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Research Methods

What is Research?
What is academic research? Why do people do research at university? How is academic research different from journalism or research at work? Task 1: Exploring meaning a) Think about what you mean by research. Now write your definition here: Research is:

Research is carried out in order to:

b) Compare your definition with those written by the rest of your group c) Read the definitions written by other writers and researchers (on the next page). If you have
changed your ideas, re-write your new definition of research below. Research is:

Research is carried out in order to:

Jenifer Spencer adapted by Olwyn Alexander

Research Methods

Definitions of Research
research noun [U] a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding: scientific/medical research Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary (2003) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. research serious study of a subject, in order to discover new facts or test new ideas Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (2004) London: Longman The minimal definition that I shall adhere to is that research is a systematic process of inquiry consisting of three elements or components: (1) a question, problem or hypothesis, (2) data, (3) analysis and interpretation of data. Any activity which lacks one of these elements (for example data) I shall classify as something other than research. Nunan, D. (1994) Research Methods in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p3 For the purpose of this book, research is defined as the deliberate study of other people for the purposes of increasing understanding and/or adding to knowledge. Dawson, C. (2002) Practical Research Methods: a user-friendly guide to mastering research techniques and projects England: How to Books. Academic research involves the interaction of three worlds. In the real world, issues, problems, things, events or phenomena are identified. The researcher then collects information about these, which can be recorded in a systematic way. In the abstract world, information is transformed into abstract concepts, which may be mathematical (such as equations and statistics) or take the form of categories or general statements of ideas. By analyzing and looking for relationships among concepts and ideas in the abstract world, researchers can gain a useful understanding of the real world. For example they can then solve the problems or explain the phenomena. The academic world is the guardian of this research process. (It is like a government that makes the laws and ensures they are kept). It oversees the process of collecting information from the real world and analyzing it through abstract and mathematical concepts. The channels of communication of the academic world are through writing and reading books, journals and conference reports. There are also discussion groups for specific topics (e.g. on the Internet) seminars, conference presentations and lectures. Spencer, J.A. (2005) What is Academic research? School of Management and Languages, Heriot-Watt University (unpublished paper).

Jenifer Spencer adapted by Olwyn Alexander

Research Methods

The Role of Reading in Research


In the definitions above you read about the concept of the academic world. Academic researchers share their ideas through reading each others books and papers. Each new piece of research is built on the ideas and discoveries of previous researchers. When you carry out research, you need to know about research that has been done and theories that have been put forward about your particular research topic. Researchers and lecturers sometimes use a phrase first coined by Isaac Newton to refer to this: standing on the shoulders of giants. By this they mean that you are expected to use the research of other people as a basis for your own research. In this way the research field is developed and new knowledge is added. Here is an extract from a dissertation guide for university students: In the dissertation you are expected to develop you own ideas and state your own opinions. However, the work of other people will be essential to the development of your own thoughts and ideas. You need to identify what ideas of other people you have drawn upon so that the examiners know how you have used these ideas in forming your own conclusions. Heriot-Watt School of Management and Languages Dissertation Regulations and Procedures (20052006)

You have to refer to other academics ideas or results and interpret and discuss them. This is a very important research skill, which many students find difficult. It is not enough just to quote other peoples words. You need to point out important features of their results or ideas and explain why they are relevant to your research. One of the important skills you need to develop is synthesising. This means that you first obtain information and ideas from texts you have read (sources). Then you develop your own ideas and write a synthesis, that is, a combination of relevant information from the sources, comments on this information and your own ideas. You need to make clear which information or ideas are from sources and which are your own. You do this by acknowledging (mentioning in the text) your sources and referencing them (listing them at the end of the text). Think about what you did in Task 1: you recorded your own ideas about what research is. Then you read some other peoples definitions and re-wrote your definition. In an academic project or dissertation you would explain the content of the other definitions and show what you have borrowed in order to create your own definition. Task 2: Synthesising Use this framework to write a synthesis of the definitions given in the sources in Reading Text 1, including your own preferred definition. Acknowledge the sources of your quotation or paraphrase in the paragraph and also list the full references below your paragraph.

