How Are We Going to Do the Research?
What is the research methodology?
The research methodology is simply the strategy developed by the researcher to solve the research problem he/she has identified. It generally seeks to answer two basic questions in relation to the research: how the researcher intends to collect the data and how the data will be analyzed.
We would like to begin by giving you four (4) keys to developing a winning methodology:
- 1. By all means have a justification for the components of the methodology you choose to use. The common question you will be asked in your research defense is ‘Why did you use this method and not another?’
- 2. Ensure appropriateness of the methods chosen. Your methodology should be in tight sync with your research objectives and problem.
- 3. Conduct a pilot test of the methods you have chosen to ensure they are feasible and will provide the required results for the research. This is usually done by selecting a similar but smaller sample you are going to use for the research to provide the same data and analyze it.
- 4. Consult before finalizing or rolling out the methodology. You must by all means consult your supervisor; you can also consult other researchers who have trod the same path before for advice.
The methodology is generally made up of the research design, sampling design, data collection techniques, data analysis techniques, and ethical consideration.
The design of a research gives the researcher a clear guideline as to how to solve the research problem. The choice of a research design must be influenced by the format predicted to collect the data, the purpose or objective of the research, the time available for the whole research to be conducted among others. Even though there are other classifications of designs, the common ones could be descriptive, experimental, explanatory or diagnostic. The names of the design suggest what they seek to do. For instance, whereas a descriptive design seeks to describe a particular situation chosen for research, the experimental design seeks to usually establish a cause and effect relationship between two elements.
Population and sample design
Every research requires the collection of data from either a group of people or observing elements in order to achieve its objectives. These groups or elements form the target of the research and referred to in research as the population of the study. For example, a research on ‘Job satisfaction among Policemen’ will have ‘policemen’ as the population. Though the ideal would be to use all policemen, this is impossible due to time and resources limitation. The solution to this problem is the use of a sample, which simply refers to the subset of the total population of the study. However due to the technicalities of research, there is always a justified number that can be selected out of a population to still ensure that the results are reliable and represent the population (reliability and generalization) There are Mathematical tools and tables to ensure that the right number with respect to the sample is selected to represent the population such as the Krejcie and Morgan equation. This subset of the population is referred to as the sample size.
Data collection techniques
The first decision to be made before the techniques for data collection is the kind of data the researcher wants to use for the research. Primary data are simply ones that will be collected for the first time and are original in nature. Secondary data are ones that have already been collected and processed but are useful for the study. It is also possible to have a combination of both primary and secondary data in a research. Primary data is collected via interviews, questionnaires or case studies.
The next issue is whether to use quantitative or qualitative data or both approaches. Quantitative data as the name suggests collects data in numerical terms whereas qualitative data deals with non-numeric data. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages and the choice of any should be based on the purpose and conditions of the research. For example, a research that seeks to explore a new field or topic is likely to adopt a qualitative approach while a research that seeks to present an objective view of the findings will adopt a quantitative approach.
This is the most important and complex stage of the methodology because the researcher must be able to turn the raw data collected into meaning information that can be used to address the research problem. The wrong choice of analysis tools and techniques will produce the wrong output. The choice of tools for analyzing data is largely dependent on whether the data is quantitative or qualitative. Some of the tools used for analyzing quantitative data include simple and multiple regression analysis, multiple discriminant analysis, multivariate analysis of variance, and canonical analysis. These are all used as and when they are suitable to be used based on the kind of data or the output required by the research. The commonest tool for analyzing qualitative data is the content analysis which seeks to code and classify data from interviews, focus groups, etc in order to make sense of them. Even though it is advisable to have knowledge of tools for data analysis, do not hesitate to seek help from someone skilled in using the analysis tool.
Ethics simply differentiate between what is acceptable and unacceptable in research. Among the key ethical issues that must be observed during and after data collection are voluntary participation, informed consent, confidentiality and ensuring anonymity. Voluntary participation is ensuring that people are not forced to take part in your research but rather have a choice as to whether to provide data or partake in your research. Informed consent also talks about briefing those who are going to partake in your research, more so if it is an experiment on them of the risks and side effects to expect if there is any during and after participating in the research. With respect to confidentiality, since research usually involves collating personal details as well as views and experiences of people, it is the right of the participants to have all the information they have provided kept secret and used only for research purposes. Last but not the least of ethics in research is ensuring anonymity. The data collection process should be void of gathering very personal data that can facilitate easy tracing of the identity of one who provided the data (e.g. name and photographs of the person etc).
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