K. Narasimhan Regional Advisor (India) The Emerald Group Publishing Ltd, UK

Aim of the Session
• To prepare participants to undertake dissertation or project • To inform them of issues involved in 4-Ds of research projects
• • • • Define, Design Do Describe

RM: Outcomes of the session
On successful completion of this module participants will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of: • the process of creating and disseminating knowledge • how and where such knowledge is published

Defining your Research
Key Challenges: – Understanding the research process – Taking a systematic approach – Generating and clarifying ideas – Using the library and internet.

Assessing prior knowledge of participants
• Why Conduct Research? • What is Research? • What are the two main approaches? • Participants’ experience in writing research proposals • Are conceptual models/frameworks important?

Why Conduct Research?
– To complete an assigned task – To improve
– understanding of the problem – our competence in doing research – the ability to manage research – on others’ research

– To increase credibility of ones work – To discover new things/ test ideas – To Make sense of world around us.

What is Research? (1)

Definition of Research for RAE 2008 "...original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding."

Queen's University Belfast (2007),

What Research is Not?
It is Not – Mere information gathering – Mere transportation of facts from one location to another – Merely rummaging for information – A catchword to get attention
Leedy and Ormrod (2005, p.2)

A Research’s Distinct Characteristics
• Research originates with a question or problem. • It is guided by the specific problem/hypothesis. • It requires clear articulation of a goal/sub-goals. • It requires a specific plan for proceeding. • It accepts certain critical assumptions. • It requires collection and interpretation of data. • It is helical.

Types of Research
Basic Scholarly Interest-driven Primary Individual Single discipline Commercial Student Assigned Secondary Group Interdisciplinary

Key Stakeholders
• Co-researchers (if applicable) • Supervisors • Examiners • Sponsors (if applicable) • Others (?)

Research Methodology Hierarchy
Approach Philosophy Perspective Methodology Design Methods Tools and Techniques Data Collection Data Analysis Adopted from Maylor and Blackmon (2005), p. 155

Research Approaches
Ontology Epistemology Positivism Objectivist Realism Critical realism Interpretivism Subjectivist Constructionism Subjectivism
Derived from philosophy of social science. Derived from philosophy of science.

Comparison of Two Broad Approaches
Characteristics Philosophy Perspective Underlying assumptions Quantitative Science Positivism Qualitative Social science



World is real & knowable We can be objective Phenomena can be reduced to numbers To explain and predict

World is complex Knowable only through interaction with the social system that it contains

To describe and explain To explore and interpret To understand meaning to generate theory


To confirm and validate To find patterns to test theory

Comparison of Two Broad Approaches
Characteristics Nature of the research process Quantitative Focussed Known variables Established guidelines Qualitative Holistic Unknown variables Flexible guidelines

Pre-determined methods Emergent methods Somewhat context-free Detached view Questions Starting point Data analysis Quality issue What and how Theory-led Through rules Validity, reliability… Context-bound Personal view Why, how Data-led Through intuition Neutrality and transparency

The SA Research Process
Identify Conceptual Framework Define Topic Questions Literature Review


Project report

Data collection & analysis & report Pilot study Finalise Data collection and analysis Collect data Analyse data

Revise Framework



Interpret results Report findings

A Qualitative Research Process
Identify Conceptual Framework (CF) Topic Questions Collect data Analyse data Revise CF Interpret data Describe Questions answered or out of time Design Report Slides 15 and 16 adopted from Maylor and Blackmon (2005), p. 149 Interim findings Literature Review Literature Review Define Design


Managing the Research Process
Get work published. 6 Choose a topic: unanswered question & plan. 1

Form arguments, identify limitations and ideas for further research. Write up the dissertation.



Write a critical literature review

4 Gather evidence, analyse, interpret findings, and draw inferences.

3 Develop concepts, framework and theories, form research hypotheses, & design studies

Structure of a Research proposal
• Statement of problem • Research questions
– Sub-objectives

• Research approach • Methodology
– Measures – Data analysis approach – Samples

• Schedule and budget

Statement of Problem
• Choose or identify Problem • State the problem & Divide it into sub-problems • State the hypotheses and limitations of the research • State assumptions & why the study is important. • Define key terms and jargons

Benefits of Writing Literature Review
• • • • • Answers if the field is worth studying. Can offer new ideas, etc and provides useful contacts. Shows how others have handled similar issues and dealt with potential difficulties. Can reveal sources of data, and tools effectively used. Helps link our findings to those of previous studies’.

