The Research Process

3365 Words May 21st, 2005 14 Pages
Processes of research by Jonathan Guy

In this essay I will outline the primary methods of conducting research, their advantages and disadvantages and will outline where they are best utilised. In addition to this, I will select certain methods of research that I believe will be applicable to my own dissertation and state why I will use those particular methods to conduct my own research.

The first question we should ask is what is research? John C. Merriam considers research as "a reaching out to bring together, organise and interpret what ever may be added to our store of knowledge…most truly exemplified when it involves the wider relationship of specific facts to the whole structure of knowledge". (C. Merriam, 1941, pg890) In
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This approach to research has obvious advantages, namely its objectivity. It cannot be considered bias or subverted due to the theorisers own predispositions or opinions and it should therefore be true of itself; it is not subject to change as it merely categorises a factual state and it provides definitive answers from its research as opposed to just more questions or debatable theories. It does however have a number of disadvantages. It is arguable that the scientific method has no place in political theory as much of it is based in abstract theorising which cannot be objectively proved one way or the other and as such would be dismissed as irrelevant by the scientific methods (which is clearly wrong). Further, unlike in the natural sciences, the scientific method tends to be only descriptive of political science and does not in fact advance it in any way, rather it merely attempts to describe the state it is presently in (for example, it would not predict who will win the next election, but it would say who won the last one). Therefore, the scientific method is best used if we wish the results of our research to return as objective facts, empirically provable and repeatable. Whilst this does not necessarily have a major place in political sociology, it is useful in interpreting quantifiable results that are not statistical in nature.

In addition to