FORMULATION OF RESEARCH PROBLEMS AND STEPS OF RESEARCH
One of the important concepts and the back bone of research analysis is that of ‘identifying research problem(s)'. This is the real difficulty that commonly creates puzzle in the minds of researchers at the initial stage of research work. It is rather researcher's perception or recognition of a difficulty that motivates him/her for planning a research. All the imagination that rules in the mind of a researcher while recognizing about a research, difficulty may not be necessarily a best fit and accurate problem, for which, the process and task of identification of a good research problem is considered as a ‘discovery in itself'.
2.2 FORMULATION OF RESEARCH PROBLEM
However, in a general meaning, a research problem may be stated as some difficulty which an individual (manager) or organization(s) or society faces and the solution on the existing difficulty is sought. A proper, systematic and thorough analysis of a research problem will definitely enable the researcher (may be social scientist in case of social science research or business executive in case of business research) to be on the right track in the process of research. As it is often said that a problem or difficulty may be defined/stated clearly treated as half solved. As much as the researcher is clear about the problem, it will be better on his/her part to smoothly carry on the entire consequential steps continuously one after the other in the process of execution of a scientific research work.
2.3 COMPONENTS OF RESEARCH PROBLEM:
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The components of identifying a research problem imply that of analyzing some basic necessities which are required in the process of identifying a research problem. In this process, a research goal should satisfy five basic requirements as outlined below:
a. Existence of Both Researcher(s) and Respondent(s):
One of the basic requirements for identifying a research problem is the presence of both the parties- the researcher(s) and the respondent (s). The respondent(s) may be an individual or a group who face some difficulty or problem. Similarly, the researcher may be an individual or a group who want to solve the existing problem of the respondent(s). The respondents may be the customers, employees, executives etc., in case of business research where as they may be common human beings in case of social science research. For example, if the respondents are not facing any difficulty, then there may not arise any question of decision-making and hence, no chance of research.
b. Both Must Have Some Objectives:
The second basic requirement is that, to identify a research problem, both the parties must have some objectives. The respondents want to fulfill their basic requirements of life, want to live in a healthy environment, willingness to purchase new products, to maintain standard of living and as a whole are having unlimited wants. The researchers task is to solve the existing huddles in the process of achieving the desires of the respondents i.e., satisfaction of unlimited human wants.
c. Both Must Have Some Doubt While Selecting Alternatives:
The respondents are having a number of alternatives with them. This creates doubts in their mind while deciding which alternative to select. Similarly, the researchers are also having few alternatives in the form of doubts. This may lead to the question of selecting the important one that can solve the existing problem in a better way.
For example: Let that Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL), is interested to lunching a new brand of tooth paste, with the brand name ‘PARAS' in India. The R&D cell of HUL is interested to know the market picture of this product and wants to predict the feasibility of the product in the market before introducing it. The researchers of HUL may identify some problem areas like: Who are the major competitor in this product category?, What are the brand image and share of different competitors?, What is the dealers' reaction towards the proposed product? In which market segment (area) HUL should concentrate? etc. All these are required for the R&D members for suggesting their management while deciding on whether to lunch the product or not? All the four alternatives chosen can give the answer to the question that whether or not to go for the new product. But due to some constraint the team has to make a choice between the alternatives and have to concentrate on any one or few alternatives. Now it is very difficult on the part of the researcher(s) to decide that which one will give better result to achieve at the desired objectives. Similarly, the respondents are also having number of alternatives with them while purchasing a product.
d. There Must be an Environment:
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An activity can emerge in an environment. Like wise a research problem can exist in an environment. The environment may be social, business, political, demographic, technological or any such environments characterized by problems of any kind.
2.4 FACTORS OF PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION:
Originating problems or questions constitute the initial phase in the process of problem-formulation. The process of problem finding is having some component of analysis. These components answer to the general questions like how to proceed in the process of problem identification? In this connection Gupta 2001, distinguishes three principal components in the progressive formulation of a research problem like:
* What one wants to know? (The originating a general question)
* Why one wants to have the particular questions answered? (the rationale behind the question)
* Analyzing the questions formatted in search of their appropriateness.
a. What One Wants to Know?
This type of question generally represents the beginning of certain difficulties or challenges which, should be formulated in such specific terms so as to indicate where exactly the answers to the problem can be found. One type of originating question calls for discovering particular matter of common interest. Another type of originating question draws direct attention to the search for analysis and comparison between different variables in a society. Some questions may be descriptive in nature, while another group of researchers may raise the questions based on the adequacy of certain concepts, while some may be interested in analyzing observed empirical generalizations and so on.
b. Why One Wants to Have the Particular Question Answered?
The second phase of problem formulation is that of analyzing the vagueness or rational of the formulated question. Rationale is defined as the statement of reasons why a particular question is having some value in that circumstances. Hence, it answers to the question how the answers to the question(s) formulated will contribute to theory or/and in practice?
c. Analyzing the Questions Formulated:
Each question differs to that of another question in their degree of specificity. Some questions may be quite diffused where as some may be relatively specific and some questions formulated may be undifferentiated or fused. Thus the questions must be broken down into several specifying questions related to the particular aspects may be from management field or related to the areas of social science or can be any combination between the two.
2.5. NATURE OF THE PROBLEM:
One of the important concerns before finalizing the problem in research is that of thoroughly scanning the nature of the identified problem(s) by the researcher. As it is already stated earlier that the researchers may face number of huddles (i.e., limited time, less budget, lack of resources etc.) in the process of research, hence, they have to compare the huddles that they are facing and the nature of problem they have identified. The following derivation will help the reader in clarifying this concept.
