Research is a scientific process. It is called as scientific because the results are verifiable. It is a systematic search for answers to questions about facts and relationship between facts. The systematic method has an order and follows an acceptable procedure for conducting research.
SEARCH FOR KNOWLEDGE
Human beings are the unique product of their creation and evolution. In contrast to other forms of animals life, their more highly developed nervous system has enabled them to develop sounds and symbols (letters and numbers) that make possible the communication and recording of their questions, observations, experiences and ideas.
It is understandable that their greater curiosity, implemented by their control of symbols would lead them to speculate about the operation of the universe, the great forces beyond their own control. Over many centuries, people began to develop what seemed to be plausible explanation. Attributing the forces of nature to the working of supernatural powers, they believed that the Gods at their whims manipulated the sun, stars, wind, rain and lighting.
But gradually people began to see that the operations of the forces of nature were not as capricious as they had been led to believe. They began to observe an orderliness in the universe and certain cause-and effect relationships, they discovered that under certain conditions, events could be predicted with reasonable accuracy. However, these explanation were often rejected if they seemed to conflict with the dogma of religious authority. This reliance on empirical evidence or personal experience challenged the sanction of vested authority and represented an important however, were largely unsystematic and further limited by the lack of an objective method. Observers were likely to over generalise on the basis of incomplete experience or evidence, to ignore complex factors operating simultaneously, or let their feelings and prejudices influence both their observation and their conclusions.
The first systematic approach to reasoning attributed to Aristotle and the Greeks was the deductive method. The deductive method moving from the general assumption to the specific application, made an important contribution to the development of modern problem-solving. But it was not fruitful in arriving at new truths. The acceptance of incomplete or false major premises that were based on old dogmas or unreliable authority could only lead to error. Semantic difficulties often resulted from shifting definitions of the terms involved.
Centuries later, Francis Bacon advocated direct observation of phenomena, arriving at conclusions or generalisations through the evidence of many individual observations. This inductive process of moving from specific observations to generalisations freed logic from some of hazards and limitations of deductive thinking. Bacon recognised the obstacle that the deductive process placed in the way of discovering new truth. It started with old dogmas that religious or intellectual authorities had already accepted and thus could be expected to arrive at new truths.
Human knowledge works at two levels. At the primary level, it functions on the basis of useful human activities. For example, physician uses his knowledge to cure diseases. At the secondary level, knowledge is employed to obtain increments in the existing knowledge. The activity that produces this new knowledge is known as “research.” Philosophy and science have a common goal of developing and expanding knowledge. But in reality, the approaches of philosophers and scientists are different. A philosopher uses intuition, reasoning, contemplation and introspection to examine the purpose of human life, the nature of being and reality, and the theory and the limits of knowledge, whereas the scientist observes, verifies, constructs, definitions, makes and verifies predictions, and conducts experiments to derive scientific laws and interpret reality.
SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE
Ideas generated in many ways. Some sources of knowledge are highly structured and are generally bound by defined rules of process or method, e.g. which includes scientific enquiry, critical thinking and logical reasoning. Other sources are less structured and have few defined rules, they include empathy, intuition, trial and error experience and meditation. For nursing research point of view, these approaches to generating knowledge and divided into two groups as follows:
- Unstructured—traditions, authority, experience, trial-error, intuition.
- Structured—induction, deduction, nursing process, research.
Human beings acquire knowledge in many ways. A person continuously takes in and processes numerous pieces of information to understand experiences. The scientific researcher also seeks to explain or understand reality, but the scientist's process of acquiring knowledge is systematic and logical. This process or scientific methods is the foundation of research. Scientific research is most reliable and objective of all methods of gaining knowledge.
Now the sources of acquiring knowledge is discussed in brief.
Unstructured Sources of Knowledge
People will acquire knowledge in the following ways:
- Trial and error
Tradition: One way of learning is by tradition. One generation passes knowledge to the next. For example, children often learn about traditional holidays such as “Dussera, Diwali or Christmas” through traditional or customary family practices. In nursing, certain traditional methods of practice such as the change-of-shift report and other daily hospital work practices are passed from one nurse to the next. Tradition is an efficient way of learning, although it can also limit the ability to seek new ways of doing things. If tradition becomes so ingrained that a person does not question the custom, other more appropriate or efficient ways may be overlooked.
