Global Research Letters

What Is Research?

This article will act as a mind map related to what is research. This article deals with problems with research, aims of research, sources for research, ways of researching, and outcomes of research.

Aims of what is research.

The aims of what is research includes challenging thinking, justifying assumptions, discovery, applying, informing decision-making, investigating, expanding thinking, testing assumptions and so on. So there’s a whole different set of aims of what is research where we might have different ideas. So we might be wanting to find out something new. We might want to be addressing something that we already believe or think we disagree with. Or we might want to be finding out something that will help us in the future to guide us to new decisions. And further what is research that we might do. There are many different aims of research so what might we think about next in terms of these research components? The next thing we might consider would be ways of researching.

Ways of researching

So assuming we know what it is we want to research in terms of the general type of what is research we’re going to do, what ways would we actually do what is research? There were lots of

things that were to do with what is research methods, approaches, ways of reasoning different types of data. So what is research methods can be quantitative or qualitative.

If you like hard numerical statistical analysis, we might be doing empirical experiments. We might be doing something which is a bit more qualitative: interviews, observations, trials, we might be mixing our methods so there are lots of different research methods – we have to choose the right one for the type of study we’re doing. There are different ways of approaching what is research. We might have some kind of inquiry, we might be defining specific hypotheses. We might be postulating specific research questions and so some of these things are more specific and others it depends on the nature of all we’re trying to do. There are different ways in which we might apply reasoning abductive, deductive, inductive and deductive and so on and there’s different types of data that we might gather. We might gather qualitative data and we might gather quantitative data. We might be gathering data from different types of subjects. So depending on the aims of our research we may choose different ways of researching and trying to find the appropriate match between the aims and the ways.

What would be our sources for what is research if we made a decision to research something? Where do we look?

Well initially of course, before we actually do for example experiments of these observations and so on we need to do our literature reviews. We need to find out what the state of the art already is and those sources might be the more traditional ones like books, journals, conference proceedings. Or these days of course there are a lot more electronic material websites and blogs – and there are other sources of what is research too. For example experts the Delphi method is a research method that involves asking experts to comment on things in a structured way. And indeed you might regard focus groups as another way of gathering people’s expertise. So there again are many different sources for what is research.

What about the problems with research?

Where there may be a number of barriers to doing your research. For example, you may find it difficult to get ethics approval to do stuff with children in a class. You might have trouble getting funding for what is research. You might have to go through a peer review process before you can even get what is research going on and then later on you might have to go through another peer review process in order to try and get it published in a respected journal conference. So there can’t be many problems and of course just like the rest of life people’s personal agendas, their bias, their political viewpoints can get in the way. So we often find that what is research is successful or not necessarily depends on the quality of that research but on the opinions of others. And ultimately we are interested in the outcomes of research. So what might that be, possibly increasing the knowledge base, finding answers to what is research related questions, we might be looking at many different views of the outcomes of what is research and sometimes you want to move on from that research. We want to be able to make new predictions. We want to be able to infer new understandings from what is research and of course move on from it. One of the things for example that appears at the end of most academic papers is future work. Where can this work take us next – so we can see with all of these different viewpoints that there are lots of different perspectives on what is research. There are many different ways that you can consider research. There are many variations in the way that you would construct your own research projects, undertake those projects, gather the data, process the data, and disseminate in different ways for its outcomes. So the trick really is to choose the things that fit best with the topics, the interest, and the hoped-for outcomes that you want for your own particular research projects.

What is education research?

Let’s start off with the definition which comes from the TEC. So what is important about this definition is that it is quite broad. It doesn’t confine itself only to the traditional idea of finding new knowledge but it also thinks about culture and it thinks about aspects of art, film, music, and so on. So we can see that what is research is not just writing a journal paper but it may be a whole range of things which are in some way creative and innovative and the cultural aspect is particularly important. In New Zealand we have Matauranga Maori research. So there’s this important concept of cultural capital but there are aspects of what is research can lead to social and economic benefits. We might ask the question in the context of education.

What’s the relationship between research and professional development?

The NZQA says that this is particularly important for the course that you’re doing because we’re giving you the opportunity to think very carefully about how you can do research which will of course give feedback into your own professional development and professional activities. So we’re looking very much into applied research that has some useful outcomes to you as teachers. Here is a definition and again we see this is a very broad definition so when we talk about education research we don’t just mean for example looking at what happens with a group of learners in a classroom, but we might look at a whole range of other larger interactions, different worlds of education so we might be looking at large organizations, institutions, collections organizations ministries, government’s, international networks, and so on. So we can see that education research can really range from the very small study to the very large and here’s another quote from a radical Marlene Morrison who says that so again it’s this idea of breath and scale there are many ways that we can consider what is research education. Many different views of the world, many different perspectives. And so a challenge for us really is to choose a particular approach to research, that is useful for us that interests us and we feel can give feedback into our own professional development and that of our colleagues.

So depending on the type of what is research you want to do you might pick different combinations of words and you are by no means limited. In some way imply the type of study that you’re doing, the type of what is research that you’re doing and then we want to define the phenomenon, the thing that you’re looking at for the participants at a research site. So let’s look at how we might take that little template and slot things into the blanks: what is the impact on engagement? – so we got a question and then we’ve got the context of our study and the type of what is research that we’re doing in this case. It’s the impact on engagement in learning. So that kind of slots in as the type of study we’re doing and then we can see that the phenomenon that we are investigating is device addiction. We can see that the participants in the study are students and we can see that the location is my school. So the point about using this little sort of qualitative structure is just to make sure that we thought about the different components that could go inside a qualitative research question.

What about a quantitative question?

Whether a little bit more focused I guess? It has been suggested that this structure – does this theory explain the relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable controlling for the effects of the control variable. Or in fact many control variables perhaps so what we got to decide here is well what is my independent variable? what is the thing that doesn’t get moved around by other things? What is the dependent variable? The thing that I’m trying to move around by managing my independent variable and what are the other variables that I need to try and control so they don’t get in the way of my results. So what might this look like if we use that? Boyle’s law, like Ohm’s law and a number of other similar sorts of physical laws, is based on different variables that can affect each other. So it’s a fairly standard thing but how would that work with an education quantitative question? Well, how about social constructivism? You know, the theory of the decade probably in education does social constructivism explain the relationship between student activity and learning outcomes controlling for the effects of prior learning. So what we’re looking at here is our independent variable is the Student Activity so that’s the one that we can manage. The learning outcomes are the dependent variable.

How much does that change as a result with the student activity and we need to control the external effects of other variables like prior learning to make sure that the results don’t get distorted by things that the students already know. So you may find these structures an interesting way of trying to put research questions together.

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