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Research Methods in the Social Sciences

Sequential Design*

Definition and Purpose

Sequential research is that which is carried out in a deliberate, staged approach [i.e. serially] where one stage will be completed, followed by another, then another, and so on, with the aim that each stage will build upon the previous one until enough data is gathered over an interval of time to test your hypothesis. The sample size is not predetermined. After each sample is analyzed, the researcher can accept the null hypothesis, accept the alternative hypothesis, or select another pool of subjects and conduct the study once again. This means the researcher can obtain a limitless number of subjects before finally making a decision whether to accept the null or alternative hypothesis. Using a quantitative framework, a sequential study generally utilizes sampling techniques to gather data and applying statistical methods to analze the data. Using a qualitative framework, sequential studies generally utilize samples of individuals or groups of individuals [cohorts] and use qualitative methods, such as interviews or observations, to gather information from each sample.
 

What do these studies tell you?

  1. The researcher has a limitless option when it comes to sample size and the sampling schedule.
  2. Due to the repetitive nature of this research design, minor changes and adjustments can be done during the initial parts of the study to correct and hone the research method. Useful design for exploratory studies.
  3. There is very little effort on the part of the researcher when performing this technique. It is generally not expensive, time consuming, or workforce extensive.
  4. Because the study is conducted serially, the results of one sample are known before the next sample is taken and analyzed.

What these studies don't tell you?

  1. The sampling method is not representative of the entire population. The only possibility of approaching representativeness is when the researcher chooses to use a very large sample size significant enough to represent a significant portion of the entire population. In this case, moving on to study a second or more sample can be difficult.
  2. Because the sampling technique is not randomized, the design cannot be used to create conclusions and interpretations that pertain to an entire population. Generalizability from findings is limited.
  3. Difficult to account for and interpret variation from one sample to another over time, particularly when using qualitative methods of data collection.

*Source

Sample Sequential Studies