Main Introduction to Research Methods: A Practical Guide for Anyone Undertaking a Research Project
Introduction to Research Methods: A Practical Guide for Anyone Undertaking a Research ProjectCatherine, Dr. Dawson
This practical, down-to-earth guide is for researchers, students, community groups, charities or employees - in fact anyone who needs to put together research projects quickly and effectively. It contains everything from developing your idea into a proposal, through to analysing data and reporting results. Whether you have to undertake a project as part of your coursework, or as part of your employment, or simply because you are fascinated by something you have observed and want to find out more, this book offers you advice on how to turn your ideas into a workable project. Specifically it will show you how to: - choose your research methods - choose your participants - prepare a research proposal - construct questionnaires - conduct interviews and focus groups - analyse your data - report your findings - be an ethical researcher.
You may be interested in
Most frequently terms
I always enjoy/blessed by the books you provide, thank you.
03 May 2019 (17:07)
This is a blessing.
26 June 2019 (06:42)
Words would fail to depict my gratitude and thankfulness.
02 July 2019 (03:06)
I just love this.it makes my study time better and valuable
28 August 2019 (16:18)
This is amazing page with a lot of support for frdss likevme. I love this!
24 October 2019 (20:09)
Wow. Amazing books here!
31 October 2019 (09:29)
I always enjoy by the books you provide, thank you.
01 December 2019 (19:37)
Hmmm...thank you. World of reading!!!
15 January 2020 (17:48)
Accessing this web site is like entering a beautiful garden that is full of various and amazing flowers
15 January 2020 (19:18)
thank you for help me
16 March 2020 (14:34)
Visit our How To website at www.howto.co.uk At www.howto.co.uk you can engage in conversation with our authors – all of whom have ‘been there and done that’ in their specialist fields. You can get access to special offers and additional content but most importantly you will be able to engage with, and become a part of, a wide and growing community of people just like yourself. At www.howto.co.uk you’ll be able to talk and share tips with people who have similar interests and are facing similar challenges in their lives. People who, just like you, have the desire to change their lives for the better – be it through moving to a new country, starting a new business, growing their own vegetables, or writing a novel. At www.howto.co.uk you’ll find the support and encouragement you need to help make your aspirations a reality. You can go direct to www.introduction-to-research-methods.co.uk which is part of the main How To site. How To Books strives to present authentic, inspiring, practical information in their books. Now, when you buy a title from How To Books, you get even more than just words on a page. howtobooks For my Dad Published by How To Content, A division of How To Books Ltd, Spring Hill House, Spring Hill Road, Begbroke, Oxford OX5 1RX. United Kingdom. Tel: (01865) 375794. Fax: (01865) 379162. email@example.com www.howtobooks.co.uk How To Books greatly reduce the carbon footprint of their books by sourcing their typesetting and printing in the UK. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or stored in an information retrieval system (other than for purposes of review) without the express permission of the publisher in writing. The right of Catherine Dawson to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. © 2009 Dr Catherine Dawson First edition 2002 Second edition 2006 Third edition 2007 Fourth edition 2009 First published in electronic form 2009 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Dat; a A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 1 84803 342 9 Cover design by Mousemat Design Limited Produced for How To Books by Deer Park Productions, Tavistock, Devon Typeset by PDQ Typesetting, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs. NOTE: The material contained in this book is set out in good faith for general guidance and no liability can be accepted for loss or expense incurred as a result of relying in particular circumstances on statements made in the book. The laws and regulations are complex and liable to change, and readers should check the current position with the relevant authorities before making personal arrangements. Contents Preface ix 1 How to Define Your Project 1 Asking questions Thinking about your project Understanding the five ‘Ws’ Summarising your research Summary Useful websites 1 4 5 8 13 13 2 3 How to Decide Upon a Methodology 14 Recognising qualitative and quantitative research Understanding the methodological debate Choosing a methodology Summary Further reading 14 15 16 23 23 How to Choose Your Research Methods Using interviews Conducting focus groups Using questionnaires Undertaking participant observation Choosing your methods Summary Further reading 4 How to Conduct Background Research Conducting primary and secondary research Using websites Using interlibrary loans Keeping records Summary Further reading v 27 27 29 30 32 33 37 38 40 40 42 44 44 46 47 vi 5 Contents How to Choose Your Participants Understanding sampling techniques Choosing your sample size Summary Further reading 6 How to Prepare a Research Proposal Understanding the format The contents of a proposal What makes a good proposal? Reasons why research proposals fail Summary Further reading 7 How to Conduct Interviews Methods of recording Developing an interview schedule Establishing rapport Asking questions and probing for information Completing the interview Summary Further reading 8 How to Conduct Focus Groups The role of the moderator Recording equipment Choosing a venue Recruiting your participants Summary Further reading 9 48 48 54 55 56 57 57 58 63 64 65 65 66 66 70 73 74 76 77 78 79 79 81 84 85 87 88 How to Construct Questionnaires 89 Deciding which questionnaire to use Wording and structure of questions Length and ordering of questions Piloting the questionnaire Obtaining a high response Summary Further reading 89 91 96 98 100 102 103 Contents vii 10 How to Carry Out Participant Observation 105 Places of study Gaining access Acting ethically Collecting and analysing information Withdrawing from the field Summary Further reading 11 How to Analyse Your Data Deciding which approach to use Analysing qualitative data Analysing quantitative data Measuring data Summary Further reading 12 How to Report Your Findings Writing reports Structuring reports Writing journal articles Producing oral presentations Summary Further reading 13 How to be an Ethical Researcher Treating participants with respect Recognising overt and covert research Producing a code of ethics Summary Further reading 105 106 107 109 111 112 113 114 114 115 125 130 132 133 134 134 137 143 146 146 148 149 149 150 153 157 158 Useful addresses 159 Index 165 List of Illustrations Tables 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. The focus group method: advantages and disadvantages 30 Sources of background information 46 Sampling techniques 50 Sampling dos and don’ts 52 Survey timetable 62 Research budget 62 Recording methods: advantages and disadvantages 67 Strategies for dealing with awkward situations 82 Open and closed questions: advantages and disadvantages 90 Using computers for qualitative data analysis: advantages and disadvantages 126 Age of respondents 128 Making presentations: dos and don’ts 145 Figures 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Personal profile form Interview summary form Focus group summary form Qualitative data analysis continuum Example list of references Code of ethics viii 99 117 118 119 141 156 Preface Welcome to the fourth edition of this book which has been fully updated and revised to include additional tips to help you carry out a successful research project, updated contact details of relevant organisations, information about new research books on the market and more information about recording and analysing social research data. This book is a practical, down-to-earth guide for people who wish to conduct social research. It is aimed at those new to research and assumes no prior knowledge of the issues covered. It will also appeal to those people who have already conducted some research and who are interested in finding out more about other research methods that are available to them. For the purpose of this book, social research is defined as the deliberate study of other people for the purposes of increasing understanding and/ or adding to knowledge. This deliberate study could cover many different areas. As a researcher, you might be interested in attitudes and behaviour – why do people think in a certain way and why do they behave in a certain way? Or you might be interested in numbers – how many people use a service? Perhaps you need to try to predict how this number of people could be increased so that you can obtain funding for your service. Or you might be fascinated by the personal history of a neighbour and have a burning desire to record her history and pass it on to others. We all have different reasons for conducting research. Some of us might have to undertake a project as part of our course work. Others might have to conduct a study as part of our employment. Some of us may be fascinated by something we’ve observed and want to find out more. This book offers advice on how to turn your ideas into a workable project and how to keep motivation levels high, especially if you have no real ix x Preface inclination to become a social researcher. It discusses the issues involved in thinking about your research and defining your project, before moving on to the methods – how do you actually do your research, analyse your findings and report the results? Over the decades there has been a great deal of discussion on what constitutes social research, how it should be conducted and whether certain methods are ‘better’ than others. Although I have touched upon some of these issues in the relevant chapters, it is not possible or desirable to go into any greater detail in this book. Therefore, I have included further reading sections at the end of the relevant chapters for those of you who wish to follow up these issues. I have been a researcher since undertaking an MA in Social Research in 1987. Working within both further and higher education and as a freelance researcher, I have been involved in a variety of projects in the areas of education, housing and community research. I have taught research methods to adults returning to education and conducted in-house training for employees who need to carry out their own research. Becoming a successful researcher is a continual learning process in which we all make mistakes. So don’t worry if your first project doesn’t run as smoothly as you might wish. Instead, remember that undertaking a research project can be fascinating, rewarding and exciting – I hope that you enjoy it as much as I have done and I wish you every success in your project. Dr Catherine Dawson 1 How to Define Your Project Before you start to think about your research, you need to ask yourself a few questions. ASKING QUESTIONS Why have I decided to do some research? If the answer to this question is because you have been told to do so, either by your tutor or by your boss, you need to think about how you’re to remain motivated throughout your project. Research can be a long process and take up much of your time. It is important to stay interested in what you’re doing if you are to complete your project successfully. However, if you want to conduct some research because something has fascinated you, or you have identified a gap in the research literature, then you are lucky and should not have a problem with motivation. How can I remain interested in my research? The obvious answer to this is to choose a topic which interests you. Most of you do have this choice within the limitations of your subject – be creative and think about something which will fascinate you. However, if you have had the topic chosen for you, try to choose a research method which interests you. 1 2 Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project How do I choose a research method? As you go on to read this book you will become more familiar with the different methods and should be able to find something in which you are interested. The following questions will help you to start to think about these issues: & Did you enjoy mathematics at school? If so, perhaps you might be interested in delving deeper into statistical software or other types of data analysis? & Have you ever taken part in a focus group or been interviewed by a market researcher? Would you find it interesting to conduct your own focus groups or interviews? & Have you been fascinated by a particular group of people? Would you like to immerse yourself in their culture and learn more? & Do you enjoy filling in questionnaires? Would you like to design your own questionnaire and perhaps conduct a postal or internet survey? What personal characteristics do I have which might help me to complete my research? Think about your personal characteristics, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses when you’re planning your research. The following questions will help you to do this: & Are you good with people? Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project 3 & Do you prefer written communication or face-to-face interaction? & Do you love or loath mathematics and statistics? & Do people feel at ease with you and are they willing to confide in you? & Do you like to number crunch? & Do you like to conduct research over the internet? What skills and experience do I have which might help in my research? If your research is to be employment based, the chances are you will have work experience which you’ll find useful when conducting your research project. This is valid experience and you should make the most of it when planning your research. Even if your project is not employment based, all of you will have other skills and experience which will help. For example, if you have been a student for three years, you will have developed good literature search skills which will be very useful in the research process. Some of you may have developed committee skills, organisation skills and time management expertise. All of these will be extremely useful in your research. It is important to think about your existing skills in relation to your proposed project as it will help you to think about whether your knowledge, experience and skills will help you to address the problem you have identified. 4 Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project THINKING ABOUT YOUR PROJECT Many research projects fail because people don’t take enough time to think about the issues involved before rushing to start the work. It is extremely important to spend time thinking about your project before you move on to the planning stage. Through careful thought you should stop yourself wasting time and energy on inappropriate methods as your research progresses. Consider the following example: EXAMPLE 1: JAMES James wanted to find out about students’ experiences of housing in his university town. He designed and sent out a questionnaire to 1,000 students. When the replies started to come in, he realised that the questionnaires weren’t generating the type of information in which he was interested. When he talked through his concerns with his tutor, it emerged that James was really interested in attitudes towards, and experiences of, rented accommodation. Instead, he was only finding out about how many students lived in private rented accommodation and whether they had had ‘good’ or ‘bad’ experiences. The questionnaire left him unable to delve deeper into what these experiences were, how students coped with them and how these experiences affected their attitude towards private rented accommodation. His questionnaire had been poorly designed and was not generating this type of information. James had to scrap the questionnaire and construct another which he combined with a number of one-to-one interviews to get more in-depth information. He had spent three months designing and administering a questionnaire which had not Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project 5 produced the type of information he required. If he had spent more time thinking about the research, especially coming to terms with the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, he would have saved himself a lot of time and energy (see Chapter 2). UNDERSTANDING THE FIVE ‘WS’ When you start to think about your research project, a useful way of remembering the important questions to ask is to think of the five ‘Ws’: & What? & Why? & Who? & Where? & When? Once you have thought about these five ‘Ws’ you can move on to think about how you are going to collect your data. What? TIP What is your research? This Sum up, in one sentence only, your quest ion needs to be research. If you are unable to do this, answered as specifically as the chances are your research topic is too broad, ill thought out or too possible. One of the hardest obscure. parts in the early stages is to be able to define your project – so much research fails because the researcher has been unable to do this. 6 Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project Why? Why do you want to do the research? What is its purpose? Okay, you might have been told to do some research by your tutor or by your boss, but there should be another reason why you have chosen your particular subject. Reasons could include the following: & You are interested in the topic. & You have identified a gap in the literature. & You want to obtain funding for a particular service or enterprise and you need to find out whether there is a demand for what you are proposing. & You need to conduct some research to aid decision making. Whatever your reason, think very carefully about why you are doing the research as this will affect your topic, the way you conduct the research and the way in which you report the results. You should consider the following points: & If you’re conducting the research for a university dissertation or project, does your proposed research provide the opportunity to reach the required intellectual standard? Will your research generate enough material to write a dissertation of the required length? Will your research generate too much data that would be impossible to summarise into a report of the required length? & If you’re conducting research for funding purposes, have you found out whether your proposed funding body requires the information to be presented in a specific format? If so, you need to plan your research in a way which will meet that format. Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project 7 Speak to as many people as possible about your research, including tutors, fellow students, colleagues or friends. Tell them why you have chosen the project and ask them for their thoughts. This will help you to reflect upon, and develop, your own ideas. Who? Who will be your participants? (In this book, people who take part in research will be called participants or respondents, rather than ‘subjects’, which is a term that I have never liked.) At this stage of the research process, you needn’t worry too much about exactly how many participants will take part in your research as this will be covered later (see Chapter 5). However, you should think about the type of people with whom you will need to get in touch and whether it will be possible for you to contact them. If you have to conduct your research within a particular time scale, there’s little point choosing a topic which would include people who are difficult or expensive to contact. Also, bear in mind that the internet now provides opportunities for contacting people cheaply, especially if you’re a student with free internet access. Where? Where are you going to conduct your research? Thinking about this question in geographical terms will help you to narrow down your research topic. Also, you need to think about the resources in terms of available budget and time. If you’re a student who will not receive travel expenses or any other out of pocket expenses, choose a location close to home, college or university. If you’re a member of a community group on a limited budget, only work in areas within walking distance which will cut down on travel expenses. 8 Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project Also, you need to think about the venue. If you’re going to conduct interviews or focus groups, where will you hold them? Is there a room at your institution which would be free of charge, or are you going to conduct them in participants’ own homes? Would it be safe for you to do so? Would you be comfortable doing so? If you’ve answered ‘no’ to either of these last two questions, maybe you need to think again about your research topic. In 20 years I have encountered only one uncomfortable situation in a stranger’s home. It can happen and you must never put yourself in a dangerous situation. Think very carefully about whether your chosen topic and method might have an influence on personal safety. When? When are you going to do your research? Thinking about this question will help you to sort out whether the research project you have proposed is possible within your time scale. It will also help you to think more about your participants, when you need to contact them and whether they will be available at that time. For example, if you want to go into schools and observe classroom practice, you wouldn’t choose to do this research during the summer holiday. It might sound obvious, but I have found some students present a well-written research proposal which, in practical terms, will not work because the participants will be unavailable during the proposed data collection stage. SUMMARISING YOUR RESEARCH Once you have thought about these five ‘Ws’, try to sum up your proposed project in one sentence. When you have done this, take Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project 9 it to several people, including your boss and/or tutor, and ask them if it makes sense. Do they understand what your research is about? If they don’t, ask them to explain their confusion, revise your statement and take it back to them. I can’t overemphasise the importance of this stage of the research process. If you get it right now, you will find that the rest of your work should flow smoothly. However, if you get it wrong, your problems could well escalate. The following exercise will help you to think more about these issues. EXERCISE 1 Have a look at the three projects below and see if you can spot any potential problems. What questions would you ask to make the researchers focus in on their proposed project? Do you have any suggestions for the improvement of these statements? Statement 1: This research aims to find out what people think about television. Statement 2: My project is to do some research intoAlzheimer’s disease, to find out what people do when their relatives have it and what support they can get and how nurses deal with it. Statement 3: We want to find out how many of the local residents are interested in a play scheme for children during the summer holiday. Points to consider Statement 1: This research aims to find out what people think about television. This proposed project is both broad and obscure. My first two questions would be: what people and what television? Then I would ask: what is the purpose of this research? Who Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project 10 would be interested in the results? TV companies already employ market researchers to conduct a great deal of research into public viewing, and they have much larger budgets available to them. There’s little point in repeating research if it cannot be improved upon. However, if the researcher has an interest in this particular issue, or is perhaps on a media studies course, there are a number of ways in which this research could become more manageable. For example, the research could focus on a particular type of programme and/or a particular type of person, as the following examples suggest: & She could decide to show an Open University (OU) programme to potential OU students and find out what they thought about the programme in a series of focus groups. & She could choose children’s programming and find out what teachers think about the educational value of these programmes. & She could ask business people what they think about a programme aimed specifically at the business community. & She could ask fellow students to keep a diary of their television viewing over a week and then interview them about their viewing habits. There are many different possibilities within this field. The researcher needs to decide exactly where her interests lie and focus in on those interests. Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project Statement 2: My project is to do some research intoAlzheimer’s disease, to find out what people do when their relatives have it and what support they can get and how nurses deal with it. The main problem with this statement is the grammar. The topic itself is more focused as the researcher has mentioned, specifically, the areas he wishes to consider – nurses’ attitudes, carers’ experiences and available support. His topic is immediately more manageable because he is only considering nurses or carers who come into contact with sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease. However, he needs to think about whether he is going to consider hospitals, residential homes, or both, and in what areas. Also, is he going to contact people who look after their relatives at home? Although, on the surface, this project appears more manageable, this researcher has a major point to consider. In the UK all social research which is carried out on health care premises comes under the jurisdiction of Research Ethics Committees. These committees were set up to ensure that research does not harm patients in any way and that it is done in their best interests. In the USA a similar function is carried out by Institutional Review Boards. (See useful websites at the end of this chapter.) This means that the researcher would have to get his project approved by the appropriate committee before he could go ahead with the research, and it is not guaranteed that his project would be given approval. As he would have to submit a full and detailed proposal to the committee, he could be conducting a lot of preliminary work, only to be turned down. You would need to think carefully whether this is a route you wish to take, and if so, you would need to obtain the appropriate advice before committing yourself. 11 12 Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project Statement 3:We want to find out how manyof the local residents are interested in a play scheme for children during the summer holiday. This project put forward by a tenants’ association appears to be straightforward and manageable, although there are still several issues which need addressing. My first question for this topic would be: do you really want to find out how many of the local residents are interested, or do you want to find out the interests of residents with children of the appropriate age who would actually use the scheme? If the latter is the case, this narrows down the research population and makes it more manageable. Finding out whether someone is interested in something is not actually the same as finding out whether someone would use the service. For example, I might think a play scheme is a good idea for other children as it might keep them off the streets, but not for my little darlings who are too occupied with their computer. If I said ‘yes, I am interested’, this could be misleading as I have no intention of using the service. However, if the purpose of the research is to obtain funding for the scheme, then the more people who express an interest, the better, although the tenants’ association would have to be careful not to produce misleading information. I would also find out whether the tenants’ association was interested only in the issue of how many people were interested in it and would use the play scheme. If they were doing this research anyway, would it be a valuable addition to find out what sort of scheme residents would like, and what activities their children would like? Would residents have any reservations about sending their children? If they do have reservations, what are they? Who would residents want to run the scheme? Would they be willing to provide help and support themselves? Chapter 1 . How to Define Your Project 13 SUMMARY & You must take time to think about your research as this will save you problems later. & When you’re thinking about your research, ask yourself the five ‘Ws’: – What is my research? – Why do I want to do the research? – Who are my research participants? – Where am I going to do the research? – When am I going to do the research? & Sum up your research project in one sentence. & Discuss your sentence with your tutor or boss and revise if there is any confusion. USEFUL WEBSITES www.nres.npsa.nhs.uk This is the website of the National Research Ethics Service (NRES). On this site you can obtain more information about Research Ethics Committees and find out about conducting research within the health service in the UK. www.fda.gov This is the website of the US Food and Drug Administration. From this site you can obtain more information and guidance about Institutional Review Boards in the US and find out about conducting biomedical research with human participants. 2 How to Decide Upon a Methodology Once you have answered the five ‘Ws’ you can go on to think about how you’re going to do your research. The first thing you need to do is to think about your research methodology. This is the philosophy or the general principle which will guide your research. It is the overall approach to studying your topic and includes issues you need to think about such as the constraints, dilemmas and ethical choices within your research. Now that you have read Chapter 1, some of these issues will be fresh in your mind. Your research methodology is different to your research methods – these are the tools you use to gather data, such as questionnaires or interviews, and these will be discussed in Chapter 3. RECOGNISING QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH When you start to think about your research methodology, you need to think about the differences between qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative research explores attitudes, behaviour and experiences through such methods as interviews or focus groups. It 14 Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology 15 attempts to get an in-depth opinion from participants. As it is attitudes, behaviour and experiences which are important, fewer people take part in the research, but the contact with these people tends to last a lot longer. Under the umbrella of qualitative research there are many different methodologies. Examples of some of these methodologies are summarised below. If you wish to pursue any of these in more depth, useful references are included at the end of this chapter. Quantitative research generates statistics through the use of largescale survey research, using methods such as questionnaires or structured interviews. If a market researcher has stopped you on the streets, or you have filled in a questionnaire which has arrived through the post, this falls TIP under the umbrella of quantitative research. This type of Try to become familiar with the different types of methodology.When research reaches many more particular research results are people, but the contact with reported in newspapers or on television, think about what you are those people is much being told. Can you work out whether quicker than it is in qualitaqualitative or quantitative methodologies have been used to tive research. inform the research? UNDERSTANDING THE METHODOLOGICAL DEBATE Over the years there has been a large amount of complex discussion and argument surrounding the topic of social research methodology and the theory of how inquiry should proceed. Much of this debate has centred on the issue of qualitative versus quantitative inquiry – which might be the best and which is more ‘scientific’. 16 Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology Different methodologies become popular at different social, political, historical and cultural times in our development, and, in my opinion, all methodologies have their specific strengths and weaknesses. These should be acknowledged and addressed by the researcher. At the end of this chapter references are given if you are interested in following up any of these issues. Certainly, if you were to do so, it would help you to think about your research methodology in considerable depth. CHOOSING A METHODOLOGY Don’t fall into the trap which many beginning (and experienced) researchers do in thinking that quantitative research is ‘better’ than qualitative research. Neither is better than the other – they are just different and both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both also depend on the skills, training and experiences of the researcher. What you will find, however, is that your instincts probably lean you towards one rather than the other. Listen to these instincts as you will find it more proTIP ductive to conduct the type of research with which you Discuss your methodological thoughts with your tutor or boss. will feel comfortable, espeListen to their opinions and gauge cially if you’re to keep your their response. If you decide to go ahead with a methodology about motivation levels high. Also, which they are unaware, or with be aware of the fact that your which they disagree, be prepared to fight your cause.This will involve tutor or boss might prefer careful thought and consideration. one type of research over the Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology 17 other. You might have a harder time justifying your chosen methodology if it goes against their preferences. EXAMPLES OF QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES Action research Some researchers believe that action research is a research method, but in my opinion it is better understood as a methodology. In action research, the researcher works in close collaboration with a group of people to improve a situation in a particular setting. The researcher does not ‘do’ research ‘on’ people, but instead works with them, acting as a facilitator. Therefore, good group management skills and an understanding of group dynamics are important skills for the researcher to acquire. This type of research is popular in areas such as organisational management, community development, education and agriculture. Action research begins with a process of communication and agreement between people who want to change something together. Obviously, not all people within an organisation will be willing to become co-researchers, so action research tends to take place with a small group of dedicated people who are open to new ideas and willing to step back and reflect on these ideas. The group then moves through four stages of planning, acting, observing and reflecting. This process may happen several times before everyone is happy that the changes have been implemented in the best possible way. In action research various types of research method may be used, for example: the diagnosing and evaluating stage may use 18 Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology questionnaires and interviews, whereas focus groups may be used to gauge opinion on the proposed changes. Ethnography Ethnography has its roots in anthropology and was a popular form of inquiry at the turn of the century when anthropologists travelled the world in search of remote tribes. The emphasis in ethnography is on describing and interpreting cultural behaviour. Ethnographers immerse themselves in the lives and culture of the group being studied, often living with that group for months on end. These researchers participate in a groups’ activities whilst observing its behaviour, taking notes, conducting interviews, analysing, reflecting and writing reports – this may be called fieldwork or participant observation. Ethnographers highlight the importance of the written text because this is how they portray the culture they are studying. Feminist research There is some argument about whether feminist inquiry should be considered a methodology or epistemology, but in my opinion it can be both. (As we have seen, methodology is the philosophy or the general principle which will guide your research. Epistemology, on the other hand, is the study of the nature of knowledge and justification. It looks at from where knowledge has come and how we know what we know.) Feminist researchers argue that for too long the lives and experiences of women have been ignored or misrepresented. Often, in the past, research was conducted on male ‘subjects’ and the results generalised to the whole population. Feminist research- Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology ers critique both the research topics and the methods used; especially those which emphasise objective, scientific ‘truth’. With its emphasis on participative, qualitative inquiry, feminist research has provided a valuable alternative framework for researchers who have felt uncomfortable with treating people as research ‘objects’. Under the umbrella of feminist research are various different standpoints – these are discussed in considerable depth in some of the texts listed at the end of this chapter. Grounded theory Grounded theory is a methodology which was first laid out in 1967 by two researchers named Glaser and Strauss. It tends to be a popular form of inquiry in the areas of education and health research. The emphasis in this methodology is on the generation of theory which is grounded in the data – this means that it has emerged from the data. This is different from other types of research which might seek to test a hypothesis that has been formulated by the researcher. In grounded theory, methods such as focus groups and interviews tend to be the preferred data collection method, along with a comprehensive literature review which takes place throughout the data collection process. This literature review helps to explain emerging results. In grounded theory studies the number of people to be interviewed is not specified at the beginning of the research. This is because the researcher, at the outset, is unsure of where the research will take her. Instead, she continues with the data collection until ‘saturation’ point is reached, that is, no new information is being provided. Grounded theory is therefore 19 20 Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology flexible and enables new issues to emerge that the researcher may not have thought about previously. Matching methodology with topic So, how do you decide which is the best methodology for your research? Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to decide first of all whether you should consider qualitative or quantitative research. Have another look at the five ‘Ws’ discussed in Chapter 1. If you have not already done so, go through each question in relation to your own research. Once you have done this, clues will start to emerge about what is the best form of inquiry for you. First of all, have a look at the words you have used. Certain words help to suggest a leaning towards qualitative research, others towards quantitative research. For example, if you have written ‘how many’, ‘test’, ‘verify’, ‘how often’ or ‘how satisfied’, this suggests a leaning towards quantitative research. If you have written words such as ‘discover’, ‘motivation’, ‘experiences’, ‘think/thoughts’, ‘problems’, or ‘behave/behaviour’, this suggests a leaning towards qualitative research. However, you may find that you have written a combination of these words which could mean two things. Firstly, you might want to think about combining both qualitative and quantitative research, which is called triangulation. Many researchers believe this is a good way of approaching research as it enables you to counteract the weaknesses in both qualitative and quantitative research. Secondly, it could mean that your ideas are still unclear and that you need to focus a little more. To help you understand the thought processes involved in these Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology 21 decisions, let’s return to the exercise given in the previous chapter: EXAMPLE 2: REVISED STATEMENTS Original statement 1: This research aims to find out what people think about television. After having thought about how to focus her topic, make the project more manageable and produce a worthwhile piece of research, the researcher came up with the following revised statement: Revised statement 1: This research aims to find out what primary school teachers think about the educational value of ‘TheTeletubbies’ television programme. This research topic is now well-focused.When the student suggested this research it was also very topical ^ The Teletubbies had been released only four weeks prior to the research and complaints about their language were filling the national media. The main clue to the methodology is the word ‘think’. The student wishes to get an in-depth opinion, but is not concerned with speaking to a large number of primary school teachers. This suggests a qualitative form of inquiry. Original statement 2: My project is to do some research into Alzheimer’s disease, to find out what people do when their relatives have it and what support they can get and how nurses deal with it. This researcher decided to narrow down his topic. Also, he found out some more information about whether his research needed to go to a Research Ethics Committee by checking out the website www.nres.npsa.nhs.uk. This site gives details about the 22 Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology committees, a list of meeting dates, guidance notes and application forms for those researchers interested in putting forward a proposal. More information can be obtained from National Research Ethics Service (NRES), National Patient Safety Agency, 4–8 Maple Street, London W1T 5HD. Tel: 020 7927 9898. Fax: 020 7927 9899. Email@ firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.nres.npsa.nhs.uk. Revised statement 2: The aim of this research is to find out how many relatives of Alzheimer’s patients use the Maple Day Centre, and to ascertain whether the service is meeting their needs. Again this topic is now much better focused.The research population is limited to relatives of Alzheimer’s patients who use the Maple Day Centre. One clue to the methodology is in the words ‘how many’ which suggests a quantitative study. However, he is also interested in finding out whether the service meets their needs, which requires some more in-depth inquiry.This suggests a combination of qualitative and quantitative inquiry. Original statement 3: We want to find out how manyof the local residents are interested in a play scheme for children during the summer holiday. The tenants’ association thought carefully about the issues in which they were interested, eventually coming up with the following revised statement: Revised statement 3: This research aims to find out how many people from our estate are interested in, and would use, a children’s play scheme in the school summer holiday. Again, the clue in this example is ‘how many’. The tenants’ association wanted to obtain funding for their play scheme and felt that it was important to gather statistics which they could Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology 23 take to possible funding organisations. This suggests a quantitative study. SUMMARY & The research methodology is the philosophy or general principle which guides the research. & Research methods are the tools you use to gather your data. & Qualitative research explores attitudes, behaviour and experiences. & Examples of qualitative methodologies include action research, ethnography, feminist research and grounded theory. & Quantitative research generates statistics through the use of large-scale survey research. & Neither qualitative nor quantitative research is better – they are just different. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. & Your own intuition and the words you use will give pointers to whether qualitative or quantitative research is more appropriate for your chosen project. & The term ‘triangulation’ is used when a combination of qualitative and quantitative forms of inquiry are used. FURTHER READING The theoretical and philosophical issues raised in this chapter are detailed and complex and cannot be discussed in depth in this 24 Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology book. However, if you wish to pursue any of these topics, some of the useful publications are listed below under the relevant topics. Research methodologies Clough, P. and Nutbrown, C. (2007) A Student ’s Guide to Methodology, 2nd edition, London: Sage. Creswell, J.W. (2008) Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, 3rd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Qualitative research Over recent years there has been a great deal of innovation in the use of qualitative methodologies. Listed below are some of the more traditional texts and a selection of the newer, innovative texts. Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (eds) (2005) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Higgs, J., Armstrong, H. and Horsfall, D. (2001) Critical Moments in Qualitative Research, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann. Hollway, W. and Jefferson, T. (2000) Doing Qualitative Research Differently: Free Association, Narrative and the Interview Method, London: Sage. Schwandt, T. (2007) The Sage Dictionary of Qualitative Inquiry, 3rd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Quantitative research De Vaus, D.A. (2001) Surveys in Social Research, 5th edition, London: Routledge. Fowler, F. (2001) Survey Research Methods, 3rd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Lance, C.E. and Vandenberg, R.J. (eds) (2008) Statistical and Methodological Myths and Urban Legends, New York: Routledge Academic. Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology 25 Sapsford, R. (2006) Survey Research, 2nd edition, London: Sage. Action research Dadds, M. and Hart, S. (eds) (2001) Doing Practitioner Research Differently, London: Routledge Falmer. McNiff, J. (2000) Action Research in Organisations, London: Routledge. Reason, P. and Bradbury, H. (eds) (2005) The Abridged Handbook of Action Research: Student Edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Schmuch, R. (ed.) (2008) Practical Action Research: A Collection of Articles, 2nd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Ethnography Atkinson, P. (1992) The Ethnographic Imagination, London: Routledge. Davies, C.A. (2007) Reflexive Ethnography: A Guide to Researching Selves and Others, 2nd edition, London: Routledge. Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. (2007) Ethnography: Principles in Practice, 3rd edition, London: Routledge. Thomas, J. (1993) Doing Critical Ethnography, Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Wolcott, H.F. (1999) Ethnography: A Way of Seeing, Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira. Feminist research Harding, S. and Hintikka, M. (eds) (2003) Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Kleinman, S. (2007) Feminist Fieldwork Analysis, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Letherby, G. (2003) Feminist Research in Theory and Practice, Buckingham: Open University Press. 26 Chapter 2 . How to Decide Upon a Methodology Stanley, L. and Wise, S. (1993) Breaking Out Again: Feminist Ontology and Epistemology, London: Routledge. Grounded theory Dey, I. (1998) Grounding Grounded Theory: Guidelines for Qualitative Inquiry, San Diego: Academic Press. Glaser, B. and Strauss, A. (1999) Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research, Chicago: Aldine Transactions. Strauss, A. and Corbin, J. (1990) Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques, Newbury Park, CA: Sage. 3 How to Choose Your Research Methods As we have seen in the previous chapter, research methods are the tools you use to collect your data. Before you decide which would be the most appropriate methods for your research, you need to find out a little more about these tools. This chapter gives a description of the methods of interviewing, focus groups, questionnaires and participant observation. Chapters 7–10 will go on to describe in detail how to use each of these methods. USING INTERVIEWS In social research there are many types of interview. The most common of these are unstructured, semi-structured and structured interviews. If you want to find out about other types of interview, relevant references are given at the end of this chapter. Unstructured interviews Unstructured or in-depth interviews are sometimes called life history interviews. This is because they are the favoured approach for life history researchers. In this type of interview, the researcher attempts to achieve a holistic understanding of the interviewees’ point of view or situation. For example, if you want to find out about a Polish man’s experiences of a concentration camp during the war, you’re delving into his life history. Because you are 27 28 Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods unsure of what has happened in his life, you want to enable him to talk freely and ask as few questions as possible. It is for this reason that this type of interview is called unstructured – the participant is free to talk about what he or she deems important, with little directional influence from the researcher. This type of interview can only be used for qualitative research. As the researcher tries to ask as few questions as possible, people often assume that this type of interviewing is the easiest. However, this is not necessarily the case. Researchers have to be able to establish rapport with the participant – they have to be trusted if someone is to reveal intimate life information. This can be difficult and takes tact, diplomacy and perseverance. Also, some people find it very difficult to remain quiet while another person talks, sometimes for hours on end. In unstructured interviews researchers need to remain alert, recognising important information and probing for more detail. They need to know how to tactfully steer someone back from totally irrelevant digressions. Also, it is important to realise that unstructured interviewing can produce a great deal of data which can be difficult to analyse. Semi-structured interviews Semi-structured interviewing is perhaps the most common type of interview used in qualitative social research. In this type of interview, the researcher wants to know specific information which can be compared and contrasted with information gained in other interviews. To do this, the same questions need to be asked in each interview. However, the researcher also wants the interview to remain flexible so that other important information can still arise. Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods 29 For this type of interview, the researcher produces an interview schedule (see Chapter 7). This may be a list of specific questions or a list of topics to be discussed. This is taken to each interview to ensure continuity. In some research, such as a grounded theory study, the schedule is updated and revised after each interview to include more topics which have arisen as a result of the previous interview. (See Chapter 2.) Structured interviews Structured interviews are used frequently in market research. Have you ever been stopped in the street and asked about washing powder or which magazines you read? Or have you been invited into a hall to taste cider or smell washing-up liquid? The interviewer asks you a series of questions and ticks boxes with your response. This research method is highly structured – hence the name. Structured interviews are used in quantitative research and can be conducted face-to-face, online or over the telephone, sometimes with the aid of lap-top computers. CONDUCTING FOCUS GROUPS Focus groups may be called discussion groups or group interviews. A number of people are asked to come together in a group to discuss a certain issue. For example, in market research this could be a discussion centred on new packaging for a breakfast cereal, in social research this could be to discuss adults’ experiences of school or in political research this could be to find out what people think about a particular political leader. The discussion is led by a moderator or facilitator who introduces the topic, asks specific questions, controls digressions and stops break-away conversations. She makes sure that no one person 30 Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods dominates the discussion whilst trying to ensure that each of the participants makes a contribution. Focus groups may be recorded using visual or audio recording equipment. TABLE 1: THE FOCUS GROUP METHOD: ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES ADVANTAGES Can receive a wide range of responses during one meeting. DISADVANTAGES Some people may be uncomfortable in a group setting and nervous about speaking in front of others. Participants can ask questions of each other, lessoning impact of researcher bias. Not everyone may contribute. Helps people to remember issues they might otherwise have forgotten. Other people may contaminate an individual’s views. Helps participants to overcome inhibitions, especially if they know other people in the group. Some researchers may ﬁnd it diﬃcult or intimidating to moderate a focus group. The group eﬀect is a useful resource in data analysis. Venues and equipment can be expensive. Participant interaction is useful to analyse. Diﬃcult to extract individual views during the analysis. USING QUESTIONNAIRES There are three basic types of questionnaire – closed-ended, openended or a combination of both. Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods 31 1. Closed-ended questionnaires Closed-ended questionnaires are probably the type with which you are most familiar. Most people have experience of lengthy consumer surveys which ask about your shopping habits and promise entry into a prize draw. This type of questionnaire is used to generate statistics in quantitative research. As these questionnaires follow a set format, and as most can be scanned straight into a computer for ease of analysis, greater numbers can be produced. 2. Open-ended questionnaires Open-ended questionnaires are used in qualitative research, although some researchers will quantify the answers during the analysis stage (see Chapter 11). The questionnaire does not contain boxes to tick, but instead leaves a blank section for the respondent to write in an answer. Whereas closed-ended questionnaires might be used to find out how many people use a service, open-ended questionnaires might be used to find out what people think about a service. As there are no standard answers to these questions, data analysis is more complex. Also, as it is opinions which are sought rather than numbers, fewer questionnaires need to be distributed. 3. Combination of both Many researchers tend to use a combination of both open and closed questions. That way, it is possible to find out how many people use a service and what they think about that service on the same form. Many questionnaires begin with a series of closed questions, with boxes to tick or scales to rank, and then finish with a section of open-questions for more detailed response. 32 Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods Increasingly, market research and opinion poll companies distribute their questionnaires via the internet and pay respondents for their answers. This enables them to build up a following of loyal respondents to whom they can send questionnaires quickly and simply, and receive responses back within shorter deadlines and without the need to pay for postage or send reminder letters. However, in this type of online research the participants are self-selecting, that is they have chosen to take part in the research on a voluntary basis. Some have done this because they are going to be paid TIP and need the money, some Visit www.yougov.co.uk to see an enjoy completing questionexample of a professional research naires and others may have company that uses the internet to collect in-depth data for market and a particular axe to grind. If organisational research. you choose to use this type of ‘self-selecting sample’ you must be aware of the biases that can occur and be cautious when making generalisations about your findings. More information about these issues is provided in Chapter 5. UNDERTAKING PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION There are two main ways in which researchers observe – direct observation and participant observation. Direct observation tends to be used in areas such as health and psychology. It involves the observation of a ‘subject’ in a certain situation and often uses technology such as visual recording equipment or one-way mirrors. For example, the interaction of mother, father and child in a specially prepared play room may be watched by psychologists through a one-way mirror in an attempt to understand more about family relationships. Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods 33 In participant observation, however, the researcher becomes much more involved in the lives of the people being observed. Using the same research topic described above, a participant observer would not observe the family from a distance. Instead, she would immerse herself in the life of the family in an attempt to understanding more about family relationships. Participant observation can be viewed as both a method and a methodology (see Chapter 10). It is popular amongst anthropologists and sociologists who wish to study and understand another community, culture or context. They do this by immersing themselves within that culture. This may take months or years, as they need to build up a lasting and trusting relationship with those people being studied. Through participation within their chosen culture and through careful observation, they hope to gain a deeper understanding into the behaviour, motivation and attitudes of the people under study. Participant observation, as a research method, received bad press when a number of researchers became covert participant observers; entering organisations and participating in their activities without anyone knowing that they were conducting research (see Chapter 13). Overt participant observation, where everyone knows who the researcher is and what she is doing, however, can be a valuable and rewarding method for qualitative inquiry. CHOOSING YOUR METHODS By now you should have thought quite seriously about your research methodology. This will help you to decide upon the most appropriate methods for your research. For example, if you’re 34 Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods leaning towards quantitative research, survey work in the form of a questionnaire or structured interviews may be appropriate. If you’re interested in action research, it might be useful to find out more about semi-structured interviewing or focus groups. In quantitative research you can define your research methods early in the planning stage. You know what you want to find out and you can decide upon the best way to obtain the information. Also, you will be able to decide early on how many people you need to contact (see Chapter 5). However, in some types of qualitative research it may be difficult to define your methods specifically. You may decide that semistructured interviews would be useful, although you’re not sure, in the planning stages, how many you will need to conduct. You may find also that you need to use other methods as the research progresses. Maybe you want to run a focus group to see what people think about the hypotheses you have generated from the interviews. Or perhaps you need to spend some time in the field observing something which has arisen during the interview stage. Defining needs and means It is not necessary to use only one research method, although many projects do this. A combination of methods can be desirable as it enables you to overcome the different weaknesses inherent in all methods. What you must be aware of, however, when deciding upon your methods, are the constraints under which you will have to work. What is your time scale? What is your budget? Are you the only researcher, or will you have others to help you? There’s no point deciding that a large scale, national postal survey is the best way to do your research if you only have a budget of £50 and two months in which to complete your work. Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods 35 Thinking about purpose Also, you need to think about the purpose of your research as this will help point to the most appropriate methods to use. For example, if you want to describe in detail the experiences of a group of women trying to set up and run a charity, you wouldn’t send them a closed-ended questionnaire. Instead, you might ask to become involved and set up a piece of action research in which you can decide to use interviews and focus groups. Or you might decide to hold two semi-structured interviews with each of the women involved, one at the beginning of their project and one at the end. If your goal is detailed description, you do not need to try to contact as many people as possible. Let us return to the three examples in the exercises given in the previous two chapters to find out which would be the most appropriate methods for the research. EXAMPLE 3: APPROPRIATE METHODS Revised statement 1: This research aims to find out what primary school teachers think about the educational value of ‘TheTeletubbies’ television programme. This researcher is interested in attitude and opinion. She thinks about running a series of semi-structured interviews with a small sample of primary school teachers. However, the researcher is concerned that some of the teachers may not have seen the programme and might be unable to comment, or might comment purely on ‘hearsay’. So she decides to gather together a group of teachers and show them one episode of TheTeletubbies. Then she discusses the programme with the teachers in a focus group setting. This method works well and the researcher decides to hold five more focus groups with other primary school teachers. 36 Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods Revised statement 2: The aim of this research is to find out how many relatives of Alzheimer’s patients use the Maple Day Centre, and to ascertain whether the service is meeting their needs. This researcher decides to produce a questionnaire with a combination of closed and open-ended questions. The first part of the questionnaire is designed to generate statistics and the second part asks people for a more in-depth opinion. He has approached members of staff at the Maple Day Centre who are happy to distribute his questionnaire over a period of one month. Revised statement 3: This research aims to find out how many people from our estate are interested in, and would use, a children’s play scheme in the school summer holiday. Members of the tenants’ association approach the local school and ask the head teacher if a questionnaire could be distributed through the school. The head teacher feels that it is not appropriate so the tenants’ association have to revise their plans. They’re worried that if they distribute a questionnaire through the post they won’t receive back many responses. Eventually, they decide to knock on each door on the estate and ask some simple, standard questions. They’re able to conduct this type of door-to-door, structured interview as they are a large group and are able to divide the work amongst everybody on the committee. If, at this stage, you are still unsure of the most appropriate methods for your research, read the following chapters as these explain in more detail how to go about using each method. This will give you more of an insight into what would be required of you if you were to choose that method. Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods 37 As I stressed earlier, you need to think about your own personality, your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes. If you’re a nervous person who finds it difficult to talk to strangers, face-toface interviewing might not be the best method for you. If you love working with groups, you might like to find out more about focus group research. If a particular culture has fascinated you for years and you know you could immerse yourself within that culture, perhaps participant observaTIP tion would interest you. If you love number crunching Remember to think about choosing a method or method(s) with which you or using statistical software, are happy as this is important to keep a closed-ended questionyour motivation levels high. nair e may be the best method for you. SUMMARY & Research methods are the tools that are used to gather data. & Three types of interview are used in social research: – Unstructured or life history interviews. – Semi-structured interviews. – Structured interviews. & Interviews can be conducted face-to-face or over the telephone. & Focus groups are held with a number of people to obtain a group opinion. & Focus groups are run by a moderator who asks questions and makes sure the discussion does not digress. 38 Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods & Questionnaires can be closed-ended, open-ended or a combination of both. & Participant observation is used when a researcher wants to immerse herself in a specific culture to gain a deeper understanding. & The chosen research methodology should help to indicate the most appropriate research tools. & Research methods must be chosen within budget and time constraints. & The purpose of the research will provide an indicator to the most appropriate methods. & You should think about your personality, strengths and weakness, likes and dislikes when choosing research methods. FURTHER READING Balnaves, M. and Caputi, P. (2001) Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods: An Investigative Approach, London: Sage. Berg, B.L. (2006) Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences, 6th edition, Harlow: Pearson Education. Bickman, L. and Rog, D. (eds) (2008) The Sage Handbook of Applied Social Research Methods, 2nd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Bryman, A. (2008) Social Research Methods, 3rd edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Burns, R.B. (2000) Introduction to Research Methods, 4th edition, London: Sage. Denscombe, M. (2003) The Good Research Guide: for small-scale social research projects, 2nd edition, Buckingham: Open University Press. Chapter 3 . How to Choose Your Research Methods 39 Fowler, F. (2001) Survey Research Methods, 3rd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Mason, J. (2002) Qualitative Researching, 2nd edition, London: Sage. McNeill, P. and Chapman, S. (2005) Research Methods: Textbook, London: Routledge. Robson, C. (2002) Real World Research, 2nd edition, Oxford: Blackwell. 4 How to Conduct Background Research Once you have decided upon a research project and you’re able to sum up your proposed research in one sentence, it’s time to start planning your project. The first thing you need to do is your background research. This will help you to become more familiar with your topic and introduce you to any other research which will be of benefit to you when you begin your own project. CONDUCTING PRIMARY AND SECONDARY RESEARCH There are two types of background research – primary research and secondary research (see Table 2). Primary research involves the study of a subject through firsthand observation and investigation. This is what you will be doing with your main project, but you may also need to conduct primary research for your background work, especially if you’re unable to find any previously published material about your topic. Primary research may come from your own observations or experience, or from the information you gather personally from other people, as the following example illustrates. 40 Chapter 4 . How to Conduct Background Research 41 EXAMPLE 4: JENNY I was interested in looking at truancy in schools. The idea came about from my own personal experience as a teacher. I had noticed how some children didn’t fit the classic description of a truant and I wanted to find out more as I thought it might help me to deal with some of the problems children were experiencing. So I guess you’d say my own experience provided me with some initial data. Then I decided to go and have a discussion with some of my colleagues and see if they’d noticed anything like me. It was really useful to do this because they helped me to think about other things I hadn’t even thought of. One of them told me about a new report which had just come out and it was useful for me to go and have a look at it as it raised some of the issues I was already thinking about. Actually this made me change the focus of my work a little because I soon found out that there had been a lot of work on one area of what I was doing, but not so much on another area. It was really useful to have done this before I rushed into my research as I think I might have wasted quite a bit of time. In the above example, Jenny mentions a recently published report which she has read. This is secondary research and it involves the collection of information from studies that other researchers have made of a subject. The two easiest and most accessible places to find this information are libraries and the internet. However, you must remember that anybody can publish information over the internet and you should be aware that some of this information can be misleading or incorrect. 42 Chapter 4 . How to Conduct Background Research Of course this is the case for any published information and as you develop your research skills so you should also develop your critical thinking and reasoning skills. Do not believe everything you’re told. Think about the information you are being given. How was it collected? Were the methods sound? What motives did the publishers have for making sure their information had reached the public domain? By developing these skills early in your work, you will start to think about your own research and any personal bias in your methods and reporting which may be present. USING WEBSITES University websites carry information about how to use the web carefully and sensibly for your research and it is worth accessing these before you begin your background work. The following points will help you to surf the net effectively and efficiently. & Try to use websites run by organisations you know and trust. & Check the About Us section on the web page for more information about the creator and organisation. & Use another source, if possible, to check any information of which you are unsure. For example, if you’re interested in medical information you can check the credentials of UK doctors by phoning the General Medical Council. & You should check the national source of the data as information may differ between countries. & For some topics specific websites have been set up that contain details of questionable products, services and theories. For Chapter 4 . How to Conduct Background Research 43 example, in medical research you could visit www.quackwatch.com, which contains non-recommended sources of health advice, questionable theories and details of money-making scams. & If you come across information that is useful for your research remember to keep a record of all the information you will need to reference the website in your report or dissertation (see Chapter 12). & Although it is tempting to cut and paste information from relevant websites, you must be careful if you choose to adopt this procedure. All cut and paste sections must be clearly marked so that you do not accidentally (or intentionally) pass off the information as your own work. Plagiarism is a serious offence and universities may use plagiarism detecting software to catch students who cheat with their work. However, it may be possible to cut and paste relevant quotations, as long as you use quotation marks in your report and reference the work carefully and correctly. If you choose to do this, you must make sure that you don’t TIP breach copyright laws. If in doubt, always seek Before you start searching on the internet, define your research topic, permission from the research methods and research author of the website needs.Think carefully about what sources will provide you with the before using a quotation. information you need without More information about overloading you with data. copyright can be obtained from www.ipo.gov.uk/copy.htm. For more information about plagiarism, visit www.jisc.ac.uk. 44 Chapter 4 . How to Conduct Background Research USING INTERLIBRARY LOANS If you are a student your institutional library will probably offer an interlibrary loan service which means that you can access books from other university libraries if they are not available in your library. A useful website is www.copac.ac.uk which provides free access to the online catalogues of university research libraries in the UK and Ireland. This is a useful service if, when referencing, you find that a small amount of information is missing (see Example 5 below). EXAMPLE 5: GILLIAN Nobody told me the importance of keeping careful records of my background research. I just thought it was something you did and then that was it, you got on with your own research and forgot about what you’d done. Of course then I had to write my report and in the ‘background’ section I wanted to include loads of things I’d read when I first started the work. I found my notes, but I didn’t know where they’d come from. It was so frustrating. Basically I had to start all over again. Even then I still forgot to write down the name and location of the publisher, so I had to go back to them again. My advice would be to look at how bibliographies are structured and imprint that in your brain so you don’t forget anything. KEEPING RECORDS When you begin your background research, keep accurate records of what data was gathered from which source as this will save you plenty of time and frustration later, especially when you come to Chapter 4 . How to Conduct Background Research 45 write your research proposal, or final report. A useful way to organise your notes is to separate your files and folders into primary and secondary research. For handwritten notes, such as those taken from library books and journal articles, keep an A4 file with the relevant pages slotted into the separate sections. For information stored on your PC or laptop, such as typed notes, transcripts and information obtained from websites, place the documents in the relevant folder and keep document and folder names simple so that you can access the information easily when required. Remember to back-up all folders and documents on a regular basis. Primary research For the primary research file or folder notes from each contact can be separated by a contact sheet or document which gives the name of the person, the date and time you met and a contact number or address. Secondary research In the secondary research file or folder each page of notes or document can be headed by details of the publication in the same format that will be used in the bibliography – author and initials; date of publication; title of publication; place of publication and publisher. If it is a journal article, remember to include the name of the journal; the page numbers of the article and the volume and number of the journal. It is also useful to include the location of this publication so that it can be found easily if needed again (website or library shelf location). Once you have stored this information electronically it is a simple job to cut and paste your references when you come to compile 46 Chapter 4 . How to Conduct Background Research the reference section and bibliography of your report or dissertation (see Chapter 12). TABLE 2: SOURCES OF BACKGROUND INFORMATION PRIMARY SECONDARY Relevant people Research books Researcher observation Research reports Researcher experience Journal articles Historical records/texts Articles reproduced online Company/organisation records Scientiﬁc debates Personal documents (diaries, etc) Critiques of literary works Statistical data Critiques of art Works of literature Analyses of historical events Works of art Film/video Laboratory experiments SUMMARY & There are two types of background research – primary and secondary research. & Primary research involves the study of a subject through firsthand observation and investigation. & Secondary research involves the collection of information from studies that other researchers have made of a subject. & For most research, the easiest and quickest way to access secondary sources are libraries or the internet. Chapter 4 . How to Conduct Background Research 47 & Any information obtained from secondary sources must be carefully assessed for its relevance and accuracy. & Notes from primary and secondary