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Ministry of Science and Technology Sudan Academy of Science

Research Process and Methodologies

Prepared by: Dr. Omer Elgaili Elsheikh Economic and Social Research Bureau Ministry of Science and Technology

Research Process and Methodology

Activities and contents


The training course activities will be as below:

Introduction, course objectives and schedule, terminologies, and overview Characteristics of relevant research subject and proposal, and characteristics of being a good researcher. Research methodologies for different research disciplines Writing research report, regulation of relevant issues (Quotation and authentication, margins, sources and references, correction and revision etc).

Approaches for doing a research There is no singe ideal approach for conducting research, because of: Different fields of research Wide range of subjects Relative importance Different methodologies

However, there are common guidelines and steps across these different disciplines and variables for doing a quality research.

Research Guidelines

Select a subject for research, and design an appropriate title. Review relevant literature and check subject validity and data availability. Deign a research proposal. Implement the proposal: Start with collection of data and information. Analyze the data and evaluate results. Suggest solutions, conclusion, and recommendations. Write the final draft of the research report.

How to select a subject for research? Generally speaking, there are many ways for finding a subject for research. Among these options one could mention the following: Through work experience or specialization. Check the existing literature and theoretical methodologies in the field of specialty. Review specialized magazines and periodicals related to the field of specialization for hot research issues. Review bibliography for titles and subjects of research in other countries. Participate in specialized workshops, symposia ext, and check for new research topics. Check M.Sc. and Ph.D. thesis, which usually include recommendations and hints for further research. Recommendation by supervisor or other scholar in the relevant field of specialty. Predefined subject by the funding institution.

Reasons for selecting a research subject A researcher selects a specific subject for satisfying one or more of the following goals and needs:

Suggest original outcome; Abbreviate an excessively long subject; Collect scattered elements of the same subject; Explain a mysterious thing; Reorganize a scattered subject; Correct mistakes of other researchers.

Characteristics Characteristics of a concrete research subject Regardless of the differences in areas of research, procedures and methods available for tackling problems, there are common characteristics of an appropriate subject for research.

It should be a new topic that affects a considerable range of local or international community. Duplication of existing research is accept only when: The existing research about the subject is insufficient or had only partially tackled the problem. The proposed research is expected to explore the problem using higher level or degree of analysis. The result of the existing research is doubtful. The methodology, references or data used in the existing research is inappropriate. There is a change in variables, environment, knowledge, or some variables since the completion of the existing research. According to the request of a funding agent, or due to emergence of a high cost of implementation of the results of the existing research.

The subject should be in line with the scientific capacities and specialty of the researcher.

Possibility of acquiring the required data, information and materials for the research, as well as the possibility of doing the field work.

The subject should be well defined in its dimensions, and could be done successfully given the available time and resources.

The problem under study should be stated briefly and in a way that reflects the dimensions of the subject. It is also recommended to present it as a major question, followed by subsidiary ones, if relevant.

Literature review It is of vital importance that a researcher review relevant literature and previous research as well as the most updated methodologies for the subject of interest. This comprehensive and well focused literature review helps in the following. Validate the subject and finalize selection of the research topic, objectives, and methodology.

Avoid shortcomings of the existing research and draw lines of improvements to be done. Upgrade knowledge and theoretical background about the subject. Select the appropriate methodology Start from where previous research has ended, and avoid duplication of efforts and waste of resources. Check required data, materials, equipments, survey and other relevant inputs for the research and judge possibility of doing the selected research work. Check cited references, and relevant titles for better understanding and preparation, as well as acquiring additional relevant studies. Compare the final results of the research with that of the existing one, and show merits and originality of your own research.

Research proposal To undertake an effective study, one must develop a proposal, which details the procedures to be followed in conducting the research. A typical proposal states the problem, identifies the methodology for gathering information on the problem, the procedures for analyzing the gathered information, and presentation of results. In order to convince others with your research project, the proposal should show that: You are familiar with the current literature in your research area. This means you should explicitly present a theoretical foundation of your research. You are familiar with the researches that have been carried out in your research area, i.e. that you are not duplicating researches that have already been done. You are familiar with the methodology that you are going to use in analyzing the problem under study.

How to make a good research proposal?

Components of a concrete research proposal A research proposal is a brief plan (few pages) showing the following items: Front page Background Problem under study Hypothesis Objectives Materials and methodology Sample selection and survey tools For the research proposal to be acceptable and concrete, the following hints about each item of the proposal should be observed.

