Applied Cosmic Anthropology
-Asian Social Institute (ASI)

how to prepare chapter 1 - introduction

by

Paul J. Dejillas, Ph.D.

Professor of Anthropology

 

 

Research can be described as a systematic and organized effort to investigate a specific problem that needs to be solved, gather data or information to know more about the problem, analyze and interpret the data gathered, find answers or measures to solve the problem, and know the steps to be taken to solve the problem.

 

We can divide the entire research process into two, namely: (1) formulating the research proposal; and presenting the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the study. Of the two, I consider the first the most important since it lays down the basic things to be done or the foundation.

 

A research proposal is also known as a work plan, prospectus, outline, statement of intent, terms of reference, or draft plan (Leedy, 1996). It tells us what, why, how, where, and to whom it will be done. It also shows the benefit of doing it. (see Locke et al. 1993).  It is also essentially a road map, showing clearly the location from which a journey begins, the destination to be reached, and the method of getting there (Cooper and Schindler, 1998:86). Applied to actual research, the research proposal normally includes the title, abstract, Chapter 1 (introduction), Chapter 2 (Theoretical Framework), Chapter 3 (Research Methodology), work plan, and an estimated budget.

 

Two Types of Research

 

Research is often categorized into two: pure and applied. Pure research, also called by many names like basic, fundamental, academic or university research, is done to contribute to the development of knowledge. More common in mathematics, chemistry, physics, and related sciences, it has no practical applications and the outcomes of the study may not immediately produce beneficial results. The most typical example of a problem addressed by pure research is: “How did the universe originate?”

 

Applied research, on the other hand, addresses practical problems and produces results that can be immediately beneficial to solving the problem being addressed. It is most common in the businesses, government agencies, social service agencies, health organizations, and educational institutions. Decisions to offer new production methods, products, marketing systems, new curricular offerings, new teaching methodologies, or even dissolve existing programs may be based on applied research.

 

But whether one is doing pure or applied research, the same processes and steps are normally used. In our discussion, we will be focusing on applied research.

 

What are the basic steps in research

 

In actual research, the entire process involves the following basic steps:

 

1.       Choosing a topic which is a general area of study, for example, like academic performance, religion, and other such very broad topics.

2.       Formulating the title which is a kind of narrowing down the topic. For example:

·         “Factors Affecting the Academic Performance of Students”

·         “Assessing the Religious Growth of Students”

3.       Formulating the research problem or rephrasing the topic and the title into general and specific problems which need to be addressed and solved. For example:

“What are the various factors affecting the academic performance of students?” “How do these factors affect academic performance?”

“To what extent do students know and practice their religious beliefs?”

4.       Reviewing of related literature and theories to know what other authors are saying about the topic and the research problems.

5.       Planning how to carry out the study, also called technically as research methodology. This concerns the many practical details of doing the research like:

·         Shall the research be using the survey or observation method in the gathering of data?

·         How many target respondents to study? The entire population or a sample of the population? How will sampling be done?

6.       Gathering of data which involves asking the people, through a pre-constructed and pre-tested research instrument, a series of questions relevant to the research problems.

7.       Encoding and organizing the data with the aid of the computer. Raw data from the questionnaire are tabulated, encoded, and organized following a pre-determined computer-based format.

8.       Analyzing the data in order to see patterns and trends. The patterns help the researcher analyze or give meaning to the data gathered, and thus, understand and interpret the research problem more clearly and in an objective manner. In the case of quantitative data, this step involves the application of statistical software, while in the case of qualitative data, this involves the application of various tools like content and document analysis, among others. For example:

·         Students who spend more time in studying their lessons tend to score high in their academic performance than those who spend lesser time.

·         The higher the educational level of the student, the higher is his/her knowledge of religion becomes. The higher the educational level of the student, the lesser he/she practices her religious knowledge.

9.       Writing the report which, in addition to the above, includes the findings, conclusions, and the recommendations to respond to the research problem.

