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Research Project development: The role of the literature review and research design

 

Introduction

The development of a research project follows a methodical process from inception of the research idea to the realization of research outcomes.  Different schools of thought have proposed various method of conducting a research project.  However, there are common themes in the proposed steps of developing a research project. One of the agreed strategies involves a researcher familiarizing with the topic or field of interest, reviewing literature, developing a hypothesis or rationale, defining the study design, collection and analysis of data, and the significance of the study or implications of the research on the topic of interest.  Although all these elements are vital, this paper explores the importance of conducting a thorough literature review and designing an effective study design in ensuring the research project achieve the desired results.  It postulates them as two of the most critical processes of ensuring a researcher conduct a credible research. Selection of research design and a comprehensive literature review helps to portray a researcher as an informed scholar who has identified a real gap in knowledge and seeks to meet the gap through a scholarly process. According to Kothari (2004), a research design is desirable because it facilitates the smooth movement of the various research processes, thus making research as competent as possible resulting into maximal information with minimal spending of effort, time and resources. Just like in the construction of an attractive and economical house, that needs a blueprint from architecture, so does a good research requires a well-thought strategy of collecting data and analysis. Accordingly, in any research, the importance of the research design cannot be neglected and thus, research design is a blueprint of the intended research.  The structure of a formal research report is standardized, and most of the sections found in research report are also found in research report.  Researchers use a range of conventional to demonstrate the legitimacy and authority of the current research and the project are seen to be vigor and conducted competently.  A detailed, well-organized literature review and an appropriate research design can help the researcher achieve these goals and should be emphasized at every level of research development

The success of a research project depends largely to the level of which a student familiarizes with the topic of interest and the depth of the literature review.  A literature review is a critical ingredient of the research process. It provides a detailed analysis of recent published research results in specifically areas of interest. The appropriate literature search provides a rich basis for establishing the importance of the project, verifies that other researchers have not already done a study, clarifies the issues that are directly related to the research questions, and reveals an appropriate theoretical framework.  Literature reviews add credence to a researcher’s assertion of the importance of the proposed topic for investigation. According to Rhoades (2011), a comprehensive review of literature and publications pertaining to the topic of interest is important because findings of the review presents an important scientific contribution and guide the decision-making process.

The subsequent parts describe the contribution of the literature review and research design in ensuring the quality and integrity of research. They emphasize the need to put more effort in conducting a literature review and selecting an appropriate research design as effective strategies of ensuring research development need scholarly requirements.

Research design as a vital part of research development

Selection and formulation of proper research scheme is crucial and critical for the successful accomplishment of research. Selecting a design of a research essentially involves selecting the most appropriate methods or techniques to solve a particular problem or topic. As Khan (2008) noted, if an incorrect research methodology has been used to conduct research. A good research design is characterized by flexibility, appropriateness, and efficiency. A research design that minimizes bias and capitalizes on the  collected data reliability and analyzed is a good design. In addition, a research design that gives the smallest experimental error and yields maximal information is also considered a good design. Therefore, a good design relates to the purpose or objective of the research question and the nature of the topic under probe.  The association between the research problems and the design is a critical element in formulating a research design. It is particularly important in deciding the method of data collection and analysis tools. For example, a research who has formulated a quantitative research must consider how the quantitative data will be collected using questionnaires or interviews, the type of data analysis (correlation, measure of central tendency or inferential statistics) that are to be applied in the study. Understanding the relationship is an integral part of an effective researcher.

Saxena, Prakash, Acharya and Nigam (2013) noted some of the factors that influence study design to be research question and goal, skills of the researcher, available resources, available time and the existing knowledge about the topic. It involves the consideration of the meaning to obtain information, the availability and skills of the researcher and the nature of the problem. While developing a research proposal, the entire scheme of things is classified into plan, structure and strategy of the research study. Plan incorporates the major framework of activities that a researcher wishes to complete under a specific research. It includes the entire hypothesis and the operational implications to the analysis of the data. Another integral part of a research design is a structure. The structure is the delineate and the scheme of involving the variables of the research into a unified and well-classified section of the analysis. The strategy refers to the specific methods that are to be used for obtaining research data, analyzing the data, verifying the consistency of the data, its reliability and finally construing the results.  Therefore, a researcher who wants to maintain the reliability of the research must pay enough attention in the formulation of an appropriate research design.

