Research Process: An Overview, Problem Identification and Definition

Research Process involves identifying, locating, assessing, and analyzing the information you need to support your research question, and then developing and expressing your ideas. These are the same skills you need any time you write a report, proposal, or put together a presentation. 

Library research involves the step-by-step process used to gather information in order to write your paper, create a presentation, or complete a project. As you progress from one step to the next, it is often necessary to rethink, revise, add additional material or even adjust your topic. Much will depend on what you discover during your research. 

The research process can be broken down into seven steps, making it more manageable and easier to understand. This module will give you an idea of what’s involved at each step in order to give you a better overall picture of where you are in your research, where you will be going, and what to expect at each step.

Steps involved in Research Process in Research Methodology

At times, the first step determines the nature of the last step to be undertaken.If subsequent procedures have not been taken into account in the early stages, serious difficulties may arise which may even prevent the completion of the study. One should remember that the various steps involved in a research process are not mutually exclusive; nor they are separate and distinct.

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They do not necessarily follow each other in any specific order and the researcher has to be constantly anticipating at each step in the research process the requirements of the subsequent steps. However, the following order concerning various steps provides a useful procedural guideline regarding the research process:

  • Formulating the research problem.
  • Extensive literature survey.
  • Developing the hypothesis.
  • Preparing the research design.
  • Determining sample design.
  • Collecting the data.
  • Execution of the project.
  • Analysis of data.
  • Hypothesis testing.
  • Generalizations and interpretation, and
  • Preparation of the report or presentation of the results, i.e., formal write-up of conclusions reached.
  1. Formulating the research problem: There are two types of research problems, vi., those which relate to states of nature and those which relate to relationships between variables. At thievery outset the researcher must single out the problem he wants to study, i.e., he must decide the general area of interest or aspect of a subject-matter that he would like to inquire into. Initially the problem may be stated in a broad general way and then the ambiguities, if any, relating to the problem be resolved. Then, the feasibility of a particular solution has to be considered before a working formulation of the problem can be set up. The formulation of a general topic into a specific research problem, thus, constitutes the first step in a scientific enquiry. Essentially two steps are involved in formulating the research problem, vi., understanding the problem thoroughly, and rephrasing the same into meaningful terms from an analytical point of view.
  2. Extensive literature survey: Once the problem is formulated, a brief summary of it should be written down. It is compulsory for a research worker writing a thesis for a Ph.D. degree to write synopsis of the topic and submit it to the necessary Committee or the Research Board for approval.At this juncture the researcher should undertake extensive literature survey connected with the problem.

For this purpose, the abstracting and indexing journals and published or unpublished bibliographies are the first place to go to. Academic journals, conference proceedings, government reports, books etc., must be tapped depending on the nature of the problem. In this process, it should be remembered that one source will lead to another. The earlier studies, if any, which are similar to the study in and should be carefully studied. A good library will be a great help to the researcher at this stage.

  1. Development of working hypotheses: After extensive literature survey, researcher should state in clear terms the working hypothesis or hypotheses. Working hypothesis is tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences. As such the manner in which research hypotheses are developed is particularly important since they provide the focal point for research. 
  2. Preparing the research design: The research problem having been formulated in clear cut terms, the researcher will be required to prepare a research design, i.e., he will have to state the conceptual structure within which research would be conducted. The preparation of such a design facilitates research to be as efficient as possible yielding maximal information.

In other words, the function of research design is to provide for the collection of relevant evidence with minimal expenditure of effort, time and money. But how all these can be achieved depends mainly on the research purpose. Research purposes may be grouped into four categories, vi.,

  • Exploration,
  • Description,
  • Diagnosis, and
  • Experimentation
  1. Determining sample design: All the items under consideration in any field of inquiry constitute ‘universe’ or ‘population’. A complete enumeration of all the items in the ‘population’ is known asa census inquiry. It can be presumed that in such an inquiry when all the items are covered no element of chance is left and highest accuracy is obtained. But in practice this may not be true.

