Introduction: What is research?

1.0 Introduction

1.1 What is research?

Research is a process which uses specialized tools, instruments and standard procedures to obtain deeper, broader and more accurate understanding of a situation. It seeks to generate new knowledge or solution to a problem or both, depending on its purpose. Because research targets observed or factual information and tries to control extraneous variables, it is also regarded as a systematic empirical enquiry.
A research process generally follows the procedure:

  1. Identifying a problem
  2. Formulating questions about the problem
  3. Collecting relevant data to answer the questions
  4. Analyzing data to provide tentative answers to the research questions
  5. Making conclusions or decisions based on the analysis.

Research involves originality and objectivity rather than personal opinions.

Activity 1

  1. Explain how research differs from (a) a study (b) an opinion poll (c) search
    • Research is a process of investigation aimed at generating new knowledge or new solution to a problem. Study is a more general term that includes the search for new knowledge and solution, as well as an individual's efforts to understand existing knowledge. Not all studies are aimed at generating new knowledge or solution. Studies that generate new knowledge are research studies; that is, all researches are studies, but not the other way round.
    • Opinion poll is a survey that applies proven research techniques to describe current population characteristics or predicts outcomes, usually with remarkable degree of accuracy (small error margins). However, opinions are unstable and can change drastically within a matter of hours or days while research findings are relatively stable and reproducible (even sometime later).
    • Unlike research, a search is not necessarily systematic; it may be random. Also, a search aims at gaining access to already established knowledge or information.
  3. What is an empirical study?
  4. Empirical study is a systematic investigation that involves use of sense experience such as observations, which are expressed in quantitative terms to facilitate hypothesis testing. Empirical studies therefore apply mainly to quantitative and mixed methods research. They are based on evidence, which is reproducible.

  5. Suggest the possible meanings of (a) library research (b) field research (c) social science research.
    1. Library research is a systematic investigation that uses documented data available in various library resources, whether printed or electronic, offline or online. Such resources are a rich source of information that can be synthesized to yield new knowledge, new interpretations, and new solutions. Studies that adopt meta-analysis designs rely heavily on library research. Document Analysis Guide is one of the critical tools in library research.
    2. Field research involves collection of data from the real life or natural settings. It collects primary data from (and about) participants or about subjects (if non-humans) of the study. Surveys and experiments are some of the activities associated with field research.
    3. Social science research refers to all studies that fall within a particular area of human society, such as sociology and cultural studies, psychology, economics, anthropology, history, political science, management, journalism, and education, among others.

Answers to Activity 1

NB: In this and all subsequent activities, you are encouraged to attempt the activity first, giving it a serious thought, before checking the sample results. Also, note that the sample answers are not necessarily complete. You may generate more points than are given in the sample answers; this is encouraged. Sample answers only serve to assure you that you are on the right track. You are also encouraged to critique the results, including your own, as a way sharpening your skills for research.