One of the most important elements of scientific investigation is research. In regular parlance, research simply points towards a search for knowledge. Thus, as a scientific and systematic search for applicable information on a particular topic, research remains as one of the most important pillars of science, as well as an art of scientific investigation. Through research therefore, investigators are capable of moving from a known aspect of the topic under investigation, towards the unknown. The process of research involves many activities, some of the most important being defining and redefining problems, creating hypotheses, collection, organization and evaluation of data, making inferences and finally drawing conclusions based on the aforementioned processes (Kothari &Garg, 2014). In drawing conclusions however, research tends to test whether they fit within the premise of the formulated hypotheses. At the core of research is the discovery of new knowledge and contributing the new knowledge to the already existing body of knowledge for the advancement of the existing body of knowledge. Even in its working, the researcher should ensure quality in the process as a means of producing knowledge pertinent beyond the scope of the research, with implications that transcend the groups that participated in the research (Kothari &Garg, 2014). Moreover, the results of each research study should have implications for laws and project execution. Depending on the type of research done (whether quantitative or qualitative) different techniques are employed in the collection of primary data in research. While different techniques are available for use in research, the type of research largely influences the methods used in collection of data, and as such, qualitative research has specific methods that it employs in the collection of data. Moreover, a researcher can use other alternative methods in the collection of primary data such as the mixed method, using a combination of both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods.
As indicated earlier, research aims at finding solutions to existing problems, in addition to adding new knowledge to the already existing body of knowledge. Even more is that research should mostly have implication to policy, particularly informing the modification and implementation of both new and old policies. Mostly, however, this does not happen do to disconnect between researchers and policy makers. According to Green, Ottoson, Garcia and Hiatt (2014), the real problem in the gap between research and policy occurs in “the way in which the production of evidence is organized institutionally with highly centralized mechanisms, whereas the application of that science is highly decentralized. This social distance prevails because scientists are more oriented to the international audiences of other scientists for which they publish than to the needs of practitioners, policy makers, or the local public” (p. 4). Researchers must therefore ensure that they overcome this barrier through publication of the research to the global community, present the findings to at numerous venues as well as send the studies to policy makers, official and local leaders, as a means of getting the research read for evidence-based interventions.
The need for researchers to get their research to the responsible people (policy makers and local leaders) stems from the fact that at the formulation of the research question and hypothesis, the researcher has goals, aims and objectives that he/she wishes to achieve. In carrying out research therefore, the goal of the researcher usually is to contribute to the body of knowledge on a particular topic largely on a global scale. The research, apart from being challenging, can also be rewarding to the researcher, as the research gives him/her an opportunity to explore an exhaustive original study of a topic he/she finds interesting (Kothari &Garg, 2014). Additionally, as part of the goals of research, the process remains vital to the success of global initiative across different disciplines and topics. Thus, research not only forms the base for program development and policies worldwide, it is also possible to translate the results into effective local and global programs.
The power of research comes from the idea that research is experiential; thus, it goes beyond theorization of a subject (speculation of whether something may or may not work), to the actual demonstration of the workability or non-workability of the options/hypotheses. Often, researchers are involved in fieldwork where they design studies, which in most cases provide hard data and facts on which the policy makers can base their decisions (Kothari &Garg, 2014). With the goal of solving world’s problems therefore, researchers ensure that their work is examinable and verifiable by peers, using replicable methodologies, and ensuring that the knowledge presented from the findings and conclusions drawn are all applicable to real-world situations (Green et al., 2014).
Similarly important for consideration while conducting a research are the research objectives. The general goal of a research is discovery of truth hidden within contributing phenomena, and which therefore remains undiscovered (Kothari &Garg, 2014). Although each particular research has its own specific objectives, research as a body has general objectives. According to Kothari and Garg (2014), one of the main objectives of research is to “to gain familiarity with a phenomenon or to achieve new insights into it” (P. 2).research that looks into gaining familiarity with a problem is often referred to as explanatory or formulative research. The second objective of research is “to portray accurately the characteristics of a particular individual, situation or a group” (Kothari &Garg, 2014, p. 2). Studies that aim at such discoveries are descriptive research studies. Diagnostic research studies on the other hand, aim at determining “the frequency with which something occurs or with which it is associated with something else” (Kothari &Garg, 2014, p. 2). Conclusively, the objective of hypothesis-testing research is to test a hypothesis of a causal relationship between different variables.
