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A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

"The book is ideal for readers with minimal knowledge of research and those with intermediate knowledge who need a quick refresher regarding particular aspects of research design and methodology. This book also can be used as a concise summary of basic research techniques and principles for readers with advanced knowledge of research design and methodology."



Amar Hisham Jaaffar
Baharuddin M Hussin

Hassan Mohamed
Juraifa Jais

Mohd Rizuan Abdul Kadir
Nadia Tan Mei Lin
Norashidah Md. Din
Nor'ashikin Ali

Rabiah Eladwiah Abdul Rahim
Renuga Verayiah

Umi Kalsom Masrom


Copyright © 2020 Uniten Press

Published in Malaysia by:
Uniten Press
Universiti Tenaga Nasional
Putrajaya Campus
Jalan Ikram-Uniten 43000 Kajang Selangor, Malaysia.
Tel: +603-89212020
Fax: +603-89212065
Email: [email protected]

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise, without prior permission from the publisher.

Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A BASIC GUIDE TO RESEARCH METHODOLOGY / Edited by: Rabiah Eladwiah Abdul Rahim ;
Authors: Amar Hisham Jaaffar, Baharuddin M Hussin, Hassan Mohamed, Juraifa Jais, Mohd Rizuan
Abdul Kadir, Nadia Tan Mei Lin, Norashidah Md. Din, Nor'ashikin Ali, Rabiah Eladwiah Abdul Rahim,
Renuga Verayiah, Umi Kalsom Masrom.
eISBN 978-967-5770-86-9
I.Baharuddin M. Hussin. II. Hassan Mohamed.
III.Juraifa Jais. IV. Mohd. Rizuan Abdul Kadir.
V.Tan, Nadia Mei Lin. VI. Norashidah Md. Din.
VII.Nor'ashikin Ali. VIII. Rabiah Eladwiah Abdul Rahim.
IX.Renuga Verayiah. X. Umi Kalsom Masrom.


Table of Contents iv

Table of Contents viii
Chapter 1 1
Introduction to Research Methodology
1.1 Research Philosophy 2
1.2 What is Research? 3
1.3 Types of Research 4
1.4 Publications and Referencing 4
1.5 Ethics in Research 5
1.5.1 Research Ethical Principles 7
1.5.2 Research Misconduct 8
1.6 Research Community
References 9
Chapter 2
Formulating Research Problem 9
2.1 Introduction to Research Problem 11
2.2 Examples of Research Problems 12
2.2.1 Example of Research Problem in Business Management 13
2.2.2 Example of Research Problem in Engineering
2.2.3 Example of Research Problem in Information Technology 14
References 14

Chapter 3 14
Literature Review 15
3.1 Introduction to Literature Review 18
3.2 Rationale for a Literature Review 20
3.3 How to Conduct a Literature Search 21
3.4 Synthesising Literature 21
3.5 Structure of the Literature Review
3.6 Literary Reference 22
References 22

Chapter 4 22
Research Design

4.1 Introduction to Research Design


4.2 Function of Research Design 22
4.3 Types of Research Design 23
4.3.1 Quantitative Research Design 24
4.3.2 Qualitative Research Design 28
4.3.3 Quantitative Research vs. Qualitative Research 29
4.3.4 Mixed Method Research Design 29
4.4 Data Collection 30
4.5 Data Sampling 31
4.5.1 Sampling Methods 34
4.5.2 Sampling Error 34
4.5.3 Sampling Size 35
4.6 Quantitative Data 36
4.6.1 Experiment 40
4.6.2 Survey 49
4.6.3 Longitudinal Study 50
4.7 Qualitative Data 50
4.7.1 Focus Group 51
4.7.2 Interview 52
4.7.3 Human Observation 53
Chapter 5 55
Quantitative Data Analysis
5.1 Introduction to Quantitative Research 55
5.2 Quantitative Analysis 56
5.2.1 Error and Uncertainty 58
5.2.2 Repeatability, Accuracy, and Precision 64
5.2.3 Probability and Statistics 65
5.3 Uncertainty Analysis 65
5.3.1 Design Stage of Uncertainty Analysis 65
5.3.2 Zero-Order Uncertainty 65
5.3.3 Instrument Uncertainty 66
5.3.4 Combining Errors 68
5.3.5 Design Stage Uncertainty 68
5.4 Multiple Measurement Uncertainty Analysis 71
5.4.1 Procedure 72
5.5 Multivariate Data Analysis 72
5.5.1 Advantages of Multivariate Analysis 73
5.5.2 Intervening or Mediating Variables 73
5.5.3 Moderating Variables
5.5.4 Differences between Moderating and Mediating Variables


5.6 Regression Analysis 73
5.6.1 Types of Regression 74
5.6.2 Modelling Errors 75
5.6.3 Evaluating Regression Model 77
5.6.4 Coefficient of Determination, R2 77
5.7 Regression Analysis Practice using Microsoft Excel 80
Chapter 6 81
Qualitative Data Analysis
6.1. Definition of Qualitative Research 81
6.2. Qualitative Data Analysis 82
6.2.1 What is Coding? 83
6.2.2 Types of Qualitative Data Coding 84
6.2.3 Thematic Coding and Content Analysis 85
6.2.4 Thematic Coding 89
6.3 Conducting Thematic Coding 90
6.4 Content Analysis
References 91
Chapter 7
Information Literacy Skills 91
7.1 Introduction 93
7.2 Using the CRAAP technique 93
7.2.1 Currency 94
7.2.2 Relevance 94
7.2.3 Authority 94
7.2.4 Accuracy 95
7.2.5 Purpose 95
7.3 Library Search 95
7.4 Searching Skill 96
7.5 Content and Reference Management 96
7.6 Paraphrasing and Plagiarism Avoidance
7.7 Knowing the Thesis/Publication Format 97
References 97

Chapter 8 97
Proposal Development 98
8.1 Planning a Research Proposal 99
8.2 What is a Research Proposal?
8.3 Topic Selection
8.4 Developing a Research Proposal


8.4.1 Title 100
8.4.2 Abstract 102
8.4.3 Table of Contents 102
8.4.4 Background 102
8.4.5 Problem Statements (Research Motivation) 103
8.4.6 Research Questions 103
8.4.7 Research Objectives 104
8.4.8 Literature Review 104
8.4.9 Hypothesis 105
8.4.10 Research Methodology 105
8.4.11 Significance of the Study 106
8.4.12 Gantt Chart 106
8.4.13 Flowchart 106
8.4.14 References 108
8.5 Checking Your Understanding 109
8.6 Summary 110
References 110

Index 111
Authors’ Biography 112



Research methodology is taught in various academic disciplines such as engineering, business and
information technology. The core philosophical base comes from the understanding that, although
these disciplines vary in content, their broad approach to a research inquiry is similar. This book,
therefore, is addressed in those academic disciplines.

A Basic Guide to Research Methodology consists of eight chapters, which correspond to the topics
that are found essential for research:

1. Introduction to Research Methodology
2. Formulating Research Problem
3. Literature Review
4. Research Design
5. Quantitative Data Analysis
6. Qualitative Data Analysis
7. Information Literacy Skills
8. Proposal Development
This book is an outcome of a team effort by instructors from various disciplines at Universiti
Tenaga Nasional experienced in teaching Research Methodology courses to make the basic knowledge
available to those pursuing research work at universities and industries. The postgraduate students at
Universiti Tenaga Nasional use this book in their blended learning Research Methodology courses.
Conducting research can be a daunting task for a beginner. This book explains qualitative and
quantitative research concepts, information literacy skills, proposal development, etc. It uses simple
explanations to demystify complex concepts and methodologies. The content is ideal for readers with
minimal and intermediate research knowledge who need a quick refresher regarding particular aspects
of research design and methodology. This book presents a concise summary of basic research
techniques and principles for readers with advanced research design and methodology knowledge. A
Basic Guide to Research Methodology is recommended for undergraduate and postgraduate courses
focusing on research methodologies in various disciplines.


Chapter 1

Introduction to Research Methodology

1.1 Research Philosophy

Research philosophy is a fundamental system related to the source, nature and development
of knowledge. It influences the selection of research strategy, problem conceptualisation, data
collection, processing, and analysis. In line with research philosophy, the paradigm employed
for research is a guiding framework that consists of ontology, epistemology, methodology and
methods (Hallebone & Priest, 2009).

Ontology refers to assumptions about the reality that shapes how a research object is
studied. Epistemology concerns what constitutes acceptable and legitimate knowledge.
Further, a methodology is the research approach in its totality, while the method is the how-to
in conducting the said research.

The research paradigm in physical and social sciences includes engineering,
information technology, and business management research areas. A research paradigm
indicates an underlying selection of philosophy that is most applicable to the research
objective, context and direction.

In selecting a paradigm, it is crucial to determine the research context, the research
aims, its challenges, and the potential research outcome at the initial stages. It is imperative to
align the research paradigm with the research problem, context, and research design. The
investigated theory and practice details should be consistent with the chosen paradigm in
verifying the research design.

Three paradigmatic approaches are used in research: positivism, interpretivism, and
critical research. The basis of positivism is testing a theory or theoretical prediction research
whereby the theory and hypotheses are established through a literature review. The hypotheses
are developed to anticipate the relationships between variables. Based on the research findings,
a conclusion is made on whether the theory should be extended, reinforced, confirmed,
qualified, or disapproved.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

On the other hand, interpretivism focuses on developing a descriptive theory. The
literature review identifies the need for a theory and the development of concepts to respond
to a specific problem. The form of inquiry is different from positivism. The research aims to
explore reality in interpretivism, creating key issues and new theories. Based on the
interpretivism paradigm, hypotheses emerge from aggregation and integration of descriptive
theory. Rather than creating hypotheses in positivism, the hypotheses in interpretivism appear
after the inquiry is accomplished.