Authority: Knowledge is also acquired by seeking information from experts in a particular field. Experts are often asked to solve problems or answers for questions. For example, at income tax calculation time, an accountant's helps is sought to fill out tax forms. Similarly, nursing students often seen the advise of instructors and practising nurses when assessing and caring for clients. Authority, like tradition is not infallible, although it is commonly treated as absolute truth.
Experience: A person also learns through experience without this process, a person would have to relearn a procedure every time it was performed. Practice leads to the development of routines that help in building skills. For example, student nurse taking a blood pressure measurement for the first time may feel awkward and unsure of the hearing sounds, but with practice, the student's technique and confidence improve. Although experience is an important ways of learning, it has limitations. A person may continue to do something simply because it was learned that way and may overlook improved for other ways of doing the same thing. If experience causes a person to learn something incorrectly, the person uses knowledge in appropriately.
Trial and Error: Learning by trial and error is yet another way of gaining knowledge. Making mistakes or repeatedly trying various ways of accomplishing something will eventually result in problem solving. This method of learning is practical, but it is unsystematic and often a haphazard way of learning is practical. In nursing as client's health status depends on nursing actions, trial and error is not an appropriate way of acquiring new knowledge.
Intuition: It is a “power of knowing or knowledge obtained, without recourse to inference or reasoning.” It is a frequently used method of problem solving. It can operate in one of two ways: as a form of interference in which intuition closely resembles sensory perceptions, or as an extrasensory experience independent of sensory input. Intuition helps people gain a deeper understanding of reality that can be obtained from analysing data later on. Intuition is a leap of understanding, grasping of a larger concept unreachable by other intellectual means, yet still fundamentally is an intellectual process. Intuition and practical reasoning may well underlie all forms of reasoning including scientific reasoning and the production of scientific knowledge.
Structured Sources of Knowledge
Research approach involves the mental processes of logical reasoning concerning the existence and properties of phenomena about which more information, and new knowledge are sought through a systematically planned investigation. As already stated that there are two major modes of logical reasoning, i.e. inductive and deductive.
Inductive reasoning involves the observation of a particular set of instances that belong to and can be identified as a part of larger set. This reasoning moves from the particular to the general and underlies qualitative approaches to enquiry, e.g. application of particular nursing conclusions are developed from specific observation. The inductive approach beings with an observation or some other way of obtaining information and leads to a conclusion.
Deductive reasoning moves from the general to the particular. It uses two or more variables to related statements that, when combined, from the basis for concluding assertion of a relationship between the variables, and is applied through quantitative enquiry approaches. For example, a specific hypothesis can be deduced from a theory or on organising statement about abstract concepts that serves as a more general statement or network of interrelated concepts. As a result of deduction, observation can be made and prediction tested.
Scientific approach it is a system of logical and orderly elements, that directs a formal structured enquiry process in the effort to obtain knowledge. Research is accepted as scientific approach to knowledge generation when the processes that are use adhere to principles of logic, standards for data collection and analysis, absence of investigator's bias, and rules governing generalisability or universality of findings.
The scientific approach is the most advanced method of acquiring knowledge that humans have developed. The scientific method combines important features of induction and deduction together with severe characteristics to create a system of obtaining knowledge, which, though fallible, is generally more reliable than tradition, authority, experience or inductive or deductive reasoning alone. One important aspect that distinguishes the scientific approach from other methods or understanding is its capacity of self-evaluation, i.e. scientific research uses checks and balances which minimize the possibility that the researcher's emotions of biases will affects the conclusions.
The scientific method is the most advanced objective means of acquiring knowledge, or is characterized by systematic orderly procedures, that although not without fault, seek to limit the possibility for error and minimize the likelihood that any bias or opinion by the researcher might influence the results of research and thus the knowledge gained. Polit and Hungler (1991) describe the characteristics of scientific investigation as follows:
- The steps of planning and conducting an investigation are undertaken in a systematic orderly fashion.
