ORIENTATION TO RESEARCH
SECTION 1: WHY RESEARCH.
“Why should I study research?” is a
genuine question that agitates the mind
of every beginning student of research.
An, obvious though superficial, answer to
this question is “because research is a
“But why is it a required course?” the
student shoots back. This probing
question is a real one and the reasons for
the importance of research are given
IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH
Research is more important in more ways than one.
First, research is the master key to progress as is shown
in improving productivity of goods and services and
enhancing the quality of life. Consider the following
1. Progress can be made in all walks of life.
2. Certain conditions must be met before
progress can be made.
3. Research is the most dependable and
powerful tools to unlock the conditions of
Second, research helps us in extending the frontiers of
knowledge as is shown in all the sciences.
Third, research helps us in solving immediate
concrete problems as is shown in education, social
work, medical ,engineering and other applied fields.
Fourth, research provides information for sound
decision making as in management.
Fifth, research helps us in solving problems, which
no other methods can solve as is shown by our
landing on the moon.
Sixth, research helps us to be efficient in our work,
faster in speed, cheaper in cost, more in quantity
and better in quality.
Seventh, research helps us in achieving consensus, as
results of research are more acceptable to people than
results achieved through other means.
Eighth, the study of research helps the students to:
1. Read the literature in their fields more
2. Engage in research activities independently.
3. Write research proposals.
4. Write research reports, theses, and dissertations.
5. Evaluate research reports, and thus meet their
academic requirements and build a solid
foundation for their future career.
SECTION 2: TOWARD A
DEFINITION OF RESEARCH.
Research is a process of asking and answering questions.
The questions asked are factual, perplexing, significant,
and admitting of alternative answers. They are generally
referred to as problems.
The answers of given are also factual, but probabilistic in
nature and involve a systematic and logical procedure
technically known as the scientific method.
Thus, we may define research as the scientific method of
solving a problem.
This definition of research has two key concepts that
need classification: a problem and a scientific method.
WHAT IS RESEARCH PROBLEM?
A problem is simply a question whose answer we do not know:
the lack of knowledge constitutes the problem. A problem is
said to be solved when the needed knowledge is provided. In
fact, research is problem – solving activity which seeks to
obtain knowledge through the scientific method. The research
activity is launched by a problem.
But, what exactly is a research problem ? A research problem is
a question but every question is not a research problem.
1. Consider the following questions:
2. What is the meaning of statistics?
3. How many students are there in the Baal medical
4. What is the cause of campus unrest?
The first two questions are easy to answer because the procedures
leading to the desired answers are normally known. The first question
can be answered by consulting a dictionary and the second question
by enquiring from the registrar of the Baqai medical University. Such
questions do not qualify as research problems and may be simply
termed as ordinary problems.
The third question is not easy to answer because in this case we are
seeking an answer without knowing where the answer can be found. We
can, of course, suggest a few possible answers for the time being. For
instance, we can say that the cause of campus unrest may be out of
date curricula, party politics among teachers, exploitation of political
parties, inefficiency of leadership, lack of student personal services,
communication gap, erosion, of values, poverty and the like. But these
suggested answers, technically known as hypotheses, have to be
checked against facts before they can be accepted as true or false.
In this case, we do not have the obvious way that leads to the answer.
Such a question qualifies as a research problem. Thus, a research
problem is a question which does not admit of a ready answer but
requires “new” knowledge for its solution.
To understand the nature of a research problem more fully, we must
also draw a distinction between a solvable and an unsolvable problem. A
solvable problem is a factual that can be and warred with the use of
mon’s normal capabilities :a question amenable to empirical solution.
The question ,”What is the effect of reward on achievement?” is an
example of a solvable problem. . an unsolvable problem on the other
hand, cannot be solved through observation or experiment.
It poses a problem about some supernatural phenomenon, ultimate
reality or value. For example, ‘what is God?” “what is ultimate destiny
of man?” or “should a man be honest?” are philosophical questions
which are not amenable to empirical solution.
In summary, we can say that a research problem is a factual problem
which requires “new” knowledge for its solution and which is solvable.
It must be distinguished from:
1. The ordinary problem which, though factual, admits of a ready
2. The unsolvable problem which is a nonfactual, philosophical
Figure1:Shows this classification of
1. ORDINARY 2. RESEARCHABLE
Figure1:Classification of problem.
WHAT IS THE SCIENTIFIC
After having explained what a research
problem is, we now proceed to define the
Since the scientific method is a source of
knowledge, we must first know what
other sources of knowledge are available
and then reexamine how the scientific
method compares with them.
SECTION 3 SOURCES OF
There are several sources of knowledge. For the
sake of convenience, we may roughly classify these
sources as non scientific and scientific methods.
Non Scientific Methods:
We shall discuss five major nonscientific methods
of obtaining knowledge :
The method of authority,
The empirical method,
The rationalistic method,
The non rationalistic method,
The method of common sense.
The Method of Authority:
Of the non scientific methods, authority is the most popular. The authority
may be a person (the boss), or a group of persons (the experts), an
e government), or a book (the encyclopedia of educational research). We
know the historical events from historical literature. Much of our knowledge
about science is derived from the writings of the scientists. These examples
show that, by and large, the knowledge by authority is indispensable.
Yet, it does not mean that we should accept all authority without question.
There are certain problems involved in accepting authority. The first problem
is that of definition: who is an authority
The second problem in accepting authority is that of criterion: by what
criterion should we select an authority as against another ? we can think of
many criteria like competence, popularity, recognition, past success and the
like; yet, the facts remains that without some criteria we cannot select an
The third problem is that an authority may be liable to error. When an
authority is an error the knowledge obtained from him cannot be dependable.
