors need to be taken into consideration. As part of the study, I will obtain some key information from each of the participants in order to differentiate between sub-groups. This will include basic information such as their age and their gender. Other possible questions could include:
– What medication do they take? (E.g. Ritalin, Dexedrine, etc.)
– What is their dosage?
– How long have they been taking the medication?
– Has their medication changed over time?
Information such as this can be used to investigate a number of key questions. For example:
– Does gender affect learning behaviour in the participants?
– Does the dosage affect learning behaviour?
– Are there differences between particular types of medication?
This basic information can be obtained through a number of methods – surveys, questionnaires, or structured interviews. The data obtained would be quantitative, and can be displayed in tables and graphs. However, would it be possible to answer the above key questions through quantitative methods alone? Again, we will encounter the problem of how you go about quantifying a person’s “learning behaviour.” Therefore, in this study it will be necessary to use qualitative methods.
Considering Qualitative Methods:
Having made the decision to use qualitative methods in my proposed study, I now have to consider exactly which methods should be used. One such method is the open-ended or in-depth interview. Burgess suggests that in-depth interviews offer:
the opportunity for the researcher to probe deeply, to uncover new clues, to open up new dimensions of a problem and to secure vivid, accurate, inclusive accounts that are based on personal experience. (Burgess, 1982, p.107)
In-depth interviews are largely unstructured, and therefore there are no rules regarding the direction of the conversation. In some respects, the interviewee is in control of the conversation, because to a certain extent, it is their decision what they choose to speak about. The interviewer’s role is to guide the conversation in the right direction. If the interviewee moves onto a subject that is irrelevant to the study, it is necessary for the interviewer to guide the conversation back to the subject in hand. This may be problematic, in the sense that it requires the interviewer to make a decision about what is relevant and what is not relevant to the study. Some qualitative researchers would argue that anything the interviewee says is relevant, because if it were not relevant, it would not have occurred to them to speak about it. In other words, anything that is relevant to the interviewee is relevant to the study.
This raises a key question: who is in control of the interview? A distinction can be drawn between structured and unstructured interviews in terms of who controls the conversation. In structured interviews, which use more closed questions and expect shorter answers, the interviewer is very much in control of the conversation in terms of what is being discussed. In an unstructured interview, the conversation may go off on a tangent depending on what the interviewee says. The interviewer may ad lib prompt questions based on the interviewee’s responses. In this case, the interviewee is more in control of the conversation. Perhaps the ideal structure for my interviews would be a situation in which the interviewee is allowed to go into depth and elaborate on their answers, but in which ultimately the interviewer guides the conversation in the direction they want. This is known as a semi-structured interview.
However, in-depth interviews may not be the best choice of method when conducting an interview with a young person with ADHD, who may have problems concentrating on one subject for too long. The child may also be unwilling to share too much information, or talk in too much detail about sensitive issues. In this respect, perhaps it could be argued that the in-depth interview would be more suitable for an adult participant. This would be a possible argument for interviewing adults retrospectively about their experiences as children.
Another possibility for the study could be interviewing parents or teachers about the child’s experiences. An advantage of using adults in this way would be that parents and teachers would be expected to have a more educated understanding of the child’s learning than the child themselves. In this situation, it would be particularly important to consider any bias the interviewee may have. For example, it could be the case that the interviewee objects to the use of methamphetamine as a treatment for ADHD. In this case, the interviewee would be more likely to see a negative effect on the pupil’s learning development. Conversely, if the interviewee is in favour of the medication, they may be more likely to see it having a beneficial effect.
One particular study which used interviews in this way was David Cohen’s study investigating the process of diagnosing ADHD. This study asks the question, “How does the decision to medicate children arise in cases of ADHD?” (Lloyd et al. 2006, p.137) The study examined the views of parents, teachers, psychosocial practitioners, primary care physicians and specialist physicians. Cohen compared and contrasted their views in his analysis, and found that,
Virtually all participants judged assessments of children as inadequate. Indeed, even three successive evaluations of a child (by a school psychologist, a front-line physician, then a neurologist) did not ensure that any participant would be satisfied with the understanding achieved of the child’s difficulties or the course of action recommended. (Lloyd et al. 2006, p.148)
Although my proposed study examines ADHD and methamphetamine use in a different way, if I were to carry out interviews as part of my study, I would conduct them in a similar way to Cohen, using a cross-section of interviewees. In addition to parents and professionals, I would also suggest interviewing the child themselves, because it is important to get their perspective, provided that they are willing to participate.
