You will more than likely have to complete at least one research project while you are in college, if not more. Research projects differ from essays and reports because you are not simply writing your thoughts on a subject or paraphrasing someone else’s work. Instead, you are gathering and evaluating previous research on a subject to prove your own thesis.
Research projects can be daunting, especially when they dictate the better portion of your grade and you’re expected to spend the majority of your semester working on them. It is easy to waste hours poring through meaningless research that won’t be of any benefit to your project simply because you’re not sure exactly what it is that you are looking for.
Wasting time on research is probably one of the most common downfalls of the typical student. Researching is very time consuming, so it’s in your best interest to be as concise and thorough as possible so that you maximize the time in which you are allotted to complete your project. To conduct research in a timely manner you have to identify all variables that are associated with your topic so that you can choose appropriate research methodologies.
The variables associated with your project will differ from other projects, which can make them difficult to identify. The key is to form your research question so that there are as few variables as possible. You need to state exactly what it is that you want an answer and how you plan to derive your answer. Your question will form your thesis, which will drive your entire research project. Because of this, it is essential to narrow down your research and pinpoint a specific area in your field instead of a broad topic. Once you have a solid and narrow thesis, you will be able to identify the variables that will affect that outcome of your research.
• Methods of inquiry
Depending on your field of research, you will use different methods of inquiry when you gather and assess your research. Generally speaking, there are two different research paradigms that are commonly used and referred to. Your professor will more than likely guide you when it comes to knowing which research paradigm is appropriate for your project, but if not, the best way to decide is to think about how you want to measure your variables. Some topics require that you use numbers to prove your hypothesis while others require you to use more ethnographical or inductive reasoning.
To answer what, when and where questions, quantitative research is the most appropriate because it is more likely to produce replicable data. Quantitative research requires you to use deductive reasoning and to measure variables, usually in the form of hard, fast numbers and statistics. Although numbers are often seen as completely objective, quantitative research is still guided with underlying research questions and can be fairly objective. Because of the need for number expression in quantitative research, it is usually conducted in terms of a scientific process.
Qualitative research looks to answer the hows and whys of the world instead of the whats, whens and wheres. Qualitative research tends to be more subjective than quantitative research and is used most often in social sciences. It is inductive in nature and is best employed when working with smaller sample sizes. This is because the ambiguous nature of social sciences allow for subjective interpretation of worldviews.
• In conjunction
It is important to note that some research projects may allow for the use of both quantitative and qualitative research. If, during the process of your research, you find that using both is necessary to express your ideas and prove your points then do so, but with caution. Trying to employ both may muddle your research and add unnecessary variables and components.
Once you decide how you are going to validate your thesis, it will be easier for you to gather the information necessary to complete your project. Look for research conducted by experts in the field that are working under the same paradigm as you, and pull ideas and methods from their research while giving credit where credit is due. By using research from experts in your field, you will be able to cut back the amount of time spent on shuffling through research that has no meaning to your project.
• Expression of ideas
Unless you make an effort to express your ideas that form throughout the process of your research, you might as well not research anything at all. For one, your grade will most likely suffer without a clear expression of your ideas. Second, if you are not able to clearly communicate your ideas, then you do not truly understand them. Research papers and presentations are the most common form of expressing your ideas and depending on your professor’s preference, you will express them accordingly.
Research papers all consist of the same general components depending on the method of inquiry that was used to gather data. Most research papers should consist of an introduction, a review of previous literature pertaining to your research, the methods you used to gather your research and an analysis of your research and how it pertains to your thesis. Again, this is something that your professor is more than likely going to guide you on. If you have to present your research in a form other than a paper, use the same components as you would in a research paper but transfer them to a PowerPoint or a research poster.
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