Social Science Research Methodology: Concepts, Methods and Computer Applications

Textbook, 2012

96 Pages








Meaning of research
Evaluation research
Research approaches
Qualitative research
Quantitative research
Triangulation research
Deductive approach
Inductive approach
Inductive and Deductive study approaches
Research types

Dependent variables
Independent variables
Intervening variables
Background variables

Idea generations
Processes to identifying a research topics
How to identify gaps from publications and literatures review
Research topics from discussions
Researcher units and consultancy
How to state research problems


Collect relevant information to support the topic
Literature review process
Categories of literature review
Why literature review
How to carry out literature reviews
Critically distinguish the known information from unknown
Researchers expectation on project idea
Identify relevant theories as per study conducted
Determine research variables and their relationship
Conceptualise the study

Research design
Non-experimental research designs
Sampling techniques
Probability sampling
Non- probability sampling
Data collection techniques
Schedules for interviews or group discussions
Schemes for recording behaviour or observations (experiment)
Case studies
Telephone conversation
Research partners/ Agencies
Data handling and its interpretation
Data entry, edit/error check
Use computer software for data analysis
Testing correlation and regression from observed frequencies
T- test
Data presentation
Data interpretation

Understand research process, guide lines and theories
Format/research proposal components

Single Author
Research management
Validity of the research instrument
Research or study limitations
Communication, reporting and contact handling
Budget, resource allocation and funding options
Duration and scheduling

The use of internet for research work
The use of internet for data collection
Applied software for research
Software for communication purposes
Software for data analysis and presentation
Correlations and Regression



Social sciences research methodology is of great importance in disciplines and interested people on searching various knowledge or solution to a phenomenon. The context of this book is to guide researchers, academician and groom young researchers to conduct different enquiries. This is due to the fact that, human activities and environmental changes created complexity in life as well as challenges. But, these challenges wanted to get answers from fundamental questions such as what, where, who and how. Therefore, interested groups such as researchers, academician and practitioners need guidance on committing researches. From which they can go through searching answers for the given fundamental questions.

Dr. George Kanire

Kampala international university, Tanzania

Mr. Africanus Sarwatt

Institute of Rural Development Planning, Tanzania

Mr. Allan W. Mfuru

Institute of Rural Development Planning, Tanzania


The main purpose of the book is to share scholarly knowledge about research and its complexity. This book can be used to train the basics and techniques involved on doing inquiries from different views. The experience shows that, no one single cure for all diseases. So when comes to research, there is no single research mythology or technique which fits all circumstances. Hence, the book tries to identify a family of approaches towards various research situations and distinguish their outcomes. Thus, various disciplines example human resource management, accounts and project management have different environmental set up i.e. matters in question, study elements involved and the study plan can determine research context. From which scholars in different disciplines are advised to take appropriate measures and steps towards study methodologies. Generally the books highlighted some technical guide lines on conducting researches and report writing which provide overview on research plans.


This book organized into chapters: chapter one gives an overview and the and lay the foundation to familiarize with how to choose among the methods of enquiries. It includes the meaning of research, research approaches and types. Chapter two addressing the types of variables deployed in a study. Either, chapter three tells how to generate research idea. Rather, the book through chapter four described how to develop a researchable topics. Meanwhile chapter five gives explanation on how to carry out literature survey that forms a crucial party of studies. Then chapter six is critically explain research designs and research management. The book concludes with the application of computer software in research process.


The success of this book achieved through potential contributions from various colleagues, authors and editors .We take our hats to thank each of them because of their tremendous contribution on this research knowledge.

We also want to acknowledge our families for their sponsorship and material time during the journey to publish this book. We sincerely thank Dr Fredrick Odoyo to edit the manuscripts of this book. Either, we appreciate contributions and expert advice made by Dr Richard Nyangosi from St. Augustine university ( Tanzania), Prof Martin Fabumni from Ibadan University (Nigeria) and other colleagues to mention a few.

Dr. George B. Kanire

Kampala international university- Dar- College, Tanzania

Mr. Africanus C.Sarwatt

Institute of Rural development planning-Dodoma, Tanzania

Mr Allan Mfuru

Institute of Rural development planning-Dodoma, Tanzania


Meaning of research

Research is the method of enquiry that uses systematic scientific techniques such as experimental, quasi-experimental and non experimental. These techniques are used to collect secondly and primary information regarded to a topic, Kothari (2004). On the other hand Merrian-Webster (2012) described a research as hierarchy of actions toward investigation for the purpose of knowledge gain from new facts (discovery). Thus, it takes a systematic search and test new facts through existing theories to resolve identified problems/improve a certain situation.

