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Methods of Theological Research Chapter 1 Nature and Characteristics of Research

By: Jonas P. Villas St. John the Evangelist School of Theology Palo Leyte, Philippines

What you've learned is the source of the background information you use to communicate with others.

If you haven't learned more than your audience already knows, there is nothing for you to share.

Thus you do research!

Research is a systematic, formal rigorous and precise process employed to gain solutions to problems and/or to discover and interpret new facts and relationships. (Waltz and Bausell, 1981, p.1).

Research is the process of looking for a specific answer to a specific question in an organized objective reliable way (Payton, 1979, p.4)

Research is systematic, controlled, empirical and critical investigation of hypothetical propositions about the presumed relations among natural phenomena (Kerlinger, 1973, p.1).

Search for knowledge or any systematic investigation to establish facts.

Discovering, interpreting, and the development of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge on a wide variety of scientific matters of our world and the universe. Scientific research relies on the application of the scientific method, a harnessing of curiosity. Social research refers to research conducted by social scientists.

Theological research by definition speaks of the divine/human encounter, and takes place in a community of people. Theological research calls the seminarian to reflect on his/her tradition, experience and faith journey in other words, to examine his/her soul. an extension of selfhood a thrust of intentionality toward meaning within one s lifeworld --faith-based identity and vocation--form a context of meaning through which the seminarian learns to live theologically

A seminarian s research interests should emerge from a faith-based identity and journey with God. Selection of a research topic especially for a major project calls for a moment of spiritual journaling.

Theological writing is a mirror of the soul by which the researcher discerns the work of God within.

Purposes and Functions of Research


Exploratory Become familiar with the basic facts, setting and concerns. Create a general mental picture of conditions. Formulate and focus questions for future research. Generate new ideas, conjectures, or hypotheses. Determine the feasibility of conducting research. Develop techniques ad locating future data.


Descriptive Provide a detailed highly accurate picture. Locate new data that contradicts past data. Create a set of categories or classify types. Classify a sequence of steps or stages. Document a causal process or mechanism. Report on the background or context of the situation.


Explanatory Test a theory prediction or principle. Elaborate and enrich theorys explanation. Extend a theory to new issues or topics. Support or refute an explanation or prediction. Link issues or topics with a general principle. Determine which or several explanation is best.

Characteristics of Good Research

There should be the possibility of surprise in social research. look for differences that make a difference build in reality checks to see if identical analyses yield similar results for different samples of people compare like with like study change Let method be the servant, not the master.

The Role of Theory in Research

Theory is a system of interconnected abstractions or ideas that condenses or organizes knowledge about the social world. It also defined as a generalization or series of generalizations by which we attempt to explain some phenomena in a systematic manner. (Wiersama,1995).

Social theories explain recurring patterns not unique or one time event. Social theories are explanations for aggregates not particular individuals. Social theorist state a probability, chance or tendency of events to occur, rather than stating that one event must absolutely follow another

The Role of Theory in Research

Theory in general makes it easier to read someone else s research or to conduct your own. Such awareness of how theory fits into the research process produces better designed, easier to understand, and better conducted studies.

A theory provides a framework for conducting research, and it can be used for synthesizing and explaining (through generalization) research results.

Theory helps provide a framework by serving as a point of departure for the pursuit of a research problem.

The Role of Theory in Research Theory identifies the crucial factors. It provides guide for systematizing and interrelating the various facets of research

Theory also may very well identify gaps, weak points and inconsistencies that indicate the need for additional research. The development of the theory may light the way for continued research on the phenomena under study.

Steps/ Stages/Components in/of the Research Process

1. Select a Topic

7. Inform Others

2. Focus Question

THEORY 6. Interpret Data 3. Design Study

5. Analyze Data

4. Collect Data

Kinds and classification of Research according to Purpose

Basic research

Conducted to develop, test, or refine theory Examples related to learning theory


Piaget Constructivism Mastery learning Gardner s multiple intelligences

Kinds and classification of Research according to Purpose

Applied research

Conducted to examine the usefulness of theory in solving practical educational problems Examples

Developing seventh grade social studies curriculum around a problem-solving approach to learning Examining the effectiveness of a computer-based algebra program developed around a mastery learning approach Accommodating varied learning styles when teaching lessons in modern literature

Kinds and classification of Research according to Purpose

Evaluation research

Conducted to assess the merit or worth of a specific practice in terms of the values operating at a specific site

Merit is exemplified by a program accomplishing what is was supposed to accomplish Worth is exemplified by the value attached to a program by those using it

Evaluation (continued)


The computerized algebra program being used in Williams Middle School has been installed properly, is being used properly, and student achievement is increasing as a result of its use The computerized algebra program being used in Williams Middle School is perceived to be an efficient and effective expenditure of district funds

Kinds and classification of Research according to Purpose

Research and Development R & D

The major purpose of an R&D is not to formulate or test a theory but to develop effective products whether in school or in the social sciences. Once completed, products are field tested, revised until a specified level of effectiveness is achieved.

Kinds and classification of Research according to Purpose

Action Research This is concerned with a local problem and is conducted in a local setting. It is not concerned whether the results are generalizable to any other setting. The primary goal of action research is to generate a solution of a given problem, not contribution to science. Examples How can our college move to a performance based model for undergraduate teacher preparation programs? How can disciplinary policies be enforced consistently in our school?

