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Research is a systematic and scientific approach to gather relevant information on a problem and add to the existing base of knowledge. According to Aquino, research is defined as a systematic search of relevant information on a particular topic. Malolos and Isidro have defined research as a process of thinking scientifically that finally brings out a new knowledge or truth . The structured attempt of carrying out a research in order to gain knowledge of a particular topic is called research methods.
Research methods are the various ways and strategies a researcher may use to testify the theories stated. It is the initial step when the researcher tries to trace the link between the theories formulated and the data available that is collected by researcher through various methods. In common parlance, all the methods that are used by researcher in the course of carrying out his survey are termed as research methods. Research methods is however different from research methodology.
Research methodology provides a platform to the researcher to map out the process of carrying out his research. Research methods are a part of research methodology research methodology has a wider scope than research methods. Mostly research methods are categorised into three classes; the first group constitutes the method through which data is collected, the second group consists of the statistical methods which are employed to establish relation between the data collected and the problem in hand, and the third group consists of methods which are used to assess how accurate are the results so obtained after the analysis.
Research philosophy can be defined as the development of the research background, research knowledge and its nature. It can be defined as a framework which includes all such things as beliefs and understanding, perception of the theories established and the procedures that are used to conduct a research (Remenyi, 2010). Understanding the research philosophy is important in selecting a research design. It is important to first analyse what is needed to carry out the research in a systematic manner. If this is understood it would be easier to figure out a proper research design which will help in accumulating all the pertinent information. Research design can be termed as the blueprint of the research. A research design basically deals with four important points that is what is the problem to be studied, what is the data relevant which will solve the particular problem, how to collect the pertinent information and how to analyze it to get results out of it (Gill and Johnson, 2010). Research philosophy and research design are closely linked with each other. Research philosophy gives assumptions and research design is chalked according to it.
Research philosophy should be understood thoroughly because if assumptions go wrong at this stage it would ultimately lead to a faulty research design and will also not solve the purpose of the research undertaken. Research philosophy gives an initial idea about the topic which is the start of the research. Thus, it needs to be understood very clearly so that research design is formulated to give the maximum output. Understanding the research philosophy helps the researcher to refine and specify the research methods to be used in the study (Rugg and Petre, 2006). It will be easy for the researcher to evaluate the different methods and methodologies.
A proper knowledge of research philosophy will also bring new ideas about research design which might be previously out of the researcher’s knowledge. There are two important paradigms which needs a mention while research philosophy is being discussed: positivism and constructionism. The principle on which positivist paradigm is based says that real world events can be empirically observed and explained with logical analysis. Under the positivist paradigm, the hypothesis is developed from an existing theory. The positivist paradigm creates a separation between reality and our knowledge on it and presents an objective reality against which the researcher can make a comparison of their claims and find out the truth (Wimmer and Dominick, 2010). It is useful in studying a larger sample size.
Positivist paradigm and constructionism paradigm are strikingly opposite to each other in their approach. Under the constructionism paradigm, emphasis is laid on creating meaning of the world through individual constructs. It is based on the researchers’ own class of meanings. It finds its roots in people’s personal experiences of phenomena. Constructionism paradigm is useful when a small sample size is to be studied. There is an ongoing debate as to which paradigm has a greater credibility but no final conclusion can be reached as a paradigm suitable for one research might not be suitable to another. Thus, it is vital for the researcher to have a clear and correct insight of research philosophy so as to formulate and utilize an appropriate research design .
While selecting a sampling design, it is important to analyse what needs to be studied and from which population maximum information and benefits could be gained. The sampling design should be such that the conclusions drawn for the sample can be generalised for the other samples chosen from the same population and sub-population. The sample should be such that it gives useful information about the parent population (Lohr, 2009). For a sample to be useful in providing relevant information, must possess the following essential characteristics:
Representative: The sample should be a true representative of the larger population. For this, researcher’s biasness should be removed and the method of selecting the sample as well as the collection of data should be done appropriately.
