Research process covers a series of steps ranging from formulating the research problem to deriving conclusions, which need to be taken to carry out research. The investigator has to design this process in a scientific and logical way. The most important aspect of research process is that researcher has to incorporate a systematic, planned and logical scheme in the research work. These steps are supposed to be intimately linked with each other; following is the detail of steps to be taken for research in social sciences:
1. Formulating of the Research Problem: The formulation of the research problem is the most important issue in the entire research planning. A well-defined research problem means half of the war is won. This is supposed to be well thought exercise. It means:
a. researcher has to answer in no ambiguous terms
b. What kind of data has to be created?
c. What type of relations between data to be explored?
d. What techniques need to be employed for the purpose?
The answer to all these questions amounts to fencing the research problem. In the social science research, there are numerous variables playing a role and as long as researcher categorically define the problem and lay down boundaries within which the research problem is to be comprehended the research work cannot be taken to a logical end.
The first step of the research process is to find the broad area of research and then narrow it down to specific problem in operational terms. The researchers should simultaneously start making literature survey to find out what kind of conceptual framework and empirical literature is available for research investigation.
The literature survey will help the researcher to ascertain the material available for operational purposes, and to re-articulate his research topic into analytical or operational terms. Researcher needs to be very careful about objectivity and validity of the background data.
2. Preparation of Synopsis and Working Hypothesis: Development of complete research proposal or synopsis is the second step. At this stage an extensive review of literature needs to be done. The details of already published work need to be clearly described and gaps in the existing level of knowledge should be identified and it should be clearly brought out in the synopsis that how proposed study is going to fill up these gaps.
Next step after the extensive literature survey is to construct a suitable hypothesis which can give a focus to research. How to construct a hypothesis is a crucial issue. Researcher can discuss research problem with colleagues, experts, examine existing studies on the subject, or conduct personal investigation on limited scale as pilot study to construct a hypothesis. Hypothesis emerges out of this a prior thinking on the subject.
3. Preparing the Research Design: Research design is one of the most important exercises for the overall success of the research project. Research design involves almost every aspect of the research the planning of the means for collecting the information, availability of skilled field investigators, time available for research & cost implication.
4. Determining Sample Design: All the items under consideration in the research constitute the population or universe of the research. Particularly, it is not possible to include all the items in the investigation due to variety of reasons mainly due to cost implications. Therefore it is a prevalent practice in research process to take a representative sample of the entire universe and put it to test. How to take a sample out of the population is an important step in the entire research investigation.
Broadly there are two approaches to sample research design:
a. Probability and Non-probability Sample: Probability sample is that sample in which all the items have known probability of being included in the sample and another is non-probability samples which do to allow the researchers to determine the probability of each items being included in the sample and can be described as follows:
i. Probability Sampling sample designs includes following:
a. Simple Random Sampling
b. Systematic Sampling
c. Stratified Sampling
d. Cluster Area Sampling
ii. Non-probability sample designs include following:
a. Convenience Sampling
b. Judgmental Sampling
c. Quota Sampling Techniques
5. Planning of Collection of Data: There are a range of methods to collect data and the right method of data collection can be decided by the researchers keeping in view of the consideration of time, cost, and other resources at the disposal of the researchers. The primary data can be collected by way of survey or through an experiment.
In the case of survey, data can be collected by way of variety of methods:
b. Personal Interview
c. Telephonic Interview
d. Mailing of questionnaires or schedules
Researcher has to select appropriate method taking into consideration nature of investigative, time for investigation & resources available for investigation.
6. Execution of the Project: Execution of the research investigation requires planning and supervision. The field investigators collecting data should be properly trained. The job of the field investigators collecting data is specifically important when data is to be collected through interview schedules. No-response is a most common problem being faced by researchers and follow up is required to tackle this issue. Research investigator has a very important role is this connection as his job is to keep the project going as per time schedule and exercise effective control in the process of execution.
7. Analysis of Data and Testing of Hypothesis: Once the data is collected, researchers have to move into crucial phase of analysis of data. However, before analysis of data is to be make ready to be analyzed and it involves closely related operations such as:
a. Categorization of data
d. Deriving statistical inferences
After analysis of data, researchers can move ahead to test the hypothesis and it can be tested by applying various statistical tests like; chi-square, t-test and F-test are available these day to find out whether the data generated through study supports the hypothesis or not. Any or more number of these tests can be applied to test the hypothesis which will decide whether hypothesis constructed at the beginning of the study is to be accepted or rejected. Application of statistical tools depends upon the quality of the research and skill of the researcher.
8. Generalization and Interpretation: In every research, researcher tries to relate observations/data collected to theory. For the establishment of theory, facts are to be collected and collected facts converted into concepts and in the final stage it becomes theory. So whatever data is being collected should have theoretical orientation. If a hypothesis is tested repeatedly then researcher can move to generalization and construct a theory out of it. This is the real objective of the research. Sometimes there is no hypothesis to start with. Under such circumstances the data generated by the study can give us clues for constructing hypothesis in future studies.
9. Preparation for the Report: This is the final stage of any research investigation. The report should generally carry the sections like preliminary pages like:
d. List of Table/Graphs/Charts
The main text of the report is divided into:
b. Main Body
c. Statement of findings/recommendations
The report should be concise and written in objective style. Good research should be systematic, logical, based on observation and should be replicable.