Research methodology Essay
Methodology and methods are two terms which have been used interchangeably often by scholars. The practice is unfortunate because they are not the same. The former refers to philosophy and the latter refers to technical procedures applied to conduct research. The word methodology comprises two nouns: method and ology, which means a branch of knowledge; hence, methodology is a branch of knowledge that deals with the general principles or axioms of the generation of new knowledge. It refers to the rationale and the philosophical assumptions that underlie any natural, social or human science study, whether articulated or not. Simply put, methodology refers to how each of logic, reality, values and what counts as knowledge inform research.
On the other hand, methods are the techniques and procedures followed to conduct research, and are determined by the methodology (i.e. sampling, data collection, data analysis and results reporting, as well as theories, conceptual frameworks, taxonomies and models). Even the focus and intent of the research, and the actual research questions themselves, are shaped by the methodology (McGregor, 2010). In methodology we study the various steps that are generally adopted by a researcher in studying his research problem along with the logic behind them. It is necessary for the researcher to know not only the research methods/techniques but also methodology. (Kothari, 2004).
The following are the systematic analysis of the principles of methods, rules, and postulates employed in research which define methodology: 1. Formulating the Research Problem
The definition of research question is the most important step when undertaking any research as they give direction to the research method applied (Yin, 2003). Sebastian et al, (2011) explains that it requires an open mind while framing the research question. At the same time the researcher is required to familiarize with potential research methods and build awareness of their requirements. A researcher must examine all available literature to get himself acquainted with the selected problem.
2. Literature Review
A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period. Comprehensive knowledge of the literature of the field is essential to most research papers. Literature reviews provide you with a handy guide to a particular topic and can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone. They also provide a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. Depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant (The Writing Center, 2010-2013). For purposes of literature review abstracting and indexing journals,conference proceedings, government reports, books etc must be tapped depending on the nature of the problem.
3. Developing a Working Hypothesis
Hypothesis is a statement of the predicted relationship between two or more variables. As a reseracher you do not know about a phenomenon but you do have a hunch(theory) to form the basis of certain assumption or guesses. You test these by collecting information that will enable you to conclude if your hunch was right. The verification process have one of the three ouytcomes, right, partially right and wrong. Without this process of verification, you cannot conclude anything about the validity of your assumptions. Hence hypotheses is a hunch, assumption, suspicion, assertion or an idea about a phenomenon, relationship or situation, the reality or truth of which you do not know. These hypotheses form the basis for enquiry (Slideshare, 2013).
4. Preparing Rearch Design Research design is the arrangement of conditions for collection and analysis of data in a particular manner that aims to combine relevance to the research purpose with economy in procedure (Slideshare, 2013). In order to develop a complete research design it is valuable to understand the nature of the point from philosophical point of view. Failure to think through philosophical issues can seriouly affect the quality of management resesearch (Eaterby-Smith et al, 2008). The steps involved in research design according to (Umesh) are: a) The means of obtaining the information
b) The availability and skills of the researcher and his staff (if any) c) Explanation of the way in which selected means of obtaining information will be organized and the reasoning leading to the selection. d) The time available for research
e) The cost factor relating to research i.e. the finance available for the purpose
5. Determining Sample Design Sample design is a definite plan determined before any data are actually collected for obtaining a sample from a given population. The sample design to be used must be decided by the researcher taking into consideration the nature of the inquiry and other related factors. According to Statistics and Probability Dictionary, (2013) a sample design is made up of two elements: 1. Sampling method. Sampling method refers to the rules and procedures by which some elements of the population are included in the sample.
Some of the common sample methods used are simple random sampling, stratified sampling and cluster sampling. 2. Estimator. The estimation process for calculating sample statistics is called the estimator. Different sampling methods may use different estimators. For example, the formula for computing a mean score with a simple random sample is different from the formula for computing a mean score with a stratified sample. The “best” sample design depends on survey objectives and on survey resources.
