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Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development

(Year 2)

Student name: James Pannell (133121)


Lecturer name: Tim Jackson

Unit 7 – Research Skills


Assessment One: Name of Assessment

Word Count: xxx

Date of Submission: 14/02/2019


Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

Contents Page

Page No.
Introduction
1

LO1 – Understand different research methodologies

LO1.1 – Assess different research methodologies


LO1.3 – Discuss the importance of both qualitative and quantitative data in
research 2
LO1.4 – Explain the problems that can arise when undertaking research

LO2 – Know how to conduct a literature review

LO2.1 – Justify the use of research sources


LO2.2 – Evaluate the importance of using primary information sources 5
LO2.3 – Describe a recognised system of referencing

LO3 – Be able to present a research proposal


8

LO3.2 – Discuss the role of ethics in research

Conclusion
10

Bibliography 11

Unit 7 – Research Skills


Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

Introduction

This report will provide the reader with a comprehensive introduction to research
methodologies and will ensure that they are fully prepared to conduct their own research to
a very high standard as a result. We will firstly examine a variety of different research
methodologies including their advantages, disadvantages, and exactly where they would be
best suited to so that the reader is able to choose one that will allow them to capture the
most useful data with which to support or disprove their chosen research hypothesis. The
data must have relevance to the hypothesis or question that was chosen by the researcher
and thus we prevent wasting our time and resources collecting data that will not give us
much insight. We also discuss the usage of both qualitative and quantitative data in research
and how and which of these are favoured will depend upon several critical factors i.e. the
nature of the research question, the philosophy that the researchers subscribe to, also their
skillset and individual tastes. There are a variety of problems that the researcher will be
faced with when undertaking research including various forms of bias which can be
damaging to the results, and these are discussed at length together with potential solutions
to overcome them. We also describe how researchers make use of a variety of research
sources including primary and secondary to justify their claims and to maintain academic
integrity and both the advantages and limitations of each of these. Our discussion leads us
to exactly why primary research sources are indispensable to the researcher and methods
that can be employed to ensure they are valid and credible i.e. triangulation and ensuring
that the date of publication is within accepted guidelines. It was then deemed necessary to
describe the Harvard system of referencing because it is a prime example of a recognised
system with widespread usage especially throughout academic institutions. Finally, we
discuss the role of ethics in research and the moral constraints that a researcher will need
to work within if they are to gain the approval of ethics committees and maintain their
professional credibility. They will then be adequately prepared to present a research
proposal that is at a much lower risk of being rejected.

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Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

LO1 Understand different research methodologies

LO1.1 - Assess different research methodologies

It is evident that researchers will have various questions that they wish to investigate, and
they have at their disposal a variety of methods which can either be used alone or in
conjunction to aid them in this goal and more precisely to provide them with valuable
insights. This report will examine the various methods available and how exactly how
these are applied to a given research project, and we will critically evaluate their strengths
and weaknesses. The first method we will discuss is experimental research which is used
in a multitude of notable scientific disciplines including psychology and chemistry for
example, and the eventual aim of such a method is to be able to predict a given
phenomenon with a high degree of accuracy i.e. are we entitled to claim that causation is
at work or is this an erroneous assumption on behalf of the researcher? This type of
research is quantitative in nature and will lead to knowledge gained a posteriori i.e.
inductive reasoning where conclusions are proposed, and new hypotheses and theories
generated based upon generalisations made upon that data gathered, although of course
this can often be controversial and open to interpretation. It is worth noting that a
hypothesis is crucial since this will have been formulated by the researcher to answer a
very specific question and then the research will aim to prove or disprove this, with
reference to the null hypothesis i.e. the statement that there exists no relationship between
the phenomena in question. Using inductive reasoning together with deductive reasoning
gleaned from various theories in an interplay will attempt to identify and justify various
objective truths to perhaps inform further research and investigation in the future. There
are two major forms of experimental research (narrow and wide) and the highly rigid
requirements of the physical sciences often calls for the narrowest form of this method
being used i.e. a set of pre-determined controlled and/or randomised variables and a
chosen variable being deliberately manipulated to observe the results often with a control
group to facilitate direct comparison. This is referred to within the scientific community as a
true experiment. However, it must be noted that in the case of the social sciences they are
forced to embrace a wider definition of the method known as a quasi-experiment
(Explorable, 2018), and this is where the researcher will attempt to influence something
and then scrutinise the outcomes, and most research studies of all disciplines will fall
somewhere between these two extreme poles. The alternative to the experimental method
would be for the researcher to utilise abductive reasoning which is basically akin to making
an educated guess on the available evidence and this is especially useful for designing
new experiments because these assumptions will help to form new hypotheses to be
consequently tested by the experimental method. Abductive reasoning has increased
credibility because it is rooted in the principle of Ockham’s Razor which states that entities
must not be unnecessarily multiplied beyond necessity or in other words the simplest
possible explanation tends to be the most favourable.
Survey research covers quite a broad area and the accepted definition is that it
encompasses any methodology that requires a given number of respondents to answer
questions for example there may be an online multiple-choice questionnaire or
alternatively an in-depth and intensive one-to-one interview. Thus, we can see that survey

