On Sunday, January 5th, 2020, Dr. David Onen proceeded to day two of the seminar on research methods. Opening the session he first invited members to ask any questions which may not have been answered during the first day of the seminar. There was an extended debate on the difference between a Thesis and Dissertation, and it was agreed that this would be food for thought which members would be allowed to carry home as a n assignment and the get back to a later date before settling on appropriate and / accurate definition of the terms to inform the way forward on what to adopt.
Basic Approaches to Writing the Research Background and the derivation of research objectives, hypotheses and questions. Four models were proposed including the 4-perspective model, the funnel-shaped model, the known-to-unknown model and the the integrated model. The raging debate was however on which approach/model is most appropriate, and when.
Research Objectives was also covered including how to State the General Objective (or purpose). How to craft Specific Objectives using Basic Models/ Approaches for Deriving Specific Research Objectives. The meaning of Research Questions and Usage of Research Questions. On Research Hypotheses, the big debate was the reasons for Preferring the Use of Hypotheses over Questions in Positivist Research. Scope of a Study, Significance of a Study, Justification of the Study and Conclusion were also covered in the first part of the seminar.
The second topic under the theme research methods was literature review: it's meaning or what it is, types of literature review and how to go about it. The facilitator covered in details the Introduction, Conceptualizing Literature Review, How Different Individuals describe Literature Review, Situating an academic review, and why we need review Literature. He further delved into what a good literature should contain, sources of Literature, requisite skills in Literature Review, how to Review Literature, reviewing Literature with the Use of a Mind Map and proposed a Template for adoption for literature Review. He emphasized that the guiding question was the purpose and value of literature review with the running philosophy of literature first and literature throughout. Dr. Onen covered the writing process, Authors and their writing styles such as those biased towards concept-centric Approach. In addition he explained how to collect information and sources (peer-reviewed) for good information such as electronic databases, journals, which provide writers with latest authentic literature. The concept centric approach advocates for writers to first Analyse (from broader perspectives to narrow perspective—breadth and depth), Arrange the thoughts and literature (e.g. logical or sequential), Summarize and provide transitional connections between sections within the literature topics. Thereafter, Organisation of your literature follows, then Synthesis of the Articles reviewed, and finally What to Critique according to Borg (1987). Another Five Steps would then follow in Reviewing Literature including Reading & Research which explains materials that is going to use; Analysis of how to assess existing research; Drafting of what the writer is going to write about; and finally Revising or fine tuning the document into the final draft. Lastly, types of Literature review, Characteristics of a Good Literature Review and Conclusion were covered as part of second half of Day Two of the seminar whose theme was Research Methods for Supervisors and their students.
Several Questions arose in the Questions and Answers session. The first question was which approach or model is most appropriate to use for writing statement of the background. Based on the information above it was established that department of Public Health prefers to use funnel perspective but could also use integrated approach. This would perhaps defer with another department like finance department, climate change and environmental studies or Computing departments which would have other preferences depending on what suits their research approaches and intended outputs. The most important mind set in academia, Dr. Onen posited, was to be able to allow flexibility as long as there is proper justification for preference of use or application of one approach instead of another. A member rose to inquire if it is correct to force research reports to be done in a certain way through a university manual. According to the facilitator his view was that it would be a wrong academic practice to dictate even through a university policy document that only model would be used for various fields, as various fields of specialization have different emphasis and preferences and that is the reason why departments are created. The supervisor, he added, should have enough capacity to advise on the best approach based on the type of work at hand and the research area because it must be assumed that his training prepared him adequately and he would be therefore competent enough to understand the nature of any study in his field and how to go about it. He strongly emphasized that there is always need for some flexibility to be given to students and their supervisors particularly those whose departments have traditionally done things in one way or the other so that not only one model is followed because various fields of specialization may have varied preferences for very solid academic reasons.
Dr. Onen added for information purposes for everyone that some scholars argue that proposal uses the phrase background to a study as a title for the proposal report while the final thesis report uses the phrase background of a study meaning "to" refers to what is planned to happen while "of" shows it has already happened. In connection to this he stated that every writer must identify their writing styles. What most students lack is The idea is there but how to write is a problem.
Approaches/ Models for deriving specific research objectives were proposed for use including for one variable to many variables, many variables to one variable, many variables to many variables for independent variables and dependent variables and lastly the Logical Deduction approach. A question arose as to when it is approoriate to use hypothesis or question in our research work. According Dr. Onen the Rule of thumb generally is that we use either one of questions or hypothesis but we can use both questions and hypothesis at the same time because Objectives, Questions and Hypothesis are all traditionally different sides of the same coin. In essence, if you state an objective, that objective has a question. So the as to when do we use hypothesis, he said that for studies where literature informs you that there is an existing relationship between variables is is better to go for hypotheses but in exploratory studies, it is preferable to use questions.
A question was asked as to whether there is need to measure general objectives and according to Dr. Onen the answer is no, because there is a relationship between questions and objectives. A member wanted the difference between intervening and moderating variables. Dr. onen defined intervening(mediating) variable as that variable which is in between Independent Variable and Dependent Variable while moderating variable does not affect directly the relationship between Independent Variable and Dependent Variable.
A member wanted to know whether any university should limit number of objectives for a research work. In his response Dr. Onen said, not particularly but two to five objectives was reasonable for masters degree students, while two to eight objectives was reasonable for students undertaking doctoral degree programmes.
A member further needed clarification on whether a student could use a hypothesis in a uni-variate or status study. Dr. Onen responded that use objectives and questions was the right way to go, not hypothesis, because there would be no two variables to compare in a uni-variate study.