ECB College Unit 7 Research Skills

This is a solution of ECB College Research Skills Assignment in which we discuss methodologies and types of research and much more about research skills.

Introduction to Research Methodologies

According to some people research is somewhat related to the skill set of a person which he uses to find and validate any topic of interest and continues his journey on the path of searching the desired knowledge. These definitions describe research as an art but research is also a scientific phenomenon where search for knowledge is done using the more scientific research methods instead of just going through the data present on the topic of interest. These scientific methods are used to convert data into useful information which may provide the answer to the research question. A research always look for new facts which are not known to world yet and focus on how these new facts are going to change the existing perception of the people about the research topic. Thus, research is a kind of new discovery where every time a new fact turns out into the long journey of research.

As said above research is all about redefining the existing definitions but sometimes it could also define an entirely new phenomenon. This is the point where research is known for the search of knowledge. When a research defines or redefines a problem, a hypothesis is formed which leads to collecting the data on that hypothesis, evaluating that data, converting that data into information and a conclusion is provided. At the end of the research these conclusions are tested to validate the hypothesis.

Types of Research Methodologies

The basic type of research methodologies could be defined as below:

  1. Descriptive vs. Analytical: Descriptive research is also known as Survey Research. In Descriptive research, researcher looks into the description of the project research topic in its current state. In Descriptive research, researcher knows the variables present but he cannot control these and only able to know the past of the research topic and the current state or what is happening now. For this kind of research, most of the researcher uses comparative analysis of the topic and includes these facts in his report. In descriptive or survey research, researcher collects the data based upon the surveys, while in Analytical Research, researcher uses the data which is already present and does not go for any kind of survey.
  1. Applied vs. Fundamental: Applied research is always aimed towards finding a solution to a problem. On the other hand Fundamental or basic research is always about setting a general idea.
  2. Quantitative vs. Qualitative: Quantitative research is always about measuring the quantity of the research topic or materialistic attributes while Qualitative Research is all about the quality. Organizations behaviour research is a good example of Qualitative research where motives or desires of the people are studied.
  3. Conceptual vs. Empirical: Conceptual Research is always about defining the new ideas, new concepts or redefining the existing ones. Empirical Research, also known as Observational Research is based upon the observations or Experiments. That is why Empirical research is also known as Experimental Research. In this type of research, researcher forms a hypothesis and then works on finding the facts which supports his hypothesis. Some of these facts are generated by the different kind of experiments.
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Primary and Secondary Data Collection

In research methodologies, there are two types of data used – Primary data and Secondary data. Primary data is the data which researcher collects himself during the analysis of any research proposal while secondary data is the data which is already collected by some other person though the purpose of this data collection might not be same as your research. But still this data is useful in the research and could be used as it is. This secondary data could be used in three different parts of the research proposal:

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review
  3. Findings

Though using the secondary data is very useful and quite right, most people do not include secondary data in their research proposal but if used it could support the very arguments and help in analysis.

Qualitative and Quantitative Research (Statistical Analysis)

When we talk about Quantitative Research, it is always associated by the numbers which plays very important role in the research. Also the result of any kind of Quantitative research always comes in the form of a number or numbers. Sometimes these numbers define the ratio of the variables of the question in consideration (Roblyer, McDaniel, Webb, Herman & Witty, 2010, pp. 139). To analyse these numbers most of the researchers use Statistics. Researcher collects the data for analysis and put that data into statistics formulae and validates the variables. Some interesting features of Statistical Analysis could be summarized as:

  1. The results of statistical analysis are always conclusive and confirmed.
  2. Statistical analysis is usually non-descriptive.
  3. The outcomes of any statistical analysis are mostly in the form of different types of graphs and tables.
  4. The results of statistical analysis are decision making.

On the other hand Qualitative Research is a quality based research methodology, which is descriptive and non-numeric. Qualitative Research is mainly based upon the study of patterns, not on the measures or quantity. During the research when data randomness is checked, there is always two types – first is the reason of randomness and second is how much data is random. The first one comes into the category of Qualitative Research while the second one is Quantitative Research. Main features of Qualitative Research are:

  1. It works on reasonable doubt and most of the time it is descriptive.
  2. The results of Qualitative Research do not come in the form of tables or graphs.
  3. It basically works on the “Why” keyword.

