The term research is used to refer to the systematic form of inquiry where objective investigations are carried out to test hypothesis, provide new or better interpretation of information, and identify new problems and questions for future research to focus on (Matthews & Ross, 2014). Basically, research involves: presentation of queries that have not been raised before; active investigation and solution seeking to meet the objectives of the research; and dissemination of new information and knowledge that has been acquired to stakeholders and interested parties (Mertens, 2014). Research is said to be scientific when it is conducted to investigate scientific hypothesis or theories, which involves the use of experimentation to collect data (Cohen et al., 2013). Scientific research maintains a high levels of strictness on objectivity in all activities and processes carried during the systematic investigation in order to provide reliable conclusions.
To maintain objectivity, scientific research relies on empirical methods to avoid bias and false findings. The scientific research process the following eight steps: Identification of a research problem or question that is under investigation; Literature review to gain more understanding about the topic or problem under investigation; Clarification of the research question or problem, which is done to narrow the scope of the research; definition of terms and conditions, key words, phrases and concepts that would be used in developing the researchs purpose statement; definition of the focus population or group that would be targeted by the research; development of an instrumentation plan, also known as the plan for the research; data collection and analysis (Mertens, 2014). This means that research requires commitment and dedicated efforts for successful completion.
The Paradigms and Methodologies of Scientific Research
Research paradigms are the underlying beliefs, shared meaning agreements that scientists adhere to when conducting research. This includes the basis upon which problems are identified, conceptualized and addressed. Research methodologies are the activities and processes that researchers undertake in order to find answers to questions or solutions to problems that compelled the research (Cohen et al., 2013). There are three major paradigms that exist in scientific research, these are; the positivist, constructivist and pragmatist paradigms. The figure below illustrates their relationship.
The positivist paradigm is based on the belief that only a single reality exists, and that this reality is known and also quantifiable. Thus, research based on the positivist paradigm is conducted using quantitative methods in which the relationship between measurable variable is investigated (Matthews & Ross, 2014). The constructivist paradigm is on the other hand used from the perspective that no single reality exists, and thus, interpretation of the reality is bound to provide different results. Research based on the constructivist paradigm will therefore rely heavily on qualitative methods (Mertens, 2014). The pragmatist paradigm is different from the other two in the sense that, it is founded on assumptions that reality is constantly undergoing modification, and therefore needs to be debated, re-examined and interpreted (Cohen et al., 2013). Any research methodology can therefore be used in research that is founded on this paradigm.
Comparison and Contrast of Natural and Sociological or Behavioral Sciences
Scientific research may either fall under Natural sciences or Social and behavioral sciences, whereby, natural sciences are those scientific disciplines that are concerned with the description, analysis, prediction and interpretation of the natural phenomena (Matthews & Ross, 2014). Natural sciences are therefore reliant on observation and findings that have been collected from an empirical process, examples include; chemistry, physics and biology. Social sciences on the other hand focus on the society and relationships that exist among individuals and groups in the society, examples include; psychology and anthropology (Cohen et al., 2013). One thing that is similar among the two sciences is that both are dependent on observation since they make inferences from what is physically observed (Cohen et al., 2013). The main difference among the two however, is the fact that natural sciences tend to be more empirical and focused on the quantifiable aspects of the natural world, while social sciences are based on social interactions that are more qualitative than quantitative (Cohen et al., 2013).
Qualitative and Quantitative Research
Depending on the underlying philosophy, research paradigm and questions, a research can be categorized as either qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative research involves the collection of data that is not numerical or translatable to numbers. It involves the collection of information that can only be observed, heard or read from language or audio-visuals. Qualitative research involves the following common techniques; interviewing, observation, and content analysis (Mertens, 2014). The strength of this method is that it provides rich information that helps explain why and how certain aspects of nature are the way they are (Matthews & Ross, 2014). The greatest limitation is that it is prone to biasness and prejudice. Quantitative research involves the collection of numerical data and therefore relies on standard measuring instruments. The strength of this method is that it enables researchers to establish relationships among natural phenomena even without prior existing hypothesis (Cohen et al., 2013). Also, findings from a quantitative research are verifiable and are therefore important in the making of crucial decisions like those needed in business regarding investments. The main pitfall of the methods is that they are not useful in the interpretation of individual human behavior. Quantitative methods include; surveys and observation (Mertens, 2014).
Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2013). Research methods in education. Routledge.
Matthews, B., & Ross, L. (2014). Research methods. Pearson Higher Ed.
Mertens, D. M. (2014). Research and evaluation in education and psychology: Integrating diversity with quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. Sage publications.
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