Understanding the Process of Research


 

The process of research consists of a series of actions or steps to effectively carry out research and the desired sequencing of these steps. The following order concerning various steps provides a useful procedural guideline regarding the process of research:

1. Formulating the research problem:

The first and foremost stage in the process of research is to select and properly define the research problem. A researcher should first identify a problem and formulate it, to make it amenable or susceptible to research. In general, a research problem in a process of research refers to an unanswered question that a researcher might encounter in the context of either a theoretical or practical situation, which he/she would like to answer or find a solution to. A research problem in the process of research is said to be the one that requires a researcher to find the best available solution to the given problem. That is, the researcher needs to find out the best course of action through which the research objective may be achieved optimally in the context of a given situation There are two types of research problems encountered in the process of research viz., those which relate to states of nature and those which relate to relationships between variables. At the very outset the researcher must single out the problem he wants to study, i.e., he must decide the general area of interest or aspect of a subject matter that he would like to inquire into. Initially, the-----problem may be stated in a broad general way, and then the ambiguities, if any, relating to the problem be resolved. Then, the feasibility of a particular solution in the process of research has to be considered before a working formulation of the problem can be set up. The formulation of a general topic into a specific research problem, thus, constitutes the first step in a scientific inquiry. Essentially two steps are involved in formulating the research problem in the process of research.

1. Understanding the problem thoroughly,

2. Rephrasing the same into meaningful terms from an analytical point of view.

i) Understanding the problem

·         In the process of research, the best way of understanding the problem is to discuss it with one’s colleagues or with those having some expertise in the matter.

·         In an academic institution, during the process of research the researcher can seek help from a guide who is usually an experienced man and has several research problems in mind. Often, the guide puts forth the problem in general terms and it is up to the researcher to narrow down and phrase the problem in operational terms.

·         In private business units or governmental organizations, the problem in the process of research is usually earmarked by the administrative agencies with whom the researcher can discuss how the problem originally came about and what considerations are involved in its possible solutions. In the process of research, the researcher must at the same time examine all available literature to get himself acquainted with the selected problem. The basic outcome of reviewing literature in the process of research will be to enhance knowledge as to what data and other materials are available for operational purposes which will enable the researcher to specify his research problem in a meaningful context.

ii) Rephrasing the problem

After understanding the problem in the process of research, the researcher rephrases the problem into analytical or operational terms i.e., to put the problem in as specific terms as possible. This task of formulating, or defining, a research problem is a step of greatest importance in the entire process of research. The problem to be investigated must be defined unambiguously for that will help discriminate relevant data from irrelevant ones. Care must, however, be taken to verify the objectivity and validity of the background facts concerning the problem. Professor W.A. Neiswanger correctly states that the statement of the objective is of basic importance because it determines the data which are to be collected during the process of research, the characteristics of the data which are relevant to the process of research, relations that are to be explored, the choice of techniques to be used in these explorations, and the form of the final report prepared after the process of research.

 

2. Extensive literature survey:

Once the problem of the process of research is formulated, a summary of it should be written down. At this juncture, the researcher should undertake an extensive literature survey connected with the problem. For this purpose, abstracting and indexing journals and published or unpublished bibliographies are the first place to go. Academic journals, conference proceedings, government reports, books, etc., must be tapped depending on the nature of the problem. In this process, it should be remembered that one source will lead to another. The earlier studies, if any, which are similar to the study in hand should be carefully studied during the process of research. A good library will be a great help to the researcher at this stage of the process of research.

Understanding the Process of Research

3. Development of hypotheses:

“Hypothesis may be defined as a proposition or a set of propositions set forth as an explanation for the occurrence of some specified group of phenomena either asserted merely as a provisional conjecture to guide some investigation in the light of facts” (Kothari, 1988). In the process of research, a research hypothesis is quite often a predictive statement, which is capable of being tested using scientific methods that involve independent and some dependent variables. After an extensive literature survey, researcher should state in clear terms the working hypothesis or hypotheses. The working hypothesis is a tentative assumption made during the process of research, to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences A working hypothesis arise as a result of a-priori thinking about the subject, examination of the available data and material including related studies, and the counsel of experts and interested parties. As such how research hypotheses are developed during the process of research is particularly important since they provide the focal point for research. They also affect how tests must be conducted in the analysis of data and indirectly the quality of data that is required for the analysis. In most types of research, the development of a working hypothesis plays an important role. The role of the hypothesis in the process of research is to guide the researcher by delimiting the area of research and to keep him on the right track. It sharpens the researcher’s thinking and focuses attention on the more important facets of the problem. It also indicates the type of data required and the type of methods of data analysis to be used. In the process of research,

