COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY
|Module Title||RESEARCH METHODS, APPLICATION AND EVALUATION||Date of Approval||Sep-16|
|Module Code||7TE506||Module Level||7||Credit value||10|
|This module will enable you to develop your practice in undertaking research by identifying and applying advanced research methodologies, both within your taught modules and for your postgraduate research project. Your learning will include how to identify, evaluate, and apply diverse research approaches to your own research and the process of collecting and evaluate different types of data and relating your findings to current research. During your study you will be able to compare the use of both quantitative techniques and qualitative techniques in research. The module can be accessed through blended/face-to-face delivery or online learning depending on your programme of study.|
Module Learning Outcomes
|On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:|
Research aims and objectives and the requirements for producing a research methodology.
Evaluating different research approaches and methodologies for their suitability and relevance to a proposed research scenario.
Quantitative and qualitative methodologies
Key aspects of both methodologies and their application to a proposed research scenario.
Developing an overall research strategy and contextualising it with current practices and developments.
Critically reviewing current practitioners work in terms of the approaches, successfulness and relevant similarities to a proposed research scenario.
Module Learning and Teaching
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities
These will be a number of lectures/tutorials to introduce you to the module and the self-directed study material on Udo.
You are provided with professionally commissioned and developed online content in a variety of media. As you work through the module, you will need to complete some online activities which will be part of your final assessment for the module.
You will receive support and guidance from your tutor and you can also engage in discussions with your peers in a community space / discussion area.
You may be provided with the opportunity to participate in a set number of live classroom sessions during the module; these provide you with ‘real time' access to your tutor and an opportunity to collaborate with your peers. Recordings of these sessions are made available to all students on the module; these are particularly useful for those unable to attend and for you to use in preparation for the module assessment strategy.
Guided Independent Study
Students taking this module at the early stages of a taught Masters programme are normally unlikely to have clearly defined or articulated research objectives and aims for their Masters Project. Students on taught Masters programmes will therefore normally either:
Component 1: COURSEWORK
Student consultation and interactive discussion/feedback on the development of EITHER appropriate research aims and objectives OR on the requirements of tutor provided research aims and objectives.
Component 2: COURSEWORK
Summary of Assessment Method:
A written report (approximately 2,500 words in length). Initially a clearly defined set of research aims and objectives will be defined and explained. These will then be critically discussed and evaluated in terms of appropriate strategies and approaches to be taken, coupled with discussion and evaluation on both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies that could be taken. Reference should be made to relevant current practitioners and their work in order to help justify chosen approaches.
Weighting: 100 %
Assesses Learning Outcomes: 1 and 2
Link to Aspire
College of Engineering and Technology
Programmes:Taught Masters programmes in Engineering
Programme Codes:All Taught Masters programmes in Engineering
Module Title:Research Methods: Application and Evaluation
Coursework Assignment No:1
Research Methodologies and Strategies
In this assignment you will be critically evaluating current research methodologies appropriate to the design of a research methodology within your own chosen subject area. You will be assigning yourself a set of research objectives to work to and discussing and agreeing these with your Tutor, as part of the Formative assessment development in the initial tutorials for this module.
You will be evaluating both quantitative and qualitative techniques that can be used to best present research data synonymous and appropriately to your chosen subject area of research.
You will then be making recommendations on what you believe to be the most appropriate methodologies to use in your proposed research and justifying those recommendations, by way of example.
There are two Learning Outcome that you have to satisfy for this module:
A written report (approximately 2,500-3,000 words in length). Initially a clearly defined set of research aims and objectives will be defined and explained as the introduction to the report. These will then be critically discussed and evaluated in terms of appropriate strategies and approaches to be taken if you were to wish to actively pursue these aims and objectives. This will be coupled with discussion and evaluation on both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies that could be taken (again relevant and appropriate to your research aims and objectives). In order to validate and justify your chosen methodologies reference should be made to relevant current practitioners and their work, in order to reinforce your chosen approaches.
Topic 3: Application of Efficient Surface Aerators for Waste Water Treatment
Aeration is a process that is used to mix, dissolve or circulate air into liquid or substances that could help in reducing the number of chemicals required for treating water. This mechanism is a biochemical process that provides the oxygen supply to the bacteria for functioning properly. These bacteria help in degrading the harmful wastes in water.
The main aim of the research is to determine the applications of surface aerators in making efficient wastewater treatment.
The research will be helpful for the construction industry as it could be providing valuable information for the management in treating wastewater without the use of harmful chemicals and contamination of water after treatment.
The researcher will be selecting interpretivism philosophy and explanatory design, which could be helping the researcher for describing the issues in treating wastewater along with the application of the surface aerators. The researcher will be conducting secondary research from the sources including the websites of construction companies, government magazines and articles related to the surface aeration process and its applications in treating wastewater. The deductive approach will be more suitable for the researcher to gain valuable insight into the mechanism of wastewater treatment methods.