Either Zickmund (1997 ) added that, this systematic investigation can be on either existing or new knowledge. Whereby the knowledge found can be used to lay a foundation to prove facts, or contribution to expansion on results of previous works and resolve existing problems. Likewise the process supports confirmation of existing theorems as well as developing new theories. Also a study can be conducted to test instrument validity and research process, prior projects to justify available gap from the previous research work.

Evaluation research

According to Robson (2002) evaluation is described as a distinctive purpose that is not research strategy. So far, Patton (1982) refers evaluation research as a process involving scanning activities, characteristics and outcomes to reduce uncertainties and improve effectiveness on certain matters. The concentration is to know what changes caused by the interventions. Therefore, the decision to undertake further action depends on impact that; is measured through specific measurements. Whereby, this method of enquiry attempts to reveal the real value on specific interventions. Evaluation by itself is not necessarily a research, but it involves some elements of systematic process to achieve answers. E.g. searching to know or understand specific questions such as who to whom and how or why. Furthermore, Draper (2001) argued that; the outcome of doing evaluation enquiry based on its implication to know why the study is conducted. The assessment process needs to involve the evaluation criteria and highlight areas to make changes. This approach suits the situation where the study is limited by tight deadlines or limited timing.

Research approaches

Qualitative research

The Nature of Qualitative Research

“Qualitative study approach” is generally referred to as variety of methods which differ from one to another, but they are definitely share common characteristics and purposes. These approaches vary from their scope; they are either broad or specific in nature. Some of researches which are similar to the scope of qualitative research are namely field research and naturalistic research. But the specific ones are interpretive research and ethnographic research.

A Qualitative research approach deals with systematic and in-depth investigation of events in natural settings. In most cases qualitative techniques use data in the form of description. These data are collected from interviews, written observations and conversations. The other sources of data are documentation and individual’s actions analyzed and understand the phenomenon in form of texts.

In other words the qualitative research includes tools which can make critical assessment. Example qualitative research can be used to examine emotional issues such as thought and feelings. It is from this type of enquiry researchers can establish in-depth understanding about individual’s attitude, belief as well as behavior. Thus, mechanisms such as observation, interview and document review are deployed to analyze situation. In order to get to core of the phenomenon and answer critical question like why a certain problem is happening. Whereas, the study can manage to provide in-depth knowledge about issues and create discovery (Strauss and Corbin, 1990).

Furthermore; this research enquiry has the ability to scan, interpret situation and remains as natural research. On the other hand the study done by Sarantakos (1994) says that, this type of study argued as communicative. In such a way it allows researchers to interact with participants for the purpose of contemplating and reflect issues related to the study. But, apart from the benefits this type of enquiry has some limitations such as subjectivity and relativism. Thus, it can involve stereo typing and value judgment elements on conclusion and results. Therefore, it can lead into biasness this is one of the reason why most of researchers prefer triangulation. It means the researchers can make use of both qualitative and quantitative approaches. (Mwanje, 2001)

Qualitative research is one of the inquiry methods that can be used in various disciplines, especially in the social sciences. This research approach tends to collect in-depth data related to human behavior as well analyzing theories which govern that behavior. Rather the technique helps to answer principle questions such as why or how in order to reach conclusions. It is possible to achieve objectivity through a focused and small sample.

On the other side, qualitative techniques are used to information and opinion for particular cases understudy to make general conclusions. Meanwhile, quantitative methods are often helpful to gather empirical facts support developed from hypotheses. For instance, in social sciences the qualitative research is usually used to conduct ethnographic studies. Whereby cultural studies are examined critically, data are gathered and described for the purpose of theory development. Example, conducting a research about Bushmen’s material culture and nonmaterial culture and how create interaction with other communities. Hence, the study involves critical analysis on what the people eat and wear. Also, how they are communicating to each other “language”, norms and physical boundaries.

Other study types supported by qualitative approach include ethical studies, which are conducted to evaluate choices for doing wrong or right and its obligation. Either qualitative approach deals with foundational research, from which the science principles are analyzed. It is carried out to lay a foundation on how to adopt changes on existing information based on new knowledge. The other qualitative approach is based on historical studies, it helps making discussion both past as well as present events base on context. Example, conducting examination on current situation and reflect the trends. The historical study meant to fill the gap for fundamental question such as when did it happen and when is it going to happen?

