Practice Paper 3 – Observation of Hospitals – MARK SCHEME

adminAssessment (IB), Qualitative Research Methods, Research Methodology, Revision and Exam Preparation

One of the best ways of preparing for Paper 3 is to try lots of practice exams.

The following is a mark scheme to be used as a guide when marking answers to THIS PRACTICE PAPER THREE.

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

  • Method = covert participant observation (1 mark)
  • participant observations involve the researcher becoming a member of the group they’re being observed (in this case they were a member of those needing treatment)
  • covert observations are conducted without those being observed being made aware that they are being observed
  • students could also mention the naturalistic setting

(b) Describe the sampling method used in the study.

  • Method = purposive sampling
  • A non-representative sampling method.
  • Purposive sampling is when researchers find participants because they have specific characteristics that are suitable for studying (in this case it was the hospitals and staff that were treating uninsured people)

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

  • One possible alternative = an interview
  • Could be used to triangulate findings
  • Reduces chance of biased interpretations of hospital staff’s behaviour as the staff have a chance to share their experiences and perhaps explain their side of the story
  • Points should be awarded for clear explanations of how and/or why a particular research method is used. Two points should be made.

2.Describe the ethical considerations in reporting the results and explain additional ethical considerations that could be taken into account when applying the findings of the study.

  • Possible ethical considerations in reporting results include (need 3 points – 1 mark for each point):
    • Anonymity (name of hospitals and people like Samuel) – this protects their privacy and dignity.
    • The researcher had experience in this field of study, so the ethical thing to do when reporting the results is to disclose this information so people are aware of the potential for bias in the study.
    • Informed consent or debriefing (hospitals were not aware they were being observed and so would not know their behaviour was going to be reported – one consideration is whether or not they should have been informed either before or after the study that the results were going to be reported).
    • Triangulation (reduces chances of researcher bias – the researcher had preconceived notions about the study so this was a real possibility – it would be unethical to report biased findings).
    • Fair representation in the media – if people in the media are reporting these findings, they should give both sides of the story like Romeo has tried to do (e.g. by explaining that it is a difficult line of work and it’s very stressful, which could explain the poor treatment).
  • Possible ethical considerations in applying the findings (need 3 points – 1 mark for each point)
    • Replicability – before the findings of this study are applied in any way, it should be replicated to make sure the findings are reliable. It could be considered unethical to make change to something as important as hospital care based on the outcome of one study.
    • Right to withdraw – these findings may be used to make changes to how the hospitals are organized. It might be an ethical consideration to have the hospitals observed allowed to withdraw their data from this study if they do not want to be involved in this (but this has other ethical implications – is it OK to withdraw from studies if they show negative results)
    • One way these findings might be applied is to make changes to how the hospitals are run (e.g. giving more time off to avoid burnout). However, it could be unethical to make these changes without the contribution of those people directly involved (i.e. those working in the hospital).
    • Cultural considerations – if the findings of this study are being applied in other cultures, cultural differences need to be taken into consideration or else the applications might make things worse.

3.Discuss the possibility of generalizing/transfering the findings of the study. [9]

Possible factors that influence generalizability/transferability include…

  • Triangulation – there was only one researcher, although she did gather data from multiple perspectives. Using a combination of methods can increase validity of findings and influence generalizability/transferability.
  • Sample –
    • The sampling method was non-representative sampling (purposive sampling) so there is no original intent of generalizing.
    • The sample was very small (only 9 hospitals – only 1 interview reported).
    • this study happened in New York City. Students could explain reasons why we might not expect the same results in other cities, cultures or countries
  • Bias – this was a real possibility in this study as the researcher had “long been concerned about inequities in the allocation and distribution of health care resources.” This may affect the accuracy of her findings and conclusions, which affects transferability. Having a second researcher observing and triangulating the findings could have reduced bias and influenced generalizability. 
  • Contextual description – this helps with determining transferability/generalizability as we need to know the details of the original context in order to assess transferability/generalizability – therefore, the depth of contextual description is an important consideration.


This was the mark scheme to be used as a guide when marking answers to THIS PRACTICE PAPER THREE.