Case-1: When the problem is narrow in scope
Foe example: ‘Soft drink habits of management students of a particular institute of a specific area?. Like ‘Soft drink habits of management students of IM&F, Bangalore'.
‘Socio-economic condition of fruit sellers of Noida' etc
Solution: These cases require less time to execute, less expensive and also requires fewer resources.
Case-2: When the problem identified is broad in scope
For example: ‘Impact of world economic crisis on corporate employment'
‘Impact of government programmes on rural development in India'
Solution: Take Long time, expensive and need more resources.
Case-3: The problem identified cannot be measured
For example: ‘Will this new information technology make society better?'
‘Is it possible to shift the human being to Moon to settle there?'
Solutions: Difficult to estimate.
Based on the accessible limitations, the researchers are advised to select their own problem. If they are having less time, less finance to execute research work etc., here it is advisable to identify a research problem which may be narrow in scope and so on.
2.6. SOURCES OF IDENTIFYING RESEARCH PROBLEM(S):
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Where is the problems lie? or what will be the sources of research problem? This is the question that generally puzzles the minds of researchers at the beginning stage of the research. Most of the researchers are always in search of research problems. The task of problem selection is always confusing. One can explore a research problem basically from three important sources. They are
1. Researcher's own interest
2. Contemporary interests of the researcher
3. Identifying unexplored areas
1. Researcher's Own Interest:
Gupta (2001) pointed out that personal values play an important role along with other determinants in the selection of a topic of research. Researcher(s) with different values tend to choose different topics for investigation. It is always advisable and better to select the problem based on the own interest of the researcher itself. A researcher may select a problem for research from a given situation or circumstances or existing theory as per his/her area of interest. One may generate an idea either while reading a research paper or reading a particular subject in self interested areas. For example, while doing my Ph. D in economics, I am very much interested to explore the level of living in India.
Box-2.1: Illustration of Own Interest in Research
A popular way of looking at the level of living of the people in the country is to look at the state of inequality in the distribution of income and the level of poverty by analysing their consumption pattern. One of the major curiosities in the Indian economy is to define and estimate a poverty line and to determine the percentage of people below it. There are number of methods to estimate poverty line and number of indices to measure the magnitude of inequality and incidence of poverty. The scope of the study is limited to some popular and widely used traditional, modern (non-ethical) and the recently developed ethical measures of poverty and to some positive and normative measure of inequality to estimate the incidence of poverty and magnitude of inequality in the state.
2. Contemporary Interest of the Researcher:
In the busy world, a researcher may come across various problems which require a specific study. Beside personal interest, social and or business environmental conditions do often shape the preference of investigators in order to identify research problem (s). Since societies and/or business environments differ in respect of the premium they place on the work in different fields, hence, these differences affect the choice of research topics. In a given socio-business condition, thousands and thousands of opportunities prevail and can be identified. It is however, researcher's own conscious, matters a lot while identifying a research problem. For instance, suppose the prices of major durable goods like that of TVs, washing machines etc., are reducing day-to-day in the electronic market in India, here, the researcher may be interested to study the extent of reduce in price in different time periods, factors that are influencing the acquisition of durables, diffusion of durable goods and hence, demand for the durable goods in the market and so on. Conversion of a problem of contemporary interest into a good and interesting research topic depends largely on the skill and expertise of the researcher in that field of knowledge.
3. Gap in the Existing Theories/Principles:
The third source in the process of problem identification is of analyzing the existing gap in the available theories or principles in literatures. Irrespective of rapid expansion of communication, there still exists gap between what is known and what is unknown. This identification of gap between the two is the task of the researcher while selecting a research problem. This type of research would be extending and broadening the field of knowledge in that area. The theoretical or empirical studies conducted on this basis may sometimes alter, modify or revise the existing theories or principles. Here, the researcher uses some existing theories or principles from any discipline of knowledge, may be managerial economics, macro economics, international trade, marketing management, consumer behaviours, finance etc., in the empirical analysis and suggest some modification or development of some new theories in the existing one.
Box-2.2: Methods of Estimating Unit Consumer Scales:
Consumption pattern of a household, in general is affected by several factors, which may be of economic and non-economic in nature. For example, age-sex distribution, marital status, occupation etc., of the members of the household might be the significant determinants of the consumption pattern in addition to income, tastes, size of the household etc. Since different types of household members have different needs and ability to consume, the actual decisions regarding expenditure by a household are considerably influenced by the consumption of the household (in terms of age-sex etc.). Several researchers1 have proposed alternative methods of estimation of unit consumer scales (to estimate the ‘specific' and ‘income' unit consumer weights, which constitute ‘specific' and ‘income' scales respectively).
In the beginning, the effect of a single additional individual on the household consumption was used to investigate, by comparing group of households with identical composition except for the presence or absence of one members. This approach was soon abandoned in view of its inefficient results and various other difficulties (Kemsley, 1952). The limitations of this method are: (1) it is difficult to get sufficient number of households of the requisite type and (2) it is possible that consumption pattern of the households of this type may be different by several other factors such as income distribution, regional, climatic and social conditions etc.
As a result, subsequent researchers in the field mainly considered child as a fraction of an adult. Although, this idea was originally propounded by Carrol and Bright (1875) and then by Engel (1857) but its scientific treatment was done by Sydenstricker and King (1921).
