What is Research? – Research Definition and Four Common Mistakes in Using Research Term | Research Design Methods

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What is Research? – Research Definition and Four Common Mistakes in Using Research Term


Reasearch Design Methods Managers in a company must face problems in their daily work. Take an example, a Marketing manager will often encounter such problems in which the company’s sales decline. This problem is actually a “normal” case, but if the decline has lasted for a long time, then we need to figure out the cause of the problem to be able to create the right solution. We cannot only guessing what happened to find out the answer. We need to do an investigation to find the true facts. Many of marketing managers commonly conduct a deep investigation by interviewing their customers. They quest their customers what causes them to stop buying their products. From that activity we can determine the cause of the decline in sales as well as we can figure out exactly what consumers want.

Illustration above shows us a common phenomenon happens around us. We realize it or not, we actually do research in our daily lives. Our curiosity encourages us to investigate and search for the answer from any phenomenas happen. However, not all of our investigations led us to the right conclusion.  Why? The common reason is we didn’t perform the right procedures in our investigations.

We maybe popular with the term “research”. Literally, research comes from two syllables: “re” and “search” which means “to search again”.  According to Merriem-Webster about definition of research, it defines research as below:

“Studious inquiry or examination; especially : investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws.”

Another definition comes from Leedy who defines it from a more utilitarian point of view:

Research is a procedure by which we attempt to find systematically, and with the support of demonstrable fact, the answer to a question or the resolution of a problem.

While Kerlinger uses more technical language to define research as:

The systematic, controlled, empirical and critical investigation of hypothetical propositions about presumed relations among natural phenomena.

The similarity from definition above is they define research as a sistematic way of investigation to get facts in order to answer particular problems. Other literatures also add that information gained from research should be important. Important means research findings have benefits for human lives. We could see these benefits from two side, for academic purposes and for business. For academic side, research provides useful information to enrichs the existing knowledge and theories. While for business organizations, research helps them to find potential opportunities and also offers them information to overcome their problems.

Although the term “research” has been popular to us, these are some of the ways in which this term is wrongly used as cited from Nicholas Walliman (2001):

  1. People may define research as a mere gathering of facts or information. Gathering information is part of research activities, however there are other activities included in research which begin with defining research problem, designing research plan, analyzing fndings and presenting research report.
  2. People may define research as moving facts from one situation to another. Some people may say, “I have done my research, and come up with this information which I present in this paper”. It is easy to say that we have conducted a research because we have gathered information and presented it in a report. However, gathering information and presenting it do not automatically called as research. In research, we need to interpret that information before we present it.
  3. Research is defined as an esoteric activity, far removed from practical life. While many research projects deal with abstract and theoretical subjects, we often forget that the activity of research has greatly influenced all aspects of our daily lives and created our understanding of the world.
  4. Many producers use research as a word to get their product noticed. They use it to impress and build confidence. If we ask them about the evidence of their research and methology used, they might face you with incomprehension answer.

From the definitions above, we can conclude that research is defined as the systematic investigation into the study of materials, sources etc. in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. The information gained from the research should be a fact and important. The term research also connotes patient study performed over and over again. Thus, reseachers must not conduct research carelessly, eventhough they deal with deadline to submit the report. Reseachers have to obey the rules in research, which are being objective and follow code of ethics in research.


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