Alternatively, the critical research paradigm requires the development of a theory to
resolve real-world questions. The literature review is used to select the structural knowledge
to identify the best way to describe a problem. The form of inquiry requires verifiable
information and provisional theory to create new inquiries and efforts. The strategy used in
the critical research paradigm is a blend of constant hypothesis creation and hypothesis
evaluation to construct an interpretive theory.

For physical science, the paradigm employed is generally the organised, empirical or
positivist approach. The other two paradigms are typically used in social studies. A
comparison of the three paradigmatic approaches is shown in Table 1.1.

Table 1.1: Comparison of paradigmatic approaches (Hallebone & Priest, 2009)

Positivism Interpretivism Criticalist Research

• Theory testing or • Development of a • Development of a

theoretical prediction descriptive theory. theory to resolve real-

• Theory and hypothesis • The need for a theory world questions.

are identified through and development of • Structural knowledge

literature review. concepts are is identified through

• Hypotheses are identified through the the literature review.

developed to anticipate literature review • Verifiable information

the relationships • Hypotheses emerge and provisional theory

between variables. from the aggregation to create a new inquiry.

• Research findings and integration of • A blend of constant

conclude whether the descriptive theory. hypothesis creation

theory should be • Creating key issues and evaluation to

extended, reinforced, and new theories to construct an

confirmed, qualified, or explore reality. interpretive theory.


1.2 What is Research?

Research is defined in several different ways. For example, research is viewed as discovering
new things that other professionals have independently verified. Research outcomes, which
are new to the researchers but are well-known to others, do not constitute original publishable


Chapter 1: Introduction to Research Methodology

Research is also defined as a scientific and systematic search for pertinent information
on a specific topic (Kothari, 2004). In brief, research is a systematic process of collecting,
analysing and interpreting information from the collected data. Research is an academic
activity performed to increase understanding of a phenomenon in which we are interested or

1.3 Types of Research
Several types of research are explained next (Kothari, 2004).

• Descriptive vs Analytical

Descriptive research describes the state of affairs as it exists at present. The main
characteristics of this research are that the researcher has no control over the variables. He
or she can only report what has happened or what is happening. The descriptive research
utilises survey methods (e.g. personal interviews, mailed questionnaires and indirect oral
investigations), including comparative and correlation methods. As for analytical research,
the researcher has to use facts or information already available and analyse these to
critically evaluate the material.

• Applied vs Fundamental

A research study is either an applied or a fundamental form. Applied research aims at
finding a solution for an immediate problem facing a society or an industrial business
organisation. The central aim of applied research is to discover a solution for some
pressing practical problems. Applied research addresses issues that have immediate
relevance to current practices, procedures, and policies, for example, when one needs to
make decisions about practical problems or questions in their immediate work
environment. This research is also called action research. Applied research is a step
forward in our understanding of the world based on one or more of the following ideas:

- the application of techniques commonly used in one field to another field;
- the modification of an existing concept or technique with improved outcomes; or
- the modification of current technologies for improved efficiency, miniaturisation,

sustainability or environmental outcomes.

On the other hand, fundamental research is mainly concerned with generalisations and
the formulation of a theory. The central aim of fundamental research is to obtain
information with a broad base of applications and thus add to the already existing
organised body of scientific knowledge.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

• Quantitative vs Qualitative

Quantitative research is based on the measurement of quantity or amount. It applies to any
phenomena that can be expressed in terms of quantity. Qualitative research, on the other
hand, is concerned with qualitative phenomena. For example, the phenomena relating to
the “quality of kindness.” This type of research aims to discover the underlying motives
and desires, such as using in-depth interviews to understand human behaviour. Examples
of techniques used in this research are word association tests, sentence completion tests,
and similar projective techniques. An attitude or opinion research is also qualitative
research to determine how people feel or what they think about a particular subject.

• Conceptual vs Empirical

Conceptual research is centred on some abstract ideas or theories. It is generally used by
philosophers and thinkers to develop new concepts or reinterpret existing ones. Empirical
research is data-based research that provides a basis for external validity to research

1.4 Publications and Referencing
The worldwide published scientific literature is commonly referred to as archival literature.
Archival literature is literature published in print and thus is unalterable. Archival literature is
essentially referred to in conducting research in order for new research outcomes to be
published. Before publishing new research outcomes, they must be reviewed by independent
professionals. The researcher’s responsibility is to ensure that the publication is complete so
others can reproduce the results.

1.5 Ethics in Research
Ethics relates to moral conduct and is associated with the principles of right and wrong behaviour.
Ethics and integrity are crucial components in performing research that must be given the utmost
attention and mainstreamed in the past decade (Mertz et al., 2016; Ormerod & Ulrich, 2013; Pratt
et al., 2017). Ethics in research can be defined as norms for conduct that distinguish between
acceptable and unacceptable behaviour (Resnik, 2015). The ethical norms in research include
guidelines for authorship, copyright and patenting policies, data sharing policies, and
confidentiality rules in peer review. All these ethical considerations serve to safeguard intellectual
property concerns while at the same time promoting collaboration. Essentially, researchers want
recognition and credit for their work; therefore, the novelty of ideas in work should not be stolen
or irresponsibly disclosed. Table 1.2 explains the purposes of ethics in research.


Chapter 1: Introduction to Research Methodology

Table 1.2: Aims of research ethics (Thiel, 2015)

Aims of Research Ethics Description

To encourage research goals, such as knowledge, Forbidding research data from distortion,

facts, and error avoidance. falsifying or misinterpreting it, encouraging fact

and reducing error.

To advance ethical principles and values such as Many ethical principles in research, such as
trust, transparency, mutual respect and justice are authorship guidelines, copyright and patent
essential for collaborative work. policies, data sharing policies, and peer review
confidentiality laws, are all intended to protect
intellectual property interests while facilitating

To guarantee that researchers can be held Approaches to inspect unfortunate behaviour,

responsible to the open or public. clash of interest, the human subject’s protections

and animal care and use are fundamental to create

beyond any doubt that researchers can be held

responsible to the open or public.

To develop public research backing. If the public can trust the quality and credibility
of research, they are more likely to finance a
research project.

To advance other imperative ethical and social Ethical errors in research investigation can hurt
values, such as responsibility, human rights, human and creature subjects, the public and
animal protection, law enforcement, and public students. For instance, a researcher who
safety and health. manufactures information in their exploratory
work may hurt or murder individuals when their
design is unsuccessful.

1.5.1 Research Ethical Principles

The general synopsis of some ethical rules in the research community is explained next (Thiel,

• Honesty
Honesty is to endeavour for trustworthiness in all logical and scientific communications
and truthfully report information and data, process and methods, output, and publication
status. In research, honesty also means one should not create, produce, misrepresent, or
falsify data or betray the supervisor, examiners, colleagues, research sponsors, or the

• Objectivity

Objectivity is to avoid bias in experimental tests and design, data analysis, data
interpretation, and other aspects of research where it is anticipated or compulsory. In


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

research ethics, one should avoid bias or self- dishonesty. One should not disclose personal
particulars or financial comforts affecting the research objective.

• Integrity

Integrity is to keep guarantees and declarations integral and act earnestly to ensure
consistency of thought and action.

• Carefulness

Carefulness keeps away from making careless mistakes and being negligent in the research
process. It also involves critically examining research work, including peers' work,
keeping and maintaining meticulous records, and taking great care when carrying out
investigation exercises such as information collection, research design, and
correspondence with offices, agencies, or journals.

• Openness

Openness is to have an open mind in sharing information, outputs, judgements, tools and
resources. Openness is to give critical feedback and new ideas.

• Respect for intellectual property

Respect for intellectual property honours patents, copyrights, and other intellectual
property systems. One should not utilise unpublished information, strategies, or outcomes
without authorisation. In addition, one should avoid plagiarising by giving appropriate
acknowledgement or credit to other research studies used in one’s research project.

• Confidentiality

One should ensure confidential communications about journal papers or grants, proposal
submissions for publication, personal data, exchange or military secrets, and patient
medical records.

• Responsible publication

Responsible publication entails aiming to publish dutifully to develop research and obtain
grants. Responsible publication prevents inefficient and duplication of publication.

• Competence
Competence in research means preserving and making progress in one’s research expertise
and competence via lifelong learning and education.

• Legality

Observing legality is to be mindful of essential laws, regulations and legislative policies
and comply with them.


Chapter 1: Introduction to Research Methodology

1.5.2 Research Misconduct

Research misconduct jeopardises the reputation of the research group and institution. It
reduces public confidence in the scientific community and can put the progress of scientific
knowledge on hold. There are three types of research misconduct: i) fabrication, ii)
falsification and iii) plagiarism. Fabrication is to concoct research results, recording and
reporting them falsely. Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, and
processes and changing or omitting data and results so that the research is represented and
recorded inaccurately. Finally, plagiarism appropriates another person’s ideas, processes,
results, or words without giving appropriate credit (Gilbert & Denison, 2003).

1.6 Research Community

All those related to research can be grouped as a research community, either directly or
indirectly. A researcher himself or herself is a part of his or her research community. Thiel
(2014) simplifies that a research community consists of:

• all those who use the same scientific method;
• all those who follow the same ethical principles;
• all those who provide information to the worldwide community and report fully and

• all those who use the same language and terms; and
• all those who acknowledge the previous work of others.

Figure 1.1 illustrates the description of the research community.

Same scientific method 01

Provides information 03 Follows the same
to the worldwide 02 ethical principles
community reported in a
complete and open 04 Uses the same
manner language and terms

Acknowledges the
05 previous work of


Figure 1.1: Descriptions of the research community

A Basic Guide to Research Methodology


Gilbert, F. J. & Denison, A. R. (2003). Research misconduct. Clinical Radiology, 58(7), 499–504.

