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PSY 323: Social Psychology

The research process

Woman conducting research

Image: Idaho National Laboratory. (2013, Mar. 14). Biomass Research. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/inl/9192431093Used under the Creative Commons License.

"Research" is a concept with a broad range of definitions.  The description below is, accordingly, only one view of the research process.  There will be variations on it -- thousands of them, in fact.  The process described here is intended to serve only as one relatively common and relatively straightforward look at the research process.  It is entirely likely that you will encounter literature that employs one (or multiple) variations on this process.  That said, a comparatively stylized examination of the research process might look like this:

  1. Define the problem, and then ask a research question:  Research topics are often alternately described as research problems -- you, the researcher, perceive a gap, discrepancy, or unanswered question in the existing knowledge within your field of study.  Your first task is to define this issue, and why addressing it is worthy of study.  From there, your task becomes to pose a compelling question that you can answer by conducting new research.  The defining your topic and crafting a research question page to the left can help you with this.
     
  2. Review the existing literature:  What have other researchers in the field written on this topic or research question?  How does your idea or question fit into that literature?  The identifying search terms and broaden or narrow your search pages linked to the left can help you with this process, and the find background information, find articles, and find books and ebooks pages offer you resources to search.
     
  3. Develop a hypothesis:  Based upon your understanding of your research question, and your initial review of existing literature, what do you anticipate you will discover by conducting your research?
     
  4. Choose a methodology:  How do you want to select and measure variables that will provide data or evidence to address your question?  What population will you measure?  What tool(s) or forums, such as surveys or focus groups, will you use?
     
  5. Conduct your research:  Complete the experimentation you have designed through your research design and methodology.
     
  6. Analyze your findings:  Having assembled and reviewed a body of literature relating to your question, selected a research design, and conducted your research, what are your findings?  Do they uphold your hypothesis?  If so, why?  If not, why not?
     
  7. Present your findings:  What key findings did your analysis yield?  How will you let the broader scholarly community know what you discovered?  Paper?  Presentation?  Poster?  What new questions do your findings yield, that either you or other researchers can address (thereby renewing the research process)?
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