Research can be defined as the original contribution of knowledge making for its advancement with help of study, observation, comparison and experiment (Kumar, 2008). Moreover, in terms of academic purpose, it is the process of gaining knowledge and understanding by systematically gathering and analysing information (Kervin, 1992). Research facilitates one to look at the existing information in more advanced and innovative ways in today's fast growing business world. Research can be conducted in any field such as medical, engineering, psychology. It gives an opportunity to the researcher to distinguish between good and bad studies already done in a particular field and facilitates in decision-making by resolving the problems identified (Sekaran). According to Arvind, Research can be broadly divided into three types depending upon the degree of the research undertaken for problem-solving:
Basic Research or Fundamental Research or Pure Research: "The main of the basic research is the discovery of knowledge solely for the sake of knowledge and has little concern for the application of the findings and social usefulness of the findings" (Arvind). This type of research is mostly undertaken in the field of academics and the sources of research topics are generally unresolved theoretical questions, issues raised by previous research and unexplained phenomena (Kervin, 1992). Moreover, the research methods employed are based on meticulous scientific method of investigation and the major issue is the universal validity.
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Applied Research: Applied research deals with the testing of theoretical concepts in real world problems and also with improving the performance of a product or process. The sources of research topics are more or less the same as in basic research but the emphasis is on arriving at problem solving results which can be applied to the immediate, specific and practical problems (Arvind). This research is mostly undertaken by Governments, academics and large organisations and the research methods used are less rigorous when compared to the basic research.
Action Research: This type of research is strictly focused on the instant application of the research results and the sources of the topic usually arise from a specific requirement to take certain measure or to make a decision based on the needs and goals (Kervin, 1992). Moreover, according to Lehmann and Mehrans (in arvind) (1971), action research is a type of applied research in which generally the person undertaking the research practises and implements the outcomes of the study. However, this research is also done by large organisations with the assistance of research consultants.
Reviewing the above definitions, it can be concluded that the present study undertaken by the author is a hybrid research having the characteristics of both basic research and applied research. The area of study is flooding in India, in which the focus is particularly on the aspects of flood warning systems and flood evacuation strategies which are the key flood mitigating measures. Since, the outcomes of this study would be valid to a great extent in the country of India and in the domain of flood disaster management, the major feature of a basic research, universal validity is seen lacking. Moreover, the outcomes of the study would not be applied for problem-solving. Hence, it cannot be assumed as an applied research. Therefore, the present study which has arisen from unresolved theoretical questions and issues raised by previous research but whose outcomes would be valid to a particular location and field of study can be deemed as general applied research. "General applied research has features of both basic and applied research and is usually associated with those academic sub-fields that address more practical questions and issues, such as construction and project management, organisational sociology, administration theory and organisational behaviour. General applied research combines both theory building and testing with a focus on issues of general interests to government, organisations and individuals." (Kervin, 1992)
Selection of an appropriate Research Strategy or Approach:
Selecting a research approach is the process of formulating an appropriate strategy which would facilitate an effective collection and analysis of the required data to solve the research problem at hand (Arvind). According to Arvind, research approaches can be classified into five types:
Historical Approach: In this approach, the research is based on the historical data and is used to validate the historical data such as observations which were made by others. Generally historians, literary men, social scientists, social psychiatrists and philosophers adopt this approach.
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Ex-post Facto: This approach involves the scientific and analytical investigation of dependent and independent variables in a research study. The researcher in this method will not be able to influence or make changes to the independent variable. The scientist while conducting the study makes retrospective assumptions as he has no direct control over the independent variable so as to understand the possible effects on the dependent variables due to the change in independent variables. There is no hypothesis or prediction in this research approach which makes drawing outcomes from the study a complex task.
Case Study Approach: This is a qualitative form of research strategy which involves comprehensive examination of a single unit such as an individual, institution, family, community. This approach is mainly a problem-solving method and a range of aspects relating to the case under investigation can be addressed using this strategy. The researcher in this approach is at liberty to form his own case and conduct a study on it from any perspective so as to get the desired results out of the study.
Descriptive Approach: This research strategy deals with concepts, beliefs, practises, attitudes, perceptions that are currently prevailing and also the trends that are building up. The major purpose of this research approach is to identify various aspects of the current research problem which would be helpful for carrying out future research. Questionnaires to seek opinions are usually used to explain the problem. This approach is instrumental in discovering new areas to conduct research in.
Experimental Approach: This is mainly used for scientific investigation in which the researcher observes the variation in the dependent variables of the study by controlling the independent variables. This is widely used by physical scientists. The use of this approach in social science research is very complex due to the dynamic nature of the subject matter and also due to the fact that experiments cannot be carried out on human beings in a sociological library to obtain desired results. However, it has been proven that experimental approach to undertake research in the social sciences field has led to accurate results. Therefore, even though it is a complicated process to use this approach outside the domain of physical sciences, studies are in progress to create experimental models which would be helpful in making this possible.
