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Introduction to research methods

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Main article: Methodology

Research is an active, diligent, and systematic process of inquiry aimed at discovering, interpreting, and revising facts. This intellectual investigation produces a greater knowledge of events, behaviors, theories, and laws and makes practical applications possible. The term research is also used to describe an entire collection of information about a particular subject, and is usually associated with the output of science and the scientific method. The word research derives from the French recherche, from rechercher, to search closely where "chercher" means "to search" its literal meaning is 'to investigate thoroughly'. Research is funded by public authorities, by charitable organisations and by private groups, including many companies.

Basic research

Basic research (also called fundamental or pure research) has as its primary objective the advancement of knowledge and the theoretical understanding of the relations among variables (see statistics). It is exploratory and often driven by the researcher’s curiosity, interest, or hunch. It is conducted without any practical end in mind, although it may have unexpected results pointing to practical applications. The terms “basic” or “fundamental” indicate that, through theory generation, basic research provides the foundation for further, sometimes applied research. As there is no guarantee of short-term practical gain, researchers may find it difficult to obtain funding for basic research. Research is a subset of invention.

Examples of questions asked in basic research in psychology:


Traditionally, basic research was considered as an activity that preceded applied research, which in turn preceded development into practical applications. Recently, these distinctions have become much less clear-cut, and it is sometimes the case that all stages will intermix. This is particularly the case in fields such as genetics and neuroscience, where fundamental discoveries may be made alongside work intended to develop new procedures.

Research methods

The goal of the research process is to produce new knowledge, which takes three main forms:

As discussed in the previous section, these forms are not clear-cut.

Research can also fall into two distinct types:

Research methods used by psychologists include:

Research is often conducted using the hourglass model.[1] The hourglass model starts with a broad spectrum for research, focusing in on the required information through the methodology of the project (like the neck of the hourglass), then expands the research in the form of discussion and results.

Research process

Main article: Scientific method

Generally, research is understood to follow a certain structural process. Though step order may vary depending on the subject matter and researcher, the following steps are usually part of most formal research, both basic and applied:

A common misunderstanding is that by this method a hypothesis can be proven. Instead, by these methods no hypothesis can be proven, rather a hypothesis may only be disproven. A hypothesis can survive several rounds of scientific testing and be widely thought of as true (or better, predictive), but this is not the same as it having been proven. It would be better to say that the hypothesis has yet to be disproven.

A useful hypothesis allows prediction and within the accuracy of observation of the time, the prediction will be verified. As the accuracy of observation improves with time, the hypothesis may no longer provide an accurate prediction. In this case a new hypothesis will arise to challenge the old, and to the extent that the new hypothesis makes more accurate predictions than the old, the new will supplant it.

Publishing

Academic publishing describes a system that is necessary in order for academic scholars to peer review the work and make it available for a wider audience. The 'system', which is probably disorganized enough not to merit the title, varies widely by field, and is also always changing, if often slowly. Most academic work is published in journal article or book form. In publishing, STM publishing is an abbreviation for academic publications in science, technology, and medicine.

Most established academic fields have their own journals and other outlets for publication, though many academic journals are somewhat interdisciplinary, and publish work from several distinct fields or subfields. The kinds of publications that are accepted as contributions of knowledge or research vary greatly between fields.

Academic publishing is undergoing major changes, emerging from the transition from the print to the electronic format. Business models are different in the electronic environment. Since about the early 1990s, licensing of electronic resources, particularly journals, was very common. Presently, a major trend, particularly with respect to scholarly journals, is open access. There are two main forms of open access: open access publishing, in which the articles or the whole journal is freely available from the time of publication, and self-archiving, where the author makes a copy of their own work freely available on the web.

Research funding

Main article: Research funding

Most funding for scientific research comes from two major sources, corporations (through research and development departments) and government (primarily through universities and in some cases through military contractors). Many senior researchers (such as group leaders) spend more than a trivial amount of their time applying for grants for research funds. These grants are necessary not only for researchers to carry out their research, but also as a source of merit. Some faculty positions require that the holder has received grants from certain institutions, such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Government-sponsored grants (e.g. from the NIH, the National Health Service in Britain or any of the European research councils) generally have a high status.

References

  1. Structure of Research, Trochim, W.M.K, (2006). Research Methods Knowledge Base.

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