Jenifer Spencer adapted by Olwyn Alexander

Research Methods In academic research and writing it is expected that people may have different interpretations of each others ideas and come to different conclusions. Below are two model texts, A and B, which both have a slightly different framework. Read them carefully and discuss with a partner how each one is different from your definition of research and your interpretation of the other writers definitions. Model Text A Both the Longman Dictionary and the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary define research as a detailed or serious study of a subject which takes place in order to discover new information. This fairly general definition is further expanded by Nunan (1994: 3) who states that research is an activity requiring three elements; firstly, a question, secondly, data and finally, analysis and interpretation of data. These three elements need to be present for research. Spencer (2005) does not actually define research, but looks at how academic research involves the interaction of three worlds, notably the real world, the abstract world and the academic world. Her principle claim is that the world of the academic community plays an essential part in the research process by providing a framework for regulation and communication of research. Dawsons definition (2002), applies only to social research and is therefore limited in application. Nunans and Spencers definitions are more appropriate to academic research in that they stress, respectively, the process of research and the academic context. In this paper, therefore, research will be used to mean a systematic process of identification of a question followed by collection and analysis of data, which is set in an academic context by being related to other academic research and theories, and authorized and checked for rigour by some organization in the academic community. Jenifer Spencer

Model Text B Simple dictionary definitions of research given in the Cambridge Advanced learners Dictionary and the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English emphasise the outcome of research, which is the discovery of new information or reaching a new understanding. However according to Nunan (1994: 3), the most important characteristic of research is the systematic process of forming a question and collecting data which is then analysed. Spencer (2005) also suggests a process based definition but proposes a further element: she claims that the world of the academic community also plays an essential part in the research process providing a framework for regulation and communication of the research activity. For the purposes of this paper, the discussion will focus on what has been learnt from undertaking the research process. Emma Guion Akda Now look at the sections underlined. Look back at the definitions of research on page 2 and find and underline the sections of the original source which contain the same information. How have Jenifer and Emma summarized information and shown how it is important or relevant? Who is in control of the texts above? Whose voice do we mostly hear? Is it Jenifers and Emmas or the writers of the original sources? Look at the words highlighted in bold to help you answer. How is Emmas summary different from Jenifers? What do you think was the purpose of each summary?

Jenifer Spencer adapted by Olwyn Alexander

Research Methods Task 3: Referencing Read the guidelines (adapted from the Heriot-Watt School of Management and Languages Undergraduate Dissertation Modules: Regulations and Procedures
Appendix 5: Notes of Guidance on dissertation writing using original source material 1. Giving reference to the work of others When writing a dissertation, you will gather evidence relevant to the area of research. That evidence will include the opinions of others as published in academic and professional works. It is important that you indicate in the text the source of the information used. If you use ideas, hypotheses or opinions of other people, you need to indicate that these are not your own ideas by clearly identifying the source. Consequently, references are required not only for quotes, but also for other information taken from specific sources. If you quote material from an article in your essay, one method of referencing (the Harvard System) is as follows: The best strategy for survival for a large firm might be to increase its size. (Singh, 1971: 142). Instead of using a direct quote, you can introduce another persons ideas or findings in your own words, using a range of verbs, such as states, claims, suggests, or the phrase according to. Examples: according to Nunan (1994: 3), the most important characteristic of research is the systematic process of forming a question and collecting data which is then analysed. Spencer (2005) also suggests a process based definition but proposes a further element These are not your ideas and you need to state this clearly. You must identify the source, even if it is not a direct quote. During your reading, you will find authors discussing ideas from other peoples work. They may be commenting on or interpreting their ideas or results. Where possible, you should read the original work, as authors may misinterpret or misrepresent work of others. However, on occasions it may be too difficult to obtain the original source, and you may, therefore, want to refer to findings from an article which you have not read but which has been referred to in the work of another person. For example, Miller and OLeary (1987) discussed research by Argyris (1952). If you want to refer to the idea generated by Argyris but you are unable to read the 1952 paper you will need to explain how you obtained the information. One way to do this is: According to Miller and OLeary (1987), it was claimed by Argyris (1952) that the mechanisation of accounting techniques was depersonalising organisational controls. By doing this you also protect yourself against any risk that Miller and OLeary may have misunderstood what Argyris actually said. If you want to directly quote material from Argyris, as reproduced in Miller and OLeary, one method of referencing is as follows: Accounting techniques have reached the ultimate state of dwelling within an electronic tube and emerging only to shake a mechanical finger at erring human beings. (Argyris, 1952, foreword in Miller and OLeary, 1987, p. 257). Note that the final list of references should contain only the books and articles you have actually read. Thus, the references should include Miller and OLeary (1987), but not Argyris (1952).

Now refer back to the synthesising task you completed on p3. Have you acknowledged the sources of your quotations or paraphrasing in the paragraph correctly?