The research approach chosen by the author to conduct the present study is case study approach. As the study area is flooding in India, analysing a flood disaster would give an opportunity to do an in-depth analysis of the reasons for the event to occur and current status of the flood management process in India. Therefore, a recent flood disaster that took place in India in the state of Andhra Pradesh was selected as the case for the study. Further justification for choosing this strategy for conducting the present study will be given in the following sections.
Qulitative and Quantitative Research:
Case study approach is a qualitative form of research. In qualitative research form, the focus is more towards understanding and exploring the social or human problem. It involves the researcher formulating the research question, collecting data through various methods and then conducting data analysis to construe the meaning and significance of the data. On the other hand, the quantitative research deals with examination of the objective theories by studying the relationship between variables. These variables can be measured and quantified using different methods and then analysed using statistical methods. Therefore, it can be concluded that qualitative research deals with understanding and exploration whereas quantitative research deals with measuring and quantification of the data. (Creswell, 2009)
Difference with respect to
Rationalism: The main reason behind human beings gaining knowledge is due to their reasoning capacity
Empiricism: The human beings gain knowledge from their sensory experiences
Approach to Inquiry
Main purpose of investigation
To quantify extent of variation in a phenomenon, situation etc
To describe variation in a phenomenon, issue, situation etc
Measurement of variables
Emphasis of some form of measurement and classification of variables
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Emphasis on description of variables
Emphasis on greater sample size
Focus of inquiry
Narrows focus in terms of extent of inquiry but gathers required information from large number of respondents
Covers multiple issues but gathers required information from fewer respondents
Subjects variables to frequency distribution, cross tabulation and other statistical methods
Subjects responses, observation data to identification of themes and describes these
Explains prevalence, incidence, nature of issues, opinions and attitudes, discovers regularities and formulates theories
Explores experiences, meanings, perceptions and feelings
Significance of Case Study Approach
According to Yin (2003), "a case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident". This implies that case study approach is most suitable when an investigation of a certain phenomena is undertaken within real-life context. The present study which deals with flood disaster management in India refers to the same condition where the phenomena of floods could be studied through a case study (a recently occurred event) to capture the real life context in giving out appropriate recommendations and findings related to that location by examining various aspects of the event that occurred. The researcher can be benefited from this strategy when he has little control over the variables and also in dealing with "how" and "why" questions. Moreover, "a case study inquiry copes with technically distinctive situation in which there will be many more variables of interest than data points, and as one result. It relies on multiple sources of evidence and benefits from a prior development of theoretical propositions to guide data collection and analysis (Yin, 2003)." Therefore, case study approach is not just merely a data collection method but it is a comprehensive research strategy which if chosen appropriately for a research problem can effectively cater to the needs of the researcher.
Further, Yin (2003) mentions the criteria for selecting an appropriate research strategy to undertake research. He mentions that three conditions should be considered before selecting a research approach: 1. Form of research questions, 2. Requirement of control over actual behavioural events and 3. The extent of focus required on contemporary events.
Form of Research Question
Requires Control of Behavioural Events?
Focuses on contemporary Events
Who, what, where, how many, how much?
Who, what, where, how many, how much?
The present study undertaken by the author deals with aspects such as: 'how' the floods could be managed effectively and the investigation of why it went wrong. Moreover, the study does not require the control over behavioural events and focuses on contemporary events. Therefore, analysing the above table, it can be concluded that, the case study approach is in line with the aims and objectives of the present study and is most suitable for carrying out the study. However, very often the failure of the case study approach is due to the improper selection of a case study. According to Yin, the following are the key characteristics of a good case study:
The case study must be significant
The case study must be "complete
The case study must consider alternative perspectives
The case study must display sufficient evidence
The case study must be composed in an engaging manner
The case study chosen for the present study is a flood event that had disastrous effects on the society; therefore, investigation of this would provide significant findings from which the society could be benefited. As mentioned above since the completeness of information is a key characteristic of a good case study, the author has selected the case study keeping in view this aspect and collected all the relevant information relating to the case study from various sources such as government reports, publications, official reports from other related agencies and authorities prior to the start of the study. The information from various sources for the present study has made sure that various perspectives are given consideration before going ahead with the data analysis.
According to Rajendra, research process involves various activities which are closely related to each other and follow a sequential order. However, these activities may overlap each other. The following are the components of a research process (Rajendra):
Broad Problem Area: At the initial stages of the research, the researcher should identify the area of interest in which he would like to undertake the study. During this stage, the research problem is stated in a broad sense without pointing out any specific areas. Sekaran (2000), mentions that generally the research problem arises from the following issues:
Issues relating to the problems prevailing that need attention
Areas which need improvement
A concept or framework that needs to be enhanced
Empirical solutions to certain research questions
The identification of research problem for the present study was initiated by issues that needed attention and were currently prevailing. The issue which initiated the present study was that "flooding in India is the most commonly occurring natural disaster and a major loss of human life and property takes place due to this every year".
