Research methodology is a composite of research methods. Research methods analyze the procedures and principles of inquiry being applied during the evaluation of a certain discipline. This implies that the important concepts of research methodology in effect apply to research methods. The steps followed in a research method commences with a general question which is later narrowed down to a certain aspect. The aspect is designed for an exhaustive examination. Lastly, the research is concluded where the results are generalized before being disseminated to the public (Neuman, 2003). This paper examines the concepts that are applied in research methods as well as their design when undertaking a dissertation process.
Research work is organized through the formulation as well as the definition of a research problem. Problem definition involves the art of reasoning aimed at using detailed facts to define a general principle. During a research process, this principle is referred to as a hypothesis. A hypothesis is defined as the suggested account to a physical process. Problem definition helps in focusing the research process in a way that facilitates drawing of conclusions which in effect reflect the real world as much as possible.
Research is a process of evaluating a hypothesis with the aim of disproving it. The hypothesis under evaluation is referred to as the null hypothesis. The null hypothesis is the proposal that represents the present explanation of an aspect in the real world which the researcher wishes to challenge. Research methodology requires the researcher to provide a research hypothesis, commonly called the alternative hypothesis, as a substitute way of explaining the phenomenon (Bruce, 2007). The alternative hypothesis is formulated following the observation that the null hypothesis does not always give a precise explanation for a phenomenon. The researcher then proceeds with testing the hypothesis in an attempt to disprove the null hypothesis. His objective in testing of the hypothesis is to draw near the answer to the problem that is being evaluated.
A variable is an agent or amount that is liable to change depending on certain factors. While some variables appear almost constant, for example, names of persons; others are seem to be constantly changing, for instance, the values in a stock-exchange (Bruce, 2007). Frequently, researchers have to measure and assess these variables; a scenario that necessitated their sober consideration in this paper.
As pointed out earlier, a variable is a place-holder for anything that is liable to change. A researcher normally defines variables depending on what he/she is measuring. Apart from their rate of change, variables are classified into two broad categories: independent and dependent variables. While independent variables are the causes that a researcher seeks to measure, dependent variables are the effects or assumed effects that come as a result of interaction between the independent variables and several other factors. The two categories of variables are commonly stated in hypotheses used during experimental researches. In some instances, the variables are not identifiable beforehand. In such a case, the researcher’s idea of what is going on is usually inadequate during the early stages of the inquiry. Variables are defined into measurable elements that facilitate accurate replication in research processes using fuzzy concepts (Bruce, 2007). These fuzzy concepts are vague ideas that usually require clarification, and this clarification is done through the application of a procedure called operationalization.
A careful choice of a research method eases the analysis of a phenomenon thereby facilitating the procedure of drawing conclusions. The research method that is chosen has a bearing on what is stated as the causes, as well as the influencing factors in the phenomenon. Therefore, a researcher should choose a method that he is proficient in, also weigh the constraints which may affect his work. These constraints include time, ethical considerations, feasibility, money, and the measuring tools available.
Selecting the right method can be challenging at times. Nevertheless, there are concepts which make the selection procedure appeal to researchers. A researcher needs to be realistic also try to minimize generalization and compromises (Bruce, 2007). With pure sciences like astrophysics and chemistry, experimentation and research methods are easily defined. Usually, the experimental methods are strictly quantitative. Fields such as social science, biology, and psychology have a broad selection of methods. In this case, a researcher is required to justify his/her choice. Although the selection process is arbitrary, it is recommended that the choice be based on “strengths” of the method. Strength means the effectiveness to draw a near perfect conclusion of an inquiry. In this paper, three basic categories of research methods are elaborated. They include experimental methods, opinion based methods, and observational methods.
3.1 Experimental Research Methods
This is a straightforward method that involves experimenting with independent and quantitative variables with the aim of generating analyzable statistical data. It is ratio based, and researchers either accept or refute null hypotheses (Neuman, 2003). It is, however, expensive and requires rigorous designing, particularly when the experiment is large. Additionally, it is undesirable when using living organisms. This is because removing them from their natural environment affects their behavior. It is also inapplicable with some fields due to ethical considerations. Therefore, for the fields that luck quantifiable and definable variables, a researcher may find it challenging to use the experimental research method. This is because research works in such fields are required to be falsifiable and repeatable.
3.2 Opinion Based Research Methods
This method usually requires a researcher to collect quantitative data for use in experimental design. In this method, measurements are arbitrary, and they follow the interval or ordinal pattern. When a researcher wishes to test preferences and emotions as he quantifies data collected from a sample, the use of questionnaires proves sufficient. Opinion based methods are cheaper than experimental ones. Moreover, they provide room for emotions and opinions of the participants, which allow for a directional approach; also aid in measuring intensity (Neuman, 2003). This research can also be performed through the quantification of behavior, where researchers apply a numerical scale that measures the intensity of behavior. Since a way of defining variables is lacking in this method, it is applicable for behaviors or emotions are measured. Although this method lacks the strength of the experimental research, it presents the advantage of being replicable. Additionally, its results can be falsified.
3.3 Observational Research Methods
This is a composition of varying research methods, requiring investigators to observe phenomena with minimal interference, e.g., case studies (William, 1997). The method tends to apply ordinal or nominal scales during measurement. It is usually applied when the research problem lacks clear definition, and in situations where questions are expected to arise during the study. It is mainly utilized in behavioral studies, anthropology, and social sciences. Although its experiments are not easily falsified and replicated, it offers useful insights that promote human knowledge.
Opinion Based Research Methods is recommended as the good compromise which conducting research. This is because of their cost effectiveness and ease of their applicability. Furthermore, it does not involve the transfer of the sample, and; therefore, there is no behavioral change. Their strongest point is that their experiments are replicable and easily useful to other researchers.
Some of the factors that affect the establishment of a conclusion are reliability and validity of measurement. Observations represent the empirical evidence, while conclusions are the results of logical thinking. For the research to be of benefit to everyone, they should provide a way of examining their observation, as well as their logic. This examination is meant to establish if similar conclusions are attained. Observatory errors may be as a result of misinterpretation, measurement problems, or unlikely random cases (William, 1997). Finally, it is important to note that the effectiveness of a method depends on research type, and no one method is beneficial to all kinds of research.