After an extensive literature survey, a researcher should state in clear terms the working hypothesis or hypotheses. Working hypothesis is tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences. As such the manner in which research hypotheses are developed is particularly important since they provide the focal point for research. They also affect the manner in which tests must be conducted in the analysis of data and indirectly the quality of data which is required for the analysis. In most types of research, the development of working hypothesis plays an important role. Hypothesis should be very specific and limited to the piece of research in hand because it has to be tested. The role of the hypothesis is to guide the researcher by delimiting the area of research and to keep him on the right track. It sharpens his thinking and focuses attention on the more important facets of the problem. It also indicates the type of data required and the type of methods of data analysis to be used.
Once the problem is formulated, a brief summary of it should be written down. It is compulsory for a research worker writing a thesis for a Ph.D. degree to write a synopsis of the topic and submit it to the necessary Committee or the Research Board for approval. At this juncture the researcher should undertake extensive literature survey connected with the problem. For this purpose, the abstracting and indexing journals and published or unpublished bibliographies are the first place to go to. Academic journals, conference proceedings, government reports, books etc., must be tapped depending on the nature of the problem. In this process, it should be remembered that one source will lead to another. The earlier studies, if any, which are similar to the study in hand, should be carefully studied. A good library will be a great help to the researcher at this stage.
The study of research methodology gives the student the necessary training in gathering material and arranging or card-indexing them, participation in the field work when required, and also training in techniques for the collection of data appropriate to particular problems, in the use of statistics, questionnaires and controlled experimentation and in recording evidence, sorting it out and interpreting it. In fact, importance of knowing the methodology of research or how research is done stems from the following considerations:
1. For one who is preparing himself for a career of carrying out research, the importance of knowing research methodology and research techniques is obvious since the same constitute the tools of his trade. The knowledge of methodology provides good training especially to the new research worker and enables him to do better research. It helps him to develop disciplined thinking or a ‘bent of mind’ to observe the field objectively. Hence, those aspiring for careerism in research must develop the skill of using research techniques and must thoroughly understand the logic behind them.
2. Knowledge of how to do research will inculcate the ability to evaluate and use research results with reasonable confidence. In other words, we can state that the knowledge of research methodology is helpful in various fields such as government or business administration, community development and social work where persons are increasingly called upon to evaluate and use research results for action.
3. When one knows how research is done, then one may have the satisfaction of acquiring a new intellectual tool which can become a way of looking at the world and of judging every day experience. Accordingly, it enables us to make intelligent decisions concerning problems facing us in practical life at different points of time. Thus, the knowledge of research methodology provides tools to look at things in life objectively.
4. In this scientific age, all of us are in many ways consumers of research results and we can use them intelligently provided we are able to judge the adequacy of the methods by which they have been obtained. The knowledge of methodology helps the consumer of research results to evaluate them and enables him to take rational decisions.
A scientific method encourages a rigorous, impersonal mode of procedure dictated by the demands of logic and objective procedure. Accordingly, scientific method implies an objective, logical and systematic method, i.e., a method free from personal bias or prejudice, a method to ascertain demonstrable qualities of a phenomenon capable of being verified, a method wherein the researcher is guided by the rules of logical reasoning, a method wherein the investigation proceeds in an orderly manner and a method that implies internal consistency.
Experimentation is done to test hypotheses and to discover new relationships, if any, among variables. But conclusions drawn on the basis of experimental data are generally criticized for either faulty assumptions, poorly designed experiments, badly executed experiments or faulty interpretations. As such the researcher must pay all possible attention while developing the experimental design and must state only probable inferences. The purpose of survey investigations may also be to provide scientifically gathered information to work as a basis for the researchers for their conclusions.
