Have you been thinking about doing research? Presumably, you are feeling a mix of excitement and apprehension. Indeed, doing research and arriving at answers to complex social questions is an exciting endeavour. At the same time, research entails many uncertainties that might make you apprehensive e.g., will the data you get be sufficient to answer your question? Will you be able to recruit the sample that you want? Whatever your thoughts are about this process, they are valid; experiencing mixed emotions are part of the research process. The purpose of this manual is to help you think about your research idea and design your study in the best possible way to obtain evidence to answer the question. We hope to help you become more confident about all phases of the research process, from conceiving your question, developing your literature review and methodology, conducting analyses, to contributing your conclusions and findings with various audiences.
Before You Rush Ahead
Before you begin your research, please read this chapter carefully. A common mistake among young researchers is the tendency to rush ahead with their study without carefully thinking through the research question, study design, and analytical tools and types of data needed to draw credible conclusions. Such a mistake is difficult, if not impossible, to address at the end of the study. Hence, before you begin, we invite you to think about a few questions:
- What is your motivation for doing research?
- Have you thought about the process (ethics, data collection, analysis, writing etc.) and are you prepared and able to do it within the timeframe available for your studies?
- Why do you want to answer the questions that you are concerned with?
- Do you want to learn knowledge for the sake of knowing (pure research) or are you driven to understand a phenomenon better so you can apply your findings to a solution (applied research)?
- What do you expect to find? And what will this discovery say about yourself or others?
- What will this research change about yourself or others? Who are your subjects and who are your audience?
These are questions that you have probably thought about or are still thinking through. If you have not thought about them, take a moment to do so. You might get additional clarity and motivation to move ahead with your study. While you are pondering the questions above, be assured research can be daunting, even for seasoned social scientists. We recognize that you might be feeling insecure about a perceived inability to conceptualize and develop a research project, or about your training in data collection or analysis or writing. You might feel outside your comfort zone or a sense of imposterism. Those feelings are normal. We hope that after reading this chapter, you will feel more confidently about undertaking social science research. Locating yourself is an important step in the research process. Hence, we begin with a discussion on reflexivity and positionality.