For many students, the thesis is initially a book with seven seals. The tasks are clear: do you have to do research and not write housework and find a topic? Pretty much effort! In this article, I would like to give basics on empirical research so that you can understand: what is research?
Reading tip: Find topic
There are many types of research. In this article, I deal with empirical social research, because this is the dominant way for business informatics and economics. Empirical social research focuses on social and humane issues (Döring and Bortz 2015). Use cases are in the context of company and society:
- Research into behaviour
- Exploration of doing
- Exploration of coexistence
- Exploring the experience of people.
Research means collecting data
Their aim is to scientifically investigate facts and obtain so-called reliable findings. To investigate such issues, you must collect empirical data through interviews or interviews. These are defined as:
Empirical data is specifically selected and documented information on the reality of experience with regard to the research problem. They are collected using scientific data collection methods (observation, interview, questionnaire, psychological test, physiological measurement, document analysis) using appropriate standardised or non-standardised survey tools (observation plan, interview guide, questionnaire, measuring instrument, etc.).”Döring and Bortz (2015, p. 5)
Research means evaluating data in a structured way
Now you have collected data and can derive hypotheses or recommendations for action. You will do this with a methodological procedure, which you describe exactly from the Academy. When you do that, we are talking about scientific knowledge. This is defined as follows:
“Scientific knowledge gain” is based on the systematic collection, preparation and analysis of empirical data in the field of experience sciences such as the social sciences and human sciences in an orderly and documented research process.”Döring and Bortz (2014, p. 5)
Research means: collect data cleanly and evaluate it in a comprehensible way
Of course, the collection of data and the evaluation can always be criticized. Especially in companies, situations can change quickly and interpretations are not always clear. Certain quality criteria must therefore be observed in research. These are according to Himme (2007):
The first criterion is objectivity. Imagine that different researchers could also collect different data and interpretations on the same issue. There are two ways to do this. On the one hand, the implementation objectivity. This refers to the collection of data: ‘What is the chance that three independents will collect the same data as you?’. The second type is the evaluation objectivity, i.e. the evaluation of the data: “What is the chance that three people interpret the results of your interviews in the same way?” Objectivity is primarily about you as a researcher and your neutrality on the research question.
The second criterion is reliability. It’s about the reliability of your results. How long are they stable and are they always the same when measured repeatedly? Objectivity is all about your research method.
The validity to the validity and material accuracy of a measuring instrument. So do your data provide really qualified answers to the research question? The validity is primarily about your data and the evaluation.
Tip: Discuss the three criteria in your thesis and be happy to limit them.
In addition to these criteria, there are, of course, many other additional criteria. You can also define them as desired, but I recommend to start with the three in the first research work. Other examples are, according to Himme (2007), standardization (calibration), economics (cost) and practicality (usefulness) of the data.
2 Examples of Empirical Research
I would like to give you two examples to illustrate this. In Example 1, you want to use expert interviews to better understand conflicts in agile teams and to derive recommendations for action. So you collect data through the interviews and evaluate it. The evaluation yields recommendations for action. Now you have to observe the following quality criteria:
- Objectivity: You must carry out the derivation of the recommendations for action in a clean and comprehensible manner. This must also be limited to the interviewees.
- Reliability: By providing a clean documentation of your research methodology and the course of the survey, you demonstrate a high degree of reliability.
- Validity: You could have a brief final discussion or evaluation of the recommendations for action by the subjects.
In Example 2, you want to learn about the software and hardware of IT service providers through an online survey. You create a questionnaire and send it to 40 IT experts. Now you have to observe the following quality criteria:
- Objectivity: Make clear the design of the questionnaire and the derivation by static procedures.
- Reliability: Use a clear and recognised statistical method.
- Validity: Let subjects evaluate the results e.g. with a scale of 1-5) “agree to not agree”.
In this article, I have the question: what is research taken up. I hope you could make the difference to a housework or a journalistic article. It is a matter of collecting data cleanly and evaluating it in a structured and comprehensible manner. This leads to reliable findings. In order to gain such insights, you should design a research design in the first step.
Reading tip: Basics of a research design
Gibt es noch Fragen?
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Döring, N., & Bortz, J. (2016). Scientific-theoretical foundations of empirical social research BT – research methods and evaluation in the social and human sciences. In N. Döring & J. Bortz (Eds.) (pp. 31-79). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-41089-5_2
Himme, A. (2007). Quality criteria of measurement: reliability, Validity and generalizability BT – Methodology of empirical Research. In S. Albers, D. Klapper, U. Konradt, A. Walter, & J. Wolf (Eds.) (pp. 375-390). Wiesbaden: Gabler. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-8349-9121-8_25
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