Conducting a Literature Search
• Write clearly the problem and sub-problems • Identify key terms from them • Specify topics that need to be studied further • Identify articles, books, websites, etc for reading • Keep track and record of searches undertaken and all basic/important information

Ex1: Evaluating Research Articles
• Was the article published in a refereed journal? • Are the objectives clearly stated? • Is it primary research or secondary research? • Is its structure logical? • Is the problem chosen based on previous work? • Can the method used be repeated by others? • Is the method of data collection sound? • Do you agree with the inferences drawn? • What are its strength & weaknesses?

Writing a Critical Review (1)
Rely on paraphrasing Interactively and for depth


Summarise the article

Look for arguments & counter arguments

Establish linkages



Adapted from Pechenik, Jan. (1993).Cited in Hillsborough Community College (no date),

Writing a Critical Review (2)
• Provide an overview of the chosen literature • Use a “funnel” approach:
– Start with broad scope of the field and present an argument for narrowing the field to specific topic

• Identify the gaps in existing research and explain how the research to be undertaken will fill the void. • Provide a critical account: emphasise relatedness; don’t just reproduce

Writing a Critical Review (3)
• Cite the major experts in the filed • Cite the most recent and important literature • Cite works that take a different viewpoint • Give credit where it is due (do not plagiarise) • Evaluate other’s work objectively • Explain and justify the use of the chosen theories, concepts, frameworks, techniques, etc. • Include a conceptual model showing all relevant variables/constructs and their relationships

Guidelines for Reviewing an Article
• Identify the main points and ‘inference indicators’ • Assess the context of the argument • Identify the premises for conclusions • Check if the premises are supported by sound evidence (reliable citations) • Are the conclusions strong and logically based? • Could counter conclusions be drawn?
Adapted from Fisher (2004, p. 77)

General Guidelines for Writing Reviews
• Be clear about the goal • Draw a plan: moving from general to specific • Emphasise relatedness • Summarise what does it all mean • Remember first draft is not the final draft • Critically read your draft after a few days • Seek advise and feedback
Adapted from Leedy and Ormrod (2005, pp. 79-80)

Conceptual Frameworks (1)
• Concepts are key terms used in the research. • Frameworks illustrate the connections and relationships amongst the concepts. • CFs provide a ‘map’ for the filed of study • CFs Provide structure and coherence

Conceptual Frameworks (2)
Types of Relationships
• Cause and effect (Expectancy Model) • Cyclical or stages in a process (Kolb’s) • Hierarchical (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) • Matrices (BCG Matrix) • Pairs of opposites (Force-Field Analysis) • Exchange and equilibrium (Balanced Scorecard) • Similarity (McKinsey’s ‘7 S’ Model)

Quantitative Research Designs
• Descriptive Research
– Observation studies – Correlational research – Developmental designs – Survey research – Interviews: face-to-face, telephone, voicemail

• Experimental and Ex post-facto designs

Observation Studies
Purpose Focus : Quantify behaviour in an objective way. : A particular aspect of behaviour.

Data used: Recorded observations by researchers. Methods of Analysis : Statistical analysis

Correlational Studies
Purpose Focus : Assess relationship between variables : Ratings assigned or frequencies of

Data used : Numbers reflecting specific measurements
of characteristics being studied.

Methods of Analysis : Regression analysis

Developmental Designs
Purpose Focus : Assess how variables change over time : Ratings assigned or frequencies of

Data used : Numbers reflecting specific measurements
of characteristics being studied.

Methods of Analysis : Cross-sectional or Longitudinal study

Survey Research
Purpose Focus : To learn about a large population by
acquiring information of its sample.

: Ratings assigned or frequencies of

behaviour, opinions, attitudes, experiences of characteristics being studied, using interviews and/or questionnaires.