Problems in Research

Conducting a research itself is a very tedious work and more complex than it seems. A researcher has to face many issues while conducting a research and the most challenging is finding the correct information. There might be many sources available for the research but to validate them for authenticity is a big issue. Other than this data dependency is also a critical problem when there are many interrelated variables. During a research following the pre-planned strategies could also become an issue due to the frequently changing environment surrounding the research (Wilson, Fornasier & White, 2010, pp. 174).

Another issue a researcher faces during a research is “The question of Bias”, which is caused by the self-created assumptions. In this case researcher might not be able to do the justice. Sometimes peer review helps in this kind of problem.

Hawthorne and Halo effects

Hawthorne effect defines “The question of Bias”. According to Hawthorne effect, “Changing the behaviour or attitude by the subjects of any human development research or experiment might be caused because of their knowledge of being studied”. Although there are many conflicts about the authenticity of Hawthorne effect but sometimes people do change their attitude during research which could affect the conclusion of the research.

Halo effect is another evidence of cognitive biasedness. According to this effect, a researcher’s judgment about the subject under research could be affected by the researcher’s fondness of the subject and could affect the end result of the research.

Literature Review on Social Media

The social media is a gift to the young new world but along with the young minds it has also attracted the older people also. According to a survey, more than 30% people on social media are above 35 years of age. These people might be there for different purposes but yet they are contributing to these social sites and empowering the social media. Boyd and Ellison (2008, pp. 213) has described the effects of social media in their work and according to them these effects are mainly positive. They defined social media as a semi – private space for the people who might not be able to share their thoughts in public, but on social media these people may explore the world and talk on the topics of mutual interest. The popularity of social media could be imagined by the increasing number of followers. As surveyed by Boyd and Ellison, Facebook and Twitter are going through an exponential growth phase and more than 28% users of Facebook are only in United States.

Most of the research data available on Social Media could be found in the form of Secondary Data Collection. Some of this data is published by the social sites itself and rest is available from the Internet Service Providers and freelance survey companies. The data published by the social sites is trustworthy because they are in the open market and any false data provided could be easily validated by the authorities (Park, Kee & Valenzuela, 2009, pp. 730). Another data source is Internet Service Providers (ISP) who keeps track of the data flow and bandwidth etc. and could provide the exact data. Most of the authors have used the data provided by the ISPs.

Further research on social media could be done using the Triangulation of Sources method which supports the use of more than one theories or studies to validate the data. If this method validates the data then it could be used in the research. Another type of Triangulation of sources is Analysis Triangulation where the same data is used for validation in different methods.

 Key Works on Social Networking Sites and Triangulation of Data

Tapscott and Williams (2006) has described social media essential in the current times and said, “The world of marketing has been changed by the emergence of Social Media and the kind of transparency it provides, makes the marketing strategy trusty for the end user.” The way social media has been communicating directly with users and getting the feedback is really a new thing. Charlene and Bernoff (2008) went a little more ahead in the research on social media and presented more than 23 real world scenarios where social media has proved to be extremely good for the growth of business. But along with this, they also researched the effects of social media on individuals and families. Bernoff (2008, pp. 78) mentioned in research that people are being addictive to these social networking sites and might be losing the control of their family life because of this.

Young (1999, pp. 46) recognized the negative effects of social media in the early days and said, “It is not necessary that people become addicted of social networking sites as a whole, but they might be addictive to different kind of activities on social media.” He divided these activities in the following five categories:

  1. Addiction to the games on social networking sites.
  2. Addiction to data and other information found on these sites and internet browsing.
  3. Addiction to the porn content available on social networking sites.
  4. Addiction to the products and services offered and marketing
  5. Addiction to the online and offline relationships.

Observatory Research Sources

Observatory research sources are also very useful while doing a research. These sources mainly observe the patterns in a study and provide the results on that basis. Cohen (2009) did this kind of study on the effects of social media on families. Cohen (2009, pp. 176) quoted, “Social media might be a very good tool for social relationships or marketing but it is destroying the families.” He gave an example of a lady who herself accepted that she has become a social media addict and not fulfilling her duties towards her children and the family. Webley (2011, pp. 83) also recognized a pattern in the decreasing mental health of the people due to spending excessive time on social networking sites.

