Race & Ethnicity

Questions & Answers: Selected Articles from Research Design Review

In October 2011, 18 articles appearing in Research Design Review pertaining specifically to qualitative research design were published in the paper, “Qualitative Research Design: Selected Articles from Research Design Review.”  The current January 2012 paper – “Questions & Answers: Selected Articles from Research Design Review” – focuses on the key ingredient to all research, i.e., question design and quality (relevance, reliability, validity) of responses.  It is impossible to design an effective research question without a complete understanding of the quality of response it elicits.  The importance of good question design and its impact on response cannot be underestimated.  It is, after all, the only thing that ultimately enables the researcher to make sound conclusions from the research data.  This compilation, as all posts in RDR , addresses the most basic question of all, “Is it good research?”

Questions & Answers: Selected Articles from Research Design Review” includes articles such as:

  • The Questions of Race & Ethnicity  Every researcher on every study needs to decide whether the race-ethnicity questions provide meaningful, actionable information.  If these questions are deemed appropriate, careful design considerations are imperative to giving the respondent a clear path to response.
  • The Vagueness of Our Terms: Are Positive Responses Really That Positive?  If the researcher is to have any hope of providing usable data to the client, attention has to be paid to clarifying survey responses.  After all, wouldn’t you want to know if the finding that 90% of your customers are “very likely” to buy from you again really means there is a 50-50 chance of a repeat purchase?

It is hoped that Questions & Answers, along with future posts in RDR, will bring greater awareness and understanding of the issues impacting qualitative research design and will ultimately lead to more useful, higher-quality outcomes.

The Questions of Race & Ethnicity

The race and ethnicity questions in research design have been discussed and debated for many years.  Two important issues in the debate are a) should the (esp., race) question even be asked? and b) if so, what is the best way to word these questions to gain some true (objective or subjective) measure.  Rubén Rumbaut addressed the first issue in his March 2011 interview on NPR’s Morning Edition (as well as his 2009 paper, “Pigments of our imagination: On the racialization and racial identities of ‘Hispanics’ and ‘Latinos’”) where he maintains that asking the race question is more about “social status” and putting people “in their place” than about understanding “a natural, fixed marker…inherent in human bodies.”  In a similar vein, fellow research blogger Jeffrey Henning concludes his February 2009 post on race and ethnicity by saying, “I look forward to the day when race and ethnicity are no longer standard demographic questions, and when skin color is no more important than hair color or eye color.”

If race and ethnicity questions are to be asked (and there are reasons for asking these questions, particularly when civil rights and money are involved), how should we ask them?  It is generally accepted practice in the federal government – Census Bureau, FDA, Department of Education, Department of Defense – to Read Full Text