Data used : Self-report data of specific measurements

Methods of Analysis : Statistical analysis

Experimental and Ex Post-facto Designs
Purpose : To identify possible cause and effect
relationships /eliminate some alternative explanations for an observed change


: Independent, dependent, and extraneous

Data used : Measurements of characteristics being

Methods of Analysis : Statistical analysis

Qualitative Research Designs
To get a complete understanding of the problem under study methods employed are: – Case study – Ethnography – Phenomenological study – Grounded theory study – Content analysis – Historical research

Case Study
Purpose Focus : To gain an in-depth understanding of a
person/situation (dept, organisation)

: Case(s) in the natural setting.
written documents, audio visual material

Data used : Participant observations, interviews, Methods of Analysis : Clustering into meaningful groups and
interpreting based on themes; overall synthesis and generalisation

Purpose Focus : To understanding how behaviours reflect
group cultural norms, beliefs, etc

: A site with a common culture.
written documents

Data used : Participant observations, interviews, Methods of Analysis : Organising in a chronological order
Clustering into meaningful groups Focussing on critical events Inferring general nature of culture

Phenomenological study
Purpose Focus : Understand people’s perceptions,
perspectives and understandings

: A particular phenomena
selected participants Cues from participants’ expressions, etc.

Data used : Lengthy unstructured interviews with

Methods of Analysis : Identifying common themes;
Grouping them into meaningful experiences

Grounded Theory Study
Purpose Focus : To derive a theory from data collected in a
natural setting

: A Process of actions and interactions
related to a topic: people based written documents, audio visual material

Data used : Observations, interviews, Methods of Analysis : Systematically coding data into

categories and identifying relationships Continual interweaving of data collection and data analysis Constructing theory from categories & interrelationships

Content analysis
Purpose Focus : To identify patterns, themes, or biases : Any form of communication (verbal, visual or

Data used : material from books, newspapers, films,
videotapes of human interactions, etc.

Methods of Analysis : Tabulation of frequency of each characteristic
Statistical analysis to answer questions

EX2: Group Exercise – Part 1
Objective: To study the teaching style of academics 3. Find a partner. Decide who will be the Researcher. 4. The researcher now has 10 minutes to find out and record information about the interviewee’s teaching style whilst at the institution 5. Swap roles and repeat step 2.

Group Exercise – Part 2
• Merge with at least 2 other groups (you will need at least 3 sets of data per group) • Reduce your data (What categories have you formed and why? How have you organised your data chunks and why?) • Analyse your data (e.g. What patterns have been identified? What issues have been identified?) • Identify key discussion themes.

The Sampling Process
• Define the target population. • Choose the sampling frame. • Select the sampling method. • Determine the ample size. • Implement the sampling plan.
Hair, Jr., J. F., et al. (2007, p. 171),

Sampling Designs • Theoretical sampling: • Discriminant sampling: • Probability sampling:
Data sources for developing a theory Data sources useful for validating theory Choosing a sample in such a way that each member has an equal chance of being selected

• Non-Probability sampling: No way of forecasting or guaranteeing

that each element of the population will be represented in the sample

Probability Sampling
• Simple random selection • Simple Stratified random sampling • Proportional Stratified random sampling • Cluster sampling • Systematic sampling (e.g. Picking every 10th customer)

Non-Probability Sampling
• Convenience sampling: Sample based on what/
who is available

• Quota sampling: Sample based on what/who is
available but maintaining population’s proportions research purpose

• Purposive sampling: Sample chosen for the • Snowball sampling: Initial respondents are used to
NOTE: Always explain why a certain sampling method was chosen.

help identify other respondents

Bias in Research
Bias is anything that distorts data, and thus attacks the integrity of facts. (Leedy and Ormrod, 2005) Sources of Bias:
– – – – – – – Sponsoring organisation Researcher Sampling Non-respondents to a survey Surveyor or interviewer Gathering of data Analysis and presentation of data

Researchers’ Ethical Obligations
• Maintain scientific rigour • Keep findings confidential (if required) • Do not ‘massage’ findings • Present findings clearly • Admit limitations

Questionnaire Design: points to watch
• Attractive design • Keep it short and simple (KISS) • Logical and sequential: easy questions first • Clear instructions and questions • Watch out for implicit assumptions • Avoid leading questions • Decide how to code responses for analysis • Ask personal questions at the end