These problems suggest that we should not accept authority uncritically.
The Empirical Method:
A method is said to be empirical when we obtain knowledge through senses.
Listening to the radio would be an example of obtaining knowledge through
the empirical method.
The empirical method is generally regarded as the most dependable method
of obtaining knowledge. Yet, there are many dangers in this method. Two or
more senses give conflicting reports: a stick looks bent in water but feels
straight when touched. This means we cannot trust our senses.
Then, we have illusions, that is, false perceptions: a movie is simply a series
of still pictures.
Besides, our sense perceptions are selective: different persons may interpret
Moreover, our senses are limited: the life of an atomic particle is too difficult
Furthermore, our memory is liable to error: one has only to examine the
report of a witness in a court.
These considerations suggest caution in the use of the empirical method. Our
appeal to experience must be controlled and disciplined.
The Rationalistic Method:
A method is said to be rationalistic if we obtain
knowledge through the mental process of reason. Logical
reasoning is an example of the rationalistic method.
Logical reasoning is traditionally classified into two
types deduction and induction. In deduction we proceed
from general to particular while in induction, we proceed
from particular to general.
An example of deduction case in a pattern technically
known as syllogism ( a logical argument in three
proportions) is given below:
Major Premise All Men are Mortal
Minor Premise Socrates is a man.
Conclusion Therefore, Socrates is
In, deduction the conclusion is always true if the
premises are true and in proper order. Deduction is
useful in interpreting the new and the unfamiliar in
the light of the general information from previous
experience. However, it’s scope is limited because
it accepts the premises and the scope is limited
because it accepts the premises and the conclusion
as true without asking whether they are really true.
In other words, deduction is concerned with
relative truth (formal validity) and not with truth as
Now, we offer an example of induction below
Instance 1 This male teacher is honest.
Instance 2 This female teacher is honest
Instance 3 This rural teacher is honest
Instance 4 This urban teacher is honest
Generalization: Therefore, all teachers are honest.
Induction is useful because it helps us in obtaining new
knowledge. In Induction, the conclusion is never certain
because the generalization is based on some instances.
Good reasoning, we can conclude, is a “must” for obtaining
dependable knowledge. We can also conclude that the
rationalistic method alone is not sufficient to yield reliable
knowledge because logical reasoning, whether deduction or
induction, is not without its limitations.
The Non-rationalistic Method:
This method assumes a variety of forms
like dream, superstition, intuition,
tradition, and pure guesswork. The
common element in these forms is the
fact that reason is not used. At the most,
the knowledge gained through non-
rationalistic method may be accepted
only provisionally to be checked against
facts for final rejection or acceptance.
The Method of Common Sense:
Common sense is the normal understanding of the average person. It is
useful method of solving ordinary problems of our daily living. But when
it comes to complex problems, the common sense suffers from the
following major shortcomings:
1. the knowledge gained through common sense is imprecise: the
term used are not well defined.
2. the knowledge yielded by common sense is highly fragmented.
This knowledge does not form part of any well-integrated
theory to explain facts.
3. the common sense fails to test its conclusions in any systematic
fashion. In this sense, it is unsystematic.
4. sometimes the common sense beliefs are conflicting. For
instance, “look before you leap” and “one who hesitates is lost” are
mutually conflicting. In this situation, it is difficult for one to decide
what to do.
After having discussed the non-scientific methods of obtaining
knowledge, we now focus our attention on the scientific method.
SECTION 4: THE SCIENTIFIC
Volumes have been written on the scientific method; yet, there
is no universal agreement as to its exact nature. There is,
however, some consensus of opinion among the experts
regarding various aspects of science. We, therefore, present a
brief version of this consensus here.
What does “science” mean?
First, it means a body of knowledge like physics, chemistry,
psychology and sociology.
Second, it means an attitude of mind like rationality, open-
mindedness, objectivity, critical-mindedness, and willingness to
Third, it means a method of enquiry which is universal among
the scientists of the world.
What are the basic assumptions of science?
First, there is order in the universe.
Second, the human mind has a good chance of understanding this
Third, there is an objective and unique reality which is shared by
What are the major goals of science?
The overall goal of science is to understand the phenomenon
under study. To understand a phenomenon means to be able to
describe, to explain, and to predict it. Thus, the major goals of
science are description, explanation, and prediction of
phenomenon under study.
What are the core characteristics of science?
First, it is highly purposive: it is directed toward solving a
Second, it is empirical: it seeks to solve factual problems
usually by formulating possible solutions called hypotheses
and verifying them by observation and experiment.
Third, it is rationalistic: it uses reason in reaching
Fourth, its conclusions are regarded as tentative and never
as absolute truth.
Fifth, it is social in character as much as its findings are
subject to public verification.
Sixth, it is self-corrective as its valid hypotheses are upheld
and invalid hypotheses rejected in the light of facts.
What is the overall pattern of the scientific method ?
John Dewy (1910) suggested a flexible sequence of five major steps:
There is felt difficulty.
The problem is defined.
One or more hypotheses are formulated.
The rational elaboration of the hypotheses is worked out.
The hypotheses are tested by observation or experiment and conclusions are
In the light of our foregoing discussion on the nature of a research
problem and the scientific method for solving it, we are now ready to
offer a formal, full-blown definition of research.
Research may be defined as a systematized rational and empirical
enquiry for solving a significant factual problem that requires new
knowledge for its solution.