Even the slightest element of bias in such an inquiry will get larger and larger as the number of observations increases. Moreover, there is no way of checking the element of bias or its extent except through are survey or use of sample checks. Besides, this type of inquiry involves a great deal of time, money and energy. Not only this, census inquiry is not possible in practice under many circumstances. For instance, blood testing is done only on sample basis. Hence, quite often we select only a few items from the universe for our study purposes. The items so selected constitute what is technically called sample.

The researcher must decide the way of selecting a sample or what is popularly known as the sample design. In other words, a sample design is a definite plan determined before any data are actually collected for obtaining a sample from a given population. Thus, the plan to select 12 of a city’s 200 drugstores in a certain way constitutes a sample design. Samples can be either probability samples or non-probability samples.

With probability samples each element has a known probability of being included in the sample but the non-probability samples do not allow the researcher to determine this probability. Probability samples are those based on simple random sampling, systematic sampling, stratified sampling, cluster/area sampling whereas non-probability samples are those based on convenience sampling, judgment sampling and quota sampling techniques.

  1. Collecting the data: In dealing with any real life problem it is often found that data at hand are inadequate, and hence, it becomes necessary to collect data that are appropriate. There are severing always of collecting the appropriate data which differ considerably in context of money costs, time and other resources at the disposal of the researcher.

Primary data can be collected either through experiment or through survey. If the researcher conducts an experiment, he observes some quantitative measurements, or the data, with the help of which he examines the truth contained in his hypothesis.

  1. Execution of the project: Execution of the project is a very important step in the research process. If the execution of the project proceeds on correct lines, the data to be collected would be adequate and dependable. The researcher should see that the project is executed in a systematic manner and in time. If the survey is to be conducted by means of structured questionnaires, data can be readily machine-processed. In such a situation, questions as well as the possible answers may be coded. If the data are to be collected through interviewers, arrangements should be made for proper selection and training of the interviewers. 
  2. Analysis of data: After the data have been collected, the researcher turns to the task of analyzing them. The analysis of data requires a number of closely related operations such as establishment of categories, the application of these categories to raw data through coding, tabulation and then drawing statistical inferences. The unwieldy data should necessarily be condensed into a few manageable groups and tables for further analysis. Thus, researcher should classify the raw data into some purposeful and usable categories. Coding operation is usually done at this stage through which the categories of data are transformed into symbols that may be tabulated and counted.
  3. Hypothesis-testing: After analyzing the data as stated above, the researcher is in a position to test the hypotheses, if any, he had formulated earlier. Do the facts support the hypotheses or they happen to be contrary? This is the usual question which should be answered while testing hypotheses .Various tests, such as Chi square test, t-test, F-test, have been developed by statisticians for the purpose. The hypotheses may be tested through the use of one or more of such tests, depending upon the nature and object of research inquiry. Hypothesis -testing will result in either accepting the hypothesis or in rejecting it. If the researcher had no hypotheses to start with, generalizations established on the basis of data may be stated as hypotheses to be tested by subsequent researches in times to come.
  4. Generalizations and interpretation: If a hypothesis is tested and upheld several times, it maybe possible for the researcher to arrive at generalization, i.e., to build a theory. As a matter of fact,the real value of research lies in its ability to arrive at certain generalizations. If the researcher had no hypothesis to start with, he might seek to explain his findings on the basis of some theory. It is known as interpretation. The process of interpretation may quite often trigger off new questions which in turn may lead to further researches.
  5. Preparation of the report or the thesis: Finally, the researcher has to prepare the report of what has been done.

PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION AND DEFINITION

The first stage is to develop a clear and precise understanding of the research problem, to permit effective conduct of the research process. It is very important to analyse the problems to conduct the research effectively. In this scenario, a veteran market researcher wants to enter into the business of operating a coffee shop and the problem is to identify the potential market and to find the appropriate outlet and product mix for the products and services of the business. The determination of product line and the price to be charged for the product is the identified problem. At the same time, the business is also facing problems with the positioning of the shop in the relevant market.

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