Ranjit Kumar’s “Research methodology: a step-by-step guide for beginners” is the one comprehensive methodology book that I have come across. It explains complex, hard to grasp, elusive concepts quite simply.
Today, I am reading it gain as I am trying to conceptualise my topic and the how of tackling it. It always gets a bit muddy at the early stage of a new research project – difficulty of getting a good grasp of what it is that you are actually trying to do. The mind is a funny place, it just goes all over the place. So, for now I am trying to read good books to soothe my mind into believing that I am not losing it. 🙂
Here is just an extract of the summary of Kumar’s chapter “Research: a way of thinking” (Kumar, 2005, p4):
There are several ways of collecting and understanding information and finding answers to your questions– research is one way. The difference between research and other ways of obtaining answers to your questions is that in a process that is classified as research, you work within a framework of a set of philosophies, use methods that have been tested for validity and reliability, and attempt to be unbiased and objective.
Research has many applications. You need to have research skills to be an effective service provider, administrator/manager or planner. As a professional who has a responsibility to enhance professional knowledge, research skills are essential.
The typology of research can be looked at from three perspectives: application, objectives and the inquiry process. From the point of view of the application of research, there is applied and pure research. Most of the research undertaken in the social sciences is applied, the findings being designed either for use in understanding a phenomenon/issue or to bring change in a program/situation. Pure research is academic in nature and is undertaken in order to gain knowledge about phenomena that may or may not have application in the near future, and to develop new techniques and procedures that form the body of research methodology. A research study can be carried out with four objectives: to describe a situation, phenomenon, problem or issue (descriptive research); to establish or explore a relationship between two or more variables (correlational research); to explain why certain things happen the way they do (explanatory research). From the point of view of the mode of inquiry, there are two types of research: quantitative and qualitative. The main objective of a qualitative study is to describe the variation in a phenomenon, situation or attitude, whereas quantitative research, in addition, helps you to quantify the variation.
There are two main paradigms that form the basis of social science research: positivist and naturalist. The crucial question that divides the two is whether the methodology of research in the physical sciences can be applied to research in the social sciences.
Emphasis (bold typeface & underlines) added by me.