Research Methods for Construction
has been extended in scope to cover many areas of debate, e.g. research ethics, and quantitative & qualitative research
Research Methods for Construction
The objectives of this chapter are to:
introduce the concept of research ;
provide awareness of different classifications of research ;
outline the essentials of theories and paradigms ;
discuss the various research styles ;
introduce quantitative and qualitative approaches ;
consider where , and how , to begin . 1.1 The concept of research
Chambers English Dictionary defines research as:
a careful search
systematic investigation towards increasing the sum of knowledge.
For many people, the prospect of embarking on a research project is a daunting one. However, especially for people who are associated with a project-oriented industry, such as property development, building design, construction or facilities management, familiarity with the nature of projects and their management is a significant advantage. Dr Martin Barnes, an ex-chairperson of the Association of Project Managers (APM), has described a project as a task or an activity which has a beginning (start), a middle and an end that involves a process which leads to an output (product/solution). Despite the situation that much research is carried out as part of a long-term 'rolling' programme, each individual package of research is an entity which is complete in itself, while contributing to the overall programme.
Indeed, any work which assists in the advancement of knowledge, whether of society, a group or an individual, involves research; it will involve enquiry and learning also.
1.1.1 Research: a careful search/investigation
Research can be considered to be a 'voyage of discovery', whether anything is discovered or not. In fact, it is highly likely that some discovery will result because discovery can concern the process of investigation as well as the 'technical subject' (the topic of investigation). Even if no new knowledge is apparent, the investigation may lend further support for existing theory. What is discovered depends on the question(s) which the research addresses, the patterns and techniques of searching, the location and subject material investigated, the analyses carried out and, importantly, reflection by the researcher on the results of the analyses in the context of the theory and literature and methodology/methods employed. The knowledge and abilities of researchers and their associates are important in executing the investigative work and, perhaps more especially, in the production of results, discussion of them and the drawing of conclusions. Being open-minded and as objective as possible is vital for good research.
1.1.2 Research: contribution to knowledge
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) defines research as '...any form of disciplined inquiry that aims to contribute to a body of knowledge or theory' (ESRC, 2007). That definition demonstrates that the inquiry must be designed and structured appropriately and that it is the intent of the inquiry which is important (to distinguish from casual inquiries) rather than the outcome per se .
The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1995) provides a more extensive definition of research as 'the systematic investigation into and study of materials, sources and so on in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions'. Here the emphasis lies on determining facts in order to reach new conclusions - hence, new knowledge. The issue of 'facts' is not as clear, philosophically speaking, as is commonly assumed, and will be considered later.
The dictionary continues: 'an endeavour to discover new or collate old facts and so on by the scientific study of a subject or by a course of critical investigation'. Here there is