Research Methods 1
Research, what is it (good for)? – Lecture 1
• Who am I?
• What do I do (and how can you help)?
• What is this course about?
– Research Methods 1, 2, and Project
– Course structure
The Research Methods Semester
Semester 1 & 2
Period 1 & 4
Many ways of
Period 3 & 6
What is (good)
Period 2 & 5
(Currently incorrectly titled
‘Research Proposal Writing’ in the
The research process
Asking the right questions
Writing a research
• House rules
– Getting the book
– Using assigned literature
• Shaping this course
Topics for today
• What is research methods?
• Research methods vocabulary &
• The place of theory in research
• The role of literature in research (if we
still have time for that)
What are methods? Or, let’s take it one step back first:
WHAT IS RESEARCH?
Why Research Methods?
No really, why?
What is research?
• To create new knowledge
• Finding answers to questions (or problems)
– Posing the right questions to begin with.
– Answering those questions systematically.
What is research not (necessarily)?
• Complex, difficult, hard to do.
• Statistics, or generally done with a
• Boring (no really!)
What are Methods?
• The systematic process by which we
• Rooted in certain assumptions on
‘reality’ and ‘knowledge’ (which we’ll discuss
• Methodology vs. ‘techniques’
Basic Process of doing Research
Purpose of Research
A bit of vocabulary that we can use, and the major
Three Components of a Research
Three Approaches to Research
– Focuses on individual meanings.
– Tends to use open ended questions.
– Collects data in participant’s setting.
– Moves from particulars to general themes (inductive; we’ll get to that).
– Written report tends to be flexible in structure.
– Tests the relationships among measurable things (variables; we’ll get to
that as well).
– Tends to use closed ended questions.
– Produces numerical data.
– Uses statistical analysis of data generated.
– Tests theories deductively, final report is structured.
Mixed methods research:
– Collects and integrates both quantitative and qualitative data.
– May provide a more comprehensive analysis of a given research
Criteria for Selecting a Research
Quantitative approach is best when:
– Testing causal relationships (factor/s that influence a particular
– Evaluating the usefulness or successes of an intervention.
– Establishing which factors best predict an outcome.
– Testing theories or explanations.
Qualitative approach is best when:
– The Researcher is uncertain about which are the most important
variables to be examined.
– If the topic is new, sample population is unexplored by the topic
or the dominant explanations may not apply to a given sample
– If we want to understand hard to quantify concepts better
(‘meanings’, ‘identities’, etc.).
Criteria for Selecting a Research
Mixed Methods approach is best when:
– Neither quantitative nor qualitative approaches will adequately
examine the variables being researched.
– The Researcher wants to capitalize on the strengths of both
qualitative and quantitative approaches.
Colleagues in the field
Confirmatory vs. Exploratory
• Confirmatory: is it true what we
believe based on the existing theory
• Exploratory: what is going on here,
and how can we explain it?
• Deductive: work from the ‘top down’.
• Inductive: work from the ‘bottom up’.
• Nomothetic: aims to generalize, and come
up with ‘universal’ laws.
• Idiographic: aims to specify, and come up
with particularistic meanings and
Combining inductive and
Now that you get the basic idea, let’s talk about
SOME BASIC CONCEPTS
• A variable is a characteristic of an individual or
group that is measurable.
• Variables may have temporal order, or be
measurable or observable.
• Normally used within quantitative approaches.
• Not used very often in qualitative approaches
(though they can be).
Types of Variables
– Variables that (probably) cause outcomes
– The outcomes that depend on the independent variables
• Intervening or mediating
– Variables that stand between the independent and dependent
– Independent variables that are measured and statistically
– Variables that could also affect the dependent variables, but
cannot or will not be measured
Types of information in variables
• The whole (theoretical) group of
people, things, observations,
phenomena, etc. that we wish to make
• A selection from the population that we
will study in our research.
Size of the sample
• N = Number of people, things,
observations, etc. in the sample.
Quality control: Validity
• Internal validity: Do we measure
what we intend to measure?
• External validity: Can we generalize
this to the population to which we
Quality of food
Quality control: Reliability
• Are the ways in which we are
measuring things consistent over time,
or between cases?
Defining and using
The Nature of Theories
‘A set of interrelated constructs (concepts),
definitions, and propositions that present a
systematic view of phenomena by specifying
relations among variables, with the purpose of
explaining and predicting phenomena.’
(Kerlinger, 2000: 9)
The Use of Theory
• The literature determines what theories may
be used to examine the research questions
• Quantitative studies tend to test theories as
• Qualitative studies may generate the theory
• Mixed methods studies may have no theories
at all or a theoretical framework in which
both quantitative and qualitative data are
Finding, reviewing, and using
The Use of Literature
• Provide a summary of major studies on the
• Demonstrate the writers knowledge of the
• Integrate what others have done and said about
• May criticize previous scholarly works on the
Positioning the literature review
The Use of Literature in a Quantitative Study
In quantitative studies the literature is used
deductively as it provides a framework for the
research questions and hypothesis
– Provide direction to the research questions and
– Introduce a problem
– Introduce and describe the theory that will be used
– Examine the usefulness of the theory
– Compare results with existing literature or predictions
Using Literature in a Qualitative Study
Selecting Literature Material
1. Broad syntheses (such as encyclopedias)
Especially if you are new to the topic
Reports on the web
Style: Definition of Terms & Concepts
• Qualitative studies are inductive and
evolutionary in nature hence the definition of
terms may appear later in the written report,
perhaps in the data analysis.
• Quantitative studies are deductive with a fixed
set of objectives, hence all relevant terms are
comprehensively defined earlier in the study.
• In Mixed methods studies the definition of
relevant terms follows the use of (earlier or later
in the study) and emphasis placed on quantitative
and qualitative approaches.
What is bad research?
1. Research that is fraudulent.
2. Research that is in a technical sense correct, but
3. Research that is sloppy or poorly written.
4. Research that is made in good faith, but in error.
5. Research that makes extremely small or
6. Research that has no real-world application.