Formulation of the research problem: The initial broad problem should then be narrowed down into a specific research problem which could be solved by undertaking an appropriate study (Sekaran). This was done by doing preliminary background reading of journals, books and related web pages. It was found that ineffectiveness of flood warning systems and evacuation strategies were the major factors for flood disasters in India. Then it was decided that research would be carried in these areas through investigating an appropriate event which would reveal the deficiencies of the flood warning systems and evacuation strategies in India. Moreover, the nature of the research problem is a major factor that must be considered for selecting an appropriate research strategy. Therefore, based on the research problem, it was decided that case study approach would be the most suitable for this study. The selection of research strategy for the present study has been explained in the previous section.
Research Design: "Research designs are plans and procedures for research that span the decisions from broad assumptions to detailed methods of data collection and analysis" (Creswell). This design guides the researcher in the process of data collection, data analysis and interpretation to solve the logical problem (Yin, 2003). The major purpose of a research design is to enable an effective data collection and analysis to get the maximum out of the study.
Literature Review: Literature review is conducted at the beginning of a study which helps to focus on and understand the research problem in a better way (Creswell). It is basically an extensive documentation of various published and unpublished written works in the field of research area being looked at in the study (Sekeran). This makes sure that all the relevant information relating to the research problem is studied and understood for tackling the research problem in an effective manner. Previously, library which is a major source for collecting secondary data was the only way of conducting a literature review but now, using computerised databases is the quickest way of reviewing literature (Sekeran). At the beginning of the present study, an extensive literature review was carried out to get an understanding of the research problem and also to review previous works conducted in the same field. The literature review was conducted in three phases. In the first phase, a general literature to understand the phenomena of flooding was done, in the second phase the literature review of the specific study areas which are the focus of the present study: flood warning systems and the evacuation strategies was done and the current practises of these aspects in developed countries was taken into account. Lastly, in the third phase, the country specific context was taken into account by conducting a review of all the past initiatives taken by the government of India in the current field of study. In addition, suitable case study was identified by doing literature review. The literature review was done using various secondary sources such as text books, journals, published articles, research papers, relevant web pages, government reports and other related computer databases.
Moreover, according to Yin, single case study approach..
Data Collection: After establishing the research problem, selecting an appropriate research strategy and research design to carry out the study, the next in the process is the collection of data (Rajiv manu2). According to Yin, there are mainly six sources of data collection for the case study based research which are documentation, interviewing, archival records, participant observation, direct observation and physical artefacts. The table below shows the advantages and disadvantages associated with each method:
Sources of Evidence
Stable -can be reviewed repeatedly;
Unobtrusive - not created as a result of a case study;
Exact - contains exact names, references and details of an event;
Broad coverage - long span of time, many events and many settings.
Retrievability - can be low;
Biased selectivity - if collection is incomplete;
Reporting bias - reflects (unknown) bias of author;
The strengths are similar to those of documentation but these are more precise and quantitative
The weaknesses are also similar to documentation with accessibility being the major issue due to privacy.
Targeted - focuses directly on case study,
Insightful - provides perceived causal inferences
Bias - due to poorly phrased questions Inaccuracies due to poor recall Response bias Reflexivity - interviewee gives what interviewer wants to hear
Reality - covers events in real time Contextual - covers context of event
Selectivity - unless broad coverage Reflexivity - event may occur in a choreographed manner Extra hours and associated cost due to long hours of observation
Advantages are similar to those of direct observations with an added advantage of insight into interpersonal behaviour
(Similar to direct observations) Bias due to manipulation of events by the investigator
Gives insights into cultural features and technical operations
Documentation: This is the most common source of data in case study approach and various forms of documents could be used for this purpose such as letters, memoranda, minutes of meetings, official reports of an event occurred, news paper articles and other media related information. Documents are helpful in reviewing detailed information and they can be accessed repeatedly. Appropriate documents can provide the necessary information with great detail covering all the aspects and then this data can be analysed. The major disadvantage of documentation is that they may be prejudiced and therefore confines researcher's perspective. Moreover, if the information is not complete and there is no access to review certain valuable documents, the researcher may find it hard to conduct the study. However, documentation method can be very effective if it is done in a planned manner taking into account various factors mentioned such as time required to obtain the documents and the completeness of information.
For the present study, documentation method to collect data has been chosen. The information related to the case study was collected from various official government reports, news paper articles and other related articles found on internet. The information gathered through the documentation was compiled to form the case study of the present research undertaken by the author. The major disadvantage of this type of data collection, the completeness of the information was managed by taking great care in compiling the case so that all the information necessary to conduct the study has been collected.
Data Analysis: Content analysis involves a logical and systematic examination of a body of information from different perspectives and certain specific aspects. The major feature of content analysis is that it is exploratory in nature and the major purpose of this is to infer. Therefore, in the present study, for data analysis, the case study information collected would be reviewed thoroughly and the inferences based on the literature review conducted will be made in the end.