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Research Methods

Categories of Research

Categories of Research

There are many different ways to classify research:

By type By objective By form By reasoning

Categories of Research

By type:

Primary research, collection of data that does not yet exist Secondary research, summary, collation and/or synthesis of existing research

Categories of Research - Type Primary Research

Also called field research. It involves the collection of data that does not already exist, which is research to collect original data. Primary Research is often undertaken after the researcher has gained some insight into the issue by collecting secondary data. This can be through numerous forms of data collection, including questionnaires, direct observation and interviews amongst others.

Categories of Research - Type Secondary Research

Also called desk research. It involves the summary, collation and/or synthesis of existing research rather than primary research, where data is collected from, for example, research subjects or experiments. The principal methodology in secondary research is the systematic review, commonly using meta-analytic statistical techniques, although other methods of synthesis, like realist reviews and meta-narrative reviews, have been developed in recent years. Secondary research can come from either internal or external sources. The proliferation of web search engines has increased opportunities to conduct secondary research.

Categories of Research

By objective:

Qualitative research, understanding of human behaviour and the reasons that govern such behaviour Quantitative research, systematic empirical investigation of quantitative properties and phenomena and their relationships Mixed methods research, uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods for data collection and analysis.

Categories of Research Objective Qualitative Research (1/2)

It aims to gather an in-depth understanding of human behaviour and the reasons that govern such behaviour. The qualitative method investigates the why and how of decision making, not just what, where, when. Hence, smaller but focused samples are more often needed. Qualitative methods produce information only on the particular cases studied, and any more general conclusions are only hypotheses (informative guesses). Quantitative methods can be used to verify which of such hypotheses are true.

Categories of Research Objective Qualitative Research (2/2)

Helps us flesh out the story and develop a deeper understanding of a topic. Often contrasted to quantitative research. Together they give us the bigger picture. Good examples of qualitative research are face-to-face interviews, focus groups and site visits.

Categories of Research Objective Quantitative Research (1/2)

It refers to the systematic empirical investigation of quantitative properties and phenomena and their relationships. The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theories and/or hypotheses pertaining to phenomena. The process of measurement is central to quantitative research because it provides the fundamental connection between empirical observation and mathematical expression of quantitative relationships.

Categories of Research Objective Quantitative Research (2/2)

Involves information or data in the form of numbers. Allows us to measure or to quantify things. Respondents dont necessarily give numbers as answers - answers are analysed as numbers. Good example of quantitative research is the survey.

Categories of Research Objective Mixed Methods Research

Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods for data collection and analysis. Capitalises on the strengths of each approach and offsets their different weaknesses. Also provides a more comprehensive answer to research questions, going beyond the limitations of a single approach.

Categories of Research

By form:

Exploratory research, which structures and identifies new problems Constructive research, which develops solutions to an existing problem Empirical research, which tests the feasibility of a solution using empirical evidence

Categories of Research - Form Exploratory Research

It is a type of research conducted for a problem that has not been clearly defined. Exploratory research helps determine the best research design, data collection method and selection of subjects. It should draw definitive conclusions only with extreme caution. Given its fundamental nature, exploratory research often concludes that a perceived problem does not actually exist.

Categories of Research - Form Constructive Research

It is very commonly used in computer science research. The term construct is often used in this context to refer to the new contribution being developed. The construct can be a new theory, algorithm, model, software, or a framework. This type of approach demands a form of validation that doesnt need to be quite as empirically based as in other types of research like exploratory research. Nevertheless the conclusions have to be objectively argued and defined. This may involve evaluating the construct being developed analytically against some predefined criteria or performing some benchmark tests with the prototype.

Categories of Research - Form Empirical Research

A way of gaining knowledge by direct observation or experience. It is used to answer empirical questions, which must be precisely defined and answerable with data (e.g., "Does listening to music during learning have an effect on later memory?"). Usually, a researcher has a certain theory regarding the topic under investigation. Based on this theory some statements, or hypotheses, will be proposed (e.g., "Listening to music has a negative effect on learning."). From these hypotheses predictions about specific events are derived (e.g., "People who study while listening to music will remember less on a later test than people who study in silence."). These predictions can then be tested with a suitable experiment. Depending on the outcomes of the experiment, the theory on which the hypotheses and predictions were based will be supported or not.

Categories of Research

By reasoning:

Deductive reasoning, is going from the general to the specific Inductive reasoning, is going from the specific to the general

Categories of Research Reasoning Deductive Reasoning

Going from the general to the specific E.g.

1. All men are mortal. (premise) 2. Socrates was a man. (premise) 3. Socrates was mortal. (conclusion)

Thus, the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises and inferences. In this way, it is supposed to be a definitive proof of the truth of the claim

Categories of Research Reasoning Inductive Reasoning

Going from the specific to the general e.g.

1. Socrates was Greek. (premise) 2. Most Greeks eat fish. (premise) 3. Socrates ate fish. (conclusion)

An inductive argument is one in which the premises are supposed to support the conclusion in such a way that if the premises are true, it is probable that the conclusion would be true.

Categories of Research Reasoning Inductive Reasoning

General statements (theories) have to be based on empirical observations, which are subsequently generalized into statements which can either be regarded as true or probably true. The classical example goes from a series of observations:

Swan no. 1 was white, Swan no. 2 was white, Swan no. 3 was white, to the general statement: All swans are white.

Proof by Induction

Research Paradigms
John W. Creswell, Research Methods, Chapter 1, pages 5-11.

Research Paradigms

Before a researcher starts to develop an experiment they must first make a declaration and indicate what their philosophical views are on the nature and purpose and research. Different researchers even within the same discipline have very distinct views what the point of doing research is, and how to interpret the results of an experiment, so they have to be up front about their views.

Research Paradigms

There are various terms to describe these differences in views, including; Paradigm Worldview Epistemologies and ontologies Broadly conceived research methodologies

Since weve already looked at Kuhns work, well stick with the term paradigm.

Research Paradigms

The four main paradigms we will consider for this class are;

Postpositivism Social Constructivism Advocacy and Participatory Pragmatism


Karl Popper Born: 28 July 1902 Died: 17 September 1994 Born in Vienna, Austria Philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics


This is closest to the traditional scientific method. Specifically as viewed by Karl Popper. You can use experiments to measure and analyse how the objective world around us works, but the results are subject to considerations.


If the positivists believe that using science we can measure, classify and understand, then the postpositivists suggest that this is true to a certain extent, but that we must be carful not to forget that a lot of our interpretation may be based on assumptions and conjectures, and that we need to be aware of this. This approach focuses on the quantitative descriptors.


Postpositivists focus on cause and effect and are thus deterministic. So they focus of finding the causes that could have produces the specific outcomes of an experiment They also have a reductionistic view in the sense that they want to reduce the causes to into a small, discrete set of ideas to test.


The postpositivists inherently believe that there are laws and theories that govern the world and that they can be identified and tested using the scientific method. So the postpositivist starts with a theory, collects data and this either supports or refutes the theory, which may then result in the theory being revised before additional tests are made.

Social Constructivism

Karl Mannheim Born: March 27, 1893 Died January 9, 1947 Born in Budapest, Hungary Sociologist who was one of the founding fathers of classical sociology.

Social Constructivism

This view is typically seen in qualitative research The key assumption is that individuals seek understanding of the world the live and work in This view comes from the work of Karl Mannheim and others.

Social Constructivism

These individuals develop subjective meanings of their experiences meanings directed towards certain objects and things. These meanings are varied and multiple, which leads the researcher to look at a range of views rather than reducing things down to a few categories. This approach focuses on the qualitative descriptors.

Social Constructivism

Thus the researchers main goals is to allow the participants to construct their own meaning of the situation, often negotiated socially and historically. The social element means that meanings are constructed through interaction with others. The researcher also acknowledges that they themselves are shaped by their backgrounds and their interpretation flows from their personal, cultural and historical experiences.

Social Constructivism

The more open-ended the questioning is, the better. The researcher listens carefully to what the participants do in their life settings. The research process is qualitative and largely inductive. The objective is to interpret others meanings of the world, rather than to start out with a theory (as in postpositivism).

Advocacy and Participatory

Jrgen Habermas Born: June 18, 1929 Age: 81 Born in Dsseldorf, Germany Sociologist and philosopher. He is best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'.

Advocacy and Participatory

This position highlights the view that imposed structural laws and theories does not take account of marginalised individuals in society or issues of social justice that need to be addressed. Draws on the works of Jrgen Habermas, as well as Karl Marx, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, and Paulo Freire.

Advocacy and Participatory

Advocates of this perspective feel that the constructivist view does not go far enough in terms of advocating an action agenda for the marginalised. Research needs to be tied in with politics and a political agenda. It should also create an action agenda for reform. The researchers begins with a social issue of the day as the focal point of the study.

Advocacy and Participatory

The researcher must proceed collaboratively so as not to further marginalise participants. In this way the participants may help design questions, collect data, analyze information, and reap the rewards of the research. This approach creates a united voice for reform and change. It is often recursive or dialectical and focuses on bringing about change that is emancipatory.

Advocacy and Participatory

This type of research focuses on the needs of groups in society that are marginalised The research will be analysed using a specific theoretical perspective (or theoretical lens) such as feminist perspectives, racialised discourses, critical theory, queer theory, and disability theory.


Charles Sanders Peirce Born: September 10, 1839 Died: April 19, 1914 Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts Philosopher, logician, mathematician, and scientist. He is known for his contributions to logic, mathematics, philosophy, and semiotics, and as the father of pragmatism.


A view that arises out of action, situations, and consequences. The key focus is what works, and getting solutions to problems. Derives from the work of Peirce, James, Mead, and Dewey.


Instead of focussing on methods, the researcher focuses on the problem and uses a range of approaches that help understand it. It is used often with mixed methods research. In this way researchers are free to choose the methods, the techniques, and the procedures of research that best meet their needs and purpose.


The researcher proceeds from the basic premise that the human capability of theorizing is integral to intelligent practice. Theory and practice are not separate spheres; rather, theories and distinctions are tools or maps for finding our way in the world. As John Dewey put it, there is no question of theory versus practice but rather of intelligent practice versus uninformed, stupid practice.