 the hypothesis should be very specific and limited to the piece of research in hand because it has to be tested.

Developing working hypotheses

(a) Discussions with colleagues and experts about the problem, its origin, and the objectives in

seeking a solution;

(b) Examination of data and records, if available, concerning the problem for possible trends,

peculiarities and other clues;

(c) Review of similar studies in the area of the studies on similar problems in the important step of the process of research; and

(d) Exploratory personal investigation which involves original field interviews on a limited scale

with interested parties and individuals to secure greater insight into the practical

aspects of the problem.

4. Preparing the research design:

A research design is the arrangement of conditions for the collection and analysis of data in a manner that aims to combine relevance to the research purpose with economy in procedure. The research design is the conceptual structure within which research is conducted. In the process of research, it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data (Selltiz et al, 1962). Thus, the research design provides an outline of what the researcher is going to do in terms of framing the hypothesis, its operational implications, and the final data analysis. Specifically, the research design highlights decisions which include: The research problem having been formulated in clear cut terms, the researcher will be required to prepare a research design concerned to the process of research, i.e., he will have to state the conceptual structure within which research would be conducted. The preparation of such a design facilitates research to be as efficient as possible yielding maximal information. In other words, the function of research design in the process of research is to provide for the collection of relevant evidence with minimal expenditure of effort, time, and money. But how all these can be achieved depends mainly on the research purpose.

Characteristics of A Good Research Design:

Understanding the Process of Research

A good research design often possesses the qualities of being flexible, suitable, efficient, economical, and so on. Generally, a research design that minimizes bias and maximizes the reliability of the data collected and analyzed during the process of research is considered a good design (Kothari 1988). A research design that does not allow even the smallest experimental error in the process of research, is said to be the best design for investigation. Further, a research design in the process of research that yields maximum information and provides an opportunity of viewing the various dimensions of a research problem is considered to be the most appropriate and efficient design. Thus, the question of a good design in the process of research relates to the purpose or objective and nature of the research problem studied. While a research design may be good, it may not be equally suitable for all studies. In other words, it may be lacking in one aspect or the other in the case of some other research problems faced during the process of research. Therefore, no single research design can be applied to all types of research problems.

3. Development of hypotheses:

“Hypothesis may be defined as a proposition or a set of propositions set forth as an explanation for the occurrence of some specified group of phenomena either asserted merely as a provisional conjecture to guide some investigation in the light of facts” (Kothari, 1988). In the process of research, a research hypothesis is quite often a predictive statement, which is capable of being tested using scientific methods that involve independent and some dependent variables. After an extensive literature survey, researcher should state in clear terms the working hypothesis or hypotheses. The working hypothesis is a tentative assumption made during the process of research, to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences A working hypothesis arise as a result of a-priori thinking about the subject, examination of the available data and material including related studies, and the counsel of experts and interested parties. As such how research hypotheses are developed during the process of research is particularly important since they provide the focal point for research. They also affect how tests must be conducted in the analysis of data and indirectly the quality of data that is required for the analysis. In most types of research, the development of a working hypothesis plays an important role. The role of the hypothesis in the process of research is to guide the researcher by delimiting the area of research and to keep him on the right track. It sharpens the researcher’s thinking and focuses attention on the more important facets of the problem. It also indicates the type of data required and the type of methods of data analysis to be used. In the process of research,

 the hypothesis should be very specific and limited to the piece of research in hand because it has to be tested.