Singh (1968), Singh and Nagar (1973) adopted a modified version of Prais and Houthakker's iterative procedure to estimate both the specific and income scales independently of any such restrictions and assumptions as employed in the models of Forsyth (1960), Barten (1969) and Coondoo (1973, 1975). It is obvious that the same form of the Engel function (in per capita or per unit terms) may not describe the consumption pattern with respect to all the items of consumption. Prais and Houthakker choose to work with only the semi-log and the double-log in their study. However, Singh and Nagar's model need not be constrained by any particular form of the Engel function. Instead, they scan through eleven different functional forms and (viz. L, DL, SL, EX, LI, HYP, P, LP, LO, LLI and SLI) and select for the purpose of analysis the one which (i) provide initial and final critical levels of demand below and above which the consumer would not have any demand for the item in question however low or high his income may be, (ii) satisfy the Slutsky's conditions and (iii) explains the maximum variation in the dependent variable.
Hence, it can be said that selection of a research topic is not the end of research process rather it is only half a step forward. The selection of topics does not help the researcher to see the data are relevant to the methodology to be used, the design of the research etc.
2.7. PROCESS FOR FORMATION OF A RESEARCH PROBLEM:
There are number of processes of identification of research problem. They are as follows:
1. Systematic Inquiry Through Pilot Survey:
Having a few alternatives in mind, the researcher has to inquiry about the viability of each alternative through pilot survey. The process of pilot survey is nothing but is the preliminary study that the researchers are generally doing before finalization of research topic. This will help the researcher in keeping close contact with the problem to that of related requirements like-the condition of the study area, the nature of the respondents, the expected difficulty in data collection, the time frame required to complete the study, the approximate budget required etc., to solve the problem identified. Some times, it so happens that, the problem selected even though looks easy but in practice it is not so easy to execute.
2. Survey of Existing Literature:
Scanning the literature is having multiple advantages to the researcher. In one hand, it helps the researcher to be familiar with the concepts already available in the literature, hence, add some new knowledge to the researcher in the required area. On the other hand, it also helps the researcher in selecting new alternatives, fixation of hypotheses, deciding objectives of study and so on from the existing literature.
3. Group Discussions:
Group discussions is the process of discussing about particular topics among the persons who are associated with the work. In group discussions each person in the group shares their own existence and knowledge on a particular topic. It may help the researcher in getting the number of new ideas or knowledge to the existing source of knowledge. Again, discussions with the experts also pave a new way and new idea in the existing field. It also provides some practical knowledge which will help the researchers in the process of execution of the research work. Hence, it can be said that a problem/statement gives information concerning who, what, where and how?
2.8. CRITERIA OF A GOOD RESEARCH PROBLEM:
Before finalization of the research problem, the researcher should aware of several conditions and considerations although there is no hard and first rule that all the research problem should follow all the criteria, still few criteria in the form of conditions might be listed for guidance in the selection of a topic. They are: (a) Clarity in problem -the problem selected must have perfect clarity without creating any confusion; (b) Novelty- The problem formulated should be original one so that it should not involve objectionable duplications. Originality is the basic credit point of any research; (c) Logical and Systematic- Research is guided by logic or reasoning; (d) Interesting and Importance- The problem formulated for research should be interesting for the readers and the problem should be significant enough and involve an important principle or practice; (e) Relation between Variables- The problem under study must be in a position to highlight the nature, extent and implications that exist among variables of the study; (f) Availability of adequate information on data- The research work chosen should ensure the devices and procedures etc.
2.9. DIFFICULTIES OF RESEARCH IN INDIA:
India is a pluralistic country. It is not only pluralistic in religion, geographic conditions, body color, living standards etc., but also pluralistic in economic conditions. It generally, possesses characteristics of a typical Under Developed Country (UDC). Before explaining the difficulties that the researchers in India are facing, it is better to narrate some of the distinctive characteristics of the Indian economy.
1. Low Per Capita Income:
India's per capita income is very low compared to the developed countries of the world. The World Development Report 2005 categorized India as a low income category (GNI per capita of $765 or less in 2003) calculated on basis of income aggregates. Similarly, India is also placed in the category of Medium Human Development countries category with HDI value as between 0.05 to 0.799 calculated, based on the human development aggregates in the world.
2. Inequalities in Income Distribution:
Another related characteristic of the Indian economy is the prevalence of gross inequalities. The World Bank, in its World Development Report, 2002, has revealed that the richest 10 per cent took 33.5 per cent of the total income and the poorest 10 per cent received only 3.5 per cent of the total income distribution in India. The larger number of people in the top group includes owners and managers in the private sector, managers of public enterprises, workers in large public and private sector enterprises, government workers at the middle levels and small family farmers in the prosperous rural areas.
3. Predominance of Agriculture:
Agriculture is the mainstay of Indian economy. Agriculture and allied sectors contribute nearly 22 per cent of Gross Domestic Product of India, while about 65-70 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.
4. Low Productivity:
There are wide difference in the level of productivity in different sectors between the advanced and the backward countries. The average productivity in Indian agriculture is about 40 times below the productivity level in U.S.A. and Canara. Difference in the industrial productivity between advanced and backward nations is also found to be very significant.
5. Technological Backwardness:
The techniques of production employed in most of the sectors of the underdeveloped economics are either absolute or outdated. In India, for example, agriculture is still carried out with the centuries old techniques. Similarly, modernization in the industrial sector is also found to be very limited, as most of the industries still employ techniques which have been long discarded in the western countries. The transport sector still needs more improvement.
6. Deficiency in Capital:
A common characteristic of all the underdeveloped countries is the deficiency in capital. The rate of capital formation in India has been depressing low.
7. Rapid Growth of Population:
The rate of growth of population in underdeveloped countries is generally very high. This is primarily because of the high birth rate and low death rate.
