The scientific method
Modern research has not abandoned the early raw materials, especially
experience and observation, but it has to quite an extent subjugated
them to approaches which are seen as more appropriate for an industrial
and technological society. Researchers have sought to give their work
certain characteristics - such as a systematic and replicable methodology,
and an orderly and controlled presentation of data and conclusions.
They have also wanted to make fullest use of technological opportunities
(especially computers) to enhance the scope and scale of research, the
depth and variety of analysis, and the speed of reporting.
With the growth of interest in such subject areas as physics and biology
has come an emphasis on the important role played by experiments, whether
in a laboratory or set in a wider community context. Experimental research
is used in social work, but is not widespread. However social workers
work with other professions who extensively use experimental methods.
It is important to understand something about them in order to appreciate
research findings from other disciplines, including medicine.
Following on the growth of interest in experimentation came the focus
on gathering data or information and analysing it in order to reach
conclusions. The survey is perhaps the best known research method based
on the gathering and analysing of data, though not the only one. As
research became more scientifically based, so a new vocabulary of concepts
came onto the research methods agenda. Research started to be categorised
- its location within the growth of knowledge as pure,
applied or developmental;
- its economic context as near-market (meaning commercially
exploitable) or basic (not yet exploitable);
- or its purpose, such as descriptive, explorative
- or the nature of the evidence on offer, in particular whether it
was qualitative or quantitative.
New tools emerged, like the questionnaire, and as
part of a more systematic approach to data gathering, along with concepts
such as variables which can be controlled.
Within the framework of data analysis come such procedures
as tabulation and cross-referencing.
You should look at the results of a piece of research to see how it
rates in terms of validity, significance
and generalisability, as well as the replicability
of the research process.
Use the Glossary
to look up all those terms highlighted above.