The researcher has to undertake a sequential progression or step-by-step process of research to undertake a research investigation. In different fields of investigation the tools and the techniques might be different but the logical process of research remains the same. Articles in this website will help you go through the logical steps of undertaking the research. These articles will provide a theoretical knowledge, but this theoretical knowledge can be easily operationalized by the researcher. In general, the eight-step model of the research process is explained below and you can open the link to find detailed knowledge related to each step of the research. Diagrams are provided where only theoretical knowledge is insufficient.
Step I: Formulating a research problem
Reviewing the literature
There are various aims that a researcher achieves with review of literature. There are books, journals, magazines, newspapers, diaries, bibliographies and various other sources that can provide a good base for review of literature. It depends on the field in which you are conducting the study as well as the topic that you want to research. At this moment the researcher has yet to formulate a research problem after narrowing it as much as possible. The review of literature gives greater insight to the researcher so that he can formulate an executable research problem. This preliminary step has therefore greater importance because it gives sound base to your research. While reviewing the literature the researcher should create a bibliography. Every library provides database related to different fields and the researcher can use the electronic database to find articles and research papers related to the topic of his interest. For example, ERIC is an electronic database for resources related to education and social sciences.
Formulating a research problem
There is great importance of formulating a good research problem. A good research problem has several features, it is specific in nature, highly relevant to your subject area, off course it interests you, you have the expertise to undertake it, and it is ethically correct. So, there are plenty of issues that you have to consider and formulating a research problem is not an easy task. You can ask your research supervisor for help in this regard and she should help you because she has the experience that you do not have. You might think that you have narrowed down the research problem but if you think through it again it will look too broad. The research problem determines the research objectives, a broad research problem will have many objectives. Having too many objectives means that you have to conduct a big study that will take long time and other resources. You should identify your research problem and then dissect it. You should double-check your research problem for any changes or improvements.
It is very important to identify the variables that have to be studied in the research. Variables are like concepts, but they can be measured on different scales.
Hypotheses are hunch or assumptions that are made by the researcher. They make the research goal oriented and paves a way to do the research. When the researcher formulates the research problem the next step is to understand how to solve this problem. Hypothesis provides a guideline to solve that problem. There are studies that have been conducted without a hypothesis, so hypothesis is not a must-have for the research. It depends on your research problem whether you need to formulate a hypothesis or not. It is always good to have a hypothesis. In descriptive research, the researchers may or may not formulate a hypothesis. There are some researches that cannot be undertaken without a hypothesis, because in the absence of a sound hypothesis the research becomes too lengthy and loses its direction.
Formulating research objectives
When the researcher formulates the research problem and understands the purpose of his research, he has to develop objectives too. A research provides solution to a problem, it should directly focus on the problem. Research objectives gives direction and make the research relevant and to the point. The researcher has to take the right path to finding out the solutions. Research objectives and hypothesis make this process very to the point. The phrasing of the research objectives should be very clear and preferably simple to understand. The researcher should avoid complex and double-barrelled sentences. The main purpose of the objectives is to identify the variables and make decisions about how to measure them. They define what the researcher wants to achieve from this study. They should always be closely related to the research problem.
Step II: Conceptualising a research design
Selecting a research design
The research design provides a complete guideline to undertake the research practically. It provides the tools, techniques and procedures that are to be used to accomplish the research. Before deciding about the study design, the researcher should be very clear that whether his research is a descriptive one, correlational, explanatory, exploratory or any other type. In short, the researcher should be well aware of the type of research that he is conducting. The type of the research is defined by the research problem and the research objectives. The questions he has asked define what he wants to achieve and how he wants to achieve it. In social sciences the researchers are basically interested in two type of research designs; descriptive and explanatory. In case, it is a feasibility report the researcher will use an exploratory design. In pure sciences and medicine the researchers use experimental study designs. In historical researches too, the study design is descriptive as in social sciences. Regardless of any study design the researcher uses, the most important thing to look at in determining the research design is the research problem as well as the research objectives. The statement of the objectives usually begins with what, why, when, where and how. The descriptive research designs ask “what” questions. The explanatory research design questions “why” and correlational research designs ask “how”.
