Research Design and Lab Methods in Biological Anthropology
Bio anthro is a brod field, including:
-DNA (ancient and modern)
Why do we conduct lab analyses?
to answer research questions
What are the qualities of a good research question and where/how do they
Good research questions
address specific problems rather than general issues Must take into
consideration biocultural framework, not just the medical aspect, the
cultural aspect too. = report we give is a biocultural report, not just a
“what are the factors contributing to the high frequency of
tuberculosis in the Grant Collection?”
are clearly stated
where/how do research questions originate?
reading the literature
conversations with colleagues
problems with current approaches
Research Methods Used by Bio Anth
counts & measures volume, quantity, etc.
descriptive, trends, patterns, comparative
soc sciences & humanities use this more
Bringing in social context
Both follow scientific method using different approaches to data collection,
When doing biocultural research, you use both methods.
meanings, concepts, definitions, characteristics, metaphors, symbols &
methods of data collection
participant-observation- problem w/ this is bias and focused on research
question= focus on particular behaviour= missing important info.
interviewing, e.g. “What was it like to live in Hamilton in 1928?”-bias in
result because of sample used
observation of experimental natural settings
document & textual analysis
ideas created & believed by society to organize & define its
understanding of reality
members of society agree on the rightness of a particular view-frame of
“common sense” knowledge -things we see to be true because our society
says it is
Cannot always be explained to outsiders-just the way it is
try to be objective – social constructions color our views
affect questions we ask & data used to answer questions
5 main steps 1. Formulate a question
helps identify and reduce bias & increase objectivity
2. Data collection
lab observation-can control variable (but even then bring in bias)
Survey (also bias, some people will answer more than others, bias in questions
asked etc,)- always assess the sample for bias.
3. Data analysis & develop hypothesis
formal statements to describe & explain a group of observations
4. Test the Hypothesis
Formulate predictions and check for accuracy
Use an independent source to test the hypothesis
to increase objectivity observations used to generate hypothesis cannot be
used to test prediction
Must be prepared to reject the hypothesis
different people can draw different conclusions from same data
How do we ensure the quality of our research and evaluate others?
Steps of Critical Analysis – critical thinking is a imperative skill for any
research. Very important.
purpose of author, clearly stated
2. Clarify meaning
how are terms operationalized? Giving clear definition of all variables
we're looking at. e.g how you define tuberculosis? (will be in proposal
AND final research project)
are they valid definitions
** try to do this as you go so it's easier rather than waiting till the
3. Examine methodology
are biases addressed?
*outline what you did in each of the labs b/c they give the methodology
4. Consider the results Statistical analyses
5. Examine conclusions
do data support conclusions?
what are implications of findings?
6. Is argument consistent, reliable, probable?
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Research Design & Working with Archives, Document: Reliability
Working with Archives
LAB DV205C? (6?)
Types of Records
marriages, births, baptisms, deaths
municipal, regional, national
land titles, wills, tax forms
school records, hospitals & other social institutions
cemetery records & tombstones
private – diaries, letters, etc.
Records may be:
historic - collected, catalogued, stored in archives
Ex. Spitafields, England
- housed in facilities & offices
-still in use
Ex. Grant collection Archives
diaries, letters, research notes, etc. (written by that individual but not for
Ex. How was tuberculosis viewed by population
Public- Usually easier to access
intended for use outside of source
alphabetical, chronological, internal reference number
commercial media accounts
e.g. Stats Canada
official documentary records
e.g. court transcripts, school records
Value of Documents/Records dependent upon -Can’t take at face value
completeness of information
NEVER take documents at face value
Must have certain key info, can't use bias based on research question
Data gathering techniques
Connecting different sources of information
Use different records & documents to verify the information of your primary
source-multiple data techniques
e.g. age at death-if can find birth/death certificate to verify the info you got parish burial records, birth records, death certificates, tombstones (death
certificate to triangulate)
confirm findings, new information, additional perspectives
Validating your data through outside sources
**our project Individual 900 will be the one we triangulate as a class.
Before examining documents/records
determine appropriate sources of data
thousands of sources
peripheral sources can confirm data (triangulation)
NEVER use tangential source when it is likely there is a more central source
NOT just any source, the BEST source
identify the archive/collection where material is stored
Document must be relevant to your sample. Does it have the right
Permission & Ethics
permission not usually difficult if valid research project
treat documents & contents with respect
may not be possible to photocopy or photograph
be prepared to take notes
omit identifiers unless integral to analysis & permission obtained
people’s names & addresses
What & where are these archives?
