The research process or scientific method is the default mode for systematically gather information for the purpose of answering questions and solving problems. This process serves the purpose of defining the goals of research, making predictions, gather data, and interpreting results.
In general, there are six steps to the research process as listed below.
- Identify the research problem
- Review the literature
- Specify the purpose of the research or develop research questions
- Collect data
- Analyze and interpret data
- Report and evaluate results
Identify the Problem
The problem can come from personal observation, readings, from others, or any other of a host of ways. Finding a problem also helps in focusing your study. When identifying a problem it is important to make sure that you develop a justification for investigating it as well as the importance of it. People need to know why they should care about what you are studying. This has to do with relevancy.
Reviewing the Literature
Reviewing the literature is about knowing what has been done before your so that you can see how you can build on existing knowledge. Most research tends to add to an existing conversation rather than start a new one. Looking at the literature also helps you to see your contribution to the existing body of knowledge. This is one way in which you can find the “gap” in the knowledge that your study will address.
Purpose of Research or Research Questions
The research purpose is the overall objective of the study. It is a restatement of the research problem. Another term for this is the research questions. The research questions are the questions you are asking about the problem. Many times, you do not solve a problem, instead, you ask questions about a problem. The answers to these questions may help to solve the problem or may not. Many people confuse the research purpose with the research questions when they are one in the same. Your goal at this step is to break a part the aspects of the problem into answerable questions. The answer to each question may contribute to solving the research problem.
This is where the research design begins. Data collection is influenced by the research questions. What you want to know influences what data you will collect. Data collection includes sampling, methods, procedures, and more.
Analysis and Interpretation
Once data is collected it is analyzed. The method of analysis is also influenced by the nature of the research questions. Interpretation is where you answer the research questions. You found a relationship between variables or you didn’t. These answers to your research questions can be used to solve the research problem.
Reporting and Evaluating Research
At this step, the information is complied in a way so that you can communicate with your audience. The format of communication depends on who you are writing for. From journal articles to science fair projects all researchers must know the expected format for communication.
Evaluation is the experience of having your work judge by others based on a certain standard. These standards are not agreed upon. This lack of agreement is another reason to know who you are writing for so you can communicate in a way that is acceptable to them.
The research process serves the purpose of finding answers to questions about problems. A researcher needs to follow the six steps of the research process in order to communicate their findings in a way that is appropriate to their audience.