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Research Methodology and its importance

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Research methodology is generally chapter number three (3) of the research report, but last in research proposal, writes Professor Edgar Nyanga.

This chapter covers research design, area of study, target population, sample and sampling techniques (sample size and sampling techniques), data collection methods, description of research instruments, data analysis and ethical considerations.

In advanced studies, this chapter may include the research philosophy which is the researcher’s view point.

Research Design:
Research design has been described as the overall research plan of how researchers could collect and analyse data, answer research enquiries, fulfill research aims and objectives, and address research constraints and ethical issues (Cooper & Schindler, 2011; Saunders et al., 2012). De Vaus (2006) avers that research design refers to the overall strategy that a researcher chooses to integrate the different components of the study in a coherent and logical way, thereby, ensuring the researcher will effectively address the research problem; it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data.

The function of a research design is to ensure that the evidence obtained enables the researcher to effectively address the research problem logically and as unambiguously as possible.

Commonly used research designs include: qualitative method, quantitative method and mixed method of design.

Area of study: Area of the study refers to specific place/ places where the research is going to be conducted (Creswell, 2012). This should clearly be stated and the reason/s for selecting such an area outlined.

Target Population: Target population is a group of individuals who have the same characteristics that the researcher can identify and study (Creswell, 2012). Creswell (2012) elucidates that a population is that aggregation of elements from which the sample is actually selected. It is further explained as that group of people the researcher wants to draw conclusions.

Sample Size: A sample is a subgroup of the target population that the researcher plans to study for generalising about the target population (Creswell, 2012). In social research sampling refers to the systematic selection of the target group, which represents the population being studied (Kothari, 2004).

Sampling Techniques: The sample was selected through purposive sampling method. In purposive sampling the researcher selected people or sites that can best help to understand the phenomenon (Creswell, 2012). The inclusion of the participants was based on the capacity of the participant to inform the researcher (Kothari, 2004).

Data Collection procedure: Data collection is one of the most significant stages in conducting a research project (Saunders et al., 2009). In this stage, planning, effort and patience are needed to collect data accurately (Saunders et al., 2009). In order to collect data accurately, diverse data collection methods have been suggested for research studies such as interview, questionnaire, observation, focus group, diary, critical incident technique, protocol analysis, and postcard (Easterby-Smith et al, 2012).

Description of the Instruments: The instruments should help the respondent to answer in simple, clear, concise and precise way and to ensure that the responses made to those questions/ issues were also simple, clear, concise and precise as averred by (Kothari 2004).

There are many research instruments that are available before the researcher and they include; questionnaires, interview guides, observations, group discussions, and other related.

Data Analysis: Data analysis is the process of systematically searching and arranging the interview transcript, field notes and other material that can be accumulated to increase understanding and to enable the researcher present what has been discovered to others (Creswell, 1994). Qualitative data analysis is the range of processes whereby the researcher moves from the qualitative data that have been collected, into some form of explanation, understanding or interpretation of the people and situations which were investigated (Creswell, 2009).

The researcher can use Microsoft word (MW) to analyse qualitative data for coding, the process of categorizing data by applying tags to portions of it.

Quantitative data analysis is a systematic approach to investigations during which numerical data is collected and/ or the researcher transforms what is collected or observed into numerical data (Foley, 2018). This involves measuring or counting attributes (i.e. quantities) (Creswell, 2009). Microsoft office, Statistical package for Social Sciences (SPSS) are some of the instruments that can help the researcher analyse quantitative data. There is no harm in combining them.

Pilot Testing: Kothari (2004) explains that before a researcher can carry out the data collection, it is important that he/ she pretest the data collection instruments to ensure that the instruments will help collect the required information. In general, the pilot study, by producing additional data, provides valuable insights, mitigates uncertainty about research outcomes, and increases the chances of success in research. It can identify potential practical problems and provide advance warning of any mistake or shortcoming in the research (De Vaus, 2004).

The researcher selects randomly 10% of sample as averred by McManus (2004)) of the sample size.

Reliability: Lahdenpera (2012) indicates that measurement of reliability refers to the degree to which the data collection methods, as they are designed, can accomplish what it is that they are designed to accomplish. Reliability refers to the consistency of a measure. A test is considered reliable if the researcher gets the same result repeatedly.

Validity: Validity in research is the issue of how valid the research is, in other words, how logical, truthful, robust, sound, reasonable, meaningful and useful the research is (Quinlan, 2011). It is vital for a test to be valid in order for the results to be accurately applied and interpreted. Validity isn’t determined by a single statistic, but by a body of research that demonstrates the relationship between the test and the behavior it is intended to measure.

Ethical Considerations: The researcher must discuss the topic under study with participants (respondents) before taking part to enable them know exactly what is expected of them in agreeing to participate in the study as indicated by Lahdenpera (2012). The researcher must ensure that participants are clear on the fact that participation was voluntary. Permission to carry out the research must be sought from the participants and relevant authorities. The researcher must assure the respondents of strict confidentiality in relation to information obtained during the research.

Conclusion: In this study, the writer outlined the research methodology with the following; the research design, the target population, research instruments that were used, techniques on how data was collected and methods of data analysis and finally, the ethical considerations.

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