Developing working hypotheses

(a) Discussions with colleagues and experts about the problem, its origin, and the objectives in

seeking a solution;

(b) Examination of data and records, if available, concerning the problem for possible trends,

peculiarities and other clues;

(c) Review of similar studies in the area of the studies on similar problems in the important step of the process of research; and

(d) Exploratory personal investigation which involves original field interviews on a limited scale

with interested parties and individuals to secure greater insight into the practical

aspects of the problem.

4. Preparing the research design:

A research design is the arrangement of conditions for the collection and analysis of data in a manner that aims to combine relevance to the research purpose with economy in procedure. The research design is the conceptual structure within which research is conducted. In the process of research, it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data (Selltiz et al, 1962). Thus, the research design provides an outline of what the researcher is going to do in terms of framing the hypothesis, its operational implications, and the final data analysis. Specifically, the research design highlights decisions which include: The research problem having been formulated in clear cut terms, the researcher will be required to prepare a research design concerned to the process of research, i.e., he will have to state the conceptual structure within which research would be conducted. The preparation of such a design facilitates research to be as efficient as possible yielding maximal information. In other words, the function of research design in the process of research is to provide for the collection of relevant evidence with minimal expenditure of effort, time, and money. But how all these can be achieved depends mainly on the research purpose.

Characteristics of A Good Research Design:

Understanding the Process of Research

A good research design often possesses the qualities of being flexible, suitable, efficient, economical, and so on. Generally, a research design that minimizes bias and maximizes the reliability of the data collected and analyzed during the process of research is considered a good design (Kothari 1988). A research design that does not allow even the smallest experimental error in the process of research, is said to be the best design for investigation. Further, a research design in the process of research that yields maximum information and provides an opportunity of viewing the various dimensions of a research problem is considered to be the most appropriate and efficient design. Thus, the question of a good design in the process of research relates to the purpose or objective and nature of the research problem studied. While a research design may be good, it may not be equally suitable for all studies. In other words, it may be lacking in one aspect or the other in the case of some other research problems faced during the process of research. Therefore, no single research design can be applied to all types of research problems.

 

Research purposes may be grouped into three categories, viz.,

A. Exploratory Research Design:

The Exploratory Research Design is known as formulative research design. The main objective of using such a research design in the process of research design is to formulate a research problem for an in-depth or more precise investigation, or for developing a working hypothesis from an operational aspect. The major purpose of such studies, in the process of research, is the discovery of ideas and insights. Therefore, such a research design suitable for such a study should be flexible enough to provide an opportunity for considering different dimensions of the problem under study. The in-built flexibility in research design is required as the initial research problem would be transformed into a more precise one in the exploratory study, which in turn may necessitate changes in the research procedure for collecting relevant data. Usually, the following three methods are considered in the context of a research design for such studies during the process of research. They are (a) a survey of related literature; (b) experience survey; and (c) analysis of ‘insight-stimulating’ instances.

B. Descriptive and Diagnostic Research Design:

Understanding the Process of Research

A Descriptive Research Design is concerned with describing the characteristics of a particular individual or a group, during the process of research. Meanwhile, a diagnostic research design determines the frequency with which a variable occurs or its relationship with another variable. In other words, the study analyzing whether a certain variable is associated with another comprises a diagnostic research study. On the other hand, a study that is concerned with specific predictions or with the narration of facts and characteristics related to an individual, group or situation, are instances of descriptive research studies done in the process of research. Generally, most of the social research design falls under this category. Specifically, the research design highlights decisions which include:

1. The nature of the study

2. The purpose of the study

3. The location where the study would be conducted

4. The nature of data required

5. From where the required data can be collected

6. What period the study would cover

7. The type of sample design that would be used

8. The techniques of data collection that would be used during the process of research

9. The methods of data analysis that would be adopted and

10. How the report would be prepared

The preparation of the research design during the process of research, appropriate for a particular research problem, involves

usually the consideration of the following:

(i) the means of obtaining the information;

(ii) the availability and skills of the researcher and his staff (if any);

(iii) explanation of how selected means of obtaining information will be organized

and the reasoning leading to the selection;

(iv) the time available for research; and

(v) the cost factor relating to research, i.e., the finance available for the purpose.

