Research is an endeavor to discover knowledge by the scientific study of a subject or a fact. It involves treatment of materials, concepts and symbols for generalizing to extend, correct or verify the knowledge (Encyclopedia). By attempting to apply the vigorous systematic observation and analysis used in physical, chemical and biological sciences to the areas of social and behavioural sciences, the latter have grown and have advanced humanity'sknowledge itself.
Educational research is that activity which is "directed towards development of a science of behaviour in educational situations. The ultimate aim of such a science is to provide knowledge that will permit the educator to achieve his/her goals by the most effective methods of scientific study" (Best)
One of the most difficult phases of any research project is choice of a suitable problem. The beginner is likely to take a very long time in making his choice. In the first step of any research the research worker should not take a hasty decision. Every problem which comes to his mind or even suggested by a more experienced person may not be a problem fit for research. The identification of a good research problem should be considered a discovery in itself.
Before the proposed research problem can be finalized, several conditions and considerations have to be satisfied. Although there are no standard rules that will guarantee the suitability of a research problem, a number of criteria might be listed for guidance in the selection of a topic: Aim and level of research, Novelty of topic, Relevance, Feasiblity, Availability of data, guidance and cooperation etc. This vast expanse itself tells us that perfection is not possible in research.
Imperfection creeps in due to subjectivity of the researcher, nature of the topic, perspectives and orientations, weakness of the tools used, availability or non-availability of source materials and many other factors.
Areas where Imperfection Creeps in
In research one has to handle quantitative and qualitative data. Breaking down these data into units that can be statistically analyzed is the key to any successful research. Physical phenomena are numerical and quantitative. On the other hand social phenomena are abstract or qualitative. Qualitative phenomena, in their turn, are ambiguous and complex. Due to this, results of social research yield results that are less solid and tangible. Most of the information in the behavioural science including social psychology and education is in the form of verbal and other symbolic behaviour. The verbal data gathered through questionnaire, observation or interview is mostly qualitative in nature.
Researchers have to use various sources of data: records, reports, periodicals, letters, autobiographies, books and the like. When using these documentary sources, one must bear in mind that data appearing in print are not necessarily trustworthy. In order to achieve results from facts gathered through survey, documents and other methods several techniques are utilized. Discourse analysis, content analysis, conversational analysis, critical theory and protocol analysis are some among them. In order to arrive at results from the collected data it is necessary to classify and analyze it—the process of content analysis. 'When used properly, content analysis is a powerful data reduction technique' (Stemler).
Various stages of the research processes are mentioned below.
Steps in the research process
Kinds of literature to be reviewed
Purpose of reviews
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1.1 Source materials – encyclopedia, textbooks, reference books.
1.2 Latest publications on the discipline
1.3 ICCSR survey of research in social science
1.4 Bibliography of Doctoral Dissertations.
1.5 Theses in the selected discipline
1.1 To gain preliminary orientation and back ground knowledge.
1.2 To gain up to date knowledge in the filed.
1.3 To know the work already done on the subject
1.4 To identify research gaps in the filed.
1.5 To avoid duplication
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Previous studies in the field, journalism, published and unpublished theses
To become familiar with appropriate methodology and research techniques relevant to the study.
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Same as in (2)
For clarifying concepts and knowing measurement technique.
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4.1 Illustrated books as methodology of research.
4.2 Published and unpublished theses.
To develop alternative design.
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5.1 same as 4.1 & 4.2.
5.2 copies of tools and scales furnished in the appendix of theses.
For gaining a thorough knowledge of the process of tools and measurement techniques.
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Journals / text books reference books and reports on the subject matters
To take notes and compile bibliography.
These stages, the kinds of literature to be reviewed at each stage, the availability of such materials, the personal inclinations that decide the choice from these resources etc decide the quality and output of any research. This demonstrates the scope and complexity of any research process and tells us that perfection is not possible in research. This is equally applicable to scientific and quantitative research as well.
- Encyclopedia of Educational Research (vol. 4)
- Best, J.W. (1931) Research in Education, New Delhi: Prentice Hall
- Stemler, Steve (2001) An Overview of Content Analysis: Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation, 7 (17). Retrieved July 25, 2006 from http://PAREonline.net