University of Chester

Department of Computer Science & Information Systems

MSc Information Systems

 

Research Methods 1,
Professional Standards and Issues

CO7101

Task 1

 

“Everywhere, our knowledge is incomplete and problems are waiting to be solved.”

For the open, inquisitive mind, the world is full of wonder. Our knowledge and understand, although being at the pinnacle of human understanding is really just scratching the surface. Research is one method we use to extend and expand our understanding, and it is this, [research], that we are going to investigate. So we can start by defining what research is, one favoured definition is: “A contribution to knowledge”. Now things start to get interesting, we have the elaboration of criteria, added by those that came lately - as all knowledge is valuable for the information it contains alone whatever the source, for this contribution to the knowledge request, in that: the knowledge must be logically sound, well written and presented and built upon solid foundations with sound methods.

“We address the void in our knowledge and those unresolved problems by asking relevant questions and seeking answers to them.”

Our element of mankind strives to increase and improve our knowledge base, to this end we endeavour to create questions and hypothesis to explain not only our world but in broader terms “life, the universe and everything” as Douglas Adams so aptly described mankind’s thirst for knowledge; or looking at it another way: we have way too much time on our hands and need stuff to do, so we invent problems and set about solving them and in the process learn things, which we then share with our peers.

So what is research? As a noun it is defined as: The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. The word research is derived from the Middle French "recherche", which means "to go about seeking". The earliest recorded use of the term was in 1577. “…the definition of research includes any gathering of data, information and facts for the advancement of knowledge…” It is used to establish or confirm facts even reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support theorems, or develop new theories.

These steps should be viewed as an ever-changing process rather than a fixed set of steps. So we get to: research is: a planned, systematic investigation of a problem or premise with the aim of answering a question.

Research can also be ad hoc, unplanned and unstructured; history has proven despite the most diligent scientific research some of the greatest discoveries have been made through accidents.

Figure 1 an example of steps within the Scientific Method

Research is not a meaningless search for nothing. It is not, typically, chaotic, unplanned and ad hoc. Nor is it the exclusive role of: the academic or scientist.

Table 1 Some more examples of what Research is not

Research isn’t teaching

Teaching itself is generally regarded as the synthesis and transfer of existing knowledge. Generally, the knowledge has to exist before you can teach it.

Research isn’t scholarship

Scholarship (the process of being a scholar) generally describes surveying existing knowledge

Research isn’t encyclopaedic

Encyclopaedias, by and large, seek to present a synthesis of existing knowledge.

Research isn’t just data-gathering

Data-gathering is a vital part of research, but it doesn’t lead to new knowledge without some analysis, some further work.

Research isn’t just about methodology

However, if you are using the same method, on the same data, exploring the same question, then you will almost certainly get the same results. And that is repetition, not research.

Research isn’t repetition, except in some special circumstances

If you are doing the same thing that someone else has already done, then generally that isn’t research unless you are specifically trying to prove or disprove their work.

 

“Our knowledge remains little more than guesswork or at best intuition” (Somers, 2012)

We have used terms in this essay such as: knowledge and wisdom with gay abandon. But what do they actually mean? Data is the raw units of facts and figures, with datum being the individual fact or figure; it is given meaning and becomes information with the understanding of relationships between the data sets. This information is then transformed into knowledge with the understanding of patterns within the relationships. Wisdom, the aim of the philosopher, is achieved through the application of hindsight and the comprehension of principles.

“The role of research is to provide a method for obtaining those answers by inquiringly studying the evidence within the parameters of the Scientific Method.”

This introduces the concept of academic rigour: for all research to be considered as valuable we must conduct that research within a recognised framework. Our research can be pure/fundamental or applied. As a process we question our knowledge and improve our understanding, which requires documentation to a standard together with the use and application of methods and tools.

Research is understood to follow a certain structural process.

Observations and Formation of the topic: Consists of the subject area of one’s interest and following that subject area to conduct subject related research. The subject area should not be randomly chosen since it requires reading a vast amount of literature on the topic to determine the gap in the literature the researcher intends to narrow. A keen interest in the chosen subject area is advisable. The research will have to be justified by linking its importance to already existing knowledge about the topic.

