Friday, November 20, 2009

Characteristics of Research

Introduction to Nursing Research

Characteristics of Research
The ability of research to find solutions to problems depends on its ability to generate valid knowledge through well established processes. Each of the definitions examined above has emphasized the systematic nature of research investigations. The use of such terms as systematic, organized, controlled, empirical, and objective (or unbiased) simply indicate that research is scientific i.e. it closely follows the methods of science. Gay’s (1981, p.6) definition of research as “the formal, systematic application of the scientific method to the study of problems” makes the connection between research and science obvious. Research therefore possesses the following characteristics (Best & Kahn, 1989; Trochim, 2002), many of which emphasize its scientific orientation.

1.       It addresses problems: research like most scientific investigations is motivated by the existence of problems.
2.      It is systematic: this means that research is carefully ordered in well-defined steps that are obvious to all. The procedures used in the investigation should be so well defined to make them amenable to verification by others.
3.      It is empirical: Research relies on objective observations of reality i.e. whatever notions the researcher has about any phenomenon or situation must be tested or compared against observations of true reality.
4.      It is Controlled: this means that “…research observations are tightly disciplined” (Kerlinger, 1975, p.11). In other words, all activities or possible outcomes in the research are accounted for in such a way that they are not affected by anything the researcher is not interested in.
5.      It is probabilistic: it is based on probabilities i.e. nothing is certain or absolute in research. Every finding or assertion is subject to change or total rejection in the light of new evidence.
6.      It is theoretical: it is concerned with developing, exploring or testing the theories or ideas we have about the world.
7.      It is nomothetic: it is interested in the general case rather than the individual. Even when a research studies the individual, it would want to generalise to more than the individual. This is particularly the case with behavioural researches.
8.     Research involves collecting fresh data (first hand or primary data) or using old data for new purposes.
9.      Research is carefully recorded and reported: every step or procedure that a researcher takes in the conduct of a research has to be documented because these documentations of procedures and results provide the evidence that researchers need to support the conclusions they reach. Similarly when the research is completed it must be reported i.e. made widely available and accessible to members of the scientific or educational community for public scrutiny.

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