C. Experimental or Hypothesis-Testing Research Design:

A blueprint of the procedure that enables the researcher to test his hypothesis prepared in the process of research by reaching valid conclusions about relationships between independent and dependent variables. It refers to the conceptual framework within which the experiment is conducted. Hypothesis-Testing Research Designs are those in which the researcher tests the hypothesis of a causal relationship between two or more variables in the process of research. These studies require procedures in the process of research, that would not only decrease bias and enhance reliability, but also facilitate deriving inferences about the causality. Generally, experiments satisfy such requirements. Hence, when research design is discussed in such studies, it often refers to the design of experiments.

 

5. Determining sample design:

A sample design in the process of research is a definite plan determined before any data are collected for obtaining a sample from a given population . All the items under consideration in any field of inquiry constitute a ‘universe’ or ‘population’. A complete enumeration of all the items in the ‘population’ is known as a census inquiry. Census inquiry is not possible in practice under any circumstances. For instance, blood testing is done only on a sample basis. Hence only a few items from the universe for our study purposes. The items so selected constitute what is technically called a sample. The researcher must decide the way of selecting a sample in the process of research, of what is popularly known as the sample design. Thus, the plan to select 12 of the city’s 200 drugstores in a certain way constitutes a sample design.

6. Collecting the data:

In dealing with any real-life problem it is often found that data at hand are inadequate, and hence, it becomes necessary to collect appropriate data. There are several ways of collecting the appropriate data in the process of research, which differ considerably in the context of money costs, time, and other resources at the disposal of the researcher. Primary data can be collected either through experiments or through surveys in the process of research. If the researcher examines the truth contained in his hypothesis. But in the case of a survey, data can be collected in any one or more of the following ways:

(i) By observation: This method is the process of research that implies the collection of information by way of the investigator’s observation, without interviewing the respondents. The information obtained relates to what is currently happening and is not complicated by either the past behavior or future intentions or attitudes of respondents. This method is no doubt expensive and the information provided by this method is also very limited. As such this method is not suitable in inquiries where large samples are concerned.

(ii) Through personal interview: In the process of research, the investigator follows a rigid procedure and seeks answers to a set of pre-conceived questions through personal interviews. This method of collecting data is usually carried out in a structured way where output depends upon the ability of the interviewer to a large extent.

(iii) Through telephone interviews: This method of collecting information, in the process of research,  involves contacting the respondents on the telephone itself. This is not a very widely used method but it plays an important role in industrial surveys in developed regions, particularly, when the survey has to be accomplished in a very limited time.

(iv) By mailing of questionnaires: The researcher and the respondents do come in contact with each other if this method of survey is adopted. In the process of research, questionnaires are mailed to the respondents with a request to return after completing the same. It is the most extensively used method in various economic and business surveys done during the process of research. Before applying this method, usually, a Pilot Study for testing the questionnaire is conducted which reveals the weaknesses, if any, of the questionnaire. The questionnaire to be used must be prepared very carefully so that it may prove to be effective in collecting the relevant information.

(v) Through schedules: Under this method adopted during the process of research, the enumerators are appointed and given training. They are provided with schedules containing relevant questions. These enumerators go to respondents with these schedules. Data are collected by filling up the schedules by enumerators based on replies given by respondents. Much depends upon the capability of enumerators so far as this method is concerned. Some occasional field checks on the work of the enumerators may ensure sincere work. The researcher should select one of these methods, during the process of research, of collecting the data taking into consideration the nature of the investigation, objective and scope of the inquiry, financial resources, available time, and the desired degree of accuracy. Though he should pay attention to all these factors but much depends upon the ability and experience of the researcher. In this context, Dr. A.L.Bowley very aptly remarks that in the collection of statistical data commonsense is the chief requisite and experience of the chief teacher.