Characteristics Cyclical nature of data collection and analysis Four basic steps identify a problem, collect data, analyze data, and take action to resolve the problem Typically the educator owns the problem in that they carry out the research themselves Potential problem Insular nature of the process can affect the rigor of the study

Kinds and classification of Research according to Method


Purpose to describe current conditions Examples


How many students drop out of school in LNU? What are the attitudes of parents, students, and teachers to an extended school year? What kinds of activities typically occur in sixth-grade art classes, and how frequently does each occur? What have been the reactions of school administrators to innovations in teaching physical science? To what extent are elementary teachers using math manipulatives?

Descriptive/survey (continued)


Use of large samples Use of tests, questionnaires, and surveys Focused on information related to preferences, attitudes, practices, concerns, or interests Statistical analysis of numerical data Instrument development Low response rates Honest responses from subjects

Potential problems

Kinds and classification of Research according to Method


Purpose to ascertain the extent to which two or more variables are statistically related Examples


What is the relationship between ACT scores and freshmen grades? Is a teacher s sense of efficacy related to their effectiveness? Do significant relationships exist between the types of activities used in math classrooms and student achievement?

Correlational (continued)



Measurement with a correlation coefficient One group of subjects measured on two variables Use of instruments to measure variables Focused on the direction and nature of the relationship

Correlational (continued)

Potential problems

Instrument development Inferring cause and effect relationships

Kinds and classification of Research according to Method


Purpose to explore relationships among variables that cannot be actively manipulated or controlled by the researcher Examples

What is the effect of part-time employment on the achievement of high school students? What characteristics differentiate students who dropout from those who do not? What is the effect of attending a magnet school on student attitude?

Causal comparative (continued)


Selection of subjects from at least two groups in which the cause (i.e., the independent variable) has already occurred Statistical comparisons of the effect (i.e., the dependent variable) using at least two groups Inferring cause and effect relationships

Potential problems

Potential problems


Inability of researcher to adequately control extraneous variables Use of complicated research designs Complex statistical analyses of data

Kinds and classification of Research according to Method


Purpose to establish cause and effect relationships between variables Examples

Examine the effect of teaching with a 1) cooperative groups strategy or 2) traditional lecture approach on student s achievement Examine the effect of teaching with manipulatives or a traditional algorithm approach on the test scores of algebra students



Stringent procedures for selecting subjects and assigning them to groups Manipulation of the causal variable Control of extraneous variables Statistical analysis of numerical data

Kinds and classification of Research according to Method

Historical research

Purpose to gain insight into past events, issues, of personalities to better understand the current situation Examples

The difficulties being experienced while implementing a standards based curriculum can be understood more completely if one recognizes the historical top-down control of curriculum imposed on teachers by the State Department of Education Current parochial school policies can be better understood with knowledge of the role these schools have played in the education of students in the community for the last fifty years

Historical research (continued)


Focus on specific individuals, social issues, events, or policies Documents and artifacts are the primary sources of data Data is already available and is complied, presented, and interpreted Data is examined carefully for authenticity and truthfulness

Historical research (continued)

Potential problems

Authenticity Truthfulness Reliance on secondary sources Values of researcher can affect interpretation

Variables and Measurement Scales

A variable is a concept -a noun that stands for variation within a class of objects such as gender, hair color, religion, etc. A variable could be characterized a quantitative (numerical) e.g. height, income,, etc. or qualitative (categorical) e.g. hair color, religion, etc. A numerical variable may also be discrete or continuous.

Variables and Measurement Scales

Independent (Experimental, Treatment, Grouping) Variable


That factor which is measured, manipulated, or selected by the experimenter to determine its relationship to an observed phenomenon.

Dependent (Outcome) Variable

That factor which is observed and measured to determine the effect of the independent variable, i.e., that factor that appears, disappears, or varies as the experimenter introduces, removes, or varies the independent variable.

Variables and Measurement Scales

Moderator Variable

That factor which is measured, manipulated, or selected by the experimenter to discover whether it modifies the relationship of the independent variable to an observed phenomenon. It is a special type of independent variable.

Extraneous Variable

Those factors which cannot be controlled.

Variables and Measurement Scales

Students who receive pizza coupons as a reward do not read more books than students who do not receive pizza coupon rewards. High achieving students do not perform better than low achieving student when writing stories regardless of whether they use paper and pencil or a word processor.

Measurement Scales and their Characteristics

Nominal A scale in which the numbers serve as labels rather than have numeric value Ordinal Scale A scale which "measures" in terms of such values as "more" or "less," "larger" or "smaller," but without specifying the size of the intervals Interval Scale A scale which measures in terms of equal intervals or degrees of difference, but whose zero point, or point of beginning is arbitrarily established Ratio Scale A scale which measures in terms of equal intervals and an absolute zero point of origin

Limitations of Scientific and Disciplined Inquiry Approaches

Four limitations

Value-based, philosophical, or ethical problems or questions cannot be solved These approaches provide a potentially overly simplified views of reality Methodological concerns

Access to subjects Data collection strategies Data analysis Limitations of research designs

Legal and ethical responsibilities of the researcher