The scientific method is, thus, based on certain basic postulates which can be stated as under:
1. It relies on empirical evidence;
2. It utilizes relevant concepts;
3. It is committed to only objective considerations;
4. It presupposes ethical neutrality, i.e., it aims at nothing but making only adequate and correct statements about population objects;
5. It results into probabilistic predictions;
6. Its methodology is made known to all concerned for critical scrutiny are for use in testing the conclusions through replication;
7. It aims at formulating most general axioms or what can be termed as scientific theories.
For a clear perception of the term research, one should know the meaning of scientific method. The two terms, research and scientific method, are closely related. Research, as we have already stated, can be termed as “an inquiry into the nature of, the reasons for, and the consequences of any particular set of circumstances, whether these circumstances are experimentally controlled or recorded just as they occur. Further, research implies the researcher is interested in more than particular results; he is interested in the repeatability of the results and in their extension to more complicated and general situations.”? On the other hand, the philosophy common to all research methods and techniques, although they may vary considerably from one science to another, is usually given the name of scientific method. In this context, Karl Pearson writes, “The scientific method is one and same in the branches (of science) and that method is the method of all logically trained minds … the unity of all sciences consists alone in its methods, not its material; the man who classifies facts of any kind whatever, who sees their mutual relation and describes their sequences, is applying the Scientific Method and is a man of science.”! 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 arguments from accepted postulates and a combination of these three in varying proportions.”? In scientific method, logic aids in formulating propositions explicitly and accurately so that their possible alternatives become clear. Further, logic develops the consequences of such alternatives, and when these are compared with observable phenomena, it becomes possible for the researcher or the scientist to state which alternative is most in harmony with the observed facts. All this is done through experimentation and survey investigations which constitute the integral parts of scientific method.
Research methodology has many dimensions and research methods do constitute a part of the research methodology. The scope of research methodology is wider than that of research methods. Thus, when we talk of research methodology we not only talk of the research methods but also consider the logic behind the methods we use in the context of our research study and explain why we are using a particular method or technique and why we are not using others so that research results are capable of being evaluated either by the researcher himself or by others. Why a research study has been undertaken, how the research problem has been defined, in what way and why the hypothesis has been formulated, what data have been collected, what particular method has been adopted, why a particular technique of analyzing data has been used and a host of similar other questions are usually answered when we talk of research methodology concerning a research problem or study.
Research methods may be understood as all those methods/techniques that are used for conduction of research. Research methods or techniques, thus, refer to the methods the researchers use in performing research operations. In other words, all those methods which are used by the researcher during the course of studying his research problem are termed as research methods. Since the object of research, particularly the applied research, it to arrive at a solution for a given problem, the available data and the unknown aspects of the problem have to be related to each other to make a solution possible. Keeping this in view, research methods can be put into the following three groups:
1. In the first group we include those methods which are concerned with the collection of data. These methods will be used where the data already available are not sufficient to arrive at the required solution;
2. The second group consists of those statistical techniques which are used for establishing relationships between the data and the unknowns;
3. The third group consists of those methods which are used to evaluate the accuracy of the results obtained.
Research methods falling in the above stated last two groups are generally taken as the analytical tools of research.
Research methodology is a way to systematically solve the research problem. It may be understood as a science of studying how research is done scientifically. In it we study the various steps that are generally adopted by a researcher in studying his research problem along with the logic behind them. It is necessary for the researcher to know not only the research methods/techniques but also the methodology. Researchers not only need to know how to develop certain indices or tests, how to calculate the mean, the mode, the median or the standard deviation or chi-square, how to apply particular research techniques, but they also need to know which of these methods or techniques are relevant and which are not, and what would they mean and indicate and why. Researchers also need to understand the assumptions underlying various techniques and they need to know the criteria by which they can decide that certain techniques and procedures will be applicable to certain problems and others will not. All this means that it is necessary for the researcher to design his methodology for his problem as the same may differ from problem to problem. For example, an architect, who designs a building, has to consciously evaluate the basis of his decisions, i.e., he has to evaluate why and on what basis he selects particular size, number and location of doors, windows and ventilators, uses particular materials and not others and the like. Similarly, in research the scientist has to expose the research decisions to evaluation before they are implemented. He has to specify very clearly and precisely what decisions he selects and why he selects them so that they can be evaluated by others also.
The significance of research can also be understood keeping in view the following points:
a) To those students who are to write a master’s or Ph.D. thesis, research may mean careerism or a way to attain a high position in the social structure;
b) To professionals in research methodology, research may mean a source of livelihood;
c) To philosophers and thinkers, research may mean the outlet for new ideas and insights;
d) To literary men and women, research may mean the development of new styles and creative work;
e) To analysts and intellectuals, research may mean the generalizations of new theories.
Thus, research is the fountain of knowledge for the sake of knowledge and an important source of providing guidelines for solving different business, governmental and social problems. It is a sort of formal training, which enables one to understand the new developments in one’s field in a better way.