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The Essential Guide to Doing Your Research Project
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The Essential Guide to Doing Your Research Project

  • Zina O'Leary - The Australia and New Zealand School of Government


October 2009 | 320 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

A companion website is available for this text

The Essential Guide to Doing Your Research Project gives students the knowledge and skills they need to get from 'clueless' to 'completed'. This highly readable text guides the reader through each stage of their research project, from getting started to writing up, with each chapter clearly explaining a step along the way.

Based on the author's hugely popular The Essential Guide to Doing Research, this new book retains the warmth, wit and grounded nature of the first, while providing tools to help students through the ins and outs of their own projects, and addressing the key questions students need to tackle, such as:

- What is this thing called research and why do it?

- How can I assure that my research project has integrity?

- How to I develop a researchable question?

- How do I construct a winning proposal?

- What exactly is expected in a literature review?

- What options are there in qualitative, quantitative, mixed and more purposive methodological designs?

- Is it best to work with a sample, key informants, or a case?

- What data collection options are there and how do I choose?

- How should I work with my quantitative data?

- What should I do with my qualitative data?

- How in the world will I capture this on paper?

This is an inspiring book full of down-to-earth advice, illuminating figures and diagrams and engaging real life examples. With this book as your personal mentor, a successfully completed research project is well within reach.

Zina O'Leary is an applied social scientist and senior lecturer at the University of Western Sydney. She is the author of Researching Real-World Problems and The Social Science Jargon Buster.

 
PART ONE: TAKING THE LEAP INTO THE RESEARCH WORLD
 
The challenge of tackling a research project
 
So what is this thing called research and why do it?
The need for research knowledge  
The potential of research knowledge  
 
Delving into the 'construct' of research
Ontology and epistemology  
Competing positions  
The position of the reflexive researcher  
 
Getting help along the way
The structure of the book  
How to get the most out of the book  
 
PART TWO: GETTING STARTED
 
On your mark, get set, go!
 
Navigating the process
Understanding your programme  
Getting set up  
Getting the right advice  
Managing the workload  
 
Staying on course
Finding a balance  
Dealing with 'crisis'  
 
PART THREE: STRIVING FOR INTEGRITY IN THE RESEARCH PROCESS
 
Power, politics, ethics and research integrity
Understanding the power game  
 
Credibility: Integrity in the production of knowledge
Working with appropriate indicators  
Managing subjectivities  
Capturing 'truth'  
Approaching methods with consistency  
Making relevant and appropriate arguments  
Providing accurate and verifiable research accounts  
 
Ethics: Integrity and the 'researched'
Legal obligations  
Moral obligations  
Ethical obligations  
Ethics approval processes  
 
Integrity indicators and checklist
 
PART FOUR: DEVELOPING YOUR RESEARCH QUESTION
 
The importance of good questions
 
Defining your topic
Curiosity and creativity  
Looking for inspiration  
Practicalities  
 
From interesting topics to researchable questions
Narrowing in  
The need to redefine  
 
The hypothesis dilemma
Hypothesis defined  
Appropriateness  
 
Characteristics of good questions
 
PART FIVE: CRAFTING A RESEARCH PROPOSAL
 
The role of the proposal
Demonstrating merits of the research question  
Demonstrating merits of the proposed methods  
Demonstrating merits of the researcher  
 
Elements of the proposal
 
Writing a winning proposal
Following guidelines  
Writing purposively  
Drafting and redrafting  
 
Obstacles and challenges
When your design doesn't fit proposal requirements  
When your design is emergent  
When want to or need to change direction/method  
 
PART SIX: WORKING WITH LITERATURE
 
The importance of literature
 
The role of literature
 
Sourcing relevant literature
Types of literature  
Calling on 'experts'  
Honing your search skills  
 
Managing the literature
Assessing relevance  
Being systematic  
Annotating references  
 
Writing a the formal 'literature review'
Purpose  
Coverage  
The writing process  
 
PART SEVEN: DESIGNING A RESEARCH PLAN
 
Methodology, methods and tools
The relationship between methodology and methods  
 
Moving from questions to answers
Finding a path  
Hitting the target  
 
Getting down to the nitty gritty
Fundamental questions  
Emergent methodological design  
 
PART EIGHT: UNDERSTANDING METHODOLOGIES: QUANTITATIVE, QUALITATIVE AND 'MIXED' APPROACHES
 
Understanding the quantitative/ qualitative divide
 
The quantitative tradition
Scientific/ hypothetico-deductive methods  
Experimental design  
Exploring a population  
 
The qualitative tradition
Credibility in qualitative studies  
Ethnography  
Phenomenology  
Ethnomethodology  
Understanding feminist approaches  
 
Mixed methodology
Arguments for mixed methodology  
Perspectives and strategies  
Challenges and obstacles  
 
PART NINE: UNDERSTANDING METHODOLOGIES: EVALUATIVE, ACTION-ORIENTED AND EMANCIPATORY STRATEGIES
 
Research that attempts to drive change
 
Evaluation research
Summative/outcome evaluation  
Formative/process evaluation  
The politics of evaluative research  
Negotiating real-world challenges of evaluative research  
 
Action research
The scope of action research  
Key elements of action research  
Challenges associated with action research  
 
Emancipatory research
Participatory action research  
Critical ethnography  
Issues in emancipatory research  
 
PART TEN: SEEKING 'RESPONDENTS'
 
Who holds the answer?
 
