Research: Questions, Paradigms and Methods
The ability to conduct research and develop processes of enquiry contribute significantly to success in both FE and HE. This week in #crit101 you will explore the methods and tools useful to conducting research. It should be a systematic, non-discriminatory and open process. Most research seeks to either test a hypothesis or answer a question.
Before embarking on a research project a process of asking questions or drilling down is required to establish lines of enquiry. An initial question or research title can be both too broad and too ambiguous. Therefore, it is pertinent to explore the question seeking to define/establish the direction of the research project. This can be achieved through the following activities:
1. Defining the key terms within the question, expanding and clarifying your understanding of what the question is asking. Moreover, it encourages an approach that considers research question both conceptually and in terms of its context.
2. Creating a set of sub-questions, giving your research project shape and structure through the development of discrete lines of enquiry.
As such it is incumbent on the researcher to consider what the question is asking; in what context the question is positioned; and what would be the best way to approach answering it?
Once you are clear on what you are going to research, you need to decide on a research approach. Research is commonly broken down into two types:
Quantitative research concerns itself, in the main, with the collection of numerical data. It is often described as a positivist approach to research, concerning itself with cause and effect. It posits that the researcher must remain objective throughout the research process, and is therefore viewed by many to be the most reliable mode of research.
Qualitative research concerns itself with the collection of non-numeric forms, including opinions, feelings and experiences. As a methodology it tries to develop a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of the research topic. However, it is sometimes criticised as being less reliable than quantitative research, perhaps because of the challenges researchers face in analysing and evaluating qualitative data. Qualitative data can be daunting to analyse, relying on a process known as coding.
Once you have decided on a research approach it is time to decide on specific methods of data collection. Again, these are split into two types:
Primary Research Methods
Primary research concerns itself with the collection of first-hand data. This may be through:
- Case studies
Secondary Research Methods
Secondary research concerns itself with existing data, including:
- Existing research
- Reports and statistics
- Web pages
- Articles and blog posts
- Content analysis
- Historical information
Many researchers favour a mixed-methods approach to conducting research. A combination of quantitative and qualitative research approaches and primary and secondary research methods is used, resulting in triangulation. It is argued that such an approach creates a more reliable set of data, providing a more detailed picture of an instance.
- Blaxter, et al., (2010) Defining the key concepts, issues and contexts from How to Research, McGraw-Hill International [Chapter – click on ‘page 35’ to view/read]
- University of Surrey: Primary and Secondary Sources and Triangulation [Guide]
- University of Surrey: Quantitative Research [Guide]
- University of Surrey: Qualitative Research [Guide]
- Randall McClure (2010) Googlepedia: Turning Information Behaviors into Research Skills from Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volume 2, SC: Parlor Press [Article]
- Hack Education: Get More Out of Google [Infographic]
Archive: Wednesday 20th March
1. Complete a small research project, seeking to answer the following question:
- What is the best way to cook an egg?
This is a collaborative task and will be completed using Google Docs. Your completed and published document should include your response to the question (max: 1000 words) including references, following the Harvard system. The document has been set up for you to work together as a group, demonstrating the approach you took with your research, including: questions, chosen research approaches and methods, appendices and references.
2. Complete a blog post reflecting on the week’s reading and research project:
- What did you learn about the research process?
- How successful were you in completing the research project? Include a link to your groups’ published assignment.
- Were you an effective collaborator? (Be honest!)
3. Read and comment on the blog posts of the 3-4 members of your comment group. (Discuss their responses to the questions and share your learning from the week)