Saturday, March 16, 2013

Notes on Research

Research is a process of enquiry and investigation; it is systematic, methodical, and ethical; research can help solve practical problems and increase knowledge.
Different Types of Research

Exploratory research is undertaken when few or no previous studies exist.

Descriptive research can be used to identify and classify the elements or characteristics of the subject.

Analytical research often extends the Descriptive approach to suggest or explain why or how something is happening.

The aim of Predictive research is to speculate intelligently on future possibilities, based on close analysis of available evidence of cause and effect.

Research Approaches

Applied Research is designed from the start to apply its findings to a particular situation.
The primary aim of Basic Research is to improve knowledge generally, without any particular applied purpose in mind at the outset.

Deductive research moves from general ideas/theories to specific particular & situations.
Inductive research moves from particular situations to make or infer broad general ideas/theories.

The emphasis of Quantitative research is on collecting and analyzing numerical data; it concentrates on measuring the scale, range, frequency etc. of phenomena.
Qualitative research is more subjective in nature than Quantitative research and involves examining and reflecting on the less tangible aspects of a research subject, e.g. values, attitudes, perceptions.

Research Philosophies

Positivistic approaches seek to identify, measure, and evaluate any phenomena and to provide rational explanation for it.

Phenomenological approaches are particularly concerned with understanding behavior from the participants’ own subjective frames of reference.

The research philosophy can impact on the methodology adopted for the research project.

The term methodology refers to the overall approaches & perspectives to the research process as a whole

Positivistic Methodologies

Surveys involve selecting a representative and unbiased sample of subjects drawn from the group you wish to study.

There are two main types of survey: a descriptive survey: concerned with identifying & counting the frequency of a particular response among the survey group, or an analytical survey: to analyze the relationship between different elements (variables) in a sample group.

Experimental studies are done in carefully controlled and structured environments and enable the causal relationships of phenomena to be identified and analyzed.

Longitudinal studies are done over an extended period to observe the effect that time has on the situation under observation and to collect primary data (data collected at first hand) of these changes.

Cross-sectional studies involve different organizations or groups of people to look at similarities or differences between them at any one particular time.

Phenomenological Methodologies

A case study offers an opportunity to study a particular subject, e.g. one organization, in depth, or a group of people, and usually involves gathering and analyzing information; information that may be both qualitative and quantitative.

Action research involves an intervention by a researcher to influence change in any given situation and to monitor and evaluate the results.

Ethnography is more usually described as participant observation, and this is where the researcher becomes a working member of the group or situation to be observed.

Participant observation can be overt (everyone knows it is happening) or covert (when the subject(s) being observed for research purposes are unaware it is happening).

Stages of the Research Process

Establish a general field of interest.
Undertake preliminary and background reading on the subject.
Narrow your ideas to a workable topic or research proposal and give it a title.
Preparation of information gathering "tools," e.g. questionnaires, interview sheets, etc.
Collation, analysis, and interpretation of research data
Write first draft.
Revision and re-write thesis; submit thesis.

Gathering Information and Data


Structured interviews involve the use of questionnaires based on a predetermined and identical set of questions.

In semi-structured interviews, the interviewer will have a list of themes and areas to be covered and there may be some standardized questions, but the interviewer may omit or add to some of these questions or areas, depending on the situation and the flow of the conversation.

Unstructured interviews are informal discussions where the interviewer wants to explore in depth a particular topic with another person in a spontaneous way.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are used to gather data, usually in the forms of opinions, from a selected group of people on a particular and pre-determined topic.


Questionnaires facilitate the collection of data by asking all, or a sample of people, to respond to the same questions.

The validity (the extent to which the data accurately measures what they were intended to measure) and reliability (the extent to which the data collection method will yield consistent findings if replicated by others) of the data you collect depend on the design of the questionnaire and the words that you use.
Questions can be open or closed:

Open questions: a question is posed, but space is left for the respondent’s own answer

Closed: where a limited number of alternative responses to the set question are provided

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