Steps of Research

Scientific research involves a systematic process that focuses on being objective and gathering a multitude of information for analysis so that the researcher can come to a conclusion. This process is used in all research and evaluation projects, regardless of the research method (scientific method of inquiry, evaluation research, or action research). The process focuses on testing hunches or ideas in a park and recreation setting through a systematic process. In this process, the study is documented in such a way that another individual can conduct the same study again. This is referred to as replicating the study. Any research done without documenting the study so that others can review the process and results is not an investigation using the scientific research process. The scientific research process is a multiple-step process where the steps are interlinked with the other steps in the process.

Research is considered to be the more formal, systematic, intensive process of carrying on the scientific method of analysis. It involves a more systematic structure of investigation, usually resulting in some sort of formal record of procedures and a report of results or conclusions. –  John W. Best

Research Tips:

  • WORK FROM THE GENERAL TO THE SPECIFIC. Find background information first, then use more specific and recent sources.
  • RECORD WHAT YOU FIND AND WHERE YOU FOUND IT. Write out a complete citation for each source you find; you may need it again later.
  • TRANSLATE YOUR TOPIC INTO THE SUBJECT LANGUAGE OF THE INDEXES AND CATALOGS YOU USE. Check your topic words against a thesaurus or subject heading list.

Video 1: (Language – English)

R. Panneerselvam in his book entitled “Research Methodology”  explained the whole research process into the following sequence of steps:

  1. Problem definition
  2. Objectives of the research
  3. Research design
  4. Data collection
  5. Data analysis
  6. Interpretation of results A
  7. Validation of results.

The above steps could be summed up in following ways:

1. Problem Definition

A research problem must be identified and defined without any ambiguity. The researcher(s) should identify research problem which will have added value to the body of exiting knowledge. lf a researcher proceeds with ill-defined problems, he/she may end up with all misleading results. Hence, the research problem should be clearly defined.

2. Objectives of the Research

The objectives of the research must be identified by the researcher after identifying well defined problem. Why the researcher has taken up the project / study, he/she needs to understand. The objectives of the study help the researcher to move to the right direction to design the research, questionnaire, collect data or put forward the interpretations. The researcher may set one of the followings after determining objectives of the study.

  • Research questions
  • Hypotheses

Research questions are the problems which are not resolved, till date. One should ask questions relating to the purpose of the study, place of the study, present state of the research issue and the possible means of finding solution to the research problem.

A hypothesis is a tentative generalization which remains to be tested. It is an assumption about a population of the study. Generally, a hypothesis is formulated for a situation where the inference is not explicit. The hypothesis may be true or false. The correct fact can be ascertained only after collecting and analyzing the related data.

3. Research Design

Once the research problem is identified, objectives are determined clearly, the next stage is to design the research. The research design provides a complete guidelines for data collection. Following are the essence of a research design according to R. Panneerselvam:

  • Selection of research approach
  • Design of sampling plan
  • Design of experiment
  • Design of questionnaire.

Selection of research approach

There are two major classification of research approaches, viz., exploratory research and conclusive research for survey based researches. Based on the requirements of the study, the researcher should decide about the type of study to be conducted.

Design of sampling plan

A sampling plan is a mechanism by which the sampling units of a study are selected from the sampling frame of the population. It should be selected with utmost care. The sampling plan can be classified into probability sampling plans and non-probability sampling plans. Different sampling plans in each of these categories are listed as follows:

  1. Simple random sampling
  2. Systematic sampling
  3. Stratified random sampling
  4. Cluster sampling
  5. Multi-stage sampling.

Depending on the population size, required precision and available time to carry out the research project, a suitable sampling plan is to be selected.

Design of experiment

A study involves different response variables. Each response variable may be affected by several factors. To test the effect of these factors on a response variable, a suitable experiment is to be designed such that the necessary data for testing the significance of the effects of the factors on the response variable are collected and the inferences of the test are highly reliable.