The research design is also an important consideration in ensuring the research project adherences to the ethic considerations.  Gerrish and Lacey (2013) noted that an optimal research design should minimize biases and anticipates confounding factors. The researcher, therefore, has the responsibility of choosing the best research design to answer the inquiry that they are asking. Ethical and practical considerations limit the choice of the research design.

Research design fundamentally affects the internal validity of research, the aptitude to draw sound conclusions about what causes any observed differences in the dependent measure. In addition, design has implications for other types of validity. Statistical conclusion validity especially statistical power is affected but such design-related issues such as the number of participants in the study and they way they are sampled.  The ability to link research operationalization to the intended theoretical constructs us affected by design aspects such as freedom from confounding (Taylor, & Hignett, 2014).  The generalization of findings is also affected by research design. Therefore, the three types of validity, internal, instrument and external validity requires the researcher to review various components of the instrumentation plan and evaluate how these components affect the gathered data and the results of the study.  The choice of research design plays a great role in reducing the amount of missing data. Missing data can lead to problems of inference and can threaten internal validity. The problems are related to study design and data analysis that include statistical conclusion validity. The effects on inference relate to the ability of the researcher to validly claim a causal relationship between variables of interest.  Missing data affects the strength, integrity, and validity of the causal relationship and can be reduced through the selection of an effective research design.  Given the importance of research design in the project, researchers or students should commit enough time and insight in ensuring the design offer the most trustworthy answers to the research question.

Research design as a vital part of research development

Literature review is the core to all researchers. One of the key roles or advantage of the literature review is to ensure the “researchability” of the topic of interest before the research starts (Starcic,  Cotic, & Zajc, 2013).  Novice researchers often start with broad and generalized research proposals.  Literature review comes in handy in narrowing down the scope of the ambitious proposals to a practical level. Narrowing down the scope of the proposed topic may be complex and take time. The narrowing process is essential in the intellectual capacity of the researcher and encourages rigorous review of the proposal.

The essential objective of the literature review is to help the researcher to grown the research project in previously undertaken research and writing in the topic area. However, the value of the literature review extends this function and is related to the research problem, theory, and practice and research method.  Literature review can help a researcher formulate the research problem and research questions.  It is particularly essential in academic research where the emphasize on the contribution to theoretical knowledge (Foster, Shurtz, & Smith, 2014).  A research can use the literature review to identify gaps in knowledge in previous studies that falls with the scope of the topic of interest.  Literature review helps researchers to avoid duplicating earlier researchers and thus making the research relevant to the current application.  It also provides background information on the broader context of the research topic and demonstrate a high level of scholarship. Researchers are required   to show a high level of scholarship in developing projects. A key element of a research thesis is to demonstrate scholarship is the review of the literature.

Literature review is the main source of theories and, models used in investigating research problems.  If a researcher decides to use deductive theory-testing approach, literature review will help elaborate the theory the research will test. When a researcher uses inductive research, literature review provides an essential source of ideas for developing the study (Bodemer, 2012).  There is a association between the literature review and the interpretation of results. Literature review helps researchers to interpret findings. For example, in academic researchers, literature review helps the researcher to link the findings to existing theories in order to show the theoretical and practical implication of the current study.

Literature review helps a researcher to design the research in two fundamental ways. First, previous researches in the area of interest may have used research methods that are useful to the proposed research. Therefore, a researcher may want to replicate previous methods from previous researchers. In addition, a researcher may use specific research techniques and tools that have proved effective in similar studies. Secondly, researchers need to draw on literature about a research methods in order to develop research skills. It includes specialized literature on particular research techniques.

Literature review demonstrates to the sponsors or tutor that a student has read enough volume of literature to prove the researcher is aware of the range of research in theory that relates to the proposed topic. It offers prove to the committee that the researcher has a deep understanding of the published research of the proposed study and helps the researcher or student support the originality of the study (Aromataris & Riitano, 2014). The originality is supported by identifying gaps in the literature that necessitate the study. Therefore, without a good and detailed literature review it is impossible to convince research committees and professors the originality of the proposed idea and show the contribution of the proposed study to the topic or field of interest. In addition, justification of the study is an essential requirement in research project development.  Researchers and students are required to provide sufficient argument and facts to support the topic that means showing that the proposed research is worthy of research (Brown, & Brown, 1980). Therefore, they have to use existing literature to focus on the topic context. The context may be methodological in that a research proposes to use a certain methodology. In such an instance, the researcher needs to build a case to support the methodology. It will involve highlighting best practices from past researchers.

