In broad terms, research entails the collection and analysis of data, information and facts for the advancement of knowledge and to increase our understanding of a topic. The steps in the research process are:
- Identifying a research problem
- Conducting a review of the existing literature
- Posing a research question (and a specific hypotheses if quantitative research)
- Collecting relevant data to answer that question (and test any hypothesis)
- Analyzing and interpreting the data
- Reporting the research findings
Collecting data sees the researcher locate different types of sources, depending on the nature of the research being conducted to address a particular research question:
Qualitative research: in attempting to understanding human behaviour and the reasons that govern it, this research asks a broad question and collects word-type data that is analyzed searching for themes. As such, qualitative researchers may use different approaches in collecting data, such as the grounded theory practice, story-telling, narratology, ethnography or shadowing. This data can be collected in unstructured, semi-structured or structured interviews, focus group discussions, participant and non-participant observation, reflection field notes, and analysis of various texts, pictures, and other materials.
Quantitative research: this research entails a systematic empirical investigation of quantitative properties and phenomena and their relationships. It asks a narrow question and collects numerical data that is analysed using various statistical methods. As such, it uses research methods that enumerate observations such as surveys and validated research tools in outcome research.