Front page The first page of a research proposal usually shows the research title, name of researcher/s and supervisor (if any), institution, date, and any other relevant information.

Research Title Usually decided at late stages of the research work. This is mainly because the direction of any research problem is unpredictable. Also, examiners of the research may recommend modification of the title. However, the requirements for research proposal, application for research grant, application for postgraduate studies ext. necessitates providing a title, which is usually decided in light of the subject selected.

Characteristics of a good research title Defines the research subject in the shortest possible sentence or sentences, i.e. specific, brief, and meaningful. Uses clear and understandable words and avoids using emotional words and phrases. Directly explains the independent and/or the dependent variables.

Reflects the contents and the most prominent work efforts done. Reflects the research contents as general. Comply with the regulations of the institution in concern. Do not contain abbreviations.

Background The research proposal starts with an introduction, in a few lines, of the atmosphere, dimension, and relevant information about problem under study. This is usually done in a way that prepares others who read the proposal for joining the atmosphere of the research subject.

Problem under study This is the utmost important element of the research, and the most difficult stage of doing a research because it affects all of the other components of the research (methodology, data, and hypothesis etc). Selecting an inappropriate research subject may end as total failure of the research and loss of resources. Selecting a subject for study deserves devoting much time for review of previous work, methodologies, and scientific progress in the area of specialization. Offer more than one subject and then compare between them before the final selection. Researcher's career is usually oriented towards the selected areas of research; that is, selecting a specific subject of research for, say, Ph.D. degree means that future research and specialty go along the same way. Thus, a good researcher checks his real feelings and interests towards the subject of research before deciding to go ahead.

Research hypotheses A hypothesis is a statement depicting the relationship between two or more variables of interest, which constitute the center of the inquiry. Research hypotheses present a precise image of the research subject. Reflect subjects dimensions and give explanation and answers for the problem under study.

Related to the subject of research and its objectives, and depends on the experience and knowledge of the researcher. The hypotheses must be designed such that it could be tested.

Objectives for stating hypotheses Help the researcher to concentrate research efforts on the subject of study rather than seeking broad topics that could not be easily handled. Facilitate the validation or rejection of prejudged ideas and theorem. Facilitate generalization of the statement when proved to be valid.

Characteristics of a well designed hypothesis o Stated in a simplified, clear, & definite words that could not bear more than one meaning. Complex hypothesis that handle more than one variable is difficult to test and explain. o Reflects specific problem or topic that could be tested for validation or rejection. o o o o Does not contradict with well known facts & rules. Does not reflect a statement that no doubt of its validity. Avoid bias towards researcher's own interests, ideas, and believes. Consistent with the research objectives and problem under study, such that each hypothesis deals with part of the subject precisely.

More hints about about hypotheses A hypothesis can be stated in the "null" format, which simply states, for example, that "there is no significant relationship between or among the variables of interest". On the other hand, a hypothesis can be stated in a "directional" or "alternative" format. Rejection of a hypothesis does not mean bad result. Acceptance of a hypothesis is equally likely acceptable as its rejection if proved invalid. It is not necessarily that a research proposal should contain hypotheses. A well defined research problem and objectives, together with a concreted methodology may be sufficient.

Research objectives Research objectives are the main purposes for doing the research. They are usually done as reworking of the statement of the problem under study. A research could be done for either one or both of the following categories of purposes: Purely scientific knowledge A research could be done for the purpose of satisfying curiosity for explaining or understanding a scientific subject, testing a theory, generating a new theory or presenting advanced knowledge without consideration of its practical value or implications. Practical use of the results A research could be done for solving problems and practical use of the results and recommendations. Many of the objectives are usually generated from the subject of the study as well.

Materials and methodology This part provides detailed description of the experimental techniques used, and justifies the use of methods and statistical analysis. It should provide enough information for interested individuals to repeat the experiment or assess the reliability of the methods and results. It is sometimes worth trying to give the names and short addresses of the manufactures or suppliers of chemicals and equipment used and the trade names. In natural science it will be highly relevant to give the following information about the methodology and materials: State the purity of chemicals and level of activity in case of radio labeled substances. Give the genus, species, races, strains, breeds, cultivars or line of any experimental animals, plants or micro-organisms used. State the authority for system of nomenclature. Report the frequency of handling the experimental material, duration of lightdark cycles, age and sex, and weight, which may directly or indirectly affect the results.

