Wednesday, January 16, 2013

More Thoughts on Samples

Regarding the Thompson and Morgan study (see previous posts), scientists (and scholars) must be mindful of their sample populations. White college educated women do not create a representative sample. They do not represent even one percent of the female population of the entire human race. So, although it may seem provocative to generalize a sex study, such as Thompson and Morgan (2008) to wider populations, until the cultural and contextual influences on sexual identity can be determined, the study is better used as a starting point for future research. Underestimating the effects of culture (or context) in any study can skew inferences made in different populations and marginalize and pathologize them (Sue & Sue, 2008; Whiston, 2009).

I believe the Thompson and Morgan (2008) study was more of a jumping off place, an introduction of sorts, to the idea that perhaps gradient descriptions are more inclusive than the traditional sexual identity labels.  College students have been a good starting point for many studies, and in this case, the sexual openness, exploration, and tendencies typical for this age group served the purposes of the exploration (Thompson & Morgan, 2008). 

To study any construct or tendency in a population, the researcher often designs a reasonable and easily constructed sample.  This provides the opportunity to conduct basic research, and although not generalizeable to wider populations, it provides information for the knowledge base and perhaps an inspiration for future research (Whiston, 2009).  This seems an important consideration, at least in my mind.  Research is hardly conclusive, but rather builds a platform for ongoing exploration. 

In any event, who research studies will determine what researchers learn (Shen et al., 2011), and although the results of samples are not always generalizeable, it is in these seminal studies that new research directions are born.

I think it's important to note that most all studies have limitations.  Although the sample of this study had limitations (mentioned by Thompson and Morgan) it is not necessarily flawed.  Seminal studies are often times not generalizeable to wider populations.  Valuable information comes from such studies as well as a basis for future exploration.

Shen, W., Kiger, T. B., Davies, S. E., Rasch, R. L., Simon, K. M., & Ones, D. S. (2011). Samples in applied psychology: Over a decade of research in review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(5), 1055-1064. doi: 10.1037/a0023322

Sue, D.W., Sue, D (2008). Counseling the Culturally Diverse Theory and Practice (5th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

Thompson, E., & Morgan, E. M. (2008). 'Mostly straight' young women: Variations in sexual behavior and identity development. Developmental Psychology, 44(1), 15-21. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.1.15

Whiston, S. C. (2009). Principles and applications of assessment in counseling (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.

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