As discussed above there are many researches which have shown that social networking is slowly becoming a menace to the society and if not controlled could be dangerous for the society. Webley (2011, pp. 437) observed 200 students of a college and found that most of them remain closed in their rooms after the study hours are over. Instead of going for outdoor games or other activities, they were spending their time browsing the social networking sites.

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Research Proposal and Questionnaire

The given Case Study, “Social Media or Social Menace” is based upon the extensive use of social networking sites by users. The case study is all about the probable negative effects of the social media which might be true if proper attention is not paid towards this issue. The case study demands a proper research on the issue of “Social Media or Menace” which could be validated through the following questions:

  1. How many people are present on the social media?
  2. How much time they are spending on social networking sites?
  3. What are the activities people are performing on these sites?
  4. Frequency of logging in to social networking sites?
  5. Are people are spending more than enough time sitting on their computers due to these social networking sites?
  6. Are people forgetting their other responsibilities because of the social media?
  7. People’s thoughts are just confined to what they see on social media?
  8. What is the percentage of different age groups on social media?
  9. Which social networking sites people are browsing?
  10. Do people participate on various surveys on social media?
  11. Marketing on social media is helping companies in selling their products?
  12. The data on the social networking sites is true or not?
  13. Do people validate the information found on social media through other sources or just trust them blindly?

All these questions justify the need of research on the use of social media and produce a research question, “The social media is really a boon to the Internet users or it is Social Menace?”

Research Observation and Change in Variables

Every research is based upon the observation of the variables in questions and their attributes. The given case study provides many variables, like- the time people spend on Internet, the time people spend on social networking sites, how people react to the content on social networking sites etc. The attributes hers are mainly of two types – positive effects of social media and negative effects of social media.

Scaling of the Questionnaire

All the above asked questions need to be scaled and the most widely used scaling system, Likert Scaling suits this research questionnaire properly (Boyd, 2009, pp. 87). According to the Likert scaling, research questions are rated on the basis of the response from the audience. The five level Likert item consists of the below 5 responses from the audience:

Strongly disagree to the research question

Disagree to the research question

Neither agree nor disagree

Agree to the research question

Strongly agree to the question

This five level scale validates the research question and helps the researcher in reaching a conclusion.

When Likert Scale is applied to the research questions on social media, most of the general users who spent normal time were of the opinion that social media has become an essential part of their life but also denied the negative effects. On the other hand, people who had been spending lots of time on social networking sites accepted that they could not stay away from social media even if they wanted. These people said that somehow they had become addicted to the social media. They agreed to most of the negative effects and helped in concluding that social media needs a check.

During the random sampling of the data, people gave an amazing answer to the question, “Frequency of logging in to the social networking sites”. Most of the people strongly agreed that they log in to these social networking sites at least once in a day. The answer to this question alone provides an important insight about how much social media has become essential to people’s social life.

Ethical issues in the Research

Ethics play an important role while conducting any research. Since the research on social media is related to the human beings, the subjects who participate in the research or more specifically, in the questionnaire, are people who have volunteered. When people are asked normally about their personal issue they often answer in denial. Same is the research on social media. In this research people are being asked about how they spend their time on social networking sites. Their answers may result in proving that these people are addicted to social media and hence may create an issue in their personal and social life. That is why it is really important to maintain the respect and consideration to the people who are being studied for the research. There are basically four major issues which need to be carefully understood while doing a research:

Consent

Harm

Privacy

Deception

The consent of the people under research is always mandatory. The views of the people for a research could not be used without their approval and they have the authority to know the type of research and legalities of the research. Another issue related to consent is that people could not be forced to participate in a research. Only if they are willing to participate in the research, they could be used for any questionnaire. Next is the issue of harm to the subjects by the research. Harm could be of any kind; it could be the stress, it could be psychological, it could be embarrassment or it could be the public humiliation. Sometimes the data of the people involved in the research is kept secret and data is used anonymously (Kuss & Griffiths, 2011, pp. 3541). This way subjects are removed from the harm’s way and it also protects their right of privacy. The deception factor is associated with the misinterpretation of the data provided by the subjects. Sometimes researchers could represent the data as they want instead of the actual meaning of the data. This kind of deception is very dangerous and the researcher could be punished for that by the ethical committee.

