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Research Methods in Erin Brockovich


Very few bosses can genuinely cater for their employees’ medication. Many of them can only provide such services when they have something to gain or when hiding something from the employees. This work is a critique of Erin Brockovich, a movie that exposes the wickedness of employers. The paper demonstrates the disregard for ethics among employers, especially when dealing with their employees. It also explores various methods of research and data collection.

The movie talks about a lady, Erin Brockovich, who digs deep into the case of former and current employees at the PG&E Company. Most of these people suffer from diseases whose cause is unknown. Her careful research reveals that the company has been producing hexavalent chromium as a by-product of its industrial products. These chemical substances are responsible for the illnesses among former and current employees of this company. She makes this discovery after a very carefully executed research. She interviews some of the affected people after having seen some records of the same cases while working for Edi. She educates the victims about their rights and how to get compensation.

Previously, the company had lied to them that it was only catering for their medical expenses as a sign of goodwill. She influences the vicctims to go to court and ask for compensation from the company. Eventually, the company releases some money through Edi and Erin to compensate the victims for the damage the effects of the company’s effluents have left on their bodies. This paper majorly discusses the methods of research used by the main character in the movie. It also analyses the ethical concerns that arise in the course of the movie and the results of Erin’s needs assessment.

Survey Research

The survey method of research involves the use of portions of the population in making binding conclusions about the entire population (Houser, 2015). This research method is the commonest research method that companies use in determining the most loved candidate in democratic election campaigns. Researchers, usually, formulate their research questions prior to the research. The research questions must objectively represent all the components of the population. Researchers also need to be fair and keen in the selection of their samples. Otherwise, the findings they will obtain from their studies will not fairly represent entire populations (American Psychological Association, 2010).

Methods of Data collection Used by the Characters in the Movie

The protagonist, Erin Brockovich, mostly uses personal surveys when collecting data from the field. She interviews most of her respondents. She visits the respondents with the purpose of asking them questions about their illnesses. Brockovich asks PG&E employees about the cause of their sicknesses and the reason for the company’s involvement in their treatment. She also interviews many employees and ex-employees of the PG&E Company. The interviews help her collect enough information about the company, its operations and its treatment of employees. The information helps her realize that the chemical effluents that come from the industry are causing widespread illnesses among the people in the surroundings (Táquez, 2009).

Brockovich also collects information from files and past records. The first time she found the information about the illnesses among the employees and ex-employees of PG&E was when she was working for Edi. She studied the information carefully and used it as a foundation for her study. She formulated her research basing on the information she obtained from the files she got from her boss’s files. She realized that there were several similar cases of illnesses.

Needs Assessment

Needs assessment is the process of identifying a problem and analysing it in detail. Analysts carry out detailed research with the purpose of finding solutions to the problems they identify (American Psychological Association, 2010). In Erin Brockovich, the protagonist discovers a group of illnesses among people who live around Hackney. She makes this realization while working as Edi’s assistant. She decides to investigate this problem in detail with the purpose of finding a solution to it. Her initial findings indicate that most of the people that suffer from these illnesses, mostly brain tumours, are employees and ex-employees of the PG&E Company.

Therefore, she narrows down her investigation to employees and former employees of the PG&E. The responses the interviewees give indicate that the company was aware that its industrial effluents were the ones causing the illnesses. When she further narrows down her research, she finds out that hexavalent chromium is the main chemical substance causing the diseases. She then starts a mission to persuade the employees to sue the company for damages. After a fierce court battle, they get compensation for the suffering the company had brought them. Therefore, the problem in the needs assessment is solved (Táquez, 2009).

Needs Assessment: Prevalence, Distribution, and Interrelations of Variables

The variables in Erin Brockovich’s research are the activities of the PG&E Company and the number of ill employees and ex-employees. The needs analysis she carries out helps her know the number of people suffering from brain tumours. She goes to the field with the purpose of finding out the cause and solutions to the suffering of the people of Hackney. In the process of accomplishing this needs analysis, she meets more people suffering from the effects of the industrial effluents than she had thought (Táquez, 2009).

Brockovich also discovers that the illnesses were more prevalent among former and current employees of the PG&E Company (Brockovich & Lyons, 2011). She meets Donna and her husband; both of whom are victims of the company’s activities. Donna suffers from a serious brain tumour. On the other hand, her husband has the Hodgkin disease. Therefore, the effects of hexavalent chromium are widespread. People all over Hackney suffer from them, but they are more prevalent among employees and former employees of the PG&E Company (Táquez, 2009).

Brockovich links the two variables: the company’s involvement in the treatment of their employees and the origin of the illnesses. She realizes that the company’s activities were the main cause of the illnesses among its employees. She starts suspecting the company when it voluntarily pays for the medication of its suffering employees (Táquez, 2009).

Ethical Implications of the Researcher

In carrying out any research, it is always ethical for the researchers to inform the respondents what the research is about and the roles the respondents play in the entire study. It is a very big crime for any researcher to go against this requirement (Institute of Medicine, 2010). Brockovich observes this rule by educating her respondents about their rights and the legal steps they could take against PG&E (Táquez, 2009). She informs them that her research aims at establishing the cause of their sickness.

In addition, the researcher should not force the respondents to participate in the study. They should give consent to the request of participating in the research without coercion. Brockovich talked to the victims of the industrial effluents and convinced them to sue the company for compensation. It was only after the victims had given their consent that she continued with her research and later took the case to court.

Research ethics also require research to be about the welfare of the respondents. It should not harm the respondents. Brockovich is aware of this ethical requirement. Hence, her research aims at establishing the cause of the widespread tumours among people living near the PG&E Company.


American Psychological Association (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author. Web.

Brockovich, E., & Lyons, C. (2011). Hot water (1st Ed.). New York: Vanguard Press.

Houser, J. (2015). Nursing research: Reading, using, and creating evidence. (3rd Ed.). Boston: Jones & Bartlett.

Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing: Leading the change, advancing health. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Táquez, H. (2009). Erin Brockovich. Web.

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