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Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

research is going to be either in the questionnaire for example using items that are
numerically related (a quantitative research strategy), or interview format perhaps using
open-ended questions (a qualitative research strategy) or a combination of both.
Traditionally survey research has been used to collect data on a significant population size
with notable examples of this being large census surveys and consumer feedback surveys
for large companies, and this was achieved through snail mail. What is changing is that a
lot of modern survey research is leaning towards a significantly more rigorous approach,
i.e. one that firstly incorporates strategies which have their basis in principles gleaned from
reputable scientific research studies. These studies have indicated the optimal
representative sample to be utilised, the most effective survey method for the task at hand,
and guidelines for the optimal time for survey initiation as well as the associated task of
reducing nonresponsive error Ponto, J. (2015) i.e. when to follow-up with those who have
not made a response. Arguably the conclusion of this more meticulous approach is that
the research process itself becomes increasingly more dependable and thus the outcomes
are of a superior level of quality than a survey with less stringent requirements. However,
the wide range of options in survey research means that there is a high potential for bias
and the individuals using it must be keenly aware of this and also strategies for mitigating
this down if they are to reach conclusions that can reasonably be argued to bear real-world
validity to the wider community. One such error we have highlighted already is the
nonresponsive error and this can be appropriately managed by a two-pronged approach
i.e. improving the UX (User Experience) / making a user-friendly survey design and to
follow-up with those non-responsive participants at a date indicated as optimal by scientific
research. Perhaps one of the most significant issues with any type of survey research is
the appropriate sampling size i.e. whether that sample is deemed to be truly representative
of the population under observation, and the reason why a subset is chosen is that
populations are often so large that it would be impossible to hope to survey them all. There
was a study on Japanese Oncologists (Fujimori M, e. 2014) with samples taken from two
hospitals in Japan, which concluded that a CST (Communication Skills Training)
programme that is designed around patient preferences will be highly effective for both
oncologists and patients who have Cancer, although it can be argued that this sample size
may not truly reflect all oncologists in Japan. To further block out the possibility for
sampling errors there will be an emphasis on the proper planning of participant recruitment
with a drive to recruit from males and females, various economic and ethnic backgrounds
and areas, as well as a host of other associated factors e.g. an intervention group with
those receiving medical treatment, and a control group of those who are not to provide the
most representative samples possible from the subsets of individuals recruited for the task
at hand.
To complicate matters further in the last decade or so there has been a huge increase in
online communication methods which has sparked a new wave of studies targeting online
populations and their various behaviours and internet usage trends. It is now a haven for
researchers because of the aggressive pursuit of organisations to maintain an online
presence e.g. on search engines and advertising banners, and although they do offer
various types of information to the wider consumer base, they also provide researchers
direct access to those populations who with which an affiliation exists between them and
such groups (Wright, K. 2006). Online survey research has a very clear benefit in that it
will allow researchers to access both individuals and groups who would simply be too
remote, unreachable, and transient (i.e. people freely move between forums and interests

