Since research is viewed as a systematic and scientific investigation,” it also follows the steps similar to the scientific method. Whether the research is qualitative or quantitative, the same procedures are employed. But for the course of this textbook, qualitative research is the reference of explanation of such procedures.
Qualitative and quantitative research both follow the scientific method. However, they may have different approaches in addressing a research problem. Qualitative research aims to deepen the understanding of a phenomenon while quantitative research aims to generalize ideas or concepts in a broader perspective.
1. Identifying the research problem.
The initial step in the research process is the recognition of a research problem. Research problems are those that cause unfavorable circumstances in a community or an organization, further investigation as recommended by previous research studies, or gaps in any field of study. Research gaps are parts of a study that had not been investigated, or those which research results yielded inconsistent findings.
Research problems may be in the form of questions that need to be answered at the end of the research activity. A research problem is the heart of a good qualitative research. It serves as the researchers’ guide throughout the research process and the focus of all the research activities.
In the process of identifying research problems, literature review is very important. Reviewing the literature provides a good background information about the problem and enables the researcher to know what has already been studied about the research problem and what procedures have already been taken to deliver the results. Readings from the review can also give information on where to find sources of information relevant to the problem.
2. Formulating hypotheses and designing the study.
Reviewing the literature can also help in formulating research hypotheses. A research hypothesis is an intellectual guess or tentative answer to the research questions. Hypotheses serve as guide toward designing the research methodology. A well-designed methodology is the key to success of any research endeavor. The following questions provide a guide in constructing an appropriate study design:
- From whom will your data come?
- Where are you going to collect your data?
- When and until when do you plan to gather your data?
- How are you going to facilitate the whole research activity?
3. Collecting and organizing data.
After designing and carefully planning the methods to be done in the study, data collection can commence. Data collection is the process of gathering information by means of a defined method in order to support the hypothesis. Data could be anything that is used to represent facts and values or anything that may represent a characteristic of something that is being measured. There are many possible ways to gather data in qualitative research.
4. Analyzing and testing hypothesis.
Data gathered should be organized to facilitate data analysis. Data analysis is the process of examining data against the preconceived hypotheses. If the data gathered support the hypotheses, then the hypotheses cannot be rejected, suggesting that the present research results conform to the literature. Rejection of hypotheses implies that the results deviate from the existing literature, which may be caused by cultural difference or uncontrolled extraneous variables. With the volume of data to be considered and analyzed, especially in qualitative research, noting responses and creating a system for coding actions and characteristics hasten the process of generating meaningful results and implications. Statistical procedures may help, but for qualitative research, they seldom find use. As alternatives, methods of data analysis can be employed.
5. Interpreting data.
Presenting data in a manner understandable to readers is not enough for a scientific investigation. Gathered data must be interpreted correctly to pave the way for drawing out meaningful implications and in making the research relevant. Interpretation of data against an established theory may be desirable. In the same manner, painting a true picture of the data relative to the formulated hypotheses may generate meaningful findings. Furthermore, in qualitative research, the need to return to the research subjects for validation purposes is deemed necessary. This process is termed as member-checking.
6. Reporting results.
Reporting or communicating research results for public information is essential. With this, the results may be used by stakeholders for their own benefit, a responsibility needed to be internalized by researchers. Similarly, public dissemination of research results may give rise to further questions or research problems to be undertaken by interested parties.