What is Research?
Any word that has a prefix “re” tells the reader that there is a repletion of something, meaning, that activity had been done and its being repeated or redone again. In the same vein, the term research then tells us that there was a search that had been carried out and a repeat is being done again. Therefore, to research is to Re-search, there is a repetition of a search?
What are we searching?
In the world or the society, we live in, there were problems, there are problems and there will be problems. These are problems that affect our livelihoods, affect our environment, affect and influence our political and social life. If these problems are left un answered then the lacunae will always exist. There will always be a disequilibrium between what ought to be (in the society) and what is now (the present state). Research comes in as the main dependable and authentic discipline to search for answers these problems. Research helps us to acquire more knowledge to the problem.
Problem? What do you mean by the problem?
It is important to clarify that the problem we are talking about is the gap between what is in literature and what the researcher would want to know. For example, when a researcher wants to investigate the difference in academic performance between online students and face to face students in an institution of higher learning, the question that one needs to ask is, what is the issue here? In other words, what is the problem. At a glance, the main issue or what is nagging this researcher is the no significant phenomena (from literature) i.e. is there a parity in academic performance of students in online and face to face? When these students are released in the job market, do they exhibit “similar qualification” or one is more superior than the other? These may be some of the questions that are nagging this researcher to a point of wanting to find out, what does literature say about academic performance of online and face to face students? Does this hold in my institution? So, this gap between what is literature and what the researcher wants to know is what is refereed to as a research problem (we shall discuss more of the research problems in our coming blogs). Like we have mentioned earlier, it is only research that will yield credible, valid and reliable data that will provide answers to these questions (in research there are called research questions).
How then can we define Research?
Many scholars have tried to come up with different definitions to avoid copying from each other. In very simple terms research is the search for knowledge regarding a phenomenon. A phenomenon is an object of investigation; it is that this that you want to investigate. In this blog, we define research as an objective, systematic and scientific investigation of problem through collection, analyses and interpretation of data in order to gain understanding about phenomena.
Facts about Research
There are three important facts about research:
- Research is problem driven. We conduct research because there is a problem. This therefore means that the researcher must be very clear of the gap they want to address
- The problem must be documented. i.e. research problem is anchored on data. Research is not conducted out of hearsay. The gap/research problem is identified from literature as earlier stated.
- Research especially academic research, unlike Monitoring and Evaluation is not commissioned. The researcher identifies the problem to investigate and goes ahead to investigate it. This makes research report a public document which can be scrutinized by anyone. This therefore means that the researcher must be careful not to present fabricated problems or data.
Characteristics of Research
- Objective – it is based on data not here say. We do not bring our subjective feelings while conducting research. Findings are based on investigation
- Systematic – this implies that research developed and presented in a methodical manner.
- Scientific – implies that there are a set of procedures that are followed, these are carefully followed and with specific objectives to solve the problem under consideration
- Purposiveness – any good research must have a definite purpose and must be focused
- Empirical – Research is based on observation and measurement of phenomena, as directly experienced or observed by the researcher.
- Testability – this is in terms of the objectives and hypothesis developed. That is why we state that objectives must be SMART (Specific, Measurable (Testable), Attainable, Realistic and Time bound)
- Replicability – this means that the results of the research should be supported again and again when the research is repeated in other similar circumstances.
- Generalizability – this refers to the scope of applicability of the research findings. The wider the range of applicability of the solutions generated by research, the more useful the research is
- Parsimony –Parsimony refers to the simplicity of explaining the phenomena that occur and in the applications of solutions to the problem. Research should not be complicated
- High ethical standards should be applied – the researcher should conduct research with high regard of the respondent’s privacy and should assure the respondents of confidentiality
Purpose of Research
The sole purpose of research is to explore, describe and explain phenomena.
- Explore addresses the ‘what’ question;
- Describe addresses the ‘who, what, when and where’ question;
- Explore focuses on the ‘why’ question.