7. Execution of the project:

Execution of the project is a very important step in the process of research. If the execution of the project proceeds on the correct lines, the data to be collected in the process of research would be adequate and dependable. The researcher should see that the project is executed in a systematic manner and in time. If the survey in the process of research is to be conducted using structured questionnaires, data can be readily machine-processed. In such a situation, questions, as well as the possible answers, may be coded. If the data are to be collected through interviewers, arrangements should be made for proper selection and training of the interviewers. The training may be given with the help of instruction manuals which explain clearly the job of the interviewers at each step. Occasional field checks should be made to ensure that the interviewers are doing their assigned job sincerely and efficiently. During the process of research, a careful watch should be kept for unanticipated factors to keep the survey as much realistic as possible. This, in other words, means that steps should be taken to ensure that the survey is under statistical control so that the collected information is by the pre-defined standard of accuracy. If some of the respondents do not cooperate, some suitable methods should be designed to tackle this problem. One method of dealing with the non-response problem in the process of research is to make a list of the non-respondents and take a small sub-sample of them, and then with the help of experts, vigorous efforts can be made for securing response.

 

8. Analysis of data:

After the data have been collected in the process of research, the researcher turns to the task of analyzing them during the process of research. The analysis of data requires several closely related operations such as the establishment of categories, the application of these categories to raw data through coding, tabulation, and then drawing statistical inferences.

·         Coding operation is usually done at this stage through which the categories of data are transformed into symbols that may be tabulated and counted. Editing is the procedure that improves the quality of the data for coding.

·         Tabulation is a part of the technical procedure in the process of research wherein the classified data are put in the form of tables. The mechanical devices can be made use of at this juncture. A great deal of data, especially in large inquiries, is tabulated by computers. Computers not only save time but also make it possible to study a large number of variables affecting a problem simultaneously.

·         Analysis work after tabulation is generally based on the computation of various percentages, coefficients, etc., by applying various well-defined statistical formulae. In the process of research, analysis, relationships or differences supporting or conflicting with original or new hypotheses should be subjected to tests of significance to determine with what validity data can be said to indicate any conclusion(s).

9. Hypothesis-testing:

After analyzing the data in the process of research, the researcher is in a position to test the hypotheses, if any, he had formulated earlier. Do the facts support the hypotheses or do they happen to be contrary? This is the usual question that should be answered while testing hypotheses. Various tests used in the process of research, such as the Chi-square test, t-test, F-test, have been developed by statisticians for this purpose. The hypotheses may be tested through the use of one or more of such tests, depending upon the nature and object of research inquiry. In the process of research, Hypothesis-testing will result in either accepting the hypothesis or in rejecting it. If the researcher had no hypotheses to start with, generalizations established based on data may be stated as hypotheses to be tested by subsequent researchers in times to come.

10. Generalizations and interpretation:

If a hypothesis is tested and upheld several times, it may be possible for the researcher to arrive at a generalization, i.e., to build a theory. The real value of the process of research lies in its ability to arrive at certain generalizations. If the researcher had no hypothesis to start with, he might seek to explain his findings based on some theory. It is known as interpretation. The process of interpretation in the process of research may quite often trigger off new questions which in turn may lead to further researches.

11. Preparation of the report or the thesis:

Finally, the researcher has to prepare a report of what has been done by him. Writing of report of the process of research must be done with great care keeping in view the following:

1. The layout of the report should be as follows: (i) the preliminary pages; (ii) the main text,

and (iii) the end matter. In its preliminary pages, the report should carry title and date followed by

acknowledgments and foreword. Then there should be a table of contents followed by a list of tables and a list of graphs and charts, if any, given in the report.

The main text of the report prepared during the process of research, should have the following parts:

(a) Introduction: It should contain a clear statement of the objective of the complete process of research and an explanation of the methodology adopted in accomplishing the research. The scope of the study along with various limitations should as well be stated in this part.

(b) Summary of findings: After the introduction, there would appear a statement of findings and recommendations in non-technical language. If the findings of the process of research are extensive, they should be summarized.

(c) Main report: The main body of the report should be presented in a logical sequence and broken down into readily identifiable sections.

(d) Conclusion: Towards the end of the main text, the researcher should again put down the results of the process of research clearly and precisely. It is the final summing up. At the end of the report, appendices should be enlisted in respect of all technical data. Bibliography, i.e., list of books, journals, reports, etc., consulted, should also be given in the end. The index should also be given especially in a published research report.