Introduction to Educational Research Process
Generally, the term, “Research” refers to a systematic search for answers to a particular question or problem (Okebukola,2014).
This implies that for an activity to be regarded as research; it requires that a problem must be clearly recognized, it involves the determination of what is already known and where the gaps are, and also to fill the gap by collecting information in a scientific and objective manner.
Educational research is done in order to explain and predict phenomena that impact upon teaching and learning and the operations of schools. It intends to bring about better understanding of education process that will lead to improvement of educational practices.
Our working definition of research in this guide is that of Leedy (1997), which is of the opinion that, “research is an activity or process through which we attempt to systematically and with the support of data, give an answer to a question, the resolution of a problem or greater understanding of a phenomenon. Therefore, it is not about mere gathering of information or transformation of facts from one location to the other. The problem under investigation must be interesting to you as the researcher.
The characteristics of research given by Best and Khan (1995) summarized below must be borne in mind throughout the course of your investigation, if correct, rich, mature and quality research work is to be done.
- The development of generalizations, principles or theories that will be helpful in predicting future occurrences.
- The quest for answers to unresolved problems
- It is based upon observable experience or empirical evidence.
- It involves gathering of new data from primary or first-hand sources or using existing data for a new purpose.
- Is often characterized by carefully designed procedures that apply rigorous analysis.
- It is also characterized by courage, patient and unhurried activity.
- It is carefully recorded and reported.
- Requires expertise
- Strives to be objective and logical, applying every possible test to validate the procedures employed, the data collected and the conclusion reached.
As an educational researcher, it is necessary for you to understand the keys steps involved in the research process before embarking on learning, mastering and becoming skilled in the various techniques for carrying out the activities that each step is characterized.
At this point we shall briefly run through the 7 simple steps in the educational research process;
Step 1: Define the research problem
The first step in the process is to identify a problem or develop a research question. The source of an educational research problem could be from research report, personal experiences, textbooks, e.t.c.
The identified problem should be very precise and specific in nature. In other word, it should be clearly described. This is usually done in declarative statement or in question form. It also important to note that the research problem need to be researchable and can be generated from practice, but must be grounded in the existing literature
Step 2: Review Work already done in the area of your investigation
The next step in the research process is the review of the literatures. Now that the problem has been identified, the researcher must learn more about the topic under investigation.
To do this, you must review the literature (writings of recognized authorities) related to the research problem. This involve review of concepts & theories as well as previous research findings. The literature review is intended to also eliminate the duplication of what has been done in the past and provide useful suggestions for significant investigations.
The review of literature also educates you about how these studies were conducted, and the conclusions in the problem area. Further insight on reviewing literatures for your research study and techniques involved can be found as will progress in this guide.
Step 3: Formulate your hypothesis and/or research questions
What drives the research study to the data gathering process is the statement of the hypotheses and/or the research questions. In stating the hypotheses for your study, a further clarification of the problem and logic behind the investigation is attained.
What then is “Hypothesis” in research? A hypothesis is an assumption made about the relationship between two or more than two variables. The hypothesis can be developed through discussions with colleagues and through similar studies carried out earlier. This guide in your hand is also a valuable tool in learning how to developed and state your research hypotheses or research questions.
Step 4: Develop your research plan/Design
A research design is the blueprint for carrying out the research work. It answers who, what, why, when, how, about the investigation. In other word, the design describes the subjects, the instruments for data collection, the procedures for data collection, and the methods for data analysis. More importantly, it should be flexible in order to absorb changes brought about research during the implementation.
Step 5: Implement the research plan by collecting data
Executing the research plan is done by the collection and organization of data. It is a critical step in providing the information needed to test the hypothesis or to answer the research question. Data can be collected in various forms including using a questionnaire, or through observations, or from the literature.
Step 6: Analysis of the research data
The analysis of the research data collected is necessary in order to test the hypotheses inferentially or answer the research question descriptively. As a matter of fact, all the time, effort, and resources you have been putting in the research process culminate in this crucial point.
The results of your data analysis are summarized in a manner directly related to hypotheses or the research questions.
One of the timely and valuable skill you are going to learn in this guide is the techniques of how to conduct statistical data analysis with SPSS even if you are not good in Maths or Statistics.
Step 7: Interpret and present the findings in your thesis
Once the data analysis is done, the results are interpreted and generalization drawn in terms of research questions, hypotheses, and review of the related literature. You can then draw the implications for practice and further research, which acknowledge the limitations of your research.
The research and results can be presented through written reports (project, theses or dissertation), journal articles, and conference papers, both in print and electronic forms.
In conclusion, if you conduct the research as planned well, the research questions you stated should be answered and the problem solved or probably a first step towards achieving this end.