Why Research? Importance of Research. Aims and Motives of social research.
What Is Research?
Research comprises “creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.” It is used to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support theorems, or develop new theories. A research project may also be an expansion on past work in the field. To test the validity of instruments, procedures, or experiments, research may replicate elements of prior projects, or the project as a whole. The primary purposes of basic research (as opposed to applied research) are documentation, discovery, interpretation, or the research and development (R&D) of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge. Approaches to research depend on epistemologies, which vary considerably both within and between humanities and sciences. There are several forms of research: scientific, artistic, economic, social, business, marketing, practitioner research, life, technological etc.
Research has been defined in a number of different ways.
A broad definition of research is given by Godwin Colibao – “In the broadest sense of the word, the definition of research includes any gathering of data, information and facts for the advancement of knowledge.’’
Another definition of research is given by John W. Creswell who states that – “Research is a process of steps used to collect and analyze information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue”. It consists of three steps: Pose a question, collect data to answer the question, and present an answer to the question.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines research in more detail as “a studious inquiry or examination; especially investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws”
Importance of research
Research is actually an act of studying something carefully and extensively in order to attain deep knowledge in the same. For being successful, research should be systematic, arranged, summarized and recorded properly. Research is not only a process that is limited to the field of science. It can, as well, cater to people and scholars from artistic, historic or any other field where an individual is willing to do extensive study to get relevant information. Research can be creative, exploring or just reassuring in nature. Each one of us does some or the other research in our lifetime for sure. Research can affect a subject both positively and negatively and can be constructive or destructive in nature. Some people believe that research is mostly destructive in nature. However, you need to understand that it’s not the results from a research that determine its use; it’s the people who handle the results. In the following lines, we have just tried to emphasize the importance of research.
Significance of Research
To Gather Necessary Information
Research provides you with all necessary information in field of your work, study or operation before you begin working on it. For example, most companies do research before beginning a project in order to get a basic idea about the things they will need to do for the project. Research also helps them get acquainted with the processes and resources involved and reception from the market. This information helps in the successful outcome of the project.
To Make Changes
Sometimes, there are in-built problems in a process or a project that is hard to discover. Research helps us find the root cause and associated elements of a process. The end result of such a research invokes a demand for change and sometimes is successful in producing changes as well. For example, many U.N researches have paved way for changes in environmental policies.
Improving Standard Of Living
Only through research can new inventions and discoveries come into life. It was C.V Raman’s research that prompted invention of radio communication. Imagine how you would have communicated had Graham Bell not come out with the first ever practical telephone! Forget telephones, what would have happened if Martin Cooper did not present the world the concept of mobile phones! Addicted as we are to mobile phones, we need to understand that all the luxuries and the amenities that are now available to us are the result of research done by someone. And with the world facing more and crisis each day, we need researchers to find new solutions to tackle them.
For A Safer Life
Research has made ground breaking discoveries and development in the field of health, nutrition, food technology and medicine. These things have improved the life expectancy and health conditions of human race in all parts of the world and helped eradicate diseases like polio, smallpox completely. Diseases that were untreatable are now history, as new and new inventions and research in the field of medicine have led to the advent of drugs that not only treat the once-incurable diseases, but also prevent them from recurring.
To Know the Truth
It has been proved time and again that many of established facts and known truths are just cover ups or blatant lies or rumors. Research is needed to investigate and expose these and bring out the truth.
Research form an important aspect in any profession. As per the dictionary meaning Research is a systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.
The primary purpose of any research is of discovering, interpretation and analysis of information so to enhance human knowledge.
Research in Mass Communication and Journalism forms a core aspect in decision making, expressing and analyzing of news, views and information. Media is a very sensitive area as it is connected to the masses therefore care should be taken in the delivery of the message to the masses.
Accuracy and Objectivity is must in news reporting. A story should always be well researched before publishing or airing on TV. In Broadcast Media different programs are produced to run 24 hours news channels for that knowing audience behavior. Audience behavioral research can give an idea to a researcher. A good program is always a well researched program.
Media practitioner can do their job more effectively if they get to know about the target audience which can help them in planning and executing programs. Media research is also used in conducting surveys, public opinion polls, Advertising and Public Relations campaigns which helps in providing perspective to a report.
Top 5 Major Objectives of Social Research
This article throws light on the five major objectives of social research, i.e,
(1)Manipulation of Things, Concepts and Symbols,
(3)Verification of Old Facts,
(4) Extension of Knowledge,
(5) Knowledge May be Used for Theory Building or Practical Application.