In addition, the ethical considerations and safeguards must be explicitly discussed for the case of medical reports and experiments on human beings and higher animals. This includes description of the criteria for selecting the experimental or

control subjects, the methods of obtaining human's informed consent, as well as the name of the ethical committee whose approval was obtained. It is also advised to state the limitations of the methods used.

Sample selection and survey tools For every research topic, a major decision must be made as to whether it is necessary to sample or not. It is not necessarily that every subject needs sampling. However, in many cases a research work includes selection of a sample and conducting a survey. Sampling design constitutes one of the most crucial stages of the research process. Such a design depicts the strategies for data gathering. A suitable choice has to be made and must be clearly defined in the research proposal. The choice of a sampling design is governed by the methodology, characteristics of the total population under study, or any other consideration of the subject under study.

There are two types of sampling design: Probability sampling (simple random, stratified, systematic, or cluster sampling) Non-probability sampling (quota, accidental, dense, judgment or purposeful sampling)

Questionnaire design The following types of questions should be avoided: Irrelevant questions. Questions leading to specific answers. Question that depends on hypothetical suppositions. Aggressive and insulting (sensitive questions should be written at the end of the questionnaire if necessary).

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Implementation of the research proposal

Data collection Data collection becomes fairly straightforward once you have a concrete proposal. When a researcher decides the data and information needed for his research, the method of collecting these data and information will be broadly defined. To be systematic and well organized, it is advised to consider the following points: Decide the data and information needed, and the purpose of collecting them. Select and define the best method for collecting the required data and information. Manage the available time and financial resources for the research and data collection. The way to do the survey: direct, by regular mail, e-mail etc Check the reliability of data and information, not only for secondary data but also for the questionnaire used for collecting first-hand data and information. Decide the sample size in a theoretically proper way and ask for advice about the possibility of conducting the survey. Never collect data and information that you dont intend to use in the study, i.e. redundant or irrelevant data do not deserve efforts and resources.

Analysis and discussion In this section of the research the subject is usually analyzed and treaded from different sides. It is expected that the procedures to analyze and manage the data should have been decided upon at the proposal design stage. Nevertheless, after collecting the data, quite often, it may become necessary to review the analytical tools, and the computer software application.

Result validation The validity of the results is assessed by comparing them with the findings of similar research work for other authors.

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Negative results or discrepancies between one's own research results and those of other authors should not be concealed. Instead, the researcher is advised to verify them or, at least, to admit his inability to do so. Includes suggestions for further research on the subject or on new lines of research. Avoid over estimation of precision of the research results as well as applicability and generalization of the findings.

Report writing Once a researcher has a proper and concrete research proposal, report writing becomes an exercise of filling in information. Often the following components are needed in the final draft of the research:

Abstract An abstract is a thumbnail of the whole research. It is expected to be brief and informative. It includes description of the principal objectives and key methodology as well as all the important findings of the research. An abstract should not be a paraphrase of the title, and should avoid ambiguous statements such as "the result showed that " An abstract usually includes 80 150 words, and contain about 250 words for an article of 2000 5000 words, and of up to 600 for Ph.D. and M.Sc. thesis. It provides information about the following points:

Problem statement, topic or research question Theories and methods used Details of group of respondents Conclusion reached. The abstract must satisfy the requirements of the conference, workshop, journal, or any other institution concerned with the research. An abstract is different from executive summary by that the latter gives the main points from an administrative or planning point of view, and is done mainly for a commissioned research.

Acknowledgement

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A researcher should express his/her gratitude and appreciation to supervisor/s, technicians, colleges, friends, and others who offered their help, advice, data and information, or any other kind of support during the research work and preparation of the final text. Sponsoring institutions that supply money, materials or any other kind of support should be acknowledged as well. Thus, the acknowledgement must include: Recognition of significant help availed to the researcher (for both individuals and institutions). The source of equipment and other materials should also be acknowledged. b. Recognize funding agent/s, who made available the research grant, fellowship or contract. It is better to avoid the use of abundant word, like "wish" in 'I wish to thank". Just say I thank my supervisor .

Introduction The introduction in the research report is a bit wider in scope than that of the proposal. Here, the introduction includes all items of the research proposal and the most powerful results. The introduction acquaints the readers with the presented work, as well as the current status of knowledge on the subject; that is, it explains how the investigation moves forward from the closely related previous work on the same subject, and convey important views reported in the literature and problems in question that entail further investigation. At the end of the introduction, the writer should state the reasons and objectives of carrying out his research project. The introduction should be brief, precise, and exciting the interest and attention of readers who are not specialists. It is, thus, finalized after the completion of the research analysis.

