Types of social science research

Types of social science research

There are broadly five types of social sciences research that are undertaken, outlined below.
1. Applied Research
2. Fundamental Research
3. Action Research
4. Participatory Research

5. Participatory Action Research
6. Experimental Research

Applied Research

Applied research is an empirical research in which the goal is to contribute to apply the research findings to solve a problem. Applied research is designed to solve practical problems of the modern world, rather than to acquire knowledge for knowledge’s sake. One might say that the goal of the applied scientist is to improve the human condition. The primary purpose of applied research is discovering, interpreting and developing
methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge on a wide variety of scientific matters of our world and the universe.

Fundamental Research

Fundamental research or basic research (sometimes pure research) is research carried out to increase understanding of fundamental principles. It is carried out with a view to acquire knowledge for knowledge’s sake, and not for finding immediate solutions to problems. Many times, the end results have no direct or immediate benefits. Basic research can be thought of as arising out of curiosity. However, in the long term it is the basis for many applied researches. Basic research is mainly carried out by universities. Fundamental research is less oriented towards immediate solutions to problems. It tends to deal with ideas of interest to the researcher.
Fundamental research is carried out to understand, for example, how teenagers in a society behave or how a community in a society lives. It does not find answers to how teenagers should actually behave or what causes teenagers to behave in a particular way or how a particular community in a society should actually live. Any research undertaken to understand how a particular system works falls in the category of fundamental research.

Action Research

Action research is a process of progressive problem solving led by  individuals working with others in teams or as part of community work to improve the way they address issues and solve their own problems.

Action research can also be undertaken by larger organizations or institutions, assisted or guided by professional researchers, with the aim of improving their strategies, practices, and knowledge of the environments within which they work. As designers and stakeholders, researchers work with others to propose a new course of action to help their community improve its work practices.

Participatory Research

Participatory research is an action oriented research activity in which ordinary people address common needs arising in their daily lives, and in the process, generate knowledge. Participatory research differs from both basic and applied social science research in terms of people’s involvement in the research process, integration of action with research, and the practice based nature of the knowledge that is entailed. It sets  itself apart even from other forms of action-oriented research because of the central role
that non-experts play.

In contrast to other forms of action-oriented research, in which outsiders have an important role in determining what problems to address, often taking charge of the research process and implementing action, in participatory research people who share problems in common decide what problems to tackle and directly get involved in research and social change activities.Action minded researchers with technical backgrounds often get involved in this process, but mainly as facilitators.

The reason for this emphasis on popular participation is that participatory research is not just a convenient instrument for solving social problems through technically efficacious means, but it is also a practice that helps marginalized people attain a degree of emancipation as autonomous and responsible members of society. It is allied to the ideals of democracy, and in that spirit it is proper to call it research of the people, by the people and for the people.

Participatory Action Research

Action research or participatory action research has emerged in recent years as a significant methodology for intervention, development and change within communities and groups. It is now promoted and implemented by many international development agencies and university programmes, as well as countless local community organizations around the world.
Participatory action research is a recognized form of experimental research that focuses on the effects of the researcher’s direct actions of practice within a participatory community with the goal of improving the performance quality of the community or an area of concern. Action research involves utilizing a systematic cyclical method of planning, taking action, observing, evaluating (including self evaluation) and critically reflecting prior to
planning the next cycle. The actions have a set goal of addressing an identified problem in the workplace, for example, reducing the illiteracy of students through use of new strategies or improving communication and efficiency in a hospital emergency room. It is a collaborative method to test new ideas and implement action for change.

Experimental Research

Experimental research is commonly used in sciences such as sociology and psychology, physics, chemistry, biology and medicine, etc. In scientific research, an experiment (Latin: ex- periri, ‘to try out’) is a method of investigating causal relationships among variables, or scientific investigation in which an investigator manipulates and controls one or more independent variables to determine their cause and effects on the research. Experimental
research is also called randomized controlled research or randomized controlled trials. In experimental research, the researcher manipulates one variable and controls the rest of the variables.

The experimental research has an experimental group and a control group. The subjects are randomly assigned between the groups and the researcher tests one effect at a time.
For example, suppose a researcher wants to look at the effects of a Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) programme on children with autism. Suppose the researcher chooses a sample size of 50 children with autism. In the sample, 25 children are taken in the treatment group who will be administered CAI and the remaining 25 will be in the control group. This kind of a research will come under experimental research.


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