- Manipulation of Things, Concepts and Symbols:
While, dealing with things the scientist remains at the concrete level. He is able to purposefully handle things for experimentation. But at this level his results are at best limited to the particular thing in a specific situation and none else. Therefore the concepts symbolizing the things and their properties are also dealt with, so as to make much sense to conduct controlled inquiries through abstract notions. Use of concepts or symbols in the process of manipulation not only reduces the content and load of the things but also provides the scientist with greater facility and effect.
The sole purpose with which manipulation of things, concepts or symbols is undertaken is to arrive at statements of generality. It implies that the findings of controlled investigation should be a conclusion which will enable us to expect that under certain class of conditions influencing a class of things, something will happen in a generalized manner, notwithstanding its degree.
But in any case the absence is generality cannot characterize science. Therefore the propositions derived on the basis of observations and through manipulation of things, concepts or symbols may vary in their levels of generality, may maintain a high or low degree but should never reach the null point.
Otherwise those will move beyond the framework of science. In this regard, Slesinger and Stepheson have given the example of a physician or automobile mechanic as playing the role of a researcher. Whereas the automobile mechanic endeavors to generalize about the automobiles, the physician attempts to make ailments for a given class of patients.
- Verification of Old Facts:
A major purpose of social research is verification of conclusions which have already been accepted as established facts. Since there is no place for complacency in the arena of science, the established system of knowledge always warrant frequentative scrutiny so as to confirm whether or not the observations are in accordance with the predictions made on the basis of the established corpus of knowledge. In case it is confirmed, the empirical observation strengthens the established system of knowledge. Otherwise in the light of the research outcome, the system of established corpus of knowledge calls for revision or even rejection.
- Extension of Knowledge:
As a sequel to generalization the seemingly inconsistencies in the existing corpus of knowledge are brought into light and attempts are made to reconcile these inconsistencies. The new general proposition, established as an outcome of research also identifies gaps in the established system of knowledge. A gap in knowledge implies the inadequacy of the theory as well as the failure of a conceptual scheme to explain and account for certain aspects of a social phenomenon.
The gap is bridged up in the light of the new empirical observations. Thus knowledge gets expanded. The expansion of systematic knowledge occurs at least in a couple of ways. First in cognizing certain aspects of phenomena which were not examined in these terms prior to the advent of the new general proposition.
Secondly in the light of new observation, the phenomena under investigation may be incorporated in a comparatively large class of phenomena, so as to be governed by a uniform law. As a result, the new system of knowledge not only accumulates more units under its conceptual scheme, but also appreciates greater depth of understanding and bettering of predictions.
- Knowledge May be Used for Theory Building or Practical Application:
By seeking to explain the unexplained social phenomena, clarifying the doubtful one and correcting the misconceived facts relating to it, social research provides the scope to use the fruits of research in two possible ways:
(a) Theory building
(b) Practical application.
In its basic or pure form social research gathers knowledge for the sake of it, for building a theory in order to explain human behavior in its totality, only for the satisfaction of knowing. For construction of theoretic models, the researcher organizes knowledge into propositions and then meaningfully articulated those propositions to constitute a more abstract conceptual system pertaining to a class of phenomena, influenced by a certain class of conditions.
In its practical or applied form, social research gathers information regarding the betterment of quality of life in social settings. The findings of social research are used as the means to an end, not construed just as an end in itself From its utilitarian point of view the results of social research provide decision makers with proper guidelines for policy making, social welfare, amelioration of practical problems, mitigation or resolution of social conflict and tensions as well as rectification and removal of social evils.
Research In Mass Communication
During the early part of the twentieth century, there was no interest in the size of an audience or in the types of people who make up the audience. Since then, mass media operators have come to rely on research results for nearly every major decision they make. The increased demand for information has created a need for more researchers, both public and private. In addition, within the research field are many specializations. Research directors plan and supervise studies and act as liaisons to management; methodological specialists provide statistical support; research analysts design and interpret studies; and computer specialists provide hardware and software support in data analysis.
Research in mass media is used to verify or refute opinions or intuitions for decision makers. Although common sense is some- times accurate, media decision makers need additional objective information to evaluate problems, especially when they make decisions that involve large sums of money. The past 60 years have witnessed the evolution of a decision-making approach that com bines research and intuition to produce a higher probability of success.
Research is not limited only to decision- making situations. It is also widely used in theoretical areas to attempt to describe the media, to analyze media effects on consumers, to understand audience behavior, and so on. Every day there are references in the media to audience surveys, public opinion polls, growth projections, status reports of one medium or another, or advertising or public relations campaigns. As philosopher Suzanne Langer (1967) said, “Most new discoveries are suddenly-seen things that were always there.” Mass media researchers have a great deal to see, and virtually everyone is exposed to this information every day.
