evaluator, researcher or observer watches what takes place and then attempts to analyze the data gathered during that observation to present the findings. An experimental study attempts to provide a scenario that can be answered by conducting experiments, while a study using surveys to determine results is a survey study. Each of the methods can use quantitative, qualitative, mixed and action research methods to gather data, and each of the three basic methods will also go through a step-by-step process as it attempts to come to a conclusion.
The step-by-step process for conducting basic research encompasses a number of steps. The initiation of a research project begins with a curiosity factor. Human beings are naturally curious and questioning how and why certain things are the way they are oftentimes leads to an attempt to discern those how's and why's. Those attempts are the first step in research. An individual wishes to determine an answer to a question and through that determination decides to conduct research. The question is the hypothesis or the thesis of the research. Once the topic or question has been determined it will be necessary to develop that topic further. This can be done by creating a list of the keywords, or the concepts pertaining to the topic. Accomplishing this task leads to the next step in the process.
The second step is to find background information. With the advent of online libraries this is a relatively simple (but time consuming) task.
Even with no access to online information, the researcher can easily find background information on the subject. Using either online libraries or the brick and mortar libraries found in most communities, the researcher can access encyclopedias, textbooks and reserve readings in order to garner basic information on the question or concept. Entering the keywords from the list online will also lead to background information. Perusing the available information will provide the researcher with a basic understanding of the subject. Along with this step is developing the topic so that it is interesting and important to others. Conducting research on a subject that is of little interest to anyone else is, or conducting research that is redundant can lead to frustration and dismay on the part of the researcher. Oftentimes the researcher will discover that the burning question of the day has been answered in quite a specific manner in other literature.
The third step is more specific in nature regarding the subject and the available material and information. Again, a list of keywords is important. Using the keywords the literature review can now begin. In this step, writing down the citation (who wrote the article, the date, the title, where it was published, and the page numbers) is important. Oftentimes a review of the literature will include an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography is a list of articles and/or studies that have already been conducted on the subject. A short synopsis of how that article or study pertains to the researcher's subject is contained in the annotations.
Perusing the available literature oftentimes will give the researcher a clearer understanding of where the subject matter will lead.
The literature review also enhances the researchers thought process and many times the researchers will discover unique perspectives on the subject.
The steps in conducting and writing a good research paper are often blurred in nature. Each step can lead to the next step, or it can lead other directions. Oftentimes the steps are refined and reevaluated in a continuous manner. However, the researcher must have objectives in order to determine the methodology to be used. The objectives are developed through a search of the literature and the questioning process that goes with that search.
After the subject and objectives of the research have been developed, and a literature review conducted, an evaluation method must be determined. This step determines whether it will be an observation, experiment or survey method of study. This step also helps in determining whether the methodology will include quantitative, qualitative or mixed data. An observation method takes place when the researcher is observing what is taking place; this type of method is not as prevalent as the experimental or the survey methods. Observation normally takes the researcher out into the field to observer people in their natural environment. This is a costly, long and arduous method of research, but it is effective.
The experimental methodology is normally used to prove or disprove a hypothesis; it is a scientific method that researchers use regarding variables and their manipulation. Scientists will often use the experimental methodology by setting up a variable and then testing it in various manners to determine whether it causes changes in another variable. It is usually used in scientific environments.
The survey method is the most common method used (at least in the educational field). The survey method includes using surveys and questionnaires to determine responses and gather data that is both quantitative and qualitative in nature. This type of survey methodology is often used in educational evaluative situations.
Once the data has been gathered, the analysis of the data takes place. The researcher analyzes the data looking for trends and patterns. From these trends and patterns projections can be made as to the subject matter. The researcher looks to determine whether the data supports the hypothesis, whether the data creates a new hypothesis or whether the data takes the research on an entirely different pathway. Quantitative data is computed, qualitative data is discussed and mixed data is combined all in an effort to determine a finding or findings. Oftentimes this step can lead back to a revised objective or methodology and the entire process begins again.
Finally the research report is written. The experiments, surveys and observations are complete, a review of the current literature has been reviewed, and the data has been analyzed. A conclusion has been determined, now the report is written. The report also follows a process (usually in chapter form), with an introduction, review of the literature, methodology, analysis of data and finally the findings or conclusion. The report should also include a title page, abstract, table of contents, and most importantly a reference list of citations telling the reader where the information came from that is included in the report.
The last and final step is, of course, to celebrate the completion of a project that can often take years of hard work and perseverance to complete.
This celebration is often conducted with a mixture of emotions; happiness, relief, a sense of fulfillment, and even joy!
#2 Unobtrusive research is often used in conventional and non-conventional ways during research. Using unobtrusive data collection is done in manners that do not intrude on research subjects or materials. Examples of unobtrusive methods of gathering data is when the researcher sifts through government (or other entities) supplied material, or searches through garbage cans for social data, or watches what takes place in certain areas at certain times without any particular subject knowing that the observation is being made. The unobtrusive method is usually used in conjunction with other methodologies such as interviews, surveys and experiments, but it is used as a complementary method, not the primary method.
Unobtrusive methods can be cameras, videos, media, and even the internet. Many researchers are now using a number of different online social media communities to gather research data. Such a use of unobtrusive research is oftentimes being questioned both by those that are gathering data, and those that are unknowingly providing this type of data by participating in those communities. As an example of unobtrusive methodology a recent study sought data from the graffiti of a closed juvenile detention center.
The study used "content analysis of graffiti…informant interviews and newspaper accounts of the institution provide supplemental data" (Kiofas, Cutshall, 1985, pp. 369). This is an excellent example of a study using only unobtrusive data to come to a conclusion.
It is interesting to note that this particular study was conducted in 1985, and the use of unobtrusive (only) data still has not gained as much headway as the other types of research methodologies.
#3 Scaling is an interesting way to quantify qualitative concepts. When it is used, it is used to measure abstract concepts. An example would be an evaluation that seeks to determine how the respondents view a certain program or concept. Both scaling and indexing are forms of quantitative research. Indexing will often try to measure two or more components while scaling seeks to provide the opportunity for respondents to answer according to a scale. An example of scaling would be if the researcher desired to determine how respondents viewed an educational program at a local university. Surveys containing a large number of questions (100+) could ask the respondents to answer based on scales.
A Likert Scale is a good example of scaling. A Likert Scale can be based on a scale of 1 -- 5 (as one example) or another example would be scaling from a negative…