sources should be carefully filed and labelled so that the source can be found again, if required. & When noting details for books, reports or articles which may appear in the final report, include all the details which would be needed for the bibliography. FURTHER READING Dochartaigh, N.O. (2007) Internet Research Skills: How to Do Your Literature Search and Find Research Information Online, 2nd edition, London: Sage. Gash, S. (1999) Effective Literature Searching for Research, 2nd edition, Aldershot: Gower. Hart, C. (2001) Doing a Literature Search, London: Sage. Spence, G. (2001) A Simple Guide to Internet Research, Harlow: Prentice Hall. 5 How to Choose Your Participants As you continue planning your research project you need to think about how you’re going to choose your participants. By now you should have decided what type of people you need to contact. For some research projects, there will be only a small number of people within your research population, in which case it might be possible to contact everyone. This is called a census. However, for most projects, unless you have a huge budget, limitless timescale and large team of interviewers, it will be difficult to speak to every person within your research population. UNDERSTANDING SAMPLING TECHNIQUES Researchers overcome this problem by choosing a smaller, more manageable number of people to take part in their research. This is called sampling. In quantitative research, it is believed that if this sample is chosen carefully using the correct procedure, it is then possible to generalise the results to the whole of the research population. For many qualitative researchers however, the ability to generalise their work to the whole research population is not the goal. Instead, they might seek to describe or explain what is happening within a smaller group of people. This, they believe, might provide 48 Chapter 5 . How to Choose Your Participants 49 insights into the behaviour of the wider research population, but they accept that everyone is different and that if the research were to be conducted with another group of people the results might not be the same. Using sampling procedures Sampling procedures are used everyday. Market researchers use them to find out what the general population think about a new product or new advertisement. When they report that 87% of the population like the smell of a new brand of washing powder, they haven’t spoken to the whole population, but instead have contacted only a sample of people which they believe are able to represent the whole population. When we hear that 42% of the population intend to vote Labour at the next General Election, only a sample of people have been asked about their voting intentions. If the sample has not been chosen very carefully, the results of such surveys can be misleading. Imagine how misleading the results of a ‘national’ survey on voting habits would be if the interviews were conducted only in the leafy suburbs of an English southern city. Probability samples and purposive samples There are many different ways to choose a sample, and the method used will depend upon the area of research, research methodology and preference of the researcher. Basically there are two main types of sample: & probability samples & purposive samples. 50 Chapter 5 . How to Choose Your Participants TABLE 3: SAMPLING TECHNIQUES PROBABILITY SAMPLES PURPOSIVE SAMPLES The researcher is interested in finding out about national detention rates. He wants to make sure that every school in the country has an equal chance of being chosen because he hopes to be able to make generalisations from his findings. He decides to use a simple random sample. Using this method the researcher needs to obtain the name of every school in the country. Numbers are assigned to each name and a random sample generated by computer. He then sends a questionnaire to each of the selected schools. The researcher would have to make sure that he obtained the name of every school in the country for this method to work properly. The researcher decides that he wants to interview a sample of all pupils within a school, regardless of whether they have been on detention or not. He decides to use a quota sample to make sure that all groups within the school are represented. He decides to interview a specified number of female and male school pupils, a specified number of arts, sciences and social science pupils and a specified number within different age categories. He continues approaching students and interviewing them until his quota is complete. By using this method only those pupils present at the same time and in the same place as the researcher have a chance of being selected. The researcher wants to find out about national detention rates, but is interested also in finding out about school policy concerning detention. He decides that to do this he needs to visit each selected school. To cut down on travel costs, he decides to use a cluster sample. Using this method, geographical ‘clusters’ are chosen and a random sample of schools from each cluster is generated using random number tables found at the back of some statistics books. Using this method the researcher only needs to travel to schools within the selected geographical regions. The researcher would have to make sure that he chose his clusters very carefully, especially as policy concerning detention might vary between regions. The researcher is interested in carrying out semi-structured interviews with pupils who have been on detention over the past year. However, he finds that the school has not kept accurate records of these pupils. Also, he doesn’t want to approach the school because he will be seen by the pupils as an authority figure attached to the school. He decides that a snowball sample would be the most appropriate method. He happens to know a pupil who has been on detention recently and so speaks to her, asking for names of other pupils who might be willing to talk to him. The researcher should obtain permission and have a chaperone or guardian present at the interviews. He needs to be aware also that friends tend to recommend friends, which could lead to sampling bias. Chapter 5 . How to Choose Your Participants 51 PROBABILITY SAMPLES PURPOSIVE SAMPLES The researcher has decided that he wishes to conduct a structured interview with all the children who have been on detention within a year at one school. With the head teacher’s permission, he obtains a list of all these pupils. He decides to use a quasi-random sample or systematic sample. Using this method he chooses a random point on the list and then every third pupil is selected. The problem with this method is that it depends upon how the list has been organised. If, for example, the list has been organised alphabetically, the researcher needs to be aware that some cultures and nationalities may have family names which start with the same letters. This means that these children would be grouped together in the list and may, therefore, be underrepresented in the sample. The researcher has heard of a local school which has very few detentions, despite that school having a detention policy. He decides to find out why and visits the school to speak to the head teacher. Many interesting points arise from the interview and the researcher decides to use a theoretical sampling technique. Using this method the emerging theory helps the researcher to choose the sample. For example, he might decide to visit a school that has a high detention rate and a school that has no detention policy, all of which will help to explain differing detention rates and attitudes towards them. Within this sampling procedure, he might choose to sample extreme cases which help to explain something, or he might choose heterogeneous samples where there is a deliberate strategy to select people who are alike in some relevant detail. Again the researcher has to be aware of sampling bias. The researcher has decided that he wishes to concentrate on the detention rates of pupils by GCSE subject choice and so decides upon a stratified random sample. Using this method the researcher stratifies his sample by subject area and then chooses a random sample of pupils from each subject area. However, if he found that there were many more pupils in the arts than the sciences, he could decide to choose a disproportionate stratified sample and increase the sample size of the science pupils to make sure that his data are meaningful. The researcher would have to plan this sample very carefully and would need accurate records of subjects and pupils. The researcher is a teacher himself and decides to interview colleagues, as he has limited time and resources available to him. This is a convenience sample. Also, at a conference he unexpectedly gets to interview other teachers. This might be termed haphazard or accidental sampling. The ability to generalise from this type of sample is not the goal, and, as with other sampling procedures, the researcher has to be aware of bias which could enter the process. However, the insider status of the teacher may help him to obtain information or access which might not be available to other researchers. 52 Chapter 5 . How to Choose Your Participants TABLE 4: SAMPLING DOS AND DON’TS DO DON’T Take time and eﬀort to work out your sample correctly if you’re conducting a large scale survey. Read the relevant literature suggested in this book. Time taken at the beginning will save much wasted time later. Rush into your work without thinking very carefully about sampling issues. If you get it wrong it could invalidate your whole research. Discuss your proposed sampling procedure and size with your tutor, boss or other researchers. Ignore advice from those who know what they’re talking about. Be realistic about the size of sample possible on your budget and within your time scale. Take on more than you can cope with. A badly worked out, large sample may not produce as much useful data as a well-worked out, small sample. Be open and up front about your sample. What are your concerns? Could anything have been done diﬀerently? How might you improve upon your methods? Make claims which cannot be justiﬁed nor generalised to the whole population. Use a combination of sampling procedures if it is appropriate for your work. Stick rigorously to a sampling technique that is not working. Admit your mistakes, learn by them and change to something more appropriate. Chapter 5 . How to Choose Your Participants 53 In probability samples, all people within the research population have a specifiable chance of being selected. These types of sample are used if the researcher wishes to explain, predict or generalise to the whole research population. On the other hand, purposive samples are used if description rather than generalisation is the goal. In this type of sample it is not possible to specify the possibility of one person being included in the sample. Within the probability and purposive categories there are several different sampling methods. The best way to illustrate these sampling methods is to take one issue and show how the focus of the research and the methodology leads to the use of different sampling methods. The area of research is ‘school detention’ and in Table 3 you can see that the focus and sampling techniques within this topic can be very different, depending on the preferences of the researcher, the purpose of the research and the available resources. Remaining cautious Even though you may be restricted by time and finance, you should be wary of convenience samples in quantitative research. For example, it is becoming increasingly popular for researchers to use web-based surveys, but in many of these the volunteers are self-selecting. People have many different reasons for putting themselves forward – perhaps they have an axe to grind, perhaps they are ‘serial respondents’. Whatever the reason, these people may not be representative of the views and attitudes of the groups of people to whom you hope to apply your research. In these cases you will not be able to make generalisations. 54 Chapter 5 . How to Choose Your Participants CHOOSING YOUR SAMPLE SIZE The first question new researchers tend to ask is ‘how many people should I speak to?’ This obviously depends on the type of research. For large scale, quantitative surveys you will need to contact many more people than you would for a small, qualitative piece of research. The sample size will also depend on what you want to do with your results. If you intend to produce large amounts of cross tabulations, the more people you contact the better. It tends to be a general rule in quantitative research that the larger the sample the more accurate your results. However, you have to remember that you are probably restricted by time and money – you have to make sure that you construct a sample which will be manageable. Also, you have to account for non-response and you may need to choose a higher proportion of your research population as your sample to overcome this problem. If you’re interested in large-scale quantitative research, statistical methods can be used to choose the size of sample required for a given level of accuracy and the ability to make generalisations. These methods and procedures are described in the statistics books listed at the end of this chapter. If your research requires the use of purposive sampling techniques, it may be difficult to specify at the beginning of your research how many people you intend to contact. Instead you continue using your chosen procedure such as snowballing or theoretical sampling until a ‘saturation point’ is reached. This was a term used by Glaser and Strauss (1967) to describe that time of your research when you really do think that everything is complete and that you’re not obtaining any new information by Chapter 5 . How to Choose Your Participants 55 continuing. In your written report you can then describe your sampling procedure, including a description of how many people were contacted. SUMMARY & If it is not possible to contact everyone in the research population, researchers select a number of people to contact. This is called sampling. & There are two main types of sampling category – probability samples and purposive samples. & In probability samples, all people within the research population have a specifiable chance of being selected. Only within random samples do participants have an equal chance of being selected. & Purposive samples are used if generalisation is not the goal. & The size of sample will depend upon the type and purpose of the research. & Sample sizes should take into account issues of non-response. & Remember that with postal surveys it might be difficult to control and know who has filled in a questionnaire. Will this affect your sample? & In some purposive samples it is difficult to specify at the beginning of the research how many people will be contacted. & It is possible to use a mixture of sampling techniques within one project which may help to overcome some of the disadvantages found within different procedures. 56 Chapter 5 . How to Choose Your Participants FURTHER READING Bryman, A. and Cramer, D. (2004) Quantitative Data Analysis with SPSS 12 and 13: A Guide for Social Scientists, London: Routledge. De Vaus, D. (2001) Surveys in Social Research, 5th edition, London: Routledge. Henry, G. (1990) Practical Sampling, Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Huff, D. (1994) How to Lie With Statistics, NY: Norton. Field, A. (2005) Discovering Statistics Using SPSS, 2nd edition, London: Sage. Fink, A. (2009) How to Conduct Surveys: A Step by Step Guide, 4th edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Fowler, F.J. (2009) Survey Research Methods, 4th edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 6 How to Prepare a Research Proposal For most types of research you will need to produce a research proposal. This is a document which sets out your ideas in an easily accessible way. Even if you have not been asked specifically to produce a research proposal by your boss or tutor, it is a good idea to do so, as it helps you to focus your ideas and provides a useful document for you to reference, should your research wander off track a little. UNDERSTANDING THE FORMAT Before you start work on your research proposal, find out whether you’re required to produce the document in a specific format. For college and university students, you might be given a general outline and a guide as to how many pages to produce. Make sure you familiarise yourself with structures, rules and regulations before you begin your work. For those of you who are producing a proposal to send to a funding organisation you might have to produce something much more specific. Many funding organisations provide their own forms for you to complete. Some provide advice and guidance about what they would like to see in your proposal. The larger funding bodies produce their proposal forms on-line so that they 57 58 Chapter 6 . How to Prepare a Research Proposal can be filled in and sent electronically, which makes the process a lot quicker and easier. THE CONTENTS OF A PROPOSAL All research proposals should contain the following information: Title This should be short and explanatory. Background This section should contain a rationale for your research which answers the following questions: & Why are you undertaking the project? & Why is the research needed? This rationale should be placed within the context of existing research or within your own experience and/or observation. You need to demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about and that you have knowledge of the literature surrounding this topic. If you’re unable to find any other research which deals specifically with your proposed project, you need to say so, illustrating how your proposed research will fill this gap. If there is other work which has covered this area, you need to show how your work will build on and add to the existing knowledge. Basically, you have to convince people that you know what you’re talking about and that the research is important. Aims and objectives Many research proposal formats will ask for only one or two aims Chapter 6 . How to Prepare a Research Proposal 59 and may not require objectives. However, for some research these will need to be broken down in more depth to also include the objectives (see Example 6). The aim is the overall driving force of the research and the objectives are the means by which you intend to achieve the aims. These must be clear and succinct. EXAMPLE 6: AIMS AND OBJECTIVES Aim To identify, describe and produce an analysis of the interacting factors which influence the learning choices of adult returners, and to develop associated theory. Objectives The research seeks to determine: 1. The nature, extent and effect of psychological influences on choices, including a desire to achieve personal goals or meet individual needs. 2. The nature, extent and effect of sociological influences on choices, including background, personal and social expectations, previous educational experience and social role. 3. The nature and influence of individual perceptions of courses, institutions and subject, and how these relate to self-perception and concept of self. 4. The influence on choice of a number of variables such as age, gender, ethnicity and social class. 60 Chapter 6 . How to Prepare a Research Proposal 5. The role and possible influence of significant others on choice, such as advice and guidance workers, peers, relatives and employers. 6. The nature and extent of possible influences on choice of available provision, institutional advertising and marketing. 7. The nature and extent of possible influences on choice of mode of study, teaching methods and type of course. 8. How and to what extent influencing factors change as adults re-enter and progress through their chosen route. Methodology/methods For research at postgraduate level you may need to split the methodology and methods section into two. However, for most projects they can be combined. In this section you need to describe your proposed research methodology and methods and justify their use. To do this you need to ask the following questions: & Why have you decided upon your methodology? & Why have you decided to use those particular methods? & Why are other methods not appropriate? This section needs to include details about samples, numbers of people to be contacted, method of data collection, methods of data analysis and ethical considerations. If you have chosen a less well known methodology, you may need to spend more time justifying your choice than you would need to if you had chosen a more traditional methodology. Chapter 6 . How to Prepare a Research Proposal 61 This section should be quite detailed – many funding organisations find that the most common reason for proposal failure is the lack of methodological detail (see below). Timetable A detailed timetable scheduling all aspects of the research should be produced. This will include time taken to conduct background research, questionnaire or interview schedule development, data collection, data analysis and report writing (see Table 5). Research almost always takes longer than you anticipate. Allow for this and add a few extra weeks on to each section of your timetable. If you finish earlier than you anticipated, that’s fine as you have more time to spend on your report. However, finishing late can create problems especially if you have to meet deadlines. Budget and resources If you’re applying to a funding body you need to think about what you will need for your research and how much this is likely to cost (see Table 6). You need to do this so that you apply for the right amount of money and are not left out of pocket if you have underbudgeted. Funding bodies also need to know that you have not over-budgeted and expect more money than you’re going to use. If you are a student you may not have to include this section in your proposal, although some tutors will want to know that you have thought carefully about what resources are needed and from where you expect to obtain these. Some types of research are more expensive than others and if you’re on a limited budget you will have to think about this when deciding upon your research method. 62 Chapter 6 . How to Prepare a Research Proposal TABLE 5: SURVEY TIMETABLE DATE ACTION 5 January – 5 February Literature search Primary research (talk to relevant people) 6 February – 7 March Develop and pilot questionnaire Continue literature search 8 March – 9 April Analyse pilot work and revise questionnaire Ask relevant people for comments 10 April – 21 April Send out questionnaire Categorise returned questionnaires 21 April – 1 May Send out reminder letter for nonresponses. Continue to categorise returned questionnaires 1 May – 1 July Data input Data analysis 2 July – 3 August Write report Prepare oral presentation TABLE 6: RESEARCH BUDGET RESOURCE COST 1 good quality personal recorder with battery indicator light, self-turning mechanism and headphones £109.99 10 90-minute audio cassette tapes £6.99 20 long-life batteries £8.99 40 second class postage stamps £10.80 Stationery – paper, envelopes, paper clips, ring binder, scissors £8.76 Travel expenses – petrol, overnight stay at ﬁve locations Petrol to be notiﬁed at usual college mileage allowance Total accommodation £199.95 Advert in local paper £3.70 Leaﬂets (1,000) £21.90 Total Expenditure £371.08 + petrol (to be notiﬁed) Chapter 6 . How to Prepare a Research Proposal 63 Dissemination What do you expect to do with the results of your research? How are you going to let people know about what you have found out? For students it will suffice to say that the results will be produced in an undergraduate dissertation which will be made available in the institution library. For other researchers you may want to produce a written report, make oral presentations to relevant bodies, produce a website, write a journal article or produce a series of recommendations to aid decision making. WHAT MAKES A GOOD PROPOSAL? & Relevance, either to the work of the funding body or to the student’s course. & The research is unique, or offers new insight or development. & The title, aims and objectives are all clear and succinct. & Comprehensive and thorough background research and literature review has been undertaken. & There is a good match between the issues to be addressed and the approach being adopted. & The researcher demonstrates relevant background knowledge and/or experience. & Timetable, resources and budget have all been worked out thoroughly, with most eventualities covered. & Useful policy and practice implications. 64 Chapter 6 . How to Prepare a Research Proposal REASONS WHY RESEARCH PROPOSALS FAIL & Aims and objectives are unclear or vague. & There is a mismatch between the approach being adopted and the issues to be addressed. & The overall plan is too ambitious and difficult to achieve in the timescale. & The researcher does not seem to have conducted enough indepth background research. & Problem is of insufficient importance. & Information about the data collection method is insufficiently detailed. & Information about the data analysis method is insufficiently detailed. & Timescale is inappropriate or unrealistic. & Resources and budget have not been carefully thought out. & This topic has been done too many times before – indicates a lack in background research. TIP Consult your university website or ask your tutor for examples of successful research proposals. If you are applying to a funding organisation, ask for examples of proposals that were successful in receiving their funding. Analyse the proposals, taking note of the good, effective points. Once you have produced your own proposal, ask friends or colleagues to read it through and suggest improvements that could be made. Chapter