Great discussion!! Sorry for being late in joining this discussion.
Following are my reaction/response to those 3 questions:
What is research?
In its simplest form the definition of research refers to “a systematic and rigorus process of searching new knowledge or testing/verifying existing knowledge in any discipline of life”. Since Research has been defined differently by different people, to me the on of the most comprehensive definition is: “ Research is a careful, systematic, study and investigation in some field of knowledge, to discover and establish new facts, reach new conclusions or revise facts, theories and applications”.
There are numerous reasons why research is important and done. Following are the examples of some of those: To inform policy decisions, to find solutions to a complex problem be it social, political, economic, medical, or geographical, to test the efficacy of a new drug, to find answers to questions that do not have a ready-made answer or have controversial answers, to describe the extent, the depth and significance of a problem, to understand the underlying factors that are responsible for any given situation or a problem, to understand causal pathways (what leads to what) through which any particular problem occurs, to understand deep rooted structural factors that directly or indirectly shape people’s behavior and attitude………etc. The list could be really long.
Research can be of many different types based on its objectives/purpose, and the methods that it applies.
Based on objectives, research can be categorized into four major groups: (a) Basic (b) Applied (c) Descriptive (d) Analytical
Basic research focuses on generating new knowledge in any branch of knowledge where as applied research is done to find solution to a current problem and the knowledge generated through the research is applied immediately to solve the problem.
Descriptive research, the main objective is to describe an existing situation, what and how with very limited scope to explain why that situation exists.
Whereas analytical research focuses more on doing rigorus and scientifically sound causal analysis to explain why that situation exists, in most cases analytical research is done to establish cause and effects relationship, to demonstrate attribution of a project or program to the achieved impact, to test a new hypothesis or verify existing hypothesis that does not have enough scientific knowledge to support evidence.
Based on methods, research can be divided into 3 different types; Quantitative, qualitative or mixed method that apply both. Quantitative research focuses on collecting facts and figures in numeric terms, analysing those using various statistical tools and methods and present the findings to describe how big or serious a situation/problem is. The qualitative research on the other hand focuses more on collecting facts in narrative form, analyzing the relationship between various facts using qualitative tools and give possible explanations of why that situation exists. Both quantitative and qualitative research can play a very strong complementary role to each other, and that is why the mixed method approach is getting more and more popular and becoming method of choice particularly for social and development sector.
However within those broad types describe above, there are lots of different types of research those are known by the method that is used to conduct each of those, such as cross sectional survey, case-control study, randomized controlled trial, longitudinal survey, participatory action research, ethnographic research, theoretical and empirical research, idiographic and nomothetic Research etc. etc. Apart from these research can also be categorized by the major domain or areas of research such as Medical or clinical research, social research, economic research, political research etc . However which is more important is that before choosing any particular types of research, it is crucial to be very clear about the objective and have a clearly articulated set of research questions.
Definitely all knowledge is important. However not all data or information is knowledge as it is, it has to be gathered using proper tools, synthesized and analysed using rigorus methods to translate that into knowledge. From that perspective, yes researcher definitely deserves the credit to translate the data and information into knowledge, but if he or she manipulates data or information produce knowledge that only satisfy him/herself or a particular group then it is definitely not acceptable. As researcher it is extremely important to ensure that H/she captures knowledge from the right people (the direct beneficiaries as well as other stakeholders who might have knowledge about the same subjects) and all the possible available sources and analyse and present it without distorting the key message. That is why particularly in social research, validation of knowledge before drawing any conclusion or making inference out of it is very important.
On the last point "Critiquing the dominant research paradigm" this is a completely new learning for me, so thanks to course organizer. Yes I have learnt that there are mainly 4 types of critique:
Absolute Critique, Purist Critique, rationalist critique and Elitist critique.
To me the way I understood “absolute critique” is that when research is done with the main purpose of generating knowledge but not to take action on that meaning in many cases the findings of the research or the new is not properly utilized for the benefits of human being . This is really a very common practice and a major area of concern. Any research design therefore should have a clear plan of how the research findings/knowledge will be utilized.
Purist Critique is when the methods and the process is entirely controlled by the researchers in order to maintain the objectivity, which again can have the risk of losing some important knowledge or distortion of the fact just because of the rigidity in research design.
The Rationalist critique refers to over reacting or the excessive reliance on thinking, observing and conceptualising as the main modes of knowing and researching.
“The final critique of the dominant research paradigm is aimed at its elite control over the methods and outcomes of research. The techniques of research are presently available only to a body of professionals who enjoy elite status ….. . those who are researched, have no control over the research and its outcome. So there is a risk that “Research serves the needs of those in power, simply because they are better positioned economically, politically, and socially to determine what questions are asked, as well as to utilise the findings of research. The providers of information are denied any control over it”.
I liked the conclusion that said “In spite of the above critiques, it is important for us to remember that dominant conventional social research paradigms per se are not a problem. In fact, they are usually useful as they summarise social information in a form which is convenient and is readily transferred and disseminated”.