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Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

without being permanently available in one place), or which may simply only exist in
cyberspace (Garton, L., Haythornthwaite, C., Wellman, B 1999).
This has subsequently presented a unique set of challenges to researchers in that it is not
simply a case of applying the traditional methods of survey research methods to this new
environment and hoping to draw valid conclusions as before, with the technology for online
survey research being in its early stages with a nature that is rapidly evolving. That is there
are sophisticated survey authoring software packages and online surveys in abundance
giving a platform to anybody with minimal technical skills required to set up and start
gathering data, although whether this is valuable data is where the skillset is needed and
the crux of the matter we are examining lies. Because of the fast pace of new
technological developments in this area many researchers may be lacking an awareness
of the myriad of advantages and disadvantages of conducting primary online survey
research, and therefore they must immerse themselves in the subject before proceeding to
drawing any final conclusions from the data gathered.
Observational research (alternatively known as field research) is probably the most
fundamental type of research at our disposal and involves the keen observation of a
specified group of participants to assess their actions and behaviours. The researchers
may employ observational research methodologies initially so that they can form a suitable
research question that will then in turn necessitate more structured research. Within the
observational research category there are several key variations of which we will now
describe in terms of their strengths and weaknesses and thus their suitability to a given
scenario. The first subcategory is that of controlled observation and this is going to be very
useful in scientific disciplines such as the field of Psychology where there is a demand for
studies to be reproducible so that they can be confidently held to possess reliability. The
setting for such a study is probably going to take place in a laboratory and thus the
participants will have the full knowledge that they are under observation, and thus the
immediate concern is that it can be argued that this will influence their behaviour according
to the Hawthorne Effect, which explains the phenomenon of participant behaviour being
influenced when they are aware of being observed. However, the negative effects of this
can be mitigated according to Bernard (1994) since he claims that “Participant observation
requires a certain amount of deception and impression management” (Kawulich, B. 2005).
MORE HERE ABOUT HOW THIS OCCURS.
We will now discuss applied versus fundamental research methodologies with applied
research generally being for the purpose of finding an immediate solution to a problem
facing an organisation such as how to improve customer retention rates.
Developmental research is a research methodology that will be conducted over an
extended period so that any changes can be recorded.

Put this near the end as a good conclusion


However, perhaps it is not enough to simply choose several research methods and then
assume that they will provide us with the greatest level of insight into our chosen proposals
whilst disregarding the others since it can be argued that this is a rather arbitrary choice
and does not take into account the fact that each method will have its own particular
limitations and weaknesses in addition to the strengths already outlined in the report. In
fact, Brewer & Hunter (1989) have argued that we cannot ignore the limitations and
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Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

weaknesses of each research method and must instead shift our focus onto a multimethod
approach that will combine multiple methods within the same investigation (likely to be a
combination of separate quantitative and qualitative projects that all possess a satisfactory
degree of completeness on their own). This is not a new concept as there are innumerable
examples of this in action, but the innovation can be evidenced in their argument for a
more rigorous approach i.e. demanding a “Planned and systematic synthesis” of these
methods to gain the deepest possible understanding of social science research, although
this can unquestioningly be extrapolated into any discipline with ease. In addition, Morse
(2003) states that the combination of the relatively complete quantitative and qualitative
studies will answer various sub-questions within the broader context of the study and the
key lies in triangulating these which will give us a much richer and more profound grasp of
the outcomes thus directly supporting the preceding views of Brewer & Hunter.