other places to consider
administrative bodies for institutions
consider how archives come into being Sedimentation - erosion of material (loss of information)
Always keep this in mind. Some sedimentation can introduce some bias
Person loses material
Different work spaces, donations, destruction
Person dies- death cert. gets lost by family members
Different interests, motives, materials in different archives
Materials reach archives
Curators dispose, have preferences, sort differently
Searching for materials
Treat documents with respect
Evaluating Quality of Documents Marwick (1994) 7 steps- must consider
when analyzing data
Use this to decide if the documents will be used- invalid documents
1. Authenticity - Ist concern
Do the materials date from the appropriate period? Does the date correspond
w/ the time period of the grant collection (1930s)?
Are they consistent? In their form, the way filed out, the info on them
Is it original
Where is the source from?
What are it’s biases? Some things filled out and others not
Is it suitable for the type of information you need? Is it pertinent to our
research area (here tuberculosis, and the research question)
3. Date of Source
When was it produced? Was it produced during the time of the events recorded?
Does it follow conventions? Have the conventions changed?
4. Type of Source
What was its purpose?
What conventions does it follow?
Is there unverified information? (variability b/w the documents that could be
important?) (V besode age on grant collection = verified by secondary source)
5. Origin of Source
How it came into being?
What group/person created it?
What is the level of accuracy?
Any attitudes or prejudices involved?
6. Relevance of Source
1 hand account? Or are they looking at the remains themselves
Can the source be fully understood, technical terms can't understand, slang?
Can you be clear about technical terms?
Is it reliable?
Technical terms, slang, outdated termssa
7. Context of your research
How should the source be understood & analyzed in light of other sources?
Can you understand the document in light of other sources and w/I the context
of our research
8. Test reliability & validity
In quantitative research: Reliability:
Replication, reproducible, represents a specific pop (are the individuals in a
sequence?) if missing who/s missing? Certain types?
Results consistent over time
Accurate representation of total population
Free of bias
In qualitative research: Reliability (when doing research on tuberculosis
at the time etc)
Confirmable, consist Legitimate ways of collecting data
Apply methods to other populations
Reduce social constructivism
Validity IN quantitative research
Accuracy- are there any measurements, how are they performed?
Does the method actually address the question?
Does it measure what it intends to measure?
Are the results truthful?
Validity In qualitative research
Credibility, applicability (credibility of the source, is it relevant, can you trust
Are we measuring what we set out to measure?
Produce legitimate results
Collingridge & Gantt (2008)
Construct validity-can you operationalize
Content validity- idea of assessing bias
Reliability in documents
Standard forms? Are they standardized and complete (we don’t need this to
assess our research question)
Are forms complete?
Does handwriting change or format coincide with gaps in documents or
missing data? (is the missing data part of the variable of our research question
How does this affect the reliability of the information? (of that document)
Validity in Documents & Methods-for our research
Are the variables of our research question on the documents?
How was COD established?
Documents are older than 50 yrs
(variability b/w the documents that could be important?) (V besode age on
grant collection = verified by secondary source)
Confirm meanings of various medical terms Consider the accuracy with which certain diseases could be diagnosed long
Age & Sex – how were they established?
9. Sources of Bias
Are there any biases in the documents? Ex. Is it mostly female? Then problem,
want variability in age.
Composed by whom? -bias?
For what purpose?
Are they complete?
Are they consistent? Objective?
Is the sample representative of a larger population?
random sampling? (make sure don't selectively sample)
-Evaluating primary sources for the Grant Collection-from the 1930s-40s,
unclaimed bodies (see article)
2:49 PM, September 24, 2013
ANT338 A Literature Review: What is it and how do I create an effective
***Final paper must have minimum of 8 references (peer-reviewed)***
What is a literature review?
It is written component of a research paper that reviews the research that has
been published and conducted in the field of study surrounding your hypothesis
or research question
Summarizes the current research (not of each individual source/article) and
assimilate it related to the research question Critical evaluation-always relate the lit. back to research Q.
What is the purpose of a literature review?
Looking for gaps in the research
the need & placement of your topic in relation to previous research
That you are knowledgeable about your topic
What has been assessed and explained about your topic
What remains to be investigated
How your research question addresses the gaps in the research area
How does a literature review fit into a research project?
It shows how your topic fits into the larger research field
It is reciprocal:
Sometimes a lit review will formulate a research question
A lit review establishes the validity of a research project
REMEMBER: your research question drives your literature review – there
should always be a clear connection!
