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About this book

This comprehensive and easy-to-use book supports postgraduate researchers in the early stages of their project. Written in an engaging and accessible style, it helps readers to clarify what they want to research and how to conduct that research. Each chapter covers a key stage in the process, from selecting an appropriate research topic and developing a working research question through to assimilating and evaluating relevant literature. It then guides researchers through the process of writing a literature review, selecting a research methodology and creating a research proposal.

This invaluable guide is ideal for PhD and Masters students alike and will equip them with the skills needed to get their research project underway.

Table of Contents

1. Introducing Research

Abstract
Research is all around us. Barely a week goes by when we don’t read or hear about studies that researchers are undertaking. We learn about medical and scientific breakthroughs. We read about worldwide as well as local solutions to contemporary concerns and issues, and we are informed of the results of opinion polls and market research. For example, we know from research that some kinds of ‘thinking’ activities delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. We also know, as a result of scientific developments and medical research, that confirmation of paternity is much easier today than it was a few decades ago. Sometimes research is carried out when a person or organization is searching for a new approach. Sometimes the researcher is sceptical of the available knowledge; there may be conflicting evidence or no information available. Researchers who carry out all these types of work are undertaking an important role in contemporary life. The point to note is the way they go about making their discoveries; it is not haphazard and the discoveries are not brought about simply through flashes of inspiration (Gray, 2004). Researchers use highly structured processes to produce new knowledge (Carter, Kelly and Brailsford, 2012).
Margaret Walshaw

2. Making Early Decisions

Abstract
Reported research often provides a solution to a worldwide issue. Take, for example, the issue of global warming. The research reported will typically describe how the issue has been investigated and what the research points to as a way forward. But don’t for one moment think that you are expected to solve such a major contemporary challenge. No research student should aspire to this level. Rather, postgraduate researchers focus their efforts on producing a credible piece of research that advances knowledge in a small way, such as trying out something in your setting that has previously only been attempted elsewhere and, ultimately, providing a small piece of new evidence on the issue. Your contribution is likely to be significant for a very small audience and a very small academic community. It will present your own voice on the area you have chosen.
Margaret Walshaw

3. Gathering and Evaluating Relevant Literature

Abstract
Research involves a lot of decisions and you have already made a number that will be of major significance for your research. The specific topic has been decided and questions have been developed. In a systematic way, you identified a number of concepts that provide an opportunity for you to explore what you do not know about your topic. You then developed a conceptual framework to reveal the way in which chosen concepts are interrelated in the proposed research. The literature played a part in making these decisions — an initial reading of the literature helped clarify how your research might proceed.
Margaret Walshaw

4. Writing the Literature Review

Abstract
The literature plays a significant role in your research. Without a body of literature your own research would be undertaken in a vacuum and you would be unable to engage in the discussions and debates that are moving thinking forward in your area. Since you hope to demonstrate that you want to be part of these important discussions, you will need to show that you are conversant with the work that engages other researchers in your area. You will need to identify the seminal studies. You will also need to demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of the key issues and controversies, and that you have a handle on cutting-edge developments specific to your area. Anchoring your study in the context of relevant previous research will ensure that you are not charged with unfamiliarity of the field.
Margaret Walshaw

5. Defining a Research Methodology

Abstract
By now you will have discovered that research is quite an orderly and systematic process. Decisions over the topic, the research questions, and the literature all follow quite logically one to the other. You first need to identify your topic. You then clarify your research questions by reading the literature, and when these are firmed up and you have developed your conceptual framework, you are in a strong position to write your literature review. Things tend to proceed more or less logically. The same is true of the decisions you make about how you will gather and analyze your data. There is logic to those decisions.
Margaret Walshaw

6. Creating a Research Proposal

Abstract
The research proposal is a central feature in the world of academic investigation, and an important step in the research process. The proposal represents a plan for the research, and signals the researcher’s intentions by outlining the specific way in which the research will be undertaken. Your proposal will clarify what topic is going to be investigated, what you are trying to achieve, why the research is important, and what processes and procedures you plan to use. But it will do more than demonstrate that you have thought carefully and clearly about what will be investigated and what it will take to successfully complete the investigation. Your successful proposal will demonstrate your potential as a researcher — that you have the necessary knowledge and ability to undertake the research.
Margaret Walshaw

7. Looking Ahead to the Next Steps

Abstract
Now that you have successfully defended your research proposal, you can begin to put your plans into action. This is a truly exciting time. All those insecurities about your own capabilities and getting things right seem to disappear. You now have the official word that your research has merit and that others have confidence in your capacity to undertake the work. Once you have gained any necessary ethical clearance you can begin to prepare for the next stage of the process. Data collection is first on the list, and you start to think about what it will be like to be in the field or immersed in archives or working with others. And there is much to do. You may need to recruit participants and seek permission for a site to undertake your research. There may be video and audio recorders to organize. There may be transcribers to find and book.
Margaret Walshaw
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