Hallebone, E. & Priest, J. (2009). Business and management research: Paradigms & practices. Palgrave

Kothari, C. R. (2004). Research methodology: Methods and techniques (2nd Ed). New Age International

Mertz, M., Kahrass, H. & Strech, D. (2016). Current state of ethics literature synthesis: A systematic review of
reviews. BMC Medicine, 14(1), 1-12.

Ormerod, R. J., & Ulrich, W. (2013). Operational research and ethics: A literature review. European Journal of
Operational Research, 228(2), 291–307.

Pratt, B., Paul, A., Hyder, A.A. & Ali, J. (2017). Ethics of health policy and systems research: a scoping review
of the literature. Health Policy and Planning, 32(6), 890–910.

Resnik, D. B. (2020, December 23). What is ethics in research & why is it important? National Institute of

Environmental Health Sciences.

Steenkamp, A. L. & McCord, S. A. (2010). Approach to teaching research methodology for information
technology. Journal of Information Systems Education, 18(2), 255-263.

Thiel, D.V. (2014). Research Method for Engineers. Cambridge University Press.


Chapter 2

Formulating Research Problem

2.1 Introduction to Research Problem

The research problem is the preliminary steps in conducting a research study. It must be clearly
defined to ensure the success of the research project. This chapter explores the need to
formulate a research problem, the steps in formulating it, its characteristics, and examples of
research problems.

Identifying a research problem is the first and most crucial step in the research process.
Establishing the research problem begins with selecting a broad area of interest; this is then
refined or narrowed down. Identifying the research problem is not easy and often very
challenging. Seeking and reviewing relevant literature and supporting facts requires
perseverance. This is because the research problem is the very foundation of research. A good
outcome can be expected if it is well-formulated. Otherwise, it could be a waste of time, effort
and resources. There are three main steps in formulating a research problem (Fischler, 2012).

Step 1: Identify a broad field or subject area of interest to you. The broad field is then
narrowed down to sub-areas in which concerns, issues or problems requiring
solutions are identified.

Step 2: Carry out a literature review to determine the research gap or any inherent
issues or problems. To write a literature review, one must trawl through
reputable peer-reviewed journals, statistics or reports. While doing so, one is
looking for what is missing in terms of a research gap and the need for further

Step 3: Formulate the specific objectives of the proposed research work. The purpose
of the research work, and its significance or impact, must be justified.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

Most research problems are identified by critically appraising literature relating to
previous research. Personal and practical experiences can also help identify a research
problem. Besides, a research problem can be identified by referring to existing theories,
consumer feedback, performance improvement, social issues and brainstorming. In simple
terms, the research problem can be categorised as practical research problems (e.g. issues with
performance or efficiency in an organisation) or theoretical research problems (e.g. a
phenomenon or context that has not been closely studied).

Figure 2.1 provides an example of a flow of ideas that produce a problem statement,
assisted by identifying a topic relating to relevant stakeholders.

• Subject Area

FLOW OF Research Problem
IDEAS • Concern or Issue
• A problem
• Something that needs a solution

Justification for Research Problem
• Evidence from the literature
• Evidence from practical experiences

Deficiencies in the Evidence
• In this body of evidence, what is
missing or what do we need to know

Relating the Discussion to the Audiences
• How will addressing what we need
to know help researchers, educators,
policymakers, and other

Figure 2.1: Example of the flow of ideas that produce a problem statement (Fischler, 2012).


Chapter 2: Formulating Research Problem

2.2 Examples of Research Problems

One of the essential steps in research problem formulation is understanding the problem that
leads to the study and formulating a purpose statement that establishes the direction for the
research. The statement encapsulates the essence of the study in a single sentence or paragraph.
There must be a clear justification concerning the research gap, and all research gaps should
be supported by past research. The following sections describe the examples of research
problems in business management (Jaaffar and Amran, 2017), engineering (Inayat-Hussain,
2010) and information technology (Duanmu et al., 2016).

2.2.1 Example of Research Problem in Business Management

Example of a Chosen Topic: Corporate Environmental Reporting (Corporate

Research Problem: Environmental reporting is one of the avenues for a business to report
how its activities contribute positively to the environment and how its efforts mitigate the
impact of the business processes on the environment. Based on the Malaysian perspective, the
extent and the quality of Corporate Environmental Reporting practices are diverse and
inconsistent. Some public listed companies disclose their proactive environmental
management practices in their Corporate Environmental Reporting practices. In contrast,
others may not have complied with the mandatory Corporate Environmental Reporting
requirements, even though the responsible parties have imposed regulatory and cognitive
pressures on all public listed companies. This inconsistency leads to confusion on the part of
the stakeholders.

Justification for Research Problem: According to evidence sourced from available literature
and industry practices, the focus is on the role of the regulatory demands and normative
pressure to create homogeneity in Corporate Environmental Reporting
practices. Nevertheless, several studies have focused on the cognitive pressure that can lead
to Corporate Environmental Reporting practices.

Deficiencies in Evidence: Evidence related to the cognitive aspect of Corporate
Environmental Reporting is insufficient in the currently available literature. Therefore, this
study will focus on the cognitive aspect of the key decision-makers of public listed companies.
These decision-makers will include CEOs and Boards of Directors. Among the cognitive
aspects covered in this study are past environmentally-related experiences.

Relating the Discussion to the Audiences: By studying the cognitive aspect of key decision-
makers, this study will investigate how Malaysian public listed companies utilise Corporate
Environmental Reporting.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

2.2.2 Example of Research Problem in Engineering

Example of a Chosen Topic: Rotor dynamics (Mechanical Engineering)

Research Problem: The journal bearings are strongly non-linear machine elements and can
significantly affect the dynamic characteristics of the rotating machines they support. Despite
the strong non-linearity of the journal bearings, the linearised analysis method is preferred
because of its simplicity and fewer computational requirements. The linearised method,
however, falls short in two aspects. Firstly, the linearised method only gives a synchronous
response; therefore, this method cannot obtain non-synchronous responses observed in real
rotating machines. Secondly, the linearised method neglects the rotor imbalance inherent in
real rotating machines.

Justification for Research Problem: Most works published to date utilise the HOPF
bifurcation theory to determine the stability of rotors mounted in journal bearings. This method
neglects the rotor imbalance force inherent in practical rotating machines.

Deficiencies in Evidence: The work covering the rotor imbalance force using a mathematical
model of the rotor-bearing system usually employs a numerical integration method to solve
the governing equations. However, this method cannot give unstable solutions necessary to
determine the entire dynamics of the rotor-bearing system. The numerical continuation
method proposed in this research work evaluates the stability of journal bearings and allows
the computation of unstable solutions. This method will determine how solutions to ordinary
differential equations differ due to the variation of a particular parameter and essentially traces
a solution branch, detects bifurcation points and determines the stability of these points. It can
also switch from one solution branch to another, thus enabling the global solution structure of
the rotor-bearing system to be obtained.

Relating the Discussion to Audiences: The findings of this study will allow rotating
machinery manufacturers to make more accurate predictions about the stability of rotors
mounted in journal bearings.

2.2.3 Example of Research Problem in Information Technology

Example of a Chosen Topic: Quality of Experience of Streaming Videos (Streaming
Media Application)

Research Problem: As humans are the ultimate receivers of videos, in most applications,
subjective evaluation is the most straightforward and reliable approach to evaluate the Quality
of Experience (known as QoE) of streaming videos. Although such subjective user studies
provide reliable evaluations, they are inconvenient, time-consuming, and expensive. Most
importantly, they are not applicable in the real-time playback-scheduling framework.

Justification for Research Problem: Over the past decade, there have been substantial efforts
to develop objective QoE models. Most QoE models are designed for specific applications
such as static video quality assessment or progressive video streaming.


Chapter 2: Formulating Research Problem

Deficiencies in Evidence: Few studies have compared QoE models with subjective data
comprising various video sequences. Highly accurate low complex objective models are
desirable to create an efficient design of quality-control and resource allocation protocols for
media delivery systems.
Relating the Discussion to Audiences: The instantaneous QoE prediction is desirable for
optimising media streaming systems.


Duanmu, Z., Zeng, K., Ma, K., Rehman, A. & Wang, Z. (2016). A quality-of-experience index for streaming
video. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Signal Processing, 11(1), 154-166.

Fischler, A. S. (2012). Guided reading: Making the most of it [PowerPoint slides]. NOVA SouthEastern
University, School of Education.

Jaaffar, A. H. & Amran, A. (2017). Greening organisations through the leaders’ influence on positive deviance
in corporate environmental reporting practice: a case of Malaysian public listed company’. International
Journal of Applied Business and Economic Research, 15(24), 647-675.

Inayat-Hussain, J. I. (2010). Nonlinear dynamics of a magnetically supported rigid rotor in auxiliary bearings.
Mechanism and Machine Theory, 45(11), 1651-1667.


Chapter 3

Literature Review

3.1 Introduction to Literature Review

A literature review can be thought of as selecting available documents from published and
unpublished sources on the topic, which contain information, ideas, data and evidence. It
usually has an organisational pattern, combining both summary and synthesis within specific
conceptual categories.

The literature review should be written from a particular standpoint to fulfil specific
aims or express certain views on the nature of the topic and how it is to be investigated. It also
offers effective evaluations of these documents concerning the proposed research. A literature
review also seeks to describe, summarise, evaluate, clarify, and interrogate the content of
primary reports. Table 3.1 describes a guideline for a literature review.

A literature review is: A literature review is not:
Simply a collection of citations from books,
A synthesis of a range of sources. articles and documents.
Presented as a list of works of others
A place to show connections between previous
research and your own. A descriptive summary of each and every text.
To present an argument, clearly articulate your
position concerning relevant literature. A compilation of all material related to your
A critical evaluation of sources related to your
research topic.

