Academic research provides students with an opportunity to explore an area that interests them. It also assists pupils to share their thoughts and findings. In addition, students can conceptualize information from various avenues and earn good grades by proving that they can think critically about their topic of interest. Such benefits can only materialise if one is familiar with the numerous ways of conducting an academic research. Academicians have to develop relevant skills, and be able to utilize the various methods available for conducting a research in their areas of interest.
Participant observation, better known as ethnography, is one of the ways of conducting an academic research. In this method, a student-cum-researcher becomes a member of a situation or group he or she is researching on. For example, the researchers would have to live among a community that they are investigating. This allows a researcher to obtain first-hand information and have a personal taste of the experience. The approach is an effective method of conducting an academic research, especially on a small group of people, which can either be covert or overt. The former situation means that the subject being observed is oblivious to the research. Whereas in the latter case, the subjects are aware of what is occurring.
Small study subjects used in the ethnography approach, on the downside, maybe unrepresentative of a larger population. Also, some of the subjects may have been previously influenced and as a result impact the outcome of the academic research. Furthermore, establishing trust with the subjects to gain an accurate self-representation is time-consuming and maybe unsustainable when a research should be done within a short time-frame and with limited resources.
Students who have limited resources or time to conduct extensive academic research can opt for cross sectional studies. This involves researching on different people or organizations that possess various similarities or differences between them at any period. For instance, this academic research method can enable a student to study the link between the time spent on watching television and obesity by researching on a sample of the population that they are interested in. The approach could involve asking participants about their weight/height ratio and the number of hours they spend watching television. Samples for cross sectional studies are often more representative of larger populations.
However, the major limitation of cross sectional studies method is its inability to provide definite information regarding cause and effect relationships. Most situations are as a result of a myriad of contributing factors. A researcher can, therefore, be unable to tell whether one variable or a combination is responsible for the change in another variable.
Use of case studies is another helpful means in doing an effective academic research. Here, a student researches on a specific subject in an in-depth manner. The application of an in-depth analysis helps identify any issues that a student may overlook when using another academic research method, such as, a survey. The information gathered from this research could be quantitative or qualitative. However, case studies can be used to further develop various theories, such as, experimental, explanatory, illustrative, or descriptive. Such revelations help one relate them to existing theories on the situation under research.
Academic research is a pivotal part of a student’s academic performance. Understanding the numerous methods of conducting academic research will make the exercise more successful. Students, however, ought to appreciate that the subject and design of their research are what determines the methodologies they opt to employ. Consequently, the selected methodologies will often impact the data analysis and collection process.