Samples: Selecting elements of a population
Opportunities in working with a 'sample'  
Sample selection  
Random samples  
Non-random samples  
 
Key informants: Working with experts and insiders
Opportunities in working with key informants  
Informant selection  
 
Cases: Delving into detail
Opportunities in working with cases  
Case selection  
 
PART ELEVEN: DIRECT DATA COLLECTION - SURVEYS AND INTERVIEWS
 
The challenge of getting data directly from the source
 
Surveying
Options and possibilities  
Issues and complexities  
The survey process  
The survey instrument  
 
Interviewing
Options and possibilities  
Issues and complexities  
The interview process  
Conducting your interview  
 
PART TWELVE: INDIRECT DATA COLLECTION: WORKING WITH OBSERVATIONS AND EXISTING TEXT
 
The challenge of gathering indirect data
 
Observation
Options and possibilities  
Issues and complexities  
The observation process  
Receiving, reflecting, recording, authenticating  
 
Working with existing 'text'
Options and possibilities  
Issues and complexities  
The process of textual analysis  
Delving into documents, history, artefacts, and secondary data  
 
PART THIRTEEN: ANALYSING QUANTITATIVE DATA
 
Moving from raw data to significant findings
Keeping a sense of the overall project  
Doing statistical analysis  
 
Managing data and defining variables
Data management  
Understanding variables - cause and effect  
Understanding variables - measurements scales  
 
Descriptive statistics
Measuring central tendency  
Measuring dispersion  
Measuring the shape of the data  
 
Inferential statistics
Questions suitable to inferential statistics  
Statistical significance  
Understanding and selecting the right statistical test  
 
Presenting quantitative data
 
PART FOURTEEN: ANALYZING QUALITATIVE DATA
 
The promise of qualitative analysis
Keeping the bigger picture in focus  
From raw data to significant findings  
QDA software  
 
The logic of QDA
Balancing creativity and focus  
Moving between inductive and deductive reasoning  
 
The methods of QDA
Identifying biases/ noting impressions  
Reducing and coding into themes  
Looking for patterns and interconnections  
Mapping and building themes  
Developing theory  
Drawing conclusions  
 
Specific QDA strategies
 
Presenting quantitative data
 
PART FIFTEEN: THE CHALLENGE OF WRITING UP
 
The writing challenge
 
Research as communication
Knowing and engaging your audience  
Finding an appropriate structure and style  
 
The writing process
Writing as analysis  
Constructing your 'story'  
Developing each section/ chapter  
From first to final draft  
 
The need for exposure
Attending conferences  
Giving presentations  
Writing and submitting articles  
 
The final word

A good solid introduction for undergrads who need to enhance their academic skills for research projects and writing

Miss Hilary Scott
Arts - Media, English & Culture, University of Northampton
March 7, 2014

very comprehensive and esay to read, suitable for level 5 students with their first research methods module. I fully recomend this text to my students

Mr Peter Norton
Uniformed public services, Sheffield College
November 21, 2013

The book was very clearly written with many useful, real-life examples

Mr David Biggins
The Business School, Bournemouth University
November 8, 2013

I like the accessibility of this book. It provides a good introduction to the doing a research project for those on the more social/human side of Geography. It really walks the student through the process of doing research, and is a good 'go to' book.

Dr Lynda Yorke
Geography and Regional Studies, Bangor University
September 3, 2013

This is a comprehensive book on the subject! I will be using this book for my Research Methodology Course as well as all students under my supervision.

Mr Sizwe Zondo
Dept of Psychology, Rhodes University
June 18, 2013

Three chapters of this book are particularly good and worth purchase alone. They are research integrity, developing a research question and crafting a proposal. Wonderful.

Dr Peter Gossman
Education, Glyndwr University
February 21, 2013

For someone who teaches research at undergraduate and postgraduate level and who is always looking for texts that students can understand, I opened this book with relish. It is accessible to the novice researcher. I certainly recommend this book to my students to help them with their research assignment.

Mrs Vicky Mayer
Faculty of Health, University of Cumbria
May 7, 2012

This will add to a growing bank of texts in this area that are very useful for our final year cohort engaging with dissertation studies. The text contextualises various approaches and for those aiming for the higher marks this will be a recommended text.

Dr Damian Coleman
Sport Science, Tourism & Leisure Dept, Canterbury Christ Church University
March 6, 2012

A useful introduction to research methodology suitable for an undergraduate audience.

Ms Ruth Barley
Faculty of Development & Society, Sheffield Hallam University
January 25, 2012

Too elementary for the level of my class.

Dr Kalpana Shankar
School of Info. & Library Studies SILS, University College Dublin
December 22, 2011

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter One

Chapter Two


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Zina O'Leary

Zina O’Leary is an internationally-recognized leader in research methodologies, and has a keen interest in the application of research to evidence-based decision-making. Zina is a Senior Fellow at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government where she coordinates research and project units for their Executive Masters and Executive Education Programs. Zina also has an extensive history as a consultant to both Government and the private sector and was the research coordinator for the Centre for Environmental Health Development at the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. She is the author of Researching Real... More About Author

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