Step III: Constructing an instrument for data collection
Selecting a method of data collection
In this step, the researcher selects a method of data collection for his research. Now, any kind of data collection method can be used in any kind of research. The researcher now looks at the study design and how it has been planned. As study design provides a structure of the research process, the researcher can use it to find out which method will best suits the research. The methods are basically divided into primary methods of data collection and secondary methods of data collection. The primary methods like survey, experiments and books can be very enlightening. The researcher can get valid and accurate data using primary sources, but this does not necessarily means that secondary sources are invalid and inaccurate. Secondary sources can be used effectively in the research in the absence of primary sources. The choice of the method also depends on whether the research is quantitative or qualitative in nature.
Step IV: Selecting a sample
Selecting the right sampling type
Sampling means selecting a few from the whole population. To select a sample the researcher first decides about the population and locate them. There are possibilities that the whole population is so large and extensive that the researcher cannot enumerate or identify them. In anyway a sample can be drawn from the population. The purpose of sampling are many and they are described in detail in the next several articles. Here it should be understood that by selecting a sample we mean that we want to make our research achievable. There are various sampling types and some of them are classified as random sampling types or random sampling designs while other are non-random sampling types.
To do the sampling the researcher has to calculate the sample size first. The researcher first recognizes the population and then he take decision about the sample size. There are formulas that can be used to draw a valid sample size. You can take sample of your own choice but it will not be representative of your population. It might be too small as compared to the population size, in which case, the data collected from the sample will be invalid and inappropriate. Your sample size can be too big and in this case, you will get a large amount of data. Analyzing a large data needs lots of time and resources, so the better way is to calculate the sample size using a formula.
Step V: Writing a research proposal
Writing a research proposal
The research proposal is like a feasibility report. The purpose of the research proposal is to show the plan of your research to some senior and experienced researchers in your field. In this way, you are able to get some instructions as to change the plan. You can also get sponsorship from other people to conduct this research. The research proposal focuses on What do you want to research? What objectives do you want to achieve? How do you want to achieve it? What difference your research can make, its application? How much time and resources do you have? What is your overall plan to proceed with this research? There are various types of proposals and proposal templates are available in universities, colleges as well as online.
Step VI: Collecting data
Data collection is done according to the data collection method that has been selected in the research. In collecting data, the researcher has to avoid any biases and collect as much reliable and valid data as possible. The researcher should also know the issues of ethics in data collection, especially in collecting data using survey technique. Personal identities should be kept private as much as possible. The researcher should not change or misuse the data as it is his responsibility to bring forward the true responses by the participants.
Step VII: Processing data
The final step of processing the data starts with editing the data. The data is still in raw form and the researcher has to put lots of efforts to arrange the data. Edit the data and categorize them into groups for easier analysis. After editing the data, the data is easy to comprehend, code and analyze.
Codes are assigned to the data so that it can be easily analyzed.
The analysis of the data is done to make conclusions about the research. There are software available online that can help in analyzing the data. Data can also be analyzed manually.
The data that is now in a very organized form is displayed in the form of graphs and tables. The purpose of displaying data is to make the data more convenient to understand. The tabulated form of the data provides easy understanding of the variables and the changes occurring in the variables during different steps or phases. The graphical representation of the data enables the readers to compare the change and to see abrupt changes or small changes.
Step VIII: Writing a research report/research paper or thesis
Writing research report
Writing the research report, thesis or research paper is the last step of the research process. The researcher has all the data that he wants to put in the research, he has taken all the notes and now he can compile the research in a logical manner. Some researchers prefer to start writing from the very beginning of the research, but in any way, the researcher has to do lots of work in the end. There are lots of changes that he has to make, even after printing the first draft he has to check any errors and mistakes.
References are provided at the end of the manuscript while citation means providing in-text, as well as end-text references. The researcher has to provide a full citation of the sources that have been used in the research. There are several ways to cite the sources. The researcher uses one that is accepted by his university or organization.