Scientific Research And Its Basic Principles
The two terms, research, and scientific method, are closely related. Research is essentially an attempt to discover something. It can be very informal, with few, if any, specific plans or steps, or it can be formal, with the researcher following highly defined and exacting procedures. Research methodology is a way to systematically solve the research problem. All those methods which are used by the researcher during the course of studying his research problem are termed as research methods.
The Scientific method is the pursuit of truth as determined by logical considerations. The ideal of science is to achieve a systematic interrelation of facts. Scientific method attempts to achieve this ideal by experimentation, observation, logical argument from accepted postulates and a combination of these three in varying proportions.
Scientific research is an organized, objective, controlled, qualitative or quantitative empirical analysis of one or more variables. In scientific research, we make use of scientific method in order to answer specific questions and seek a solution to problems.
Characteristics Of The Scientific Method
There are five basic characteristics, or tenets, that distinguish the scientific method from other methods. A research approach that does not follow these tenets is not a scientific approach.
(1) Scientific research is public : Advanced in science require freely available data. Scientific information must be freely communicated from researcher to others. Researchers must take great care to include information on sampling methods, measurements, and data- gathering procedure in their published reports. This information will allow other researchers to independently verify a given study.
(2) Scientific research is objective : Science tries to rule out eccentricities of judgement by a researcher. When a study is undertaken, explicit rules and procedures are constructed and the researcher bound to follow them. Objectivity also requires that scientific research deals with facts rather than the interpretation of facts. A research is supposed to view and note down things the way they are and not the way he/she wants it to be.
(3) Scientific research's empirical : Researchers are concerned with what is knowable and potentially measurable. Empiricism comes from the Greek word 'experience'. Researchers must be able to perceive and classify what they study and to reject nonsensical explanations of events. However, this does not imply that scientist should avoid abstract ideas and notions. They must recognize that concepts must be strictly defined to allow for observation and measurement. Scientists must link abstract concepts to the empirical world through observation, which may be done either directly or indirectly through various measurement instruments. Scientific research is therefore, empirical; it is based on facts and can be verified.
(4) Scientific research is systematic and cumulative : Science research is based on a systematic study. No single research stands alone, nor does it rise or fall by itself. Astute researchers always use previous studies as building blocks for their own work. One of the first steps in conducting research is to review the existing literature. In addition, scientists attempt to include newer information if possible.
(5) Scientific research's predictive : Scientific research is concerned with relating the present to the future. This is done by conducting research and ultimately progressing to the formation of or theory or law and make predictions on that basis which may be applicable universally.
Empiricism, Verifiability and Generalisation
Science research is based on 3 important principles namely empiricism, verifiability and generalisation. Empiricism, as discussed earlier is the dependency of the study on the basis of facts. It implies that the researcher base his\her study on that data which is factual and not dealing with vague notions. Moreover scientific research has to be verifiable, this means that whatever be the study, it should be verifiable by any person who wishes to verify it. The researcher should include in his research report all details of his study like sources of data, measurement tools, etc. This will help other researchers to independently check and verify the study. Generalisation is also a basic principle of scientific research. Making generalisations that are universally applicable is also one of the aims of a research study. This also helps in adding on to the available information and verifying the old information. Every research study makes some kind of prediction or generalisation after the research has been completed and properly analysed.
Quantitative Vs. Qualitative Data
Qualitative research involves several methods of data collection such as focus groups, field observation, in - depth interviews, and case- studies. Qualitative data is on qualitative phenomenon i.e. phenomena relating to or involving quality or kind. For instance, a researcher is interested in investigating the reasons for human behaviour (i.e., why people think or do certain things). This type of data discovers the underlying motives and desires. Qualitative data collection research has certain advantages. First of all, it allows a researcher to view human behaviour in its natural setting, moreover, the techniques used are flexible and allows the researcher to pursue new areas of interest. A problem could arise with the reliability of the data and small size of a sample. Quantitative data us based on measurement of some amount or quality. It is applicable when the phenomena can be expressed in terms of quality. Quantitative data is collected through methods like telephone surveys, mall surveys, and internet surveys. A large sample size can be used in case of quantitative research.
Debate Over Positivism
Positivism focuses on stating facts the way they are in research. A researcher has to carry out his study in a scientific manner. He has to simply collect facts and present them the way they are without passing any kind of value judgements. There has been a criticism for this, that at times it is necessary to pass value judgements. It could be in relation to what media in a particular society should do ideally or how should it be operating in a given society. Positivism does not concern itself with passing any kind of value judgement. For e.g. In a study relating to the role of television in an illiterate community, if the positivist approach is applied to this topic, then the researcher will simply focus on what role television is actually performing in that society on the basis of empirical data. But if positivism is criticised, here it would deal with what television is doing, and importance would also be given to what television should ideally be doing say for instance, it could try and spread ideas of literacy. A lot of debate is there that whether in mass media research, should positivism approach be adopted or should the focus be on the value judgement of some kind be made in relation to the media.