Some of these objectives open a window into the purpose of research as a wide topic. Each of the objectives therefore only help in describing the different types of research available, and approaches which research can opt to choose. They however do not; give the very characteristics of research. As a process, research collects, analyzes, and interprets data to provide answers to questions (Kothari &Garg, 2014). However, in qualifying as a research, the process must have some distinguishing characteristics. These include being controllable, rigorous, systematic, valid and verifiable, empirical and critical.
Control of the research process is largely possible within physical science research. Largely within the realm of real life, many factors are at play, which can therefore affect the outcome of the research. Control in this case, particularly for research done in the laboratory, is there to ensure that different factors to do not impact on the causality exploration research is working on. It is the work of the researcher, as he/she works, to minimize any effects if other factors that they influence the relationship of the variables under investigation. Control in social sciences such as the tourism and hospitality industries is however a challenged as the researcher has to deal with humans within a society, a factor that makes control extremely challenging if not impossible under such circumstances. Under such circumstances therefore, the researcher is only better of quantifying the impact of external factors (Kumar, 2005).
Another characteristic of research is rigor in its execution. This means that the researcher has to be meticulous, making sure that the methods followed in finding answers are relevant, appropriate, and justified (Kumar, 2005). Further, research needs to be systematic, and the researcher should therefore ensure that in adopting specific methods, they should all be sequential to ensure lucidity and organization of the research. Nevertheless, even more, important is that the research has to be valid and verifiable. The implication of this characteristic is that the conclusions drawn from the findings of the research have to not only be accurate, but also easily verifiable by other researchers using similar procedures, test subjects, and testing similar variables (Kumar, 2005).
Research, according to Kothari and Garg (2014), must also be empirical. Herein, the argument is that research while drawing conclusions must do so from hard proof assembled from information collected from real life experiences or observation. The researcher must therefore endeavor to carry out research from the field, from real people and not fictitious information imagined or gathered from other works of fiction. Conclusively, research must also be critical in that the procedures and methods used are all properly scrutinized for the validity of the research. Thus, the process of inquiry must be fail-safe and absent of shortcomings. The method implemented and the procedures employed must be able to endure critical scrutiny (Kumar, 2005).
All these characteristics point to different kinds of research, which must satisfy the conditions to be fully considered as research. Under the many types of research that exist, qualitative and quantitative research are among the most commonly used types of research. According to Kothari and Garg (2014), quantitative research tends to measure the quantity of some characteristics. This kind of research is therefore concerned with testing of hypothesis derived from theory and therefore the ability to estimate the size if a phenomenon of interest. On the other hand, qualitative research measures qualitative phenomenon. Thus, this kind of research looks at the expression of quality, such as the drive behind human behavior. Qualitative research consequently “aims at discovering the underlying motives and desires using in depth interviews for that purpose” (Kothari &Garg, 2014). Many other techniques can be employed in carrying out qualitative research including association test, story completion tests among others. The fact that qualitative research seeks to find out opinion makes it a vital method for use in behavioral sciences, where the purpose of such research is usually the discovery of causal motivations of human behavior.
Visible from the aforementioned is the fact that quantitative and qualitative researches have different purposes and underpinnings. Both tend to investigate a diverse but different range of phenomena. Moreover, both quantitative and qualitative research methods use different techniques in collection of primary data (Kothari &Garg, 2014). In data collection, quantitative research relies on a number of primary data collection, these include experiments/clinical trials, observation and recording; specifically well-defined events such as counting the number of customers waiting to be served at a store. Other quantitative data collection methods include getting relevant data from management information systems as well as administering surveys with close-ended questions (face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews and questionnaires).
While both quantitative and qualitative research use interviews, interviews used in quantitative research use more structured questions (Acaps 2012). Herein, the interviewer largely asks a standard set of questions. Face-to-face interviews are among the methods used and enable the researcher to establish rapport with interviewees, and in so doing, gain the confidence and cooperation of the participants. When employed, face-to-face interviews produce the highest response rate in survey research, in addition to giving the researcher an opportunity to make clear any ambiguous question or responses. This type of data collection is, however; time-consuming, expensive and impractical especially when large samples are involved. Quantitative research can also use telephone interviews, which consume limited time and can reach a larger number of people provided the respondent has phone. There is however, the possibility of biases in this types of data collection method in that those without phones are left out of the study. Questionnaires, according to Kumar (2005), are also another way of data collection in quantitative research. These can be sent to a large number of people saving time and money, as well as giving truthful responses to issues controversial in nature, given that most questionnaires are largely anonymous. Noteworthy, however is the fact that not all that were served with questionnaires may return them, and even those who return may not necessarily be representative of the original sample selected.