6. Data Collection
According to Basic Tools for Process Improvement, Data Collection, (1998-2013) data collection is obtaining useful information on key quality characteristics produced by your process. Data Collection enables a team to formulate and test working assumptions about a process and develop information that will lead to the improvement of the key quality characteristics of the product or service. In summary, data collection helps to establish a factual basis to making a decision. For one to collect data uniformly, you will need to develop a data collection plan.
The data collection plan developed should answer the following question: 1. Why do we want the data? What will we do with the data after we have collected them? You must decide on a purpose for collecting the data 2. Where will we collect data? The location where data are collected must be identified clearly. 3. What type of data will we collect? In general, data can be classified into two major types: attribute data and variables data 4. Who will collect the data? Those closest to the data, the process workers, should collect the data 5. How do we collect the right data? Collect data that best describe the situation at hand.
7. Data analysis
Eisenhardt, (1989) explains that analysis is an interactive process started with the development and presentation of an initial set of theoretical propositions based on evidence from the first phase of data collection, during field work and the theoretical assumptions associated with the theoretical framework. According to Kothari, (2004) the term analysis refers to the computation of certain measures along with searching for patterns of relationships that exist among data-groups. Thus ‘in the process of analysis, relationships or differences supporting or conflicting with original or new hypotheses should be subjected to statistical tests of significance to determine with what validity data can be said to indicate any conclusions.
The process operations in data analysis are: a. Editing: it is a process of examining the collected raw data to detect errors and ommsisions and to correct these where possible. b. Coding: it refers to the process of assigning numerals or other symbols to answers so that responses cab be put into a limited number of categories or classes. c. Classification: it is the process of arranging data in groups or classes on the basis of common characteristics. d. Tabulation: it is to arrange data in some kind of concise and logical order.
8. Hypothesis Testing
Hypothesis testing refers to the formal procedures used by statisticians to accept or reject statistical hypotheses (What is Hypothesis Testing, 2013). Statisticians follow a formal process to determine whether to reject a null hypothesis, based on sample data (Statistics and Probability Dictionary, 2013). This process is called hypothesis testing. An hypothesis test consists of four steps. a) Formulate the hypotheses. This involves stating the null and alternative hypotheses. The hypotheses are stated in such a way that they are mutually exclusive.
That is, if one is true, the other must be false; and vice versa. b) Identify the test statistic. This involves specifying the statistics (e.g., a mean score, proportion) that will be used to assess the validity of the null hypothesis. c) Formulate a decision rule. A decision rule is a procedure that the researcher uses to decide whether to reject the null hypothesis. d) Test the null hypothesis. Use the decision rule to evaluate the test statistic. If the statistic is consistent with the null hypothesis, you cannot reject the null hypothesis; otherwise, reject the null hypothesis.
Interpretation refers to the task of drawing inferences from the collected facts after an analytical and/or experimental study (Kothari, 2004). The task of interpretation has two major aspects viz., (i) the effort to establish continuity in research through linking the results of a given study with those of another, and (ii) the establishment of some explanatory concepts. Interpretation is considered a basic component of research process because of the following: a) It is through interpretation that the researcher can well understand the abstract principle that works beneath his findings.
Through this he can link up his findings with those of other studies, having the same abstract principle, and thereby can predict about the concrete world of events. Fresh enquiries can test these predictions later on. This way the continuity in research can be maintained. b) Interpretation leads to the establishment of explanatory concepts that can serve as a guide for future research studies c) Researcher can better appreciate only through interpretation why his findings are what they are and can make others to understand the real significance of his research findings. d) The interpretation of the findings of exploratory research study often results into hypotheses for experimental research and as suich interpretation is involved in the transition from exploratory to experimental research. 10. Report Writing
Features of Good report, (2013) defines a report as a piece of informative writing that describes a set of actions and analyses any results in response to a specific brief. A quick definition might be: “This is what I did and this is what it means.” Kothari, (2004) outlines the following as different steps in writing a report: a. Logical analysis of the subject matter: thre are two ways in which to develop a subject (i) logically and (ii) chronologically. The logical development is made on the basis of mental connections and associations between the one thing and another by means of analysis. It contains materials from the simple possible to the most complex structures. Chronological development is based on a connection or sequence in time or occurrence, the directions for doing or making follow the chronological order. b. Preparation of the final outcome: outlines are the framework upon which long written works are constructed.
