Research is a scientific inquiry the aim of every research is to add to the available knowledge. Regardless of any methodology or approach, every research should confirm to the scientific and research standards. These standards are called the characteristics of research.
Definitions of research
More than hundreds of definitions of research have been available in written form in different books, encyclopedias, dictionaries and in the research literature. According to Creswell “research is a process of steps used to collect and analyze information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue”.
There are other definitions of research which also state that research is the seeking of knowledge in systematic, organized manner. The system that a researcher follows to find out the facts that are hidden and not known to people, determines the validity, genuineness and reliability of research. A research is biased or fake if there is no validity or reliability in the research process.
To undertake research in different fields, there are a variety of procedures and tools set by experienced researchers. The reliability of these tools have been checked over a period of time and are therefore approved to be fit for undertaking research. With the advancement in research processes each day new methods, tools and procedures are developed and each tool or procedure is suitable for one form of research but has limitations for another form of research.
Characteristics of Research
Certain terms are commonly used in research and the success of any research depends on these terms. These terms determine whether a research is scientifically and ethically correct. They are called the characteristics of research. These characteristics have been explained here in simplest terms to understand and to implement. The real understanding of these characteristics is only possible when you practically conduct a research.
Reliability is a measure of repeatability or replicability. It is the repeatability of any research, research instrument, tool or procedure. Today there are instruments that can estimate the reliability of any research instrument. If any research yields similar results each time it is undertaken with similar population and with similar procedures, it is called to be a reliable research. Suppose a research is conducted on the “effects of single parenting on the class performance of elementary school age children”. If the results conclude that it causes low grades in class, these results should have to be reliable for another sample taken from a similar population. Reliability adds to the consistency and predictability of research.
Validity is the strength with which we can make research conclusions, assumptions or propositions true or false. It determines the applicability of the research. Validity of the research instrument can be defined as the suitability of the research instrument to the research problem or how accurately the instrument measures the problem. Some researchers say that validity and reliability are co-related, but the validity is much more important than reliability. Without validity, research goes in the wrong direction. To keep the research on-track define your concepts in the best possible manner so that no error occur during the measurement.
Accuracy means that each process in the research has been undertaken accurately. It is also the degree to which each research process, instrument, and tool is related to each other. Accuracy also measures whether research tools have been selected in best possible manner and research procedures suits the research problem or not. For example if a research has to be conducted on the transgender people, several data collection tools can be used depending on the research problems but if you find that population less cooperative the best way is to observe them rather than submitting questionnaire because in questionnaire either they will give biased responses or they will not return the questionnaires at all. So choosing the best data collection tool improves the accuracy of research.
Credibility comes with the use of the best source of information and best procedures in research. If you are using second-hand information in your research due to any reason your research might complete in less time but its credibility will be at stake because secondary data has been manipulated by human beings and is therefore not very valid to use in research. A certain percentage of secondary data can be used if the primary source is not available but basing a research completely on secondary data when primary data can be gathered is least credible. When researcher gives accurate references in the research the credibility of the research increases but fake references also decrease the credibility of the research.
Generalizability is the extent to which a research findings can be applied to larger population. When a researcher conducts a study he/she chooses a target population and from this population he takes a small sample to conduct the research. This sample is representative of the whole population so the findings should also be representative of the whole population. If research findings can be applied to any sample from the population and the same results are obtained, the results of the research are said to be generalizable.
External validity improves research generalizability as well. So a research that has strong external validity has strong generalizability too. In quantitative research it is easier to achieve that. In qualitative research generalizability is more concerned to a smaller group to which the results are applicable.
Empirical nature of research means that the research has been conducted following rigorous scientific methods and procedures. Each step in the research has been tested for accuracy and is based on real life experiences. Quantitative research is easier to prove scientifically than qualitative research. In qualitative research biases and prejudice are easy to occur. There are tools that can improve the trustworthiness of qualitative research.The qualitative researcher should know how to control biases and subjectivity that can make a research less scientific.
Every research follows an approach or paradigm of research but regardless of any paradigm the research should have one main approach, i-e, systematic approach to research. This systematic approach helps the researcher understand the steps to be taken and in what order to take each step. There are set of procedures that have been tested over a period of time and are thus suitable to use in research. Each research, therefore, should follow a procedure.
In real life experience there are many factors that affect an outcome and a single event is often a result of several factors. When similar event is tested in research, due to the broader nature of factors that effect that event, some factors are taken as controlled factors while others are tested for a possible effect. The controlled factors or variables should have to be controlled rigorously.
In pure sciences, it is very easy to control such elements because experiments are conducted in the laboratory but in social sciences it becomes difficult to control these factors because of the nature of research. In social science the experiments and observations are done in real life settings. To control external factors that might effect the research is difficult in social science research. However there are tools that can help the researcher in achieving some control over how the research goes on.
- Williams, C. (2007). Research Methods. Journal of Business & Economics Research (JBER), 5(3). https://doi.org/10.19030/jber.v5i3.2532
- Kumar R. (2011). Research Methodology: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners. 3rd Edition. Sage Publications: London. Pp- 28-29.
- Wikipedia, Characteristics of Research, https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Characteristics_of_research