Researchers tend to select different types of research strategies or methods which help them to effectively acquire their research outcome (Kemparaj and Chavan, 2013). The choice of the research strategy is based on the type of study or topic as well as the availability of sources of information. When speaking broadly, most researches can be evaluated using quantitative or qualitative methods or a combination of both based on the research criteria. Each of the research strategies has its philosophical aspects that help the researcher choose one over another. In the following section, both the potential research strategies have been evaluated based on which the ideal methodology for this wastewater treatment project would be selected.
This type of research strategy is comparatively simpler among the two and can be easily identified. The collection of numerical data for explaining phenomena and using mathematical methods to analyse them is referred to as the quantitative research method (McCusker and Gunaydin, 2015). In most cases, the data produced in the quantitative method is numerical in nature and can be expressed either statistically or numerically. When research topics involve numbers, it is an obvious choice for quantitative method and researchers select it for convenience. However, in some cases, even if the phenomena or topic does not involve numbers, it can still be analysed using quantitative research methods. For such cases, techniques like the use of Likert scales are used so that non-numeric data can also be studied using quantitative strategies. In cases of research environments that involve numeric data as their gold standard, quantitative method is quite useful for achieving the desired research outcome. However, it should be kept in mind that despite its simplistic and numerical approach, quantitative research methods are not suitable for investigating research topics (Bryman, 2017). When trying to acquire in-depth knowledge about specific behaviours, quantitative methods are not ideal due to their simplistic approach. In fact, when attributing numerical forms to abstract constructs like personal opinion might make them extremely specific and precise and fail to address the key aspects. There are several sources of acquiring quantitative data, the major ones being surveys, secondary data and observations. Surveys are basically close-ended questionnaires that collect data from a large number of people and present them statistically. Secondary data can be company accounts or any documents that are relevant to the research and provided by the organization. On the other hand, observations are the identification of repetitive patterns in various phenomena like counting of specific words in interviews.
In contrast to quantitative research strategy, qualitative research includes words, language, pictures and observations instead of numeric data. Although this method is relatively complex than the quantitative method, it can be used to examine a wide variety of phenomena and is one of the most preferred research methods among researchers (Jamshed, 2014). It is the in-depth analysis of rich data that makes the qualitative method so useful and can be used to explore reasons and ways of occurring phenomena. However, despite such major advantages over quantitative method, the qualitative method also has some major drawbacks which make it unidealistic in certain scenarios (Smith, 2015). One of the major drawbacks is the input of false or inaccurate information from respondents due to the lack of value in the research. Without the proper building of a relationship with research subjects, qualitative research data can be biased in favour of the researcher. Moreover, as respondents provide confidential information to the researcher, maintaining of ethics is quite complex in such method (Noble and Smith, 2015). Also, in many cases, researchers tend to get involved with people and unable to be separated from the research study. Qualitative research data is more generalized than quantitative data and can be easily acquired by the researcher. Some common ways of collecting qualitative data include focus groups, interviews, observations and secondary data.
As mentioned earlier, the researcher will be relying on both quantitative and qualitative research methods to determine the effectiveness of the aeration process for wastewater treatment. Being a complex biochemical process, the research topic requires valuable insight from not only engineers and scientists but also theoretical concepts from previous researches and academic literature. However, only secondary data has been selected as the data collection source from documents like construction company websites, articles and magazines published by the government about the use of aeration process in water treatment plants. The major reason as to why primary data was rejected from the research study is that aeration, being a complex biochemical process, requires in-depth technical knowledge of professionals. However, the researcher doubted that there might be several judgements of errors if data is collected from inexperienced company engineers and contractors.
Moreover, scientists might have varied viewpoints about the ideal way of treating wastewater and the research should be based on something more evidence-based rather than a subjective view of individuals (Brannen, 2017). As a result of this questionnaire surveys and interviews were both rejected despite being data collection techniques of different research methods. As the mechanism behind wastewater treatment through aeration needs to be analysed, the use of the deductive approach has been selected for the research study as it would allow valuable insight into those mechanisms.
The choice of using an explanatory design was necessary as the aeration process of wastewater treatment required consulting of academic literature and explaining the process and reasons for it is the best way of treating wastewater. The interpretivism philosophy was also as the research goal included the understanding of the aeration process and also involved weak prediction about the impact of the aeration process on wastewater treatment. The researcher could have selected either quantitative or qualitative research methods. However, due to the limitation of the data collection process to secondary sources only, using both research strategies would provide a wider opportunity of data collection from multiple secondary sources (Osborne and Schneider, 2013). Thus, the choice of the selected research methodologies and strategies has been justified as per the research topic and outcome.
