Foundations of Scholarship: Sundry Insights and Reflections
Research is the backbone of any field of science – hard or soft sciences. It is a scientific means of gaining knowledge about the subject. Scientific method of research is a conglomerate of both inductive and deductive forms of reasoning about the topic present in a piece of work. Research method demands different set of skills and opens the door for great challenges (Bowen 218). For Burns & Grove (49), the Research Design is the blueprint that outlines the approach to the study. The research design is created mainly to maximize control over factors that could hamper the expected outcome of the research. The research design holds the research projects together like glue. The design shows the structure of the research: the methods, the samples, the variables, and the analysis, that all work together to address the central questions of the research (Trochim, 2006, “Design”). As such, the research design is the foundation behind any research work and can either validate or invalidate the results, depending on the conceptualization of the design. The research design can make or break a good research project. A good research design is a strong determinant of the success of a research project, and will ultimately give justification for the end-results. Is there rule of thumb in choosing the research design? The choice of a research design depends on the feasibility. The best way the success of the research can be assured is by having some control mechanisms among the confounding variables, with the purpose of reducing errors in the assumptions (Heffner, 2004, ch. 5).
Research methods may be one of the things that cannot be easily learned from books. There needs to be interaction with other people from where they can learn. Original research is an aggregate of understanding the issue, reading previous papers about the issue (what others had to say), how do other people’s pieces relate to how you understand the issue, what can you contribute to the previous literature, and how you relay your current findings to the research community. Essentially, literature review is done through consultation with others’ works that might be relevant to the problem in question. Information that could facilitate the research process might already be available. This is the case where conducting the literature review would shorten the research duration and this is beneficial for the researcher. Another important aftermath of literature review is the identification of gaps in past, relevant research studies, so that the current research would know how to augment those gaps and, consequently, avoid the pitfalls of the previous research works. Journal articles, books, conference proceedings, government and corporate reports, newspapers, Internet, and magazines are the sources one can refer to in doing the literature review. Research method necessitates literature review for the purpose of understanding and investigating a research problem. In the course of doing so, there are two simultaneous things being done.
1) Refinement and detailed explanation of the research problem through the identification of gaps, questioning, and continuing previous research works.
2) All relevant sources to the research problem are consulted and reviewed (Asian Institute of Technology Language Center, “How can I write a good Literature Review”).
With the help of literature review, there is focus on the relevant information and control or limit in the area covered by the research, thereby limiting or reducing non-essential factors that would invalidate the result. Likewise, it could help the researchers come up with a sound research design and better conceptualization of how the research should be conducted. This can be made possible by drawing on the different methods used by previous researches.
Leedy (71) states that the literature review serves several purposes in a research work. The main purpose is it providing assistance in attacking the research problem. Literature review preps the researcher with deeper and holistic insight and more complete knowledge to tackle the problem being investigated. As emphasized in Tuckman (44), looking into relevant studies helps uncover ideas about variables in the study that could have significant or insignificant effect to the study, as well as information about work that may be explored or applied.
It is imperative for a scholar to understand the standard research methods to grasp the wide range social science topics (individuals, groups, societies, nations, and how these entities interact). The biggest challenge in scholarly research, as it requires great deal of thinking, is how to learn and carry out a research project. Depending on how one understands the research topic, the person has to contemplate on lots of issues and problems. The gamut of issues and problems extend from ethical dilemmas to collation of appropriate evidence to support every claim in the research. – (Batto, pars. 3-4).
There are qualitative and quantitative approaches in research; distinguished mainly by the type of data they operate. The more common flow is to follow the qualitative approach, although, quantitative data are gathered to be used as supporting documents. The qualitative part usually considers the statistical proof, whenever appropriate, to underpin some objective statements in the research work. It is important to appreciate the power of numbers and the significance of precision. The strength of qualitative research dwells on the fact that it yields data to promote understanding of the phenomena. The purpose of the qualitative research is to come up with a theory or to refine an existing concept. The most common qualitative research methods include interviews, observation, and reading relevant documents. From an ethical view, qualitative research is more prone risks than quantitative one, as qualitative researchers often get personally involved in the lives of the respondents or human subjects This is in addition to the fact that qualitative researches are filled with personal opinions (Bowen, 216-217). According to Burns & Grove, Quantitative Research, on the other hand, is “a formal, objective, systematic process in which numerical data are utilized to obtain information about the world” (as cited by Cormack, 1991, 140). The primary purpose of quantitative type of research is to determine relationships between variables in a given population (Hopkins, pars. 2-3). In this type of research, the researcher mainly relies on statistical data to quantify the relationship between two or more variables. To summarize, qualitative research involves analysis of data such as words, pictures, and objects; while quantitative research deals with the analysis of numerical data (Neill, pars. 5-6).