They are and aid to the logical organisation of the material and a reminder of the points to be stressed in the report c. Preparation of the rough draft: the researcher writes down what he has done in the context of his study. He will write down the procedure adopted by him in collecting the material for his study along with limitations faced, the technique of analysis adopted, the broad findings and generalizations and the various suggestions he wants to offer regarding the problem concerned. d. Rewriting and polishing the rough draft: while rewriting and polishing, one should check the report for weaknesses in logical development or presentation.
He should also see whether the material presented as it is presented , has unity and cohesion. In addition the researcher should give due attention to the fact that in his rough draft if he has been consistent or not. He should check the mechanics of writing-grammar, spelling and usage. e. Preparation of the final bibliography: the bibliography , should contain all the works which the researcher has consulted. f. Writing the final draft: while writing the final draft, the researcher must avoid abstract terminology and technical jargon. Illiustrations and examples based on common experiences must be incorporated in the final draft as they happen to be most in communicating the research findings to others.
The format suggested below is the same as that used in most published papers as laid down in Guide to Writing Research Reports, (2013). 1) Title: The title should provide a single line description of the study. In many cases, the title will mention the independent and dependent variables. Your title should be a brief, but accurate reflection of the content of the report 2) Abstract: The abstract is a short summary of the report. It should contain a brief description of the rationale and of the method, results and discussion sections. It should be a comprehensive but concise summary of the whole report which will enable readers to decide if they wish to read any further.
A useful rule of thumb is to try to write four concise sentences describing: (1) Why you did it, (2) What you did, (3) What results you found and (4) What you concluded. Write the abstract after you have written the rest of the report. 3) Introduction (Why you did it): The Introduction should present the reasoning behind the particular study which you are describing. This means that the reader, having read the introduction, should feel able to anticipate what your study will involve and should allow someone who is not an expert to understand why you did this study. For this reason the introduction will begin at a general background level and progress through to the specific reasons for and aims of the study. This will normally include a review of past work in the area and an explanation of the theoretical or practical reasons for doing the study. 4) Method (How you did it): In the method section, you describe the essentials of how you gathered your data.
This section must contain enough information for the reader to be able to repeat the study, but should exclude any irrelevant details. It explains about the (i) research participants, (ii) apparatus used, (iii) materials used, (iv) design and (v) procedure. 5) Results (What you found out): Begin this section with a description of how you treated your data. This means that you should describe what you got from all of the responses that were made by each participant to the scores that were analyzed. Follow the description of the treatment of the data with a clear, concise summary of the data using descriptive statistics. 6) Discussion (What you think it means): This is the section in which you interpret the results of the study and discuss their meaning. It is important that your discussion relates to the issues raised in the introduction, since this presented the reasons for conducting the study and the results should provide more details about these issues.
You should link the arguments made in this section with the issues and research hypotheses raised in your introduction section. In particular: (i) How do your results compare with your research questions and/or predictions? (ii) How do your results compare with relevant published results? (iii) What are the implications for future research? 7) References: Should contain all the works which the researcher has consulted. 8) Appendices: You should include here all material that would have been obtrusive or damaging to the ‘flow’ of the report itself, and not just use it as a bin to contain things you wished to say but could not fit into the main report. Therefore, the contents of the Appendices usually consist of raw data, statistical formulae and computations, lengthy protocols, examples of stimuli and details of stimulus preparation, etc Bibliography
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