This new edition of a valued guide for construction students will:
- instil rigour into your problem solving and the production of reports and publications
- is one of the few books to provide guidance on research formulation, methodologies, and
methods specifically for construction students
- has been extended in scope to cover many areas of debate, e.g. research ethics, and quantitative
& qualitative research
Keywords: This chapter introduces the main concepts of research to provide a firm basis for producing a good research proposal and for undertaking research successfully. A definition of research is provided and the variety of contexts of undertaking research are discussed to that appropriate and informed selection may be made. Different approaches to research are examined &ndash
This chapter introduces the main concepts of research to provide a firm basis for producing a good research proposal and for undertaking research successfully. A definition of research is provided and the variety of contexts of undertaking research are discussed to that appropriate and informed selection may be made. Different approaches to research are examined &ndash, notably, pure and applied, and qualitative and quantitative &ndash, together with their combination through &ldquo, triangulation&rdquo, . The concepts of theories and paradigms are introduced as fundamental bases for executing a research project. Styles of study are considered &ndash, including action research, ethnographic research, surveys, case studies and experiments &ndash, and questions which research projects address are discussed. Issues relating to data collection are introduced. The ethical issues of confidentiality and anonymity are discussed and the essential need for objectivity is emphasised.
This chapter considers the processes by which a suitable topic for research (such as a dissertation or a thesis) may be selected. Often, the selection process is one of narrowing from a subject area to a particular topic or issue for study &ndash, leading to the development of the &ldquo, research question&rdquo, to be investigated. Increasingly, resourse constraints apply &ndash, financial, intellectual, data accessibility, etc &ndash, which must be taken into account in producing a viable proposal. Criteria and parameters must be evaluated along with the rationale for undertaking the research. Hence, the chapter details the main contents of a research proposal and provides guidance for their incorporation &ndash, including devising the aim, proposition, objectives, hypothesis, methodology and methods, programme (schedule) for carrying out the research, and securing industrial support. Throughout, the requirement is for objectivity, especially in the formulation and subsequent testing of (any) hypotheses.
In this chapter, we consider the required activities during the early stages of carrying out the research work. Research is a dynamic process and requires both data and information in various forms. Definitions of terms and explicit identification of assumptions is a vital component in the collection and reviewing of theory and literature. Mechanisms to assist collection of such information are discussed, including literature based discovery, in particular, the imperative is to be systematic and rigorous. Major ontological and epistemological approaches are reviewed &ndash, including positivism and phenomenology, constructivism and reductionism, realism, and fuzzy thinking. Modelling is examined, with emphasis on theoretical models and constructs. Throughout, it is stressed that the review produced in the research report is a critical review of the theory and literature and, to avoid plagiarism, is referenced thoroughly, consistently, and correctly.
This chapter examines approaches to empirical, or field, work in a research project. For most research projects, it is important that field work (data collection, and analysis) should not begin until the review of theory and literature has been carried out &ndash, an exception may be grounded theory studies. Problems of placing too much reliance on experience are considered. Issues in research design are examined &ndash, including empiricism, deduction, induction and abduction, and variance and errors. The main approaches to collecting data for qualitative studies are reviewed, including the use of &ldquo, grounded&rdquo, theory. Similarities and differences for making measurements and collecting quantitative data are examined, and problems of data allocation and coding are reviewed. Concerns of control in experiments and quasi-experiments are addressed in the context of experimental designs. Case study research is discussed, especially regarding exploratory and explanatory studies. Requirements of modelling and difficulties in conducting empirical study in a social context are considered &ndash, notably, the handling of different types of variables and establishing relationships between them, in particular, the issue of causality. Various aspects of simulation are discussed Attention is drawn to issues over determining the appropriate level for research and problems and means of moving between levels to avoid the &ldquo, ecological fallacy&rdquo, etc..
This chapter considers the definition of a hypothesis, distinguished from a proposition, and proceeds to discuss the use and testing of any hypothesis and to examine how appropriate it is to formulate hypotheses for different types of studies. The essentials of a valid hypothesis are explained. Types of research where it is desirable, if not essential, to have a hypothesis are discussed to aid both objectivity and delineation of the parameters of the research. That research should rigorously test the hypothesis, not seek to prove it, is explained. The role of sampling is discussed and basic statistical measures for distributions (centrality and variability) are noted. A variety of statistical measures are outlined to inform the research design with a view to proper collection and analysis of data. The use of null hypotheses is examined and how such hypotheses assist determination of the level of confidence in research findings. Common types of error in hypotheses testing are discussed and the primary types of validity are examined.
