Frank Rennie & Keith Smyth

Chapter 7 – Collecting information

All the content relating to the chapter above is below

The research process typically involves collecting and working with a range of diverse information. Some of the information you will work with will include the existing literature and research relating to your field or topic of interest, which will typically be in the form of published journal articles and reports. You will also work with information that you have gathered at source through the data collection process, for example through interviews, surveys, observations and experimentation. This chapter of the book provides an overview of key considerations and methods for working with the research literature and your own research data. We will also consider the wider professional communities within which we belong as researchers, and explore how we can draw upon these communities to inform, guide and share our research and academic interests.

I think you need to start by finding out what’s been said already. So, things like the literature review, what does academic literature say already? So there’s no substitute for really hard graft, getting started, to find out what the literature says about your topic. Having got that, you identify the things that are known, the things that are well known, and the things that are less well known, and from that, you can begin to tease out what your research question might be, to throw some light upon the things that are less well known. I think the next sort of information is, how are you going to get information, new data to throw light on the things that are less well known? That depends on different disciplines. Myself, I’m quite happy to do that with interviews, semi-structured interviews that have a framework – but allow the respondent to deviate and give you information that you hadn’t thought about. Sometimes, when you’ve gathered your data from a wide range of sources, interviews and so forth, you might want to find out, does this make sense? So you bring together a small focus group and you give them your results, and you say “What do you think? Does this make sense?”, and by doing that from different areas, you can what we call, triangulate the information. So you can look at the information from different directions and see if it tells you the same thing. If it tells you the same thing from a different point of view then you’re fairly certain that this is a good representation of what’s actually happening. If you get different views, then you say “Well, it means different things to different people, let’s explore this further” because we’re maybe talking about different things here. So I think, different ways of doing so. I think the main point of doing so, you have to be consistent in what you’re doing, what you’re gathering, so you have to look at information from literature as a wide scooping up process to see what’s been done and then narrow it down to much more specific points.

The classic thing when you start a project is to learn the difference between what is reliable information and what is less reliable information. What we would say as academics is peer reviewed literature is where you want to start, because that’s been through a process of checking by your peers, by the academic peers, to make sure any bias, or any inflated claims or statements with no evidence, maybe not have been removed entirely but have certainly bene weeded out, which is not the case if you buy, for example, a newspaper. The newspaper reflects the opinions of the publisher and the editor, and within that, so you get right-wing papers and left wing papers, papers with a green perspective and so forth that will tell you a particular slant on the information. Journals will do the same, but journals are actually much more objectified – they’ve taken away the subjective element, the chance of these things being influenced by random facts that are hidden or given presentation to the reader. So I think, undergraduates need to realise to start with journals, perhaps with some textbooks and so on the key topics. They might move into things like what they call the grey literature – material that’s come from reliable organisations, the UN or UNESCO and so forth, which give the information but are being peer reviewed, but nevertheless, are substantially factually accurate and provide the evidence for what they say. Right at the bottom of the tree, are resources off the web for example, which may or may not be accurate. There’s nothing wrong with Wikipedia but Wikipedia is one of many places that is used to try and iterate the knowledge process, and try and streamline it. It depends on what topic you’re looking at, and which part of the web you’re looking at, as to how clear that information is.

As a general rule, see what’s been written before, go into the university library, and look at other dissertations that have been produced before. There’s a thing on the web which is called the index of thesis, which is every UK PHD thesis. You can see the abstract and you can order the full copy of the results. See what’s been written in your field – how they’ve written about it, what they’ve used, what language they’ve used, what references they’ve used, how it’s been done before. Take that to your supervisors and discuss with them “this is a good example, this is a less good example”, so you can learn from what’s been done already very very quickly, just by sucking up what’s available in your local libraries.

Coverall – intro, design, data, presenting… An online handbook produced by the University of Surrey to give students an introduction to research.

A link to an extensive set of notes from the University of Surrey dealing with the whole process of documenting research. It starts with a consideration of why we do research, works through a range of planning issues that need to be considered, and concludes with a section on how research result might be utilised. Contains some embedded links.