- Scientists attempt to control external factors that are not under direct investigation, but that can influence a relationship between phenomena they are studying. For example, if a scientist was studying relationship between diet and heart disease, other contributing factors of the disease.
- Evidence that if part of reality (empirical data) is gathered directly or indirectly through use of human senses and is the basis for discovering new knowledge.
- The goal is to understand phenomena is such a way that the knowledge gained can be applied generally, not just to isolated cases or circumstances.
The details of the characteristics of the scientific approaches are as follows:
Characteristics of Scientific Approach
The scientific approach to enquiry refers to a general set of orderly disciplined procedures used to acquire dependable and useful information. The term “research” designates the application of this scientific approach to the study of a question of interest. As stated earlier, Kerlinger (1973) has defined scientific research as “systematic, controlled, empirical and critical investigation of hypothetical propositions about the presumed relations among natural phenomena.” On the basis of the definition, the characteristics of scientific research are as follows:
Order and Control: The scientific method is a systematic approach to problem solving and to the expansion of knowledge. In systematic research, a problem is identified and defined and predictions concerning anticipated outcomes are advanced, information bearing on the solutions of the problem is collected according to a predesignated scheme, the information is subjected to an analysis, and finally conclusions are drawn.
Control is a key element of the scientific approach. In trying to isolated relationships between phenomenon (cause and effects), the scientists must attempt to control factors that are not under direct investigation.
Empiricism: The term empiricism refers to the process whereby evidence rooted in objective reality and gathered directly or indirectly through the human senses are used as the basis for generalizing knowledge. Empirical inquiry imposes a certain degree of objectivity on the research situation, because ideas or hunches are exposed to testing in the real world situation. Empirical evidence then consists of observations made known to us by way of our sense organs. The observations are verified through sight, hearing, tastes, touch or smell.
Generalisation: It is the application of finding from the study sample to the broader population from which the sample was drawn, application of findings to a broader situation. Generalisability of research findings is an important criterion for assessing the quality of an investigation.
Theory: Scientific generalisations are facilitated by the development of theories. Theories represent a method of organising, integrating and deriving abstract conceptualisations about the manner in which phenomena are interrelated, offer an opportunity for bringing together observed events and relationships for explaining-how and why phenomena are associated with one another, and predict the occurrence of future events and relationships. Theories are strongly linked with the concept of generalisability.
Assumptions of Scientific Approach
Assumptions refer to basic principles that are accepted on faith, or assumed to be true without proof or verification. The scientists assume that there is an objective reality that exists independent of human discovery or observation. The assumptions of determining refer to the belief that all phenomena have antecedent cause. Natural events or conditions are assumed not to be haphazard, random or accidental. Much of the activity not which a scientific researcher engages is directed towards an understanding of cause-and-effect relationships. Scientific believe that antecedent factors relating to all phenomena exist and can be discovered. For example, heart disease may be caused by smoking, diet, stress and so on. The identification of these causes, i.e. the search for an explanation of why the things are as say they are one of the chief goals of science.
Purposes of Scientific Approach
The scientific approach is a method of inquiry or a system for acquiring knowledge. The purpose of nursing researches are to observe in order to know, to know in order to predict, to predict in order to control, to control in order to practice and prescribe in a professional manner. A scientific research study may have two or more goals. Brief explanations of objective or goals are as follows:
Description: To observe in order to know is the aim of all nursing research. The nurse who observes, verifies and documents her observations work at a crucial level of research. These studies are often called descriptive or explanatory. A careful and deliberate description is often essential as a foundation for the development of theories. Descriptive research generally does not begin with a theory, but it has got its own importance in development of theories. This types of research begins with the identification of a problem or a problematic situation. A careful analysis of that situation may reveal relevant factors or relationships which were hitherto undetected.
Exploration: Exploratory research is an extension of descriptive research and is more directly oriented towards the discovery of relationship. Descriptive investigator observes, describes and perhaps classifies, wherein exploratory research, the researcher focuses on the phenomena of interest, but pursues the question. What factor or factors influence affect, cause or related to this phenomenon.