There had been various disputes as to which between quantitative and qualitative methods is superior and more accurate. According to one researcher, Donald Campbell, “All research ultimately has a qualitative grounding.” Another researcher, Fred Kerlinger, counters: “There’s no such thing as qualitative data. Everything is either 1 or 0,” (as quoted from Miles & Huberman (40)). However, both of these methods can actually be used in conjunction with each other (Barnes et al., pars. 5-6, “Qualitative vs. Quantitative Debate”).
Qualitative research goes with the following objectives: 1) to understand the underlying reasons and motives, 2) to provide insights about the problem so that ideas and hypotheses can be generated for later quantitative research, and 3) to uncover prevalent trends in thought and opinion (Snap Surveys, Ltd., par. 4).
Experimental Research makes use of highly controlled procedures in ensuring that the observed changes in the dependent variable are brought about by the manipulations of the researcher. All scientific disciplines follow this method in trying to understand the laws of nature (cause-and-effect relationships) (Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction, par. 2). In this type of research, the researcher attempts to maintain the control over all variables that could possibly have an effect on the end-results of the experiment. Simply put, the researcher is in effort to predict the outcome of the experiment (Leedy, 185).
Experimental research necessitates four things to be done (Campbell & Stanley, 9-12):
1. There needs to be a hypothesis for causal relationship.
2. Presence of Control Group and Treatment/Test Group is necessary. The Control Group is composed of individuals who will not be receiving the program, thus, this group remains to be conditionally unchanged; while the program will be implemented to the individuals in the Treatment/Test Group. Individuals under the Control and the Treatment/Test groups are randomly assigned and it is a must that they are “statistically equal.” This means that despite the random nature of selection, there are still variances in the groups’ properties such as population, and economic and social standing. These variances must not be very large (Cook & Campbell, 64-65).
3. Confounding variables that might hamper the display of a causal relationship should be eliminated or reduced. A confounding variable is defined to be an unforeseen variable that may jeopardize or forsake the validity and integrity of the result of the experiment.
4. Having larger, randomized groups is necessary so that accidental differences will not have grave effect (minimal to the point of being negligible, if possible) and will not invalidate the results.
Still under the experimental design are the research methods that address their own, respective purposes, depending on the aim of the research. Although the true experimental method is considered the most accurate, it is a very rigid method, and is seldom applicable to societal research.
In true experimental research, individuals who are subjects in the research are randomly selected. In quasi-experimental, pre-existing groups, instead of individuals, are selected. This is the main difference between true experimental and quasi-experimental research (Dereshiwsky, lesson 4-1-1). Another difference is that randomization is a property inherent in true experimental research that is seen optional in quasi-experimental research. Quasi-experimental research, to a certain extent, mimics true experimental research.
The Regression Point Displacement (RPD) design plays an important role in research, especially in the case of community-based research. One dilemma we face with community-level research is that there are other factors that can come into play that could have significant effect on the experiment’s end-result. In view of mitigating this dilemma, the RPD design compares the performance of the treatment or test unit with a large set of comparison units or several control groups (Trochim, “Other Quasi-Experimental Designs”).
A variable is anything that can vary. In experimental research, there are mainly two types of variables – the independent variable and the dependent variable; wherein the independent variable serves the role of the input variable while the dependent variable plays the role of the output variable. Generally, the independent variable is manipulated to determine its effect on the dependent variable (Heffner, ch. 7.2).
In lieu of probability or random sampling, a “matching” method of sampling could be used. This is the method wherein sample groups having similar characteristics as the test group are identified and used as objects of comparison. Essentially, the other groups are not control groups, but comparison groups (Neuman & Wiegand, 213).