What are the sources for a literature review?
original studies, firsthand information (any raw data ex. Newspaper from time,
government docs etc. original research articles)
Statistical data, experimental results
Empirical studies (methods, results, stats)
Second hand information (review articles summarizing studies, not generating
Discussions, comments, interpretations of original material
Where do I find my references for the literature review?
Good for up to date information Must be refereed (peer-reviewed)
Books (secondary source)
Tend to be less up to date (not as good as journal articles)
Good starting point- use to become familiar w/ area of research but don't use as
Good for latest research but may not have been published (sometimes easier to
find online than libraries)
Government or corporate reports
May carry out research & publish findings
Gov. sensus can be very good.
Limited use – recent trends, social perceptions (can be used for social context
ex. How tuberculosis patients were treated, fear of it at time etc) can be
primary sources if from that time
Theses or dissertations
Can be useful
May not be published
Pay close attention to the sources
intended for general audiences, non-specialized source
#1 mistake in a literature review-it's a critical review of the literature, not a
To summarize each source individually!
Only give a summary of the previous research is a BIG mistake! It is not a critical assessment of the literature!
It does not show how previous research relates to our hypothesis and
It does not establish the relationship between different studies in the
DO NOT organize a literature review by author!! – don't summarize each
of references. Want to know what main problems in area, how does it
Assimilate the information, don't summarize it
Combine studies, contrast existing research
How do I write a good literature review?
Synthesize and evaluate the information
read with critical thinking skills-w. research Q in mind. Take notes. What
method they using, sample size is what,
Take note of theme, categories
How do other writers classify their data?
Categories for analysis & Comparison
Results found & conclusions
Theoretical approach they are taking (good to look at 2 research articles ook at
same thing through 2 different ways)
Analyze individual works
What is the argument? Is it convincing?
Is it well developed? Is it well defended?
What is the theoretical approach?
Are the biases acknowledged & addressed?
Are the conclusions relevant to my research question?
What are the main arguments? Are they similar or difference? Are some more
convincing than others? How has the research been conducted?
What kinds of data are presented?
Do they adequately answer their questions?
How does it relate to my research question?
2. Identify the main ideas of the literature
Identify some main ideas and trends that pervade the topic or your research
Use these main ideas to classify the information & sources that you have read
These ideas may be used to form main topic areas of discussion in the literature
3. Identify the main argument of the literature review
The main idea of the literature review should be closely related to your
It presents a body of literature that motivates your research question!
4. Organize the main points of the literature review
Organize the main ideas of your literature review so that it supports the main
It must be well organized to present relevant aspects of your topic in a coherent
This will allow readers to understand the context and significance of your
research questions & Project
As you organize your ideas for writing, keep track of the supporting ideas,
examples, and sources that you will be using for each point
5. Write the literature review
Give structure to your literature review
Intro, body, conclusion
Keep it focused on a main idea or argument
Make sure that you keep your research question in mind
Tips for a good literature review
You may use headings in your literature review if there are many
different variables that you want to incorporate into your research
Subheadings can highlight the main points
Remember to explain the relevance of the literature that you cite in
relation to your research question Tips:
May use headings in lit review if many variables to integrate
Subheadings can highlight the main points
Verbal tense strategy
Present tense always when explaining a phenomena-when relating authors to
concept, theories etc.
Used for relating what other authors say and for discussing the literature,
theoretical concepts, methods etc…
E.g. Jones (2012) explains that the evidence for cancer in rats is…..
Use present tense when you present your observations on the literature
E.g. Jones (2012) fails to explain adequately the relationship between
rats and humans…..
Used for recruiting events, results found etc..
E.G. Jones (2012) conducted an experiment on laboratory rats over a
ten year period. He determined that …..
USE APA STYLE! http://library.lincoln.ac.nz/Research/Literature-Reviews/What-is-a-literature-review/
10/2/2013- Week 4
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Creating a Database
What is the purpose of a database?
Store & organize data
Allow researchers to access pieces of information in different ways to
address different research questions
Examples of databases e.g., university student records database
name, student #, etc.
process your registration
print class lists
Think about which data goes into which fields
what is known of item
What makes a good database?
