PSY 4480 W4 Assignment Research Models

PSY 4480 W4 Assignment Research Models

PSY 4480 W4 Assignment Research Models


When selecting the research method it is usually advisable to consider whether you can base your work on an earlier theoretical model. Sometimes a model, even a preliminary one, can help your work decisively, and in such a case it will also affect the logical process of analysis. There are three alternatives which are discussed in more detail later on:

  • exploratory research (you have no model to start with),
  • expanding or refining an earlier model, and
  • research for testing hypotheses.
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PSY 4480 W4 Assignment Research Models

Exploratory Research

Research is exploratory when you use no earlier model as a basis of your study. The most usual reason for using this approach is that you have no other choice. Normally you would like to take an earlier theory as a support, but there perhaps is none, or all available models come from wrong contexts.

On the other hand, even when there is relevant theory and models, sometimes you may prefer not to use them. Reasons for this can be:

  • Your goal is to document the object as completely as possible, not restricting the description to those topics that have been documented in earlier studies.
  • The object of study differs from all earlier studied objects. The goal of the study is to describe its exceptional character which existing theories are unable to portray. In the light of existing theories the object of study appears as an inexplicable anomaly.
  • Phenomenological pursuit into deep understanding and distrust on earlier descriptions and explanations.

Exploratory research means that hardly anything is known about the matter at the outset of the project. You then have to begin with a rather vague impression of what you should study, and it is also impossible to make a detailed work plan in advance.

The gradual process of accumulating intelligence about the object of study means also that it will be impossible to start by defining the concepts of study. You have to start with a preliminary notion of your object of study, and of its context. During the exploratory research project, these provisional concepts then gradually gain precision.

PSY 4480 W4 Assignment Research Models


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In the absence of tried models and definite concepts you must start the exploratory study from what you have: one or more objects of study. It is common that in the beginning of exploratory study you will take a holistic look at the objects. It means that you start by gathering as much information about the objects as possible, and postpone the task of cutting away unnecessary data until you get a better picture about what is necessary.

ViewpointsAny object can be looked at from several different viewpoints, either from the angles of various established sciences or just from miscellaneous practical points of view. As soon as possible, you should specify the viewpoint of your study and explain how you understand or “take” the object. This does not mean that you have to to start your work by clarifying the essence of your object of study, i.e. what the object really is. Instead, you should try to contemplate and clarify how you see the object: should it be defined on micro level as a result of the individuals’ instincts, drives and experiences, or maybe on macro level as an expression of development in society.

The method of alternating point of view (like in the diagram above) can even be used as a research method. It is especially suited to an explorative researcher working alone. It will deepen his understanding and can sometimes reveal valuable new aspects to the topic, cf. Hermeneutic Research.

The progress of a project of study becomes easier as soon as you have defined your point of view and your problem. After this, you will need to gather only such empirical knowledge that is related to the problem; that will enable you to restrict the material you will have to analyse. This does not mean that you should disregard all the cases that do not fit into your conjectures – sometimes anomalies or surprising cases can point the way to important amendments or corrections to existing theory.

Sometimes it is difficult to define what is relevant in advance; it only becomes apparent through analysis. In such a case you can simply start by studying one single specimen or case which illustrates the interesting problem, and then you continue studying a gradually growing number of objects until it becomes apparent that you cannot get deeper into the problem. An indication of such a “saturated” state of study is that the study of new items or cases no longer reveals new interesting information. You will often need to gather quite a lot of material before you can define the final goal of your project, and a large part of this material will not be used in the final analysis.

The exploratory analysis of empirical field observations starts by checking that the field reports are written down intelligibly and without ambiguity. Often the original reports have been made in hurry; in that case they should be clarified by the initial observer or interviewer. The same person is often best adapted to extricate the significant findings from observations because he/she is able to judge which details are important and which can be left out. In the same time he/she can start building a preliminary model from those patterns which seem to recur often, or estimate how well an earlier known model fits the observations.

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