8. Existence of Unemployed and Disguised Unemployment:
Unemployment, underemployment and disguised unemployment are very common feature of the underdeveloped nation, as India. Since, population grows rapidly, labour is a prime factor and it is not possible to provide employment to all the people who are capable of work and willing to work. Consequently unemployment and underemployment is found to be very common. In the agricultural sector of the economy, disguised unemployment exists to a considerable degree.
9. Poor Quality of Human Capital:
Human capital implies the quality of the country's labour force. It is the labour which has to play a great role in building up the economy. Public expenditure on education, medical care and social services goes a long way to improve the quality of labour in the nation. Unfortunately, in India masses still continue to be illiterate and ignorant. For this reason, India is lack of skilled experts in various sectors.
10. Under-utilisation of Natural Resources:
In India, still now a large proportion of its forest are laying unexploited. Similarly, the water resources of the country are again remaining unutilized. A better use of all these actual and potential resources pave the way in support of improvement in economic activity and the volume of national production, hence, level of living.
The above features and remaining more, point out that India is an underdeveloped country. In the years after independence the government of India has awakened to the need of economic development of the country and has made an organized effort and initiated the process of development in the country. As a result of these efforts the pace of development has gathered momentum and the country is making a steady progress towards development.
In such a situation, it is very easy on the part of a researcher to find out accurate problems/ideas/objectives of research within a short span of time. But in the process of execution of research work, he/she may face numbers of difficulties. These difficulties generally emerge as bottlenecks in the process of research in our country. Even though, the literature points out about the presence of a number of huddles that the researchers generally face, some important factors are narrated below:
1. Lack of Specialized Institutions:
In India, we have lack of specialized research institutions for conducting frequent research and development in our preferred areas, particularly in management.
2. Lack of Adequate Source of Literature:
Since we are lack of adequate specialized research institutions, hence, there is lack of rich library for getting adequate literature. Even though in some particular cities there exist rich libraries but still they seem to be very few in numbers in comparison to requirement. In such a situation, the researchers are spending huge amount towards maintenance expenditure before the collection of required materials. This task is expensive and also time consuming. Such facts are generally de-motivating the researchers.
3. Lack of Adequate Data:
Collection of primary data is time consuming and expensive. In India, a researcher is not getting adequate data for conducting research work. There are few organizations that collect primary data (panel data) from the field periodically. But the cost of the data available for sell is very high. For example, suppose a person is interested in consumer expenditure data. The best source of data is that of NSSO unit record data. It is surprising that the data CD of 61st round consumer data costs around Rs. 18000/-, which is very expensive and is beyond the limit of the individual researcher(s).
4. Lack of Experts:
We have very limited experts in different fields of research in social sciences and also in management. Since, we have limited institutions and also because of improper salary structure in comparison to developed countries, experts are getting maximum exposure in developed countries and also the working environment is also very attractive and good. This encourages most of our scholars to settle abroad.
5. Technical Bottlenecks:
Technology in 21st century is changing very faster. But in India most of the research scholars are using traditional means of technology in research, which are both time consuming and requires more personal involvement.
5. Infant Industry Condition:
Most of the industries in India are in Infant stage. For this reason, the industries in India are lack of their own research and development cell. Since, the execution of independent research is expensive, requires more time and human resources, thus, the industries prefer to conduct research through consultants and NGOs, rather than opening up of their own R&D department.
6. Dualistic Economy:
Indian industrial sector shows dualistic economic structure i.e., the presence of modern sector and the traditional sector. Similarly, small pockets of development exist in towns and metropolitan cities where the industry has grown and the trade is flourishing. On the other hand, the rural areas continue to be in the grip of backwardness, poverty and stagnation. All these create problems to the researcher to get adjusted with these dualistic natures of the economy.
7. Democratic form of Government:
Since, Indian constitution is adopting the democratic form of Government; hence, we have no strict legal code and conduct for the research. By the way, it is essential for the formation of a code and conduct specifying methodologies and procedure of research and related issues to make the research process more uniform and ethical.
8. Lack of Adequate Financial Assistance to Researcher:
There is lack of certain economic institutions like financial institutions and credit agencies for funding the research work. As funding is not available, it is discouraging research work.
9. Time Consuming:
Research process is mostly time consuming. Since we are using all most all the traditional technique of research, hence, it requires much time. This is discouraging for further research.
2.10 LINKING RESEARCH TO PRACTICE:
Olivier Serrat (2005) of Asian Development Bank, in his volume ‘Linking Research to Practice' which is meant for ADB's series of knowledge solutions pointed out that research greatly exceeds its application in practice. So, he pointed out that researchers must pay greater attention to the production of their research findings in a flexible range of formats in recognition of the varied needs of readers. To him, research is about both generation and enunciation of findings. An enunciate policy is the expression of a research institution's mission and values to its staff members and to the public. It establishes a common vision and the values and measures that can be engaged to achieve accessibility to information content. An enunciate policy can be an effective and economical instrument that links research to practice but in reality it is observed that except few there may be rarely such other institute who are following this in practice. Thus, he advocated for the definite existence of an enunciation policy and an enunciation plan for each research agenda. Enunciation tactics will then automatically come into play.
Drawing a Enunciate Plan:
The most successful enunciate processes are usually designed before the start of a research agenda. It should produce a response-utilization of the research findings-on the part of users. While drawing an enunciation plan, researchers should consider at least the following seven major elements:
a. Impact and Outcomes: What is the desired impact of enunciation? What outcomes does the enunciation plan aim to accomplish? In what ways the users are benefited?
b. Users: Which users are most affected by the research? Which would be most interested in learning of the research findings? What are their scope and characteristics?
c. Information Content: Does the information content match the users' expressed informational needs? Does the comprehension level require to understand the information content that match the characteristics of the users? Is the information content reviewed through a quality control mechanism to ensure accuracy and relevance?
d. Medium: What is the most effective enunciation method to reach each user group? What resources does each group typically access? What capabilities does each group have?
e. Execution: When should each aspect of the enunciation plan occur? Who should be responsible for enunciation activities?
f. Obstacles: What potential obstacles may interfere with access to or utilization of the research findings by each user group? What actions could be developed to overcome these obstacles?
g. Accomplishment: How will accomplishment be described and measured? If data is to be gathered, who will gather it?
