Research is a process in which qualitative and quantitative data and information regarding a particular subject or phenomenon is systematically collected and analyzed so that the subject under study can be better understood (Brew, 2001). The function of research is to investigate a particular subject under examination, collect information about it and put it in a way that can be presented to secondary parties not involved in the study so that they too can understand it well. Due to the diversity of issues and phenomena that can be researched on, there exist various approaches to research (Brew, 2001). The choice of research method is determined by the subject under examination; for example, a research method applied in scientific subjects may not be suitable for research in social issues. In this essay, I expound on the meaning of research and various research methods applicable to various subjects.
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Science is one of the most researched subjects around. Scientific research is the study of fields like engineering, astronomy, pharmacology, physics and many others. Science is based on solid facts and the interaction of the principles derived from these facts. In as such, arguments supporting the conclusions of scientific research are based on facts and reasons (Brew, 2001). For example, the design of the internal combustion engine was based on several scientific principles. First, it had to be established as a fact that hot air expands. Second, a method was researched upon through which diesel could be compressed and then ignited in a confined space so that the resultant expansion could be used to do mechanical work. The same applies in pharmacological research. Remedies are developed and their applicability in curing or preventing infections evaluated on account of their interaction with the human immune system, first on specimens and then later on real human beings.
Research based on solid facts cannot always hold. In some cases, facts associated with a certain subject or phenomenon may be impossible to derive empirically (Brew, 2001). In such a scenario, observation is the only method of researching on the subject. The conclusions of such research can only be represented in the form of visual arguments. Visual arguments, in the conclusion sense, are conveyed in the form of images; but can still be understood and analyzed within the same framework as any other forms of arguments. An example in which visual arguments can be applied in research is the use of themed portraits to dissuade people from smoking.
Value arguments are also commonly used in research. These find wide application in the research of debate topics whereby a debater can base his or her argument on moral or ethical values he or she has in common with the audience, including the opposition. For example, a proposition can be that abortion is a crime. The speaker and his audience of course have an opinion on this topic; and these are the values that he or she can use to develop the argument. The task is to show how one’s argument falls in line with the proposition (or motion) better than that of the opposition (Brew, 2001).
The above examples of research cannot, due to the constraints of their mechanisms, be used to conduct social research. In this scenario, evaluations are the preferred method of collecting and analyzing data. Evaluation research is based a systematic and qualitative assessment of the worth or merit of the subject under examination (Brew, 2001). This is achieved through various processes like conduction of descriptive studies, analyses of implementation and formative evaluations among others. All these are aimed at generating a useful feedback about the subject under examination; which is in turn used to make useful decisions and plan interventions in organizations, communities or nations (Brew, 2001). For example, a process evaluation may be used to investigate the process through which a program or technology is delivered, identifying the efficiency of the process and any alternatives that may exist.
Research is a very important literary and scientific tool as it greatly contributes to higher levels of understanding in the society (Brew, 2001). Higher literacy levels increases the proficiency with which members of the society respond to stimuli, increasing the efficiency with which day-to-day activities are conducted. It is through research that all of the inventions that have made or lives so much easier and much more comfortable have come to be. It has contributed to the advancement of human knowledge, the expansion of language itself and increased interaction between man and nature.
Brew, A. (2001). The Nature of Research: Inquiry in Academic Contexts. London: