literature review on research methods


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literature review on research methods

  1. 1. LITERATURE REVIEW The research methods are divided into three broad categories; quantitative,qualitative and participatory research method. These research methods have differentapproach, techniques and tools to conduct a research (Collis et al, 2009). Quantitativemethods are the main focus in the development research while qualitative andparticipatory research methods based on desirable outcomes. These traditional methodsare now considered as outdated ones. New tools and solutions are continuouslydeveloped and integrated to mix these research methods (Creswell, 2003). Mayoux (2005) suggested that quantitative methods are derived fromexperimental and statistical methods of research. They measure the objectivity of the datato find out the truth or falsehood of a developed hypothesis. This method is based on themeasurement of what is happening to how many people. The tools used in these methodsare large scale surveys and analysis of the same with statistical techniques. Thehypothesis is formed before conducting the surveys and the questionnaires are developedin the basis of those questionnaires. The qualitative research methods originated from sociology, anthropology,history, and geography. These methods widely differ from the quantitative researchmethods. The qualitative research techniques focuses on developing understandings aboutthe real time environment and processes involved. The questions and hypothesis isdeveloped on the basis of these understandings. The qualitative research methodologiesfocus on the selection of small scale cases that are investigated by using a combination of
  2. 2. formal and informal methods like interviews, observations, and the newly introducedtools like photography and video footages (Grunow, 1995). The questions developed inthis research are open ended in nature and are subject to change over time to fill the needsof research due to the variability of reality. Different sampling methods like purposivesampling techniques are used in this type of research. This research needs long terminvolvement of the researcher based on his skill to collect data and analyze it (Porter &Desai, 2005). Johnson and Mayoux (1998) indicated that the participatory methods originatedfrom the development activism like NGO’s and social movements in the various fields oflife. This research is conducted not to find out the knowledge base about the particularsubject but to investigate social change and empowerment in the society and culture. Theparticipatory research methods emphasizes on the investigation of a subject and voicingover the issues of the social groups who lacks the abilities and opportunities to speak upin the development and implementation of decisions. They further identified that this typeof research involves small focus groups, participatory workshops and individual diariesthat are used in their discussions. The larger groups are further divided into small homogeneous groups. This typeof research uses the diagram tools from farmer-led research, system analysis as well asoral and visual tools. These tools help in the efficient discussion among the ill-literategroup participants and cross language groups. Sharing allows the participants to discusstheir issues more efficiently in this research method. The understanding is developed
  3. 3. from their discussion and the decisions are then formulated and implemented (Johnson &Mayoux, 1998). Various organizations use research especially market research to stay fine tunedin the markets. The market research helps the organizations to identify the potentialmarkets to penetrate, the needs and wants of the customers and the methods of how tomeet those needs and want more efficiently and effectively. The market research alsoallows the organizations to find out new ideas of marketing their products and services tomake them more accessible to the customers. Another most important advantage or focusof market research is to find out who your competitors are and how to position yourself inorder to remain competitive in the markets. The market research can be conducted by theorganizations without having advanced skills. The organizations employ questionnaires, survey and checklist methods in theirmarket research when they need to quickly find out lots of related information from thepeople and interpreting that information in the best interest of the company. Thesemethods are usually inexpensive to administer, easy to analyze and interpret, theorganization can reach large number of people in a small time frame and there arenumber of tools available in the market which are ready to use by these organizations.But these tools have drawbacks as well. Among them are the lack of interest by theparticipants, biased answers of the participants and these research tools might not conveythe full story to the researcher (McNamara, 2011).
  4. 4. The companies also use interviews for direct interactions with the participants.This research tool is used when the organization wants to develop full understandingabout the perceptions, experiences and impressions of someone about a particular subjector to learn about their experiences and answers to questionnaires. Interviews arebeneficial when the researching organization or a researcher wants to obtain full rangeand in depth information on the subject of interest. Interviews allow the researchers todevelop a relationship with the participants to soothe their expressions to give moralsupport to them. Interviews are no doubt very effective way of collecting information butit can take too much time to get the data and then interpret it. The answers are sometimehard to interpret and costly. Moreover the interviewer can add the personal biasness tothe responses received from the clients (Bryman, 2004). Another method adopted by the organizations is the review of documentation. Thedocumentation reviews are used when the organization wants to figure out the impact ofprogram operating in the organization without interrupting the program and its functions.This involves the review of applications, finances, memos etc. this method is used whenone wants to develop understanding about the history of a particular subject or things.This method is highly feasible when the organization don’t want to engage into theclient’s daily routine matters. In this type of research, the researcher don’t have to collectthe data, the data already exists in the databases with fewer biases of the people. But ittoo have some limitations, among them is the irrelevancy of data or incompleteinformation present to the researcher (Duane, 1996). Focus groups are useful when the researcher wants to explore the topic of concernvia group discussions. This method allows the researcher to explore the topic in depth
  5. 5. and find reactions, experiences, suggestions, understanding and complaints of peopleabout the particular topic. This method is highly useful in the evaluation of a problem andmarketing of a particular subject. This method is highly reliable and quick in naturewhich provides the large amount of information in a short period of time. The responsesmay be hard to interpret sometimes (Abrams, 2001). The historical research method aims to provide the useful insights about thebackground and growth of the chosen field of study. These insights may include theorganizational structure, culture, current trends and the future implications of the subjector process. This method is applicable to all the fields of study as it contains the origin,theories, growth, maturity, development of theories, personalities etc. For the collectionof data for this type of research can be done either through qualitative research methodsor by quantitative research methods. Busha and Harter explain that once the researcherdecides to conduct historical research then he or she will follow a pattern of steps toconduct the research efficiently and effectively. These steps may include the following: Problem identification which requires the use of historical knowledge Collection of relevant information about the problem or topic. Formation of hypothesis to discuss the relationship between the historical factors. The collection of evidence, its verification, authenticity of resources from the organization The arrangement of the collected evidence and the analysis of information.
  6. 6. The historical information about the subject or the organization can be collectedthrough primary and secondary data sources. The primary sources are said to be the firsthand collection of data. It involves detecting the historical data by the researcher himself.It includes perception, logic, intuition, persistence (Tuchman, 1998). The primary sourcesmay include personal memos, eye witnesses, databases of events and oral histories. Thesecondary sources of information is said to be the information that is not primary; theinformation is collected, analyzed and interpreted by someone else who observed theevents or occasions and their occurrence. These resources are very useful for theresearcher to grasp the in depth information about the subject and are not very costly ascompared to the primary sources of information (Tuchman, 1998). A very important methodology used in the organizations these days is the use ofAppreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry provides useful leads to the organizationaldevelopment, training and the development of employees and processes within theorganization to solve the problem at hand. Appreciative inquiry asserts that the problemsare the products of our own perceptions and perspectives about something. It consists ofvariety of models, tools and techniques that are derived from philosophy. For instance, ifAppreciative Inquiry is used in the strategic planning, it will include the identification ofthe successful decisions took in the past and their outcomes. It will also include the visionof the company; where it wants to head and implementing from what has been consideredto be the best solution in a particular situation. This approach has a significant impact onthe organizational planning and development in the organizations (McNamara, 2011).