Exploratory researcher will have two basic reasons:
- He may simply be curious and desire a richer understanding of the phenomena of interest, and
- The studies are sometimes conducted to estimate feasibility and consist of undertaking a more rigorous or extensive research project on the same topic.
Explanation: To predict nurse begins with an explanation predicts what should be found on observation, and tests these predictions in nursing research. Descriptive and exploratory research provides new information, whereas theoretical or explanatory research offers us understanding.
Prediction and Control: The researcher may either predict causality or may predict that correlations will be found between specified factors. It is possible to use the scientific approach to make reliable predictions and to develop control mechanisms in the absence of total understanding. For example, she did demonstrate an association between age of mother and Down syndrome, smoking v/s lung cancer.
To control is a major purpose of applied nursing research. It means that the nurse has the ability to check, regulate, exercise directing power over factors that influence the health and comfort of patients or clients.
Prescription: To prescribe requires a deep involvement in research and practice. A prescription is based on the fact that the goal is to follow the prescription. To bring about and maintaining good health, the prescription states that one must comply with the prescribed regimen of treatment, diet and/or medication.
Scientific research strives to describe, explore, explain predict or control phenomena. A second approach of classifying the functions of research is based upon the degree to which the findings have direct practical utility or application.
Basic research is concerned with making empirical observations that can be used to formulate or refine a theory. It is not designed to solve immediate problems, but rather to extend the back base of knowledge in a discipline for the sake of knowledge and understanding itself, and its findings may ultimately be applied to the practical problems.
Applied research concentrates on finding a solution on immediate practical problem. In the field of nursing, it is designed to:
- Find solutions to nursing problems,
- Evaluate nursing practices, procedures, policies or curricula,
- Assess the needs of patients, staff or students, and/or
- Make decisions to change or continue various aspects of nursing.
Limitations of the Scientific Approach
The scientific approach to enquiry generally is regarded as the highest form of attaining knowledge that human beings have devised. There are some limitations of applying the scientific approach to nursing problems which should be mentioned, lest the impression be given that scientific research is infallible are as follows:
Moral or Ethical Problems
Issues that relate to values or ethics are not amenable to the scientific approach, because the problems they raise cannot be tested. For example, the issue of euthanasia (should euthanasia be practised).
One of the major obstacles in the conducting scientific nursing studies is the complexity of the central topic of investigation—human beings. Biological and physical functioning is considerable more regular and consistent and less susceptible-to external influences than psychological functioning. Each human being is unique with respect to his or her personality, social environment, mental capacities, values and life styles. This fact make it relatively more difficult to detect regularities.
The tools for collecting empirical information concerning biological or physiological functions are much more precise and accurate than are the tools are probing psychological dimension of human activity.
The scientist must attempt to control the research situation in order to the confidence in the outcomes. Since the scientist accepts the principle of multiple causations, he must attempt to control factors that are not under direct investigation. Control in a laboratory (for example, experiment on rats) is much more easily achieved than in the real world. This degree of control is not possible with human beings.
Method of Knowing Facts
According to Charles Peirce, there are four methods of knowing about facts or fixing our beliefs about various matters. These are tenacity, intuition, authority and science.
Tenacity is the tendency to continue to believe a proposition through habit or inertia. We accept a proposition as true simply, because we have always believed it to be true. When difference of opinion surface, there is no satisfactory method for knowing which of several tenaciously held beliefs is correct.
Another method commonly used to know facts is to consult some authority. Instead of simply holding on doggedly to one's beliefs, their confirmation is sought from some experts in the area concerned, e.g. medical doctor, engineer, a lawyer, etc. But these may also differ in their opinions. So, this too is not a satisfactory way of knowing about facts.
Intuition relies upon its appeal to reason. Propositions which agree with reason are considered to be correct. They are self-evident. For example, “The whole is greater than any one of its part,” “Hard work builds character,” and so on. In such instances, there is no basis for asserting that one is any more valid than the other. Conclusively, it can be said that intuition is also an inappropriate way to knowing facts.