Hypothesis

A testable prediction which designates the relationship between two or more variables.

Conceptual definition

Description of a concept by relating it to other concepts.

Operational definition

Details in regards to defining the variables and how they will be measured/assessed in the study.

Gathering of data

Consists of identifying a population and selecting samples, gathering information from and/or about these samples by using specific research instruments. The instruments used for data collection must be valid and reliable.

Analysis of data

Involves breaking down the individual pieces of data in order to draw conclusions about it.

Data Interpretation

This can be represented through tables, figures and pictures, and then described in words.

Test

revising of hypothesis

Conclusion

reiteration if necessary

 

“The definition of the scientific method, even amongst many scientists, is seen as some holy grail of science that achieves absolute and unarguable proof.” (Experiment-Resources.com, 2012)

Is the scientific method is verses creationism?

Science and its’ quest for clarity and definitions looks at the nature of research in three different ways:

1.       deductive reasoning

2.       inductive reasoning

3.       abductive reasoning

By far the simplest explanation of these classifications of reasoning is pictorially with an example, see figures 1 to 3.

Figure 2 Deduction Reasoning

As an example of deductive reasoning: from Thomas Jefferson’s statement: “all men are equal”. I am a man. And, therefore I must be equal.

Figure 3 Induction Reasoning

As a figurative example of inductive reasoning, When the letter box rattles: the post has arrived. The letter box rattles…

 

Figure 4 Abduction Reasoning

Abductive reasoning is often considered a lesser form of logic and is by far the more abstract forms of reasoning, but is tremendously useful when knowledge is incomplete: it is classically illustrated by: if it rains the streets get wet. The streets are wet, therefore it has been raining. Although in itself a good answer to the state of the streets is being wet, it is not the only answer, more information and data is required to form a more accurate or more specifically defendable statement as to why the streets may be wet.

So in conclusion, research has a nature which is taxonomically classified into three categories. The categories have methodologies. The methodologies have tools. These are combined into a thorough, planned, systematic and focused investigation into a knowledge area, or more accurately domain, with the objective of answering a question. The answer to the question must be presented in a well written, logically sound presentation of the facts substantiating the argument or position.

Figure 5 Sometimes it's all been done for us.

Description: http://boeklog.info/pics/a-revisionist-autobiography.png

 (Watterstone, 1994)

We research because our knowledge is incomplete and our minds are enquiring. We endeavour to answer questions, even if have to make them up first.


 

Task 2

 

Think of a work or study-related problem that you have solved lately (or been trying to solve) and write an essay of 550-600 words outlining the followings:

Identify the problem that needs to be solved. Analyse it in just enough detail to create a common understanding

The problem was how to gain access to three documents from DIAL House Chester. These documents were: the Corporate Information Systems Strategy (written in circa 2002 by the current Head of IT), Corporate Strategic Plan and Corporate Mission Statement. They are needed for the preparation of a report for my Information Systems and Strategy Management (IS&SM) studies.

Describe your interpretation of the problem.

The issues for this problem are the expedite procurement of the three documents and how to best acquire these documents.

Describe the objectives of solving the problem.

The primary objectives of solving this problem is to ensure that I have an organisation (DIAL House Chester) that I know and am familiar with to work with in the review and draft of new versions of the three documents for my IS&SM module.

Describe the desired outcome.

To secure: the three documents from DIAL House Chester, by: the 31st October 2012.

What would things look like if the problem disappeared?

If the problem disappeared then I would be able to implement the tasks set in the IS&SM module immediately and without negotiation or palaver.

How would things look if this problem were resolved?

Once I have achieved, successfully, a resolution to this problem I will be able to continue my studies in IS&SM and develop my relationship with DIAL House Chester.

What strategy did you use or proposing to use?

I suppose the best description of the overarching strategy used in the solution to this problem was one of appreciative inquiry. My initial request for these documents, to the Head of IT, proved fruitless. This led to the tactical implementation of a rational approach to problem solving; in that, my secondary approach was one of: divide and conquer with a smattering of difference reduction. I brainstormed potential reasons why my request was not meet and how best to secure the documents. During a period of incubation the solution presented itself: start at the top! My mistake: was approaching the Head of IS for the documents, a delegation tactic.

