Tag Archives: university

Be the change you want to see in the world

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.
–Mother Teresa

Besides generating papers to fulfil academic/professional aspirations, most researchers hope that with time, their papers would gain recognition and that findings would someday have real life implications on the world.

Closely intertwined with the concept of beneficence, it can be difficult for researchers to make that difference amidst the hundreds and thousands of journal articles published each year.

So the question is what now?
How can research feed into policies and support positive change?

These question remains pivotal in the translation of research into action and attempts to answer it often rest on understanding the roles and interactions between the various actors who govern the research to implementation process.

Revolving around the principle that research provides evidence for implementation and practice; many contend that research in action can save lives, reduce poverty and improve levels of well-being.

It however remains a cold hard truth that influencing the implementation of change is far and beyond the reach of most researchers; regardless of the number of times a paper has been cited.
Furthermore, research papers are often technical terms incomprehensible to many policy-makers; making the task of translating research into practice a more challenging one.

Despite the challenges researchers face in the translation of research to practice, it is not improbable or impossible thorough various ways researchers can facilitate this research to implementation process:

  • Reach out to those who implement changes:
    Though shorter non-technical outputs like blogs and posters are rarely recognised or rewarded from an academic’s perspective, it can be a useful avenue for researchers to translate findings into practical and engaging recommendations.
  • Share:
    Talk and share about your research to your friends and family (even if that means talking underwater with a mouthful of marbles)
    You never know who else would your friends and family share that information with and let’s be honest, what could be better than free word-of-mouth advertising?

So join me my fellow researchers.
Dream big, think change, and believe in the ripples you can create.

Be the change you want to see in the world.
-Mahatma Gandhi

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Choices

Choices, choices, choices.
We are all plagued by choices from the time we enter this world till one bites the dust.

Though some researchers have a preference for a particular approach (Qualitative or Quantitative), do we always have to choose?
Or could we make the best out of both?

Given the controversy surrounding the subjectivity of the qualitative approach and the rigidity of the quantitative approach, some researchers posit that the flaws of one approach could be made up for by the benefits of the other; through the mixed methods approach.

So what is the mixed methods approach?
The essential goal of mixed methods approach is to examine a given research question through real-life contextual understandings, multi-level perspectives and cultural influences.

Encompassing rigorous quantitative research methods to assess the magnitude and frequency of constructs, the mixed methods approach also utilizes qualitative methods to explore the meaning and understanding behind them

With the emergence of strategies and tools to blend these different types of data, researchers can now transcend disciplinary boundaries like never before.

Who can use mixed methods research?
Applicable to anyone who wants or needs to tackle a research challenge from two or more perspectives (by deliberate choice or out of practical necessity) will benefit from a mixed methods approach.

The mixed methods approach has most commonly been employed in a variety of disciplines ranging from behavioral studies, psychology and sociology to education and health care to human resources and marketing.

Although a relatively new approach, mixed methods research has been embraced by the scientific community in their practice, academic journals, and major volumes of work like the Sage Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social and Behavioral Research by Abbas Tashakkori and Charles Teddlie.

“…[any] kind of polarized debate has become less than productive. And, it obscures the fact that qualitative and quantitative data are intimately related to each other. All quantitative data is based on qualitative judgments; and all qualitative data can be described and manipulated numerically.”
– William Trochim

Reconciling differences; The Qualitative and Quantitative debate

qualitative-vs-quantitative-rap

After identifying research problems, questions and examining the feasibility of conducting a study based on prior research, most researchers are faced with the “What now?” problem.

While some researchers choose to adopt a particular methodology based on their field of study or personal preferences, it may not always be appropriate to the context.

Typically considered to be the more “scientific” approach, Quantitative research aims to explain various phenomena through the collection of numerical data which is subjected to statistical analysis and interpretation.

Qualitative research on the other hand emphasises on the exploration of issues and understanding phenomena through the systematic collection and interpretation of unstructured data (interviews, observations etcetera).

To determine the applicability and appropriateness of the approach to specific phenomena or hypotheses testing, there are a few questions that should be taken into consideration:

  • Can the variables examined be quantified?
  • Can the data derived from quantitative and qualitative approaches be cross validated?
  • Should the study be based on a qualitative or quantitative approach?
  • What are the benefits and disadvantages of each approach?
  • Do the disadvantages outweigh the benefits? If so how can the differences be reconciled?
  • Which approach yields the best results in terms of reliability and validity (face, content, predictive, concurrent, convergent and discriminant validity)?

Given the subjectivity surrounding the interpretation of the data from the qualitative approach, the quantitative approach is not one without its flaws.
It remains a fact that not all examinable and observable differences can be quantified.

