The essential guide to doing your research project


PART ONE: TAKING THE LEAP INTO THE RESEARCH WORLD The challenge of tackling a research project So what is this thing called research and why do it? The need for research knowledge The potential of research knowledge Delving into the ‘construct’ of research Ontology and epistemology Competing positions The position of the reflexive researcher Getting help along the way The structure of the book How to get the most out of the book PART TWO: GETTING STARTED On your mark, get set, go! Navigating the process Understanding your programme Getting set up Getting the right advice Managing the workload Staying on course Finding a balance Dealing with ‘crisis’ PART THREE: STRIVING FOR INTEGRITY IN THE RESEARCH PROCESS Power, politics, ethics and research integrity Understanding the power game Credibility: Integrity in the production of knowledge Working with appropriate indicators Managing subjectivities Capturing ‘truth’ Approaching methods with consistency Making relevant and appropriate arguments Providing accurate and verifiable research accounts Ethics: Integrity and the ‘researched’ Legal obligations Moral obligations Ethical obligations Ethics approval processes Integrity indicators and checklist PART FOUR: DEVELOPING YOUR RESEARCH QUESTION The importance of good questions Defining your topic Curiosity and creativity Looking for inspiration Practicalities From interesting topics to researchable questions Narrowing in The need to redefine The hypothesis dilemma Hypothesis defined Appropriateness Characteristics of good questions PART FIVE: CRAFTING A RESEARCH PROPOSAL The role of the proposal Demonstrating merits of the research question Demonstrating merits of the proposed methods Demonstrating merits of the researcher Elements of the proposal Writing a winning proposal Following guidelines Writing purposively Drafting and redrafting Obstacles and challenges When your design doesn’t fit proposal requirements When your design is emergent When want to or need to change direction/method PART SIX: WORKING WITH LITERATURE The importance of literature The role of literature Sourcing relevant literature Types of literature Calling on ‘experts’ Honing your search skills Managing the literature Assessing relevance Being systematic Annotating references Writing a the formal ‘literature review’ Purpose Coverage The writing process PART SEVEN: DESIGNING A RESEARCH PLAN Methodology, methods and tools The relationship between methodology and methods Moving from questions to answers Finding a path Hitting the target Getting down to the nitty gritty Fundamental questions Emergent methodological design PART EIGHT: UNDERSTANDING METHODOLOGIES: QUANTITATIVE, QUALITATIVE AND ‘MIXED’ APPROACHES Understanding the quantitative/ qualitative divide The quantitative tradition Scientific/ hypothetico-deductive methods Experimental design Exploring a population The qualitative tradition Credibility in qualitative studies Ethnography Phenomenology Ethnomethodology Understanding feminist approaches Mixed methodology Arguments for mixed methodology Perspectives and strategies Challenges and obstacles PART NINE: UNDERSTANDING METHODOLOGIES: EVALUATIVE, ACTION-ORIENTED AND EMANCIPATORY STRATEGIES Research that attempts to drive change Evaluation research Summative/outcome evaluation Formative/process evaluation The politics of evaluative research Negotiating real-world challenges of evaluative research Action research The scope of action research Key elements of action research Challenges associated with action research Emancipatory research Participatory action research Critical ethnography Issues in emancipatory research PART TEN: SEEKING ‘RESPONDENTS’ Who holds the answer? Samples: Selecting elements of a population Opportunities in working with a ‘sample’ Sample selection Random samples Non-random samples Key informants: Working with experts and insiders Opportunities in working with key informants Informant selection Cases: Delving into detail Opportunities in working with cases Case selection PART ELEVEN: DIRECT DATA COLLECTION – SURVEYS AND INTERVIEWS The challenge of getting data directly from the source Surveying Options and possibilities Issues and complexities The survey process The survey instrument Interviewing Options and possibilities Issues and complexities The interview process Conducting your interview PART TWELVE: INDIRECT DATA COLLECTION: WORKING WITH OBSERVATIONS AND EXISTING TEXT The challenge of gathering indirect data Observation Options and possibilities Issues and complexities The observation process Receiving, reflecting, recording, authenticating Working with existing ‘text’ Options and possibilities Issues and complexities The process of textual analysis Delving into documents, history, artefacts, and secondary data PART THIRTEEN: ANALYSING QUANTITATIVE DATA Moving from raw data to significant findings Keeping a sense of the overall project Doing statistical analysis Managing data and defining variables Data management Understanding variables – cause and effect Understanding variables – measurements scales Descriptive statistics Measuring central tendency Measuring dispersion Measuring the shape of the data Inferential statistics Questions suitable to inferential statistics Statistical significance Understanding and selecting the right statistical test Presenting quantitative data PART FOURTEEN: ANALYZING QUALITATIVE DATA The promise of qualitative analysis Keeping the bigger picture in focus From raw data to significant findings QDA software The logic of QDA Balancing creativity and focus Moving between inductive and deductive reasoning The methods of QDA Identifying biases/ noting impressions Reducing and coding into themes Looking for patterns and interconnections Mapping and building themes Developing theory Drawing conclusions Specific QDA strategies Presenting quantitative data PART FIFTEEN: THE CHALLENGE OF WRITING UP The writing challenge Research as communication Knowing and engaging your audience Finding an appropriate structure and style The writing process Writing as analysis Constructing your ‘story’ Developing each section/ chapter From first to final draft The need for exposure Attending conferences Giving presentations Writing and submitting articles The final word