Design of questionnaire

The data can be classified into primary data and secondary data. The data which is collected for the first time by direct observation is called primary data. The data which is obtained from existing records, publications, etc., is known as secondary ones.

Different methods of primary data collection are questionnaire, observation, personal interview, telephone interview and mail survey. The success of survey methods depends on the strength of the questionnaire used. A questionnaire consists of a set of well-formulated questions to probe and obtain responses from respondents.

The generalized steps of designing questionnaire are presented as follows:

  1. Identification of research issues and finalization of the set of hypotheses;
  2. For each issue, formulation of a set of questions and then deciding about the content and format of each question;
  3. Deciding question wording depending upon the types of the question;
  4. Arrangement of questions in the questionnaire in appropriate sequence and also deciding the format of the questionnaire;
  5. Pre-testing questionnaire;
  6. Review of questionnaire for improvements.

The questionnaire must contain provisions to collect all the data items which are required for testing different hypotheses of the experiment as well as for testing the hypotheses of other tests relating to various research issues.

4. Data Collection

The data can be grouped into two: primary data and secondary data. The data which is collected for the first time by direct observation is called primary data. The data which is obtained from existing records, publications, etc., is known as secondary ones. There are different methods of data collection.

Different methods of primary data collection are questionnaire, observation, personal interview, telephone interview and mail survey.

The secondary data are collected from sources which have already been created or published. The secondary data can be obtained from internal sources and external sources. The different external sources of secondary data are government publications, foreign government publications, journals, publications of trade associations, books, magazines, newspapers, annual reports, research reports in universities, etc.

5. Data Analysis

Data collected through different data collection tools need to be analysed and interpreted. The processing of data gives statistics of importance of the study. After data are collected, proper tools and techniques should be used for classification and analysis of data.

The tools of classification of data are frequency distribution, cumulative frequency distribution, relative frequency distribution and charts. Charts are graphical representation of data. Different types of charts are pie chart, bar chart, stacked bar chart, histogram, frequency polygon and give curves. The classification tools serve as data presentation techniques for clear interpretations. The analysis of data involves one or more of the following tasks:

  • Computation of statistics, viz., mean, median, mode, standard deviation, coefficient of variation, coefficient of skewness, etc.
  • Performing correlation analysis
  • Testing different hypotheses relating to various issues of the research
  • and so on

6. Interpretation of Results

The researcher should infer the results of the research problem. In a survey based research, many assumptions are made about the population, sample, sampling method and scaling while collecting data. The analysis of data after data collection yields a set of results either in the form of statistics, regression equations, identification of significant factors or in the form of acceptance or rejection of different hypotheses. The researcher must infer the results of the original research issues from the results obtained through data analysis.

7. Validation of Results

In a research study, the results after interpretation must be validated by using past data. The process of validation of results ensures the credibility of the results. If there is any mismatch between the results then the assumptions should be revisited till the results are validated.

To test a hypothesis means to tell (on the basis of the data the researcher has collected) whether or not the hypothesis seems to be valid. In hypothesis testing, the main question is:

Whether to accept the null hypothesis or not to accept the null hypothesis?

Procedure for hypothesis testing refers to all those steps that we undertake for making a choice between the two actions i.e., rejection and acceptance of a null hypothesis. There are various steps involved in hypothesis testing.

SUMMARY: Give credit where credit is due; cite your sources. Citing or documenting the sources used in your research serves two purposes, it gives proper credit to the authors of the materials used, and it allows those who are reading your work to duplicate your research and locate the sources that you have listed as references.

As you have probably concluded, conducting studies using the eight steps of the scientific research process requires you to dedicate time and effort to the planning process. You cannot conduct a study using the scientific research process when time is limited or the study is done at the last minute. Researchers who do this conduct studies that result in either false conclusions or conclusions that are not of any value to the organization.

Further Reading:

  • Research Methodology by R. Panneerselvam: PHI Learning Private Limited, New Delhi, 2010
  • Applied Research and Evaluation Methods in Recreation By Diane C. Blankenship.

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