Scientific approach is a process of knowing new facts and verifying old ones by the application of scientific methods to natural phenomena so as to come to uniform explanation of laws governing those phenomena.
Relation of Scientific Method and Research
The terms research and scientific method are closely related.
Research is an inquiry into the nature of, the reasons for, and consequences of any particular set of circumstances, whether these circumstances are experimentally controlled or recorded just as they occur. In which researcher is interested in more than particular results and also interested in the repeatability of the results and in their extension to more complicated and general situations.
Scientific method is the pursuit of truth as determined by logical considerations. It attempts to achieve ideal (the ideal science is to achieve a systematic interrelation of facts) by experimentation, observation, logical arguments from accepted postulates and a combination of these three in varying proportions: The postulates, which are the basis of scientific methods as given below:
- It relies on empirical evidence;
- It utilizes relevant concepts;
- It is committed to only objective considerations;
- It presupposes ethical neutrality;
- It results into probabilistic predictions;
- Its methodology is made known to all concerned for critical scrutiny are for use in testing the conclusions through replication;
- It aims at formulating most general axioms or what can be termed as scientific theories.
Research employs scientific method. Good research is systematic, logical, empirical and also replicable. But one expects scientific research to satisfy the following criteria:
- The purpose of research should be clearly defined and common concepts be used
- The research procedure used should be described in sufficient detail, for replication and continuity
- The procedural design of research should be carefully planned to yield good results
- The researcher report should have complete frankness, flows in design and estimate effect upon findings
- The analysis of data should be sufficiently adequate to reveal its significance. Validity and reliability checked carefully for the data
- Conclusions should be confined to those justified by the data of the study
- Greater confidence in research is warranted by the researcher is experienced, reputed and is a person of integrity.Good scientific method involves an essential requisite which includes
- Careful logical analysis of the problem.
- Unequivocal definitions of terms and concept and statistical units and measures.
- Collection of data pertinent to the problem under study.
- Classification of data.
- Expression of variables in quantitative terms.
- Exact and rigorous experimental or statistical procedure in summarizing the data.
- Find logical reasoning as to test hypothesis and draw generalization.
- Drawing exact conclusions arrived at from the findings.
- Specific and clear statement of generalization to facilitate checking and testing by other.
RESEARCH AND PROBLEM-SOLVING
The term research and scientific method are sometimes used synonymously in educational fields although some differences are recognized, “research is considered to be the more formal, systematic and intensive process of carrying on a scientific method of analysis,” for the purpose of discovering and development of an organised body of knowledge.” In problem-solving, the scientific method “may be informal application of problem identification, hypothesis formulations, observation, analysis and conclusion.”
Problem-solving is a systematic approach to the solution or alleviation of simple, complex, immediate, long-term problems, characterised by sequential execution of the following observation through action processes.
- Identification and definition of the elements composing the problem and interrelationships among elements
- Specification of crux of the problem along with theorising about relevance of background facts and theories
- Determination and systematic collection of facts germane to the proposed crux of the problems
- Analysis and interpretation and synthesis of the collected facts along with previously known facts and theories judged to be relevant to the problems
- Proposal of strategic courses of action calculated to solve or alleviate the problems
- Selection of a course of action
- Observation and evaluation of outcomes of action, followed as warranted by modifications of course of actions.
Research is a quest for new knowledge pertinent to an identified area of interest, i.e. a problem, through application of the scientific process. Essential components of the process are as follows.
- Definition of the problem, including what others have experienced, learned and thought about the problem
- Delineation of the focus for the study (specification of the particular dimension of the problem on which inquiry will focus)
- Determination of the facts pertinent to the focus (selected from among those identified as being germane to the problem)
- Employment of appropriate and expedient techniques and precise measurements for collection of facts, with due consideration to adequate control of factors other than the variable under investigations
- Decisions about degree of breadth and depth sought, which in turn, influence the nature, scope and sources of facts, as well as the characteristics of subjects selected for study
- Submission of quantitative and quantifiable data to statistical analysis
- Selection of the data analysis to be done (statistical theoretical and descriptive) and use of original imaginative thinking to reveal previously unrecognised relationships between among variables
- Proposals of generalisations based on finding and applicable to populations larger than the one studied – included will be hypotheses recommended for testing in future investigations
- Presentations of findings and results of analysis in communicative and verifiable form.