According to Sekaran and Bougie (2019), a literature review ensures that:

• The research effort is positioned relative to the existing knowledge and builds on this

• The researcher examines a problem from a specific angle.
• The researcher is introduced to the relevant terminology and able to define key terms


Chapter 3: Literature Review

used in his work.
• The researcher obtains valuable insights into the research methods that others have

used to provide an answer to similar research questions.
• The research effort can be contextualised in a more extensive academic debate.

The function of a critical literature review will depend on the type of study and the
specific research approach taken. A descriptive study can help the researcher come up with a
comprehensive overview of the relevant perspectives on the topic, provide a definition, and
offer an in-depth overview of frameworks, instruments to use, and analytical tools that can
help describe the knowledge. In an inductive and exploratory project, it can help the researcher
develop a theoretical background that provides an overview of the key literature pertinent to
the specific topic.

The sources of a literature review are electronic journals, full-text databases,
bibliographic databases and abstract databases. For example, in the case of Business
Management, the most promising research articles could be found in one of the following
databases: Emerald Insight; Science Direct; Scopus; Wiley Online Library; Google Scholar.

3.2 Rationale for a Literature Review

The rationale for doing a literature review is to be able to deliberate on the importance of the
research being conducted by providing valid arguments for it from the literature. The rationale
for the study needs to be specific. There are four approaches to a proper literature review:

1. Identifying the main research topic.
2. Conducting a survey of the literature on the topic.
3. Reviewing the latest works which respond to or build on the main research topic.
4. Connect new research ideas to the literature.

The researcher must not accept the finding without examination when conducting a literature
review. The literature can be examined with these questions in mind (Taylor, 2020).

1. Has the author formulated a problem or issue?
2. Is it clearly defined? Is its significance established based on scope, severity, and

3. Could the problem be approached more effectively from another perspective?
4. What is the author’s research orientation?
5. What is the author’s theoretical framework?
6. What is the relationship between the theoretical and research perspectives?
7. Has the author evaluated the literature relevant to the problem or issue? Does the author

include literature taking positions she or he disagrees with?
8. How good are the basic components of the study design in a research study? How

accurate and valid are the measurements?
9. Does the author use appeals to emotion, one-sided examples, or rhetorically charged

language and tone in material written for a popular readership?


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

10. How does the author structure the argument? Can I “deconstruct” the flow of the
argument to see whether or where it breaks down logically?

11. How does this book or article contribute to our understanding of the problem under
study, and in what ways is it useful for practice? What are the strengths and

12. How does this book or article relate to the specific thesis or question I am developing?

There are four benefits of conducting a literature review (Atilano, 2020) which are described
as follows:

1. It allows the researcher to assess the current state of a research topic.
2. It helps the researcher identify the experts on a particular research topic.
3. It provides the researcher with the key questions regarding a topic that requires further

4. It aids the researcher in determining the most suitable methodologies to address a

research topic.

3.3 How to Conduct a Literature Search

Before writing the literature review, the researcher needs to do a literature search. There are
five main steps that a researcher must consider in conducting a literature review (Florida A&M
University Libraries, 2020; Harvard Library, 2020) which are explained below:

1. Choosing a topic and defining the research question.

A central research question should guide the literature review. Remember, it is not a
collection of loosely related studies in a field, but instead, it represents the background
and research developments related to a specific research question that will be
interpreted and analysed in a synthesised way by the researcher.

The following are some tips for choosing a topic and how to define the research

a. Ensure the research question is not too broad or too narrow and manageable.
b. Begin by writing down terms related to the questions the researcher has in

mind. These will be useful for future searches.
c. The topic and terms can also emerge in the discussions with the supervisor or


2. Deciding on the scope of the review.

The main questions that should be considered when doing this are: How many studies
to examine? How comprehensive should the review be? How many years should it
cover? This depends on the type of study and how many available sources relate to the


Chapter 3: Literature Review

3. Selecting the databases that will be used to conduct the searches.

Where can you find the databases? The literature must be searched from trustworthy
sources and articles relevant to the topic or research area. Obtaining the right sources
can help identify the research problem and develop research questions. The researcher
starts by listing the databases relevant to the work in selecting the databases. These
include comprehensive databases like WorldCat and repositories for dissertations and
theses, if required, such as Open Access Theses and Dissertations.

You can also seek help from the librarians in getting the databases. The librarian can
provide helpful research guides for all the disciplines available on campus.

4. Conducting the searches, finding the literature, and keeping track of the searches.

In searching for articles, the researcher can strategically review the abstracts of
research studies to save time. The searches conducted in each database need to be
captured and referred to in case needed later. This practice can also help avoid dead-
end searches from being conducted again. The bibliographies and references of
research studies can be used to locate other related references. The researcher can also
discuss with his or her supervisor or a scholar in the field for keywords to avoid missing
any keywords relevant to the field of study. For example, if your study is about the
Acceptance of Internet of Things, you may want to use the keywords “Internet of
Things”, “Acceptance Theories”, “Acceptance of Internet of Things”, and
“Acceptance of Technology”. If a specific domain is used, for example, healthcare, the
keyword is “Internet of Things in Healthcare” or “Internet of Things in Organisations”.
Lastly, reference management tools can manage and keep track of citations. Examples
of such tools include RefWorks, Mendeley and EndNote. The relevant tutorials to the
tools are available on the internet and would be helpful for the researcher in keeping
track of his research citations.

5. Reviewing the literature.

After finding the literature, some questions that can be of help in analysing the research
are listed below:

• What were the research questions of the study you are reviewing? What were
the authors trying to discover?

• Was the research funded by a source that could influence the findings?
• What were the research methodologies?
• Is the research complete regarding its literature review, the samples, variables

used, the results, and the conclusions? Could it have been conducted more
soundly? What further questions does it raise?
• Are there any conflicting studies?
• What are the authors’ views in the field? Has this study been cited? If so, how
has it been analysed?


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

3.4 Synthesising Literature

As a researcher builds the body of literature, they may find that three, four, or more articles
are saying the same thing or, based on the findings of their study, they had arrived at the same
conclusion. Instead of writing about every article related to each study component, the
findings can be synthesised where appropriate.

What does synthesising literature mean? Synthesising literature means retrieving
essential points from the summary and linking different sources that lead you to valuable
findings. The synthesis identifies what is unknown in the research topic or “gap”. The
literature review should examine many studies relevant to the area of interest. Their findings
will show the similarities and differences between the studies based on the examination. These
can lead to the establishment of the research problem. The information gathered from other
sources needs to be documented in the literature review. The gathered information is called
evidence, which needs to be presented and evaluated from all possible differing points of view.
A few processes are involved in reviewing evidence, as stated in Section 3. Throughout the
research process, you will identify various resources that reveal your research's known and
unknown issues. As you compile your reading, you will notice the connections and
relationships between the sources you have read, and you will come across several ideas
presented by different authors. Describe briefly what the authors say about their studies in
ways relevant to the proposed study. Evidence gathered is the basis for supporting the research
arguments. This draws together previous research findings and explains how they connect to
the research. All sides of an argument must be clearly explained to avoid bias in the finding.
All areas of agreement and disagreement should be highlighted.

Briefly, while you read, you can look for:

• Trends and patterns (in theory, methods or results): Look at how the approaches
change over time.

• Themes: what are frequently questions or concepts being brought up or discussed
across the literature?

• Agreements, disagreements, debates, and conflicts: which issues do authors
disagree on?

• Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Any limitations or weaknesses that need
to be addressed?

To examine clearly all the evidence, summarise them in a table form, known as a
synthesis matrix, that records the main points of each information resource and documents
how they relate to each other. The synthesis matrix will enable the researcher to compare and
contrast the themes to establish their relationships. It helps the researcher understand what can
be established and how it can relate to the research topic and research question. The research
gaps or flaws of the literature that have been identified can be linked to the proposed research
work. These findings must be critically evaluated and interpreted to identify similarities and
differences between these studies. It is imperative to analyse and critically evaluate the articles
to draw conclusions or recommendations.


Chapter 3: Literature Review

Examples of fields you may want to capture while reading your articles include:

• Authors names
• Article title
• Publication year
• Main purpose of the article
• Methodology or research design
• Participants
• Variables
• Results
• Conclusions

From this information, you can create a matrix table, which can be used to help you
synthesise the information. What to put in the matrix table depends on what information you
need to synthesise later.

Example 1 (organised by authors)

Author Objective Methods Results
Author 1 & What is the objective What methodology was Findings and solutions
Author2 (year) of the research? used? (e.g quantitative,
qualitative) Significant:
Ali & Tretiakov The objective of this Data collection method System quality → KMS
research is to used (survey, interview, Use
examine the success experiment) Perceived Usefulness →
factors of knowledge Quantitative KMS Use.
management systems Online questionnaire for
implementation in data collection

Example 2 (include population)

Author /Year Research Design Population studied Outcome
Author 1 & Mixed Methods Postgraduates Improved learning
Author2 (year) effectiveness
Author et al. Survey Females Females are adaptable to
(year) culture faster than males
Author (year) Content Analysis Doctors Knowledge quality
influences doctors’
knowledge sharing


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

3.5 Structure of the Literature Review

A literature review should be structured like any other essay. It should have an introduction, a
middle or main body and a conclusion. The topic needs to be defined for the introduction, and
an appropriate context for reviewing the literature should be provided. The reason or rationale
behind the literature is established. Many materials from previous works need to be read and
reviewed when doing research. In the introduction, the organisation and structure of the
literature will also need to be explained. The structure can be chronological, methodological,
or thematic, depending on the studied resources. The final section of the introduction is the
statement regarding the scope of the review, for example, what is being included and excluded.
The scope needs to be precisely stated to avoid the literature review being too broad. Hence,
it should be narrowed down to the scope under study.

