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Old 12-11-2009, 12:03 AM
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Default The Research Process (BSIT07-11)

THE RESEARCH PROCESS

Research task is usually treated as a sequential process involving several clearly defined steps. No one claims that research requires completion of each step before going to the next. Recycling, circumventing, and skipping occur. Some steps are begun out of sequence, some are carried out simultaneously, and some may be omitted.

1. Broad Problem Area
The process begins with a researcher selecting a topic– a general area of study or issue such as divorce, crime, aging, marketing, or powerful elites.
A topic appears to be too broad for conducting research. The specific issues that need to be researched within the situation may not be identified at this stage.
Such issues might pertain to (1) problem currently existing in an organizational setting that need to be solved (sexual harassment), (2) areas that a manager believes need to be improved in the organization (improving the existing policies), (3) a conceptual or theoretical issue that needs to tightened up for basic researcher or to understand certain phenomenon (conceptual definition of harassment), and (4) some research questions that a basic researcher wants to answer empirically (impact of harassment on the performance of the workers).

2. Preliminary Data Collection
This step may be considered as part of the exploratory research. An exploration typically begins with a search for published data and studies. Such sources can provide secondary data which becomes part of the background information (about the organization, groups of people, context of the issue). Some secondary sources of data are statistical bulletins, government publications, information published or unpublished, case studies, online data, web sites, and the Internet. In addition, the researchers often seek out people who are well informed on the topic, especially those who have clearly stated positions on controversial aspects of the problem. Such persons can be the professional researchers, or the informants to whom the issues relate. In certain situations it may be appropriate to have some focus group discussions with the relevant people. Such discussions help in the identification of variables and having clarification of the issue
3. Problem Definition
After having discussions with the professionals as well as with the persons to whom the issue relates, and the review of literature, the researcher is in a position to narrow down from its original broad base and define the issue clearly.
Translate the broad issue into a research question. As part of the applied research convert the management dilemma into a management question, and then on to research question that fits the need to resolve the dilemma. The symptoms of a problem might help tracing the real problem.

For example a productivity decline of workers may be an issue. The management may have tried to solve it by the provision of incentive but did not work. The researcher may have to dig deep and find the possible factors like the morale and motivation of the workers having some other antecedents.
There could be similar other broad issues which have to be narrowed down to research questions like:
1. To what extent has the new advertising campaign been successful in creating the high quality, consumer-centered corporate image that it was intended to produce?
2. Has the new packaging affected the sale of the products?
3. Will the day care centers affect the productivity of female workers?
4. Why the divorce rate is on the increase in Pakistan?
5. Why the family in Pakistan is changing?
6. What could be the impact of changing family patterns on the living of senior citizens?

4. Theoretical Framework
Consultations with the informants and professionals, and the review of literature should have helped in the identification of different factors that are considered to be relevant to the topic. The researcher has to make logical relationship among several factors identified earlier. This will help in the delineation of the theoretical framework. The theoretical framework discusses the interrelationships among the variables that are deemed to be integral to the dynamics of the situation being investigated. Developing such a conceptual framework helps to postulate or hypothesize and test certain relationships.
We have already discussed the components of a theoretical framework.

5. Generation of Hypotheses
Once we have identified the important variables relevant to an issue and established the logical reasoning in the theoretical framework, we are in a position to test whether the relationships that have been theorized do in fact hold true. By testing these relationships scientifically, we are in a position to obtain reliable information to determine the relationship among the variables. The results of these tests offer us part of the answers to the formulated research questions, whether these relate basic research or to applied research.

6. Research Design
Research design is a master plan specifying the methods and procedures for collecting and analyzing the needed information.
It is a framework or the blueprint that plans the action for research project.

Broadly there are six basic research methods for descriptive and causal research: surveys, experiments, observation, communication analysis (content analysis), case study, focus group discussion.
Use of secondary data may be another method where the data may have been collected by using any of the six basic methods listed earlier.
The objectives of the research, the available data sources thee urgency of the decision, and the cost of obtaining the data will determine the method to be is chosen.

Surveys: The most common method of generating primary data is through surveys. Survey is a research technique in which information is gathered from a sample of people using a questionnaire. The task of writing a list of questions and designing the exact format of the printed or written questionnaire is an essential aspect of the development of survey research design.
Research investigators may choose to contact the respondents in person, by telephone, by mail, or on the internet. Each of these techniques has advantages and disadvantages. The researcher’s task is to choose the most appropriate one for collecting the information needed.

Experiments: Experiments hold the greatest potential for establishing cause-and-effect relationships. The use of experimentation allows investigation of changes in one variable, such as productivity, while manipulating one or more variables, perhaps social rewards or monetary rewards, under controlled conditions.
Ideally, experimental control provides a basis for isolating causal factors, because outside (or exogenous) influences do not come into play.

An experiment controls conditions so that one or more variables can be manipulated in order to test a hypothesis. In the laboratory experiments, compared with the field experiment, it is possible to create controlled conditions for the manipulation of one or more variables and see its effect on the dependent variable by holding the extraneous factors constant.

Observation techniques: Observation can be non participant or participant. In many situations the objective of a research project is merely to record what can be observed – for example the number of automobiles that pass the proposed site for a gas station. This can be mechanically recorded or observed by any person. This is an unobtrusive study without a respondent’s direct participation.
In participant observation studies, the researcher takes part in the day to day activities, interviews them, and makes observations. Such a study generates qualitative data and lasts for a long duration.

Communication analysis: It is also called content analysis which means gathering and analyzing thee content of the text. The content refers to words, meanings, pictures, symbols, ideas, themes, or any message that can be communicated. The text is anything written, visual, or spoken that serves as a medium of communication. It includes books, newspapers, advertisements, speeches, official documents, films or videotapes, photographs, articles of clothing, or works of art.

Case study: It is an in-depth analysis of a unit which could be an individual person, a couple, a group, or an organization. It is more like a clinical analysis in retrospect; starting from the effect and tracing the reasons back in time. The researcher takes the history of the situation and makes use of any other relevant information about the case to identify the factors leading to the present situation.
Focus group discussions: It is a discussion of an issue by 6-12 persons with a moderator for 1-2 hours. The issue can be a public concern, a product, a television program, a political candidate, or a policy.
Focus groups are useful in exploratory research or to generate new ideas for hypotheses, and the interpenetration of results. It produces qualitative information which may compliment the quantitative data.
Researchers try to evaluate different research designs and select the most appropriate one that helps in getting the relevant information. There is no one best research design for all situations.

7. Data Collection, Data Processing, and Analysis
Data collection is integral part of the research design, though we are dealing it separately. Data collection is determined by the research technique selected for the project. Data can be collected in a variety of ways, in different settings – field or lab – and from different sources. It could include interviews – face to face interviews, telephone interviews, computer-assisted interviews, and interviews through electronic media; questionnaires that either personally administered, sent through mail, or electronically administered; observation of individuals and events which could be participant or non participant.
Once the fieldwork has been completed, the data must be converted into a format that will answer the research questions and or help testing the hypotheses. Data processing generally begins with the editing and coding of thee data. Editing involves checking the data collection forms for omissions, legibility, and consistency in classification. The editing process corrects problems such as interviewer errors prior to the data are transferred to a computer. Coding may be the assigning of numbers or symbols before it goes to the computer. The computer can help in making tables and the application of different statistics.

Analysis is the application of reasoning to understand and interpret the data that have been collected. The appropriate analytical technique is to be determined by the research design, and the nature of the data collected.
8. Testing the Hypotheses; Answering the Research Questions
The analysis and interpretation of the data shall be the means to testing the formulated hypotheses as well as finding answers to the research questions. In case of applied research, the research should be helpful in finding solutions to the problems of the organization or society. Making recommendations may also be part of this process.
9. Report Writing
The research report should communicate the research findings effectively. All too often the report is a complicated statement of the study’s technical aspects and sophisticated research methods. If the study has been conducted for a business management, often the management is not interested in detailed reporting of the research design and statistical findings but wants only the summary of the findings. Research is only as good as the applications made of it. Nevertheless, the research report becomes a historical document, a record that may be referred to in later studies. In case of research for academic purposes the research findings become part of the body of knowledge, and the research may producing research papers for publication in professional journals.

The report has to be presented in the format as it may have been part of thee terms of reference if it is a sponsored study. In case of a dissertation the Universities have some standardized styles which have to be followed. Similarly the research papers have to be prepared in accordance with the format specified by the professional journals.

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ETHICAL ISSUES IN RESEARCH
Unethical activities
• Violating nondisclosure agreements.
• Breaking respondent confidentiality.
• Misrepresenting results.
• Deceiving people.
• Invoicing irregularities.
• Avoiding legal liability.
Ethical Issues
• Remain to be issues.
• Local norms suggest what ought to be done under the given circumstances.
• Codes of ethics developed to guide researchers and sponsors.
• Review Boards and peer groups help sorting out ethical dilemmas.
Anticipate ethical dilemmas
• Adjust the design, procedures, and protocols accordingly.
• Research ethics require personal integrity of the researcher, the project manager, and research
sponsor.
Parties in Research
• Mostly three parties:
• The researcher
• The sponsoring client (user)
• The respondent (subject)
• Interaction requires ethical questions.
• Each party expects certain rights and feels certain obligations.
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