How did you evaluate or propose to evaluate your progress?

My initial sole evaluation criterion was time. I had set myself an arbitrary deadline and set about ensuring that I meet this target. Following the failure of my first attempt I added a number of evaluation metrics: the probability of success, the saleability of the request proposal, the effort verses reward and root cause analysis.

What obstacles (if any) have you encountered while solving the problem?

The obstacles faced I encountered whilst solving this problem were: initial reluctance, from the Head of IT together worry and concern about relevance and currency from the Chief Operating Office (who as the major stakeholder see tremendous opportunity in providing information to review and update and develop the three documents) together with time management


 

Task 4

Having defined the general area of the project you want to research, the next step is to identify the types of information that is needed to answer the research question(s) or to prove or disprove the research hypothesis. This usually involves translating the general topic/area into more specific sub-areas and headings with relevant information types needed under each. This is very much a “top-down” process of moving from a broad general level to the identification of increasingly specific sub-sets of information requirements.

Guided by the discussion we had in the classroom about Survey Methods and the exercise we did, your task is to identify:

Topic: Fatigue Levels and Size and Type of Fonts in Evening Classes.

The Type of Study

Type

Undertaken

Technique

Exploratory

When no or few previous studies exist

Case study, observation and review

Descriptive

To identify and classify

Collate, analyse and summarise data

Analytical

To extend the descriptive approach

Variable definition

Predictive

To speculate on future possibilities

Analysis of all available evidence

These types of study have approaches:

·         Quantitative/Qualitative

·         Applied/Basic

·         Deductive/Inductive

For this exercise, I will use a hybrid of approaches to a descriptive type of study. Quantitatively we can measure some very specific attributes, fonts have sizes and shapes. Fatigue also has measureable indicators: heart rate, brain wave patterns and eye movement. Qualitatively we can assess values, attitudes and perceptions.

Grounded theory and experimental research contribute guiding methodologies in our research.

The Hypothesis or Hypotheses

These are initial or tentative explanations, a hypothesis could be considered as an informed guess, it generally indicates the expectations of the researcher, and it is the most specific way to answer a stated problem.

The size and type of fonts used in evening classes between 16:30 and 20:30 has no effect on the levels of fatigue in females aged between 18 and 24.

The fatigue levels in males rises when inappropriate font sizes and types are used.

The fonts and sizes used in evening classes have a negative effect on fatigue levels.

The Sub-Heading

First some clarification, what is meant by?

·         Fatigue

·         What are fonts

·         When is evening

lighting

climate control

presentation media

hand-outs

screen size

screen position

colours

presenter audibility

seating comfort

audience participation


 

Task 5

 

A literature search is a detailed and organised step by step search for all the material available on a certain topic. The commonly recognised stages of a literature search are listed below. Comment on each one of them identifying their importance in any research activity.

Decide on a search topic

Research is a form of problem solving, and the first step in problem solving is always identifying the problem.  In other words, what question do you hope to answer with your research?” Invalid source specified.

This is typically the topic at its broadest, the general level. It is important to choose a topic that will engage and hold the attention. The guiding principal is that we journey from the general towards the specific narrowing our focus of research with each iteration of the process. The focusing is achieved through the addition of concepts.

Text Box: Figure 1 the research processChoosing a research topic is important as it effects your time, and you do not want to waste that. You may consider the assignment of a topic an advantage, but most probably you will choose a topic that is of interest to you. It is the personalisation of the topic that increases its’ value.

It is important to have an end goal in mind when choosing the research topic.

Identifying the scope of the search topic

The key at this stage is one of management. Topics can become unwieldy and un-manageable if they are too broad or too narrow in scope. Scope can be considered as width or breadth, it is a broad hoop with which to ring a topics boundary. Scope is the application of concepts to limit a topic area.

Scoping and topic selection are key to building a solid foundation from which to carry out the research, it is probably a 60:40 split in importance for these two early stage variables.

