Research Methodology a Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Research Methodology a Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

This book is based upon my experiences in research as a student, practitioner and teacher. The difficulties I faced in understanding research as a student, my discoveries about what was applicable and inapplicable in the field as a practitioner, and my development of the ability effectively to communicate difficult concepts in simple language without sacrificing techni-cality and accuracy as a teacher have become the basis of this book.  

Research methodology is taught as a supporting subject in several ways in many academic disciplines such as health, education, psychology, social work, nursing, public health, library studies and marketing research. The core philosophical base for this book comes from my conviction that, although these disciplines vary in content, their broad approach to a research enquiry is similar. This book, therefore, is addressed to these academic disciplines.

It is true that some disciplines place greater emphasis on quantitative research and some on qualitative research. My own approach to research is a combination of both. Firstly, it is the objective that should decide whether a study be carried out adopting a qualitative or a quantitative approach. Secondly, in real life most research is a combination of both methods. Though they differ in the philosophy that underpins their mode of enquiry, to a great extent their broad approach to enquiry is similar. The quantitative research process is reasonably well structured whereas the qualitative one is fairly unstructured, and these are their respec-tive strengths as well as weaknesses. I strongly believe that both are important to portray a complete picture. In addition, there are aspects of quantitative research that are qualitative in nature. It depends upon how a piece of information has been collected and analysed. Therefore I feel very strongly that a good researcher needs to have both types of skill. I follow a qualitative–quantitative–qualitative approach to an enquiry. This book, therefore, has been written to provide theoretical information in an operational manner about methods, proce-dures and techniques that are used in both approaches.

Research as a subject is taught at different levels. The book is designed specifically for students who are newcomers to research and who may have a psychological barrier with regard to the subject. I have therefore not assumed any previous knowledge on the part of the reader; I have omitted detailed discussion of aspects that may be inappropriate for beginners; I have used many flow charts and examples to communicate concepts; and areas covered in the book follow a ‘simple to complex’ approach in terms of their discussion and coverage.

The structure of this book, which is based on the model developed during my teaching career, is designed to be practical. The theoretical knowledge that constitutes research methodology is therefore organised around the operational steps that form this research process for both quan-titative and qualitative research. All the information needed to take a particular step, during the actual research journey, is provided in one place. The needed information is organised in chap-ters and each chapter is devoted to a particular aspect of that step (see Figure 2.3). For example, ‘Formulating a research problem’ is the first operational step in the research process. For for-mulating a ‘good’ research problem, in my opinion, you need to know how to review the literature, formulate a research problem, deal with variables and their measurement, and con-struct hypotheses. Hence, under this step, there are four chapters. The information they provide will enable you to formulate a problem that is researchable. These chapters are titled: ‘Reviewing the literature’, ‘Formulating a research problem’, ‘Identifying variables’ and ‘Constructing hypotheses’. Similarly, for the operational step, step III, ‘Constructing an instrument for data collection’, the chapters titled ‘Selecting a method of data collection’, ‘Collecting data using attitudinal scales’ and ‘Establishing the validity and reliability of a research instrument’ will provide sufficient information for you to develop an instrument for data collection for your study. For every aspect at each step, a smorgasbord of methods, models, techniques and procedures is provided for both quantitative and qualitative studies in order for you to build your knowledge base in research methodology and also to help you to select the most appropriate ones when undertaking your own research.

It is my belief that a sound knowledge of research methodology is essential for undertaking a valid study. To answer your research questions, up to Step V, ‘Writing a research proposal’, knowledge of research methods is crucial as this enables you to develop a conceptual frame-work which is sound and has merits for undertaking your research endeavour with confidence. Having completed the preparatory work, the steps that follow are more practical in nature, the quality of which entirely depends upon the soundness of the methodology you proposed in your research proposal. Statistics and computers play a significant role in research but their application is mainly after the data has been collected. To me, statistics are useful in confirm-ing or contradicting conclusions drawn from simply looking at analysed data, in providing an indication of the magnitude of the relationship between two or more variables under study, in helping to establish causality, and in ascertaining the level of confidence that can be placed in your findings. A computer’s application is primarily in data analysis, the calculation of statistics, word processing and the graphic presentation of data. It saves time and makes it easier for you to undertake these activities; however, you need to learn this additional skill. This book does not include statistics or information about computers.

The third edition of the book incorporates some of the suggestions made by the reviewers, colleagues and students on the first and second editions. There are some major changes in the third edition:  

I have taken a very bold step in breaking down, where possible, the wall between qualitative and quantitative research by describing both methodologies parallel to one another within a com-mon framework. A lot more information on qualitative research has been added and integrated with the current eight-step research model. Now, almost each chapter has a new section that is

specifically devoted to information related to qualitative research pertaining to the main theme of the chapter. For example, Chapter 9, ‘Selecting a method of data collection’, now has a section ‘Methods of data collection in qualitative research’ that specifically discusses the major meth-ods of data collection in qualitative studies. Similarly, Chapter 8, ‘Selecting a study design’, has a section ‘Study designs in qualitative research’ that is devoted to the designs dominantly used in qualitative research. As far as possible each chapter also has information on other aspects of qualitative research along with the existing quantitative body of knowledge.  

More in-depth field examples, based upon actual experiences, have been incorporated to explain procedures and methods.

Exercises, a part of the Appendix, have now been thoroughly revised with the expectation that those who are developing a research project can operationalise the theoretical knowledge in an actual situation to evaluate the application of theory to practice in addition to developing their research project.

A glossary of technical terms is a new addition to this edition. This will provide students with readily available definitions and meanings of technical terms in one place.

Title pages dividing chapters and operational steps have now been redesigned to provide greater clarity as well as informing students in advance what they are expected to learn in a chapter. Also, each chapter has a list of keywords that students are likely to encounter in the chapter.

In places the language has been changed to enhance flow, understanding and ease of reading.


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