Research Skills IT Diploma students
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Research Skills IT Diploma students

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Identifying a “research problem”

Identifying a “research problem”
Refining a research aim and objectives
Selecting a data collection method
Conducting interviews
Critical review of data collection options

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  • 1. Research skills Dr Aleksej Heinze Salford Business School University of Salford www.business.salford.ac.uk Friday 2 nd October 2009 Based on earlier work of Frances Bell, Janice Whatley and Mark Jones
  • 2. Outline
    • Identifying a “research problem”
    • Refining a research aim and objectives
    • Selecting a data collection method
    • Conducting interviews
    • Critical review of data collection options
  • 3. What is research?
    • The Oxford English Dictionary defines research as: “A search or investigation directed to the discovery of some fact by careful consideration or study of a subject; a course of critical or scientific inquiry” ( Oxford English Dictionary 1989).
    • Why do we need to develop research skills?
    • to become an independent thinking person
  • 4. Where do we start?
    • Identifying and refining a “research problem”
    • External
      • an assignment topic given to you by a teacher
      • your friend is looking for a new mobile phone
      • something you read in an article
      • assessment requirements i.e. word limits etc
      • Internal
        • You are looking for a new game console
        • You want to increase your knowledge in an area where you would like to work or have a hobby or…
  • 5. Is this a valid research problem?
    • Stopping global warming
    • Tonight’s dinner
    • Selecting the best mobile phone handset
    • Importance of context/research settings
    • Focus of the research aim:
    • Do the findings of this work help with our understanding?
  • 6. Activity
    • Working in pairs:
    • Define a “research problem” which you would like to solve
    • Share this “research problem” with your peer and decide:
      • a) whether it is of an internal or external nature … or is it both?
      • b) does it fit within the requirements of your assignment?
  • 7. Break
  • 8. What to consider before research starts
    • Research problem
    • Research aim and objective
    • Relevance
    • Cost
    • Currency
    • Timescales and deadlines
    • Convenience/accessibility
      • finding
      • re-use and referencing
    • Availability
    • Credibility/quality
  • 9. How can we conduct research?
    • “ Do” or “ borrow” ?
    • Primary sources
      • Unpublished data gathered by researcher from interviews, questionnaires, observations, etc.
    • Secondary sources
      • Materials previously published
      • Books, journal articles, web pages, reports, theses
  • 10. Information sources
    • The Web
      • sites
      • discussion groups
    • Books
    • Academic journals
    • Conference proceedings
    • Trade journals/magazines
    • Newspapers
    • Popular magazines
    • Television
    • Conversations with friends/colleagues
    • May be paper-based or electronic
  • 11. Assessing quality
    • Audience of the publication
      • academic (peer reviewed or not?)
      • trade
      • general public
    • Potential for bias
      • e.g. vendor publications
    • Publication process
      • open forum vs peer review process
    • Are articles from Wikipedia of good quality?
  • 12. Primary data
    • Collected by the researcher
    • E.g. through observation, surveys, interviews, focus groups
  • 13. What to consider before research starts
    • Research problem
    • Research aim and objective
    • Relevance
    • Cost
    • Currency
    • Timescales and deadlines
    • Convenience/accessibility
      • finding
      • re-use and referencing
    • Availability
    • Credibility/quality
  • 14. Smart Objectives
      • S pecific
      • M easurable
      • A chievable
      • R elevant
      • T imely
  • 15. Research Aim and Objectives
    • Aim – broad statement of what needs to be achieved
        • To establish the latest trends in school healthy eating
    • Objectives – to reach the aim…
    • Specific – students from secondary schools in Greater Manchester area
    • Measurable - survey of at least 100 students to be undertaken
    • Achievable - you have the necessary resources to undertake this study
    • Relevant - links with the aim and is relevant to the assessment requirements
    • Timely - to be achieved by end of Semester 2, 2010
  • 16. Activity
    • Working in pairs refine the “research problem” identified earlier and write down:
    • Research aim:
    • Research objectives:
    • S
    • M
    • A
    • R
    • T
  • 17. Break
  • 18. Interviews
    • “ An interview is a purposeful discussion between two or more people” (Saunders, et al 2007)
    • Like a verbal questionnaire
    • Can be structured, unstructured and semi-structured
    • Dangers of getting false consensus:
      • interviewee can be telling the researcher what they think she/he wants to hear