Identifying the keywords to use while searching

It is important to identify the vocabulary and lexicon of the topic, as one reads generally on a topic it is useful to compose lists of words used in the description of the topic. It is inevitable that we will redefine and refocus our topics, most likely more than once, and these keyword lists will prove invaluable in your continued research. Current search systems support complex Boolean logic statements, allowing for a sophisticated resolution in granularity.

Consider what type of information you want

This is a simple exercise in information needs assessment; first, understand what information is needed then select the most appropriate information to fit the needs.

Think about where to locate the relevant information sources

sources of information are all around, having chosen our topic added conceptual refinements in scope, identified our keywords and understand the information we need to research we set about making choices in our sources of information. Informational sources have a value structure, in that a difficult to find, creditable, verified sources is more valuable than convenient un-verifiable source. Examples of information sources: friends, colleagues, peers, newspapers, blogs, journals, magazines, libraries and encyclopaedias.

Plan out the stages of the search (considering time and resources)

          Select Topic

          refine with concepts

          identify keywords

          select valuable sources

          search

          review

          evidence

          analyse

          was the search successful?

          Summarise findings

In the ideal, we would have limitless time and endless information sources; practically we are bound by deadlines and our ability to absorb and process the information we uncover, it is as always an issue of balance.

Carry out the searching

Be methodical and diligent, but above all enjoy it, this is where you really are panning for gold. For it is these nuggets of information, that will go one to assist in your knowledge development. Do not be daunted by the initial deluge of information and comment, the search is the journey and fine tuning is necessary for changes in course as you navigate through the search process. Consider the use of logic when stringing together search phrases, lexicological searches may provide un-expected relevant information.

Review your progress

It is very important to take the time to review your progress in a planned methodical manor. Research is a cyclical process and as such needs closure of the loop. Summarily record what has been learnt together with references for further research. Ask questions of your research to date:

·         am I finding valuable information?

·         is the information that I am finding relevant?

·         do I need to refine my searches?

Think of resources needed to obtain copies of the information

I think the two key resources for obtaining copies of information, are: time and ingenuity. As I mentioned earlier: information has many forms: a conversation, a book or a digital source. So each form of information has its’ own demands and technical challenges in obtaining a copy. One could record a conversation, buy a book and select, copy and paste a digital source.

Read, evaluate, reflect, and absorb

This is the core to successful research; having spent time developing a framework implementing it through searches, it is time to enjoy the fruits of our labour. This is the opportunity for real knowledge development, we need to consume our pertinent information, measure it, contextualise it and learn from it. We may if you choose add a further refinement of testing our new gained knowledge.

Consider if suitable and useful information has been found

Because our research is a planned, methodical activity; we have a suitable framework for the measurement of information value. It is the development of this framework that is important in the simplification of our information evaluation. The information we seek has criteria that it needs to meet, this is done before we carry out any research activity, so that we can rationally and consistently evaluate the outcomes.

Summarize your findings

This is the final objective of your research, it is here that we present the emerging, or discuss the general structure of our topic. We point out the similarities or highlight the differences in the field; we can also present trends and theories. It is also in this stage that we identify further questions for research.


 

 

Bibliography

Experiment-Resources.com. (2012, 10 11). Definition of the Scientific Method. Retrieved 10 11, 2012, from Experiment-Resources.com: http://www.experiment-resources.com/definition-of-the-scientific-method.html

Experiment-Resources.com. (2012, 10 11). What is Research? Retrieved 10 11, 2012, from Experiment-Resources.com: http://www.experiment-resources.com/what-is-research.html

O'Donnell, J. (2012, 09 18). What is research? Retrieved 10 11, 2012, from The Research Whisperer: http://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/what-is-research/

Saeed, M. (2012, 10 2). Research Methods 1 Professional Standards and Issues. (M. Saeed, Performer) Binks 104, University of Chester, Chester, Cheshire, UK.

Somers, H. (2012, 10 11). What is Research? Manchester, Greater Manachester, UK. Retrieved 10 11, 2012

Watterstone, W. B. (1994). Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat (First ed.). Riverside, New Jersey, USA: Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.