Research Methods

to support students enrolled in RES701

Making a start on your project journey……

This week we begin exploring your ideas and thoughts on what might make a good project and what we need to do to create a proposal that will be accepted.  The hardest part is always trying to come up with a good idea and that is what I want to help you towards!  We will begin with some initial easy questions to help provide a focus and then start to explore one or more of your ideas in more depth.  This is the beginning of a piece of work which we will be working on for the next few weeks so it is important!

If for any reason you can’t make the class, I would suggest that you work through the two exercises linked from my class notes before the next class.

The class notes will be here later.

May 16, 2017 Posted by | Class Work, General | Leave a comment

Week 9 Reading an academic article

This week we will be spending almost all of the class on preparation for Assignment 2.

As there seems to have been some confusion last week with me being away, I am going to begin today with a recap of last weeks notes (apologies to those of you who have already done the work) and I will ask you to ensure you have found two academic articles.  One you will use for practice this week and the other for your assignment.

We will take a look at Assignment 2 and I will give you some tips that I think make it easier to deal with reading a paper as it is something that can be quite difficult and quite daunting.

I am then going to ask you to do an exercise in class that is related to reading and analyzing an academic paper that you have found. This will enable me to go over some of the areas that you find difficult or puzzling. I hope (and think!) you will find it useful.  The final write up from this article will be a blog post to be completed by next week.

The notes I will be using will be here.

May 3, 2017 Posted by | Assignment Work, Class Work, General | Leave a comment

Week 8 Finding and recognising academic literature

Today we will begin looking at one of the most ‘credible’ sources of information – relevant academic articles (also called papers).   I will look at what is an academic article later but first of all why do we do this? There a number of reasons:

  • It is important to find out what other, more knowledgeable people have said about the area
  • It is important to find the most ‘credible’ information which will often (but not always!) be in academic literature
  • It is important for you to ground your work in work that others have done ( no one expects you to come up with a completely original idea)
  • It is important to look at the kind of research approach that others have taken to see if this would be useful for you
  • It is important to understand how others have applied the research approach to learn how to do it well – this may mean following their guidelines or ensuring that you don’t make the same mistakes
  • It is useful to see what questions others have left unanswered.  There may be room for you to pick up one of those questions yourself.

So what do we mean by an ‘academic article’?  Before the internet, it was reasonably straightforward to identify such articles (or ‘papers’) as they would generally be published either in specialised research journals or books, or in the proceedings of academic conferences.  Of course, this still happens and often their abstracts are freely available online.  However, a number of the publishers charge you a fee to read the complete paper. You will find that using the NMIT online library databases will give you a much better chance of finding complete papers as  NMIT pays to have access to those which are listed on these databases.

Of course, on the internet you will also find a large number of papers or articles that are not considered to be academic, these could be newspaper articles, articles from practitioner journals, blog postings, vanity publishing, white papers from companies such as Microsoft or IBM among others.  These can often have useful information but are not always ‘valid’ as research and are often biased.

There are also things which fall in between the two – papers such as university working papers, individually published work by academics (on a blog perhaps).  Again these can be useful but you will need to be clear about whether they are really useful as a basis for your research by looking at some of the criteria below.

So how can you tell what is academic or not and why does it matter?  Generally, if you have searched on NMIT’s online library databases or used an academic search engine like Google Scholar or Advanced Google Scholar, the results you find will be academic.  This is because they have already screened out the non-academic work – they have done some of the hard work for you already!  However, if you are still not sure you can usually tell by looking at the criteria below.

Usually, an academic paper will be reporting on research of some kind and will have been peer-reviewed (that means it has been assessed as useful by other academics).   Most academic papers are also written to a very similar structure which not only makes it easier to read but also easier to work out what kind of article it is.

The main components of an academic paper are:

  • the title
  • the authors (usually with an email address and affiliation)
  • the abstract
  • the introduction
  • a review of other papers relevant to the topic ( a literature review)
  • a description of what the research was and what the researchers did
  • the results of what they did
  • a discussion about what the results mean
  • a conclusion
  • a list of references

If the paper you find does not have an abstract and/or has no references, it is very unlikely to be an academic article.

The notes will be available here.

April 11, 2017 Posted by | Class Work, General | Leave a comment

Week 7 Follow up

Thanks for the session today – just a couple of things to remind you of…

Assignment 2 Change of Date from May 5th – New date May 12th.

Don’t forget to email me the blog that you think should get the award for last week!

Thank you and see you next week 🙂

 

April 5, 2017 Posted by | General, News | Leave a comment

Blog Award – Week 7

For some reason many of you decided it was holiday week as far as your blog was concerned! Remember you are expected to do at least one blog a week through the semester! Three people are well behind in their blogs and are putting their marks for Assignment 1 in jeopardy – I will try to contact those of you are in this situation later in the week.

It was good to see some interesting posts from some of you though – shout out to Jarad, Sarah, Katie and Prerna in particular.  Just remember that while it is good to record things that are of interest to you I would expect most of them to have some relationship to IT as that it the area you will be looking to create a project in.  In the early days it is good to follow up different areas but now is probably the time to start focusing in on the IT aspects of these areas.

