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Generally speaking, science is interested in answering questions and acquiring knowledge about the observable universe. Various research methods are used to try to satisfy these interests. But for this it is important to identify the objectives of scientific research.

Definition of Research

Research is a scientific approach to answering a research question, solving a research problem, or generating new knowledge through systematic and orderly collection, organization, and analysis of data with the ultimate goal of making research results useful for decision-making.

Origins of the Word Research

The word “inquiry” may have its origin in the old French word “recerchier” which meant “to search again”. It implicitly assumes that the previous search has not been exhaustive and complete, and that it must therefore be repeated.

In practice, the term “research” refers to a scientific process of generating an unexplored horizon of knowledge, whose objective is to discover or establish facts, solve a problem and reach a decision.

When do we call research scientific?

Any research is said to be scientific if:

It is based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning;

It consists of systematic observations, measurements and experiments;

Enables practical applications;

It ensures proper data analysis using rigorous statistical techniques.

The main feature that distinguishes the scientific method from other methods of knowledge acquisition is that scientists try to let reality speak for itself, supporting a theory when its predictions are confirmed and challenging a theory when its predictions turn out to be false.

It provides scientific information and theories for the explanation of nature;

Scientific research has multidimensional functions, characteristics and objectives.

It is based on the application of scientific methods and the exploitation of curiosity;

Considering these issues, we affirm that research in any field or discipline:

Try to solve a research problem;

It involves collecting new data from primary or first-hand sources, or using existing data for a new purpose;

It is based on observable experiences or empirical evidence;

Requires accurate observation and description;

Employs carefully designed procedures and rigorous analysis;

tries to find an objective and unbiased solution to the problem and strives to validate the methods used

It is a deliberate, unhurried activity that is directional but often refines the problem or questions as the research progresses.

What does Scientific Research comprise?

Scientific research is an original and systematic inquiry that is carried out to increase existing knowledge and understanding of the unknown to establish facts and principles. Some consider research as a journey of discovery of new knowledge.

It comprises the creation of ideas and the generation of new knowledge that leads to new and better perceptions and the development of new materials, devices, products and processes. It must have the potential to produce results relevant enough to augment and synthesize existing knowledge or correct and integrate previous knowledge.

Good reflective research produces theories and hypotheses and benefits any intellectual attempt to analyze facts and phenomena.

Characteristics of Scientific Research

Considering that research in any field of inquiry is conducted to provide information that supports decision-making in their respective area, we summarize some desirable features of research:

Research should focus on priority issues.

Research must be systematic. It emphasizes that the researcher must employ a structured procedure.

It must be logical. Without manipulating ideas logically, the scientific researcher cannot advance much in any research.

Research must be reductive. This means that one researcher’s conclusions should be made available to other researchers to prevent them from repeating the same research.

Research must be replicable. This states that there should be scope to confirm the findings of previous research in a new environment and in different environments with a new group of subjects or at a different time.

It must be generative. This is one of the most valuable features of research, as answering one question leads to generating many new ones.

Research must be action-oriented. That is, it must be aimed at reaching a solution that leads to the implementation of its conclusions.

Research must follow an integrated multidisciplinary approach, i.e. research approaches from more than one discipline are needed.

It should be participatory, involving all stakeholders (from policy makers to community members) in all phases of the study.

It should be relatively simple, timely and time-limited, employing a comparatively simple design.

Research should be as cost-effective as possible.

Research results should be presented in the formats most useful to managers, decision makers, business managers or community members.

Objectives of scientific research

Many researchers agree that the objectives of scientific research are: description, prediction and explanation/understanding. Some add control and enforcement to the list of objectives. For now, I’m going to focus on description, prediction, and explanation/understanding.

Description

Description refers to the procedures used to define, classify, and categorize topics and their relationships. Descriptions allow us to establish generalizations and universals. By collecting information about a large group of people, for example, a researcher may describe the average member or average performance of a member of the specific group studied.