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Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

LO1.3 – Discuss the importance of both qualitative and quantitative data


in research

When conducting a study to answer a given research question we have two types of data
that can potentially be collected, that is qualitative and/or quantitative, and which of these
are favoured will depend upon several critical factors i.e. the nature of the research
question, the philosophy that the researchers subscribe to, also their skillset and individual
tastes. There exists an ongoing debate about the strengths and weaknesses of each with
some researchers subscribing to the viewpoint that they are very effective when used in
combination, whilst others hold that they represent conflicting Worldviews and must be
kept separate. What we mean by qualitative research is a method of social enquiry that is
chiefly concerned with gaining an insight into exactly how and why things have happened
rather than upon numerical data which is the sphere of quantitative research. Indeed,
(Mason, J 1997) states that “Through qualitative research we can explore a wide array of
dimensions of the social world, including the texture and weave of everyday life, the
understandings, experiences, and imaginings of our research participants” and this
illustrates that qualitative is extremely rich, complex, and multi-faceted and that
researchers gathering this type of data are tasked with determining if there are any
significant meanings intertwined with such data. This type of research data is invaluable
since it allows the researchers to study things in a natural setting such as a direct
observation of a community, a focus group, an in-depth interview that asks the participants
mainly open-ended questions, or even case studies for example, as well as any
associated thoughts, feelings, or behaviours of any of the participants to be combined into
an integrated analysis which lays the foundation for making well informed decisions upon
the results. The emphasis is much more upon the “Why” questions i.e. exactly why people
behave a certain way as opposed to calculating the amount of people who think one way
or another giving quantified data. We can say that qualitative research is naturalistic in the
sense that the researchers when visiting the chosen research setting will have the a priori
assumption that all observed actions in that setting are can be directly understood by the
very act of observation. One example of a possible research question that could be
answered by a qualitative research study would be “What is the relationship between
delusions and personal goals” (Rhodes, J., Jakes. S 2000) which investigated patients
with a psychotic disorder firstly by constructing a conceptual framework and then utilising
this to formulate a semi-structured interview and reported that it was the individual
concerns of these patients about their personal lives that appeared to be the prime
foundation for their delusional thinking patterns. What we mean by conceptual framework
is a method of working out exactly how data will be collected and analysed, and it should
serve to provide the context for the interpretation of the research findings remembering
how we previously stated how important context is in the qualitative research study. It is
evident that from the study there were no a priori design decisions for exactly how the
study would have been conducted right at the beginning before it took place. Instead, we
can discern very clearly that the study was context-sensitive and that a certain amount of
exploration took place where the researchers opted only for a semi-structured interview,
and this is the hallmark of the qualitative research study which is characteristically fluid
and design decisions are made in an ongoing and continually revised process. This is not
to say that they should not have constructed a preliminary research design but that this is
not the end of the design process. Additionally, we can ascertain that qualitative research
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Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

