A succession of scientists have been the pioneers and bluffers of progress. As a result of their research efforts, man lives longer, enjoys leisure more, and has a greater use of intellectual power than ever before. Although man has not yet devised any perfect method for finding solutions to the problems that are considered worthy of investigation, progress has been made. There has been a gradual transition from the search for knowledge based purely on custom, tradition, authority, and personal experience, to the appeal to evidence based on scientific reasoning and research. As Hillway says: Man no longer attributes natural phenomena to supernatural influences, and no longer blindly trusts accepted authority.
Main Purposes of Research
The main purposes of the research are: (1) to determine the state of phenomena (past and present); (2) also to determine the nature, composition, and processes that characterize selected phenomena; (3) to trace the growth, developmental history, change, and state of certain phenomena; and (4) to study the cause and effect relationships between certain phenomena. A deeper understanding of what constitutes research can be obtained by examining experimental problems.
McCall asserts that experimental problems can best be identified by: (1) becoming a scholar in one or more specialties as early as possible; (2) reading, listening, and working critically and reflectively; (3) considering each obstacle an opportunity for the exercise of ingenuity rather than an insurmountable barrier; (4) beginning an investigation and observing how problems arise; and (5) remembering problems already encountered, i.e., keeping a systematic record of original ideas and problems.
Therefore, research is a formal, systematic and intensive process used in the investigation of a problem. In the educational setting, it can be carried out by an individual, team or organization. Also, It can be carried out in a classroom, school, or community. Research is not limited to a laboratory setting.
The Scientific Approach to Research
Generally, the search for truth leads a person to one of five major sources of evidence: (1) tradition; (2) learned authority; (3) personal experience; (4) logical reasoning; and (5) scientific research. A review of the history of the development of research technology will reveal that these sources are listed here chronologically.
Because the last two sources offer the best prospects for new knowledge, understanding, and insight, the discussion here will be limited to “scientific research. The scientific method involves a double movement of thought. The researcher directs his or her attention from the partially known and often confusing information learned from observation, previous research, reflective thinking, etc., to a meaningful whole or generalization. Secondly, he moves back from this suggested whole or generalization to the particular parts to connect them together in a meaningful pattern.
Inductive and Deductive Reasoning
The first of these movements is inductive; the second, deductive. Also, the thinking process is considered complete when the researcher moves to and from a meaning, with an appropriate interaction of his or her reasoning processes occurring between the remembered consideration and the general far-reaching meanings.
As Dewey succinctly put it: While induction moves from fragmentary details (or particulars) to a connected view of a (universal) situation, deduction begins with the latter and works back to the particulars, connecting and uniting them. On the one hand, induction is a movement towards the discovery of some binding principle, while, on the other hand, deduction is a movement towards the proof of this principle (e.g., confirm, accept, modify). To the extent that the researcher is able to interpret isolated details and see them in the light of this organizing principle, he will find valid relations.
Application of the scientific method
There is no special point at which a researcher declares that he is using the scientific method. However, he applies the scientific method in the early stages of selecting his problem. He weighs the evidence with respect to the problem to be studied and sees its possibilities from various points of view. He looks for answers to the following types of questions:
“What does the related research show?” “To what extent can this problem be investigated?” “Can the problem be solved with current technical tools?” “Is it worth the time and effort essential for its final exploration?” and “To what extent is this problem anchored in already established laws and principles?” Unless the problem to be studied is expressed in some tentative way so that it can be thoroughly analyzed for review purposes, it may never move from an emotional level to an intellectual statement worthy of investigation.
Use the Scientific Method
Based on an analysis of the collected data, the hypothesis is accepted, modified or refuted. It should be noted here that sometimes the hypothesis will not be expressed in its final form until some of the facts are available for examination.
Step 1. The researcher identifies and defines the problem.
Step 2. Formulate a testable hypothesis
Step 3. Collect, organize, tabulate and analyze your data
Step 4. Formulate conclusions based on your findings
Step 5. Evaluate these new findings in light of future needs (educational implications).
If used skillfully, these steps will help the researcher reach his or her goals.
The inductive method is essentially the method of discovery. It moves from key objects or examples to the development of ideas. It is generally believed that conclusions reached by deductive reasoning are true only if they are derived from sustainable premises. Inductive reasoning seems to be the answer to your search, although it cannot be trusted exclusively. Inductive reasoning, therefore, has been designed to complement deductive reasoning.
Limitations of Inductive Reasoning
Since it is not always practical to examine all cases that might be considered in order to arrive at a generalization with respect to a particular group or class, the researcher wisely seeks to examine a smaller representative group. His findings could then be generalized to the total group represented by this smaller group. If the sample size and representation are adequate, some inferences can probably be made regarding the total group. A researcher using imperfect induction, however, must recognize that some unexamined cases of a particular class may not agree with his or her conclusions, but where the research procedures have been sound and reliable reporting results.
