A key aspect of dissertation writing process is to choose a dissertation research strategy that would be recognized as independent and reliable in your field of study. A well rounded dissertation research strategy helps you communicate to the readers exactly how you would go about testing the research hypothesis or addressing the research questions – usually set out in the dissertation introduction chapter.
When choosing a dissertation research strategy, there are certain elements you would need to keep in mind including the chosen topic, the established research aim and objectives, formulated research questions, and time and monetary limitations. With a number of research strategies to choose from, students often get confused about which would be the most appropriate for their own research.
Here is a complete guide on the two research designs that you can choose from in your dissertation – primary research and secondary research. The different research approaches within each of these two categories are explained below in detail.
Primary research involves data collection directly from participants. This type of dissertation research strategy is often chosen when the research is based on a certain area, a specific organization or a country. Due to the fact that the dissertation requires specific results and information, primary research strategy is chosen to gather the required information and formulate results according to the research questions.
There are various methods of conducting primary research:
Interviews are face to face discussion conducted directly with the participant(s). The matters raised during interviews are audio/video recorded or manually written down for subsequent analysis. Participants are asked to fill and sign a consent form prior to conducting the interviews. All questions asked during the interview are related to the research only. Participants have the complete right to remain anonymous or reveal personal details if appropriate.
Interviews are a flexible type of research. There are three types of interviews depending on the extent to which they are structured –structured interviews, semi structured interviews and informal/unstructured interviews.
With the advent of technology, and in order to save time, a lot of researchers now conduct online interviews and/or telephonic interviews. The timings and schedule are set prior to the day of the interview and the participant is informed of the details via email. This helps in saving valuable time of the researcher, as well as, the participant.
Not sure whether you should use primary or secondary research for your dissertation. Here is an article that provides all the information you need to decide whether you should choose primary or secondary research.
Surveys are another popular primary data collection method. The participants for this type of research design are chosen through a sampling method based on a selected population. The researcher prepares a survey that consists of questions relating to the topic of the research. These survey questions can be either open or close ended. Close ended questions require the participant to choose from the multiple choices provided. If you are conducting a survey, you may decide not to meet the respondents due to financial or time constraints. Because surveys can be filled online or over a telephonic session. On the other hand, open ended questions do not have any options and the respondent has the liberty to answer according to their own perception and understanding. For these type of surveys, meeting the participant in person would be the more fitting option.
Dissertations with close ended questions are classified as quantitative research strategy dissertations. The data collected from these surveys is analyzed through a statistical tools such as SPSS or Excel. Diverse tests are applied to the data depending on the research questions, aim and objectives to reach to a conclusion. For open ended questions, qualitative analysis is conducted by thematic analysis and coding technique.
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Questionnaires are similar to close ended surveys. They contain standard questions and are distributed amongst a set of participant. A lot of researchers follow the Likhert scale when using questionnaires. This scale includes 5 options ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. The questionnaire consists of statements, to which the respondents have to respond based on the specified options. These responses are then analyzed with the help of SPSS or another analytical tool by running analytical tests to create trend graphs and charts according to the responses to each statement.
This type of dissertation research design is usually used when the behavior of a group of people or an individual is to be studied. The researcher observes the participants to figure out how they behave in certain conditions. There are two types of observations – overt and covert. Overt observation is usually adopted when observing individuals. Participants are aware of the fact that they are being observed, and a written consent form is also signed by them. On the other hand, covert observation refers to observation without consent. The participant is not aware of the fact they are being studied by researchers and no formal consent forms are required to be signed.
This dissertation research strategy involves collecting data from a small group of people, usually limited to 8-10. The whole idea of focus groups is to bring together experts on the topic that is being investigated. Researcher is required to play the role of a moderator to stimulate discussion between the members of the focus group. However, focus group research strategy is particularly popular among businesses and organisations who want to learn more about a certain niche market to identify a new group of potential consumers.
Secondary research is the other research approach for dissertations, and it is usually chosen for its cost effectiveness. Secondary research refers to the study and analysis of already published material on the subject. This means that when a research topic is finalized, research question formulated and aim and objectives set up, the researcher starts to look for researches and studies that have been conducted in the past on the same topic. Reviewing and analyzing those studies helps in understanding the topic in a more effective manner and relate previous results and conclusions.
Secondary research is carried out by researchers where there is limited or no access to the participants relating to the thesis problem, even though there could be other reasons to choose secondary research strategy such as time constraints and the high cost of conducting primary research.
When using previous researches, you should always be aware of the fact that they might have been carried out in a different setting, with different aim and objectives, thus they cannot exactly match the outcome of your dissertation. Basing your findings solely on one study will undermine the reliability of your work. Do your research, understand your topic and look for views of other researchers in your field of study. This will give you an idea as to how the topic has been studied in the past.
Reviewing and analyzing different perspectives on the same topic will help you improve your understanding and you’ll be able to think critically of everything you read. A thorough critical analysis will help you present the previous researches and studies in a manner that would add weight to your research work. Results and discussion of secondary research are based on the findings that are mentioned in the previous studies and also on what you learned while reviewing and analyzing them. There is absolutely nothing wrong if you findings are different to others who investigated the same topic.
The sources for this type of research include existing literature and research material (usually extracted from government bodies, libraries, books, journals or credible websites).
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