What are the steps involved in the research process?
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Writing a scientific research paper is very much similar to writing a history or English research paper. The steps are basically as follows:
- Choose a topic/problem: based on your experience and interest.
- Conduct preliminary research: see what is available and get an idea of how you want to present your problem based on this.
- Narrow your topic: good to create a guiding question here - this will guide your research and keep you on topic.
- Read, read, read. Research, research, research. Take notes. Conduct experiments (maybe). COMPILE INFORMATION.
- Outline your paper according to the format your professor provides (each subject has a slightly different final paper format).
- With a complete outline you can identify any gaps in the paper that will require more research/info/work.
- Write rough draft.
- Have a peer edit.
- Re-write final draft.
It should first be noted that some types of research only require us to search through current literature and generate our own conclusions, whereas other types of research actually require us to set up our own experiment.
For either type of research project, if a topic has not been assigned to you, the first step is to choose a topic of interest. But, the most important step before beginning the research process is figuring out a problem to solve through the research and a research question to answer.
A research problem statement is a sentence that addresses a point of concern about a topic. The problem statement must be narrow enough that it can help you plan a course of action for research. The following, as identified by the Prevention Research Center at Case Western Reserve University, in their manual chapter titled "Identifying A Research Problem and Question, and Searching Relevant Literature," is an example of a research problem statement that is much too broad:
Student's can't read.
The following is a much more focused research problem statement:
- Statistics show the majority of US students cannot read beyond the basic reading-comprehension level.
Once we have determined a research problem, we turn our problem statement into a research question in order to narrow the focus of our research even further.
For a research study that only requires us to assess and evaluate current literature to formulate our own conclusions, we might turn the above research problem statement into the following research question:
- What are the inhibiting factors preventing students from learning how to critically assess, evaluate, and analyze literature?
For a research study that requires us to develop our own experiment, we might turn the above problem statement into the following research question, as shown by the Prevention Research Center, which they based on the studies of Landry, Swank, Smith, Assel, and Gunnewig conducted in 2006:
Would students in classroom of teachers receiving professional development in early literacy skills show greater gains in cognitive development when compared to those in control classrooms?
For a research project that requires us to design our own experiment, we will also want to formulate a hypothesis stating what we think our research outcomes may be. An hypothesis based on the above research question might look like the following:
- Students gain greater cognitive development when educated by teachers who receive professional development in early literacy skills.
For either literature research or experimental research, once we have determined a research problem and question, the third step to the research process will be to conduct some preliminary research. For both literature and experimental research, conducting preliminary research helps us judge what information is already available on the topic, whether or not our idea for research is actually feasible, and what gaps in current research of the subject exist. As we look into the above, we may change our research problem or question. We will also be able to figure out where our own proposed study fits in with current studies and figure out a rationale for our study. For experimental research, doing preliminary research will help us see what research methodologies have already been used in our particular area of study and help us figure out our own research methodology.
For literature research, after conducting preliminary research, we should know for certain what research problem and question we want to stick with and be able to formulate our thesis. We will then be able to continue conducting more research until we've reached the point that we're able to prove our thesis. Research should be conducted using library catalogs, academic databases, and government databases. It is also important to use the indexes created by other scholars to follow research already conducted on the topic in order to really engage in the academic debate and form our own conclusions.
For experimental research, after conducting preliminary research, we'll first write a literature review to help us analyze current research and further rationalize our own research project. After writing the literature review, we will be ready to set up our own experiment after determining our variables. After conducting the experiment, we will be able to collect, analyze, and interpret the data, and then write up the research report.
When conducting formal research as for a college level study, deciding on a research methodology or method of research is one step in the process. These are the steps normally taken in that process.
1. Decide on a topic for inquiry.
2. Conduct a study of the literature on the topic to determine if there is anything worthy of being researched or if the research has been exhausted in the area.
3. Formulate research questions
4. Decide which research study methodology, qualitative (descriptive) or quantitative (measurement) for example, is best for your inquiry.
5. Formulate a hypothesis
6. Conduct the study
7. Observe and gather data
8. Analyze the data
9. Formulate conclusions
10. Publish or otherwise present your study
11. Replicate if necessary
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