The middle or main body of the literature review should discuss the topic, moving
from a generally more expansive view of the literature being reviewed to the specific focus of
the research according to common themes. The relevant areas in the topic should be described
in a general context. At this stage, the themes, findings, theories and debates derived from the
review of previous works should be identified. For example, when discussing obesity in
general, the theme can be obesity in children while excluding obesity in adults. Next, the main
body of the literature review must provide insight into the relationship between the chosen
topic and the broader subject area, for example, between obesity in children and obesity in
general. It is fundamental to relate the subject areas to the topic overtly. In other words, how
does this information contribute to our understanding of the topic? These include the terms
used for the study by other researchers and defining the terms used for the researcher’s
intended study. The researcher must review and provide critical analysis of previous works.
To do so, the researcher should first read and evaluate the sources and determine their
relevance to understanding the topic.

Questions to ask in assessing each source:

• What are the objective/s of the previous studies?
• Are the arguments in existing studies supported by empirical evidence such as

quantitative or qualitative studies?

Once these questions are answered, the ideas can be organised for the analytical review
of the literature. The researcher must show how the existing work differs from his present
study in the analytical review. The researcher needs to discuss various research pertinent to
his work, categorically identifying and discussing how the research works related to his work
and how they are different. This way will lead to the identification of the research gap. Based
on the review of existing work, issues are identified, and weaknesses are highlighted to provide
the rationale or motivation for the proposed study.

The main body of the literature review should also deliberate on the theoretical
framework. A theoretical framework refers to the theory that a researcher chooses as a basis
to guide him in his research. In other words, these are the underlying theory used to develop


Chapter 3: Literature Review

the conceptual framework of the proposed research. The literature review makes the rationale
and evidence for why the theories are chosen. The limitations and evidence should be
highlighted to reflect the contribution.

On the other hand, a conceptual framework is established based on the researcher’s
synthesis of the literature in explaining the phenomenon at hand. The result of putting together
several related concepts to explain the actions required in the course of study, given the
previous knowledge of other researchers’ points of view, leads to the research problem.

While the theoretical framework is derived from theory, the conceptual framework is
derived from concepts. In other words, the conceptual framework is the researcher’s
understanding of how particular variables in the researcher’s study are connected. Thus, it
identifies the variables required in the research investigation. It is the researcher’s “map” in
pursuing the investigation.

The conclusion section of the literature review summarises the critical aspects of the
existing body of literature and evaluates the current state of the reviewed literature. Significant
flaws or gaps in existing knowledge are identified and linked to the proposed research.

3.6 Literary Reference

Literary reference is a collection of all the scholarly writings on a topic. Literary resources are
typically presented as journal publications, conference proceedings, books, dissertations,
government information, patents, or standard. Citation of the reference used is obligatory to
avoid being accused of plagiarism. Different disciplines use different citation styles and
reference formats.

A proper format can be easily obtained by looking up standard formats such as IEEE
and APA. The researcher is advised to check the required format for their work for their thesis
or article submission.


Atilano, M. (2020). Benefit of Conducting a Literature Review. UNF Thomas G. Carpenter Library: Library

Florida A & M University Libraries (2020). Literature Review.

Harvard Library (2020). The literature review: A research journey.

Sekaran, U., & Bougie, R. (2019). Research methods for business: A skill-building approach (2nd Ed.). John
Wiley & Sons.

Taylor, D. (2020). The literature review: A few tips on conducting it. University of Toronto Writing Advice.


Chapter 4

Research Design

4.1 Introduction to Research Design

What is a research design? To explain the definition of research design, imagine the
requirements of constructing a building as an analogy (School of Social Sciences, 2015).
Before a building is constructed, the builder needs to decide on the type of the building, for
example, whether a factory, a school, a house, or an apartment. After deciding on the type of
building, the builder will need to set the critical dates and stages for the completion of the
project, sketch the building idea, obtain permits, work out a work plan, and then order
materials for the building construction

Similarly, research needs to be designed or structured before the data collection
session, or the analysis begins. The research questions must be clear, and the research design
will flow. The issues of sampling, data collection method, and questionnaire design are all
supplementary to establishing the evidence that needs to be collected to answer the research

4.2 Function of Research Design

Based on the previous explanation, research design can be defined as the overall plan that you
choose to incorporate the various apparatuses of the study in a comprehensible and rational
way. Thus, warranting that the researcher will meritoriously report the research problem. It
establishes the scheme for collecting, measuring, and analysing data (USC Libraries, 2020).

So, what is the function of research design? A research design is vital to guarantee that
the proof gained allows us to answer the preliminary question as clearly as possible. Gaining
pertinent proof involves stipulating the type of evidence desired, answering the research
question, testing a theory, assessing a program, or precisely defining some occurrence.


Chapter 4: Research Design

Furthermore, when designing research, we need to ask ourselves the following question:
Given this research question or theory, what type of proof is required to answer the
question or test the theory?
In research, the concerns of sampling method of data collection, for example, through
questionnaire distribution, observation, experiments, or document analysis, are all associated
with the matter of, “What evidence do I need to collect?”

Researchers’ common error is that they initially commence their inquiries too far
before they have analytically thought about what information is essential to address the
research problem. Without attending to the research design issues beforehand, the overall
research problem will not be adequately addressed, and any conclusions drawn will risk being
weak and unconvincing. As a consequence, the overall validity of the study will be challenged.

Research design is different from the research methods. Research methods consist of
data collection and analysis techniques, whereas a research design is a logical construction of
an inquiry. Confusion about research design and research method could lead to inadequate
evaluation of designs.

4.3 Types of Research Design

A researcher must clearly understand the various types of research design and which research
design can be suitably implemented for a study.

Research design can generally be classified into three as follows:
1. Quantitative research design
2. Qualitative research design
3. Mixed method research design

The quantitative research design involves gathering and examining numerical data
gained through systematic investigation using experimental, quasi-experimental, single
subject, and non-experimental such as descriptive, comparative, correlational, survey, or ex-
post factor. On the other hand, qualitative research design can be interactive, such as
ethnographic study, phenomenological study, case study, grounded theory, critical study, or
non-interactive, such as concept analysis or historical analysis. A mixed-method research
design is used when a combination of both quantitative and qualitative research designs is
used, and they can be explanatory, exploratory, or triangulation.

4.3.1 Quantitative Research Design

Quantitative research deals with data in the form of numbers. The advantage of quantitative
research is that numerical data can be collected and easily analysed. With good design, you
can make general statements about what is likely to be accurate overall. In other words, if you
have enough sample size and your research design is well-implemented, you can generalise
the whole population.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

Nevertheless, there are drawbacks to quantitative research. There can be a lack of
depth. For example, the lack of reasons why some phenomena happen. In terms of the context,
where the result may yield a different answer due to a different context, the researcher should
ignore the emotions or feelings. Besides, quantitative research requires mathematical and
statistical knowledge to analyse the data effectively.

For example, quantitative research topics might cover the following.

1. Firm performance factors that influence the company’s profit or efficiency.
2. Growth rates, such as employment, inflation, and energy consumption.
3. The frequency of specific personality types, for example, introversion, appears in a


The term ‘quantity’ relates to ‘how many’ or ‘what is the number.’ Quantities refer to
discrete numbers that can be accurately stated. Consequently, quantitative research is
associated with numerical data and accuracy. The quantitative research design is based on the
positivist analysis study method, where the research is conducted using an experimental study,
and the collected numerical data is evaluated by statistical, mathematical, or computational
techniques. Types of Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is descriptive in nature and relies on measurable and observable data.
Quantitative research is divided into two types, i.e., intervention studies and non-intervention
studies (Creswell, 2013). In the intervention type, the research design is the experimental
study, while the non-intervention type is based on a correlation and exploratory study. In an
experimental study design, interventions are made to influence the outcome of one group or
parameter over the other groups or parameters. In a correlational study, the relationship
between variables is determined, while in an exploratory design study, the trends of a given
population are examined.

4.3.2 Qualitative Research Design

Qualitative research deals with data that comprises words, attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and
behaviours. The data can be collected through interview sessions and discussions. The
advantage of qualitative research is that we can obtain details about specific cases, people, or
groups. Nevertheless, there are disadvantages too. For example, it cannot make general
statements, and the analysis is time-consuming. Some argue that the analysis is subjective, but
this depends on your approach.

The examples of qualitative research include the following.
• teachers’ feelings and habits towards their students.
• doctors’ knowledge and opinions of infection prevention protocols.
• how newspaper articles describe and represent immigrants.


Chapter 4: Research Design

According to Ulin et al. (2005), “qualitative research is like peeling onions.” Peeling
the onion in qualitative research relates to peeling the research in-depth, meaning and detail
through adjectives, like rich, deep, and thick, and phrases like “web of signification.” The
qualitative research focuses on “subjectivities,” where the participant is the expert.
Understanding is being built from the ground up. Qualitative research values the insider
perspective, which is crucial for research.

Hoepfl (1997) synthesised qualitative research as follows:

• Qualitative research uses the natural setting as the source of data.
• The researcher acts as the “human instrument” of data collection.
• Qualitative researchers predominantly use inductive data analysis.
• Qualitative research reports are descriptive, incorporating expressive language and

the “presence of the voice in the text.”
• Qualitative research has an interpretive character aimed at discovering the meaning

events have for the individuals who experience them and the interpretations of
those meanings by the researcher.
• Qualitative researchers pay attention to the idiosyncratic and pervasive, seeking
the uniqueness of each case.
• Qualitative research has an emergent design, and researchers focus on this
emerging process and the outcomes or product of the research.
• Qualitative research is judged using particular criteria for trustworthiness. Types of Qualitative Research

There are various types of qualitative research. Each type provides its strategy and procedure
to meet the study's objectives. Therefore, the researcher needs to identify the type to be used
to formulate a strategy, especially on methodology, to achieve the objectives. There are eight
basic types of qualitative research, as listed below (Merriam, 1998).

