RESEARCH METHODSWorkshop: Part 1 on research and methodology28 January 2013
Rationale for the workshop• The key difference between undergraduate and post-grad study is the research element.• At honours level research includes short essays, project reports and the mini-dissertation.• To obtain the Master’s degree by dissertation means that you have to provide an indication of your conversance with regard to the relevant literature, your research skills, as well as your ability to present your research in a proper report.• A mini-dissertation/dissertation should also prove that you are familiar with the research method(s) of the specific subject field.
Introduction• What is Economic research? • The process by which we discover, evaluate and confirm the stock of economic knowledge. • We expand our understanding of the world around us. • The reliability of the knowledge/understanding rests on its validity and applicability. • Our focus is on applied economics (vs. disciplinary research). • Theory and analytical techniques together can provide reliable knowledge.
Introduction• Why study methodology? • Methodology refers to examination of the manner in which we do research. • Methods/procedures are not methodology. • Methodology provides the principles for organising, planning, designing and conducting research.
Research defined and described• Research is the systematic approach to obtaining and confirming new and reliable knowledge.• Characteristics: • It is not limited to laboratory methods or literature searches. • It is systematic and orderly – there is a series of steps. • The purpose is new knowledge that is reliable.• Research is not about “truth”.
Research defined and described• Research is also not: • Accidental discovery. • Data collection only. • Searching out published results in libraries.• But research is: • Searching for explanations of events, relationships and causes. • A process. Research cannot be done in isolation from prior research or interaction with peers and co-workers.
Classifications of research• There is a hierarchy of knowledge: • Comprehension → Application → Analysis → Synthesis → Evaluation.• Basic vs. Applied research.• Disciplinary, Subject-matter and Problem- solving research.• Analytical vs. Descriptive research.
Methodology defined and described• Methodology is the science of method.• Refers to a system of method.• Method means processes and procedures.• Research methodology in economics is the study of the general approach to research in economics.• Method refers to specific techniques, tools or procedures applied to achieve a given objective. • E.g. mathematical analysis, or surveys, or regression analysis.
Methodology defined and described• Paarlberg (1963: 1386) cautions that many economists “use the word methodology when they are concerned neither with philosophy nor with logic, but simply with method. The last three syllables are added to convey prestige”.
The process of research1) Research starts with a question or problem.2) The next step is to formulate goals or objectives to deal with the problem.3) The third step is research design.4) Then generating or producing results.5) Next the results are interpreted and analysed.6) Finally the results are disseminated.
The research project proposal• Having a plan is the key to successful research.• The research proposal: • Is the operational plan for conducting your work. • Forces you to think clearly about the research problem and objectives from the start. • Allows you to anticipate potential problems and develop plans to deal with them. • Is also the way that you communicate your plans to a supervisor, so it needs to be well-written. • Is a tool through which a supervisor can hold you accountable.
Elements of a proposal• Title• Introduction / background• Problem statement• Motivation• Objectives• Methods and procedures• Delimitation• List of references
More about: The title• The title: • Should describe the major focus of the research. • Should be brief and to the point (not more than 12 words).
More about: The problem / question• A problematic situation is a broad problem area or set of problems, e.g. poverty • But it is not researchable within a single project.• A researchable problem: • Is a very specific problem at which the objectives of research are directed. • It is the particular lack of knowledge that we attempt to identify, justify and explain.• Thus, problematic situations should be broken into components that are confined in scope and complexity and support a set of research objectives that can be achieved with given resources.
More about: The problem statement(s)• The researchable problem has to explained from general to specific: • Start with a general problem statement that provides background. • The specific problem statement narrows the perspective to a set of issues on which knowledge or information is needed. • The specific problem is not “small”, but precisely defined and it is possible to address it with available resources. • Then explain the means by which the problem may be addressed: data, analytical procedures.
More about: The problem statement(s)• Guidelines for thinking about effective problem statements: • The problem must be sufficiently specific that it can be addressed with available resources. • The dimensions of the problem should be described in objective terms. • The researcher’s perception of the problem may be derived from an intuitive level, but it should be developed to a logical level. • The problem explanation should be developed to provide the justification for the objective.
More about: Objectives• Objectives specify what the research project proposes to accomplish.• Objectives are best specified from general to specific. • The general objective states the main purpose of the research. • It should follow directly from the problem statement. • And be stated in one sentence. • The achievement of specific objectives contributes toward achieving the general objective.
The elements of a proposal• Note that ideally, the researcher must have already done enough background work to expect that the objectives are achievable.• This may include: exploration of data sources, preliminary modeling work and knowledge of prior studies related to the topic.
More about: Methods andprocedures• Methods refer to the tools or techniques applied in the research process.• Procedures are the way in which we put the tools and techniques together to achieve the objectives of the study.• The rest of the presentation here is from the perspective of planning the project and the written proposal.
More about: Methods andprocedures• The purpose of the unpacking of methods and procedures in the proposal is to describe how the objectives of the study will be achieved: • How data will be collected and processed. • Model development. • Explanation of mathematical form • Analytical methods. • Estimation techniques. • How empirical estimates will be analysed and results interpreted. • And how all this relate to the objectives of the research.
More about: Methods andprocedures• Economists build models to explain and predict.• The model is a form of hypothesis.• When you merge theory and data in a model it is an empirical model.• There are a range of empirical methods to follow: • The descriptive method: • The systematic interpretation of historical facts. • When you examine data over a period of time and claim evidence of a trend, or of causation based on a pattern, you have used the descriptive method.
More about: Methods andprocedures• Empirical methods: • Econometric models: • Statistical estimations of fit and distribution. • Single equation multivariate statistical analysis. • Structural econometric models. • Time series models. • Simulation techniques: • Input-output analysis. • Computable general equilibrium modelling.
More about: Methods andprocedures• Data are necessary to test concepts or theories empirically, to estimate parameters within relationships, and to establish the applicability of relationships.• Secondary data.• Primary data.
Evaluating research proposals• When a research proposal is assessed, the soundness of the research plan is being evaluated.• The proposal is evidence of the quality of thought that has gone into the plan.• Your proposal will typically be evaluated according to criteria such as: • Is the researcher interested in the problem? • Is there a genuine lack of knowledge related to the problem?
Evaluating research proposals• Your proposal will typically be evaluated according to criteria such as: • Is the research recognised as needed by other people? • Are the objectives: • Appropriate to the problem? • Attainable? • Observable or measurable? • Sufficiently specific? • Does the researcher have sufficient resources? • Does the proposal recognise appropriate constraints?
Importance of flexibility• The proposal provides boundaries and guidelines for research, but should not be seen as a road map from which there can be no deviations.• Proposal writing is an evolving process. • As you read more literature and work with the data you will develop a better understanding of the problem. • If you have new thoughts and perspectives, consider and evaluate them and integrate them into your plan where appropriate.
The way forward• The second part of the presentation is about academic report writing.
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