 

How does a research project usually start

 

Normally, a research project may start with the formulation of a research proposal and submitting this to a funding agency. The funding agency could be the Research Department of the school or it could be any outside funding agency that provides research grants. When the research funding is approved, the research project is immediately undertaken following the prescribed research methodology.

 

In some instances, a researcher is commissioned to undertake a research project. In this case, the agency that commissions the research usually prepares what is technically known as the “Terms of Reference,” or TOR. The TOR already specifies the basic information about the project, e.g., the title of the study, nature, objective, scope and limitation, duration, expected outputs. In addition, it may already specify the amount of the grant, although in some instances, the researcher may be required to prepare the corresponding budget.

 

What is a research proposal

 

A proposal is also known as a work plan, prospectus, outline, statement of intent, terms of reference, or draft plan (Leedy, 1996). It tells us what, why, how, where, and to whom it will be done. It also shows the benefit of doing it (see Locke et al. 1993).  It is essentially a road map, showing clearly the location from which a journey begins, the destination to be reached, and the method of getting there (Cooper and Schindler, 1998:86).

 

The various components or parts of a research proposal may vary from one science to another. Some of these components are given below.

 

The various components or parts of a research proposal vary from one science to another. Some of these components are given below.

 

Title

Abstract

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Rationale

Statement of the Problem

Research Objectives

Hypotheses of the Study

Significance of the Study

Definitions of Terms

Organization of the Study

Chapter 2 - Theoretical Considerations

Review of Related Literature

Theoretical Framework

Conceptual Model

Models for Measuring Qualitative and Quantitative Data

Hypotheses of the Study

Chapter 3 - Research Methodology

Research Design

Sampling Design

Data Collection Design

Data Organization Design

Data Analysis Design

Chapter 4 – Presentation of Findings

Summary of Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations

Annexes (e.g. questionnaire, maps, computer outputs, etc.)

References

 

The above components of research can be changed in the light of the researcher’s experiences. Some research studies do not need hypotheses or theoretical framework at all. The research can make the above arrangements more relevant and realistic by considering also his/her field of specialization. You can add, subtract, re-arrange or even combine parts.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has a form or guide to follow when submitting research proposals to its office for funding (see Appendix A).

 

Selecting the Topic or Subject of the Study

 

There are no rigid and fixed rules to follow in selecting a research area or topic. Topic selection is normally dependent on the following considerations:

·         Interest of the researcher;

·         Availability of the data;

·         Relevance to present needs;

·         Usefulness of the study;

·         Manageability (given the researcher’s time, daily work schedules, and other responsibilities); and

·         Field of specialization and expertise of the researcher.

 

In the ultimate analysis, the choice of the topic is dependent on the researcher’s field of specialization, expertise, and interest. Those in the field of marketing, business, and management would have the tendency to do research related to production, marketing and management concerns that can enhance business operations, while those in the field of education would prefer to do research works in areas like educational management, academic performances, curriculum development, and other school-related concerns. In the same manner, those in the field of economics and philosophy as well as those in medical and physical sciences would most likely choose a topic related to their field of specialization.

 

But until today, in spite of its abundance in research topics, higher-education concerns and issues relating to it have not yet been the serious focus of research in many colleges and universities in the country. Yet, school-related concerns are vital in raising the level of the school’s academic competence and excellence. It is greatly hoped that the CHED’s efforts to extend research grants, establish various centers of excellence, and organize several zonal research centers throughout the archipelago may hastened the way towards the selection and conduct of research topics that would directly enhance the quality and standards of the various school programs in the country.

 

There are topics to be avoided in empirically oriented or applied research. These are usually the following:

·         Those that cannot be translated into clear and precise research questions, objectives, or hypotheses.

·         Those whose empirical data are extremely difficult to gather or are not available at all, e.g., “being and becoming,” “essence and accidence,” or “existence and transcendence.”  Of course, with little ingenuity, some philosophy students may still be able to translate these concepts into a good empirical study.

·         Those that have been extensively researched already, e.g., prostitution, child labor, addiction, cooperatives development. However, even already overworked topics can be approached interestingly.

