Research Approaches part 2 and what is credible research?

Today we went through the remainder of the research methods which I will cover in this research journal entry, then we started discussing what sources we can consider credible sources for research


Research methods

Experimental research:

Proving or disproving a hypothesis over a series of tests on various groups, tests consist of manipulation /controlling of variables in a controlled environment. This method is part of the scientific paradigm.

It is testing an idea (this is idea is a hypothesis which is testable in a controlled and repeatable way) which is a concept from the scientific paradigm.

Example: Measuring effects of soft drinks/measuring the effects of mobile devices on eyesight over a period of time.

Strengths of this approach are: Repeatable, generalisable, easier to see if it is valid

Weaknesses of this approach is: Control can be difficult, confounding variables, statistics can still be interpreted in a biased way.


Social scientific paradigm research methods:

Exploratory research:

Qualitative research that lays the foundation for further work – getting to understand/know the subject/focuses on ideas on how to do research in the area -Preliminary work

When you find a subject has not been researched before, or if there are a few papers that exist but you are not happy with how they approached the research then you investigate the subject in a very broad way and then you can find a potential for future research.

e.g. Investigation of ambiguous questions e.g. deconstructing a question like the ‘best laptop’ question . Or investigating a brand new technology (technology).

Another example is exploring peoples perception on the dangers of true A.I. whether they see it as scary or exciting, this would be a beginning of much further work into that area

Strengths of this approach: Very helpful to investigate new areas, provide road-maps for where we might go, or what might be useful research. Can clarify what the biases are which can make eventual results more reliable.

Even no results are useful as they can help to identify further useful work.

Weaknesses of this approach: Less status, expensive (time and money), not conclusive and shouldn’t be considered as such. Always needs further clarification can be biased.



Discourse analysis

Analysis of spoken or written words to discover the meaning behind them.

For example: Different words are used for the same concept in an organization. So the CEO might refer to students as customer whilst the teachers might refer to students as students. The different words used to identify students convey different meanings.

This research method is analyzing the interpretation of language.

Discourse analysis can be used in courts as judges have to interpret the wording of laws.

Strengths of this approach: Its a familiar strategy that we all use informally (we all know how to do it), very powerful in extracting ‘real’ meaning.

Disadvantages of this approach: Very hard to do with non-expert language users, very hard to do, and time consuming (personal bias).


Action research

Has to be flexible, ongoing, process. You must keep an eye on the process and change when needed – researcher is part of the research (instead of trying to distance themselves from the research to try to improve the objectivity of the research).

Taking an agile focused approach to your research by investigating something and changing it and then testing it again. Also everyone is involved in the research including the researcher. So it is almost the iterative, user centric spiral model of Agile methods.

This research method can resolve some problem which traditional way of research can not do – and/or create something new before something fails, works well alongside the people who will use the end result of your research.


Focus groups

Getting a small, diverse group together asking questions on a specific topic. Guided and open discussion – The researcher guides the discussion at the start and then hopes the conversation opens up as members of the group chime in their opinion and then the focus group takes it from there.

The researcher is active at the start of the focus group meeting, and as the focus group goes on they become less active. They don’t just want a reply to one question they want others to add to the answer and make for a richer research method than an interview.

It is a form of exploratory research because you can analyze what the members say, and discover new areas to investigate.

Used for market research (business area) to test out peoples reactions of products and services.

e.g. Feedback on an app (in development), Sandra research – focus groups of high school students talking about IT careers.

Strengths of this approach: People are more open in a group discussion than in a one on one interview, and they feed off what others say

Weaknesses of this approach: What one person dominates the discussion, and influence others towards ‘group think’.


Design science research

Where you are creating something; e.g. new app, new OS and its a way of actually looking at a useful artifact, testing it, and evaluating it.

Used mainly in constructing, IT and education.

Practical in nature in that you are actually doing something. The intention of this research is to help  people.


Argumentation research

Posing two different viewpoints and supporting them with logical and emotional evidence – one is a thesis and the other point of view (pov) is the antithesis. (Social science paradigm)

Also known as the argumentation theory.

e.g. Two designers disagree over the design of an app – after comparing they came to a synthesis of the two povs.

Helps to resolve disagreements, allows the questioning/challenging of accepted wisdom.

Argument is very dependent on how well someone can present it, biased, synthesis may not be reached



Credible research

Sources for research are (with credible sources highlighted):


  • Journals – Probably out of date
  • Newspapers/magazine
  • Textbooks – Tend to be out of date, and accepted wisdom rather than anything new, exciting or challenging
  • General
  • Previous projects
  • Library database – ProQuest, Eric –  Anything you find through library databases are usually peer reviewed, and so likely to be the most credible source in the Library.


  • White papers – Research at IBM puts out  good information. It is specifically funded by a company or government
  • Google scholar – Search engine where you find evidence. Alternatives are Research-gate,  Very good idea as it filters out non academic journals and academic books.
  • Journals – Slightly higher value than printed journals as they will likely be more up to date.
  • newspaper/magazines
  • e-books
  • websites
  • magazines
  • videos
  • online tutorials
  • images, graphics etc
  • code repository
  • databases of information
  • data sets – For example the census results, which are very highly credible
  • public records
  • Technical papers – Very high credibility. Usually not particularly biased, instead it is a description/discussion of a technical subject like new OS.
  • self publishing
  • vanity publishing
  • MOOCs – Massive Open Online Course – University courses made available to the public by universities such as Harvard. High credibility.

Other things

  • Other people
  • Your own experience
  • TV
  • experts – You have to be careful to determine if they are expert in the area they talking about
  • classrooms
  • data sets
  • feedback
  • observation
  • your own research


Its not just knowing the source of research is important, we need to know other things. For example if research came from a blog, some blogs are very credible, whilst others will not be at all credible. So you have to look at the credibility of the author in that case. So it depends