Easy to maintain-variables very obvious
Easy to access
Contains information for different queries
Different researchers have different needs-should all write the same way
Databases should be flexible
new information & categories of information added easily, as needed
e.g. Grant Collection
data & research management
different researchers have different needs
males 20-35 yrs
females dying of cancer, etc.
cases meeting requirements easily selected
several requirements simultaneously
e.g., complete, right humeri of males & females 20-75
info available at start
age, sex, cause of death, etc.
over the years bones studied
# bones present measurements
e.g. A Visual Method of Determining the Sex of Skeletal Remains Using the
Common Mistakes in Database design
Unwieldy – too many variables in 1 table (gets complicated)-only 1 variable
per field ex. Address and postal code in 2 fields
e.g St. Thomas’ Anglican Church Cemetery, Belleville-Can link smaller
577 individuals recovered
historical, archaeological, osteological, research projects
diverse research interests
age & sex techniques
Canada & U.S.
database grown exponentially
results of skeletal analyses
2. Putting more than 1 piece of information in a field
Data should be broken down to their most simple elements
E.g. last name in 1 field, First name in 2 field
3. Using a range instead of a finite number Ranges are not flexible- ex. 20-25yo not good, put exact age
(can do once look at specific question but not in field-do a query
for it instead
E.g. enter exact age then you can change reports if the categories
4. Entering data inconsistently
If you don’t have accuracy of the exact headings and categories
in your database then there will be inconsistences
Different individuals entering data must be consistent
You may not generate results
5. Entering the wrong type of data in a field-Make decision before make
sure all fields are okay before putting data in
If you are missing data then you need to reconsider your
database design-can't enter race if I only have 1 or 2=not
consistent. Not too many yes/no fields (can do for TB cause of
death cause so many names for it on forms)
You will lose information if randomly enter data into empty
6. Too many yes or no fields
May lose important information
Remember that not applicable is not the same as NO!
1. Determine the type of information to record
2. Determine how the information will be used
3. Identify the information that should be kept in separate items
What are the steps for creating a good database?
Step 1: Determine the purpose of your database
How will it be used Reports
Examine the forms you used to record your data
Important variables in the document
Create a list of questions that you want your database to answer
Creating a database
begins with critical thinking
what type of information?
how will it be used?
identify info that should be kept as separate items (fields)
e.g. street address separate from city
tell program how subjects relate to one another
program can bring proper types of info together when you need
Determine Purpose of Grant Database
data from Grant Collection
sort & organize
look for patterns in data
Think about the research question
To assess the relationship between
Cause of death-TB vs. other causes of death
Address the hypothesis:
Living in urbanized areas increases the risk of cancer
Step 2: Determine the fields needed in your database
What type of information do you need to record
Enter ONE fact for each field
what to name each field?
Lower case only, caps only, or combined?
Primary Key – unique identifier
e.g. catalogue #, case #, serial #
Be CONSISTENT! Step 3: Field properties
Set the type of data that will be entered in a field
Data type = number
Integer, decimal etc..
Step 4: determine the number of tables needed
In the grant collection we can have a single database
Can add tables if necessary
Lab 1 – data evaluation
you may have eliminated some forms
Marwick’s 7 steps
for lab 3 include/enter only the data you evaluated as
Lab will be held in Library Computer Lab
10/2/2013- Week 5
9:15 PM, October 1, 2013
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
What is GIS?
•Geographic Information Systems- can ask question about relationship between
objects through space
•A spatially referenced database
•mapping system is linked with database
–database can include: photos; characteristics of places, e.g. addresses; objects
found there; etc.
•hardware, software, personnel (we use ARC)
–organize, store, visualize, analyze & present spatial data -Data input & verification
-Data output and display
The spatial data employed describe objects in terms of:
•A position in some coordinate system
•The spatial relations between objects
-Loot at different variables like trees, man-made paths, latitude, longitude
•Thematic maps show data superimposed on a landscape. -layering of different
•Visualization of such data thru GIS facilitates pattern recognition
•Data dissemination to a public forum
•E.g. Paleontology GIS & Google Earth (can cut and paste on google earth
and can email)
"Draping"- layering the maps
•create custom maps
–variations easy to make
•look for & analyze geographic patterns
–spatial trends and correlations
•2D and 3D representations
•print or project it
•link images to map •link database to map
1. Spatial data can beused to structure a database and tointegrate seemingly
incompatible data simply through where they are placed on the Earth’s
2. Itallows data to be visualized using maps and more advanced techniques
such as animation & virtual landscapes
3. GIS enables forms of spatial analysis where the coordinate locations of the
features under study are an explicit part of the analysis
3 levels of application of GIS: