The fundamentals of research
DOI link for The fundamentals of research
The fundamentals of research book
This chapter provides a multidisciplinary perspective on what constitutes good research. It informs discussion using the example of Charles Darwin who was history’s pre-eminent researcher and spent five years studying nature at first hand whilst sailing the world on HMS Beagle, followed by two decades developing a foundational scientific concept in the theory of evolution. Darwin overthrew established concepts after ground-breaking field research and catalysed long overdue innovation across multiple scientific disciplines.
Research starts with ontology which involves examining the properties of data; it then moves on to epistemology or the nature of relationships between data, which is what we know about reality; and ideally develops theory which enables prediction. The absence of a single best research methodology is a major contributor to its weakness.
An important contributor to knowledge is the role of paradigms, which are constellations of universally recognised facts, theories and methods that represent established orthodoxy and are set out in current textbooks. These at once socialise knowledge by providing a framework in which to fit new data, and socialise research by providing guidance on what should be seen. Thus they are important in providing effective, durable frameworks for teachers, students and practitioners, as well as researchers. Their strengths, though, become constraints on knowledge innovation and continuous improvement in theory.
After discussing research methodology and formation of paradigms, this chapter closes with a bleak assessment of researchers’ expertise.