  7. 7. The research technique which is used for the objective, systematic and quantitativedescription of manifest content of communications is called Content Analysis (Berelson,1952). It is a type of research tool that focuses on the actual content and internal featuresof the problem or situation. It determines the presences of concepts, themes, phrases,texts etc. to quantify their presence in the objective manner. The sources may involvebooks, essays, interviews, discussions, articles, historical documents, formal and informalconversations etc. The content analysis involves coding or breaking down the required information intosmall manageable categories on the basis of their occurrence and importance. The resultsobtain from these categories are used to make inferences about the messages within thetexts, writers, the culture, time etc. content analysis is the product of computer age. Itdates back to 1940 when it became very credible and frequent research method. Theresearchers started to focus the concepts rather than the words or the relationshipsbetween them. (de Sola Pool, 1959). Since this research method can be applied onvarious recorded communications in writing, content analysis can be used in the largenumber of fields that ranges from marketing, media, literature, cultural studies, genderand age issues, social environment, political sciences, psychology, cognitive science, andmany other fields. The following list (adapted from Berelson, 1952) offers morepossibilities for the uses of content analysis: Reveal international differences in communication content Detect the existence of propaganda
  8. 8. Identify the intentions, focus or communication trends of an individual, group or institution Describe attitudinal and behavioral responses to communications Determine psychological or emotional state of persons or groups The content analysis is further categorized into two broad categories; conceptualanalysis and relational analysis. The conceptual analysis is used to establish the existenceand the frequency of concepts in a written text where as relational analysis examines therelationships between the concepts in the text. In conceptual analysis, one concept is chosen for the examination and the frequencyof occurrences in the writings. Like other research methods, it starts with identifying thequestions related to research and choosing the samples. Then the text is coded into smallbits and pieces to reduce the data amount. The certain characteristics of message is thenanalyzed and interpreted. The relational analysis involves investigating the relationshipbetween the characteristics and concepts in the written communications. Relationalanalysis starts with identifying the required concept and comparing its occurrences withrespect to the others (Berelson, 1952). The way to which problem is approached or understood is characterized as criticalAnalysis or Discourse analysis. It is difficult to give the hard and fast definition to thisresearch method. It is neither qualitative nor quantitative research method. It uses such amanner of questioning whose basic assumptions are the mixture of qualitative and
  9. 9. quantitative research methods. It do not provide an absolute answer to the problems onthe basis of scientific research but it tends to provide access to the ontological andepistemological assumptions for the project, the problem statement, and method ofresearch. It unveils the hidden motives behind the particular problem or the method ofresearch to interpret the topic. This research method is merely a deconstructive readingand interpretation of the problem (Bernd, 1992). Discourse Analysis enables the researcher to identify the problem and the causesof problem. The researcher makes several assumptions about the problem that then serveas a guideline for the resolution of the problem. Discourse Analysis is the like the oldwine in a new bottle that employs the critical thinking which is an ancient philosophy andinvolves no theory or methods. This analysis does not provide the particular views aboutthe problem or situation (Bernd, 1992). The research methods such as content analysis and discourse analysis employ theuse of texts or written communications for the identification of the problem and theiranalysis to reach the conclusions. There are other methods available to the researcherswhere the problem is reconstructed to find out its functionality to analyze it and reach theconclusions. The Structural Analysis due to the limited literature on this method, according tothe dictionary of concepts in Literary Criticism and Theory, is provides definition aboutthe structural analysis to develop understanding of what Structural Analysyis is about.Barthes (1963) defines structural analysis as:
  10. 10. "The goal of all structuralist activity, whether reflexive or poetic, is to reconstruct an object, in such a way as to manifest thereby the rules of functioning (the functions) of this object. The structure is therefore actually a simulacrum of the object, but it is a directed, interested simulacrum, since the imitated object makes something appear which remained invisible or, if one prefers, unintelligible in the natural object"For Jean-Marie Benoist (1978); "An analysis is structural if, and only if, it displays the content as a model, i.e., if it can isolate a formal set of elements and relations in terms of which it is possible to argue without entering upon the significance of the given content" The structural analysis is not related to the text or content of anything or system.It explores and analyzes the structures of a problem to make the inferences after analysis.It enables the researcher to analyze the structure of a text or system to determine thenature of the message they carry and information is retrieved from them. It analyzes howthe communication took place and how it was transferred to the others. StructuralAnalysis can be used to study any kind of system, text, or material. It applies equally tothe Humanities and Social Sciences as well as to the "hard" Sciences, though withdifferent connotations. The methods of Structural Analysis might be different in eachdiscipline.