Differences between Research and Problem-solving
There are some fundamental differences in the purposes of research and problem-solving. The purpose of research is to reveal new knowledge, the purpose of problem-solving is to solve an immediate problem in a particular setting. And also there are many process differences in between the research and problem-solving as follows (Table 1.1).
Fred N Kerlinger (1986) defines scientific research is a systematic, controlled, empirical and critical investigation of natural phenomena guided by theory and hypothesis about the presumed relations among such phenomena.
This definition emphasises the following characteristics of scientific research:
- Scientific research involves investigation of some hypothetical propositionsA hypothetical proposition is a conjectural or tentative statement about the relation between two or more phenomena or variables, without it any research is not in fruitful sense. It becomes more fact-gathering activity. Hypothesis alone studies us what facts to gather, what is relevant and what is irrelevant. Hypothesis must be conceived as an assumption which merits consideration.
- Scientific research is systematic and controlled.This means that the research is so managed that among the many alternative explanation of a phenomenon, all but one are systematically ruled out. One can thus have greater confidence that a tested relation is as it is than if one had not controlled the observations and ruled out alternative possibilities. System and control also make scientific research replicable i.e., the procedure undertaken are stated with such explicitness that any other qualified researcher could repeat the research project if they should so wish.
- Scientific research is empirical i.e., it is based on larger experience of others. The investigator does not rely on his own senses of hearing, seeing, smelling, touching and tasting. He pursue his experience to a test outside himself. In other words, subjective belief is checked against objective reality. In all other methods, there is a high degree or subjectivity to individuals about what constitutes truth. Unlike all other methods, scientific research aims at knowledge that is objective. It tries to eliminate irrationality, subjectivity and factual errors in knowing about facts. It is a method upon which human thinking has no effect. The ultimate conclusions drawn by this method are the same for every man. They are independent of individual opinion or preference.
Several factors affect scientific research. When scientist, use systematic controlled methods of studying events or problems, they have more confidence that the results are accurate and are influenced by opinion or belief. These studies are well organized and follow a specific procedure. For a study to be empirical, the evidence collected must come from objective findings. In addition, other investigators should be able to examine the evidence and see the same phenomena (results). To guide the design of the study, scientists create a hypothetical propositions about what they expect to see before conducting the study. Finally, they generally study the way that characteristics or events are different or the way that one event causes the other.
Purposes of Research
Research extends knowledge of human beings, social life and environment. Scientific researchers build up wealth of knowledge through their research findings. They search answers of various types of questions: what, where, when, how and why of various phenomena, and enlighten us. The bodies of knowledge have been developed by research in general and pure or fundamental research in particular.
Research can be conducted for several purpose, which includes:
- Finding answers to questions or solution to problems;
- Discovering and interpreting new facts
- Testing theories to revise accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts
- Formulating new theories.
Research has its ultimate aim the systematic development and refinement of an organized body of scientific knowledge that can be used to guide academic and practice disciplines.
The purpose of research is to discover answers to questions through the application of scientific procedure. The main aim of research is to find out the truth which is hidden and which has not been discovered as yet.
Though each research study has its own specific purposes, but they falling into following purposes:
- Research unravels the mysteries of nature brings to light hidden information that might never be discovered fully during the ordinary course of life.
- Research establishes generalization and general laws and contributes to theory building in various fields of knowledge.
- Research verifies and tests existing facts and theory, which help improving our knowledge and ability to handle situations and events.
- Research helps to gain formulating with a phenomenon or to achieve new insights into it (Exploratory studies).
- Research helps to portray accurately the characteristics of an particular individual, situation or a group (descriptive studies).
- Research helps to determine the frequency with which something occurs a with which it is associated with something else (diagnostic studies).
- Research helps to test a hypothesis of a causal relationship between variables (hypothesis terms studies).