I do want to draw attention to three great posts this week.  Alex wrote an excellent post on why projects fail and whether Agile methods might help avoid these failures, Amber has made an interesting start on an idea that could become a project for her and Becca (who has been doing some amazing research in her chosen area over the last few weeks) has provided a post full of tips on how to organise yourself when doing research (or any kind of major project). Well done all of you but a special congratulations to Becca for being Blogger of Week 7 and Amber on being a very close runner-up!

 

April 5, 2017 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

Week 7 – Credible Evidence

This week we will continue to look at assessing credibility. We will start by finishing off the work we were doing last week on different research methods and then move on to look at finding information and assessing its credibility by considering its source.  There are a wide range of sources of information and we have already talked about some of them, but recognising what is likely to be credible and what may be biased or incorrect is difficult.  We have talked about looking to see if the methods used were appropriate and done well but there are other things we can look out for too, such as

  • how we found it
  • when it was written
  • who it was written by (expert, undergrad student,….)
  • where it was published or what type of ‘thing’ it is (book, article, blog)
  • what others have said about it (reviews)
  • whether others have used the information in their own work (citations)
  • how it is written (style)
We are going to start by looking at different sources of evidence or information and thinking about how credible*  they are!  Here’s the spreadsheet we will be using for this (available in class).
This often leads us to think about the difference between ‘academic’ or ‘research’ literature and general information which may be just opinion or anecdotal evidence.  Sometimes where we search can also have a bearing on the ‘credibility’ of what we find so we will begin to explore different ways of ‘searching’.
Notes will be here and the exercise for the blog post will be here.

April 4, 2017 Posted by | Class Work, General, News | Leave a comment

Research Approaches

Just a reminder that I asked you to find out about your designated topic for this week – I forgot to post the list again but here it is now!

 

  1. Secondary Research        Alka/DongChen
  2. Observational Research  Sarah/Prerna
  3. Exploratory Research      Simranjit /Lisa
  4. Case Study Research       David/Luke
  5. Experimental Research  Jaydon/Zuohao
  6. Discourse Analysis         Cody/Jared
  7. Action Research              Yanglong/Kai
  8. Design Science                Toby/JingBo
  9. Argumentative                Alex/Dejan
  10. Interview                         Bhoj/Weilong
  11. Survey                              Harry/Becca
  12. Randomised Controlled Trials  Jonathan/Brandon
  13. Meta-Analysis               Katie/Amber
  14. Focus Groups                 Sihan/James

 

For your topic I want you to answer these questions as an individual blog post (you can include links to other information or videos etc if you want):

  1. What is it ? (Short description of how it works)
  2. What kinds of questions/problems might it be useful for?
  3. How could it be used in IT research  (try to think of an example)?
  4. What are the strengths of the approach?
  5. What are the weaknesses of the approach?

All our work this week will be based on these so it is important that you come prepared! If you weren’t in class last week, please to check to see which one you have been allocated 🙂

Notes will be here later.

March 28, 2017 Posted by | Class Work, General, News | Leave a comment

Identifying the right approach……

Last week we talked about ontology and epistemology and the importance of these concepts to research that we do.  We talked about how it is important to identify what kind of knowledge you want to discover as that affects the way you go about looking for that knowledge.  Identifying the ontology and epistemology of our own, or others’, research is important as it underlies the choice of research method and the credibility of the results.  We will be doing quite a lot of work on this theme over the next few weeks and will start with an interesting activity (wait for class to find out more!)

At the start of the class I will make my notes visible here.

March 21, 2017 Posted by | Class Work, General, News | Leave a comment

Difficult Concepts


For this week’s class I asked you to find out the meaning of, and think about these two terms:

  • Ontology
  • Epistemology

You could look them up in a dictionary or wikipedia and get the definition from there but I don’t think it will help you very much!  What I really wanted you to do is to try to find your own meaning for them as they relate to research  – this is often similar to the way the concepts are used in philosophy.  On your blogs I hoped to see your ideas of what you think these two terms refer to in the context of undertaking research through considering these questions.

  1. What is ontology? How is it relevant to research?
  2. What is espistemology? How is it relevant to research?
  3. What is the connection between ontology and epistemology in a research context?

These are hard questions I know !!  I didn’t expect you to find ‘perfect’ answers, I just wanted to start you thinking!  Exploring these questions and coming up with a framework that can guide much of our thinking for the rest of the course will be the focus of today’s class.

I will be posting the link to my notes here either during or after the class.

March 14, 2017 Posted by | Class Work, General, News | Leave a comment

Difficult questions

An important and fairly major part of this course is about establishing information that we can rely on and then understanding how we can contribute to other people’s knowledge by creating credible information of our own. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at these issues in some detail.  This week we begin that exploration by looking at one particular concept and teasing out a number of different and difficult questions that arise once we begin to explore it.  That concept is the notion of ‘truth’.

During the course of the session we will be looking at some difficult questions and interesting links (links below will be available in or after class) and attempting to find some satisfactory if not definitive answers – this will lead on to our discussions around the concepts of ontology and epistemology.  Prepare to have a pleasantly aching brain by the end of the class 🙂

The following links will be available either during or after the class :

==============

For next week  – I would like you to try to answer the following questions on your blog please:

  1. What is ontology? How is it relevant to research?
  2. What is epistemology? How is it relevant to research?
  3. What is the connection between ontology and epistemology in a research context?

March 8, 2017 Posted by | Class Work, General | Leave a comment