The Perfect Research Can’t be Achieved

By

Lex Librero, PhD

Professor Emeritus

U.P. Open University

 

The perfect research is unachievable, so say a lot of research experts and academics.  Research seeks verifiable empirical evidence to prove that certain phenomena may be operating under specific conditions, according to Fred Kerlinger in his book published in 1973, but perfect conditions under which research is conducted are not attainable given that neither the methods of research nor the characteristics of the researcher or respondents are perfect.

 

For example, in a doctoral dissertation that a friend prepared at a particular university in the US (name of university withheld) in the early 1980s, he tried to establish the level and intensity of use of educational media in enhancing instructional efficacy of teachers at the tertiary level.  That study employed the survey questionnaire as a means of collecting data, but the emphasis was more on nature and rate of use of media in instruction and less on the philosophical reasons for using said media. Right there was a gap that needed to be considered. My friend looked into what at that time appeared to be state-of-the-art literature on media utilization at the tertiary level and found two glaring realities: data on media utilization in general were outdated, and there was a dearth of information on media utilization at the tertiary level.

 

While the results of the dissertation provided accurate profile of university faculty members using educational media in their teaching at the specific university where the study was conducted, said results could not be generalized to other universities in the United States because the data were not representative data from a representative sample of US universities.

 

In another study conducted much more recently, an educational researcher undertook a regional survey of Asian instructional designers as basis for the preparation of online training for Asian distance education instructional designers.  The survey was conducted in eight (8) Asian countries, and 70 respondents participated. The selection of sample countries was based on purposive sampling, so the sample universities were not necessarily representative of the universities in the region.  The respondents were not representative of all instructional designers in Asia either as they had come from non-representative universities. There was, in this study a glaring imperfection in terms of representatives of the sample.

 

The data collection instrument employed by the study was the survey questionnaire, and the manner in which the questions were asked may have influenced how the respondents responded.  This was perhaps one of the weaknesses of the regional survey where standardized questions may not have been uniformly and clearly understood by respondents from different cultural and language backgrounds.  That was another imperfection.

 

A single research that we can equate with the single punch of a boxer seeking to stop his fight with one punch may not be possible, and even if it does come it may not provide enough appropriate answers to questions at hand as it is entirely possible that the nuances of the initial research issue may have changed over time.  At best, research enables us to establish truth about certain phenomena only at certain points in time. The perfect research that provides solutions to all problems of current concern at one go simply is not possible. At best, we need to undertake a series of studies in order to fully understand an issue of significance.

 

I see this as one of the significant issues encountered by many graduate students.  I have always referred to the tendency of graduate students to try to do a huge research concern the graduate student syndrome.  They try to solve everything with one little research. Well, this is not possible. I’ve always advised my students, “don’t try to solve the problems of the world” in one little study.

 

There is still one aspect of academic research that remains troublesome for many academics and graduate students.  I refer to the issues of quantitative and qualitative research. Some think qualitative research isn’t as rigorous as quantitative research; they also think qualitative research is very easy.  Besides, many graduate students believe that when one wants to do qualitative research he/she simply won’t use quantified information because qualitative research doesn’t necessarily deal completely with merely quantified information.

 

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