- Research help to formulate general laws, which enable us to make reliable predictions of events yet to happen.
- Research aims to analyse inter-relationships between variable and to derive causal explanations; and thus enable us to have better understanding of the universe.
- Research aims at finding solutions to problems – socioeconomic problems, health problems, human relation problems, etc.
- Research also aims to develop new tools, concepts and theories for a better study or unknown phenomena.
- Research helps planning and contributes to national development.
- Research helps to formulation of strategies and policies by providing factual data to organization to take national decision-making.
Characteristics of Research
Research may be defined as a systematic and objective analysis and recording of controlled observations that may lead to the development of generalisations, principles or theories, resulting in prediction and possible ultimate control of events.
Because definitions of this sort are rather abstract, a summary of some of the characteristics of research may help to clarity the spirit and meaning as follows:
Research directed towards the solution of a problem: The ultimate goal or research is to discover cause-and-effect relationship between variables, though researchers often have to settle for the useful discovery of a systematic relationships, because the evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship is insufficient.
Research emphasising the development of generalisations of principles or theories: It will be helpful in predicting the future occurrences. Research usually goes beyond the specific objects, groups or situations investigated and infers characteristics of a target population from the sample observed. Research is more than information retrieval i.e., the simple gathering of information. Although many school research departments gather and tabulate statistical information that may be useful in decision making, these activities are not properly termed research.
Research demands accurate observation and description: Researchers use quantitative measuring devices, the most precise form of description. When this is not possible or appropriate, they use qualitative on nonquantitative descriptions of their observations. They select or devise valid data gathering procedures, and when feasible, employ mechanical, electronic or psychometic devices to refine observations, description, and analysis of data.
Research involving gathering new data from primary or first hand source or existing data for a new purpose: Teachers frequently assign a so-called research project that involves writing a paper dealing with the life of a prominent person. The students are expected to read a number of encyclopaedia's books or periodical references and to synthesize the information in a written report. This is not research, for the data are not new. Merely reorganising or restating what is already known and has already been written – valuable as it may be a learning experience – is not research, as it adds nothing new to what is already known.
Research carefully designed: Although research activity may at times be somewhat random and unsystematic, it is more often characterised by carefully designed procedures that apply rigorous analysis. Trial and error are often involved, but research is rarely a blind shotgun investigation or an experiment just to see what happens.
Research requiring expertise: The researchers know what is already known about the problem and how others have investigated it. He or she searched the related literature carefully and is also thoroughly grounded in the terminology, concepts and technical skills necessary to understand and analyse the data gathered.
Research striving to be objective and logical: It should be objective and logical with applying the every possible test to validate the procedure employed, the data collected and the conclusions researched. The researcher attempts to eliminate personal bias. There is no attempt to persuade or to prove an emotionally held conviction. The emphasis is on testing rather than proving the hypothesis. Although absolute objectivity is as elusive as pure righteousness, the researcher tries to suppress bias and emotion in his or her analysis.
Research involving the quest for answers to unsolved problems: Pushing back the frontiers of ignorance is its goal, and originally is frequently the quality of good research project. However, previous important studies are deliberately repeated, using identical or similar procedures, with different subjects, different settings, and at a different time. This process or replication is a fusion of the words repetition and duplication. Replication is always desirable to confirm or to raise questions about the conclusions of a previous study.
Research characterised by patient and unhurried activity: It is rarely spectacular and researchers must expect disappointment and discouragement as they pursue the answers to difficult questions.
Research carefully recorded and reported: Each important term is defined, limiting factors are recognized, procedures are described in details, references are carefully documented, results are objectively recorded and conclusions are presented with scholarly caution and restraint. The written report and accompanying data are made available to the scrutiny of associates or other scholars. Any competent scholar will have the information necessary to analyse, evaluate and replicate the study.
Research sometime requiring courage: The history of science reveals that many important discoveries were made in spite of the opposition of political and religious authorities. The Polish scientist Copernicus, (1473-1543) was condemned by church authorities, when he announced his conclusion the nature of the solar system.