  11. 11. The use of Interviews is of great importance to get the in depth knowledge aboutthe situation and experiences of the participants regarding a problem or situation. Theinterviews are useful further investigate the responses of participant via other techniqueslike questionnaires. Interviews contain open ended questions to let the participants speaktheir views, stories and experiences to the interviewer. Before designing the interviewquestions and the entire interview process, it is necessary to understand the what theproblem is and the extent to which it is necessary to address the problem by using theinformation gathered through interviews. (Joseph et al, 2006). The interviewer prior to the interview must prepare for the interview sessionwhich involves certain steps that must be followed. These steps starts at identifying theobjectives of the meeting, developing the relative questions, planning how to conduct theinterview and sending follow up invitations to the members. The most important step inthe interviewing method is to remind the members of the upcoming interview (Joseph etal, 2006). Once the preparation for interview is done the researcher develops the relativequestions that are to be asked during the interview to the members. ( Cavana, Delahaye,Sekaran, 2001). The interviews are further planned as with the reference to theirscheduling, settings and rules are developed. Abrams (2001) explained the use of case studies her book. According to her, inthe small and medium businesses or SME’s case studies methodology is applied todevelop full understanding or to depict the experiences of the client in a program andexamine the processes and procedures through cross comparison of various other cases.
  12. 12. This method is widely used in the organizations now a days due to its ability to fullydepict the organization’s internal processes, functions, employee engagements,experiences etc. Zonabend (1992) explained that the case study requires special attention to theobservations, reconstruction of situation and the analysis of cases under the present study.The case study uses the views of people in the study. The case study research is associated to the field of sociology and it took rise inthe period of 1935. Many researchers give rise to criticisms against this method ofresearch. They argued to provide quantitative measurement to the research design andanalysis. This resulted in the dis-engaging of this research as methodology. In 1935 adispute comes between the opponents and the proponents of the study. The outcome wasin the favor of opponents which resulted in the decline in the use of case study. Hamel et al. (1993) rejected the criticism against the case study methodology as itthe criticism was poorly backed by the opponents. He asserted that instead of explainingthe drawbacks of the case study techniques, the opponents were trying to veil the limitedand immature concepts of sociology. In 1960, there was a renewed interest in thismethodology. The concept of grounded theory (Strauss & Glaser, 1967) along with otherstudies gave rise to the renewed use of this methodology. Much has been written in the literature which gives examples of the case studyapplications. Those examples started from the fields of law and medicine where caseswere presented to give proper understanding of a problem and draw inferences according
  13. 13. to them. Another application of case study methodology is in the government to find outabout the effectiveness and efficiency of a particular project or program and in thesituations where evaluation of a problem or subject is required; it was usually carried outto find out the educational evaluation of the students. Yin (1994) explained that the case study research tends to be limited andprimitive in nature. The case studies may be of single or multiple designs. He furtherexplained that the analysis of those single or multiple design case studies is made throughtheory not from the populations. The literature lists down various examples about the useof case studies. Yin (1993) gave several working examples along with the research designin each case. He suggested about the general case design and the use of exploratory,explanatory and descriptive case studies. These approaches can follow both single andmultiple case study designs. In exploratory case studies, the important data is collected prior to the formulationof research questions and hypothesis. The exploratory cases are used in case when theresearcher wants to conduct research on social issues or perspectives. The pilot study isconducted to determine the final protocols. The questions are formulated on the basis ofthe results achieved from the pilot study. The selection of cases is a bit difficult process(Yin, 1989) but the selection gives opportunities to maximum learning and knowledge ina limited period of time (Stake, 1995). When the researcher aims to conduct causal studies then explanatory cases comehandy. Explanatory cases help to develop a pattern of matching techniques in thecomplex cases. The descriptive cases investigate the descriptive theory or draw
  14. 14. probability to face the problems. Pyecha (1988) used this type of study to conduct specialeducation research using pattern matching procedure. Several objects were studied andtheir results were compared to the other objects this helped to reach the final inferencesby the formation of hypothesis of cause and effect relationships. Case studies help todevelop critical thinking (Alvarez et al, 1990) Case study is one of the valuable methods available to the researcher which offersdistinctive characteristics to the researcher to investigate an issue or problem. It uses thecombination of various methods to draw inferences. Its use and reliability should make ita more widely used methodology, once its features are better understood by potentialresearchers. Another method that can help the researchers is the survey method whichinvolves surveying the people to find out the answers to the questions of research. Duane (1996) suggested that the most common method employed by theorganizations and researchers for the collection of data is the observations method. Thismethod is used when the organization or a researcher seeks to obtain the accurateinformation about something, program and the process. This method calculates how theprogram, process or subject actually operates. This method is beneficial for varyingreasons. The prime one is that this method allows the researcher to investigate theoperations as they are occurring. The interpretations of this method can be difficult as thebehavior of particular operations vary to the people and situations. This method isdesirable when the factual information is required.