The researcher does not have to focus on an absolute unity, there are many ways to collect data and analyse it. The truth is what works at the time, not based on the duality between independent reality and what is in the mind. So researchers should stop wondering about the nature or reality and get on with what works.

Research Methods
Planning your research

Planning your research: Key questions

What do you want to know? How do you find out what you want to know? Where can you get the information? Who do you need to ask? When does your research need to be done? Why? (Getting the answer)

"I Keep Six Honest Serving Men ..."

I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who. I send them over land and sea, I send them east and west; But after they have worked for me, I give them all a rest. I let them rest from nine till five, For I am busy then, As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea, For they are hungry men. But different folk have different views; I know a person smallShe keeps ten million serving-men, Who get no rest at all! She sends'em abroad on her own affairs, From the second she opens her eyesOne million Hows, two million Wheres, And seven million Whys!

- Rudyard Kipling

Six Honest Serving Men

What? How? Where? Who? When? Why?

Six Honest Serving Men

What? How? Where? Who? When? Why?

Step 1: What?


What do I want to know? When developing your research question, keep in mind:
Who your research is for; What decisions your research will inform; What kind of information is needed to inform those decisions.

Conduct a local information scan Take another look at your research question

Step 2: How? Where? Who?

PLANNING YOUR RESEARCH How do I find out what I want to know? Where can I get the information I need? Who do I need to ask? Choose your methodology

quantitative or numbers information qualitative in-depth explanatory information case studies site visits or observation participatory research

Step 3: When?

PLANNING YOUR RESEARCH When do all the different parts of the research need to be done? List all your research work areas Map them against a timeline Develop a work plan

Step 4: Why?

GETTING THE ANSWER Collect your data Keep returning to your research question Organize your research results to answer the question Keep in mind who you are doing the research for Focus on what research results do tell you Be creative, methodical and meticulous

Requirements Elicitation

Requirements Elicitation
Information to elicit: Description of the problem domain List of problems/opportunities requiring solution (the requirements) Any client-imposed constraints upon system

Requirements Elicitation
Requirements Elicitation Techniques: Background Reading Hard data collection Interviews Questionnaires Group Techniques Participant Observation Ethnomethodology Knowledge Elicitation Techniques

Sources of Information

Clients (actual and potential) Users of systems (actual and potential) Domain Experts Pre - existing system (within the problem domain) Other relevant products Documents Technical standards and legislation

Challenges of Elicitation (1/2)

Thin spread of domain knowledge
The knowledge might be distributed across many sources. It is rarely available in an explicit form (i.e. not written down) There will be conflicts between knowledge from different sources.

Tacit knowledge (The say - do problem)

- People find it hard to describe knowledge they regularly use.

Challenges of Elicitation (2/2)

Limited Observability
The problem owners might be too busy coping with the current system. Presence of an observer may change the problem, e.g. Probe Effect, Hawthorne Effect

People may not be free to tell you what you need to know. People may not want to tell you what you need to know.
The outcome will affect them, so they may try to influence you (hidden agendas)

Card Sorting

KA technique in which a collection of concepts (or other knowledge objects) are written on separate cards and sorted into piles by an expert in order to elicit classes based on attributes. Also enables significant elicitation of properties and dimensions Used to capture concept knowledge and tacit knowledge Use in conjunction with triadic method Can also sort objects or pictures instead of cards


KA technique that involves the construction, modification and validation of trees. A valuable method for acquiring concept knowledge and, to a lesser extent, process knowledge. Can make use of various trees:

concept tree composition tree attribute tree process tree decision tree cause tree

Triadic Elicitation Method

KA technique used to capture the way in which an expert views the concepts in a domain. Involves presenting three random concepts and asking in what way two of them are similar but different from the other one. Answer will give an attribute. A good way of acquiring tacit knowledge.

Repertory Grid technique

KA technique used for a number of purposes:

to elicit attributes for a set of concepts to rate concepts against attributes using a numerical scale uses statistical analysis to arrange and group similar concepts and attributes

A useful way of capturing concept knowledge and tacit knowledge Requires special software (PC-PACK)

Knowledge Representation

Knowledge Representation

Scripts Sets Schemata

Knowledge Representation

Script Theory

Knowledge Representation

Script Theory

Roger Schank states that memory is in the form of meaningful 'stories' (not merely inert decontextualized information) and that problem solving progressed by using 'cases' or examples stored in memory. So for example, in the 'classical' view, when we walk to the store, we accomplish this because we have access to a stored algorithm that tells us 'step one, open door, step two, step into street' and so on. In Schank's view on the other hand, we accomplish this because we have access to a stored 'schema' based on previous experience of what it is like to walk to the store, and we don't need rules to describe this.

Knowledge Representation

Set Theory

Do we categorise based on similarities or differences ? Category Bird

Robin obvious Ostriches and penguins less features

Knowledge Representation

Schema Theory

Frederic Bartlett arrived at the concept from studies of memory he conducted in which subjects recalled details of stories that were not actually there. He suggested that memory takes the form of schema which provide a mental framework for understanding and remembering information.