1. A Basic Interpretive Qualitative Study

In this study, the overall drive is to comprehend how people make sense of their lives
and experiences. The researcher seeks to discover and understand the phenomenon,
the process, the perspective, and the worldview of the people involved and will
construct the phenomenon's reality. For example, the study of how the work culture
shapes the learning pattern of working adults. In this context, the researcher seeks to
understand how work culture shapes the nature of the learning pattern in the working
adult. Data are collected through interviews, observations, or document analysis, on
the subject. The data are analysed inductively by identifying recurring patterns and
common themes. If there is a reason for further investigation, then data collection via
quantitative survey research will be conducted to prove its validity and Research


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

2. Phenomenological Study

The phenomenological study emphasises the essence or structure of people’s
experiences, such as their emotional condition and reaction to the phenomenon. One
example of phenomenological research is “the experience of motherhood, for female
soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, who have children, between the ages of 1 and 3 and
at home.” The phenomenon in the question is motherhood, while the researcher seeks
to discover and understand the phenomenon, the process, the perspective, and the
worldview of the respondents involved. The data are deeply gathered through
interviews, discussions, and participant observation and inductively analysed through
communication with the respondents.

3. Grounded Theory

The grounded theory aims to produce a theory from the data collected rather than
exploring the data to confirm the existing theory. The final outcome of the research is
to develop a distinct theory from the existing theory. Grounded theory has the
following criteria in its components:

● simultaneous collection and analysis of data.
● constructing analytic codes and categories from data, not from preconceived

logically deduced hypotheses.
● using the constant comparative method, which involves making comparisons

during each analysis stage.
● advancing the theory development during each step of data collection and

● note-taking is required to define and elaborate categories, specify their

properties, define relationships between categories and identify gaps,
● sampling aimed toward theory construction, not to be representative of the

● conducting a literature review after developing an independent analysis.

4. Case Study

A case study can be qualitative or quantitative in nature and is a study about objects.
It is about an in-depth description and analysis of a phenomenon, or a social unit, which
can be an individual group, institution, or community. There are three categories of
case studies.

i. Intrinsic case study, undertaken to obtain a better understanding of a

ii. Instrumental case study aimed to provide insight into an issue or refinement of

iii. A collective case study refers to a study that joins a few cases to investigate the
phenomenon, population, or general condition.


Chapter 4: Research Design

An example of a case study is the implementation Activity-Based Management by a
Malaysian company. This topic shall focus in-depth on the situation and actual
happenings in the organisation to answer, ‘What is happening here?’

5. Ethnographic Study

This involves a socio-cultural study explicitly. The study is an interpretation of the lens
of the researcher. The study relies substantially or partly on participants’
observation. It emphasises exploring the nature of social phenomena where the work
requires handling unstructured data. The investigation is conducted with a small
number of cases, which can even be one, and data analysis involves an explicit
interpretation of the meaning and functions of human action. An example is observing
an accountability event at the mosque's Annual General Meeting. This study can be
observation-based where the process of accountability of the appointed mosque
management through their report, with feedback from the mosque members during the
meeting, is being noted. The researcher needs to make sense of and discern the conflict
and resolution raised during the meeting.

6. Narrative Analysis

This type of research emphasises the human experience through what is conveyed and
the language used to describe the experience. The main criterion for this type of study
is using human stories as data, and the data tabulation is based on the narrative.

The three most common types of arranging strategies for narrations are:

i. The psychological approach where the story is about the internal thoughts and
motivation of the person or group under study.

ii. The biographical approach describes the relationship between the person and
society by considering specific influences, such as gender and race.

iii. Discourse analysis is a story that is assessed together by looking at intonation,
pitch, and pauses as an insight into the meaning of the text.

7. Critical Qualitative Research

Critical qualitative research uncovers, examines, and critiques the social, cultural, and
psychological assumptions that have limited our ways of thinking. This type of
research focuses on a larger perspective, such as the society, culture, and institutional
system, rather than the individual. To make a critical observation, the researcher must
understand the ideology behind the text to be critical of it and not merely by claiming
whether it is right or wrong.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

8. Postmodernism Research

The postmodernist type of research reveals a belief with many truths regarding the
topic of study, and all generalisations, hierarchies, typologies, and binaries about it are
contested or challenged. This type of research challenges the norm of research.
Postmodernism represents a loss of faith in the grand theories of modernity. These
theories include universalist notions of reality, morality, truth, human nature, reason,
science, language, and social progress.

4.3.3 Quantitative Research vs Qualitative Research
Quantitative research aims to test the hypotheses, examine the cause and effect, and make
forecasts, while qualitative research aims to understand and interpret social phenomena. In
social science, quantitative research has a larger and randomly selected group for the group
studies, whereas qualitative research has a smaller and not so randomly selected group.

Regarding variable usage, qualitative research uses specific variables with numerical
quantities, whereas, in qualitative research, the whole realm of the focus area is studied and
not just certain variables. For this form of data collected, quantitative research uses numbers
and statistics, while qualitative research uses words, images, or objects. Data from quantitative
research is based on exact measurements using organised and validated data-collection
instruments. On the contrary, data from qualitative research is based on open-ended responses,
interviews, participant observations, field notes, and reflections. In data analysis, quantitative
research aims to recognise the statistical or mathematical relationship, but qualitative research
aims to ascertain patterns, features, and themes.

In common research objectives, quantitative research is used ‘to describe,’ ‘to explain,’
and ‘to predict,’ whereas qualitative research is used ‘to explore,’ ‘to discover,’ and ‘to
construct’ in the study. In terms of the focus, quantitative research is narrowly focused on a
specific topic, while qualitative research examines the topics’ breadth and depth.

Lastly, in observing quantitative research results, the findings are projectable over a
population or system-based, whereas the findings are more generalised and directional for
qualitative research. Table 4.1 shows the comparisons between quantitative and qualitative


Chapter 4: Research Design

Table 4.1: Comparisons between quantitative and qualitative research (Brough, 2013)

Descriptions Quantitative Research Qualitative Research
Association between the
researcher and subject Distant Close
Goal Structured Toward emergent or
Static and external to actors developing relationship
Research strategy between theory or concepts
Social reality
and research,


Processual and socially
constructed by the actor

Nature of data Rigid and reliable Rich and deep

4.3.4 Mixed Method Research Design

Mixed methods in research design, as the name suggests, are where both quantitative and
qualitative data are used to answer the research question. For instance, to conduct research on
parents’ feelings about reading with their children and its effect on their children’s reading
scores. Here, the quantitative data are the children’s scores because it is in number. The
qualitative data is the feelings. Feelings are qualitative in nature. The parents can be
interviewed to sort them into groups, for example, poised, mixed feelings, and anxious, and
compare the test scores of children whose parents fall into different groups.

4.4 Data Collection

Data collection is the process of gathering and measuring information on variables of interest
in an established systematic fashion that enables one to answer the research questions, test
hypotheses, and evaluate outcomes. Data can be obtained from primary or secondary sources
(see Figure 4.1). The first-hand sources, i.e., primary sources, include experiments,
observations, questionnaire surveys, and interviews. Secondary data sources can be either
internal or external and can be in many forms of published materials such as company reports
and research publications.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

Figure 4.1: Data source

4.5 Data Sampling
An important component in quantitative research is data sampling. Data sampling is the
process of selecting some subjects from a population as research respondents. The selection is
critical because the selection of unsuitable samples will reduce the validity and reliability of
the research.

Hence, it is crucial to carefully plan this because it will allow the researcher to collect
data from the samples easily and reduce the possibility of measuring errors occurring and
saving time.

A sample is basically a small group of subjects from a specific population. From this
sample, a study will be conducted on the subjects in the sample. The results from this study
on this particular sample or group can be generalised to its population.


Chapter 4: Research Design

There are some important terminologies used in sampling (Kothari, 2014).

i. Population - The group that will be studied, which consists of the original number
of subjects.

ii. Subject – An element (individual, participant, or object) in the population.
iii. Sample – The selected elements for participation in a study.
iv. Sampling frame - List of elements that are to be sampled. The difference between

the population and sampling frame is that the population is more general while the
frame is specific. For example, the population could be those living in Kuala
Lumpur, and the frame would be people who use internet banking.
v. Parameter - A value that is related to the population.
vi. Statistic - A value that is related to the sample.
vii. Sampling error - The difference between the statistical value of the research sample
and the parameter value, which is the actual value of a population.

The general sampling procedure includes determining the sampling frame. This
procedure also includes choosing the right sampling type. The second step is selecting the
samples. The third is conducting statistical tests on the samples. Next, based on the value
obtained from the statistical test, it will be generalised to the research population value, which
is called a parameter.