Given its penchant for explanation of social phenomena, qualitative research on the other hand uses different data collection methods (Marshall, 1996). For the collection of primary data, therefore, qualitative research relies on individual interviews, focus groups and observation. In the collection of data in qualitative research, a number of assumptions guide the researcher’s choice of data collection techniques. The first of these assumptions is the view of the researcher over the nature of research; here the research has to consider the technicality and neutrality of the research, thus conforming to customary research in a particular discipline against the controversial and critical nature of the research, particularly one with categorical political undertones (Marshall &Rossman, 2006). The second assumption is on the location of the researcher; that is, in relation to the participants, how does the researcher view her/himself? The question here is whether the researcher views him/herself as distant and objective or closely involved in the lives of the participants.
According to Marshall and Rossman (2006), the third assumption is on the gaze of the researcher; whether the researcher gazes outwards towards others (largely externalizing the problem), or inwards in that the researcher has clear internal introspection of the problem. Fourth is the purpose of the research; wherein the consideration is on whether the research is specialized and principally private such as in the advancement of career, or its intention is its usefulness and information to the participants. Further in the assumptions is the audience of the study; whether it is the scholarly community or the participants (Marshall &Rossman, 2006). Moreover, the assumptions also cover the researcher’s political positioning in carrying out the research; thus, there needs to be a consideration of neutrality or political explicitness in the agenda of the research. Finally, the last assumption concerns the exercise of agency on the research; the researcher in this case has to decide on passive or engaged in the local praxis of the research (Marshall &Rossman, 2006). All these assumptions quintessentially shape the conception and implementation of research methods within the whole research process.
Observation is one of the most commonly used primary data collection methods for qualitative research. It involves methodical noting and recording of events, behaviors and artifacts within a social setting of the chosen study (Marshall &Rossman, 2006). The recording must be detailed nonjudgmental and provide actual description of the observation. Exclusive observation requires that the researcher does not take any role in the social setting. Observation as a method of primary data collection has the assumption that the behavior of the participants is decisive and expressive of deeply seated values and beliefs of the participants (Marshall, 1996). Observation can however vary in composition, from a highly structured comprehensive representation of behavior structured by specifications to a rounded description of events and behavior (Marshall &Rossman, 2006).
Participatory observation, as part of the observation technique of data collection requires the actual firsthand involvement of the researcher in the environment chosen for study. This type of observation allows the researcher to hear, see and experience the life within which the participants live (Marshall &Rossman, 2006). The immersion into such as setting therefore provides the researcher an opportunity to learn from his/her own experience. Such experiences are particularly “integral to the emerging analysis of a cultural group, because they provide the researcher with new vantage points and with opportunities tomake the strange familiar and the familiar strange ” (p. 100)
Qualitative inquiry highly relies on observation. Observation in itself “is used to discover complex interactions in natural social settings. Even in studies using in-depth interviews, observationplays an important role as the researcher notes the interviewee’s bodylanguage and affect in addition to her words” (Marshall &Rossman, 2006, p. 99). The complexity of observation however presents challenges to the researcher, given that it requires a lot from the researcher. Moreover, discomfort, ethical dilemmas and danger lurk in the use of observation for primary data collection. A typical example of danger for the researcher is the danger in working with police in street ethnography. There is danger of gunfire with street thugs, emotional disturbance for the researcher in cases that he/she has to deal with drug addicts, observe child abuse and other forms of violence in the streets. Moreover, it is difficult for the researcher to take a relatively passive role during observation, in addition to the challenging nature of identifying the big picture even as the researcher concentrates on the observation of large amounts of fast-moving and complex behavior (Marshall &Rossman, 2006).
