A Research Exercise
Let us see how a research study might be designed and completed. First, we need a research problem. How about, "Does the commuting student miss much by not being on campus?" . As stated, this question covers too many topics. We need something more limited and more specific. How about, "00 commuting students suffer academically by not living on or near campus?" . The review' of the literature, the second step, 'may turn up very little but the card catalog and the relevant indexes should be checked. For this question the Education Index, Social Science Index, index to the Chronicle of Higher Education, and possibly the New York Times Index would be good prospects, also Sociological Abstracts. Every possible heading should be checked, such as higher education, colleges and universities, college students housing, academic progress, and any others that turn up as likely subheadings. This search. of the literature is extremely important.
The third step is to formulate one or more hypotheses. One might be, "Commuting undergraduate students receive lower grades than undergraduate students living on campus" or "living off but within one mile of the campus." Other hypotheses might be that commuting students "earn fewer credit hours per year," or "take part in fewer college activities," or "have fewer friends among other students." Planning the research design is the fourth step. All terms and categories must be designed. The variables to be controlled must · be decided. We must be sure that the two ·groups. we compare arc similar in all important respects except residence. We must select sources of data, kinds of data sought, and procedures for collecting and them.
If a research grant is to be sought, all this information must be included in the grant application. The fifth step, the actual collecting and processing of data according to the research design, is often the most exciting part of the project. In this instance the data on each person would be made "computer sensible" (prepared for computer processing) and fed through the computer, which is programmed to make the desired computations and comparisons. The sixth step is to analyze the data. What contrasts between the two groups appear on the printout? Often, during this stage, some unexpected surprises will suggest additional hypotheses, and the data will be fed through the computer again for additional computations.
The seventh step is the drawing of conclusions. Were the hypotheses confirmed or dis confirmed? What further study is suggested
by this research? What difference does it all make? Finally, other scientists will undertake replication studies. This basic procedure is the same for all scientific research. Techniques used will vary according to the problem studied, but the same basic method is central to all sciences. Not all research involves this formal model of hypothesis framing and testing. Some research involves analysis of data already collected, and some involves library research of published sources.' But anything involving the careful. objective collecting of verifiable evidence in the search for knowledge is scientific research.