The Anatomy of Research and the Scientific Method

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Description of Study

A counselor conducts a multiple-baseline study to measure the effect of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on self-harm. Sheperis, & Young, & Daniels (2017) states that a multiple-baseline design is used when it would be unethical to not provide treatment to clients (Sheperis, & Young, & Daniels, 2017). Earlier in the course, she learned that the counseling field does not conduct many experimental studies due to ethical reasons. Time series designs are conducted over short periods of time. This type of design helps us to see if an intervention is effective or not. In this case, will the behavior of a client cutting themselves increase or decrease after CBT is applied? The learner selected a multiple-baseline design because it would not be ethical to withhold CBT unless the counselor is replacing it with a more appropriate intervention. Sheperis (2017) states that this design is used in multiple scenarios but one being one dependent variable with numerous clients (Sheperis, 2017).  In the learner’s example, CBT and self -harm could be tested on multiple clients. The dependent variable DEPENDS on the independent variable, and in this case CBT would be the dependent variable.

Ethical Considerations

Multiple-baseline designs can help conduct research in ways where we would not have to withhold treatment, and maintain ethical guidelines. Another ethical concern is utilizing interventions that might not be appropriate for certain populations, but it is the counselor’s responsibility to make sure any intervention that is used is appropriate for each client.

Importance of Time Series Design

Time series designs are important because they help keep the field accountable. It allows us to conduct research and maintain ethical boundaries. Time series designs also helps save time when analyzing numerous behaviors. Sheperis (2017) declares that interventions might generalize in a multiple-baseline (Sheperis, 2017). Consequently, the counselor would not need to assess for each behavior individually, as that would-be time consuming and taxing on resources. In this day and age, HMO’s want evidence based and efficient treatment. If counselors had to measure each behavior individually, it would take longer and become more expensive to provide services. Time series designs helps us address these issues.


This study that the learner chose is a qualitative study focusing on microaggressions that sexual minorities face. They used focus groups as their research design. Focus groups focus on soliciting other perceptions on the topic that is being studied. On the other hand, grounded theory looks more at the data. Sheperis, & Young, & Daniels (2017) says that grounded theory focuses on what we learned from the data (Sheperis, & Young, & Daniels, 2017). Focus studies focus more on the client’s experiences and perceptions than data collected. In this case Platt & Lenzen (2013) wanted to focus on the different themes that might have been present due to microaggressions (Platt & Lenzen, 2013). Grounded theory recognizes that human behavior is very complex and that there might be different ways to learn more about human behavior. It is important for researchers to display insight and compassion although that could be said about all qualitative designs. Grounded theory is searching to look at the data to try to formulate a theory and is more scientific than focus groups.

Data Analysis

Grounded theory utilizes different methods for data collection. Sheperis (2017) states     that data collection for grounded theory comes from different sources such as observation, records, or even journals (Sheperis, 2017). It is fascinating how grounded theory can collect data from different methods and it is good to provide other topics that might be needed for further research later. In Platt’s study (2013) they acknowledged that they used a semi-structured interview process (Platt, 2013). Semi-structured interviews give the counselor more flexibility because it allows them to ask fixed questions but allow some room for flexibility with the questions. They utilized a lot of open-ended questions to encourage more fluid client responses. Closed-ended questions usually tend to give yes or no responses, and that would not work well for qualitative studies because researchers are seeking to learn about clients’ stories or experiences.

Applying Ethical Principles

The first ethical principle the learner will apply is making sure there is no dual relationship with the research participants because that could create bias in the study. Sheperis, Young, & Daniels (2017) states that we should not engage in nonprofessional roles with research participants (Sheperis, Young, & Daniels). This makes sense because it would create a blurred line where the existing relationship could easily be confused. It also might inadvertently skew the results of the study.  On the other hand, there might be cases the ACA would excuse a nonprofessional situation between the client and research, although that is probably few and far between.

The second ethical principle is maintaining confidential especially regarding data collection. Clients have the right to have confidentiality ensured, especially when some of the topics of the studies might be intrusive to the clients. We must always strive to do what is in the client’s best interests even if it impacts the study.  Sheperis (2017) states that we must respect clients’ rights as far as removing information that could potentially identify them and take proper measures to protect the information (Sheperis, 2017). We also are responsible to delete any information that is not necessary for the research study to help protect client anonymity, and we must have a predetermined method on how to properly dispose documents. Ultimately, we must make sure that the participants rights are protected and that we have methods set in place on how to properly dispose of unnecessary information.

Cultural Considerations

We must be aware of our own cultural biases and values (Sheperis, 2017). Furthermore, we must be aware of those values could potentially impact the study and the participants. We need to not only be aware of our values but make steps to ensure that they do not impact the study or make the client uncomfortable in the study.

The other cultural consideration is to make sure we utilize appropriate interventions. Clients will respond differently to different interventions used, and some will be more effective with different populations than others. For example, if the learner conducted a research study examining if cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective for treating depression, she would need to be cognizant of the participants culture and their beliefs to be sure they would be a good fit for the study. If she picks clients that believes in different spiritual practices as a cultural practice, then it might not be a good idea to utilize CBT on them. The goal is to make sure no harm is done to the client.


Sheperis, C.J., Young, J.S., & Daniels, M. H. (2017). Counseling research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson

Platt, L., & Lenzen, A. (2013). Sexual orientation microaggressions and the experience of sexual minorities. Journal of Homosexuality. Retrieved from: Capella


Cite this page: Danielle Bosley, "The Anatomy of Research and the Scientific Method," in, July 28, 2017, (accessed September 30, 2022).