is chiefly concerned with the subjective world of the participants and this will lead into
insight into social, emotional, and experiential phenomena, although of course this is then
formulated into an explanation that is held to possess objectivity. Also, when we speak
about qualitative research we must be aware that as previously described that it is not a
uniform or undiversified field and “There are a number of epistemological positions within
which the qualitative researcher can work and many different methods of analysis” (Madill,
A., Jordan, A., Shirley, C. 2000) which does make sense since there is arguably no set
formula to be able to impose order on such a diverse field of inquiry. When we speak of
epistemology we are referring to a fundamental philosophical term which means theory of
knowledge i.e. how we are justified to claim that we possess knowledge rather than
conjecture, and examples of three highly influential epistemological positions found in a lot
of qualitative research are realist, contextual constructionist, as well as radical
constructionist.
Despite the variety of epistemological positions of researchers and the abundance of
methods of analysis there are several key principles that arguably all qualitative research
will adhere to despite the many possible variations of approaches afforded to researchers,
and firstly we can observe that the underlying philosophy of the qualitative research data
collection is interpretivist because the researcher examining the social world will be
interested in interpreting it and seeking to explain how it is constituted, experienced, or
produced, and this can be approached from a myriad of viewpoints for example one
researcher may typically decide to focus upon social meanings whilst another may instead
opt to delve into discourses and both are equally valid approaches. The next principle is
that generated data is not subject to a rigid and unbending structure (i.e. it is standardised)
that would serve to lack flexibility and not be receptive to that social context from which the
data is being transmitted. Lastly the fact is that there is a small amount of quantification in
qualitative research, but this is by no means of prime importance, since the real emphasis
is instead upon a type of complex holistic analysis that considers many details (including
context and complexity) rather than simply performing statistical data analysis which by
contrast is more concerned with trends or correlations in that data set (Mason, J 1997).
The power of qualitative research lies in the fact that once we have gained valuable insight
from the collected data on linguistic and behavioural observations this will in turn provide
the context with which we are able to properly interpret the findings from quantitative
research studies which lack key information about the motivations and beliefs that surely
precede such speech and behaviours.
This brings us to the topic of quantitative research which in contrast to the qualitative
approach is used to explain phenomena by collecting quantifiable data that can be
subjected to rigorous mathematical or statistical analysis to form some type of
generalisation i.e. the act of observing a finite number of instances and then drawing a
broad conclusion from these that is applicable to similar instances occurring outside of the
research setting, or in simpler terms a researcher observing phenomena and making an
inference upon the unobserved using this as their justification. The prime source of
reasoning in quantitative research is deductive reasoning with the focus being upon the
firm establishment of cause and effect relationships and whether our initial correlation can
be adequately translated in the far stronger assertion of causation. For example, we may
state that there is a strong correlation between designer alcoholic drinks and heavier
consumption of alcohol, but what we really want to know is if the quantitative study can
provide a cause and effect relationship for this phenomenon. This is the sphere of internal

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Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

validity which is whether the study works under the pre-defined conditions that have been
highly controlled in accordance with sound scientific experimental design principles. If and
only if this is the case then we may be entitled to state with confidence that the study
possesses a high level of causality although there may be competing rival explanations for
the phenomena which must be explained away, for example the hospital admission may
be due to the age range of the patients who are more prone to illness or may have issues
with other substances that adversely affected their health. In contrast to the qualitative
approach that does not focus upon pre-defined structure as previously described (i.e. this
is usually quite open-ended and thus subject to change as the experiment progresses) the
quantitative approach uses a methodology that is much more rigid in that it “Requires the
researcher to use a pre-constructed standardised instrument or pre-determined response
categories” (Yilmaz, K. 2013). The participants will of course have many their own unique
perspectives and experiences and with this approach these must fit into these pre-defined
templates. This is where statistical aggregation of data becomes relevant since
aggregated data allows for a given collection of data to be summarised and condensed
from a group into one summary number that can then be easily used in analysis and
comparison, and when there are very large data sets the benefits are even more prevalent
since analysis of these becomes much more straightforward and less time consuming.
This combined with closed-ended questions which allow for specific patterns in participant
perceptions and evaluations of the study will allow the quantitative researchers to
comfortable attain generalisability. However, this is in sharp contrast to the qualitative
approach since the unique subjective experiences and especially any meaning those
participants ascribe to the research are basically ignored in favour of a much more
mechanical approach where all participants are presumed to interpret survey questions in
an identical manner, but this might not be the case at all.
Many researchers have subscribed to the viewpoint that internal validity is of prime
importance when conducting quantitative research studies, although we will argue that this
may be misguided. When we are presented with low internal validity then this will entail
that the evidence of any type of causality is minimal or perhaps even non-existent,
probably because of some extraneous variable that was responsible for the change rather
than the independent variable. The quantitative research methodology mirrors the
scientific method perhaps more than the qualitative approach since it chiefly addresses
three main variables: dependent, independent, and controlled and it is the independent
variable that will be manipulated with the aim of causing changes in the dependent
variable, based on the underlying assumption of the researcher that the independent
variable will indeed be able to cause changes. The usage of the controlled variable
maintains a high level of consistency because all other variables must be controlled to
ensure that nothing interferes with exactly what is being tested.
Generalisability is mandatory if we want our research evidence to be able to prevent the
undesirable consequence of being constrained to only those contexts that have been
studied and instead be readily applicable to the wider setting, and indeed a research
journal has stated that “Within quantitative research, generalisability is considered a major
criterion for evaluating the quality of a study” (Polit, D. Beck, C 2019). This is commonly
known as external validity and will not only involve generalising the results onto the wider
population but perhaps also across populations and various setting or contexts as well as
time. Most research studies are based upon a moderate sample size for example 500 blue
collar workers out of a factory of 10,000 workers and we will usually find that the sole