The quality of the literature review is a determinant factor in the overall quality of the research. A well-conducted literature review covers reputable sources of information.  It enables researchers to use peer-reviewed journals to show the highest level of evidence.   It is essential for researchers to use credible sources of literature including professional journals and academic databases in ProQuest, EBSChost, CINAL and Infar. An extensive search in various databases provides a deeper and wider literature review.  There are precise elements that make a good literature review. They include a clear organization of concepts and ideas, a clear idea of the chronology of ideas, and a good summary of the major themes and trends of the phenomenon of investigation. It should be used to make interpretations of the available sources.

Conclusion

The process of developing a research project is intricate and requires a lot of efforts and dedication.  Every step of developing a project from brainstorming the research topic to making conclusion is vital in the overall quality of the project.  The identification of a researchable topic and one that does not duplicate previous studies requires a detailed analysis of literature. Comprehensive literature review forms the basis of supporting a research topic and demonstrating the originality of ideas. It is the foundation through which researchers justify their topic by identifying gaps in research and outlining the possible implications of the research.  As an important part of a research proposal, literature view provides background information on the topic and enables the research to narrow down ideas.  Literature review also helps in the formulation of the theoretical framework for the proposal and selection of the research design.  A researcher can use previous methodologies to address the current topic.   Literature review also helps in the interpretation of research findings. A researcher can use themes and facts from literature to support findings of the research.  Therefore, students and researchers should spend adequate time in the literature review. They should ensure they conduct a high-quality review that is based on current and peer-reviewed journals.  In addition, they should spend adequate the research design. Research design provides a framework through which a researcher conducts the research. It involves the procedures to be used in answering the research questions. Research design selected affects the data collection and analysis procedure, influence the interpretation of findings and minimize biases and anticipates confounding factors. The researcher, therefore, has the responsibility of choosing the unsurpassed research design to answer the inquiry that they are asking. Research desig fundamentally affects the validity of research, the ability to draw sound conclusions about what causes any observed differences in the dependent measure. Given the importance of research design in the project, researchers or students should commit enough time and insight in ensuring the design offer the most trustworthy answers to the research question.

 

References

Aromataris, E., & Riitano, D. (2014). Constructing a Search Strategy and Searching for Evidence. American Journal Of Nursing, 114(5), 49-56.

Bodemer, B. B. (2012). The Importance of Search as Intertextual Practice for Undergraduate Research. College & Research Libraries, 73(4), 336-348.

Brown, S. D., & Brown, L. W. (1980). TRENDS IN ASSERTION TRAINING RESEARCH AND PRACTICE: A CONTENT ANALYSIS OF THE PUBLISHED LITERATURE. Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 36(1), 265-269.

Foster, M., Shurtz, S., & Smith, M. (2014). Translating Research Into Practice: Criteria for Applying Literature Search Results to Your Work. Health Promotion Practice, 15(2), 157-160. doi:10.1177/1524839913511628

Khan (2008). Research  methodology.  APH publishing corporation, New Delhi, India.

Kothari C. R (2004). Research methodology. New Age international Publishers, USA. 

Rhoades, E. A. (2011). [Commentary on] Literature Reviews. Volta Review, 111(3), 353-368.

Saxena, P., Prakash, A., Acharya, A. S., & Nigam, A. (2013). Selecting a study design for research. Indian Journal Of Medical Specialities, 4(2), 334-339. doi:10.7713/ijms.2013.0033

Starcic, A., Cotic, M., & Zajc, M. (2013). Design-based research on the use of a tangible user interface for geometry teaching in an inclusive classroom. British Journal Of Educational Technology, 44(5), 729-744. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01341.x

Taylor, E., & Hignett, S. (2014). Evaluating Evidence: Defining Levels and Quality Using Critical Appraisal Mixed Methods Tools. Health Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD), 7(3), 144-151.

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