According to Tufte (2001) explains that, in recent days a qualitative research approach is quite often used in evaluation studies. For example, studies like evaluation of computer system analysis and humanity studies. Generally the qualitative studies are deployed to investigate issues; especially individuals’ attitudes as well as behavior assessed through committed actions. Rather, the qualitative research approach apart from being conducted in natural settings. It collects data in the form of wording instead of numbers, through observation, in-depth interviews and documents review. Hence, data/facts gathered are analyzed using various systematic inductive methods, by relating causes and effects. In other cases it deploys hypotheses from which the study tends to understand individuals (targeted population) and the situation setting. Whereas qualitative method needs to be complemented by a quantitative method in order to conduct a particular study.

Apart from qualitative study, the quantitative method is normally used in questions tend to evaluate specific situations (setting).it is from that setting/situations data collected are taken as independent, objective and discrete entities. That remains static till the end of study. Similarly, it is difficult to evaluate the dynamism of the given phenomenon. This is the reason why qualitative research methods are playing a crucial role in dynamic situation as compared to quantative methods. It goes beyond what and how on certain situations. But, trying to understand why it is happening. Determining to assess the meaning or context in which a certain events caused phenomena in natural setting (Wolcott, 2001)

Thus, the qualitative studies tend to determine what the study measurements are, and why they are useful in measuring the study results. Similarly, it tries to understand what is happening and why as well as assess how and why people feel on the subject matter. It evaluates the implications of influence on social, organizational and cultural matters towards the study. Likewise, the study is deployed to confirm if the causal relationships exist.

Rather qualitative research approach is generally concerned with qualitative phenomenon. For instance, studies involved on assessing issues related with quality as well as categories. Or studies interested to generate reasons for a certain behavior (e.g. why employees are motivated to work under certain conditions). Hence, a motivation study can be deployed to find out the reasons underlying the factors involved. This research tries to explore the motives and desires by conducting in depth analysis, evaluation and interviews. Apart from interviews the qualitative research involves various tests in form of wording (both oral and written). The purpose for undertaking these tests is examined attitude or individual opinion toward the research. So, study expectation is to find out, how individual feels, think and about the subject matter.

Quantitative research

The quantitative research involves a systematic empirical investigation of issues using statistical, mathematical as well numeric approach. Mainly the quantitative design applies models, hypotheses and theorem which are related to the problem. But Huisman (2000) on the other hand comments that, this process is guided by established measurements in numerical forms. Thus, quantitative study relates empirical observation with the given mathematical expressions. In this case, quantitative data are those given in the form of numerical. For example statistics such: as mean (average), percentages and standard deviation. Researchers deploy questions leading to numerical data collected from respondents’ reactions. Then, data collected are analyzed through statistical approach, in order to achieve research objectivity from the sample results that are generalizing the targeted population. Thus, a quantitative study is determining to express measurements for given phenomena in form of quantities or specified amount. Unlike qualitative research which tends to ask questions with expectation to collect explanation data (wording) from respondents. This kind of research approach targeting on information that describes phenomena in patterns way of the participants.

Furthermore, in most cases the quantitative research used quite often in social studies likes psychology, economics and sociology to mention a few. But not in studies related to anthropology and history, because in most cases they tend to collect data in form of descriptions. Either the quantitative Research widely used in mathematical sciences like physics. Whereby, researchers are interested to gather data that define quantities. On the other hand the social scientist, the approach is related to empirical study approach. This makes a distinction between qualitative research methods from quantitative approach. Usually, qualitative techniques generate information (hypotheses) from specific studied cases for general conclusions. Whereas quantitative techniques tend to verify, either the hypotheses are true or not (Salsburg,2001 and Bryman & Cramer,1997)

Likewise quantitative research process differs from qualitative research process. This is due to the reason that, examination, analysis and findings interpretation from observation done through qualitative process does not include mathematical models. According to the nature of qualitative data, it not necessary to deploy statistical tools in order to analyse the data collected from the field. In other words, they are not easily quantified or put in numeric form. In this case examinations are carried out to describe relationship between cause and the phenomena through identified meanings and patterns.

Triangulation research

In most cases the triangulation research approach referred to various methods used to achieve both study finding and conclusion. Its purpose is to create a mechanism to validate and check the results. That means the study deploys multiple data collection techniques which depend on researchers combinations. These wide ranges of study techniques tend increase to strength of the findings through cross validation. However, this convergence of different research methods is also creating data credibility and congruent to its sources. If the data tends to diverge then the assumption is that, there is a gap within the explanation given by research participants. Building on this assumption the researchers need to be confident with the findings developed from Triangulation research. Because the researcher is able to verify, validate and fill the weakness caused in any of the methods. So the applications of various study strategies in order to achieve study objectivity and reliability (Thompson,2002).