The contents are well-defined and easy to read, in short, informative sub-sections. Not all of the sections will be appropriate to every research project, so students will need to use their own judegement, but taken as a whole, the document gives a good overview of the kinds of issues which students need to consider when preparing a research dissertation.

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university of surrey importance pilot studies - Introduction to research - handbook

A set of short dissertation writing videos from Massey University with resources for students.

These are helpfully broken-up into separate tasks, such as preparing a proposal, writing a report, editing, and so on. Each video clip gives a general overview and some guidance for students to help manage the selected task.

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massey university dissertation videos - Dissertation videos from Massey University

This links to an assemblage of video clips relating to various aspects of research and the preparation of research reports.

Individual videos deal with different forms of research, evaluation, and project planning. The clips range from 30 minutes to an hour each, so you may wish to watch them in stages, or allow time to watch, pause, and take notes. Different videos will be appropriate to different subject matter, so you may want to discuss your initial options with your supervisor before you invest time learning a research method which is not suitable for the topic of your study.

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Educational Videos YouTube - Research and the preparation of research reports (by Dr Sam Fiala)

with Dr. John W. Creswell

Interesting short video exploring how a mixed methods research approach has been applied in the gaming research of Dr John W. Cresswell. The video is particularly useful in illustrating how a range of mixed methods (e.g. reflective journals, surveys, observations) can be used to coherently address a specific research issue in greater breadth and depth than a single method approach would allow.

Educational Videos YouTube 150x150 - Developing mixed methods research

EasyBib is an online information literacy platform that provides tools for citation and notetaking

The Bibliography Creator by EasyBib allows you to easily create a bibliography for your research paper. Automatically cite books, journal articles, and websites just by entering in the titles or URLs. Format citations in MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, and over 7K other styles. When you’re finished creating your bibliography, click Generate Bibliography and we’ll alphabetize your citations and add them to the end of your paper.

Including the EasyBib Pro citation generation tool (subscription based).

  • Create bibliographies with our range of citation styles.
  • Save your citations to create bibliographies on any computer.
  • Share and collaborate with groups.
  • Create notecards for study

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easybib tools for citation and notetaking 150x150 - EasyBib - Online information literacy platform

Published by the University of South Wales (USW), Research Methods for Business Students, Managers and Entrepreneurs

A media-rich, multi-touch iBooks textbook, which provides a foundation for research, both for academic study and for practical application in a business environment.

Video, audio and image gallery illustrations bring key concepts and examples to life, while a detailed case study runs through the book, following the experiences of a (fictional) student to see how she approaches the challenges and requirements that arise at the different stages of her research project. At selected points in the main text, a reflective activity is introduced to encourage the reader to consider or explore the aspect under discussion.

*Technical note: this book can be read on an iPad, or on an Apple computer running OS Mavericks or a later OS.*

This iBooks Textbook is equivalent to a full module of study at Masters’ Level (UK) and is the result of collaboration between a wide range of academic and professional staff of the University of South Wales. The book’s video animations can also be downloaded from South Wales on iTunes U.

Chapter list:

1. What is research?
2. Choosing a topic and aim
3. Approaches to research [deductive/inductive processes, research strategies]
4. The literature review
5. General research considerations [sampling techniques, validity, confidentiality]
6. Methods of data collection [constraints, collecting data, pilot studies]
7. Data collection: questionnaires
8. Data collection: interviews [planning, forms of interaction]
9. Data collection: observation [role of the researcher, recording observations, structured observation]
10. Action research [characteristics and models]
11. Qualitative analysis [data analysis, strategies, grounded theory, validity, reliability]
12. Quantitative analysis [analysing data, descriptive statistics]
13. Writing up your research report [telling your story, structure of the report]
Copyright and credit

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iTunes dissertation ebooks 150x150 - Research methods for business students, managers and entrepreneurs

Collecting Information on Experts

A brief (1 minute) but useful ‘talking head’ clip with key tips on how to identify experts that you may want to consult in relation to your research. Once the video concludes it leads on to additional short clips on related topics including preparting to do research interviews.

Educational Videos YouTube 150x150 - Interviewing for research projects