Adequacy: The size of the sample must be in accordance with size of population. It should not be too large that studying it becomes tedious and neither should it be too small that it provides no relevant information about the population.
Homogeneity: The samples collected from the population should be identical. If they are no identical, studying them will not deliver accurate results.
Independent Ability: The selection of sample should be done in an independent manner. The selection of one item should not influence the selection of another item. Each item of the sample should be selected on the basis of its own character and merits .
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The sampling design that is best suited for academic research is random sampling. In random sampling, each subject of the population stands an equal chance of being selected at each draw. If random sampling is adopted, a variety of samples would be collected which would give an overall idea about the population to be studied. It would be useful to employ random sampling technique in academic research because of the advantages it has. The first and foremost advantage is that it is comparatively easier to collect the samples randomly as compared to other techniques. It is also a fair method of collecting samples as each member has equal chance of being selected and there is no biasness in selecting samples
Researchers often face an array of ethical dilemmas. There must be an adherence to professional, federal and institutional standards while conducting a research . The key principles in research ethics identified by professional associations in the social sciences field are documented by Bell and Bryman. According to Bell and Bryman, the ethical issues in the field of research cannot be ignored as it is adhering to ethics that will bring about integrity to the piece of research undertaken. The role of values is having increasing concern in research process in the modern scenario . Bell and Bryman have summarised the principles in research ethics under the following heads:
Harm to participants: Any research if it does any harm to participants is not acceptable by them. Harm to participants can be of any nature. It can be physical harm, negative impact on career, stress etc. Thus in any research undertaken, it should be kept in mind that if confidentiality is promised to the participants, it must be honoured. Even if it is difficult to not reveal the identity of companies or participants, two things must be kept in mind in such cases: (a) the participants should be informed that where the information provided by them would be supplied and how it will be utilised and (b) it must also be ensured to the respondents that the information given by them will not be used for any other purpose other than the research. Thus, it is the first and most important part of research ethics that anonymity must be observed to the possible extent .
Informed Consent: It is generally observed that there is lack of informed consent in the research process. Often a researcher makes hidden observations of the sample to be studied apart from acquiring direct information from them. If a participant is giving information about a research to be undertaken he has the right to be fully informed about it. People are generally reluctant to participate in research because it develops a kind of suspicion among them about the entire process. If there is lack of informed consent, there will be no element of trustworthiness in the research process and it will be difficult to extract information from the participant.
Invasion of privacy: The third area of ethical concern in research process is invasion of privacy. A lot of people are very concerned about their privacy and a slight transgression of privacy is not acceptable by most of the people. This concern is closely connected with informed consent. People are ready to be open about their private concerns if an element of trust exists in the entire process. Thus it is very important for a researcher to be very sensitive about the privacy concerns of the respondents and must give them an opportunity to withdraw as well. Often people do not answer certain questions in a research process because they believe that the issue is very sensitive and very private to them (Mauthner, 2002). Thus it is of prime importance that a researcher does not invade the privacy of any respondent.
Deception: Deception occurs when researcher shows his research to be something else in order to procure information from the respondents. Deception is believed to be widespread in business research. it is not feasible to give the respondents a full idea of why the research is undertaken and how it will be done but a certain level of transparency is required to build trust among the participants.
Thus it can be observed that adhering to the ethical code of conduct while undertaking a research is very vital if a valid research is to be undertaken because unless the respondents feel an element of trustworthiness they will not be responding and hence no information will be available to study.
It can be observed that it is important to establish a link between what is believed and what information is extracted during the research. The selection of proper research methods along with an appropriate sample will try and bring out useful information which will add to the existing knowledge base and help in solving the research problem (Fowler, 2001).There is also a requirement to adhere to ethical code of conduct while undertaking a research so that no sentiments are hurt and no impacts are left upon the respondents with respect to the researcher or the research organisation.
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