Questionnaire Design:
• Closed-ended questions
– Dichotomous – Multiple choice/Check lists – Ranking questions – Rating scales: verbal, numerical and (Behaviourally anchored) – Likert scale (measures the amount of agreement) – Semantic differential scales

• Open-ended questions
– Unstructured – Word association – Sentence completion

Rating Scales Exercise
Give a numerical value between 1 and 10 (where 10 = greatest frequency) to indicate the frequency suggested by the following words.
– Almost always – Always – Frequently – Most of the time – Never – Occasionally
Adapted from Fisher (1999, p. 164)

- Quite often - Rarely - Seldom - Sometimes - Often - Usually

Maximising Returns of Mailed Questionnaires
• Timing of the mail-shot • Ensure good first impression. • Say why the survey should interest the respondent. • Include self-addressed & stamped envelop. • Offer the results/summary of the study. • Send follow up reminders.

Pilot Survey Purposes
• Testing questionnaire
• wording • sequencing • layout

• Testing
• sensitivity of respondents • fieldwork arrangements • analysis procedures

• Estimating
• response rates • completion times

• Training and testing field workers

Assessing Practicability of Projects (1)
• In what area is the problem? • Are data easily accessible? • What expertise does the researcher have? • How will data be collected? • Are special equipments or conditions required for gathering and analysing data? • What is the estimated time and cost? • Will the data collected be valid and reliable?

Assessing Practicability of Projects (2)
• Have the following criteria been built into the project ? – Universality – Repeatability – Measurement – Control or isolating

Common Weaknesses in Proposals (1)
Not able to demonstrate the ability to:
– Think clearly and logically – To express concisely and cogently – To discriminate between the significant and inconsequential – To display technical ability – To handle abstract thought – To analyse data objectively and accurately – To interpret results confidently and conservatively
Leedy and Ormrod (2005, pp. 126-7)

Common Weaknesses in Proposals (2)
• Related to Research Problem
– Unclear, unfocussed, unsound, – more complex, limited relevance, unimportant

• Research Design and Methodology
– Vague and unfocussed, – inappropriate data, equipments, methods/ controls, – unlikely to yield accurate results.
Leedy and Ormrod (2005, p. 127)

Common Weaknesses in Proposals (3)
• Related to the Researcher
– Insufficient training/experience, – Unfamiliar with the relevant literature – Insufficient time to devote to the research

• Related to Resources
– Unfavourable institutional setting – Insufficient equipment and support staff

Evaluating a Research Proposal
• Is the research project worth it?
– Does it contribute to knowledge? – Has an expert’s view been obtained? – What is good about it? – What are the drawbacks?

• What procedure will be adopted for:
– Literature review, data collection and analysis, and interpretation

• Are the necessary research tools available? • What do peers think about the proposal?

I would much appreciate it, if one of you or some of you combined would summarise what has been learnt in this session.

Thank you all for giving me this opportunity to present my thoughts. If you want further information do get in touch with me.


Cambridge Theological Federation , AG430022 (A422) - Postgraduate Research Methods (MA) Fisher, C. (2004), Researching and Writing Dissertation for Business Students, Harlow: Pearson Prentice Hall Hair, Jr., J. F., et al. (2007), Research Methods for Business, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley Hammersley, M. and Gomm, R.(1997) 'Bias in Social Research‘, Sociological Research Online, vol. 2, no. 1, <> accessed on 04/05/07 Leedy, P. D., and Ormrod, J. E. (2005), Practical Research Planning and Design, 8th Ed., New Jersey: Pearson Merril Prentice Hall Lesser, L. I., et al. (2007) Relationship between Funding Source and Conclusion among NutritionRelated Scientific Articles, Veterinary Medical Library News, Vol. 4 Issue 1, PLoS Medicine, found at, accessed on 19/05/07 Maylor, H., and Blackmon, K. (2005), Researching Business and Management, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan McQueen, R. A., and Knussen, C. (1999), Research Methods in Psychology: A practical Introduction, Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall Europe Pechenik, Jan. (1993). A Short Guide to Writing About Biology, 2nd ed. New York: Harper Collins cited in Hillsborough Community College (no date), How to Write a Critical Review, found at accessed on 5/05/07 Queens university Belfast (2007), Definition of Research for RAE 2008, found at accessed on 04/05/07

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