Research Question

Hello, I am a graduate student studying to be an SLP. I have a question question for anyone who may be involved with or understands research in the area of stuttering. After reviewing some research in this area, I began to wonder about the challenges of selecting participants, sample characteristics, and exclusionary criteria when conducting a study. Considering the many factors that may affect the persistence and development of stuttering (e.g., sex, cognitive status, environmental factors, etc.), it seems like controlling for these factors could be a very difficult matter. The outcomes of each person can be so individualized due to the flexible, multifactorial, and highly individualized nature of stuttering. My question is, how do researchers in stuttering typically navigate this challenge? Do they include a lot of exclusion criteria? Do they try to limit the exclusion criteria to try and make the participants as representative of the population of people who stutter overall? Thank you for your time!

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Research Question — 5 Comments

  1. Thank you for your question! This can definitely be a challenge. I think all researchers acknowledge that there will be some limitations in their studies. If you control too much, it can compromise generalizability, but if you don’t control enough, it can be hard to isolate your variables of interest. I think it mostly depends on the focus of your research. Once you decide on the focus, then you can determine the specific population that will meet the needs of the research questions. There’s no formula for deciding on much how exclusionary criteria to include, but you exclude participants to the extent that they don’t meet your research objectives, or to the extent that certain participants might confound your results. Researchers always acknowledge that their research has limitations, including participant demographics. Best of luck to you in your graduate studies!

  2. I see that I made some typos in the above response. Here is a modified sentence: **There’s no formula for deciding on how much exclusionary criteria to include, but you exclude participants to the extent that they don’t meet your research objectives, or to the extent that certain participants might confound your results.

    • Hi Derek,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. You’re definitely right that there is no formula for deciding on how much exclusionary criteria to include, and you definitely gave me so much more to think about regarding this subject. I guess it comes down to the balance in how many variables you can control. What are some other unique/tricky challenges that you have faced in research? You give such great insights!

  3. Hi!
    Thank you for your question, which is a very important one, and which we, as both clinicians and researchers, are making great efforts to achieve the best solution for.

    First you have to find the aim of the study, then the design. I do believe that we need research which cover both qualitative (individual variations) and quantitative (enbables comparisons within and across samples) information. Research designs based on mixed method designs are very popular within many fields, and this mixed approach has increased in popularity within stuttering research too. I am grateful for this. Then we are able to consider interactions between intra-individual factors and contexts in which the persons are operating. As Derek points out, there are always limitations in research. As long as you document properly, and are transparent in all your steps in your research, regardless of the design, it might turn out to be solid work.

    In my research, I chose to use a mixed method approach. I also decided not to include the common inclusion criterium > 5% SS (percentage stuttering syllables). I was very curious about what kind of persons who would approach the stuttering therapy research project, and it turned out to be more people with overall covert stuttering than overall overt stuttering who wanted to be part of the project. I found this observation very interesting, because based on the specific participants who wanted to attend and the data collected, we might find new and important information. I am also sometimes asking myself the question if it is ethically correct to exclude people who don’t stutter overtly in therapy studies in future research. Based on previous research, I see that the cut-off is often > 5% in studies. Of course I understand this point clearly. In the same time I am in doubt that this should be continued to be so in the future, especially since we have access to measurements which can give us information about so many different aspects related to stuttering and psychological distress. We also know that there is a lack of conssistency on physical aspects related to stuttering, and for some, stuttering may never or seldom be available for direct observation.

    Well, this was just a short response from me. I hope that you may find clinical research important in your future work. We need more and new knowledge within the field of stuttering and cluttering, and I am looking forward to continue dialoguing with other people who stutter, clinicians and researchers about this important topic.

    With the best wishes, from

  4. Hi! This is a wonderful question. Although stuttering does have a low incidence (and not all researchers are convinced this incidence of 1% is correct at this time given covert stuttering and criterion for diagnosis as the research progresses, but this is the researched incidence that we have at this current moment) given the population of the world this is still a ton of people. So, thinking of your question: where is the gap? How come it is so hard to get research participants for stuttering studies when we are still looking at millions of people I’d venture to say? Are we finding people? Are we going at this the right way? Those were my first thoughts in reading your question…
    A lot of stuttering studies are single-subject designs; mine was. That made it easy. It also made application of the data difficult on the large-scale regarding the general population of people who stutter. I will say this to your question as it is SUCH A GOOD QUESTION given the current trend/shift in our current times with the stuttering community and research. People who stutter and researchers are working.. wait for it… together. Yes…. together. Research is starting to happen WITH people who stutter not AT them. I myself, for example, have a medical diagnosis. Personally, I don’t like to be data on a data plot… I like to be listened to. There is a big difference in someone who listens to me versus someone who takes data and puts me on a plot and reports it. Yes, I know this contributes to science.. but the data plot made me feel just like that- a data plot. It’s not to compare my situation to a person who stutters or to stuttering at all, but it is to say that it is how someone could possibly feel. Working together in collaboration WITH people who stutter, I believe personally, could really overall help more people who stutter to feel encouraged to participate in more research. It’s not because there aren’t enough people who stutter as to why we aren’t lacking research participants…….. However, things are changing and we are seeing world collaboration and beautiful things happen in the world of people who stutter and research together. It’s amazing…. and you may even get to be a part of it. I hope that helps!

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