Friday, February 27, 2015

Research Method

by Antonio C. Antonio
February 14, 2015

Our thirst for knowledge is never-ending.  Although the fundamentals of learning are provided by educational institutions, post-graduate life, when and where other concerns (such as the pursuit of a career) come into play, some measure could still be done to gather additional knowledge.  Research is the answer to our quest for additional knowledge.

There seems to be several research methods available to a researcher. To mention the more popular ones: (1) Descriptive Research which is used to describe characteristics of a population or phenomenon being studied and it does not answer questions about “how”, “when” and “why” the characteristics occurred; (2) Normative Research which differs from descriptive studies because the target is not only to gather facts but also to point out in which respects the object of study can be improved.  Usually, the project even includes planning an approach for carrying out the necessary improvements; (3) Qualitative Research (also called a Ethnography) which is primarily an exploratory research.  It is used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations.  It provides insights into the problem or helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research; (4) Quantitative Research which is conducted to explain a phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analyzed using mathematically based methods; (5) Case Study which is a process or record of research in which detailed consideration is given to the development of a particular person, group, or situation over a period of time; or a particular instance of something used or analyzed in order to illustrate a thesis or a principle; (6) Correlational Research which is an important form of educational and psychological research.  Some knowledge of correlational methods is important for both the consumption and conduct of research; (7) Regressional Analysis which is a statistical process for estimating the relationships among values.  It includes many techniques for modelling and analyzing several variables, when the focus is on the relationship between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables; (8) Experimental Research which is a test under controlled conditions that is made to demonstrate a known truth, examine the validity of a hypothesis, or determine the efficacy of something previously untried; and, (9) Meta-Analysis which is a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies.  Meta-analysis is done by combining data from two or more randomized control trials.

From these seemingly intertwined and confusing research methods, four main research approaches can be identified and recommended for common application.  These are:

QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH - Quantitative research is commonly associated with the positivist and post-positivist paradigm.  It usually involves collecting and converting data into numerical form so that statistical calculations can be made and conclusions can be drawn.

QUALITATIVE RESEARCH – Qualitative research is the approach usually associated with the social constructivist paradigm which emphasizes the socially constructed nature of reality.  It is about recording, analyzing and attempting to uncover the deeper meaning and significance of human behaviour and experience, including contradictory beliefs, behaviours and emotions.  Researchers using this approach are interested in gaining a rich and and complex understanding of people’s experience and not in obtaining information which can be generalized to other larger groups.

PRAGMATIC APPROACH TO RESEARCH – This is commonly referred to as the “mixed approach”.  The pragmatic approach to science involves using the method which appears best suited to the research problem and not getting caught up in philosophical debates about which is the best approach.  Pragmatic researches, therefore, grant themselves the freedom to use any of the methods, techniques and procedure typically associated with quantitative or qualitative research.  They recognize that every method has its limitations and that the different approaches can be complementary.  Their mixed used, therefore, finds meaningful use if and when one or another approach cannot ideally work in bringing about an accurate research conclusion.

ADVOCACY/PARTICIPATORY APPROACH TO RESEARCH – This approach is also known as “emancipatory research”. To some degree, researchers adopting the advocacy/participatory approach feel that some of the approaches do not respond to the needs or situation of people from marginalized or vulnerable groups.  As researchers aim to bring about positive change in the lives of the research subjects, their approach is sometimes described as emancipator.

With all the different research approaches available, the researcher will surely be hard-pressed in deciding which method to use.  A clear understanding of the characteristics of these research approaches is critical in making a choice.  Research takes time and time available to an individual researcher will be the best parameter.  All these research methods and approaches are effective and accurate.  So, therefore, it’s really an individual choice in the adoption of a research method.

Just my little thoughts…

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