We wish writing a research paper were as easy as opening a blank Microsoft Office Word document and putting down the words. Unfortunately, it’s not. In fact, there’s a lot you need to do before you even write the first word, so it’s important to understand the steps of a research process in academic writing.
To be abundantly clear, scientific research requires a systematic process to help researchers gather clear and concise information, which can help them conduct detailed analysis and draw reasonable conclusions.
More often than not, researchers have to focus on multiple steps in the research process and ensure proper interlinking between steps within the process. A simple change in a step during the research process will require you to review the other steps, so that the changes you make can reflect throughout the process.
In this guide, you’ll learn about the steps of a research process, front to back, to help you get your research paper assignment right. Whether you’ve an assignment on applied research or basic research, the complete research process is an essential consideration for the success of your research paper assignment.
Steps of a Research Process Explained
The steps of a research process form the complete framework that you need to follow in the given sequence to execute your research study.
No step is independent of the other, and you cannot proceed to the next step unless you’ve completed the previous. For example, it doesn’t make sense to review existing literature before identifying a problem to investigate.
Therefore, we can note that research is a broad system of interdependent related stages, which you must execute in sequence. And more often than not, the violation of the order can harm rather than help the study you wish to conduct.
1. Identify a Research Problem to Investigate
The first step in the research process is to identify a research problem to investigate. The problem should be something you can easily define and, at the same time, be suitable for the study and easy to work on within the scope of the process.
The question is:
What exactly is a research problem?
A research problem is an issue subject to thorough investigation through the collection and analysis of data.
Unlike a non-research problem, which doesn’t require any investigation to arrive at a solution or conclusion, a research problem clearly presents a perceived difficulty, a feeling of discomfort, or differences between what people believe and what’s real.
To say that a research problem needs to demonstrate what something is and what it should have been is an alternative sound definition. By investigating why the discrepancy exists, researchers can come to two possible conclusion about or solution to the problem under investigation.
To be clear, choosing a research problem isn’t as easy as identifying the sources of the problem itself. More often than not, you’ll find yourself using experience, knowledge on the subject, intellectual curiosity, and theoretical and practical considerations to identify the problem.
2. Review of the Existing Literature
Review of existing literature means investigating what other researchers have done to address the research problem you’ve identified in the first step of the research process. By doing so, it’s possible to know what other researchers have already done and what they haven’t researched so far.
The benefit of reviewing existing literature on the specific research problem is twofold. You not only gain access to a larger body of knowledge you didn’t know exist, but you can also easily find gaps to fill as you conduct your research process.
More importantly, reviewing the already existing and related literature means you’ve taken your time to consider the work other people have done so that you don’t merely repeat yourself and waste valuable time.
By properly reviewing the literature, you develop a clear understanding between the result of your own studies and those of other researchers.
3. Set Research Questions, Hypothesis, and Objectives
The third step of a research process is to come up with a research question and set your objectives and hypothesis.
- Research question: Derived from the research problem, a research question is what you look forward to answering in your research project and it’s important in qualitative as well as quantitative research Your research question should be good enough to improve the knowledge on the topic, not to mention be specific in kind.
- Objectives: Explain what you wish to research, the type of information you intend to collect, and the framework for the extent of the study.
- Hypothesis: Here, you come up with a prediction, which is the expected yet unproven outcome of the research study. While a hypothesis asserts a possible answer to the research question, it’s by itself subject to refutation or support by empirical data.
4. Research Design
Here, you come up with an effective framework that you will use to meet the objectives of the research study and answer the research question.
The research design will be the blueprint that you use to outline the methods and procedures that you will use to collect, process, and analyze the research data.
There are at most four types of research design that you have to consider. These are:
- Observational studies
- Secondary data study and
The research design you choose will depend on the type of the problem you wish to investigate, the depth of existing literature, the objectives of the investigation, and resources available for the study.
5. Choose a Sample Design
Sampling is a part of the research process, which entails procedures that use a small portion of a population to make a sound conclusion of a research.
For the best results, you have to select your sample population careful by following reasonable statistical procedures. At the very least, your sample population should have the same characteristics as the whole.
You have two options when it comes to choosing your sample population. You can use probability or non-probability sampling.
With probability sampling, every unit is a known probability of a selected sample of a target population. Non-probability sampling, on the other hand, is a method employed in the case where there’s no feasible alternative to consider.