  15. 15. There are many types of studies that employ the observational research methodsfor the analysis and interpretation of the problem. The studies that employ observationalresearch methods may include case studies, ethnographic studies, etc. The main focus ofthis research methodology is to observe the situation or a problem and record theinferences with reference to the behaviors of the participants. Often these studies are ofqualitative nature. For instance, a case study of the psychological behavior of peoplerequires the observations of the participants and recording the results in order to drawconclusions. Another example of ethological study is given where the behavior of wildanimals is observed with respect to the time and occurrence. The surveys are oftencategorized in the observational research methods (Webster, 2011). Surveys are the non experimental and descriptive research methods employed bythe researchers when they want to collect the data on something that cannot be directlyobserved. This method of data collection is used extensively to assess the attitudes andcharacteristics of wide range of subjects. When conducting the surveys, researcherssample a population. According to Basha and Harter (1980) population is a group ofpeople or objects that form, possess or have a common characteristic. Since the size ofpopulation is usually quite large therefore the researchers collect sample from thepopulation to question them directly. Sample is a small representative part of thepopulation. The data collected in the surveys is done by the questionnaires method. Thesurveys can employ qualitative measures such as asking open ended questions or it canuse quantitative measures like using forced choice questions in the questionnaires. The
  16. 16. surveys are divided into two main categories; cross sectional surveys and longitudinalsurveys. (Babbie,1973). The cross sectional surveys include collection of data from thepopulation at a single point in time. These surveys usually employed when the researcherwants to explain the relationship between two factors while the longitudinal surveys areused to gather data over a period of time. These surveys provide the researcher with theuseful information about the changes occurred in the population and attempts to explainthe reasons of changes. These surveys are further categorized into trend studies, cohortstudies and panel studies respectively. The focus of trend studies lies on a particular population which is sampled andchanged repeatedly. These studies can be conducted over a long period of time. Theresearcher can use the combination of various studies conducted on the same populationin order to show the trend. The Cohort studies also focus on the particular population butwith the different perspective. The sample selected will be used repeatedly by theresearcher. This study uses same sample over the time to conduct the analysis. The Panelstudies too use the same sample of people every time. This study helps the researcher tofind out why the changes occur in the population. The sample selected is called panel.The panel studies can be difficult to conduct because they are usually expensive toconduct and needs lot of time (Babbie, 1973). The observational research is divided into three main categories; participatory andnon participatory research. In participatory research, the researcher take part in the givenprocess or situation to observe the situation or problem and the reason of its occurrence.
