A cross-sectional “research design was used to guide the study among female students in public universities in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. A cross-sectional research design was used because the design allows studies to collect data to make inferences about a population of interest at one point in time (4). A cross-sectional research design makes snapshots of the populations about which they gather data. Besides, this design was chosen because it allows studies to collect data from many different individuals at a single point in time. In this case, data were collected from four different public universities” in Eastern Cape.
The study used “quantitative research approach which is the process of collecting and analysing numerical data (4). Quantitative research approach can be used to find patterns and averages, make predictions, test causal relationships, and generalise results to wider populations. Quantitative research methodology in this study is used to quantify the knowledge, attitude, and predictors of safe abortion among female students using numerical data that is transformed into statistics. These statistics helped to understand the research problem under study. Quantitative research methodology was also used because many researchers agree that quantitative methodology is the best when it comes to measuring opinions, views, behaviours, attitudes, practices, and other measurable variables (21). Evidence shows that quantitative research methodology is effective in uncovering and formulating facts (4). This study employed quantitative methodology to measure knowledge, attitude, and predictors of safe abortion among female students. The method was also used because it is helpful in conducting structured studies and collecting information that is” generalisable.
The study “used multi-stage sampling method to select respondents. In the first stage, all universities in Eastern Cape namely Nelson Mandela University (NMU), University of Fort Hare (UFH), Rhodes University (RU) and Walter Sisulu University were selected using census sampling technique. Second stage, from each University, faculties and colleges were categorised as faculties/colleges of humanities, agriculture, engineering and science, health sciences and law and management studies. Third stage, the list of female students was generated from students' register in each faculty/college using proportional sampling technique distributed based on female students’ level of study. This was followed by the application of simple random sampling technique to select the sample for the study from six thousand female students. One thousand two hundred sixty six (1266) students successfully” completed the questionnaire.
Data collection instruments
Data were “collected using a questionnaire. To achieve the aim of the study and high response rate, six thousand female students in the first, second, third-and fourth-year level of study were invited to complete the questionnaire through their respective university communication systems. The survey used a questionnaire with several items including demographics, knowledge, and attitude towards safe abortion. The questionnaire was reviewed by” experts in survey research for face validity.
A pilot sample (n=10) was “used to improve the wording and clarity of expression of the survey items. Data from the pilot sample was not used in any further analysis. The final version of the questionnaire required an estimated time of 5-15 minutes to complete. The questionnaire was posted online together with the consent form describing the purpose of the study in detail. One thousand two hundred sixty six questionnaires were collected. The total number of female students expected to complete the survey was 6 000. Using the confidence level 95%, population size 6 000 and margin of error 5% the ideal sample size is 365 but this study generated 1266 questionnaires expressing more than one hundred per cent response rate. It was easy to conduct the study because the researcher was a senior lecturer at one of the universities under study and has expertise in health communication and research methodology studies. The researcher’s experience in health communication and research methodology span more than twelve years. All completed questionnaires were checked” for completeness by the investigator.
Variables and measurements
The “study investigated into the knowledge, attitude, and predictors of safe abortion among female students. Knowledge of students on safe abortion was assessed using eight questions that generated a high internal consistency namely Cronbach’s alpha = 0.712. Each of the correct responses was given one point while zero was given for the incorrect response based on students’ responses. Students who scored less than 60% in the knowledge questions were reported as having poor knowledge and students who scored higher than or equal to 60% were reported as having good” knowledge.
Students’ attitude “towards safe abortion was calculated out of eleven questions that generated a high internal consistency namely Cronbach’s alpha = 0.706. The study employed a five-point Likert scale: 1 = strongly disagree; 2 = disagree; 3 = neutral; 4 = agree; and 5 = strongly agree; and then categorised as “agree” (strongly agree and agree) and “disagree” (strongly disagree, disagree, and neutral). All students who scored less than the mean score were reported as having unfavourable attitudes and all students who scored greater than or equal to the mean were reported as possessing favourable attitudes towards safe abortion. Independent variables in the study were sex, age, marital relationship, place of resident, financial support from the family, and year” of study.
With adequate “knowledge of the study, female students were asked to sign the consent form by ticking on the right side of the questionnaire if they wanted to participate. Students were informed that participation in the study was voluntary and were at liberty to withdraw from the study anytime without any consequences. Confidentiality, privacy, and anonymity were upheld. The contact details for Nelson Mandela University Research Office were provided in case students had questions. The four universities under study provided gatekeepers’ letters and Nelson Mandela University provided ethical clearance. The questionnaire ran” online from July 2021 to August 2021.
Data were “analysed using descriptive statistics that included the computing of percentages and frequencies. Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed, and adjusted odds ratios (AORs) calculated with 95% confidence interval to determine the associations between safe abortion and independent variables. All variables with a p=value <.25 in the bivariate analysis were considered for the final multivariable analysis while variables with a p=value <.05 were considered in the final multivariable logistic regression model to determine significance of the association with the outcome variable” safe abortion.