Use of illustrations Describe what it is. Describe how and from where it was obtained. What other results might have been obtained/expected.

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Conclusion and recommendations recommendations Make clear distinction between conclusions and recommendations. Summarize evidence for each conclusion made. Make only practical recommendations that could be carried out by the organization that will read the report.

Bibliography/citing References A powerful research report includes notes about important references. Observe the following rules:

List only significant and published references. Other types such as abstracts, theses, secondary materials can effectively be presented as footnotes. Papers due for publication are cited as "In Press". Authenticate every reference before listing it into the manuscript. This will eliminate one of the most common error, that is the incorrectly presented references. Entry of references in the bibliography must be in alphabetical order. When writing a paper for a journal, check the editorial notes for the required style of citations. When referring to a large number of authors, just write the name of the first author followed by "et al". When referring to a published paper from a journal, refer to the relevant pages, and write the title, volume and date of publication of the journal. When referring to a published paper from an edited book or a collection of papers, refer to the relevant pages, and write in italic font the word "In" followed by the name of the book and its editor/s. In the list of references refer to the web site source by writing followed by the homepage address and date of access. "URL:"

Writing the final report When writing the final report of the research it is of utmost important to consider the following points: Precision and reasonable abbreviation.

Systematic presentation of the ideas and research results and other information.

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Use of simple, understandable, and scientific language, and avoid grammatical and other language mistakes. Courtesy while criticizing previous research work. Avoid self praising and over valuation of the research effort results.

Characteristics of a good Researcher Research discipline requires certain conditions and prerequisites concerning those who conduct research in order to produce a quality research that observes the conditions and norms of scientific research. A researcher should Be well aware about the subject under study and acquainted with the recent developments and theoretical background of the subject. Have high skills and abilities in providing concrete ideas, explanation, collection and analysis of relevant data and information, and have good knowledge about research process and methodologies. Fair and unbiased towards specific results and accept the outcome of his research even if it contradicts with his/her believes and objectives. Faithful and trustful by referring to the sources of information, ideas, and points of view of other authors. Respect and acknowledge the research efforts of other authors and their points of view, and present their shortcomings in a polite way without feeling self-superiority, and avoid misunderstanding and misquotation. Well organized and systematic. Good manager of the time allowed for the research as well as the resources available. Skillful in report writing and presentation (minimal language mistakes and mistyping, and avoid emotional and decorative terminologies). creative add a piece of knowledge in the field of study and Well fit (academically, financially, physically and psychologically) to carry the research activities. Cooperative and easy-going in team work, recognizes the importance of advice of others, and accept relevant ones. Have the ability to communicate and collaborate with others and work as part of a team.

Be patient in doing the research and field work, and do not hesitate to try for many times whatsoever needs retrial.

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Ethical research principles In designing research, especially one that involves human subjects, it is important to consider the underlying ethical principles. Such action takes care of possible conflicts between competing sets of values. The general principles governing research on human subjects, especially in medicosociological research have been described in the "Declaration of Helsinki 1975".

Declaration of Helsinki 1975 The main principles include: Scientific merit: any research must be merited, and the methods must be appropriate to the aims of the investigation. Equitable selection of subjects. Informed consent: study's sample/individuals must understand the nature of the study and possible implications. Confidentiality. Coercion: rights of individuals must be protected. Coercion and deception must be avoided at all costs. Field trials (reconnaissance) must observe and obtain communal consent. Enhance the benefits and eliminate the harm. The overall problems of the community should always be paramount. Provision of incentives; no hard rules should exist. Care must be exercised in each situation under specified circumstances. Feedback of results; the community must know the findings, so as to relate to these findings. This would reinforce future interest in community-based research. Anonymity of communities; i.e. community's right to confidentiality is important If the study involves the development and implementation of intervention trials, a number of additional issues must be observed: Choice of 'control interventions', e.g., in AIDS research, why treat group 'A' and leave 'B'? Duration for trial; must be reasonable to minimize psychological damage. Multiple endpoints; assess intervention effect at multiple stages, e.g. at midterm and end-term. Give feedback to communities concerned.

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Seek preliminary investigation in study community. Seek formal approval. Decide and agree on information that is to be conveyed. Ensure sustained involvement.

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