 

Formulating the Title of the Study

 

Once the topic for research has already been identified, one may proceed to formulating a tentative title of the study. Again, there are no fixed rules in formulating the title of the research study. But some say that the ideal number of words in a title ranges from 7 to 15.

 

When the research is commissioned by somebody, then, the title is in most cases already formulated. The Philippine CHED, for example, identified the following priority areas for commissioned research:

 

CHED Commissioned Researches for AY 1999-2000:

·         The Extent of Implementation of General Education Curricula (GEC)

·         Integrative Studies in Linguistics, Humanities, Sociology, Anthropology and other Social Sciences

·         An Evaluation of an Innovative Delivery Program

·         Quality Performance Indicators in Higher Education

·         Review of Status of Studies on Accreditation

·         Model Building Studies of Alternative Delivery Program

·         Assessing the Capability of Teacher Education Institute to Offer Science Teacher Education

·         Extent of Research Diffusion

·         Peace and Development Studies with Direct Application to Research Situation

CHED Commissioned Researches for AY 1999-2000:

·         A State of the Art Review of Status of Studies on Accreditation

·         Peace and Development Studies with Direct Application to Research Situation

·         The Extent of Implementation of General Education Curricula

·         An Evaluation of an Innovative Delivery Program

·         Quality Performance Indicators in Higher Education

·         Integrative Studies in Linguistics, Humanities, Sociology, Anthropology and other Social Sciences

·         The Extent of Research Diffusion

 

CHED Commissioned Researches for AY 1999-2000:

·         Research to define the minimum quality benchmark for higher education;

·         Financing higher education;

·         Typologies of HEIs in the Philippines: Roles and Expectations;

·         Case studies of successful student teachers to identify the factors that can hasten the development of competent student teachers;

·         Identifying the most appropriate incentive package for cooperating schools and identifying the factors that will determine its appropriateness.

·         Amalgamation of public HEIs as strategy for quality development;

·         Accreditation as instrument to deregulation;

·         Cost-benefit of permit system for higher education programs;

·         An independent study on the Bang’sa Moro Problem; and

·         Towards a more active role of CHED in the labor market information system.

 

Some possible research topics may already present themselves to those in the academe. In-house research subjects in the academe may cover any of the following fields of school concerns:

·         Instructional Development (e.g., curriculum, syllabus, instructional materials, methods and techniques of teaching, etc.)

·         Human Resource Development (e.g., job evaluation and analysis, personnel development or enrichment, etc.)

·         Community Extension (e.g., community scanning, adult education, livelihood projects, health care, etc.)

·         Faculty Development (to enhance competence of faculty members in the area of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values)

·         Development Planning (formulating a five-year development plan at the school, college, and departmental levels)

·         Spirituality/Religiosity (e.g., assessing the religious or spiritual growth of students)

·         Value Formation (e.g., integration of value formation in the curriculum)

·         School Administration (e.g., introducing innovative models to enhance effective school administration)

 

CHED-Commissioned Topics: SY 2000-01

·         Research to define the minimum quality benchmark for higher education;

·         Financing higher education;

·         Typologies of HEIs in the Philippines: Roles and Expectations;

·         Case studies of successful student teachers to identify the factors that can hasten the development of competent student teachers;

·         Identifying the most appropriate incentive package for cooperating schools and identifying the factors that will determine its appropriateness.

·         Amalgamation of public HEIs as strategy for quality development;

·         Accreditation as instrument to deregulation;

·         Cost-benefit of permit system for higher education programs;

·         An independent study on the Bang’sa Moro Problem; and

·         Towards a more active role of CHED in the labor market information system.