However, if I am going to use interviews as part of my study, it is necessary to consider what sort of interviews they should be. The unstructured, in-depth interview differs from structured interviews, which in their most rigid form are composed of a set of basic questions with shorter, more straightforward answers. This type of interview would perhaps be easier for a child with ADHD to participate in, as it would be less demanding and possibly less invasive in terms of its treatment of sensitive issues. However, the dividing lines between “structured” and “unstructured” interviews are often blurred. Sue Jones acknowledges this problem, posing the question:
How non-directive can I, ought I to be? Do I always ask open-ended questions? Can I never disagree with the respondents? (Walker, ed. 1985)
Perhaps the best kind of interview to use would be one with a loose structure, which keeps the conversation within certain limits, while allowing the interviewee to go into depth through open-ended questions. As I have suggested, this kind of semi-structured interview would perhaps be the best method to use in my study. As Jones suggests, not all the questions need to be open-ended. If there were no structure at all to the interview, the data would be difficult to analyse afterwards, and one interview would be difficult to compare against another. As Jones argues:
The crucial point is that there is no such thing as presuppositionless research. In preparing for interviews researchers will have, and should have, some broad questions in mind, and the more interviews they do and the more patterns they see in the data, the more they are likely to use this grounded understanding to want to explore in certain directions rather than others. The process of interviewing is one in which researchers are continually making choices, based on their research interests and prior theories, about which data they want to pick up and explore further with respondents and those which they do not. The making of these choices is the imposition of some structure. (Walker, ed. 1985.)
What Jones is suggesting here is that it is important for a researcher to remember at all times that they are conducting their interviews for a specific purpose. In the case of my proposed study, it would be necessary to focus on how the use of methamphetamine affects the learning behaviour of young teenagers. If the conversation moves away from this issue, it would become necessary to guide the interviewee back into the relevant subject area.
However, deciding what is relevant and what is not relevant may be a difficult task. As I have suggested, if a young person’s learning development has been affected in some way, it may be due to other factors, rather than their use of methamphetamine. How do we know what these factors are? In an interview situation, the interviewee may begin to talk about something that may seem irrelevant on the surface, but on closer analysis may be worthy of further investigation. This is not a problem that can be dealt with easily, but perhaps these issues are less likely to occur if the interviewer is aware of them, and will therefore conduct their interviews with appropriate care and attention. As Burns suggests,
The rationale behind open-ended interviewing is that the only person who understands the social reality in which they live is the person themselves. No structure imposed by the interviewer will encapsulate all the subtleties and personal interpretations. (Burns, 2000, p.425.)
Burns seems to be suggesting that the only way to uncover the interviewee’s social reality is to have no structure at all. However, without a specific direction, the content of the interview may be difficult, or indeed impossible to analyse in relation to other parts of the study.
Another possible type of interview is the group interview. In a group interview, a small group of people are brought together to share their views, and hold a discussion about their experiences and their feelings about the issue. Walker writes:
The task of the group interviewer – frequently called a “moderator” or “facilitator” – is not to conduct individual interviews simultaneously, but to facilitate a comprehensive exchange of views in which all participants are able to “speak their minds” and respond to the ideas of others. (Walker, ed. 1985)
It is therefore important for the interviewer to recognise the difference between a group interview and a one to one interview. One advantage of the group interview is that issues arise that the interviewer would not have thought of raising. Often the group will generate ideas that would not have occurred to them when talking to an interviewer one to one. The group interview also gives you the opportunity to generate some debate around the issue, and therefore gain a better understanding of the multiple perspectives.
Difficulties may arise with group interviews when the group is too large. Alan Hedges writes:
Unfortunately the quality of the session suffers with larger numbers. The group becomes hard for the interviewer to control. More timid people easily get squeezed out. The group tends to fragment, different sub-groups pursuing their own conversations simultaneously. It takes longer for everyone to have their say on a given issue. The quality of the conversation deteriorates. It is impossible to run a group with more than ten people present, and there is usually a strong case for getting the numbers down to six or seven participants – normally the optimum size. (Walker, ed. P.75)
However, similar problems may also arise in smaller groups if one person decides to take the lead and dominate the group. This would require a particular level of skill on behalf of the group facilitator, who will be required to tactfully ask one person to be quiet while another has their turn to speak.