Characteristics of an Effective Enunciation Plan:
The plan orientates itself to the needs of the users. It relies on appropriate form, language, and information content levels.
The plan incorporates various enunciation methods, such as written, graphical, electronic, and verbal media. The methods include research summary documents; press releases; media coverage; flyers, posters, and brochures; letters of thanks to study participants; newsletters to study participants; events and conferences; and seminars. Each method calls for its own format and means of enunciation and includes both proactive and reactive channels-that is, it includes information content that users have identified as important and information content that users are unknown to request but in reality they are in need. The enunciation methods are more likely to succeed when their packaging and information content has been influenced by appropriate inputs from the users.
The plan draws on existing resources, relationships, and networks to the maximum extent possible. It also builds the new resources, relationships, and networks needed by users.
The plan includes effective quality control mechanisms to ensure that the information content is accurate, relevant, and representative.
The plan establishes linkages to resources that may be required to implement the information content, e.g., technical assistance.
Applying Enunciation Tactics:
Strategy is the overall effect one wishes to create; tactics are the method by which one wishes to achieve that effect. Enunciation tactics can be basic or advanced depending on the scale and complexity of the enunciation plan. See the flow chart derived at Figure-2.1
2.11 STEPS OF RESEARCH PROCESS:
Research process is not an overnight phenomenon rather consists of or passes through a series of steps. Effective research involves certain steps or process. The real research process starts soon after identification of the research problem. In order to make the process of research clear and well defined. A researcher or a research team before going to research should follow some steps or process. This may act as a guideline for further proceeding in the research work. Following are some important steps of research process:
1. Identification of the research problem.
2. Scan the existing environment
3. Fix the objectives/alternatives of study
4. Scan the existing literature
5. Formulate the hypothesis
6. Develop the research plan
7. Planning of sampling design
8. Collect the required information
9. Tabulation and execution of data
10. Testing the hypothesis
11. Finding the relevance
12. Preparation of the report or if necessary, calling public opinion and
13. Presentation of the results and findings
1. Identification of the Research Problem:
One of the important requirements and the foundation stone of research work is that of identifying a research problem. A problem will never arise when either the researcher or the respondents (meant for customer) or both are facing some difficulties. Formulation of research problem answers the question, what to do on a particular case? Here the researcher identifies some alternative solutions to get answer or to solve the existing difficulty.
2.Scanning the Existing Environment:
Once the problem is identified, the next and important step in the process of research is that of scanning the existing environment. Scanning the environment implies examining the internal and external environment based on the nature of research work. It puts stress on analyzing the legal provisions, organization ethics, organization mission, organization objectives, vision, nature and requirements of funding agencies, geographical and climatic condition of the sample area, nature of the sample respondents, time span required for the work etc. It also includes fixation or selection of research team or experts of research based on the environment of work.
For example: 1. If, the nature of work is such that the researcher has to collect data from the field, then an expert from the local region is to be identified
2. In case of market research, a person with clear-cut knowledge on the organizational requirements along with the behaviour of the respondents should be selected.
3.Fix the Objectives/alternatives of the Study:
This step is related to the first step. The identification of problem area/difficulty creates numbers of alternatives. Each alternatives identified by the researcher can solve the existing problem. Thus it creates confusion while finalizing one or some alternatives as it is not possible to select all the alternatives identified because there may exist some constraints while executing the research work. There are three ways of selecting an alternative(s) like (i) by understanding the problems thoroughly; (ii) by analyzing the problem, again and again thoroughly and (iii) if possible, discuss with the team or with those who are either involved or having some expertise in the area.
Box-2.3: Few Examples
1. In academic institutions i.e., in Universities the researcher (Ph.D or M.Phil scholar) take the help of a guide or called as supervisor who usually an experienced personnel and possess several problems in his mind. Discussion with the supervisor generally helps the researchers in getting the detail information about a number of the then problems. The supervisor discusses the pros and cons of each alternative area of study. From this information, the researcher can now easily choose his/her research problem.
2. The management students in management colleges / institutes take the help of their experts (faculties in different specializations) while deciding about their research reports. They also work under the supervision of an expert who is associated with an industry while doing their training project work. In all these conditions, the supervisors suggest the students about some probable areas of research.
4. Scan the Existing Literature:
After the problem(s) are defined, a brief summary of it should be written down. The survey of literature is needed for getting more information and source of information regarding the problem identified. Again survey of literature paves the way in deciding the research methodology, models are already being used and can be further used. In other words, here the research searches for some works which was already carried out in the related field of study. This simply says, the extent of work so far has been done in a particular area. From this information, the researcher can get an idea regarding what to do further? Where the drawback lies? For this purpose, the abstracting and indexing journals and published or unpublished bibliographies are the fist place to go for. Again the researcher can select the academic journals based on the area of interest. For example, for marketing related study the researcher may refer to Journals of Marketing, Margine, Productivity, Vikalpa etc. Similarly, ICFAI Journals are available on various areas in management and social sciences, for the area of rural development the titles may be Journal of Rural Development, Kurekshetra etc., for the area of general and applied economics the titles may be the Indian Journal of Economics, Economic Review and other hundreds of national and international journals are there for each discipline of study in literature. Similarly, conference proceedings like Conference Volume of Indian Labor Association, Conference Volume of Regional Science Congress, Conference Volume of Indian Commerce Academy, Conference of Indian Economic Association etc., and also government reports (statistical abstracts, Industrial outlook, RBI bulletin etc) can also be used for referring and reviewing.