Another qualitative primary data collection method is in depth interviewing. Defined as purposeful conversation, interviews vary in nature to include informal conversation interviews, guided interviews and standardized open-ended interviews (Marshall &Rossman, 2006). Qualitative interviews often have predetermined response categories, even as the researcher explores general topic as a precursor to uncovering the participant’s attitude, and in so doing respecting the participant’s framing and structure of responses. Qualitative interviews largely ride on a specific assumption. According to Marshall and Rossman (2006), the assumption is “The participant’s perspective on the phenomenon of interest should unfold as the participant viewsit (the emic perspective), not as the researcher views it (the etic perspective)” (p. 101).
Underlying interviews is the fact that in conducting an interview, the researcher is able to get more data quickly. Moreover, when there are many respondents to the interview, the researcher is able to capture a wider array of information than the case of fewer participants involved in the data collection process. Moreover, there are high chances for follow-ups and clarifications immediately after the interview. In combination with observation, interviews help in the understanding of the significance of daily activities to people (Acaps, 2012; Marshall &Rossman, 2006).
Given the personal involvement that is a requirement of interviews, cooperation is essential. The drawback here is that interviews may be unwilling or uncomfortable in sharing issues the interviewer hopes to tackle. Moreover, there can be cases of language barrier in which the interviewer may not speak the same language with the participants. Not only can enlisting an interpreter be difficult, much may be lost in interpretation. Additionally, it may be possible that the researcher lacks skill in interviewing and therefore may not be able to ask the correct questions that explore the factors that he/she may really want to explore (Marshall, 1996). Even more serious is the possibility that the participants may not really be truthful in their responses owing to cultural exigencies, fear of retaliation or the sensitivity of the matter under investigation.
Focus groups are yet another method of qualitative data collection. In this case, the groups largely compose of between seven and 10 people who have no connection with one another, and who have certain characteristics that are relevant to the study. It is the duty of the researcher in this case to formulate a conducive environment, and ask focused questions that help in encouraging discussion and expression of the diverse opinions and points of view of the participants (Marshall &Rossman, 2006). Focused groups rely on the assumption that individuals’ attitudes and beliefs are influenced by what others say. The researcher, therefore, only needs to ask deceptively simple questions, which open the participants to express their views on issues. This is in addition to the researcher creating a supportive environment for such discussions.
Focus groups allow users to participate in an atmosphere more natural in nature and therefore allow high level of participation. In combination with participant observation, focus groups “are especially useful for gaining access, focusing site selection and sampling, and even for checking tentative conclusions” (Marshall &Rossman, 2006, p. 114). Moreover, the researcher is able to explore issues not anticipated as they arise in the discussion, making the results to have high face validity given the deeper understanding that people have on the method. Even more is that focus groups are relatively cheaper provide quicker results and can increase the sample size by permitting the participation of more people.
On the other hand, there are issues with group dynamics in focus groups, which if not carefully considered can lead to the disintegration of the group. This requires highly specialized skills, some of which very few people have (Marshall &Rossman, 2006). Focus groups additionally give the researcher less control over the group in comparison with individuals, but even more disadvantageous for focus groups is time wastage on irrelevant issues or dead-end discussions (Marshall &Rossman, 2006).
While conducting research, however, it is possible that the use of either qualitative or quantitative design will not give satisfactory results. In this case, mixed-method designs are employed in both data collection and analysis of results. Moreover, using qualitative and quantitative methods offer a better understanding of the research problem (Creswell, 2008). The convergent parallel design of mixed-method research involves the concurrent implementation of quantitative and qualitative strands in all the phases of the research process, with equal prioritization of the two methods. In the process of analysis, the researcher conducts independent processes, only bringing the two together during the interpretation process (Creswell, 2008).
The convergent parallel design is efficient, collecting data using quantitative and qualitative methods at the same time during the same phases of the research process. Given that each research process happens at the same time for both approaches, it is possible to use expertise exclusively for each method (qualitative or quantitative). However, the research design requires a lot in expertise given the equal weight of important given to each of the designs and the fact that they both run concurrently (Creswell, 2008). It is additionally challenging to merge two sets of distinct data sets and the results of these data sets in a meaningful way. Additionally, there are possibilities of disagreement between the two data sets. Thus, while inconsistencies may provide new
perceptions into the topic, the differences can be problematic to reconcile and may necessitate the collection of additional data, which may not only be expensive, but tiresome and discouraging as well.
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