Deductive approach

A deductive study approach helps a researcher to develop hypotheses through application of theory(s). Where by researchers collect field data or facts are collected to test the position of research by rejecting or accept the hypotheses developed. (Gill and Johnson, 2010). The process involves different steps in order to perform a deductive research approach, it starts with a theory, and then the hypotheses are developed according to the given theory. Followed by observation, from which collected data or facts are used to confirm the testing hypotheses over the existing theory. On the other side, the inductive research process is the opposite of deductive. Because the process starts with observing the situation, examining patterns in order to create tentative hypotheses. After the whole process is done, then hypotheses are used to build up a theory. (See the figure below)

Deductive approach diagram

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Qureshi (2010)

Deductive is characterised by study description through conceptual development as well theoretical structure, from ideas and facts are tested or verified. That mean inferences (alternative solutions developed) are filtered from general instances, and come with a single solution. In other words this method is "top-down" approach, from which the study thoughts are guided by general to specific approach (Crowther and Lancaster 2009).

However, a deductive study approach tries to guide researchers thought. Whereas the general knowledge about the theory, taken into specific hypotheses. Meanwhile, the developed hypotheses are tested through specific methods and make conclusion on recorded facts (to prove right or wrong). The study can approach general problems and specify issues related to a given problem. Examine assumption developed from observation in order to prove hypotheses. (Ritchie and Lewis 2003)

Inductive approach

Either the Inductive research approach is mainly guiding the researchers thought. Where the study approach explains how to deal with specific observations, and changes them to general theory. For instance if there is a phenomena observed within the community in a pattern way, then hypotheses are developed and examined through specific methods to conclude. This research process is not rigid in nature. That means the process does not require pre-determined theories on data collection (flexibility). It needs to observe facts/data to determine tentative hypotheses, in order to develop or adopt a theory related to a phenomenon. Therefore, researchers are able to generate their observations on various matters or experiences (Mertens 2008) Inductive approach is subjective in nature, whereby researchers can come out with their own interpretation. (Ridenour, Benz and Newman 2008).

Inductive research approach diagram

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Trochim (2001)

The diagram given above describes how a study takes different steps to develop a theory. Just from observation, were the general inferences are created to form issues under the study from which particular instances are taken to conclude the study. In this particular approach the study results comes from a logical process in which matters are specified and clearly stated. Hence, the end result is to create a predictive framework for resolving matters of specific condition or factors. Therefore thoughts are guided in order to deal with specific observations in order to create a wide knowledge (general conclusions). This approach is a “bottom up" approach.

Deductive and Inductive Approach diagram

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Trochim (2001)

Inductive and Deductive study approaches

Conclusively, the two study approaches discussed and shown in the figure above i.e. deductive and inductive. They are essential since, both of them trying to increase efficiency in investigation and research process. But, these approaches are distinct to each other. For instance, the deductive study paradigm is mainly targeting to achieve positive conclusion (solution to a problem), where there is alternative solutions. Whereas the inductive research paradigm, targets to interpret phenomena and create knowledge. Therefore, choices for appropriate research paradigms depend on the nature of study as well as researchers expectations on the conclusion. Saunders et al (2007) comments that, both approaches help estimation to determine the logical process as well as study results synthesis.

Research types

The fundamental research types are as follows:

Descriptive vs. Analytical : Descriptive research involves doing surveys as well as searching facts on different phenomenon through enquiries. Purposively the descriptive research deals with description of existing or current situation. Either, Rosnow and Rosenthal (2002) argued that, this kind of study approach deployed in social science disciplines in order to examine and describe consequences caused by existing issues. In other words this type of research is called Ex post facto study. Likewise in this type of enquiry researchers have less control on variables, because it can allow explaining what happens and ongoing situation. Hence researchers examine cases through descriptive studies with the intention to measure and analyze the situation. For instance, frequencies can be used as a measure to describe data such as behavior, attitude and intention as well as people preferences. The data found on Ex post facto studies also tries to show and helps to identify causes in relation to existing problems, though researchers are limited over variables control. Here are some of techniques used in descriptive approach; it includes survey, comparative as well as correlation techniques. But, in analytical approach researchers examine facts or analyze the given information to make conclusion.

