Research is used to find things out, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support existing theories, or develop new theories. A research project may also be an expansion on previous work in the field. In order to test the validity of instruments, procedures, or experiments, research may replicate elements of prior projects, or the project as a whole. The primary purposes of research are documentation, discovery and interpretation, or the research and development of methods and systems for the advancement of knowledge.
Research has one fundamental characteristic: It uses scientific methods to produce evidence and results. It does this by following rules, so that findings do not depend upon the personal views of the researchers.
The purpose of research is to: Review or synthesize existing knowledge, Investigate existing situations or problems, Provide solutions to problems, Explore and analize general issues, Construct or create new procedures or systems, Explain new phenomena, Generate new knowledge or a combination of any of the above.
You are doing research in the social sciences, but, as you know, there are a number of different social sciences which have different traditions and ways of working. It’s important that you are aware of the research traditions in your discipline and understand the implications for your research. Different disciplines may approach the investigation of the social world with:
• Distinctive theoretical foundations
• Specific programs or topics for research
• Particular research methods
Disciplines include, for example, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, and Political Science.
Of course, much research is also inter-disciplinary in its approach. For example Business, Education, Social Policy, or Urban Studies may draw on theories and methods from a range of disciplines.
While you will need to familiarize yourself with the research method currently used in your discipline, it’s also good to know about some of the methods used in related disciplines. Here are some of the traditional approaches used in a selection of social science disciplines.
• Psychology: experimental work which generates quantitative data
• Political Science/Politics: survey research
Many of these approaches have been challenged in recent years. When you come to write up your research, you may wish to do the same. You should also be aware that different research styles are favored in different countries. It is also common to deploy different methods in one piece of research—this is called the mixedmethods approach.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you start your research, as you will have theoretical and practical things to work out.
You may choose to work entirely within the methods and traditions of your chosen discipline or you may wish to challenge them. However, you should take time to decide which is the right approach for you.
1. Familiarize yourself with the traditions and methods of your own discipline/field. You can do this by talking to your supervisor or reading published research in your field.
2. Question whether the traditions or methods are appropriate for your research.
3. If you are comfortable with the tradition, work within it.
4. If not, decide how you wish to challenge the traditional approach. Think about how you will defend your decision when you present your research to others