      • interviewer steers participants by asking leading questions
    • But
      • opportunity to ‘probe’ more deeply and develop a dialogue
      • possibility of revealing other areas to investigate further
  • 19. Interviews
    • What do you want to find out?
      • Views on school lunches from students.
    • Open questions
      • What do you think about the school lunches?
    • Closed questions
      • On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) rate your experience of school lunches
    • Data: interview notes, sound recording or video recording
  • 20. Interviews
    • Structured
      • You have a specific set of questions that you want answers for
      • What is your typical lunch meal?
    • Semi-structured
      • You have some vague idea of what you want to ask
      • e.g. you said that you like salad, please can you tell me more about the salads that you like?
    • Unstructured
      • You are not sure of the situation and would like to explore an issue
      • e.g.: Tell me what you think about school lunches
  • 21. Observations
    • Purposeful note taking of a certain situation/behavior
      • Observing the number of people who choose a healthy meal for their school lunch
    • You have a framework of themes or issues you are looking for and you are making notes of these
    • Data: Making notes, video recording, pictures
  • 22. Observations
    • Covert
      • the participants are not aware of your observation
      • CCTV, user website behavior …
    • Overt
      • The participants are fully aware of your presence and your activity
      • Census checking points
    • What are the drawbacks/ advantages to both?
  • 23. Activity
    • In groups of three:
    • Roles:
      • Interviewer : Decide on the research objective and three questions that you can ask of your interviewee
      • Interviewee : answer the questions of the interviewer
      • Observer : observe the way in which the questions were asked – what worked and what could be improved?
  • 24. Break
  • 25. Secondary data sources
    • Already exist and have been collected and published by other people
      • e.g. official statistics e.g. Social Trends survey, Census
      • books, journal articles, electronic journal articles etc.
      • mass media e.g. videos, newspapers
      • diaries and letters
      • company documents
  • 26. Quantitative vs Qualitative data
    • Quantitative:
      • Primarily concerned with numbers
    • Qualitative:
      • “… includes all non numeric data – words, images, sounds and so on – found in such things as interview tapes, researchers’ diaries, company documents, websites and developers’ models.” (Oates 2006)
  • 27. Questionnaires
    • Often used for surveys
    • Printed lists of questions answered either personally by the respondent or by the interviewer
    • Increasing popularity of online surveys
    • Strengths
      • relatively cheap and quick
      • comparisons can be easily made
      • free online options allow for wide geographic reach and large sample size
      • Analysis is usually much quicker and inbuilt in some of the online data collection tools
    • But…
      • cannot guarantee honesty of responses
      • possibility of interviewer influence
      • response rates often very low (about 5% - 10%)
  • 28. www.surveymonkey.com example analysis
  • 29. Research: Critical success factors:
    • Identifying and scoping a “research problem”
    • Reviewing critically existing literature
      • Establishing the latest knowledge position
      • Identifying similarities and differences
    • Justifying and designing data collection tools
    • Conducting and recording primary data collection
      • Research logbook etc
    • Analysing and discussing primary data in relation to secondary data
      • Identifying similarities and differences
    • Drawing conclusions
      • Recommendations, identifying limitations of the study and proposing further work in the area
  • 30. Practical advice
    • Students should
      • make a note of all the details needed for the reference
      • Include citations as they write the essay/report
      • Learn Harvard referencing style
    • More information here:
      • http://www.isd.salford.ac.uk/help/general/srchstrat.pdf
      • http://www.isd.salford.ac.uk/help/general/bibcit.pdf
      • http://www.palgrave.com/skills4study/studyskills/personal/research.asp
      • http://www.neilstoolbox.com/bibliography-creator/index.htm
      • http://scholar.google.co.uk/
  • 31. Summary
    • Identifying a “research problem”
    • Refining a research aim and objectives
    • Selecting a data collection method
    • Conducting interviews
    • Critical review of data collection options
  • 32. ?
  • 33. References
    • Oates, B. J. (2006). Researching Information Systems and Computing. London: Sage Publications.
    • Oxford English Dictionary, (1989), Oxford University Press, Oxford.
    • Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2007). Research methods for business students. Harlow, Essex, UK: Pearson Education.