Research process - Research Methodology

Research process consists of series of actions or steps necessary to effectively carry out research and the desired sequencing of these steps. The chart shown in below Figure


 1. Formulating the research problem

There are two types of research problems, viz., those which relate to states of nature and those which relate to relationships between variables.

Essentially two steps are involved in formulating the research problem, viz., understanding the problem thoroughly, and rephrasing the same into meaningful terms from an analytical point of view.

The best way of understanding the problem is to discuss it with one’s own colleagues or with those having some expertise in the matter.

In an academic institution the researcher can seek the help from a guide who is usually an experienced man and has several research problems in mind.

Often, the guide puts forth the problem in general terms and it is up to the researcher to narrow it down and phrase the problem in operational terms.

In private business units or in governmental organizations, the problem is usually earmarked by the administrative agencies with whom the researcher can discuss as to how the problem originally came about and what considerations are involved in its possible solutions

The researcher must at the same time examine all available literature to get himself acquainted
with the selected problem.

He may review two types of literature—the conceptual literature concerning the concepts and theories, and the empirical literature consisting of studies made earlier which are similar to the one proposed.

The basic outcome of this review will be the knowledge as to what data and other materials are available for operational purposes which will enable the researcher to specify his own research problem in a meaningful context.

After this the researcher rephrases the problem into analytical or operational terms i.e., to put the problem in as specific terms as possible. This task of formulating, or defining, a research problem is a step of greatest importance in the entire research process.

The problem to be investigated must be defined unambiguously for that will help discriminating relevant data from irrelevant ones. Care must, however, be taken to verify the objectivity and validity of the background facts concerning the problem.

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 a 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 hand should be carefully studied. A good library will be a great help to the researcher at this stage.

3. 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. They also affect the manner in which tests must be conducted in the analysis of data and indirectly the quality of data which is required for the analysis. 

In most types of research, the development of working hypothesis plays an important role. 

Hypothesis should be very specific and limited to the piece of research in hand because it has to be tested. 

The role of the hypothesis is to guide the researcher by delimiting the area of research and to keep him on the right track. It sharpens his thinking and focuses attention on the more important facets of the problem. It also indicates the type of data required and the type of methods of data analysis to be used.

Steps for defining working Hypothesis

  1. Discussions with colleagues and experts about the problem, its origin and the objectives in seeking a solution;
  2. Examination of data and records, if available, concerning the problem for possible trends, peculiarities and other clues;
  3. Review of similar studies in the area or of the studies on similar problems; and
  4. Exploratory personal investigation which involves original field interviews on a limited scale with
  5. interested parties and individuals with a view to secure greater insight into the practical aspects of the problem.

4. 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.

The preparation of the research design, appropriate for a particular research problem, involves usually the consideration of the following:

(i) the means of obtaining the information;

(ii) the availability and skills of the researcher and his staff (if any);

(iii) explanation of the way in which selected means of obtaining information will be organised and the reasoning leading to the selection;

(iv) the time available for research; and

(v) the cost factor relating to research, i.e., the finance available for the purpose

5. Determining sample design

sample design is a definite plan for obtaining a sample from a given population. It refers to the technique or the procedure the researcher would adopt in selecting items for the sample. Sample design also leads to a procedure to tell the number of items to be included in the sample i.e., the size of the sample. Hence, sample design is determined before the collection of data. Among various types of sample design technique, the researcher should choose that samples which are reliable and appropriate for his research study.

Steps in Sample Design

There are various steps which the researcher should follow. Those are;

  1. Type of universe: In the first step the researcher should clarify and should be expert in the study of universe. The universe may be finite (no of items are know) or Infinite (numbers of items are not know).
  2. Sampling unit: A decision has to be taken concerning a sampling unit before selecting a sample. Sampling unit may be a geographical one such as state, district, village etc., or construction unit such as house, flat, etc., or it may be a social unit such as family, club, school etc., or it may be an individual.
  3. Source list: Source list is known as ‘sampling frame’ from which sample is to be drawn. It consists the names of all items of a universe. Such a list would be comprehensive, correct, reliable and appropriate and the source list should be a representative of the population.
  4. Size of sample:  Size of sample refers to the number of items to be selected from the universe to constitute a sample. Selection of sample size is a headache to the researcher. The size should not be too large or too small rather it should be optimum. An optimum sample is one which fulfills the requirements of efficiency, representatives, reliability and flexibility. The parameters of interest in a research study must be kept in view, while deciding the size of the sample. Cost factor i.e., budgetary conditions should also be taken into consideration.
  5. Sampling procedure: In the final step of the sample design, a researcher must decide the type of the sample s/he will use i.e., s/he must decide about the techniques to be used in selecting the items for the sample.

6. 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 several ways 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. But in the case of a survey, data can be collected by any one or more of the following ways:

(i) By observation

(ii) Through personal interview

(iii) Through telephone interviews

(iv) By mailing of questionnaires

(v) Through schedules

The researcher should select one of these methods of collecting the data taking into consideration the nature of investigation, objective and scope of the inquiry, financial resources available time and the desired degree of accuracy

7. 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.

8. 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.

Analysis work after tabulation is generally based on the computation of various percentages, coefficients, etc., by applying various well defined statistical formulae. In the process of analysis, relationships or differences supporting or conflicting with original or new hypotheses should be subjected to tests of significance to determine with what validity data can be said to indicate any conclusion(s).

9. Hypothesis-testing

After analysing 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, generalisations established on the basis of data may be stated as hypotheses to be tested by subsequent researches in times to come

10. Generalisations and interpretation

If a hypothesis is tested and upheld several times, it may be possible for the researcher to arrive at generalisation, i.e., to build a theory. As a matter of fact, the real value of research lies in its ability to arrive at certain generalisations.

 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.

11. Preparation of the report or the thesis

Finally, the researcher has to prepare the report of what has been done by him.


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