On my earlier post, we had discussed the first two steps as a guide to undertaking a successful research project. We’ll continue today as this is the part 2 of the step by step guide to designing an academic research methodology for beginners.
Step Three: Instrument Development for Data Collection
At this point, you will have to develop your means of collecting data. How are you going to get the required data or information for your research analysis? Is it through observation forms, interview with a selected group of people, questionnaires or observation of some reports? at this point you are expected to pay very close attention to details as this stage is very crucial to the success of your academic research methodology and the entire project.
Anything or means that helps you collect information for your research project is called a research instrument or research tool. Developing a research instrument for data collection is dependent your type of research project. Also, the type of data you seek to use for your research project – primary or secondary data, will as well determine what type of instrument to develop. However, major instruments that are used for research projects (whether undergraduate research, post graduate or any other research projects) are shown below for primary and secondary data collection:
Method of Collection Data Collection
1. Observation (participant or non-participant)
2. Interviewing (structured or unstructured)
3. Questionnaire (collective or mailed )
Secondary Sources: Majorly from documents or publications:
- government publications
- existing research
- service records
- financial statements or published reports
- personal records etc.
Still referring to our research topic on: “the impact of professional bodies on the behaviour of financial accountants”, I could decide to develop questionnaires with open-ended or close-ended questions that are well carved out to meet my research objectives. These questionnaires could be mailed to targeted accountant constituting my sample or administered physically as may be convenient and reliable.
Instrument development must be such that will give access to required information to make a valid conclusion on your research project.
Step Four: Sample Determination and Selection
This is another critical step or stage in any academic research methodology and research project because the validity of your research conclusions depends on the accuracy the representing sample in which the research was carried upon. In determining and selecting your sample, be guided by the fact that accurate population representation is not a function of number of sample, but a relatively small number of units selected in a manner that adequately represents the features and attributes of the whole population in study can provide a valid conclusion of the entire population studied. It is therefore necessary to choose your sample without any bias and to attain maximum precision for any available resources. Sampling techniques are used in sample determination and generally there are three of them:
- Random/probability sampling
- Non-random/non-probability sampling and
- Mixed sampling
Each of them have their weaknesses and strength and your choice should be based the suitability of either technique to your research as this will influence your ability to generalize your research findings from the sample about the entire population of study.
Step Five: Proposal Writing
This is very vital as your project supervisor would always require this first. A research proposal involves the putting together of all your research intentions in writing, such that it will provide sufficient information to your supervisor and/or others about your research.
This shows your research plan, stating your research problem and how you intend to investigate and proffer solution. The style and content of a research proposal may differ from universities however, a standard research proposal should be able to tell what you are proposing to do, how you plan to proceed and why you selected the proposed approach. Therefore, your content should include your: objectives of study, statement of hypotheses, research design, research instruments, sample size, sampling technique, data processing procedures, research limitations and proposed time frame. Note that your research proposal should be written in future tense as it is what is proposed not what has been executed.
Step Six: Collecting Data
Data collection involves the actual process of using your developed instrument to obtain or collate the needed data to aid your research work. This could be administering your questionnaire, commencing interview or engaging any other means of data collection above. It is important to observe some ethical issues in your data collection, particular on the confidentiality of respondents.
Step Seven: Analysing and Presenting Your Data
This refers to what to do with the collected data. Data analysis sieves out the required information from the raw data so that the research questions are answered, the hypothesis are proved or disproved and the research objectives are achieved. First of all, collected data needs to be edited, then it could be coded to aid analysis. Data could be analysed manually or electronically using data analysis software like SPSS or Microsoft Excel etc.
These analysed data can be presented as texts, tables, graphs or other statistical measures. Mostly, qualitative research would be usually presented as text with tables but quantitative research would be presented as text, tables, graphs etc. The most important thing in presenting your data is that your conclusions be effectively communicated. So whatever would aid the effective communication should be incorporated.
Step Eight: Report Writing
This is your last bus stop and the concluding part of your research (although some consider the research defense as the last). Your research report is written in chapters (basically five chapters for an undergraduate research project or post graduate research project).
Your research report can either be a qualitative or quantitative report. It is therefore important to develop an outline for your research project. Usually, a five-chapter outline will be thus with their contents:
Introduction, background of study, problem statement, research objectives, research questions, statement of hypotheses, study limitation, significance of study, definition of terms etc.
Reviews related literature on the subject manner.
Research design, data collection process, sampling methods, and other things relating to data collection and analyzing.
Discussion of findings
Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations
References and Appendices.
I believe this material has been useful to you. Don’t fail to reach out to us, Questions, or suggestions are welcomed.