There is no rough rule as to what steps should be done in a research work. It varies greatly depending on the subject matter. Thus, the topic and the objective of the research dictate the methodology. Generally, a research paper should possess the clear thesis statement, clear justification of the research question, detailed proof to support the qualitative and quantitative claims of the paper, and result of the study. The discussion of the result should be as objective and accurate as possible. In case there are survey questions, the pattern of how the respondents give answers should be noted. First step is to read and read and read everything the researcher can about the topic. Like a debater, the researcher needs to know the ins and outs of the issue to be able to defend the post better and win the battle (Bowen, 217). In the course of reading, it is important to have keen eyes to pin point the strengths and weaknesses of each research material. It is important to answer how the author of the previous study gathered and analyzed the data for him to elicit the conclusion. In the literature review, it is important to note that this should not be a simple recital of previous studies about the topic. Rather, it is the foundation of the paper that should point out the highlights of others’ studies related to yours. How one coincides with the other, how others tried to answer the questions about the topic, or how others’ studies go against the findings of all the other (Heffner, pars. 2-3).
Research offers various means on how information can be gathered. There are various types of research. One is the single research study, which is considered to be a design of choice when doing behavioral change or modification. This type of research relies on the effect of the treatment on single subject. This type requires the availability of baseline measure. It is important to have this in place before administering any treatment. Experimental design is another type. This type of research requires neutralizing any form of errors that may be present in the subjects that are naturally subjective. The conditions need to be as neutral as possible (perfection in unattainable), to avoid biases in the result. This is the rule of thumb in any experimental research – to address the issue of variable selection, sampling control, and validity of information. The statistical analysis supports or negates the theory in question. Hypothesis is the resulting statement and this is what gets tested in any research study (Heffner, par. 4).
The knowledge of research methods teaches the person how to become more skeptical (Bowen, 215). Possession of critical thinking is but a must for a researcher. Research requires open-mindedness in trying to comprehend diverse ideas. Positivistic, interpretive, and critical are the major research paradigms.
Consulting the experts in the field of research topic plays a vital role in ending up with a sound, credible research. It is important to be open to criticism and improvement as this is the best way to improve one’s work. Pieces of advice from experts are not there to spoil. These serve as guiding paths to come up with a piece that is intellectually in-depth.
It is also imperative that the one doing the research adhere with the rules set by the evaluating committees. For students, it is the regulation set by the reviewing body in the university.
There are several ethical factors needing to be considered when conducting research having humans or human behavior as subjects. It is only considered ethical to use scientific principles in the study of humans if the potential benefits exceed the potential harm, and if the potential harm has been minimized (Mitchell & Joley, ch. 2). For studies the engage human subjects, it is vital to acquire the needed consent prior to mentioning them in the study. If there is no need to mention specifics about the person subject, avoid any particular mention. As consideration to some ethical factors, it is important to brief the subject or respondents about the issue to let them gauge the willingness to participate or so. Confidentiality of information is a must. Assuring confidentiality gives the respondents peace of mind that divulgence of their sensitive inputs is not likely to happen. Some ethical questions might be raised like why the program is administered only to one sector and not to the others, etcetera. This will appear to be a denial of benefits for other sectors (if the program is seen to promote some benefits to the subjects). It should be kept in mind, however, that the choice of the test sector was random and in the event the program proves to employ some benefits, it will be administered to all the other sectors, as well – whether they were used as subjects or not.
In my own introspection, it is helpful to encourage the participants in the study to have their own stories told and have them reflect on the daily experiences of their lives. One will be surprised to know just how these reflections can be transformed into qualitative data for his research.
Unless one appreciates what it takes to do some scientific and methodological research, it will always be a lonely and tiring journey to do a research. Further, as one does his own research, he will have better appreciation of how important it is to make one’s work understandable. Because as you get along with reference materials that do not seem to give you a clear direction of where it is leading, it is annoying and time-consuming. Hence, it is important to put the researcher’s foot in the reader’s shoe, to guide them as to how a research material can be made objective yet helpful to its ‘consumers’. By assuming the reader know practically nothing about the issue also helps, as it allows you to explain each and every point in the clearest way possible.
The life of a research does not start and end in a piece of paper. Rather, it is the application of results in real life. This necessitates the validity of all sources and analysis incorporated in the paper.
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