Two final points before we get into media research: First, media research and the need for qualified researchers will continue to grow, but it is difficult to find qualified researchers who can work in the public and private sectors. Second, we urge you to search the Internet for additional information on every topic discussed in this book. We have identified some areas for further investigation, but do not limit your searching to only our suggestions. Internet searches are not good for primary research, but they are useful as a starting point for information gathering.
Origins and Growth of Mass Media Research
At least four major events or social forces have encouraged the growth of mass media research.
The first was World War I, which prompted a need to understand the nature of propaganda. Researchers working from a stimulus-response point of view attempted to uncover the effects of the media on people (Lasswell, 1927). The media at that time were thought to exert a powerful influence over their audiences, and several assumptions were made about what the media could and could not do. One theory of mass media, later named the hypodermic needle model of communication, suggested that mass communicators need only “shoot” messages at an audience and those messages would produce preplanned and al- most universal effects. The belief then was that all people behave in similar ways when they encounter media messages. We know now that individual differences among people rule out this overly simplistic view. As DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach (1989) note
These assumptions may not have been explicitly formulated at the time, but they were drawn from fairly elaborate theories of human nature, as well as the nature of the social order. . . . It was these theories that guided the thinking of those who saw the media as powerful.
A second contributor to the development of mass media research was the realization by advertisers in the 1950s and 1960s that research data are useful in developing ways to persuade potential customers to buy products and services. Consequently, advertisers encouraged studies of message effectiveness, audience demographics and size, placement of advertising to achieve the highest level of exposure (efficiency), frequency of advertising necessary to persuade potential customers, and selection of the medium that offered the best chance of reaching the target audience.
A third contributing social force was the increasing interest of citizens in the effects of the media on the public, especially on children. The direct result was an interest in research related to violence and sexual content in television programs and in commercials aired during children’s programs. Researchers have expanded their focus to include the positive (prosocial) as well as the negative (antisocial) effects of television. Investigating violence on television is still an important endeavor, and new research is published every year.
Increased competition among the media for advertising dollars was a fourth contributor to the growth of research. Most media managers are now sophisticated and use managers are now sophisticated and use and an increasing dependency on data to support the decisions they make. Even program producers seek relevant research data, a task usually assigned to the creative side of program development. In addition, the mass media now focus on audience fragmentation, which means that the mass of people is divided into small groups, or niches (technically referred to as the “demassification” of the mass media). Researchers need information about these smaller groups of people.
The competition among the media for audiences and advertising dollars continues to reach new levels of complexity. The media “survival kit” today includes information about consumers’ changing values and tastes, shifts in demographic patterns, and developing trends in lifestyles. Audience fragmentation increases the need for trend studies (fads, new behavior patterns), image studies (people’s perceptions of the media and their environment), and segmentation studies (explanations of behavior by types or groups of people). Large research organizations, consultants, and media owners and operators conduct research that was previously considered the sole property of the marketing, psychology, and sociology disciplines. With the advent of increased competition and audience fragmentation media managers more frequently use marketing strategies in an attempt to discover their position in the marketplace. When this position is identified, the medium is packaged as an “image” rather than a product. (Similarly, the producers of consumer goods such as soap and toothpaste try to sell the “image” of these products because the products themselves are similar, if not the same, from company to company.)
This packaging strategy involves deter mining what the members of the audience think, how they use language, how they spend their spare time, and so on. Information on these ideas and behaviors is then used in the merchandising effort to make the medium seem to be part of the audience Positioning thus involves taking information from the audience and interpreting the data to use in marketing the medium. (For more information about positioning companies and products in the business and consumer worlds, see Ries & Trout, 1997, 2001.)
Much of the media research before the early 1960s originated in psychology and sociology departments at colleges and universities. Researchers with backgrounds in the media were rare because the mass media were young. But this situation has changed. Media departments in colleges and universities grew rapidly in the 1960s, and media researchers entered the scene. Today mass media researchers dominate the mass media research field, and now the trend is to encourage cross-disciplinary studies in which media researchers invite participation from sociologists, psychologists, and political scientists. Because of the pervasiveness of the media, researchers from all areas of science are now actively involved in attempting to answer media-related questions.
Modern mass media research includes a variety of psychological and sociological investigations, such as physiological and emotional responses to television programs, commercials, or music played on radio stations. In addition, computer modeling and other sophisticated computer analyses are now commonplace in media research to determine such things as the potential success of television programs (network or syndicated). Once considered eccentric by some, mass media research is now a legitimate and esteemed field.