It is necessary to define the ethical issues before conducting any research. During the research on social media, most of the people do not want to go on the record. Therefore, it becomes hard for the researcher to prove that the questionnaire done by them is authentic. To avoid this, the best idea is to use other types of research methods also along with questionnaire

Understanding the People’s Attitude

While conducting a research on an issue like social media, where human beings are under the observation, it becomes necessary to understand their attitudes and divide them in different segments on the basis of their attitudes. The people on social networking sites use these sites for different purposes. Some of the people use social media for the purpose of making new friends and flirting. This segment is mainly filled with male users, while female users mainly use social media for getting the attention of the people and to make people notice them. There are also some people who use social media just to keep up with old friends. Another segment is the people who use social media to follow their interests and pursuing the hobbies.

All the segments defined above are the normal users who use social media as its basic definition. But other than these, there is a big segment which uses social media for their business purpose. In the current times, marketing over social media has become very popular and also very effective. Social networking sites are providing innovative ideas to attract the customers (Ybarra & Mitchell, 2008, pp. 352). There are many social networking sites which allow businesses to make their own application for the marketing purpose.

When people were asked in a survey about how they are getting the benefits from using the social media, some of them said that it has helped them in keeping up their personal relationships when they are not together with their families and friends. Others said that social media has helped them in finding their old friends. One of the odd answers from the people was that it has helped them in gaining the confidence. These people said that due to the social media they are able to connect to the society and when people appreciate their comments or photos, it gives them confidence. A small segment of the subjects accepted that they exaggerate their personality over social media as there are many people in their network who do not know them personally and thus they are able to manipulate these people.

Conclusion

The case study given has raised a question over the use of social media and presented social media as a threat for society. Though there are many facts presented in this paper about how people are using the social media effectively for good work, still there is a requirement to control the use of social sites. Social media might be able to help people in communicating with their friends, maintaining long distance relationships, building social network, making a public appearance or providing business through online marketing, but spending too much time on social media has become the reason of main concern. A survey of 1500 people showed that people who are spending more time on social networking sites building a social network are spending very less time in their real life social events. These people might be getting recognition over Internet but in real life, they are cutting off their relationships with community (Fawcett & Baguley, 2011, pp. 191). This kind of pattern is a major threat for the society. Most of the people who participated in this survey were found insecure in their real life and they were just trying to find a way out of this insecurity. But during this process, they somehow lost their path and forgot about their real life. These are the people with low self-esteem who are being addicted to the social media. According to another study, students who are spending more time on social media are also getting the low grades. Though some of the students claimed that they use social media as a source of finding the useful information for their study, but then how come they ended up in lower grades? A small segment of the students accepted that they use social networking sites for the purpose of flirting and fulfilling their sexual desires. These students were mainly male students, while female students denied of any of these kinds of activities. These types of people mostly find the sexually appealing profiles on the social networking sites and try to make friends with them. Although most of these profiles are fake and made by the people who uses these profiles to exploit the sexual desires of others.

According to the experts, the addiction of social networking sites is found mainly in young people, but older people are also involved. These experts claimed that addiction to social media is almost same as the addiction to the substances and both of the addictions have almost same symptoms. One symptom of social media addiction is that the person addicted to social media restricts himself from social appearance. This kind of people spends their most of the time using their computers are barely appears in public. There are also some people who are so much addicted to social media that they are seeking professional help and the professionals who are helping them are even using the drugs which are used in any other kind of addiction (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010, pp. 61). The first aim of these professional is the controlled use of internet. Once the first step is done, they move onto the next step which is basically getting the people back in main community. There was a case found in the surveys of a 25 years old girl who was so much involved in using the social networking site Facebook that she had to lose her job because of this. She was not able to perform her office work because she was busy in using the Facebook. Finally she had to see a psychiatrist for therapy and even in her first meeting with therapist; she accessed Facebook on her cell phone. Hence, there is no doubt that social media is becoming the social menace and despite all the benefits, it needs to be controlled.

References

Fawcett, A., & Baguley, J. (2011). Social media menace?. In Practice33(4), 190-191.

Demers, D. (1999). Global media: menace or messiah?. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business horizons53(1), 59-68.

Hilgartner, S., & Bosk, C. L. (1988). The rise and fall of social problems: A public arenas model. American journal of Sociology, 53-78.

Howitt, D. (1982). The mass media and social problems. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Ybarra, M. L., & Mitchell, K. J. (2008). How risky are social networking sites? A comparison of places online where youth sexual solicitation and harassment occurs. Pediatrics121(2), e350-e357.

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