Research Methodology- An Introduction BY CHINMAYA RANJAN RAY We all possess the vital instinct of inquisitiveness for, when the unknown confronts us, we wonder and our inquisitiveness makes us probe and attain full and fuller understanding of the unknown. This inquisitiveness is the mother of all knowledge and the method, which man employs for obtaining the knowledge of whatever the unknown, can be termed as research . Hence, Research is a scientific and systematic search for pertinent information on a specific topic. The systematic approach concerning generalizations and the formulation of a theory is also a research. As such the term ‘ research’ refers to the systematic method consisting of enunciating the problem, formulating a hypothesis, collecting the facts or data, analyzing the facts and reaching certain conclusions either in the form of solution(s) towards the concerned problem or in certain generalizations for some theoretical formulation.
Objectives of Research
The main aim of research is to find out the truth which is hidden and which has not been discovered as yet. Though each research study has its own specific purpose, we may think of research objectives as falling into a number of following broad groupings:
Exploratory or Formulative Research - Exploratory research means that hardly anything is known about the matter at the outset of the project. You then have to begin with a rather vague impression of what you should study, and it is also impossible to make a detailed work plan in advance. The objective of exploratory research is the development of hypothesis rather than their testing, whereas formalized research studies are those with substantial structure and with specific hypothesis to be tested.
Exploratory research information is collected by focus group interviews, reviewing literature or books, discussing with experts, etc. This is unstructured and qualitative in nature. If a secondary source of data is unable to serve the purpose, a convenience sample of small size can be collected.
Few examples for exploratory research are-
Secondary data analysis
Descriptive Research - The major purpose of descriptive research is description of the state of affairs as it exists at present. The main characteristics of this method is that
The researcher has no control over the variables; he can only report what has happened or what is happening. Most descriptive research projects are used for studies in which the researcher seeks to measure such items as, for example, frequency of shopping, preferences of people, or similar data.
There are many types of research that can be categorized as "descriptive." These include the following:
Surveys (questionnaires, interviews, etc.)
The commonality that each of these share is that they are a measure of status - rather than prediction. Therefore descriptive research is used when the objective is to provide a systematic description that is as factual and accurate as possible. It provides the number of times something occurs, or frequency, lends itself to statistical calculations such as determining the average number of occurences or central tendencies
One of its major limitations is that it cannot help determine what causes a specific behaviour, motivation or occurrence. In other words, it cannot establish a causal research relationship between variables. The two most commonly types of descriptive research designs are Observation and Surveys. Diagnostic Research - Refers to studies that aim to quantify a test’s added contribution beyond test results readily available to the physician in determining the presence or absence of a particular disease. Such research follow case-study methods or in-depth approaches to reach the basic casual relations. Such studies usually go deep into the causes of things or events that interest us, using very small samples and very deep probing data gathering devices.
Hypothesis testing research - To test a hypothesis of a casual relationship between variables, then accept or reject the hypothesis. Analytical Research - The researcher has to use facts or information already available, and analyze these to make a critical evaluation of the material. Applied Research - It aims at finding a solution for an immediate problem facing a society or an industrial/ business organization. A research aimed at certain conclusions facing a concrete social or business problem is an example of applied research. Research to identify social, economic or political trends that may affect a particular institution or the marketing research or the evaluation research are the examples of applied research. Thus the central aim of applied research is directed towards finding information that has a broad base of applications and thus, adds to the already existing organized body of scientific knowledge.
Fundamental Research – Is concerned with generalizations and with the formulation of a theory. Research concerning some natural phenomenon or relating to pure mathematics are examples of fundamental research. Conceptual Research - is that related to some abstract ideas or theory. It is generally used by philosophers and thinkers to develop new concepts or to re-interpret existing ones. Empirical Research – It relies on experience or observation alone, often without due regard for system and theory. It is data based research, coming up with conclusions which are capable of being verified by observation. We can also call it as experimental type of research. In such a research , it is necessary to get at facts firsthand, at their source, and actively to go about doing certain things to stimulate the production of desired information. Empirical Research is appropriate when proof is sought that certain variables affect other variables in some way. Evidence gathered through experiments or empirical studies is today considered to be the most powerful support possible for a given hypothesis.