5 Formulate the Hypothesis:
The derivation of a suitable hypothesis goes hand in hand with the selection of a research problem. A hypothesis is the statement that temporarily accepted as true at the beginning of each research work and it is used as a basis for action in the search, in the way to search for new truth. Thus, a hypothesis is a tentative assumption drawn from knowledge and theory which is used as a guiding principle in the process of investigation of new facts and theories that are yet unknown. It also provides direction to the researcher by suggesting how to proceed further in the process of discovering new facts and findings.
For example: A researcher wants to analyze regarding the effectiveness that which source of media (print, broadcast or hoarding) motivates customers for sale of motorized two-wheelers in India. The tentative hypotheses or assumption at the initial stage of research can be:
H0: Advertisement (in broadcast media) has significant impact on selling of motorized two-wheelers in India.
H1= It has no significant impact on selling
Where, H0 is called as null hypothesis and H1 is called as alternative hypothesis.
Based on the hypothesis, the researcher will collect the information.
6. Develop the Research Plan:
The next step in the process of research work is of designing a research approach, research instruments, sampling plan and information gathering methods. For information collection, an effective research plan is the basic requirement. However, the researcher has to analyse the availability of the financial resources and to that of the expected cost of conducting the research. In other words, what the researcher is required to do is that of a simple cost-benefit analysis of the proposed research work before developing a research plan.
For Example: Suppose a company estimates that introducing the post-paid GSM mobile phone in a territory would yield a long-term profit of Rs. 2 billion. The manager believes that doing the research would lead to an improved pricing and promotional plan and a long-term profit of say Rs. 2.30 billion. In such a case, the manager should be willing to spend up to 0.3 billion for conducting research. If on the other hand, the research work is estimated to cost more, it is not wise on the part of the researcher to proceed further.
7. Planning of Sample Design:
The next step in the process of research is deciding or planning an alternative sampling plan. Hence, the researcher has to analyze thoroughly the nature of the problem identified. It necessitates the decision on whether the nature of the problem is such that it requires the coverage of complete population study? or is there the requirement of sampling? For example- let a researcher wants to study on ‘soft drink habits of management students of Apeejay Institute of Technology'. Let the population is 150 management students who are pursuing PGDM degree in the concerned institute. In such a case the researcher can cover the entire population identified for the study without going for sampling. By the way in some cases it is not possible to cover the entire population of study. Here the researcher has to decide for sampling. The technique of collecting samples from the identified population is called as ‘sampling'. Sampling assumes that the samples (representatives) selected by the researcher are the best representative of the entire population study. Decision regarding selection of samples out of a population is one of the important and very crucial issues in research. Following are some issues that the researcher has to decide while going for samples.
Step-1: Deciding Sampling Unit:
The first step in the process of sampling is that of deciding about probable sample units. For this the procedure is that the research team has to define and determine the target population. While selecting the sample unit the researcher has to analyse some important facts about the nature, economic condition, and demographic condition etc., of the sample unit and in short decision on sample unit-who is to be surveyed?
Step-2:- Deciding on Sample Size:
Once the sample units have been decided, it necessitates the decision regarding the sample size. Deciding proper sample size is another important challenge that the researchers are generally found while adopting sample method of data collection. Large samples give more reliable results than small samples. However, in some studies it is not necessary to sample the entire target population or even a substantial portion to achieve reliable results. Some times it so happens that less sample gives better results depending upon the nature of the research work. It answers to the question- how many people should be surveyed?
Step-3: Deciding on Sample Procedure:
Selecting the respondents out of the population of a study is the top most task in the process of research. There are two important techniques available in the literature to select sample respondents-they are (i) probability sampling and (ii) non-probability sampling. Probability sampling allows the calculation of confidence limits for sampling error. But this technique of sample selection is time consuming and also expensive. In such a case the second technique of sampling called as non-probability sampling can be used. However, non-probability sampling may not measure sampling error accurately. This answers to the question- how should the respondents be chosen? Both the techniques can be briefly derived below: For more detail see chapter no-4, part-I.
Box-2.4: Types of Sampling Techniques
1. Simple random sampling
Every member of the population i.e. sample population has an equal chance of selection
2. Stratified random sampling
The population is grouped into mutually exclusive groups called as strata (sex, age, religion, geographical diversification etc.). Samples are than down from each group.
3. Cluster area sampling
The population is divided into mutually exclusive groups and the researcher draws sample.
1. Convenience Sample
The researcher selects the accessible population members based on his own convenience
2. Judgment sample
The researcher selects those members who he thinks as a good prospects for accurate information
3. Quota sample
The researcher finds and inter-views a prescribed number of people in each of several categories based on some quota fixed at him.
