Research is an essential part of conducting business and engaging in the scientific community. Students, academics, and business leaders participate in research to gain critical knowledge about particular topics they do not understand well. These topics can be anything from the discovery of new vaccines to have a greater insight of a target market. Following the steps in the research process will help ensure that you are adhering to a rigorous scientific method.
1.) Understand Your Problem: It will be pretty challenging to design a study if you don’t at first understand the nature of the problem. While you may have a ballpark understanding of the problem, actually pinpointing that problem into a sentence can be excruciatingly frustrating. Sometimes you will need to review the evidence, conduct interviews, and complete some non-scientific experimentation to define the situation or problem better. The more knowledge and experience a person has the easier it will be to grasp what is going on.
2.) Conduct Background Research: You can better understand what type study to conduct if you are aware of the current research. You may just find that the problem has already been solved or is close enough that you can draw some inferences for your business without the additional expenses associated with new research. Keep strong notes of the studies you find because your literary review will provide a detailed discussion of current findings on the topic.
3.) Formulate Your Research Question: Your research question is the centerpiece of any study. A quick glance at the research question will tell you precisely what question the study will attempt to resolve. As you build your study, the design will reflect back on the research question (s). Typically research questions are labeled as R1 and R2 and are very explicitly written so they can be measured.
4.) Design Your Study: The study design is based on the need to answer the research question. If the study seeks to evaluate some phenomenon statistically, but the variables are not well known, then an exploratory design might be beneficial. It is always wise to look at similar studies on the topic to get a better understanding of the design you need to use.
5.) Gain Approvals and Funding (If Needed): Depending on which entity you work for you may need different types of approvals. On an academic level, you may need a university’s Research Board or International Review Board approvals. Company employees may need to obtain permission from senior management. Whether you are working with private, government, public, personal or corporate money it is wise to have it before you move into spending money.
6.) Obtain Necessary Materials: Sometimes you will need special equipment while at other times you will use online surveys, existing data, historical information, etc. It is helpful to know where you are going to obtain this information, pay for the services you need, and collect written permission to access information.
7.) Conduct the Study: Conducting your study will take time and careful effort. Make sure that you follow procedures correctly to hold up against scrutiny. If you wave from your processes outlined in the study, you may need to go back and reauthorize those changes with funding and oversight boards. The more consistent you are with each piece of data collection the stronger your study will be regarding validity.
8.) Evaluation The Data and Your Results: Once you have collected your data you will need to find a way to evaluate it to disprove the null hypothesis. Disproving the null hypothesis means the alternative, or the one you seek, is justified via a specified confidence level. There is software available like SPSS or even free software like Microsoft Excel that that can do the necessary work.
9.) Report, Publish and Share: The ultimate goal is to contribute to a body of knowledge by sharing your results. The most common methods are to conduct a presentation at a conference or have it published in a peer-reviewed journal. Even if you cannot do this, you can still have it posted on the web for others to see.
Dr. Murad Abel is a Marketing Professor and Research Fellow at Forbes School of Business & Technology. He also runs an informational and lifestyle blog at http://www.academic-capital.net