Steps of Research Process
- Research is a rigorous process that requires a certain code of conduct to be followed. In order to systematically and scientifically carry out this process, one needs to follow a number of steps. These steps entail a series of closely related activities done in a definite way to get accurate findings.
- Despite it being a scientific process, one should regard research as an art than a science. What, indeed, makes any research stand out for its findings, is defined by how well the whole process has been executed. Following are the main steps involved in research (academic):
- Selection of Research Problem
- Literature Review
- Making Hypothesis
- Preparing Research Design
- Deciding Sampling Technique
- Data Collection
- Data Analysis
- Testing the Hypothesis
- Generalisation and Interpretation
- Preparation of Report or Report Writing (thesis writing for the purpose of an academic degree)
Step I: Selecting a Research Problem
- The research process begins with identifying the research problem. A research problem is the area of concern which the researcher has chosen to study.
- The selection cannot be random, whilst needs a thorough understanding of the problem.
- Usually, in academics, a research problem is the troubling question that exists in literature/theory or our day to day life.
- It’s quite important that the research question or topic should be practical, socially feasible and politically acceptable. More importantly, it should be a topic that primarily interests the researcher undertaking study.
Step II: Literature Review
- Once we have sorted the research problem, the next step should be to understand the topic well. This requires an extensive literature review. By literature review, we mean the study of all the existing research works that are in some way or other related to our research question.
- This step also helps to check the volume of work that has been done in the same field. Often, a research problem, that has no existing literature, is toned down further to make it more practical and realistic.
Step III: Making Hypothesis
- Next step involves the formulation of hypothesis. It is a technical process and requires much precision.
- Making a hypothesis depends upon the experience and knowledge of the researcher. In the research literature, the hypothesis often refers to ‘an educated guess’ because it suggests an expected outcome based on evidence.
- In other words, the hypothesis is a proposed explanation for the phenomenon that needs to be tested going forward in a research process. In statistics, the hypothesis is usually written in “if…then’ format.
Step IV: Preparing Research Design
- This is another technical step and needs expertise and proficiency. After finalising the research problem/question and formulation of the hypothesis, the researcher proceeds to prepare the research design.
- By definition, research design refers to the strategies (a framework) that lay down a coherent plan to address the research problem. It can be considered to be a blueprint for the rest of the steps involved in the research process including data collection, measurement and data analysis.
Step V: Deciding Sampling Technique
- The next step is about deciding the sampling technique. In research, a sample is a group of people, objects, or items that can have been picked from the entire population.
- Sampling can be done random and non-random. Great care should be taken while deciding the sample population and size as the picked population needs to represent the universe (population as a whole).
- A good sampling technique helps to generalise the findings. Broadly there are five types of sampling methods: random, systematic, convenience, cluster and stratified sampling (explanation of these will be covered in next post).
Step VI: Data Collection
- This is, indeed, the most meticulous part of a research process. This involves collecting the information from the respondents or the chosen sample.
- Data collection can be done in two ways: primary and secondary.
- In primary data collection, information is collected directly from the respondents. This is the first-hand knowledge about the population in concern. Primary data collection is done through methods like personal interviews, observation, questionnaires, schedules etc.
- In secondary data collection, we make explicit use of second-hand information. Methods like archives, memoirs, biographies, journals are considered part of secondary data collection.
Step VII: Data Analysis
- The analysis of data requires a number of closely related activities that simplify and categories the collected data.
- This may include coding, tabulation, editing and so on. After the required data is collected and processed, it is elucidated through description, explanation, narration, conclusion, recommendation and suggestions.
- These days, researchers make wide use of computer software to analyse the data.
Step VIII: Testing the Hypothesis
- Later, analysed data is used to test the hypothesis. Hypothesis testing means determining whether the hypothesis assumed for the sample of data stands true for the entire population or not. It is, at this step, we determine whether the hypothesis has been rejected or accepted. Whether a hypothesis is rejected or accepted is computed statistically.
Step IX: Generalisation and Interpretation
- After the hypothesis has been tested, the researcher is in position to generalise and make interpretations. It is at this stage theory can be formulated.
Step X: Report Writing
- This is the final step that involves sharing of results or findings in a prescribed format. How a report or thesis is to be written varies from one institution to another.
- Nonetheless, there are some common sections or parts that should comprise a thesis. (refer to our previous notes for a comprehensive understanding of thesis writing).
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