Applied vs. Fundamental: The applied research is carried out to reach on conclusion and enhance the decision making process. The approach helps to identify the best alternative action among the pool of actions. It tries to explore factors and its implication, where there is no specific action to resolve the existing problem. But for the fundamental or basic and sometime is called pure research. Applied research is generally deployed to seek solutions for existing problems experienced by communities/society at large. Example, problem related to business growth or cholera outbreak in the community. Whereby a fundamental research is applied to make generalization or theory creation, in other words ‘grounded theory’. The process involves gathering data describe phenomenon in order to create awareness or provide guidance. Tentatively the approach is known as pure, basic or fundamental research. For instance conducting a study about the universe or natural phenomenon, that involves creation of either mathematical expression or formulae. Likewise, deploying studies related to human or human behavior, are type of researches need to view a specific community in pattern way. From which some factors are related and it is possible to generalize.

Traditionally the pure research used to make contribution on existing knowledge. Likewise, it helps to conduct research for the purpose of developing theory(s).This research type is not used to resolve the problems, but to seek information and create knowledge or theories. Rather it is deployed to explore or gathering facts in order to make clarifications on phenomenon, usually this type of research is used to conduct scientific studies (research). Meanwhile, all research aiming at achieving a certain conclusion or specific solutions, are identified as applied research. For instance principle question like how to achieve business sustainability or strategic decisions, are examples of applied research. A research which is conducted to examine factors as well its influence leading a specific situation. For instance, evaluation research is one of the typical examples of applied research. Thus, applied research is motivated by discoveries, from which the problem understudy achieves its own solution (Collins, 2006).

In applied study approach, the research findings are put under application (Action Research) in order to improve the existing situation (problem). The process tries to relate the problem understudy with cause as well as its effect. Thus, from the findings researchers are able to conclude or achieve the best alternative solution to deal with the cause. This approach contrast, the basic research is striving to search new information and contribute or explaining the existing knowledge.

Conceptual vs. Empirical: Conceptual research is a type of study from which various ideas are used to craft theory. The approach/ paradigms are normally applied by philosophers or thinkers deriving new concepts to interpret existing scenario. Meanwhile, empirical research usually depends on either; experience or observation in order to study a system or develop theories. Thus, information gathered from this research can achieve findings which are verified through observation and experiment.

Granziano and Raulin (2004) show that, sometimes the empirical research is known as experimental research, from which the study strives to collect firsthand facts. The process involves working with hypotheses or assumptions. Those are used as tools to predict the study findings and conclusion. But, facts (data) are collected in order to prove, either the hypotheses are wrong or right. Therefore, experimental research or observation research design can be used to gather information from the elements understudy. That is a process of stipulating the targeted sample in order to achieve desired data. Hence, stipulation the researchers are able to have control over the manipulation to have the two groups like the control elements (dependent variables) and elements understudy (independent variables). It depends on researchers’ discretion to identify the groups. Then, the hypotheses are used to prove or conclude if certain variables can affect other variables

Other Research Types: generally research varies due to different reasons; the reasons can further be categorized into research purpose and time to conduct the study. Likewise, research varies according to the environment from which the study is conducted. For instance; a certain epoch of time when the research is carried out, can be determined by changing factor or dynamism over time such as social variables. They are changing depending upon society setting. A research can be either one-time research or longitudinal research as they are influenced by dynamism and researchers expectation. Thus, a case can be studied over a single time-period, but in other circumstance it can be carried out several times. Apart from time setting, studies can determine a specific research environment such a field-setting research, laboratory research and simulation research. They deploy case-study as well as in-depth techniques to relationship between causes and the effects. These types of studies are interested in small samples, but it is characterized by in depth and probing data collection instruments e.g. interview or questionnaires (Christensen, 2004).

Also research can be categorized as exploratory or a formalized study approach. They differ in objectives, for example in exploratory study approach the hypotheses are developed. Whereas in formalized research the hypotheses have a specific structure and the means to taste them. Apart from identified research studies above there is various study orientation and scopes such historical research. Its orientation is to review documents as well as remains evaluating past events and philosophers’ views. There is also other ways to classified research orientation such as conclusion-oriented or decision-oriented. The conclusion study oriented is an enquiry which allows a researcher to choose any of the designs that suit the study desire in terms of conceptual frame work. On the other hand, the decision-oriented research is a method of enquiry helps the decision makers to achieve the best alternative through facts. A researcher is free to decide he/her own approach as deductive or inductive enquiry techniques (Beins,2004).


