Paper Three Questions 1a,b,c: Details

Travis DixonAssessment (IB), Research Methodology


Remember that all three questions from Question 1 will be asked, so you need to be prepared to answer all three. There are 9 possible marks available for Question 1, which accounts for 37.5% of Paper One. The following is an overview of these three questions.

1a. Identify the method used and outline two characteristics of the method. (3 marks)

The method used in the study will be quantitative or qualitative. There is a chance that it will be a mixed-methods approach that uses a combination of both methods (e.g. if a case study gathered quantitative and qualitative data).

It may be up to you to identify one of the methods that has been used, or the method might be stated in the stimulus, which makes identification very easy. In addition to identifying/stating the method, you need to outline (i.e. state) two key characteristics of the method. A good revision strategy would be to revise three characteristics for each method, in case you get into the exam and you forget one.

You could answer this question in three to four sentences by stating the:

  1. …method used (1 mark)
  2. …two key characteristics of the method (2 marks)

1b. Describe the sampling method used in the study. (3 marks)

The sampling method used in the study will most likely be stated in the stimulus, so all you need to do is re-state that in your answer. However, you should be prepared to identify the sampling method from the description of how the sample was obtained, if it’s not stated. You get one mark for correctly stating/identifying the sampling method that was used.

One of the following sampling methods will be used:

  1. Random
  2. Convenience/Opportunity
  3. Volunteer/Self-selected
  4. Purposive
  5. Snowball

The remaining two marks available are for the description so you need to include at least two relevant characteristics. You could state three characteristics of the sampling method to be safe.

It’s advisable to describe how the method was used in the stimulus as well. This will help to show your examiner that you understand the sampling method and you’re doing more than simply rewriting memorized answers.

For instance, if a purposive sample was used you can state one characteristic of this sampling method being that participants are specifically chosen because they have characteristics that make them valuable sources of data for the subject of the study. You can then provide an example of at least one of the characteristics of the participants in the sample that made them valuable sources of data. You then do the same for the second characteristic of this sampling method.

You could answer this question in a few sentences:

  1. Statement of the sampling method used (1 mark)
  2. Statement of one characteristic of the method and a statement of an example of that characteristic that can be shown in the stimulus. (1 mark)
  3. Statement of a second characteristic of the method and a statement of an example of that characteristic that can be shown in the stimulus. (1 mark)

1c. Suggest an alternative or additional (research) method giving one reason for your choice. (3 marks)

For this question you need to identify the alternative or additional research method. You then need to explain why that different research method could have been used rather than the one in the study. Or, you could explain why another method could have been used in the study as well (i.e. in addition). You should provide one general reason for your choice and then support that reason with an explanation of how it is relevant to the specific stimulus study.

You can suggest a method that comes from the same or from a different approach. For example, if a field experiment was conducted you could suggest a qualitative method (e.g. observation) or another quantitative method (e.g. natural experiment).

The key part to this question is that your reasoning for an additional method is logical and is based on the characteristics of the method you have suggested. To get three marks here you need to simply state another method, provide its definition and then give one reason why it could be used based on specific details of the methodology.

After you make this point, while it might not be needed to get full marks, it would be a good idea to apply your explanation to the specific context of the stimulus. This final point will show your examiner that you have thought carefully about the study and its methodology and you are doing more than just writing memorized answers.

Perhaps the best option in this question is to explain how an additional method could be used. This is somewhat more straightforward than explaining how an alternative method could have been used.

You could answer this question in four to six sentences:

  1. A statement and definition of the alternative/additional method (1 mark)
  2. A general statement of why this method is used in research. A description of how this method could be used in the context of the study. (1-2 marks) [1]
  3. A statement of why this particular method would be useful in the context of the stimulus study.

[1] Note: the mark allocations here are not prescribed by the IB. They are a guideline only.

More Paper 3 practice papers and mark schemes are available in the Qualitative Methods TSP.