When you have got to this stage, CONGRATULATIONS!
Your methodological frustrations have led you onto Stage 2 of the research process: Identifying the appropriate methodology for the study in an attempt to define and measure variables.

 

P.S. Despite the issues that surround the qualitative / quantitative debate, I am a strong proponent of the mixed methods approach, for I believe that having to adopt an “either or” approach can at times be inadequate; stifling academic thought and our understanding of the subject at hand.

We can only hope that further research into this area could amalgamate the bifurcation of contrasting views, allowing for a more cohesive framework for analysis.

Ethics in research; What is acceptable and what isn’t?

Ethics in research; What is acceptable and what isn't?

As depicted by the fight between two wolves, the discussion of ethics governing research today is plagued with dilemmas and traps regarding what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Guided by morality values, ethical norms are largely acquired via educational, cultural and social settings.

Ubiquitous and commonsensical as it seems, we often tell ourselves “surely he/’she must know that that is wrong!?”
Yet there still remains an abundance of ethical disputes and issues regarding research.

We are all in reality, hostages to our experiences.

While most people recognize common ethical norms, individuals interpret, practice, and balance norms in light of their own values and experiences.

Whilst various disciplines, institutions, and professions have norms to standardize professional codes of conduct, there are several core reasons outlining the importance of adherence to ethical norms in research:

• Aimed at providing knowledge, truth, and avoidance of error, researchers should refrain from fabricating, falsifying, or misrepresenting research data for the sole purpose of objectivity.

• Given that research may adopt a multidisciplinary approach involving cooperation and coordination amongst individuals from various disciplines and institutions, ethical standards promote trust, accountability, respect and fairness pivotal to collaborative work.

• In relation to beneficence towards mankind, researchers’ duty of care should extend beyond the study for accountability purposes.

• While norms of research promote a variety of other important moral and social values (social responsibility, human rights, animal welfare, compliance with the law, and health and safety), ethical lapses in research can have disastrous consequences on participants, animal subjects, students, and the public.

“A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.” – Winston Churchill

As tempting as it maybe my dear fellow researchers, it is the wolf that you feed that will triumph.

Choose wisely.

Curiosity does not kill the cat


So what if you were never the smartest cookie in the jar?
So what if you’ve been made fun of time and again for asking silly questions that were seen as irrelevant?

Truth is, none of that matters in research.

Chances are there is always someone out there that has thought about the very same things you have thought about, and asked the very same questions you have.

It is the inappropriate, unconventional, seemingly crazy ideas and questions in research that helps push the boundaries of knowledge and progress as a whole.

Not only does it seek to inform action, the manner in which you can relate findings to the larger body of research, the applicability and functionality of findings outside the research community has transcended boundaries and surpassed the expectations of many.

As painful as it has been, the research process has undeniably been extremely liberating; encouraging analytical thought through the exploration of broader implications of research on communities, nations and even the world.

While we have all dreamt about being firemen, princesses or even garbage collectors when we were kids (admit it!), have you ever once thought your curiosity and silly questions could have the potential to change the world and positively influence the lives of others?

I certainly didn’t.

To my fellow researchers,
“Life is not discovery of fate; it is continuous creation of future, through choices of thoughts, feelings and actions in the present.” — Sanjay Sahay

Let’s put things into persepctive – Differences in opinion

Everything you hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything you see is a perspective, not the truth.
– Marcus Aurelius
Image
Photo credit: Shawn Clover

 

Have you ever felt so strongly about something and were convinced though there were other plausible explanations with regards to the particular subject matter, what you felt/thought matters more than anything else?

Can’t speak on the behalf of others but well, I used to feel that way.

Just like how there are always two sides to every argument; the research process involves approaching research material/prior findings with an open mind.

and yes, this receptiveness and open minded approach is the complete opposite of what I have just described.

But wait, before anyone starts going on about how being opinionated is important because it makes your argument more convincing, let me explain myself.

Usually thought of as a belief or judgement that is subjective in nature, opinions are usually derived from personal experiences or encounters.

Question is, are opinions formed on the basis of personal experiences representative the entire population? How would you know if your opinion is more valid as compared to Person B’s?

While differences in opinions are bound to exist, they are not facts or truths.

So what do we do if we have a full blown argument discussion about a particular topic?
We get real grumpy, agree to disagree (to be polite), race to our computers, type in the subject matter into google library databases, scroll through the pages at 600km/page; frantically searching for information to validate and substantiate our point.

Truth is, you’re likely to find material that both contradicts and supports your argument.

When you have got to this stage, CONGRATULATIONS!

Not finding an answer to your question has led you on to Stage 1 of your research process: Identifying significant research problems and questions and examining the feasibility of conducting a study based on prior research.