Variables are entities defining data expected to answer the research question and boundaries for research data collection. These entities involve various values, for instance: researchers use variables for the purpose of manipulation, to examine and test the hypotheses. The algebra format defines a “variable" as unknown quantity, stated through mathematical expression in order to identify specific scenario. But, in research the variables are either factors or a state that changes under certain situation. For instance, individual behaviour is subjected to changes depends upon time and environment characteristics. A study made by Zikmund (2008) on theory building, clearly stated a variable as anything that may assume different numerical values.

The environment characteristics can be categorised in different ways such as demographic, social, and economic as well as psychographic. The demographic characteristics are defined by location of the population and size e.g. rural/ urban, gender, age and sex. Meanwhile, the social characteristics explained by relationship, skills, knowledge, technology, values/ethics as well as status to mention some. On the other side economic characteristics are indicated by individual income (GNP), revenue and employment rate. But psychographic determines attitude of mind such as personality, preference and motivation.

Unlike to a constant given in algebra expression, a variable is something which varies overtime. For instance, a research study about consumer behavior is subjected to cultural (belief) factor among other factors which affect the consumer attitude. Whereas, the study examine or experiment rural and urban based consumers. But, the algebra constant does not hold if the same consumer studied in different setting such as psychographic factor. Further, the variables can be classified into four categories such as background, dependent, independent and intervening variables.

Dependent variables

These are variables affected or influenced directly by action and changes happening within the independent variable. Mathematically, the impact or regression between these variables or factors can be represented by Y= a+ bx. i.e. Y is dependent variable (student performance). But (a) and (b) are constants, it means the same environment setting among the groups understudy. While x is independent variable (effort made by student) can change the outcome on Y when increase or declining.The dependent variables are usually dependent upon independent variables. Sometimes are known as outcome variables

Independent variables

These are factors which can affect directly the outcome of dependent variables. For instance, employment rate, individual incomes have a direct effect/impact on government revenue and vice versa.Similarly in experiment studies, researchers need to create two types of variables such as independent and dependent. The independent variables are defined as input variables. They are not affected by the process, but their influence affects the dependent variables.

Intervening variables

These are unpredictable variables which can affect the outcome of dependent variables. Example, unpredicted risks and uncertainty within the economy such as flood, credit crunch and calamities can affect government revenue. Either, factors/variables are not constantly happening and they don’t have direct relationship with factors like employment. But, they can affect the economic performance.These are extraneous variables, that researchers do not have any control on them alternatively known as ‘confounding Variables’. If researchers are not aware of these variables, they can alter or affect the study outcomes (results).

Background variables

These are predictable variables like cross cutting issues; they do not have direct influence on the outcome or dependent variables. But, they do affect the outcome through independent variable. Likewise affect the relationship between independent and dependent variables. For instance, relationship between Tanzania GDP and HIV/AIDS does not have a direct relationship as it is on declining manpower. So the disease affect the GDP indirectly as it affects the manpower and reallocation of resources for treatment/research purposes.


Idea generations

The research ideas can be generated from asking our fundament questions like what, how, who, when and why. And recognise through measurement that, certain potential information does not exist. On the other side there is a need for undertaking enquiries and bridge the gap available in literature. But, also idea can be generated from seeking solutions (project, product and answers) for existing problems.

Before deciding to pick up a research topic, there various dimensions needed to be appropriately examined. Among other dimensions to keep eye on are: for instance proper formulation of research question, clear research scope, communicate the ideas to appropriate boards/research committees for research credential checks and expertise advice i.e. ethics, funding options, objectives, scope and methodologies in a written document.

Present the research proposal document in acceptable format and show clearly the research methodology such as study style, study area, method of data collection as well as the analytical methods. Make sure the topic meets the requirements above, but the researcher should understand factors which constitute of a good research topic as follows:

The topic need to be clear as well as concise to identify the variables involved in research. The other thing is that, the title understudy has to define all hypotheses clearly as well as the research question. Also, the objectives statement need to define the study expectation i.e scope, data and research outcome. Likewise, the topic has to make sure the study makes contribution to existing knowledge or creates new knowledge. On the other hand make sure there is appropriate source of fund to assist the study and consider ethical issues (Punch, 2000).

Processes to identifying a research topics

How to identify gaps from publications and literatures review

One of the approaches to get a research topic is to make extensive examination and reading in order to identify gaps within existing literature. This is a traditional way of getting a topic from field of interest, experienced areas and professionals. This process involves critical analysis and thinking. This independent review tries to show clearly about the study purpose or research question, objectives and methodology used. But also the study results and recommendation. It is from this understanding a researcher can identify the existing gap. Thus, the available literature did not answer the study question (Philips and Pugh, 2000).

