Essay on What Is Research?
Number of words: 1089
It seems important to define what research is. According to the Oxford dictionary, research is the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources, in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.
Further to this, Frascati (2002) suggests that research is formal work which is undertaken systematically to increase wealth of knowledge, on topics such as: humanity, culture and society, and applying what is learnt to devise new applications. Research is normally undertaken through a cyclical scientific method. This consists of a sequence of steps to increase the amount of information that is known about a certain topic. It could possibly be conjectured that research is only valuable if answers are found, however it can also identify useful new relationships.
Significant reflection on the topic that is going to be researched should be undertaken before deciding which sampling method to use in order to ascertain data. Researchers organize their data collection methods by creating and defining a research problem. This helps to focus the research process so that conclusions can be drawn and reflected upon. It may also be necessary to formulate a research hypothesis which will be the reason for the research. This can be a null hypothesis, where the researcher tries to disprove a current theory or challenge it by forming a research/alternate hypothesis. An example of this would be that plants do not have a higher growth rate if planted in compost rather than soil. Alternatively, it can be a research hypothesis, where the researcher is showing an alternative way to explain a phenomenon. For example, it could be this study is designed to assess the hypothesis that sleep deprived people will perform worse on a test than individuals who are not sleep deprived. This is what the researcher would expect to happen, however the objective of the research is to prove whether the hypothesis is true or not.
Having established what the topic of the research is and written a specific hypothesis, it is necessary to look at the background data that will be used in the research. Data and information may be gleaned from different types of sources like books; medical journals; academic journals and literary papers; articles and debates; the internet and blogs; questionnaires; surveys; interviews and conversations; newspapers and Government papers and multimedia broadcasts.
Information from books will be more reliable but maybe outdated, as books take time to be published. Medical and academic journals may provide more recent data which can include information on new research, comparing it with empirical research which may be useful when researching specific hypotheses. Using the internet can be a useful source of information but may not be reliable. Verifying information on up to 4 different websites may be necessary in order to ascertain that the source is correct. Using internet sources such as from the Government, charities or educational and medical establishments should result in fairly reliable information being accrued. Blogs are now popular in the social domain as they are interactive and can help share ideas and opinions. However, the information from them may not always be valid as it depends on who is writing them and what is covered within the discussion. Newspapers are more likely to be up to the minute but the information may be biased and may just be an overview rather than being specific and detailed. The Government produces reports with statistical information; many of the reports are carried out independently, the results being published on line or can be obtained from the library. This suggests that this could be a dependable source of data. Nevertheless, a researcher should treat statistical data with care as it may have been manipulated mathematically.
There are two types of data that can be used in research: Primary and Secondary data. Primary data can be obtained from first hand observations; personal interviews; questionnaires and longitudinal case studies. The advantages of observations could be that it lessens the chance of bias from the person responding but it can be very time consuming and limiting. Personal interviews can be a very successful way of obtaining primary data as it allows detailed questions to be asked and responses given. This will cut down on anyone not responding to the interview but may be costly to arrange if it’s a face to face interview. Other disadvantages could be that the interviewer fabricates data or that the questions are not specific to the hypothesis.
Secondary research which has been collected by another researcher for a different purpose can be used for a different investigation. The advantage of this is that the data already exists so it saves time. Disadvantages are that the data may be out of date and is not specific enough for the purpose of the research being carried out.
Research can be divided into three different paradigms called quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods.
Quantitative research is a systematic process of collecting mathematical or statistical information which focuses on numbers .This raw data can be turned into graphical information and put into tables for analysis. This can be collected by means of questionnaires, experiments and psychometric tests. It is more scientifically based, and can be easily interpreted. The drawback of this method is it may not provide an in- depth description.
Qualitative research gathers information that is not numerical. It is descriptive data which can come in the form of diary accounts, questionnaires, interviews and case studies. This type of research is useful to individual researchers who may want to find out how people feel or think which may be useful in a counselling context. It can be difficult to analyse the findings and may need specialist knowledge to interpret it.
In addition, Creswell (2003) discusses mixed methods of research as a third method alongside quantitative and qualitative approaches. This means that a combination of each method will provide a better understanding of research problems.
When doing research it will be necessary to draw conclusions and compare what has been found out with the original hypothesis by writing a report. The researcher may include opinions and recommendations so that there is a formal record of their findings.
Creswell, J, W. (2003) Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. 2nd edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
OECD (2002) Frascati Manual: proposed standard practice for surveys on research and experimental development. 6th edn.
Oxford University press (2013) Oxford Dictionary. Available at:
http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/research?q=research (Accessed: 25/4/2013).