The description of the observations of large groups of people does not mean that there are important differences between individuals. That is, researchers simply try to describe subjects or events on the basis of average performance (generally speaking). On the other hand, the description allows researchers to describe a single phenomenon and/or the observations of a single person.

In science, descriptions are systematic and accurate. Scientific research uses operational definitions. Operational definitions characterize events, qualities, and concepts in terms of observable operations or procedures used to measure them.

Researchers are interested in describing only what is relevant to the study. They are not interested in describing observations that are irrelevant to the research.

Prediction

In addition to developing descriptions, researchers make predictions. Descriptions of events often serve as the basis for predictions. Predictions are sometimes made in the form of hypotheses, which are tentative, testable predictions about the relationships between variables. Hypotheses are usually derived from interrelated theories or sets of concepts that explain a dataset and make predictions.

Predicting subsequent performance is of particular importance to researchers. For example:

Does a low-calorie diet increase the chances of living longer?

Does the grade point average in college predict the performance that will be achieved in graduate school?

Do high levels of intelligence predict the avoidance of cognitive biases?

When one variable can be used to predict another or other variables, we can say that the variables are correlated. There is correlation when different measures vary together, which allows predicting the values of one variable knowing the values of another.

Keep in mind that predictions are made with varying degrees of certainty. Correlation coefficients indicate the degree of relationship between the variables in terms of strength and direction of the relationship. In other words, correlation coefficients determine the degree of covariation of the measures.

Explanation/understanding

Arguably the most important goal of scientific research is explanation. The explanation is achieved when the cause or causes of a phenomenon are identified. Three prerequisites are essential to determine cause and effect: covariation of events, an adequate temporal sequence, and the elimination of plausible alternative causes.

Covariation of events (relationship)

Variables must be correlated. To determine the relationship of two variables, it is necessary to determine whether the relationship could occur due to chance. Lay observers are not usually good judges of the presence of relationships, so statistical methods are used to measure and prove the existence and strength of relationships.

Proper time sequence (temporal precedence)

For 1 to be the cause of 2, 1 must precede 2. The cause must precede the effect.

Elimination of plausible alternative causes (not spurious, or genuine)

For a relationship between A and B not to be spurious, there must be no C that causes both A and B so that the relationship between A and B disappears once C is controlled.

The most difficult condition to meet when determining cause-and-effect relationships is the elimination of other plausible causes.

Basic operations of Scientific Research

Scientific research in any field of study involves three basic operations:

Data collection;

Data analysis;

Writing reports.

Data collection consists of observing, measuring and recording the data or information.

Data analysis, on the other hand, refers to the ordering and organization of the data collected in order to find out its meaning and generalize about it.

The drafting of the report is the last step in the study. Its objective is to transmit the information contained in it to readers or the audience.

If you note, for example, the newspaper reading habit of a group of residents in a community, that would be data collection.

If you then divide these residents, say, into three categories, “usual,” “occasional,” and “never,” you’ve done a simple data analysis. The results can now be presented in the form of a report.

The reader of your report will be able to know what percentage of people in the community never read any newspaper, etc.

Motivation for research What motivates a person to investigate?

A person may be motivated to conduct research activities because:

You may have a genuine interest and curiosity about the existing body of knowledge and understanding of the problem;

He seeks answers to questions that have so far gone unanswered and tries to uncover the truth;

The existing tools and techniques you have access to, as well as others, may need modifications and changes to suit current needs.

It could be investigated to ensure

Better livelihoods;

Better career development;

A greater position, prestige and dignity in society;

Academic achievement leading to higher degrees;

Self-gratification.

All those involved in the above processes benefit from the results of the research. There is almost no action in everyday life that does not depend on prior research.

Research in any field of inquiry provides us with the knowledge and skills we need to solve problems and meet the challenges of a rapidly advancing decision-making environment.