Jenifer Spencer adapted by Olwyn Alexander

Research Methods Read the guidelines below, which are taken from the same dissertation guide.
References If you have referred to the work of other people, you need to give a full reference to the source in the list of references at the end of your work. Examples of references from various sources are given below. The references will usually be ordered alphabetically. If there are two or more references by the same author(s) in the same year, add a, b, c, etc. on to the year If an article has been written by 3 or more authors, give the name of all authors in the references. However in the text, use the name of the first author, followed by et al. and the year of publication. For example, Fama et al. (1969) was. Examples of entries in the references: The following are examples of how to treat individual source items. Please note that the references should be alphabetical and will therefore not be sub-classified into books, journal articles, etc. Books Fairburn, J.A. and Kay, J.A. (1990) Mergers and Merger Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapter in book Fairburn, J.A. (1990) The Evolution of Merger Policy in Britain in Fairburn, J.A. and Kay, J.A. (1990) Mergers and Merger Policy pp193-230. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Journal articles Fama, E.F. (1980) Agency Problems and the Theory of the Firm Journal of Political Economy Vol 88/21 pp 288-307. Fama, E.F., Fisher, L., Jensen, M.C., and Roll, R. (1969) The Adjustment of Stock Prices to New Information International Economic Review Vol 10/1 February pp 1-21. Newspaper article where the author is known Jonquieres, G.D. (1992) Decline in Cross-Border Deals Financial Times January 10, Section II:17. Newspaper article where the author is unknown Economist (1992a) Mad Mergers in Europe February 1, p18. Economist (1992b) Perrier Bottled March 21, p107. Official Documents, e.g., Accounting Standards ABS (1994) FRS 5: Reporting the Substance of Transactions, Accounting Standards Board. [In the text you give (ASB, 1994) as the reference.] Your references should be listed at the end of your work, alphabetically by surname of author if known.

Important note: There are several different methods of referencing. The Harvard style illustrated above is a commonly-used one. However different departments within universities and individual supervisors will have their own preferred method. You should always check with your supervisor which method is used in the department where you are studying when writing assignments and dissertations or theses. Referencing Electronic Sources All references begin with the same information that would be provided for a printed source (or as much of that information as possible). The WWW information is then placed at the end of the reference in the same way as publishing information is given for books. It is important to give the date of retrieval because documents on the Web may change in content, move, or be removed from a site altogether. If you do not know the author or the date and it does not have a clear title, think carefully before using it.
Jenifer Spencer adapted by Olwyn Alexander 6

Research Methods What information should I include in an internet reference?


Authors name and initials (if more than one, list them). If there is no individual author, as with printed sources, use organization. Go to the sites homepage to find the title of the site or organization. Year of publication (if there is no date listed, you should state that the reference is undated or has no date). The date should ideally be the last date that the page/item was updated. Title of the document being cited. The title of a web page will normally be the main heading on the page, or look at the URL /address. Medium or type of resource - to show that this is not a printed book or article. Location - URL - wherever the user has to go to in order to locate the document The date that you accessed the page.

Examples
a. An article: Jacobson, J. W., Mulick, J. A. Schwartz, A. A. (1995). A history of facilitated communication: Science, pseudoscience, and antiscience: Science working group on facilitated communication. American Psychologist, 50, 750-765. Retrieved January 25, 1996, from http://www.apa.org/journals/jacobson.html b. A newspaper article: Sleek, S. (1996, January). Psychologists build a culture of peace. APA Monitor, pp. 1, 33 [Newspaper, selected stories on-line]. Retrieved January 25, 1996, from http://www.apa.org/monitor/peacea.html c. WWW Document: Li, X. & Crane, N. (1996, May 20). Bibliographic formats for citing electronic information. Retrieved March 10, 1997, from http://www.uvm.edu/~xli/reference/estyles.html d. WWW Document - corporate author: American Psychological Association (1996). How to cite information from the world wide web. Retrieved March 17, 1997, from http://www.apa.org/journals/webref.html e. WWW Document - no author: A field guide to sources on, about and on the Internet: Citation formats. (1995, Dec 18). Retrieved February 7th, 1996, from http://www.cc.emory.edu/WHSCL/citation.formats.html f. WWW Document - no author, no date: GVU's 8th WWW user survey. (n.d.). Retrieved August 8, 2000, from http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/usersurveys/survey1997-10/ g. An abstract: Rosenthal, R. (1995). State of New Jersey v. Margaret Kelly Michaels: An overview [Abstract]. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 1, 247271. Retrieved January 25, 1996, from http://www.apa.org/journals/ab1.html

Many documents may appear in several places on the Internet - only cite those you have actually used, but if there is a choice then choose the one likely to be the most stable and long-lasting. If you only have partial details, attempt to provide as much information as possible - or consider using another better identified source. Fixed standards for electronic references do not yet exist. It is important to apply a consistent style throughout your references. This enables your reader to understand and trace your sources. Note that online databases provide abstracts only, you should find and refer to the full version of a paper.

For more detail see Online: a reference guide for using Internet sources, Bedford St Martins Press http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/cite5.html
Jenifer Spencer adapted by Olwyn Alexander 7