Research topics from discussions

Discussion is also the other source of research topic. This includes discussion of emerging issues such as current affairs, government policies and burning issues. For instance, development planning issues enumerated within the millennium development goals. Such as children and women affairs needs a lot of research to be integrated as part of poverty reduction plans. Likewise, a researcher can discuss with people to know the dimension and get critiques on the research idea. In most cases a research intends to overcome issues which cause problems to a community. Sometimes, it involves things which need clarification from researchers or more knowledge towards existing phenomenon. Because of its complexity they need critical analysis as they involve a variety of variables (Quitana,Troyano and Taylor, 2001).

Researcher units and consultancy

Rather research topics can be developed by research bodies such a research committees, academicians and consulting units. This is due to the reason that, these bodies deal with various issues within the communities. In that matter they have wide knowledge about research gaps. In some cases they need assistance from other researchers in order to complement their knowledge. Also due to limited fund some of research areas remain unfunded or without enough resources to assist research processes. Hence they can call for public initiatives to help in various ways such independent researchers, practitioners and academician to assist. For instance, in Tanzania there are organisations such as REPOA and COSTECH are dealing with poverty reduction researches. But due to the reasons given above, they sometime call research papers. Therefore, they are coordinating research works instead of running research on their own.

How to state research problems

After the problem has been identified by researcher, the next thing is to state the problem clearly. That means there are some criteria to follow, such as gap identification. It is from this understanding the researcher is able to show the missing information from either available literature or existing knowledge. So, this case the study strives to identify its position and the area of contribution. Similarly, the study should objectively show how much the community in question has been suffering due cause. Or how much that society can suffer, if the problem persists. In other words the study should try to understand major issues or variables consisting the study and its consequence on the study. Furthermore, studies should identify stakeholders and the threats towards their welfare. In summary a research problem statement includes major questions. For instance, what is the existing problem? Who is affected by the problem identified? Then, how much is the impact caused by the problem towards the beneficiaries? Hence, it is from these statements the study is able to show, what is the study all about (Scott, 2000).


A researchable topic has to involve the following criteria:

The magnitude of impact on stakeholders - describes how much is the phenomenon; therefore it tries to understand how much is the problem identified. Either, apart from the problem itself it is necessary to identify who are involved e.g. students, teachers and other members of the community.

Geographic coverage - this refers to a study area, it is a place where the research is conducted. The geographic coverage it covers boundary and other things which constitute the surroundings. However the research should define some other characteristics such as language, boundaries and jurisdiction or administrative boundaries.

Population understudy -it is of great importance for the topic to emanate from existing problems within the society. That means, the problem understudy should consider the targeted population. From which the study tries to understand who is affected by existing problem. Also it is one of the criteria that, for the problem to become significant. Then, that problem has to cover large number of the population. Among other reasons which lead to research is either lack of knowledge or failure on things which can threaten life. Among other things which can threaten or affect life can be HIV/AIDS, cancer and other pandemics. But also some of studies can be carried out to collect individuals’ opinion such as white papers.

Economically viable and socially acceptable research factors - a study should meet both social and economic criteria. Whereas, the economic criterion is met by making sure that, the study can be funded. It shows the study is accepted by sponsors, and it has a significant impact on the community. Majority of sponsors prefer studies which have roots in the community in question. Also, they wanted to see if the studies are intended to make potential contribution. For example the study can opt either to contribute a new knowledge, resolving certain problems or improved social as well as economic status.

The other criterion is to make sure that, at least there are enough resources to support the research on the study process. It means, things located within the budget are supported financially by sources of funds.

Ethics- There are numerous ethical principles that guide researchers to conduct their studies. It includes issues such as confidentiality, equal opportunity, fairness, courtesy, integrity as well as transparency. These ethical principles are used in order to avoid conflicts and consequences towards the study population. The studies should have principles to guide and minimize the negative outcomes. Some of those principles are confidentiality, acceptance, and disclosure of information as well as providing equal opportunities to people. Especially, people with special needs like disabled people and young children (BPS, 2000).

