M2 Tomoki YOKOYAMA
From 6 to 7 November, I participated in “Capturing Communities through Quantitative Data: Understanding Distribution and Forming Hypothesis to Solve Community Issues” organized by the FASID: Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development. This course mainly included two contents. First, professor Tsuyoshi HAMANO (Kyoto Sangyo University) and associate professor Yoshiya SHIOTANI (Kyoto Sangyo University) introduced theoretical frameworks to conduct social surveys. Second, the participants created question forms practically.
The reasons why I participated in this course are to learn quantitative survey methods to understand the features of areas and get knowledge on implementing a reasonable project in my future community development career. I achieved my goal through the informative lectures and great cooperation with my group members. Therefore, this report shares its contents and fruitful activities.
Lectures: How to form a hypothesis in social inquiry?
The most exciting topic for me was the process of testing a hypothesis. The professors’ explanations of this process were so enlightening that I realized it was simpler and more enjoyable than I thought. I also believe that all of the tips from the lectures contributed to my research in the postgraduate course. The process mainly included three steps: i) setting a question ii) forming a hypothesis, and iii) testing the hypothesis.
i) Setting a question
Social inquiries start with setting a question. This process is familiar to me because I spend most of my research time finding an interesting questions. Professor Shiotani, who gave us a lecture on the 2nd day, recommended setting a question with ‘why’ and ‘how’ as my master’s course professors say.
ii) Forming a hypothesis
In the Next step, professor Shiotani introduced how to develop a hypothesis. It starts with considering the originally expected answer to the research question. For example, if I set a Japanese population as relatively happy, one expected answer is that the Japanese have healthy meals. A causal relationship connects the question and the answer in a hypothesis like ‘Japanese are relatively happy because they have a healthy meal’. The existence of a close or direct causal relationship is important. In this sense, the above hypothesis is not a good one!
A hypothesis is often too abstract and too difficult to understand. However, the abstractness and difficulty of the hypothesis are not a problem. The reason is that a hypothesis is just a theory, and concrete examples or numbers explaining it are considered in the next step.
iii)Testing the hypothesis
Before testing a hypothesis, the abstract hypothesis should be translated into a countable and concrete idea through an ‘operational definition’. It means a concise, detailed definition of a measure when applied to data collection. As a result of the ‘operational definition’, variables are given.
A hypothesis is composed of two related elements, ‘Japanese are relatively happy’ and ‘Japanese have a healthy meal’ in the case of the above one. The ‘operational definition’ is applied respectively. For example, in the case of measuring ‘happy’, the OECD provides several indicators for ‘operational definition’. They include the amount of income, the living environment, and subjective elements. After the ‘operational definition’, the OECD calculates ‘Better Life Index’ to translate ‘happiness’ into countable numbers (=variables).
With the variables, finally, a hypothesis is tested. Researchers conduct social surveys to verify the existence of a direct causal relationship between two variables. If the survey proves the direct causal relationship, the hypothesis is true. In contrast, if the survey does not show the relationship, the hypothesis is not accurate.
Activity: How to survey the number of high blood pressure patients?
After lectures, participants made groups of three people and designed a questionnaire to grasp realities in a fictional community in Japan. The given community has a lot of issues, including a high aging population rate, a high number of people with diseases, a lack of a local transportation system, and anxieties and loneliness caused by living alone. Our team focused on the number of high blood pressure patients since this disease is one of the major and common problems in the physical health of elderly people in real life and our team has a member with a medical background.
Our hypothesis is this: those who drink alcohol a lot are more likely to have high blood pressure. Even though we thought it was easy to complete group work just by following the lectures, we faced two problems in the process of creating a questionnaire to verify our hypothesis. The first problem we faced was how we counted the patients with high blood pressure accurately. Initially, we planned to use a dataset archived by the community administrator, but the administration office does not always have such personal data and, we needed another way to collect the data on the number of patients with high blood pressure. As a result, we designed a questionnaire asking, ‘have you ever had high blood pressure?’ This question is based on the fact that those who experience high blood pressure are more likely to have the same disease chronically.
The second problem was how to ask about the amount of alcohol the respondent drank on a daily basis. A questionnaire asking for a substantial amount or number should be avoided because respondents often do not know such information. For example, if you see such a question [Q. How much do you drink alcohol at one time?
( ml)], you cannot answer easily. Our group had many discussions to avoid a question that might lead the respondents to be confused. At last, we made a question asking the number of cans or bottles at one time.
In conclusion, I understood both theories of social inquiry and how it reflected in an implementation. The two-day course must contribute to my future career in community development. In wrapping up my essay, I would like to express my gratitude to the organizers and professors who allowed me to participate in this course and give such wonderful lectures.