The main difficulty that would be encountered if I were to conduct a group interview as part of my proposed study would be that due to the sensitive nature of the issue in question, there may be certain amount of restraint from the participants. There might be certain things that people will be happy to discuss on a one to one basis, but not as part of a group. For example, teachers and medical professionals may have strong views about the effects of methamphetamines on the learning development of young teenagers, which they may not wish to share in front of a group, as they may risk appearing unprofessional. In an individual interview, they will have the option of retaining their anonymity, and will therefore be more likely to be open and honest about their views. Similarly, parents may have objections about the way in which teachers and medical professionals deal with their child, but may prefer not to openly criticise them in a group discussion, not least of all if the group is dominated by teachers and medical professionals. As I have suggested, I would also like to interview young people as well as adults, but it would not be appropriate for them to participate in a group discussion with a group of opinionated adults.
In all interviews, it is important to be wary of bias. First of all, we need to consider if the interviewee is biased towards a certain point of view, and if so, how does their bias affect their judgement? We also need to be aware of our own bias as interviewers. What are our own views on the issue, and how do they affect the way we approach the interview? We may find ourselves asking leading questions – i.e. questions in which the interviewer’s bias is implied, and will therefore be more likely to lead to the answer the interviewer was hoping for. For example, in my proposed study, I might say, “The use of methamphetamine clearly has an effect on a child’s learning development – don’t you agree?” The way in which this question is worded makes it sound more like a statement of fact than an open-ended question, which would make the question more difficult to say “no” to. Sue Jones suggests:
There cannot be definitive rules about the use of open-ended questions, leading and loaded questions, disagreement with respondents, and so on. Such choices must depend on the understanding researchers have of the person they are with and the kind of relationship they have developed in the encounter. Some relationships may allow, without destroying trust and comfort, much more of the to-and-fro of debate and discussion between two human beings than others. What is crucial is that researchers choose their actions with a self-conscious awareness of why they are making them, what the effects are likely to be upon that relationship – and indeed whether their own theories and values are getting in the way of understanding those of the respondents. (Walker, ed. P.49)
Perhaps if the interviewer is able to acknowledge any bias that they have, then they are more likely to be objective, because they will be able to recognise when their bias is interfering with their research. As Jones argues, in some cases it may be appropriate to discuss your own views with the interviewee in the interests of generating a debate, as well as conducting your research in an open and honest manner.
Another qualitative research method is participant observation. Participant observation involves observing the participants in their day-to-day life. Through accompanying the participant in this way, the researcher can build up a broad picture of what life is like for the participant, and would hope to gain an understanding of the issue they are focusing on. In the case of learning development being affected by the use of methamphetamine, the researcher would observe the pupil at school. This method of research would provide an insight into many aspects of school life, such as how the participant behaves in the classroom, how they relate to their peers, and how they respond to teaching. Provided that the study is conducted over a sufficient length of time, it should also provide an insight into the pupil’s learning development.
Participant observation is a type of ethnographic research. The word “ethnography” is defined as “writing about people”. (Burns, 2000, p.393.) Burns writes:
Ethnography essentially involves descriptive data collection as the basis for interpretation. It represents a dynamic “picture” of the way of life of some interacting social group. As a process, it is the science of cultural description. Ethnography is a relevant method for evaluating school life, hospital life, prison life, etc., since these contexts are essentially cultural entities. (Burns, 2000, p.393.)
Participant observation, therefore, is a useful method for observing the effects of a person’s cultural environment on their behaviour. However, the study that I am proposing aims to discover whether or not the use of methamphetamine has an effect on the pupil’s learning development. This question does not make any mention of the young person’s cultural background. How, therefore, will participant observation be useful?
As I have already suggested, if there is a significant difference in learning development between pupils with ADHD and pupils without ADHD, it is worth considering whether or not there are other factors that contribute to their learning development in addition to the suggestion that their learning development is affected by their use of methamphetamine. For example, are pupils with ADHD treated differently by their teachers and their peers? If so, could this be a contributing factor to their learning development?
This question links in with the debate over the diagnostic causes of ADHD. Are the causes of ADHD organic or environmental? Elliott and Place suggest:
Probably the commonest reason for children to present with restless, inattentive behaviour is weakness in the parenting regime. Such difficulties usually arise when the child shows a great deal of wilfulness, and the parental response has been inconsistent, or simply been one of “giving in for a quiet life” (Elliott and Place, 1998, p.63-64.)
If this contention is justified, there would be a strong argument for the use of participant observation in the child’s home. If the child and the parents were willing for a researcher to observe them in their own home, it could provide some insight into the impact of their home environment on their learning development. However, it may be difficult to come to a concrete conclusion about the extent to which the young person’s learning development is the product of their home or school environment. We may encounter the “chicken and egg” question: are young people with ADHD treated differently because of their behaviour, or is their behaviour influenced by the way they are treated?
Walker suggests that while participant observation may be an effective research method, it may not be entirely successful unless it is combined with other forms of research. Walker writes:
Almost invariably observation alone is insufficient to satisfy the researcher. Other techniques including surveys, informal interviews, photographs and documents may be used alongside observation to cross-check the hypotheses generated by observation and perhaps provide a better understanding of the context. The art of the researcher lies in his ability to integrate these different methods and their various data. (Walker, ed. 1985, p.6.)
When considering whether participant observation would be an effective technique to use in this study, it is necessary to consider how well participant observation will integrate with other forms of research.
Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Research:
The ideal plan for my proposed study would be to combine the most effective elements of qualitative research with the most useful aspects of quantitative research. The resulting data will display an understanding of the participants’ environment, and consider the various perspectives regarding the issue of the effects of methamphetamine use on the learning development of young teenagers. The data will also feature an element of quantifiable data which can be presented as evidence either for or against the assumption that the use of methamphetamines for medicinal purposes will have an effect on a young person’s learning development. However, how exactly will this synthesis of qualitative and quantitative research be achieved?
As Bryman suggests:
The focus on methods of investigation should not lose sight of the significance of a distinction between quantitative and qualitative data. For example, some of the findings associated with an ethnographic study may be presented in a quantified form. (Bryman 1988, p.127.)
This would be one of the strengths of conducting semi-structured interviews. With semi-structured interviews, there will be a certain amount of closed question, which will be able to be presented and analysed in a quantitative manner. The interviews will also give the participants the opportunity to go into detail about their thoughts, feelings and experiences, which can then be presented and analysed in a qualitative way.
An example of a study which has used a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods is Jennifer Mason’s study, “The Family Obligations Project.” (Bryman and Burgess, ed. 1994, pp.89-110.) This study, which was conducted in the Greater Manchester area, investigated people’s attitudes towards family members outside their nuclear family, asking questions about what people consider to be their obligations to family members. This study used two methods: one was a large-scale interview survey, which used a statistically representative sample of the population. This survey used a population of 978 people. The second method was more qualitative – semi-structured, tape-recorded interviews with 88 people. The surveys appeared in the form of “survey vignettes,” which presented the respondent with a hypothetical scenario which they were asked to give their opinion on.
Example of a survey vignette:
A.) Suppose an elderly couple need money to redecorate their home. Do you think the relatives should offer to pay to have the work done?
B.) Assuming they could all afford to help, which if any, relatives should offer money?
C.) (If more than one relative given) Which relative should be the first to offer the money?
D.) If the elderly couple cannot do the decorating themselves, do you think they should ask relatives to have it done?
E.) (If no to D) Why should they not ask? (Bryman and Burgess, ed. p.90.)
I would be particularly interested in distributing a survey of this nature for the purposes of my study on young people who use methamphetamine as a treatment for ADHD. If I were to distribute these short surveys, I would send them to the parents or guardians of a selection of young people with ADHD. It would be necessary to include a short list of closed questions in order to ascertain which of my groups the respondent belongs to – for example, how old are they, and how long have they been taking their medication. Rather than using a hypothetical scenario, I would prefer to ask them directly about their own experience. In particular, I would be interested to find out whether or not they believe their medication to have an effect on the young person’s learning development. For a question such as this, the respondent would be free to write a simple “yes” or “no,” or go into more detail as they see fit.
