What is Research?

Published: 2019-11-07 09:00:00
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IntoductionResearch is defined as a systematic inquiry that examines hypotheses, suggests new analyses of data or texts, and establishes new questions to be explored in the future. The systematic feature of research was clearly explained by Hitchcock and Hughes (1995), who stated that ontological assumptions lead to epistemological assumptions; these bring up methodological considerations, which in turn bring up issues of instrumentation, the collection of relevant data for analysis and interpretation, and then ultimately presented. In this light, it can be noted that research is more than just a technical exercise concerned with understanding phenomena, but rather involving how we view the phenomena, what our understanding of the phenomena entails, and what we view as the purposes of understanding.

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The philosophy of this blog post is based on bringing out a profound understanding of contemporary research as well as its structure. It consistently explores foundational issues of research such as how to begin to carry out research, comprehending what comprises of data, and how it is analysed. Most noteworthy is that the text shall also discuss the characteristics of qualitative and quantitative approaches in research.

Qualitative and Quantitative Research Approaches

Research is designed and written based on either qualitative or quantitative approach. The approach to deciding on depends on the research question and the hypotheses formulated for the research to address. The research problem, the hypotheses and literature reviews assist the researcher toward either a qualitative or quantitative track. Consequently, these inform the particular research design to be applied and the processes involved in them, for instance, sampling, instruments for data collection, the procedures, the analysis, and lastly the interpretation of the results.

Qualitative research is suitable to address a research problem that variables are not known, and their exploration is required. Secondary data may yield minimal information on the phenomenon of study, thus a researcher needs to collect primary data through exploration. For instance, a qualitative research approach may entail a problem statement seeking to address sign language usage in distance education courses. Undeniably, use of sign language in such courses is difficult and may not have been studied in prior works. The key concept, process or idea studied in qualitative research is known as a central phenomenon. Therefore, the problem statement on the complexity of teaching deaf children needs both an understanding (due to its complexity) and exploration (since we want to know ways we can better teach them) of the teaching and learning processes (Somekh & Lewin, 2005).

In Qualitative research, the researcher comes up with a problem statement in regard to the current state of an existing phenomenon or to describe the occurrence of phenomena. The descriptive aspect of this research means that the problem statement can be answered best by the researcher evaluating the general tendency of responses from people and also to observe how the tendency varies among individual. For instance, a researcher may want to find out citizens feel about a new budget. Findings from this study can address how a large demography views an issue and the variety of these views.

Research Process Framework

As presented in the introduction, research is made up of sequential processes that finally bring out a conclusion about phenomena. At a broad perspective, there are three steps in research; formulating a hypothesis, collecting relevant data to answer the question, and presenting an answer to the hypothesis. This is pretty much similar to problem-solving in everyday life, whereby you come up with a question, you gather some information, and lastly come up with an answer. Nonetheless, the current framework applied in research is made up of more processes that ensure either reaching a quantitative conclusion or a qualitative explanation. The figure below illustrates the popularly used six-step research study framework (Osborne & Dillon, 2014).

Problem Statement

Before a research begins, a problem statement to be addressed should be formulated. The problem statement offers a reader the rationale of the outline and importance of the research. Mertens (2014) states that an effective problem statement should consist of:

Area of study this is the general introduction to the subject of the research. It entails a summary of the problem to be studied, the purpose of the study, and the importance of the problem, as well as the justification for examining it.

In the case of qualitative research approach, this part should present the dynamic nature of the research question and acknowledge that this is just the start of the research.

Define Terms - crucial concepts and terms have to be defined. In the case of a qualitative track, initial terms should be noted, and the evolving nature of the research has to be presented.

Paradigms and assumptions the choice of paradigms is discussed, and also the assumption philosophy applied has to be explained.

Literature review

This is a summary written about books, journal articles and other documents that provide the past and current condition of information about the research topic. The researcher is at the liberty of reviewing studies based on both quantitative and qualitative approaches. A good literature review comprises of:

History: a historical background of the research topic has to be reviewed and also show relevant theories to the research.

Current literature this part entails reviewing current literature related to the research topic and also present opposing and supporting views, whereby emphasis has to be placed on objectively analysing the weaknesses and strengths of existing works.

Research problem the review in this chapter has to exhibit the description of the problem statement.

Methodology

Methodology refers to the procedures performed in research for activities ranging from collecting data to be used as a basis for interpretation, explanation, and prediction. However, the procedure may also entail scientific notions such as forming hypotheses and concepts, formulating theories and models, and sampling. The procedures carried out and presented in the methodology are as follows (Hammersley, 2013):

Research Questions and Hypothesis this part entails specifying a set of procedures or behaviours that are capable of being manipulated, addressed and measured. It gives crucial information on the direction the research shall be steered. Also, it raises the questions that the research seeks to answer through the data collection, analysis, and presentation. For quantitative research approach, major and minor research questions from the literature review have to be presented. In qualitative, the initial research questions and objectives meant to focus the research should be presented. Even though they will change in a qualitative approach, they are important in that they set the processes for collecting and analysing data.

Research Design The research design decides on the style on which the research is to be performed. Some examples of research designs entail survey, experiment, and case study for quantitative research, whereas ethnography, action research, and phenomenology for the qualitative approach.

Sample In quantitative research, the research should have a description of the general characteristics of the sample population, the sampling technique should also be described, and the choice of the size of the sample used has to be defended. In a qualitative approach, the criteria for participant selection and the study setting should be discussed.

Data collection procedures for qualitative approach, the design for data collection and the procedures to be used should be discussed. On the other hand, procedures to be used for data collection should be discussed in the quantitative approach.

Furthermore in the qualitative approach, data collection through supplemental methods such as video tapes, recordings should also be discussed. The period for the data collection procedure should be described.

Data Analysis Procedures In qualitative studies, strategies for data analysis should be discussed, whereby if for instance, triangulation is to be used, the multiple and the settings to sought evidence should be explained. Nonetheless, data processing, coding, and entry strategies have to be discussed in the case of a quantitative approach.

Limitation of the research - Projected shortcomings of the study have to be explained. Thus, you should check for limitations and their respective contingent measures.

Timelines - a research should have a proposed timeline the evidently shows the estimated period for the research up to its completion.

References

Cohen, L., Manion, L., Morrison, K. (2007). Research Methods in Education 6th Ed. New York: Rutledge.

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Planning, Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research (4 Ed.), Educational Research. Pearson Education: Boston, MA.

Hammersley, M. (2013). What is qualitative research? London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Mertens, D.M. (2014). Research and Evaluation in Education and Psychology (4th Edn)., Sage, Los Angeles.

Osborne, J., & Dillon, J. (2010). Good practice in science teaching: What research has to say. Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill/Open University Press.

Somekh, B., & Lewin, C. (2005). Research methods in the social sciences. New York: Routledge.

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