Legal issues and political consideration - In some cases, studies are forced to adhere to the legal expectations. If the study goes beyond the boundaries, then the study is not supported with existing legal environment. For instance, a study conducted by Galileo about the solar system. The results were stun and it was not accepted by the Roman emperors that, the earth is rotating around the sun. At the end of the day Galileo was assassinated. Therefore, it is one of the ethics apart from staying academic and telling the truth. But side by side, researchers should stand on principles and do according to law governing communities in question (Atkinson, 2000).

Significant benefit towards stakeholders - one of the main purpose of conducting any study, is to make certain contributions. The contribution can be either on existing knowledge, making clarification over issues and in most to resolve certain problems encountered by communities. For instance Zikmund (1997) identifies that, a study can be carried out to identify strategic areas where the business is making loss and how to create competitive advantages that means the study is conducted in order to improve the share holders welfare.


Collect relevant information to support the topic

Literature review process.

A review of the literature underlying a process of going through publishes works by accredited researchers as well as scholars. Similarly, taking a close look at recommendations made within the available literature. Aliterature review process is interrelated stages to conduct critical examination of existing studies, for the purpose of answering a research question. It summarizes the purpose/study objectives, methodology used as well as the findings and conclusions. It also expounds the reason; why a particular study is undertaken.

Traditionally a literature review used guide the reader about the issues assess by the study. Thus, it extends the knowledge through concepts, arguments and ideas related to a topic under study. It tries to answer the research question through established objectives. Generally the review shows evidence on existing literature and identifies the available gap. Whereas a bunch of descriptive materials are scrutinized and acknowledge the feasible arguments in order to support the study objectives.

Therefore, the review process intends to evaluate study objectives, the type of methodology deployed in order to achieve a given result. Then, examining the available recommendations related to study findings. To determine the position as well the contribution of the case understudy (Denzin and Lincoln, 2000).

Categories of literature review

Generally researchers undertaking literature review in order to achieve the following two categories:

The first category is a group of researchers intending to search new information or data related to their study demonstrating ability to evaluate existing literature. It can be either by searching physical or online libraries to get set journals, papers and books. These studies are carried out to make contribution to existing knowledge (build gap)

The other group of literature reviewers’ are those who are doing in-depth appraisal by deploying principles. Thus, they make critical analysis on the existing studies to justify the validity and reliabilities of those studies. In other words these kinds of studies create information to validate theories, principle and knowledge.

Why literature review

There are various reasons to undertake literature survey; researchers have different desire and expectations from literature.

Firstly, the literature helps to organize or related existing knowledge with the given research question. It also support evaluation of existing results found in literature and identify the known from unknown (research gap). Likewise, the process tries to identify the position for the new research carried out and its intended contribution.

Furthermore, the literature review (survey) can be used to identify controversy of ideas from existing knowledge. Thus, people have different view, perspective and experience discussed on similar matters. Hence a literature review is taken to make clarification for the authors’ arguments, in order to conclude. On the other side literature survey is performed to generate research questions for further studies.

A literature review tries to generate answers for the fundamental question or research question. For instance how to define the study through existing literature.

Likewise determining kinds and the scope of literature review needed for the study. Rather a researcher needs to familiarise with the theories related to the study as well as involved issues. Furthermore, a researcher is obliged to take under consideration things such as methodological issues. Also undertake a critical assessment on the study relevance, contrast and appropriation.

Literature review is not a list of books, journals or existing publications. But, it is an organized section discussing a specific theme referring relevant published materials. It is a synthesis on authors’ arguments, highlighting comparison or relationship between concepts or theories as guided by a research question.

How to carry out literature reviews

Among other principles of doing literature search, there is a need to check credentials. It is a process of carrying out assessment on how to achieve credible sources of information. That included credible publishers, searching engine and academic libraries. From which the quality of given information is accurately examined before publication. Especially, dealing with information from internet where it is difficult to audit credibility and integrity of the given information and its source.

Hence, some tricks can be deployed to evaluate or examine how potential is the electronic source of information. Whereas the the researchers needs to assess the abstract of that research work. The purpose of this process is to minimize irrelevance and determine its quality. But, researchers should avoid declining studies due to hypotheses conflict between the new studies with the existing literature. Poor examination on hypotheses relationship, it can because failures to validate the literature review process. Whereas, the literature is critically evaluated in order to determine the research quality and relevant principles. This does not heavily rely on either a long list of literature used or researcher’s experience.


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Social Science Research Methodology: Concepts, Methods and Computer Applications
Kampala International University
undergraduates and graduates
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social, science, research, methodology, concepts, methods, computer, applications
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Dr. George Kanire (Author), 2012, Social Science Research Methodology: Concepts, Methods and Computer Applications, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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