In deduction, the researcher reasons that whatever is true of all the events in a group or class must also be true of any instance within his domain. The principle of deduction is: if A is true and B is true, then under certain specified conditions one can infer that C is true. To determine whether a particular instance or event under consideration logically falls within this principle of deduction, the researcher uses a device known to researchers as syllogism, which in deductive reasoning consists of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion. A syllogism provides the researcher with a means to prove the validity of a particular conclusion. Below are definitive examples of four different types of syllogisms.
Limitations of Deductive Reasoning
One of the limitations of deductive reasoning is the possibility of ambiguity, since deduction is based on verbal symbols that may not have the same meaning for all persons. Another limitation is that one can only work from existing knowledge, and another limitation is the possibility that the premise on which a conclusion is to be drawn may not be true. Certainly, conclusions can be drawn from premises that have been declared valid, but what if the premises do not agree with reality?
The more the researcher uses the scientific processes of induction and deduction to regulate the conditions under which suggestions are allowed to arise and develop, the more likely it is that he will orient his thinking towards obtaining a working hypothesis. When one is careful to use systematic thinking as one moves toward a hypothesis and then back to the facts, one will see important connections.
The scientific method of analysis
Of the many distinctive features of scientific analysis, six features seem to be most prominent: (1) Science is based on facts; (2) Science employs the principles of analysis as a fundamental procedure in the treatment of complex phenomena; (3) Science employs the use of hypotheses in the thinking involved; (4) Science promotes freedom from emotional bias; (5) Science involves the use of precise and concise measurements; and (6) Science promotes systematized thinking. In developing the scientific approach, Kerlinger has stated: There are built-in controls along the road to scientific knowledge.
These controls are designed and used in such a way that they control and verify the scientist’s activities and conclusions in order to obtain reliable knowledge outside of himself. Even if the hypothesis appears to be supported in an experiment, the scientist will test alternative hypotheses that, if also supported, may cast doubt on the first hypothesis. The researcher should not accept a given statement as true simply because it may seem sustainable at first glance. He then intends to test these hypotheses.
Types of Research
Applied Research and Basic Research
It is common to classify research as applied research or basic research. Applied research is directed towards the solution of a practical, specific and immediate problem. Basic research deals with the formulation of a theory or a contribution to the existing body of knowledge.
Historical, descriptive and experimental research
In addition to the broader classification of applied and basic research, almost all studies can be classified as historical, descriptive, or experimental research. Their classification can be determined by asking the following questions:
- Does the research deal with what once was? If so, then it is historical research. The education historian may seek to produce an accurate description of unique events that have occurred in the past or suggest through the study of these events fruitful generalizations of previous experiences that may act as controls for behavior in the present or future. Its purpose is to produce evidence that will help us draw on past experiences in solving current problems.
- Does the research address what it is? If so, then it is descriptive research. Descriptive research is the process of characterizing the characteristics of situations, objects, or practices. It allows one to find relevant information about an existing situation. Descriptive research is generally considered an effort to determine current practices or status so that we can develop guidelines for future practices.
- Does the research address what can happen when certain factors are controlled? If so, it is very likely that you are trying to establish cause and effect relationships in a controlled situation. Experimental research is an attempt to control all the essential factors except for one or more independent variables that can be manipulated, in order to determine and measure the effect of your operation in certain circumstances. Once these effects are determined through demonstration, true control of behavior or the environment is possible.
Evaluation of Research Potential
Generally, one undertakes one’s first research project as a graduate student in education. As the student evaluates the feasibility of undertaking a particular project, he or she realizes the short time available for graduate study, the cost of conducting a comprehensive research project, the limited professional training he or she has at the beginning of the project, and the mass of related research to be reviewed.
While the facts mentioned above are important and all graduate students should consider them as external variables that researchers must deal with, some efforts should be channeled to address the six common shortcomings of graduate research, as observed by Symonds:
(1) Collection of the facts have been inadequately correlated with the application of these facts to the educational program;
(2) The student’s background of information and understanding is often too extensive and superficial in the area he or she wishes to explore;
(3) Fundamental assumptions are often not explicitly recognized or understood but give the study a particular bias and make it of limited value,
(4) Due to vested interests, certain groups (companies, foundations, organizations) that provide money or material to the graduate student for research purposes, or both, expect the full study to project their product in a more favorable light;
(5) The methods of investigation and the selection of the instruments to be used are often flawed; and
(6) Technical failures in selected statistical methods are very common.
Who is the Researcher
A research producer is first a research consumer. He must be able to detect biases, unfounded conclusions, inaccuracies, etc., or these flaws will show up in his own work. Research writers recognize that the reader is likely to read with a critical eye and an informed mind. Just as the classroom teacher grades their daily work to find out if students have answered questions correctly, the professional evaluates the research. The research reporter must anticipate the questions that will arise in the mind of the analytical reader if his or her report is to be considered an academic contribution.
An important attribute of a researcher is the ability to be objective. It reports what it finds regardless of your feelings about the results obtained. It reports everything it finds. Also, It does not present only the data that support a hypothesis and at the same time suppresses, camouflages or omits contradictory information. Finally, a researcher must write so clearly and in such detail that his study can be reproduced exactly. You also owe your reader evidence that the data and information collected in the study can withstand rigorous testing by trained researchers.
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