Research Skills by wlz5Qz


									        Research Skills

           Dr Ben Kotzee
Department of Geography, Environment
      and Development Studies
              What is research?
There are many different kinds of research:

• Scientific (or, more broadly), ‘academic’ research
• Technological research (e.g. the development of
  technology, medicines)
• Commercial research (e.g. market research,
  product development)
• Political research (e.g. polls)

Research is just ‘finding stuff out’
             A definition (Webster’s)
 Main Entry: 1re·search
 Pronunciation: \ri-ˈsərch, ˈrē-ˌ\
 Function: noun
 Etymology: Middle French recerche, from recercher to go about
  seeking, from Old French recerchier, from re- + cerchier, sercher to
  search — more at search
 Date: 1577
 1 : careful or diligent search
  2 : studious inquiry or examination; especially : investigation or
  experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts,
  revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or
  practical application of such new or revised theories or laws
  3 : the collecting of information about a particular subject
                    Two questions

If research is just finding stuff out, why do scientists/academics
    think they’re doing something special?
If research is just finding stuff out, why do we need a subject like
    ‘research methods’?

Scientific method distinguishes scientific research from just
   ‘finding stuff out’ (but something like this method can be
   applied in many non-scientific contexts too!)
     We can use the term ‘research
       methods’ at three levels:
The levels of:
• Epistemology or methodology (the study of
  how we know things)
• Research design (e.g. do an experiment or
  conduct interviews)
• Research procedure or technique (what kind
  of sample to use in a survey; how to construct
  an interview, etc.)
 What you will learn during the course
  of your research methods training
• What is counted as ‘knowledge’ in your discipline
  and how such knowledge is arrived at, proven or
• What sort of research is typically conducted in
  your discipline and how are studies designed
• What are the procedures or techniques used in
  your discipline and how to use software and tools
  commonly used in your field
In short, you will learn how to be scientific in your
   Some misconceptions regarding science
     (and social science, for that matter)
• A space craft or a computer isn’t science – it’s
  technology or the application of science
• Science is not a specific body of knowledge – it’s
  a collection of (changing, developing) methods
  (and ‘methods’ just means standardised,
  systematic ways of posing and answering
• Not just scientists do science – we all do
               Being scientific
This entails being:

• Systematic (applying consistent methods)
• Empirical (in the sense of ‘drawing conclusions
  based on the evidence’)
• Rigorous (being thorough and precise)
• Sceptical (being aware of possibility of
• Ethical
…and probably other things too, but it’s a start!
      Why bother being scientific?
• We are assaulted every day by a mass of opinions regarding
   how the world works
• The challenge is to know which ones of these we should
• In approaching a question scientifically, we attempt to take
   superstition, prejudice and guess-work out of this problem
   and provide systematic grounds for why our conclusions
   should be believed
• To count as ‘scientific’, our conclusions need to be (i)
   compelling and (ii) communicable
Attention will be given both to how you make your
   conclusions as compelling as possible and also to how you
   communicate them
  The Natural Sciences and the Social
The approach to research methods training will
  depend on your field of study

• Natural Sciences: e.g. physics, chemistry, biology
• Social Sciences: e.g. politics, economics, sociology

But what about, for instance, psychology?
   A cartoon of the natural sciences
• The natural sciences discover the world through conducting
• Deductive nomological model: universal laws of how
   physical objects behave can explain physical phenomena

Massive objects attract each other with a force proportional to their masses and
  inversely proportional to the square of their distance apart

The ball and the earth are massive objects

Therefore: the ball will be attracted to the earth (it will fall!) if nothing else overcomes
   the attractive force
  A cartoon of the natural sciences (2)
Science strives to find these universal laws

Universal laws are found through application of the hypothetico-
  deductive method:

• Hypotheses are generated
• Hypotheses are tested through experimentation

I’ve been saying ‘cartoon’ all along, because this is a very simplified
   way of describing what scientists do…scientists are often
   criticised for it and often unfairly (because it is a simplification).
    Research in the social sciences
How is social science different from the natural
• Explains the behaviour of people (not things) and of
  social systems or groups of people
• Seeks causal relations between social phenomena
  and tries to understand the mechanism by which
  one social phenomenon causes another
• But seeks also to understand social phenomena
  (not just what causes what).
The quantitative/qualitative divide
What kind of research you do is influenced by your
  discipline and what you are studying
• Quantitative research:
  proceeds by counting or measuring; most often
  expressed in numbers
• Qualitative research:
  proceeds by communicating with people (talking
  to them, reading what they write); most often
  expressed in words
Depending on your field you will learn both
         Good academic research
What is truly good research is hard to say, but here
  are some ideas:
• On topic
• Rigorous
• Generalisable
• Valid
• Testable
• Reliable
• Replicable
      Good academic research (2)
Good academic research

• Avoids bias (personal interest)
• Avoids prejudice
• Avoids muddle-headedness
     Stages of a research project
• Planning
• Library research
• Writing the literature review
• Design of instruments
• Data-collection
• Data-analysis
• Working out findings and discussion
• Writing up
We will try and help you by explaining each step of
  the process

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