8. Collect the Required Information (data):
The data/information collection phase of a research is generally most expensive and also one of the most crucial phase in the process of execution of result. While planning for the collection of data/information, the researcher is required to take some important decisions like: what are the data source?; what will be the research approach?; what should be research instruments? and what will be the method of data collection? The answers to the above questions can be well analyzed as derived below:
a. Source of Data:
The information that the researcher requires can be obtained either from primary source of data or secondary source of data or some times from both the sources. A primary data is one which are collected for a specific purpose and also for a specific research work, where as, secondary source of data are collected by some one else for his/her purpose and are already exist somewhere in the literature. However, this is a general practice in research that researchers usually begin their investigation in the initial phases by examining secondary data. This acts as a guideline in deciding the source of data that they require for their purpose of study. On the other hand, some times the required data may not available in the literature or may be outdated/ inaccurate/ incomplete or unreliable, then the next best alternative is that of collecting primary data. However, in practice it is seen that most of the studies on socio-economic, consumer behaviour surveys and marketing-mix analysis and in similar other studies related to human behaviour are generally use primary data.
b. Research Approach:
There are basically five approaches available for the collection of primary data. They are (i) observational Research; (ii) focus group research; (iii survey research; (iv) behavioural research and (v) experimental research.
c. Research Instruments:
The research instruments give information about the tools that the researchers generally use to collect the primary data. These may be questionnaires, schedules, recording through audio-visual devices, mail questionnaire, postal inquiry, PRA/PRA, telephonic interviews, face-to-face interview etc. The detailed about the tools of primary data collection are discussed in chapter-6, part-I of this book.
9. Tabulation and Execution of Data/ Information:
After the collection of data the next step for the researcher is to make the data available for empirical use. This can be done by executing the raw data in three different stages like coding, tabulation and then drawing statistical inferences. In the first stage/process each raw data is given a code as per the purpose of study. Let that a researcher has collected data on sex discrimination. Here male can be numerically coded as ‘1' and female can be coded with numeric value ‘2'. Like wise, ‘rural' can be coded as ‘1', ‘urban' as ‘2', semi-urban as ‘3' etc.
After that the data requires editing. Editing of data is the task of experts and requires skill. In this case, the expert analyses the raw data and then the data is edited. Editing of data is carried out by using the expert's opinion and intellectual capability. Editing improves the data quality.
For example- In a study on consumer behaviour say that the researcher is examining the consumption pattern of 10 households. While editing, in a household it is observed that there are 5 members. The data it is recorded that this household is consuming 4 k.g of salt per month which is logically seems to be impossible. Here the data requires correction and hence edited.
Once the editing and coding of data is over for statistical inferences then the data is entered in computer for the purpose of analysis.
10. Testing the Hypothesis:
The most important step in the process of research is that of testing the formulated hypothesis. Here the validity of the formulated hypotheses is tested. After getting the results, the researcher tests whether the collected facts supports the hypothesis formulated or not. There exist a number of statistical tools like t-test, F-test, chi-square test, D-W test etc., to test the validity of the hypothesis. The hypothesis may be tested through the use of one or more such tests, depending upon the nature and objective of research. Hypotheses testing show whether the hypothesis should be accepted or rejected. In other words, the assumptions that the researcher taken while starting the research work and the validity of the assumptions after getting the results are tested. In simple language, it answers to the question is the researcher was correct regarding his/her assumptions about a particular phenomena?
11. Finding the Relevance:
The testing of hypothesis reveals the research about the truth. If he has no hypothesis then he has to generalize the results of the models and objectives. Similarly, he has to generalize the hypotheses as per the result and objective of the study.
12. Preparation of the Report:
If the research is sponsored by some funding agency, then the researcher has to present the details of study. The report is to be prescribed in a prescribed format. In the other hand, if the research is carried out for the purpose of partial fulfillment of any academic degree/diploma in universities/institutions like MBA, Ph.D, M.Phil, M.Tech, B.Tech, MCA etc., (called as thesis/dissertations/research report) then it is to be submitted for that specific purpose. A research report/thesis has a commonly acceptable format. They are:
a. Preliminary pages: It includes pages such as: Title pages; Declarations; Certificates; Contents, Executive Summary/Preface; Contents; List of tables; List of figures; Abbreviations etc.
b. Main text: Here the basic subjects are mentioned in the report: Introduction; Main Chapters; Core chapters; Conclusion and References etc.
c. Final/End Matter: This includes Appendix, if any; Questionnaires, if any; Figures/Photos, if any etc.
The report should be written in simple language, commonly acceptable format, with good look etc. In some cases, the study is released and asked for public opinion. (For example, before approval of the 12th finance commission report, the Finance Commission has made it open for intellectuals for their comments).
13. Presentation of the Results and Findings:
After the report/thesis is being prepared it is to be presented either verbally or in written front to the board of executives or other such councils. This is generally the practice in case of management research where the research team has to present the report both orally and in writing form.
From the above analysis, it is clear that, a researcher before going to research in any field of knowledge, should go thoroughly into the various steps/ process of research and has to design his research work. However, one should not conclude this understanding that all the above processes are compulsory and a researcher has to follow all the steps strictly. However, there is no hard and first rule while selecting the process of research.
2.12 RESEARCH ETHICS:
Research ethics refers to a complex set of values, standards and institutional schemes that help to constitute and regulate scientific activity. Ultimately, research ethics is a codification of ethics of scientific research. In other words, it is based on general ethics of scientific research, just as general ethics is based on commonsense and morality.
Research is often intertwined with other specialist activities. Academic disciplines are clusters of activities, and are of five kinds like cultural and social studies research, studies in science, communication, specialist activities (i.e., consultancy, planning and therapy) and the management of institutions. In furtherance of this, scholars' professional activities lead to five kinds of results: scientific publications, graduates, contributions to the formation of public opinion, improvements for users and well-functioning institutions (e.g. universities, university colleges and research institutes).
The National Committee for Research Ethics in Norway was appointed by the Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs, and has been in operation since 1990. The Committee's terms of reference include drawing up ethical guidelines for conducting scientific research. With in 20 years since NCRE was founded, it passed through ‘n' numbers of modifications and additions. For the usefulness of redness, it is necessary to discuss some important guidelines recommended by the committees which are summarized below:
1. Research Ethics have been compiled to help researchers and the research community be cognizant of their ethical views and attitudes, raise their awareness of conflicting standards, promote good judgment and enhance their ability to make well-founded decisions in the face of conflicting considerations.