4.5.1 Sampling Methods

Sampling methods can be divided into probability sampling and non-probability sampling.
Probability sampling means that every member of the target population has a known chance
of being included in the sample. In non-probability sampling, the sample is selected based on
non-random criteria, and not every member of the population has a chance of being included.
Both sampling methods are described as follows: Probability Sampling

Examples of probability sampling include simple random, systematic, stratified, cluster, and
multi-stage sampling.

i. Simple Random Sampling

Simple random sampling is one of the most common sampling methods. It is also
known as chance sampling. In a simple random sampling, the selected sample is a
small, random portion of the entire population to represent the entire data set, where
each member has an equal probability of being chosen. Simple random sampling is
typically used when the researcher knows little about the population. If more
information is known, it is advisable to use a different sampling technique, such
as stratified sampling, which helps to account for the differences within the population,
such as race, age, or gender.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

Researchers can create a simple random sample using lotteries or random
drawing methods. As a simple example, imagine that you have 1000 subjects in a
population, and you number each subject from 1 to 1000. In random sampling, the
subject selection does not need to be systematic. The 100 subjects can be arbitrarily
chosen from any numbered subjects within the population.

ii. Systematic Sampling

Systematic sampling is probability sampling. The sample elements are chosen at
regular predefined intervals of a population. This method is usually the least time-

For example, a researcher intends to collect a systematic sample of 100 people
in a population of 1000. The sample size is equal to 1000/100, which is 10. Each
population element will be numbered from 1-1000, and every 10th individual will be
chosen to be part of the sample. The people who are numbered 10, 20, 30, 40... until
100 will be chosen, instead of any random numbered people. Therefore, this sampling
method is more structured and systematic.

iii. Stratified Sampling

This is a quite common type for a non-homogenous population, where there is a
subgroup within a population. To do the sampling, the population is first categorised
or stratified into non-overlapping groups or strata based on certain characteristics.

Then, each of these groups will have its own sample, for which it is selected
using systematic or random sampling methods. Within a stratified sampling, it also
involves other types of sampling, such as systematic or random sampling for each sub
or group, within the population. In stratified sampling, the cost of taking random
samples from individual strata is often so expensive that interviewers are simply given
a quota to be filled from different strata.

iv. Cluster Sampling

In cluster sampling, the population is grouped into clusters or groups. The clusters are
then randomly selected, including their elements. The clustering method is also a cost-
effective and time-saving method. Another similar sampling type to cluster sampling
is an area sampling method, but this is based on geographical locations.

For example, suppose some departmental store wishes to sample its credit
cardholders. It has issued its cards to 15,000 customers. The sample size is to be kept,
say 450. For cluster sampling, this list of 15,000 cardholders could be formed into 100
clusters of 150 cardholders each. Three clusters might then be selected from the sample

For this sampling type, the sample size must often be larger than the simple
random sample to ensure the same level of accuracy because, for the cluster sampling


Chapter 4: Research Design

method, the procedural potential for order bias and other sources of error is usually
accentuated. The clustering approach can, however, make the sampling procedure
relatively easier and increase fieldwork efficiency, especially in personal interviews.

v. Multi-stage Sampling

This type of probability sampling technique involves multiple different size stages. For
example, the first stage may be the primary sampling units such as states, districts,
towns, and certain families within the towns.

In this multi-stage sampling type, the sample size reduces at each stage. The
random sampling method can be applied at each stage, later known as multi-stage
random sampling. Non-Probability Sampling

Examples of non-probability sampling include deliberate, convenience, quota, and sequential

i. Deliberate Sampling

This type of sampling is also known as non-probability or purposive sampling. This
type of sampling chooses the elements or participants simply based on the research
requirements. The elements that do not suffice the purpose of the research are kept out
of the sample.

This deliberate sampling type is also known as judgement sampling. This type of
sampling is often used in qualitative research, where the desire is to develop
hypotheses rather than generalise the larger populations.

ii. Convenience Sampling

It can be called convenience sampling when the population elements are selected for
inclusion in the sample based on the ease of access. The chosen sample is readily available
in some non-random ways. This method is the most common non-probability sampling
because of its speed, cost-effectiveness, and ease of availability of the sample.

For example, a researcher polls students as they enter a building. This sampling method
can produce a biased sample of students due to the location, time of day, timetables,
and other factors.

iii. Quota Sampling

Quota sampling is when selecting items for the sample is left to the interviewer's judgment.
In this sampling type, the selection of elements is based on a pre-set standard or specific
attributes found in the total population. It is another quick data sampling method.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

The size of the quota for each stratum is generally proportionate to the size of
that stratum in the population. Quota sampling is thus an essential form of non-
probability sampling. Quota samples generally happen to be judgement samples rather
than random samples.

iv. Sequential Sampling

This sampling is a non-probability sampling technique where the researcher selects a
sequence of one or more samples from a group. This technique determines the sample
size according to information yielded as a survey progresses. The sample size is not
fixed in advance. This method works best for a study with few deviations as the
sampling will continue if any deviations are found.

4.5.2 Sampling Error

Sampling error is inevitable as it can occur if the sample does not accurately reflect the
population. There must be room for the error to be represented by a plus and minus variance.
The error, however, decreases as the sample size increases, and vice-versa. The sample error
can be controlled by selecting an adequate sample size. For example, in a simple random
sampling of 30 students, it would be possible to draw only 30 men, even if the population
consists of 200 women and 200 men. The sample you selected does not really reflect the whole
population, consisting of both men and women. At the same time, it is crucial to estimate and
report the sampling errors, which will inevitably exist in selecting subjects from the population
for a research study. In most cases, the maximum sampling error allowed is 5%, with a
confidence level of 95%.

4.5.3 Sampling Size

One of the methods to find a sample size is to use Cochran’s formula (Cochran, 1963), which
is applicable for a very large population (infinite) case. The formula is defined as:

2 (1)
= 2

• 'z' - is the selected critical value of desired confidence level to be read from Table 4.2.

For example, the z-score value is 1.96, for a 95% confidence level.
• ‘p’ is the estimated proportion of an attribute present in the population. The maximum

variability is 0.5.
• ‘q’ is defined as 1 – p.

• 'e' is the desired level of precision

To illustrate, suppose we wish to find a sample size of a population of lecturers who
adopt a new online learning platform. Assuming there is a large population and the variability
in the proportion that will adopt the new platform is unknown, we can use Cochran’s formula
and assume p to be equal to 0.5 (maximum variability). To calculate the sample size needed
with a 95% confidence level and ±5% precision, the z-score and desired level of precision, e,
become 1.96 and 0.05, respectively.


Chapter 4: Research Design

1.962 ⋅ 0.5 ⋅ 0.5
= 0.052 = 384.16 = 384 lecturers

Table 4.2: Z-scores for commonly used confidence intervals

Confidence Area between 0 Area in one tail z-score
Level and z-score ( ⁄2)
0.2500 0.674
50% 0.2500 0.1000 1.282
80% 0.4000 0.0500 1.645
90% 0.4500 0.0250 1.960
95% 0.4750 0.0100 2.326
98% 0.4900 0.0050 2.576
99% 0.4950

When the population is, however, finite, the Cochran’s correction formula can be used

as shown in Equation 2:

= 0 1) (2)
( 0 −
1 +

where 0 is the sample size derived from Equation 1, and N is the known population
size. Hence, if the population size of the lecturers is 5000 people, the new corrected sample
size at 95% confidence level and ±5% precision is calculated below:

= 384 = 356.67 = 357 lecturers

1 + (384 − 1)

The corrected formula shows that if the population is finite, the sample size can be
reduced slightly. Another notably simplified formula for finding the sample size is proposed
by Yamane (1967). The formula is defined below.

= 1 + ( 2)

Suppose we wish to use the Yamane’s formula (1967) for the similar the new online
learning platform adoption case above with ±5% precision, the sample size can be calculated
as below,

= 1 + 5000(0.052) = 370.37 = 370 lecturers

Using the simplified Yamane’s formula, the sample size is slightly larger than that of
Cochran’s finite formula.

4.6 Quantitative Data

Quantitative research data could be collected from an experiment, survey and longitudinal


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

4.6.1 Experiment

Experimental research design is typical in technical fields like engineering and computing.
The purpose of experimental research is to inaugurate the presence of a cause-and-effect
relationship between two variables. It is an effort by the researcher to uphold control over all
causes that may affect the result of an experiment. The researcher tries to decide or foresee
what may happen in doing this.

The experimental research design is a positivist research design. It is carried out to
understand the relationships between variables through careful and accurate identification
and measurement.

There are six steps for experimental research (Thompson and Panacek, 2006):

Step 1: Identify and define the problem.

Step 2: Formulate a hypothesis and deduce its consequence.

Step 3: Construct an experiment representing all the elements, conditions, and relations
to the consequence.

Step 4: Conduct the experiment.

Step 5: Compile raw data and reduce them to a usable form.

Step 6: Apply an appropriate test of significance.

An experimental research design is a procedure blueprint that enables the researcher
to test his hypothesis by reaching valid conclusions about the relationships between
independent and dependent variables. The experiments conducted control one variable while
a second variable is measured, and other variables are controlled to accomplish this goal. The
explanation of the types of variables is as follows:

• Independent Variable
In an experiment, the variable that is manipulated by the researcher is called an
independent variable. The different values of the independent variable or the specific
conditions used in an experiment are called treatment conditions or the levels of the
independent variable. For example, low voltage, medium voltage, high voltage,
traditional, constructivist, and high light, medium light, and low light.

There are two kinds of independent variables; the treatment and control variables.

The treatment variable is a variable that is expected to cause a systematic change
in the dependent variable.


Chapter 4: Research Design

The control variable is another independent variable that may cause a change to the
dependent variable, although this is not the objective of the research.

• Dependent Variable

The dependent variable is the variable that is observed for changes in assessing the
effects of manipulating the independent variable.

• Extraneous and Confounding Variables

Other than the independent and dependent variables, all variables in the study are
called extraneous variables.

The confounding variable is a variable that exists unexpectedly and affects the
relationship between the independent and dependent variables. For example, in the
experiment on the effect of class presentation on study motivation, the treatment may
be conducted at different times, ranging from morning, afternoon, and evening. The
study motivation for the respondents may be different at different times, which is called
the confounding variable.

