The goal of the research process is to produce new knowledge or deepen understanding of a topic or issue. This process takes three main forms (although, as previously discussed, the boundaries between them may be obscure):
- Exploratory research, which helps to identify and define a problem or question.
- Constructive research, which tests theories and proposes solutions to a problem or question.
- Empirical research, which tests the feasibility of a solution using empirical evidence.
There are two ways to conduct research:
- Primary research
- Using primary sources, i.e., original documents and data.
- Secondary research
- Using secondary sources, i.e., a synthesis of, interpretation of, or discussions about primary sources.
There are two major research designs: qualitative research and quantitative research. Researchers choose one of these two tracks according to the nature of the research problem they want to observe and the research questions they aim to answer:
- Qualitative research
- Understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behavior. Asking a broad question and collecting word-type data that is analyzed searching for themes. This type of research looks to describe a population without attempting to quantifiably measure variables or look to potential relationships between variables. It is viewed as more restrictive in testing hypotheses because it can be expensive and time consuming, and typically limited to a single set of research subjects. Qualitative research is often used as a method of exploratory research as a basis for later quantitative research hypotheses.
- Quantitative research
- Systematic empirical investigation of quantitative properties and phenomena and their relationships. Asking a narrow question and collecting numerical data to analyze utilizing statistical methods. The quantitative research designs are experimental, correlational, and survey (or descriptive). Statistics derived from quantitative research can be used to establish the existence of associative or causal relationships between variables.
The Quantitative data collection methods rely on random sampling and structured data collection instruments that fit diverse experiences into predetermined response categories. These methods produce results that are easy to summarize, compare, and generalize. Quantitative research is concerned with testing hypotheses derived from theory and/or being able to estimate the size of a phenomenon of interest. Depending on the research question, participants may be randomly assigned to different treatments (this is the only way that a quantitative study can be considered a true experiment). If this is not feasible, the researcher may collect data on participant and situational characteristics in order to statistically control for their influence on the dependent, or outcome, variable. If the intent is to generalize from the research participants to a larger population, the researcher will employ probability sampling to select participants.
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