2. The ethical guidelines are applicable to any branch of knowledge i.e., social sciences, management, natural sciences, humanities, law and others.
3. Like ethics in general, research ethics embraces both personal and institutional morality.
4. Proper understanding of research ethics is not only applicable to individual researchers and research managers, but also to other bodies that exert influence on research and the consequences of research.
5. The ultimate responsibility of research is to seek the truth. Accordingly, scientific integrity is a key aspect of research ethics.
6. Social and management studies deal with human choices, actions and relations, standards and institutions, beliefs and historical developments, works and traditions, languages, thought and communication. Hence, empathy and interpretation are prerequisites for the research process. This can open the door to different, yet reasonable interpretations of the same factors. However, the fallibility and inconclusiveness attached to research do not relieve researchers from the obligation to shun arbitrary views and to strive for coherence and clarity in their reasoning.
7. Research bodies while framing research policies have an obligation to allocate resources based on the best interest of society. Those authorized to allocate research resources must be open to different research traditions, facilitating different approaches and clarifying their strengths and weaknesses.
8. Research institutions and research policy bodies are to facilitate free and independent research. The institutions must ensure that research that complies with scholarly quality requirements is not suppressed because a topic is controversial.
9. Research ethics pose requirements to individuals and institutions alike. The institutions should pave the way for the development and maintenance of good research practice. Institutions must convey the guidelines for research ethics to their employees and students, and ensure proper training on research ethics and the relevant acts of law that govern research. This will promote reflection on research ethics and encourage more explicit.
10. Research can help to promote the value of human life and also threatens it. Researchers must show respect for human dignity in their choice of topic, in relation to their research subjects, and in reporting research results.
11. Research on children and their lives and living standards is valuable and important. Children and young people are key contributors to this research. Their needs and interests can be protected in ways different from those in connection with research on adult participants. Children are individuals under development, and they have different needs and abilities in various phases. Researchers must know enough about children to be able to adapt their methods and the substance of their research to the age of the participants.
12. Identifiable personal data collected for one particular research purpose cannot automatically be used for other research. Such data must not be used for commercial or administrative purposes.
13. All writers and researchers, regardless of whether they are amateur or professional, students or established researchers, shall strive to exercise good reference practice.
14. Researchers have responsibility for preventing research results from being presented in a misleading manner. It is unethical to place limits on research to elicit particularly desirable results, or to produce research results in an intentionally skewed manner.
15. Knowledge is a collective benefit. Accordingly, as a rule, all research results should be published. It is also important that results can be verified. Publication is important for researchers' merit lists.
Thus, from the above it is clear that, research must be regulated by ethical standards and values, at least where there is disagreement about which ethical standards apply? Views about what is ethical are not entirely clear in some fields. Confusion and conflicts can arise. In such cases, the research community bears a special responsibility for helping to clarify ethical problems. At an overall level, all disciplines are subject to some research ethics and obligations, i.e., requirements for interesting and relevant research issues, verifiable documentation, impartial discussion of conflicting opinions, and insight into one's own fallibility. The requirements for professional independence and peer review are also universal. The basic research standards should be however based on the general moral standards of society.
2.13 PERFORMANCE MONITORING IN RESEARCH:
Research is a universal practice. Human being in all communities have always made inquiries about how to solve problems that confront their existence, mobilizing material and nonmaterial resources and techniques to generate required knowledge. The generation of knowledge is only one part of the research undertaking. For, knowledge is to be useful, should be shared with other researchers and with those who are having interest. This task is generally fulfilled by most of the researchers by publishing their research results in peer-reviewed serials, journals, bulletins and other such channels.
The research results can be used in monitoring the performance of researchers, their institutions and disciplines. One way of achieving this objective is through organization of publications in bibliographies to guide colleagues and interested personnel in tracking and matching new publications. A more complex development in this regard is the Citation Index, which is designed for monitoring the use of research result, and to enable research-managers assessment to the relevance, spread, quality and influence of their research activities. Although the history of such infrastructures is relatively developed in the developed countries, where its use has however, matured significantly. By the way, such initiatives are not yet properly identifiable in case of India. As a result, most of the research work in India is presently being assessed on the basis of the indexing services of the developed countries, with the consequence that the nature and characteristics of the use of the research results. This handicap manifests in the current popular distribution pattern of knowledge production and use in the world, show that Indian research activities in some discipline are not as much visible and even useful as those form the developed regions.
Bibliographies versus Citation Index:
Bibliographies in the research work are usually consisting of lists of publications used in the study as well as it also provide some information about the authors. Bibliographies play very crucial role in all research activity by informing about the research results of their colleagues. However, assessment of the preference of a research work with the help of bibliographies cannot be treated as a standard measure of preference appraisal of a research work. On the other hand, due to globalization, there is increasing importance and priority accorded to knowledge as principal driver of growth. With this, information and communication technology revolution have necessitated the development of a standard index for the preference appraisal of a research work. In this connection, Nwagwn has suggested an index called as Citation Indexes (CI). A CI is a structured list of references in a given collection of documents, containing information about the use and even quality of the publications, in addition to having all the attributes of a bibliography. This infrastructure is already at their advanced stages of development and use sophistication in many developed countries, and their application to assess the preference is universalized.
Effort to develop a citation index first originated in legal practice when Shepard's Citation tool, a legal reference was established in the USA in 1873 to enable lawyers to locate previous decisions relating to their current cases. Another related development was the database developed by the Institute of Electrical Eng