Desirable qualities of Scientific Research

Good research is one that generates reliable data. It is made by professionals and can be reliably used for decision making.

Therefore, it is vitally important that the research is acceptable to the public, for which the research must possess some desirable qualities in terms of its purpose, research process, research design, ethical issues, limitations, results or findings, conclusions, recommendations and the experiences of the researcher.

Below we list some qualities that good research should possess.

Clearly defined purpose

Good research should have its purposes clearly defined and unambiguous.

The problem at hand or the decision to be taken must be as clearly delineated as possible to demonstrate the credibility of the investigation.

Detailed research process

The investigation procedures used should be described in sufficient detail so that other researchers can repeat the research at a later date.

If this is not done, it is difficult or impossible to estimate the validity and reliability of the results. This weakens readers’ confidence.

Any recommendation made on the basis of such an investigation rightly receives little attention from policy makers and its implementation.

Design of the planned research

The procedural design of research should be carefully planned to obtain results as objective as possible.

To do this, care must be taken to ensure that the representativeness of the sample is guaranteed, the relevant literature has been exhaustively searched, experimental controls have been followed, whenever necessary, and personal bias in the selection and recording of data has been minimized.

Ethical issues considered

The design of an investigation must always safeguard the possibility of causing mental and physical harm not only to the participants, but also to those who belong to their organizations.

Research situations in which there is a possibility of exploitation, invasion of privacy and loss of dignity of all those participating in the study must also be carefully considered.

Limitations revealed

The investigator must report with complete honesty and frankness any failure in the design of the procedure; followed and provided estimates of its effects on the findings.

This increases readers’ confidence and ultimately makes the report acceptable to the audience. The value of research can legitimately be questioned when limitations are not reported.

Proper analysis is guaranteed

Proper analysis reveals the importance of the data and helps the researcher to check the reliability and validity of their estimates.

Therefore, the data should be analyzed with due statistical rigor to help the researcher reach firm conclusions.

When statistical methods have been used, the probability of error should be estimated and criteria of statistical significance applied.

Unequivocal presentation of the results

The presentation of the results should be thorough, easy for readers to understand, and organized so that readers can easily locate critical and central results.

Justified conclusions and recommendations

A proper investigation always specifies the conditions under which the conclusions of the investigation appear to be valid.

It is therefore important that any conclusions drawn and recommendations made are based solely on the results of the study.

No inferences or generalizations should be made beyond the data. If this were not met, the objectivity of the research would tend to decrease, resulting in confidence in the findings.

The experiences of the researcher must be reflected

The research report should contain information on the qualification of the researchers.

If the researcher has experience, a good reputation in research and is a person of integrity, your report is likely to be highly valued. Policy makers feel confident in implementing the recommendations made in these reports.

Precautions in research

Whether a researcher conducts applied or basic or any other type of research, he or she must take the necessary precautions to ensure that the research he or she conducts is relevant, timely, efficient, accurate, and ethical.

Research is considered relevant if it anticipates the kind of information that decision-makers, scientists or politicians will need.

Timely research is done in time to influence decisions.

It is efficient when it is of the best quality for minimal expense, and the study is appropriate for the context of the research.

Research is considered accurate or valid when interpretation can account for both consistencies and inconsistencies of the data.

Research is ethical when it can promote trust, exercise care, ensure standards, and protect the rights of participants in the research process.

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Bibliographic References

Petersdorf, R. G. 1982. “Preventing and investigating fraud in research.” Journal of Medical Education 57:880-81.

Romberger, J. 2000. Learning to Write is an Integral Part of Writing to Learn in the Sciences. In: https://owl.purdue.edu/

Scharnhorst A, Garfield E. “Tracing Scientific Influence” Dynamics of Socio-Economic Systems, Vol:2:1, p.1-33, 2010
http://garfield.library.upenn.edu/papers/tracingscientificinfluence2010.pdf

 

The Objectives of Scientific Research

The Objectives of Scientific Research. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: Chang Duong

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