This would be an effective research tool, because the data would be quantifiable, yet it would also allow the respondent to go into more detail than a simple “tick box” questionnaire. Surveys generally have a notoriously low return rate, which can affect the validity of the results because it makes the sample less representative. However, this particular type of survey would be expected to have a higher return rate, because it is focussed on a specific problem, which the respondent will be expected to be very concerned about – unlike more generalised surveys, whose subject matter may be of little interest to them. The questions would need to be carefully worded in order to be sensitive and sympathetic to the respondents’ feelings, while not appearing biased in any way. Also, because the survey would only consist of a short series of questions, it would be potentially less daunting and less time consuming than a more long-winded survey.
Conducted on their own, these short surveys would not provide sufficient data to gain any deep insight into the issue of the effects of methamphetamine use on a young person’s learning development. However, if I were to also conduct semi-structured interviews, as Mason did in her study, a fuller picture would emerge, through the combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, the interviews would be conducted on a one to one basis rather than using group interviews. I would also be reluctant to use a qualitative method such as participant observation, because such a method would perhaps be too far into the qualitative sphere to be successfully combined with quantitative methods. This is not to say that it is impossible to compile quantitative data in combination with participant observation. Indeed, as Bryman suggests, data obtained through ethnographic research can be presented in a quantified form. However, it would be more problematic to attempt a study of this nature, particularly considering the highly subjective nature of a study concerning learning development.
Presenting and Analysing Data:
The quantitative data from the study, obtained from both the surveys and elements of the semi-structured interviews can be presented in the form of graphs and tables, which will illustrate whether or not there are any differences between the specified sub-groups – for example, gender, age groups, participants taking different kinds of medication, etc. This data will be analysed in a quantitative manner, and the results will be able to be displayed as statistics.
One key question in the quantitative research will be, “Has there been a significant difference in school test results following on from the pupil’s course of medication?” It will not necessarily be possible to answer this question for all the participants, as there will be some pupils who have not had any formal examinations at school since they began their course of medication. These participants will therefore not be part of the sample population for this particular question. The question also raises a further issue: what do we mean by “significant difference”? Some parents may see their child’s failure to improve from one year to the next as a significant difference, despite there being no actual change in the young person’s grades. Also, as I have suggested, learning behaviour in a school environment has many more implications than successful test results. Some pupils will be more successful at examinations than others, whether they are on medication or not. In spite of these issues, the principle aim of the quantitative side of the study is to ascertain whether the use of methamphetamine has an effect on a young person’s learning behaviour on some level. Taken on their own, the quantitative data may appear misleading. Indeed, if there are significant differences in a pupil’s test results following a course of medication, the results may appear to “prove” that methamphetamine has an effect on a young person’s learning development. However, the qualitative data will investigate further reasons for these apparent differences.
The quantitative data will serve as grounding for the qualitative research. The qualitative data will ask a different kind of question. The central question behind the qualitative data will be, “If young people who use methamphetamine as a treatment for ADHD display a different learning behaviour to their peers, does this learning behaviour occur as a result of their medication, or are there other factors involved?” Ultimately, this is the central question of the study. Even if the quantitative data shows no difference in a young person’s academic success as a result of their use of medication, this central question remains valid, because it is not necessarily concerned with academic success, but with the young person’s learning behaviour as a whole.
The study will feature a series of semi-structured interviews, which will be recorded and transcribed in order to be analysed in detail. The transcriptions will be compared and contrasted against each other. In particular, the researcher will look for common themes running through each interview, and highlight these as significant results. Some of the information from the semi-structured interviews can be displayed in tables and graphs, but mainly the data from the interviews will be analysed in the form of a written report, which will consider both the recurring themes of the interviews, as well as individual information which may be unique to one particular interviewee. In the interests of an objective study, all perspectives will be considered.
I have made the decision to combine elements of qualitative and quantitative research in order to form a fuller picture of the issue, and will consider a number of different perspectives. The effects of methamphetamine use on a young person’s learning behaviour is a complex issue, and therefore a number of different perspectives need to be taken into account. One particular point of view is Elliott and Place’s contention that ADHD is largely the product of a child’s environment rather than occurring for organic reasons. Such a statement may also imply that a young person’s learning behaviour is due to environmental factors, and therefore environmental factors could perhaps be a stronger influence on learning behaviour rather than medication. The only way to investigate this possibility is through qualitative research, which will consider the many influences on the young person rather than simply analysing a group of facts and figures. Quantitative data can be used to provide a grounding for this research, and is also an important part of the study. However, the heart of my proposed study would be essentially qualitative.