Survey Research

NPT can be used to develop structured questionnaire items for quantitative research about factors affecting implementation work.

Quantitative research is a potentially efficient approach to gathering data from large numbers of people at the same time. Involving the use of highly structured questionnaires that can be completed independently by individuals, quantitative approaches offer an economical means of collecting data at the level of entire organisations. For those interested in using the NPT to understand processes of implementation, embedding and normalisation in relation to technologies and practices in organisational settings, quantitative approaches can be useful for addressing particular kinds of questions.

One kind of question that could be explored using the NPT in quantitative research is the 'How much?' question. Survey studies aim to quantify a particular phenomenon within a set of parameters. For example, an NPT study might ask a question along the lines of 'How much disruption is a new computerised decision-support (CDS) tool causing in terms of the day to day work of (nursing/medical/clerical/all) staff in this Primary Care Trust?' A structured survey, administered to ensure that survey participants are representative of the organisation as a whole, could answer this kind of question by collating the ratings made by individuals with respect to the new CDS tool, on the kinds of dimensions that the NPT highlights for consideration.

Another type of question that might be usefully explored using quantitative methods concerns the assessment of the likelihood of particular outcomes associated with the introduction and use of a new technology or practice. In terms of the NPT, this could mean questions about whether or not a new technology or practice is likely to normalise. Such predictions are not purely the domain of quantitative methods, however, collecting data in quantitative form makes possible the statistical testing of relationships between classes of phenomena (ie. between 'influencing factors' and 'outcomes'). Thus, in terms of the NPT, studies conducted over time (ie. longitudinally) that included quantitative assessments of both (a) dimensions highlighted by the NPT as influencing factors, and (b) normalisation 'outcomes' could provide information about the (statistically) predictive relationships between processes and outcomes. Such information could be useful in future assessments of similar technologies, in making predictions about the likelihood of normalisation of a given technology. The NoMAD instrument available on this website offers a set of items that could be used in this way.

Quantitative application of the NPT could also be useful for exploring questions about comparison. Structured data collection approaches are suitable for answering comparative questions because they provide a means of collecting standardised data (ie. in the same format). For example, it is possible for a set of individuals to answer exactly the same set of NPT based questions, but in relation to two or more different technologies. Alternatively, comparisons using standardised data collection tools could be made with respect to a single technology/intervention but across different settings.

This provides a brief introduction as to the kinds of questions suitable for exploring with the NPT using quantitative methods. This suggests particular roles that the NPT can play in a quantitative research project:  

  1. It can help you to design and develop a quantitative study, by suggesting frames of enquiry and potential relationships between normalisation processes and outcomes; and
  2. It can help you to develop standardised data collection tools for use in your project

Both of these potential uses of NPT in relation to quantitative research are discussed in the relative pages.  Click on the links above to navigate to the issue you are interested in.

Things to consider

  • Although potentially time efficient and economical in terms of administration and data collection, questionnaires are not always an 'easy option', especially if you need to design your questionnaire yourself. In research using the NPT, the complex networks of objects, actors, and processes with which the NPT is concerned present challenges for designing scientifically valid quantitative studies. This is why we developed the NoMAD instrument, and provide guidance on how to use it.
  • Challenges concerning the development of standardised data collection tools themselves are discussed in detail in the following sections.