In order to reinforce my justification of selected research methodologies and strategies, it is necessary to include the selected research preferences of other researches on similar research topics. Aeration is a complicated biochemical process; the choice of research methodologies requires special technical knowledge about the process mechanisms in order to select the ideal methodologies and strategies. For this reason, comparing and contrasting the choice of method by the researcher with another researcher in similar past studies would help in assessing if the choice has been ideal or not. In the research project about intermittent aeration to improve wastewater treatment efficiency by Uggetti et al. (2016), the researcher has chosen qualitative research method to explain the reduction of harmful chemicals in wastewater treatment through intermittent aeration treatment. Additionally, the researcher had also relied upon the quantitative method to determine the efficiency of intermittent aeration method as it is the most operationally successful than other treatment processes. Although, Uggetti et al. (2016) has used combination of both quantitative and qualitative methods similar to this research study, it does differ in some other aspects. In that research study, the researcher has chosen both primary and secondary data sources to collect information. However, as the intermittent aeration process involved minimizing energy requirements along with the reduction of chemicals, it required both data sources to derive a more accurate outcome. As for this research study, the normal aeration process has no connection to energy connection and data from secondary sources would suffice the cause. In another research study about the potential use of biological aerated filter as post-treatment of municipal wastewater by Abou-Elela, Fawzy and El-Gendy (2015), the researcher has used a similar explanatory design and interpretivism philosophy along with the use of secondary data sources only. However, the researcher has relied only on the qualitative research method to analyse the secondary data. As this research involved exploration of the mechanism of biological aerated filter, it did not require any form of quantitative data analysis and was effectively analysed using qualitative method alone. This past research by Abou-Elela, Fawzy and El-Gendy (2015) supports the use of secondary data only for reason similar to this current research study. Also, the choice of research philosophy and design reinforces our justified method research. However, relying on qualitative data was needed as quantitative data might turn out to be ineffective in that context. On the contrary, the current research study was more numeric in nature and required the combination of both research methods.
The chosen research methodologies and strategies need to apply for the current research project and it is necessary to provide some examples of their application for better understanding of the research process. As both quantitative and qualitative research methods were selected for the research study, it is necessary to address the choice of data collection methods as well. As only secondary data sources were selected for collecting relevant information, theories and concepts, the quantitative method included observation techniques to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of surface aerators in wastewater treatment. The observed data were then coded into numerical form to represent them quantitatively. In addition to this, several secondary data from construction company accounts were also taken under consideration and represented statistically for relevancy (Abildgaard, Saksvik and Nielsen, 2016). On the other hand, the secondary data sources that were used for qualitative data analysis included information from websites of various construction companies as well as from government articles regarding the use of surface aeration for wastewater treatment. Consulting information from other construction company websites helped to put into perspective the use of the similar technique of wastewater treatment in the current research study and helped the researcher determine the ideal mechanism for efficient aeration process (Yates and Leggett, 2016). In addition to this, such data is also useful to identify the challenges other construction companies faced when trying to use the aeration process in their wastewater treatment plants. The information gathered from the government articles about aeration process provided necessary information about the various methods and ways surface aeration can be used for wastewater treatment and offers the most popular techniques that have proven to be effective in the past. The qualitative analysis also included data from observations regarding the condition of the wastewater treatment plant and how it might affect the efficiency of the surface aeration process (Palinkas et al. 2015). The various risks and challenges that might occur during the process were also addressed and discussed in the qualitative research method to help the construction company develop mitigation processes. The interpretivism philosophy, as well as the explanatory design, will be followed as per the conventional standard while the deductive approach mostly focused on breaking down the underlying mechanisms of surface aeration.
|Research Activity||Significance||Involved People||Timeline|
|Information gathering for research introduction||Moderate||Researcher/ Construction company||1 week|
|Developing research aims and objectives||High||Researcher||1-2 weeks|
|Evaluating potential research methodologies||High||Researcher||1 week|
|Gathering information for justifying the choice of research methods||Moderate||Researcher/ Secondary sources||1-2 weeks|
|Consulting with past researches in a similar field||High||Researcher/ Citation of past researchers||1 week|
|Providing examples of selected methodologies||Moderate||Researcher||1 week|
Table 1: Summarised research plan
Source: Developed by author
The research plan provides a brief outline of the necessary stages of research study and also provides information regarding the significance of the activity in the research, people involved with the stage and time required to complete the stage. In short, the research plan can be used as a way to track the progress of the research study. The first activity of the research plan was the initialization of the project after authorized by the construction company using surface aeration process for wastewater treatment. The introduction provides a brief outline of what the research study would include along with the choice of methodology for the project. This stage has moderate significance and the people involved were the construction company itself and the researcher. The time is taken to complete this stage was somewhere near 1 week. The next activity was developing the research aims and objectives which are of high significance in the research. The aims and objectives were developed based on the desired research outcome. During the stage, the researcher was alone in charge of this and required 1-2 weeks. During the next stage, the potential research methodologies and strategies were discussed by consulting various online and offline sources about the appropriateness of the chosen methods and the type of research each is useful for. This stage also conducted by the researcher alone and was of high significance and needed 1week to complete. During the next stage, the gathered information about potential methods were compared to selected methods to justify the choice of the researcher. This process was of moderate significance and required 1-2 weeks to complete. The next stage of high significance was the consultation of other past researches to support the choice selected methods. Here the researcher and citation and acknowledgement of past researchers were required and it took about 1 week to complete. In the final stage, a few examples of applying the research methods in context to the subject were discussed. This took about 1 week and concluded the research process.