There are four basic elements of experimental research (Thompson and Panacek, 2006):

Element 1: Manipulation
In general, whenever there is an association between two variables, a researcher can
use manipulation to decide which variable is the cause and which is the effect.
Manipulating one variable can be done by changing its value to create a set of two or
more treatment conditions.

Element 2: Measurement
Gain a set of scores in each treatment condition.

Element 3: Comparison
The scores in one treatment condition are compared with those in another.
Element 4: Control
All other variables are controlled to ensure that they do not influence the two examined
variables. All extraneous variables are held constant for physical control, and only
dependent variables are permitted to vary. For selective control, indirectly manipulate
by selecting in or out variables that cannot be controlled.

For statistical control, variables not conducive to physical or selective manipulation
may be controlled by statistical techniques.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

For example, in a science laboratory, the relationship between heat and temperature can
be identified through the following experiment (Chua, 2012).

• Thermometer A is placed in Beaker A, containing cold water, and thermometer B is
placed in Beaker B, which also contains cold water.

• The water in Beaker B is slowly heated up.
• When heat is added, the water temperature will rise.
• The results show that a change in the heat level will cause a change in temperature,

indicated by the thermometer.

In this case, Beaker A is the control set, which is used as the comparative set, whereas
Beaker B is the treatment set. The researcher will observe Beaker B to investigate if there are
any changes to it after treatment when the heat is applied. Treatment is defined as the deliberate
change performed or a change is made to the independent variable. The experimental research
design is carried out by manipulating the independent variable (in this case, heat change in
Beaker B) and observing its effect (changes) on the dependent variable (temperature change).
The design provides clear evidence of the cause-effect relationship between the independent
and dependent variables.

Well-planned research will show the treatment or change made to the independent
variable on purpose and cause the dependent variable to change while all the other conditions
are held constant. This means that, for the experimental study discussed above, other factors
such as water quantity, thermometer size, and lighting in both the treatment and control sets
must be the same to convince people what caused the dependent variable (which is the water
temperature) to change is actually the independent variable (which is the heat), and no other
factor. In experimental design, a comparison is made to see if any change occurred in the
dependent variable, after a treatment has been given to the treatment group. Experiment Research Design

Experimental research designs can be classified into four categories (Thompson & Panacek,

Type 1: Pre-experimental designs
Pre-experimental designs are named because they shadow basic experimental steps but fail to
include a control group. In other words, a single group is often studied, but no comparison
between an equivalent non-treatment group is made and no random assignment. Pre-
experimental designs are good or recommended as a pilot study or pre-trial.

For examples:

Case 1: One-shot case study.
The goal is to determine if the treatment had any effect on the outcome.

Case 2: One group pre-test-post-test design.
A benefit of this design is the addition of a pretest to determine baseline scores.


Chapter 4: Research Design

Type 2: Single case design

The single-case design is aimed to examine whether an intervention is effective, for a
particular individual, in terms of improvements in learning or behaviours. While it should not
be confused with a case study, a single case design has a sample size of one participant, no
comparison group, or random assignment. It is an addition to the quasi-experimental, one-
group time-series design.

Type 3: True experimental design

The three important aspects of true experimental designs are:
a. manipulation of independent variables
b. randomisation
c. comparison group

Manipulation techniques include:
a. the presence or absence technique
b. the amount technique
c. the type technique

Random assignment is a randomisation technique that is used to place research participants
into groups, for example, experimental or control groups. The true experimental design uses
comparison groups using two or more equivalent groups, with different conditions, for the
purpose of comparison. For example, the group which receives the treatment, such as
interaction activity, is called the experimental group. In comparison, the group that does not
obtain the treatment is called the control group.

Type 4: Quasi-experimental design

The term ‘quasi’ is a Latin word for ‘almost.’ We cannot do random assignments in quasi-
experimental research. In real-life situations, there are intact classes that cannot be rearranged.
Hence, researchers cannot achieve complete control over potential confounding variables,
which can be threats. Researchers often attempt to maximise the realism of the experimental
environment to increase the external validity of the results.

Two standard techniques are used to accomplish this: simulation and field studies.
Simulation is the creation of conditions within an experiment that simulates or closely
duplicates the natural environment being examined. Research studies conducted in a real-
world environment are called field studies. In these studies, the researchers create an
emergency situation, then manipulate variables within the emergency and observe bystander

As the basis of the experimental research design, the experimental research design is
specially created to evaluate the effectiveness of a program or a treatment on a performance.
By focusing on the comparison among the data sets, the experimental design enables the
researchers to identify the program's effect. Note that the true experimental design is used


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

when respondents are randomly assigned into equivalent groups, while in quasi-experimental
design, a group of specific people is being studied. In a quasi-experimental design, the nature
of the respondents is prioritised. In true experimental design, the characteristics of respondents
are the subjects from two groups of respondents with identical characteristics and are
randomly assigned.

4.6.2 Survey

Survey research is a commonly used design in social sciences and is also known as descriptive
research. Survey research uses quantitative data instruments, such as questionnaires and
interviews, to get information from the subjects under the study. According to Brown (2001),
questionnaires can be defined as “any written instruments that present respondents with a
series of questions or statements to which they are to react either by writing out their answers
or selecting them among existing answers” (p.6). A survey is characteristically in the form of
a questionnaire and is commonly reflected as amongst the most ubiquitous techniques of
accumulating data on opinions and attitudes from a large group of subjects. Therefore, a survey
has been used to explore an extensive diversity of queries in social science research.

Surveys permit researchers to review dissimilar clusters' features or examine their
attitudes and opinions on specific concerns. One of the main benefits of using questionnaires
in research is that it is more cost-effective and practical than individual interviews. Secondly,
questionnaires could stimulate longitudinal data from subjects within a shorter period. Thirdly,
questionnaires can be distributed in many procedures, such as face-to-face or via e-mail,
online, phone, etc. Due to their flexibility, questionnaires offer researchers greater elasticity
during data collection. Finally, questionnaires can also stimulate equivalent information from
subjects in a shorter length. Types of Surveys

There are four types of surveys, as described by Ary et al. (2006):
● Census
Census refers to a survey that shields the whole population under study. Researchers
first need to outline the exact population under investigation in the census survey.
● Sample Survey
A sample survey refers to a survey that explores a specific portion of the population.
● Cross-Sectional Survey
In cross-sectional surveys, researchers gather information on different populations at
one point in time.
● Longitudinal Survey
In longitudinal surveys, researchers collect information on the same subjects over a
period of time.


Chapter 4: Research Design Basic Steps in Survey Research

Survey research permits researchers to gain data from people of a bigger sample comparatively
fast and economically. To do so, the research needs to be carefully planned and implemented so
that the research would be able to yield consistent and effective information. The following are
the elementary stages in survey research.

Step 1: Planning
Survey research commences with a query that the research can be responded to most applicably
by the survey approach. For instance, “What is the extent of the synchronous mode used by
lecturers in the private sector of higher education institutions?” or “How do the students perceive
the implementation of virtual learning?”.

Step 2: Defining the Population
One of the most important stages is to outline the population under the study. The population can
be either massive or rather limited. For instance, the population might be all public sector of higher
education institutions in Malaysia or all private sector academics in Melaka. A clearly defined
population is very important so that researchers can classify suitable subjects to choose and
identify to whom the results can be generalised. The next step after defining the population stage
is; that the researcher needs to attain or build a thorough list of all individuals in the population,
which is also known as a sampling frame.

Step 3: Sampling
In certain circumstances, researchers choose a sample from a population because, usually, it is
impossible to survey the whole population. Selecting a sample that could give similar results as if
the entire population is studied is essential. The sample chosen should be able to represent the
population. Therefore, selecting the sampling procedure is also essential.
Step 4: Constructing the Instrument
Constructing the instrument is one of the main tasks in survey research. The instrument can either
be adapted or adopted from previous research or a newly self-developed instrument.

Step 5: Conducting the Survey
Once the instrument is ready, it must be tested on the subjects, also called field-tested, to decide if
it will bring the anticipated data.

Step 6: Data Processing
Several tasks are involved in the data processing step, including data coding, analysis and
interpretation of the results, and reporting the findings. Data Gathering Techniques

Generally, there are two elementary methods of data gathering interviews and
questionnaires. Interviews may be conducted in person or through other channels such as
phone, email forms or online devices. In addition, questionnaires can also be directly
administered face-to-face or sent through mail, emails or online. The advantages and
disadvantages of each data gathering technique are described in Table 4.3.


A Basic Guide to Research Methodology

Table 4.3: Advantages and disadvantages of data gathering techniques

Data Gathering Advantages Disadvantages

Personal interview • researcher presence can create • time-consuming

Telephone relationships between researcher and • can be costly
Mailed respondents • a tendency for interviewer bias
• provide more flexibility to the researcher and social desirability bias
questionnaires where both can negotiate to gain • interviewers need to be trained

Directly understanding • no privacy
questionnaires • fewer tendency to get incomplete answers

• offers more benefits for surveys on

complicated issues

• respondents have more time for thoughtful


• low cost respondents may decline to give

• quick cooperation or talk, so questions
• convenience must be short but direct

• greater safety for interviewers

• offers anonymity • time-consuming

• no interviewer biases • low response rate

• convenient • respondents cannot clarify a

• non-threatening for both researcher and question

respondents • a tendency for missing data

• low cost • limited only to those who are

• easy for researchers computer savvy

• convenient for the respondents • tough in getting cooperation

• offers anonymity • potentially lower response rate

• most likely able to obtain a quick response • the researcher may be unable to

• low social desirability bias classify respondents

• greater safety for researcher and


• high response rate less flexibility in relation to time and

• researcher presence place Constructing the Instrument

After determining the sampling procedure, the next task is to develop an instrument that will
offer the desired data to fulfil the research objectives. Since the survey data comprise
responses to a particular question, it is vital, to begin with the right questions.


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