As data collection methods and resultant data sets are vital to research (underpinning anlysis and resulte, etc.), this chapter addresses a variety of issues concerning collection of data. In particular, the issues of sampling and samples are examined &ndash, size and structure, stressing the need to first identify the population from which the data will be drawn. The various types of data are discussed and the tests to which they may be subjected. Approaches to obtain data from respondents are outlined &ndash, surveys, questionnaires, interviews, etc. &ndash, along with the necessity to preserve confidentiality and anonymity in some instances. (Research ethics is detailed in Chapter 8.) The issue of response rates is important and must be taken into account when deciding the size of a sample. Piloting is vital to ensure data provision by respondents is easy and the requirements are clear and that the data may be analysed rigorously to test any hypothesis and address the objectives of the study. A vital consideration is the scale of measurement used to collect data &ndash, hence scales are examined in detail for what they are, how used and consequences for analysing the data. Threats to validity and reliability are discussed, including various forms of repsonse bias and issues of late and non-responses, effects of response styles and means to deal with such potential biases are addressed.
This chapter considers a wide variety of techniques for analysing data. It is useful to aim to maintain simplicity (parsimony), understanding what analyses are being undertaken and why, and their validity, is paramount. Usually, it is helpful to plot the raw data to gain a first impression of any patterns to inform further analysis. Leading non-parametric tests (sign test, rank sum test, goodness of fit, etc.) are discussed, followed by consideration of parametric tests (t-test, analysis of variance, the basics of regression and correlation, time series and index numbers). Further analytic techniques are presented, including cluster analysis, factor analysis, discourse and conversation analysis, social network analysis, and processual analysis. Multi-level research and meta analysis are adressed also. It is important to use only those tests and techniques which are appropriate to the data, so, awareness of the nature of the data collected (especially, the scale of measurement) is vital. Often, results in the form of hierarchies will be obtained &ndash, in such instances, rank correlations may be useful.
This chapter reviews the main concepts and theories of ethics and their foundations in morals. Applications of ethics at various levels and with particular reference to the research processes are addressed. Principles of research ethics and their applications under the ESRC&rsquo, s Framework of Research Ethics in UK and the Belmont Report (USA) are discussed. Those fall into two major categories &ndash, use of theory and literature (published work of others) and avoidance of plagiarism, and data collected in the field &ndash, especially from identifiable persons (or organisations). Particular care over data relating to human subjects is emphasised &ndash, most notably, the concepts of &ldquo, informed consent&rdquo, by providers of data and &ldquo, no harm&rdquo, to persons (and other living things), and honesty and integrity on the part of researchers &ndash, in collection, use, and disposal of data. Thus, the role of ethics approving committees, etc. is important. Finally, legislation relating to data protection and freedom of information are examined.
This chapter considers various approaches to the production and presentation of the results obtained from analysing the data collected. Thus, the requirement for valid results is paramount and so, various (common) sources and types of error are discussed along with the requirements for reliability. Consideration of the results in the context of the theory and literature enables inferences to be drawn and the results to be discussed in context &ndash, that is an essential component of any research report, and facilitates inferences, through causal relationships and interpolation, to be established and explained. It is essential that conclusions are drawn from the research carried out and are not mere ideas or whims. The conclusions state what has been found out during a particular research project and should relate to the aim, objectives and hypotheses, if any. Notes of the limitations of the study and recommendations for further research and for appropriate implementations should be included.
This chapter considers the vital communication exercise of producing and presenting the report of the research, the dissertation or thesis, and of making oral presentations. Recommendations are made concerning both the contents of the report and the sequence of preparation of the report (by chapters or sections). It is important to allow sufficient time for production, including editing and proof-reading. Reading by others helps to ensure that the report is written objectively and that it says what is intended. Further consideration of particular aspects of making a good oral presentation is included. The fundamental message is that: it is through presentations of research projects that their worth is judged.Construction