 

For more than a decade now, the Institute for Development Research and Studies, or IDRS, has been conducting seminars on issues relating to educational concerns. On September 14-15, 2000, it conducted a Seminar-Workshop on “Creating a Culture of Research in the Academe.” The participants of that seminar came up with a few possible research topics which they developed during the workshops and presented during the plenary session. These are:

·         Factors Affecting the Attendance and Participation of College Students in the Holy Mass at St. Mary’s College of Meycauayan (SMCOM)

·         Current Level, Challenges and Effects of the Utilization of Information Communications Technology on the Quality of Learning  in the Classroom: Bases for Curriculum and Infrastructure Development

·         Comparative Study of Existing Teaching Methodologies and their Effects on the Learning Absorption of Student

·         The Study of the Paulinian Core Values Among Graduating Students of St. Paul College of Manila

·         Environmental Conservation: Its Implications To Peace And Development In Mindanao

·         Teenage Pregnancy and the Factors Associated With It

·         E-Text System for Adamson University

·         Impact of Religions Education (Reed) among the Catholic Students of the Divine Word College of Tagbilaran (DWC-T)

·         The Effects of Flexi-Time on the Productivity of Full-Time Faculty Members of Colegio de San Juan de Letran

·         The Performance of HEI Educators Undertaking Multiple Functions

 

Some experienced researchers formulate the title of the study in consonance with the research problem. Thus, we say that at this stage of the research, any title that may be formulated may only be tentative. Others even finalize the formulation of the title after the review of literature, theoretical framework, and the conceptual model.  

 

Rationale

 

The rationale introduces the problems of the study. It discusses the events or conditions, situations, and developments that lead the researcher to select the topic and the research title. These may be political, economic, social, cultural, or religious. These new events or developments may occur in a particular community or sector, industry, region, or even at a global level, but is affecting the school.

 

Seasoned researchers maintain that a good rationale ought not to go beyond one page, typed single space in a short bond paper. The more concise and focused the rationale the better it is. This is not too difficult to understand, since the reader wants immediately to go directly into the research problems and purposes of the study.

 

Statement of the Problem

 

A research problem is a stimulus that ignites the researcher’s interest for a response in the form of scientific inquiry. In applied research, it needs to be identifiable and observable in real-life situations, i.e., it can be studied empirically.

 

The researcher needs to ensure that the problem is not yet treated and responded to by other researchers. A comprehensive review of literature will help in knowing whether or not the problem is already treated elsewhere. If the problem has already been studied, then, it may help to rephrase the problem to the direction where other literatures have not treated it yet.

 

Problem identification may have to pass into some form of a screening process. In the case of schools, this can be done by posing the following questions:

·         What is the current situation of the school? Are there any undesirable situations that need attention?

·         Are there any conditions, or processes that could be improved?

·         Are any problems foreseeable in the future that could affect the administration and management of the school?

·         Are there any potential opportunities in the future that the school may capitalize on?

·         Is the problem identified really a problem, or is it a symptom of another problem?

·         Does the identification of the problem follow from the available evidence?

·         Is research needed to identify the problem that underlies some undesirable situation?

 

Not all school- or education-related problems are translated into research problems. Some of the reasons are:

 

·         Lack of value. The research costs more than the benefits it is expected to produce (unless we are talking of a non-profit organization);

·         Priorities. A problem is not of sufficient importance to require researching at the present time.

·         Researchability. The problem is unresearchable. It might be unethical, or illegal. Or, data may not be at all available.

·         Limited resources. A number of problems do not get research attention simply because the research money or time is exhausted.

 

Research problems are expressed in general and specific terms. The general problem is usually expressed in statement form, while the specific problems are stated in the form of questions. N. Blaikie (2000:61-62) identifies three types of research questions: what, why, and how. According to him, the “what” questions normally precedes the “why” questions, and the “why” questions normally precede the “how” questions. In Blaikie’s view, we need to know what is going on before we can explain it, and we need to know why something behaves the way it does before we can introduce measures to transform a situation.

 

Other authors propose seven types of research questions to include who, where, how many, and how much (Yin 1993). But they also acknowledge that these questions are essentially different forms of the “what” question. Still others advance four other types of research questions: descriptive, normative, correlative, and impact (Hedrick et al. 1973).

 

The following test may help one formulate a good research problem:

·         Does the problem statement capture the essence of the school's concern?

·         Is the problem "real?"

·         Is the problem stated unambiguously in terms of the specific variables and relationships of interest?

