Monday, February 29, 2016

Introduction to Research

Research can be one of the most interesting features of any degree course as it offers you a measure of control and autonomy over what you learn. It gives you an opportunity to confirm, clarify, pursue – or even discover – new aspects of a subject or topic you are interested in.

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

The Purpose of Research

  • Review or synthesize existing knowledge
  • Investigate existing situations or problems
  • Provide solutions to problems
  • Explore and analyse more general issues
  • Construct or create new procedures or systems
  • Explain new phenomenon
  • Generate new knowledge
  • A combination of any of the above

Different Types of Research

Exploratory research is undertaken when few or no previous studies exist. The aim is to look for patterns, hypotheses or ideas that can be tested and will form the basis for further research.
Typical research techniques would include case studies, observation and reviews of previous related studies and data.

Descriptive research can be used to identify and classify the elements or characteristics of the subject, e.g. number of days lost because of industrial action.
Quantitative techniques are most often used to collect, analyze, and summarize data.

Analytical research often extends the Descriptive approach to suggest or explain why or how something is happening, e.g. underlying causes of industrial action.
An important feature of this type of research is in locating and identifying the different factors (or variables) involved.

The aim of Predictive research is to speculate intelligently on future possibilities, based on close analysis of available evidence of cause and effect, e.g. predicting when and where future industrial action might take place.

Research can be approached in the following ways:


The emphasis of Quantitative research is on collecting and analyzing numerical data; it concentrates on measuring the scale, range, frequency etc. of phenomena. This type of research, although harder to design initially, is usually highly detailed and structured and results can be easily collated and presented statistically.

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. Although this type of research can be easier to start, it can be often difficult to interpret and present the findings; the findings can also be challenged more easily.


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


Deductive research moves from general ideas/theories to specific particular & situations: the particular is deduced from the general, e.g. broad theories.
Inductive research moves from particular situations to make or infer broad general ideas/theories.

Research Philosophy

Research is not ‘neutral’, but reflects a range of the researcher’s personal interests, values, abilities, assumptions, aims and ambitions.

There are essential two main research philosophies (or positions) although there can be overlap between the two – and both positions may be identifiable in any research project: positivistic and phenomenological.


Positivistic approaches to research are based on research methodologies commonly used in science.

They are characterized by a detached approach to research that seeks out the facts or causes of any social phenomena in a systematic way.

Positivistic approaches are founded on a belief that the study of human behavior should be conducted in the same way as studies conducted in the natural sciences (Collis & Hussey, 2003, p.52).

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

This explanation will attempt to establish causal links and relationships between the different elements (or variables) of the subject and relate them to a particular theory or practice.


Phenomenological approaches however, approach research from the perspective that human behavior is not as easily measured as phenomena in the natural sciences.

Human motivation is shaped by factors that are not always observable, e.g. inner thought processes, so that it can become hard to generalize on, for example, motivation from observation of behavior alone.

People place their own meanings on events; meanings that do not always coincide with the way others have interpreted them.

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

Research methods are chosen therefore, to try and describe, translate and explain and interpret events from the perspectives of the people who are the subject of the research.

Source: Coffin, Caroline, et al. Teaching Academic Writing. London: Routledge, 2003. Print.

No comments: