2 What is Research?Research is the systematic process of collecting and analysing information (data) in order to increase our understanding of the phenomenon with which we are concerned or interested.Research involves three main stages:planningdata collectionanalysis.In simpler terms, research is a way of going about finding answers to questions.The three stages usually require equal time periods – eg 6 month project – 2 months per section. Do not underestimate the planning stage! Also do not carry on with the data collection for too long. (1) Analysis does take time and you’ll need it! (2) It is tempting to keep on collecting data – just a few more questionnaires etc. Remember data dates! Fix your schedule and stick with it. Also, disasters will happen so keep spirits up.
3 The Research Process Originates with a question or problem. Requires a clear articulation of a goal.Follows a specific plan of procedure.Usually divides the principal problems into more manageable sub-problems (hypotheses), which guide the research.Accepts certain critical assumptions.Requires collection and interpretation of data to answer original research question.(5) Assumptions – accepting conditions that are necessary for carrying out the research. Not hypotheses (they test the question). The beginner researcher is recommended to evaluate each assumption and not to take too much for granted.Research is cyclical by nature. In reality, it often raises new areas of research.
4 What is Social Research? It is research involving social scientific methods, theories and concepts, which can enhance our understanding of the social processes and problems encountered by individuals and groups in society.It is conducted by sociologists, psychologists, economists, political scientists and anthropologists.It is not just common sense, based on facts without theory, using personal life experience or perpetuating media myths.Social research is not just common sense, based on facts without theory, using personal life experience or perpetuating media myths. (eg media article on women should drink more green tea and less black tea – social scientist’s approach?). Social research is not just going to the library and finding articles on a subject, hanging out in exotic places observing etc.
5 Social research is a scientific process It involves the systematic collection of methods to produce knowledge.It is objective.It can tell you things you do not expect.It consists of theory and observation.Sometimes called ‘soft sciences’ because their subject matter (humans) are fluid and hard to measure precisely.It is an empirical research – i.e. facts are assumed to exist prior to the theories that explain them.Social research is a scientific process. It involves the systematic collection of methods to produce knowledge. It is objective. It can tell you things you don’t expect – eg divorce and children. Like science it consists of theory and observation. Because it involves the study of people, social sciences are sometimes referred to as the soft sciences – doesn’t mean they’re sloppy but because their subject matter is fluid and hard to measure precisely. It an empirical research (facts are assumed to exist prior to the theories that explain them) and the scientific manner in which theories are formed or tested produces objective results. Like science, different social scientists can agree in observations and conclusions despite different points of view. Social sciences make an important contribution to our understanding of a wide variety of social issues. They have generated useful and usable knowledge on socially relevant topics such as health inequalities, incidences and causes of family poverty, impact of racial discrimination etc.
6 2 Forms of Social Research Basic or Pure Research:aim is to develop a body of general knowledge for the understanding of human social behaviour by means of a combination of empirical enquiry and application of theory.Applied or Policy Oriented Research:aim is to provide knowledge and information that can be used to influence social policy.There is a distinction in social research between basic or pure research and applied or policy oriented research. Constructing, testing and refining theory is what basic research is all about. Applied is usually defined in practical or instrumental terms. Not so much concerned with theory-building as with providing knowledge and information that can be used to influence social policy by providing an insight into contemporary social issues. Both forms of research share the fundamental principles of social scientific investigations, where they differ is that the basic social researcher is concerned with the outcomes – i.e. contributing to a body of theoretical knowledge – while the applied social researcher concentrates on the application of theoretical knowledge in conducting empirical research to address specific problems – i.e. concerned with producing knowledge to inform or direct social change.
7 2 Forms of Social Research: Basic Research is done by academics.Applied Research is conducted by applied social researchers employed by sponsors.Success for basic social researchers is when results are published in a peer reviewed journal and have an impact on the scientific community.Success for applied social researchers is that their results are used by their sponsors in decision making.
8 Components of Research In research, you need to think about 3 things: (1) Theoretical issues (2) kind of knowledge that you are producing (epistemology) (3) consider the different research methods and techniques.What is a Theory? Basically, it highlights or explains something that one would otherwise not see or would find puzzling. Often it is an answer to a ‘why?’ question. Eg: why are so many people unemployed in western capitalist societies? Theory can be used as an explanation. Usually, we start our research with a concept or an idea. Theories then arrange a set of concepts to define and explain some phenomenon – we need theories to understand social phenomena.Methodology – that is the general approach to studying a research topic. It establishes how one will go about studying any phenomenon. Two main forms of social scientific methodologies are quantitative and qualitative Meanings of theses methodologies are important to social research. Methods – these are the specific research techniques of empirical data. Methodology links theory and method and prevents non-theoretical work.
9 Theory and Research Theories can be categorized by: Direction of reasoning (deductive/inductive)Level of social reality that it is explaining (macro/meso/micro)Whether it is formal (general) or substantive (specific).Theory is important to social research methods as firstly, methods of social research are linked to the different visions of how social reality should be studied and secondly, research is produced to address a burning question or theory.(1) Social Scientific theory and research are linked through the ‘direction of reasoning’ of theories. Generally, induction and deduction are distinct processes but can overlap or be used simultaneous in a project. Another form of theory construction is falsification – pointing out where previous theories failed.(2) Macro level – deals with large, aggregate entities of society or even whole societies. So theorist are focusing their attention on society at large or at least on large portions of it. Eg: international relations among countries, interrelations among major institutions in society, such as government, religion, and family. Micro level – deals with issues of social life at the level of individuals and small groups. Eg: dating behaviour. Focus on social interactions – how people relate to each other on an individual level. Meso level – relatively rare – links macro and micro levels or to operate on an intermediate level eg: theories of communities, social movements.
10 Methodological Approaches: Epistemology There are three main epistemological perspectives:PositivismInterested in causes and predicting likelihood of incidences, seeks to explain, creates social ‘facts’.PhenomenologyInterested in social meanings, seeks to interpret, uses direct involvement, creates data on social interactions.CriticalInterested in understanding social phenomena in their social context, seeks out structural relationships, data is historical, structural and ideological.After considering the theoretical issues surrounding your particular area of enquiry, you need to consider different techniques for data collection. But first, you need to think about the kind of knowledge you are producing, known as epistemology. Epistemology is concerned with that does and does not count as acceptable knowledge.Positivism - view that science can explain the world in terms of what causes the things and the events that we observe. Positivism is used in natural sciences. It answers the what? Questions. Phenomenology –people are viewed as not things but actors, i.e. they think and reflect on what they do, thus to know the social world, it is necessary to find out the meanings of social processes. It is concerned with what sense people make of the world rather than what the world appears to be. It answers the how? Questions. Critical – you want to relate the observable social phenomena to a wider social context. It answers the why? Questions. It also appears rarely in journals – uses a range of social research methods but does tend to focus on historical/comparative methods in order to emphasise change and to uncover underlying structures. Think Durkheim, Weber and Marx!
11 Ontological Considerations ObjectivismPhenomena independent of social actors.Organisations and culture are said to exist as a tangible object, external to the social actor.ConstructionismSocial phenomena and their meanings are continually being accomplished by social actors.Not only produced through social interaction but they are in a constant state of revision.Bryman points out social research can be concerned with the nature of social entities. Central question is whether social entities can and should be considered objective entities that have a reality external to social actors or whether they can and should be considered social constructions built up from the perceptions and action of social actors. These positions are referred to as objectivism and constructionism.Objectivism – organizations can be said to exist as a tangible object, external to the social actor. Another example is culture. Culture consists of widely shared values, beliefs and customs into which people are socialized. It can constrain us because we internalise their beliefs and values. So social actors have no role in fashioning these external realities. Constructionism is the opposite – this stance maintains that social phenomena and their meanings are continually being accomplished by social actors. Social phenomena are not only produced through social interaction but that they are in a constant state of revision.
12 Research Design This involves: Defining the problem/research question Review of related literaturePlanning the researchWhat methodology will you use?What data do you want to use/produce?How feasible is your research approach?Ethical considerations.
13 What is Research Design? A research design provides the framework for the collection and analysis of data.A choice of research design reflects decisions about the priority being given to a range of dimensions of the research process.Involves research method.Research method is simply a technique for collecting data. It can involve a specific instrument such as a self-completion questionnaire or a structured interview etc.
14 Tools of Research The library and its resources The computer and its softwareTechniques of measurementStatisticsFacility with languageTools are not research methods – e.g. library research and statistical research are meaningless terms.Tools help your research methods.How familiar are you with thesetools?Techniques of measurement – we don’t just observe, we measure. Nominal, ordinal, interval, binary and discrete (scales of measurement).
15 What do you need to think about when Designing Research? What is the purpose of the research?What are your units of analysis?What are your points of focus?What is the time dimension?Designing a research project:conceptualisationoperationalisation.Reliability, replication and validity.
16 Different Purposes of Research (1) ExploratoryGoal is to generate many ideas.Develop tentative theories and conjectures.Become familiar with the basic facts, people and concerns involved.Formulate questions and refine issues for future research.Used when little is written on an issue.It is the initial research.Usually qualitative research.
17 Different Purposes of Research (2) Descriptive researchPresents a profile of a group or describes a process, mechanism or relationship or presents basic background information or a context.Used very often in applied research.E.g.: General Household survey – describes demographic characteristics, economic factors and social trends.Can be used to monitor changes in family structure and household composition.Can also be used to gain an insight into the changing social and economic circumstances of population groups.Often survey research.
18 Different Purposes of Research (3) Analytical (or explanatory)goes beyond simple description to model empirically the social phenomena under investigation.It involves theory testing or elaboration of a theory.Used mostly in basic research.
19 Different Purposes of Research (4) Evaluationcharacterised by the focus on collecting data to ascertain the effects of some form of planned change.Used in applied research to evaluate a policy initiative or social programme to determine if it is working.Can be small or large scale, e.g.: effectiveness of a crime prevention programme in a local housing estate.
20 Units of Analysis Can be individuals, groups, organizations, social artifacts(ie. products of social beings, for example, books, poems, paintings, automobiles, buildings, songs, pottery, jokes and scientific discoveries).behaviours(eg: social interactions, such as friendship choices, court cases, traffic accidents.Weddings (as a unit of analysis) –might be characterised as being religious or secular or ethnically or religiously mixed resulting in divorce or not or they could characterised by descriptions of one or both of the marriage partners.
21 Points of Focus Characteristics Orientations (attitudes, beliefs, prejudices, personality traits)Organizations(would be in terms of policy, procedures etcSocial interactions, actions.
22 Other things to Note Time dimension – cross-sectional or longitudinal Conceptualisation – i.e. you must specify the meanings of the concepts and variables to be studied.Operationalisation – how will we actually measure the variables under study?Reliability – are the results repeatable? – relevant to quantitative social research.Replication - can others replicate the results?Validity – will examine later but are the results a true reflection of the world? Internal (are they measuring the underlying pheonomen)/external (generalise to the population)Variables – something that varies – social science involves the study of variables and the attributes (characteristics) that compose them – eg: sex (male or female). Quantitative social research concerned with looking at relationships between variables and attributes of variables.
23 Steps in Research Design Choose a Topic.Focus research question.Design the study.Collect the data.Analyse the data.Interpret the data.Present the results.Firstly, you write a research proposal – this is a document that presents a plan for a project to reviewers for evaluation. It can be a supervised project submitted to instructors as part of an educational degree or it can be a research project proposed to a funding agency.A proposal describes the research problem and its importance and gives a detailed account of the methods that will be used and why they are appropriate. It usually starts off as an outline and will require several revisions. Each section affects the others – eg: time schedule will influence the method you have chosen, which is influenced by your research problem. Keep it simple, concise and accessible to other people. Should be easy to skim. Stick to the point!
24 Defining the Research Problem State your research problem.Are there any sub-problems?What is the background (literature review) on this problem?What is good about tackling this problem? Why should we be interested in answering the research question?Discuss your problem with peers and experts.Have you looked at this problem from all sides to minimize unwanted surprises?Think through the process. Are you capable of addressing the issue? Can you foresee any pitfalls in data collection and analysis? What tools are available for you to use?What research procedure will you follow?Research procedure – what is your plan to review the literature? Do you have a plan for data collection? Do you have a plan for data analysis? Do you have a plan to discuss the data you collect?
25 Research Design Where to start? Title. Background/information. Compile questions.Title.Background/information.Literature review.Aims and objectives.Methods.Timetable.Data analysis.Ethical issues.Resources.Dissemination?
26 Designing the Research After stating your researchproblem, you need to think aboutwhat approach you will use to theproblem.Will it be quantitative or qualitative?HomeworkA PCT in inner-city London has realised that the uptake of flu vaccinations amongst the elderly is low. How would they discover the reasons for this?
27 Research Proposal (More formal than Research Design) TitleStatement of research questionRemember to stress why the problem is important!Background/informationAims and objectives of the studyMethodsTimetableData analysisEthical issuesIn Funding applications, addResources/BudgetDissemination
28 Qualitative Research Proposal Qualitative Research Proposal is more difficult to write as it is less structured and pre-planed.Demonstrate ability to complete a proposed qualitative project – use an extensive discussion of the literature and the significance of the problem and sources. (This shows reviewers that you are familiar with qualitative research and the appropriateness of the method for studying the problem).Also describe a qualitative pilot study you have conducted. (This demonstrates your motivation, familiarity with research techniques and ability to complete a report about unstructured research).
29 Ethical Issues Informed Consent. Respect for privacy. Confidentiality and anonymity of data.What is permissible to ask?No harm to researchers or subjects.No deceit or lying in the course of research.Consequences of publication.ethics.htm
30 Research Design Exercise Draft an outline proposal on one of the following:Single motherhoodTeenage sexualityDiscuss the outline proposal with the following in mind:How would you clarify the reasons for planning the study?What does the study aim to achieve?How will it be done?Will the findings be useful?