·         Is the scope of the problem clearly defined?

·         Is the problem statement free from personal bias?

·         Can data be obtained to solve the problem?

·         Do you have the capabilities and expertise to adequately research the problem?

·         Can the problem be researched given the constraint of money and time of the school?

·         Are there other investigations that would have greater value to the school?

·         What are the real reasons this problem was selected for study?

 

Objectives

 

After the research problem is identified, formulated, and specified, the research objectives need to be laid down. Some authors distinguish eight types of research objectives: exploration, description, explanation, understanding, prediction, change, evaluation, and impact assessment (N. Blaikie 2000: 72-84). Basic or pure research focuses on the first five types of research objectives, while applied research may include some of the first five types, but it is particularly concerned with change, evaluation, and impact assessment.

According to Blaikie, each of the eight types of objectives is related to a particular type of research question. For example, the objectives of “understanding,” “explanation,” and to a lesser extent “evaluation” and “impact assessment” are the only ones that require the why-type of questions. The “change” objective only requires the how-type, while all the other objectives have questions beginning with “what” or questions transformable to “what.” The research objectives, says Blaikie, can occur as a sequence proceeding from the simple to the complex. Exploration, for example, precedes description and description is necessary before explanation or prediction.

 

Hypotheses

 

Having defined the research problems and objectives, some researchers may find it useful already to mention at this stage---though may somehow be in passing only---the main hypotheses or assumptions of the study. The hypotheses may express the major variables that the researcher suspects play great influence in responding to the problem or in explaining the behavior of the phenomenon under study. They are tentative answers and explanations to the research problem which the researcher would like to verify in reality.

 

Mentioning the hypotheses at this early stage of the study serves the purpose of introducing them to the reader so that the latter will be more ready and prepared to recognize their value when these are discussed in great detail later. So, any discussion of the hypotheses at this stage is kept to the minimum.

 

Scope and Limitation

 

A discussion on the scope and limitation of the study is necessary since we don’t have all the time, money, and other resources available to us to conduct the research. Thus, it may be necessary to limit the scope of the research with respect to the instruments used, number of respondents, geography and culture, time duration, and even research methodology.

 

Significance of the Study

 

This explains the importance of why the problem of the study is investigated. It highlights the significance and relevance of the findings, conclusions, and policy recommendations to educational needs and concerns.

The researcher needs to discuss the possible concrete effects of the study on the school or firm where he/she works. Why are you undertaking this study? Are the problems you raised timely and relevant? Is this study a priority concern of the school? Will the findings and recommendations help improve existing programs? Will they improve the learning absorption of students and the competency of the faculty members?

 

Definitions of Terms

 

One word or concept may have diverse meanings and definitions. To avoid confusion or misinterpretation, the researcher may have to come up with a definition. There are three ways of clarifying the important terms used in the study (Fraenkel and Wallen, pp. 26-27):

 

·         Constitutive definition, i.e., to use what is often referred to as the dictionary approach.

·         Clarify by example, i.e., to use other words to make it clearer.

·         Operational definition, i.e., to specify the actions or operations necessary to either measure or identify the term.

 

Definitions of terms need to be specific, definite, and focused. For example, the term “students” may appear too general. Thus, you may need to define the term “students” to include only those college students enrolled in business and management.

 

Data Organization

 

The organization of the study may vary from school to school depending on the format used. A sample is given below.

 

Chapter 1 will present the introduction of the study and will consist of the rationale, statement of the problem, research objectives, hypotheses, significance of the study, and definitions of the terms used in the study.

Chapter 2 will present the review of literature that have relations to the research problems and objectives of the present study. The literature review will also explore the theoretical framework, the hypotheses as well as the conceptual model they used as basis for the development of the framework, hypotheses, and model that will be used in this present study.

Chapter 3 will discuss the research methodology used in this study, in particular, the research, data collection, data organization, and data analysis designs.

Chapter 4 will present the findings of the study in the order that these respond to the research problems and objectives of the study.

Chapter 5 will finally summarize the findings and present the conclusions as well as recommendations of the study.

 

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