  17. 17. The non participatory research is the opposite of participatory research. The researcherdoes not take part in the observation actively. The researcher may stay out of the processor situation to observe the occurrence of situation. The researcher can also hire someexternal observer to observe the given situation (Gay, 2005). The participatory research is further divided into two main techniques; formal andinformal observations. The formal observational techniques involve the usual techniquesemployed by the researcher which might include checklists, evaluations, etc. on the basisof which the researcher draws his or her observations about the given situation orproblem and draws inferences while the informal observational techniques involvemethods like hidden observations, video recording, picturing, cameras etc. (Best, 2002) In the non participatory research, the observer does not take part in the activeobservations. He or she remains outside the observational situation and does notintentionally interfere or take part in the situation, scenario or object. The nonparticipatory research is further classified into naturalistic and simulation observations. Agnew and Pyke (1990) reported that the certain types of behaviors can only bebest observed if they occur naturally. In the situations where the natural behaviors areprime focus to the observer then the observer do not forcefully try to manipulate thebehaviors of the people and let them behave in a way they feel natural. The naturalisticobservations aim to record and study the behavior as it normally occurs. The insights
  18. 18. obtained from these observations helps to formulate the more control over the researcharea. In the simulations observations method, the researcher creates a situation that is tobe observed and tells the objects to perform their roles by participating in the situation.This method allows the researcher to develop understanding about the behavior of peoplethat are not naturally occurred in the situation. This type of observation is further dividedinto individual role playing and team role playing. In individual role playing, single unitperforms the activities in the situations while in team role playing; a group of actorsperforms different activities in the situation created by the researcher. The steps involved in conducting observational research are no different than anyother research. It starts with the selection and definition of the problem, then defining theresearch variables and then recording of the observations. The reliability of observatory isthen assessed, training is given to the researcher, and after the training is given theobservatory is then monitored to remove any observations related biases involved (Gay,2005). The researcher must clearly define the variables to be observed. These variablesderive the behaviors of the participants. If these variables are clearly defined then theobservation process would easy to conduct. The time limitation is defined. The number oftimes when the observation is to be conducted is then defined in order to find out theactual behavior of the people. The observations process requires high level of expertise inorder to effectively and efficiently conducts the observations.
  19. 19. Once the variables are defined and time duration is set, the researcher will thenrecord the observations based on the behaviors of the participants. The again and againobservations will help the observer to identify and differentiate between the actual andrecord behaviors. Single behavior can be recorded at one time. Once the behavior isobserved, the observer must change the pattern of observing the behavior of participantsto develop the clear understanding. The use of checklist is common for recording the observations of the participants.The literature has indicated that the use of rating scale is also common for recording theobservations. The check lists help the observer to check the particular behavior on setnorms and variables. The reliability of observation is of great importance in the observational research.The observations will only be reliable if the observer has undergone the observationsvarious times to develop the understanding about the behaviors of the participants. Thereliability is used to check the biasness of the observers and the observations in aparticular situation. Another way to access the reliability of observation is to cut downthe time period to observe the behaviors in shorter time period and to calculate thereliability of the observations on the basis of agreements and disagreements onoccurrence and non occurrence of behavior. The training of observers is very important in order to have assurance that all theobservers are observing and recording the behaviors at the same time. They must be
  20. 20. instructed as to what behaviors are required to be observed. The training of observersmay be finished on the successful achievement of reliability. To ensure the continuouslevel of reliability it is desirable to monitor the observers and their recording activities.More the monitoring of the activities is done the better will be the performance ofobservers (Best, 2002). The biases in the observations occur when the observers madeinvalid observations that are product of the observer’s perceptions. Its best to makeobserver aware of the problems that are to be observed in the most neutral method. The main advantage of observational research is the provision of exact facts andfigures. Since this research involves the observations of the researcher, which are mostlynon participatory in nature, the researcher will have little or no impact or involvement inthe behavior of the participants. The participants will tend to show their natural behaviorto the particular situation or objects. The observational research is often treated as themost reliable research technique but this research has to face criticism of various people.According to the opponents of this research type, observational research is based on theobservations of the researcher and these observations may get biased in order to get thedesired recordings of the participant’s behavior (Gay, 2005).
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