Significance of Research Studies Research and Innovation are the driving force behind the modern economy. It provides the means by which firms compete and explains in large part why industries thrive or decline. Firms' abilities to improve their products, processes, services and operating practices are key to economic growth. But innovation is not just about competition and market development. Issues of social and environmental sustainability and quality of life are equally important. In short, a healthy and inclusive society with a vibrant economy needs a modern approach to engineering, technological and business development and renewal. Research inculcates scientific and inductive thinking and it promotes the development of logical habits of thinking and organization.
The increasingly complex nature of business and government has focused attention on the use of research in solving operational problems .Research as an aided economic policy has gained importance, both for government and business. Operations research and marketing research, along with motivational research, are considered crucial and their results assist, in more than one way, in taking business decisions. Market research is the investigation of the structure and development of a market for the purpose of formulating efficient policies for purchasing, production and sales. Operations Research refers to the application of the mathematical, logical and analytical techniques to the solution of business problems of cost minimization or of profit maximization or what can be termed as optimization problems. Motivational research of determining why people behave as they do is mainly concerned with market characteristics. In other words, it is concerned with the determination of motivations underlying the consumer behavour.
The Research Process The research process involves six distinct phases, although they are not always completely linear, since research is iterative (earlier phases influence later ones, while later ones can influence the earlier phases). Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of a good researcher is the unwillingness to take shortcuts, to rush through the research. It is important to keep an open mind to recognize changes that must be accommodated to ensure the reliability and validity of the research.
Research Process Flow Chart Define Research Problem ↓ Review the literature ↓ Formulate hypothesis ↓ Design Research ↓ Collect Data ( Execution) ↑↓ Analyze Data ( test hypothesis if any) ↑ ↓ Interpret and report
Formulating the research Problem - Essentially two steps are involved in formulating the research problem, viz., understanding the problem thoroughly, and rephrasing the same into meaningful terms from an analytical point of view. The best way of understanding the problem is to discuss it wit one’s own colleagues or with those having some expertise. After an introduction which describes the broader context within which the research should be situated, it is important to state the objectives or purpose pursued by the research itself. Often, this is a fairly broad or general statement as well. In the case of industry research, once the manager has defined the problem for which s/he needs a solution, and has determined that the information required cannot be obtained using internal resources, an outside supplier will likely be contracted based on a Request for Proposal
The literature review should provide the reader with an explanation of the theoretical rationale of the problem being studied as well as what research has already been done and how the findings relate to the problem at hand. The quality of the literature being reviewed must be carefully assessed. This type of secondary research is also extremely helpful in exploratory research. It is an economical and often easily accessible source of background information that can shed light on the real scope of the problem or help familiarize the researcher with the situation and the concepts that require further study Extensive Literature Review - Knowledge is cumulative: every piece of research will contribute another piece to it. That is why it is important to commence all research with a review of the related literature or research, and to determine whether any data sources exist already that can be brought to bear on the problem at hand. This is also referred to as secondary research. Just as each study relies on earlier work, it will provide a basis for future work by other researchers
Research Design - Once the problem has been carefully defined, the researcher needs to establish the plan that will outline the investigation to be carried out. The research design indicates the steps that will be taken and in what sequence they occur. There are two main types of research design: 1. Exploratory research 2. Conclusive research -itself subdivided into Descriptive research and Causal research Development of working hypothesis – After extensive literature survey, researcher should state in clear terms the working hypothesis or hypotheses. Working hypothesis is tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences.
Each of these types of research design can rely on one or more data collection techniques: Primary research - Observation technique - Direct communication with subjects, e.g. survey technique, interview or projective methods. Secondary research, which essentially means reviewing literature and data sources, collected for some other purpose than the study at hand. Irrespective of the data collection technique used, it is critical that the researcher analyze it for its validity and reliability. The researcher should select one of these methods of collecting the data taking into consideration the nature of investigation, objective and scope of inquiry, financial resources available time and desired degree of accuracy.
Analysis of Data – After the data have been collected, the researcher turns to the task of analyzing them. The analysis of data requires a number of closely related operations such as establishment of categories, the application of these categories to raw data through coding, tabulation and then drawing groups and tables for further analysis. Thus, researcher should classify the raw data into a few manageable purposeful and usable categories. Interpretation and preparation of report - As a matter of fact, the real value of research lies in its ability to arrive at certain generalizations. If the researcher has no hypothesis to start with, he might seek to explain his findings on the basis of some theory. It is known as interpretation. Finally the researcher has to prepare the report of what has been done by him. Writing of report must be done with great care