A perspective on methodological issues in research on adult student attrition rates in distance learning

  • JC Welman Rand Afrikaans University
  • ESG Greyling Rand Afrikaans University
  • GP de Bruin Rand Afrikaans University


The important role of analytical thinking is demonstrated in this article by means of examples of research on student attrition rates. The article shows how various points of departure regarding the aims of a study influence (sometimes unqualified) assumptions of causation. Researchers should distinguish between necessary and sufficient causes because only the confirmation of a sufficient cause will rule out dangers to the internal validity of a scientific study. An example of survey research is used to show that unfounded assumptions (such as causality whilst using a survey design) could lead to incorrect conclusions, particularly if the analytical thinking of the researcher is not correct. Similarly, the choice of an adequate methodology in alignment with the aim of a study must be addressed. For a methodology to be adequate, it needs to be compatible with a model or theory. The use of proper models or theoretical frameworks, such as Kember's model, in the study of the student attrition phenomenon is recommended.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol.16(3) 2002: 95-102

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eISSN: 1011-3487