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Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

purpose for that study is to be able to generalise the results onto the wider population (the
other 9,500 in this example) instead of only understanding that sample since this is the
hallmark of quantitative research. In fact, the best indicator of such a study being a
success i.e. it can indeed be generalised onto the wider population is that genuinely
appears to mirror the population i.e. the sample had a set of characteristics that were
readily visible in the wider population also. It is evident that generalisability often will
stretch further than those individuals that have been represented by the chosen sample
onto a much wider population and of course this is the most favourable outcome for any
researcher. There is a public health research paper that has presented an argument that a
lot of research has tended to put too much emphasis upon internal validity at the expense
of gaining external validity, and thus “The consequence of this emphasis upon internal
validity has been a lack of attention to and information about external validity, which has
contributed to our failure to translate research into public health practice” (Steckler, A.
McLeroy, K. 2008).

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Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

LO1.4 – Explain the problems that can arise when undertaking research

There are many challenges that researchers are likely to encounter when undertaking
research, although most of these are likely to have occurred multiple times and are thus
well documented which allows them to be prepared for such instances and to have a
solution for how to overcome these issues. It is evident that research will often depend
heavily upon information sources when researching a potential topic and there will be a
huge variety of sources including books, journals, social media, ethnographies, conference
proceedings, official publications, standards, news, legal sources, theses, and many more
(Libguides.Exteter.ac.uk. 2015). It is probably going to be academic journals that form the
bulk of most research sources backed up by the other forms, with researchers scanning
through many of them before becoming informed enough to form a specific hypothesis
with which to test. However, it is not self-evident that the researchers will have immediate
access to the appropriate sources of information i.e. there will be many limitations. What is
worse is that a news article by The Guardian has claimed that there are so many
academics struggling to gain access to good quality research tools i.e. journals in this case
that they often will resort to utilising substandard or perhaps in some circumstances even
illegal alternatives i.e. a repository of journal articles that have been crowdsourced without
the publisher’s consent such as Sci-Hub which has been reported as an extreme threat to
paid journal subscriptions since it works on stolen login credentials obtained through
methods such as hacking and phishing. The most significant problem is that proprietary
websites that host academic journals are very costly in terms of subscriptions and given
the fact that researchers typically read through hundreds for a single study this often
makes them prohibitively expensive unless they work for very large corporations who can
easily afford to pay for this, or perhaps they simply don’t want to pay for them as services
such as Sci-Hub are readily available. Not only this, but the news article reports how
navigation into these repositories can be confusing and time consuming, with the reporter
claiming that the average navigation through the institutional login page and subsequent
location of the required entry taking over 15 clicks. At first sight this may not seem like too
much of an issue, but it is argued that considering there are around 2.5 billion online
academic journals accessed every year the lost time involved in an arguably arduous
process could amount to serious hours lost in research (The Guardian. 2018), which is
backed up further by research for ONRL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) who reported
that compared to physical print articles it took on average twice as long for scientific
researchers to access web-based content (Hoggan, D. 2002), with the inevitable
conclusion being that they simply aren’t using them as effectively as they could be and this
includes all information both free and paid for so it isn’t only proprietary sources that are
problematic.
It is not possible for any one system to index all sources of information entirely and thus
the process of searching for it is fragmented including both information retrieval systems
and internet search engines which often provide many results entirely lacking in relevance
because they are arguably quite crude and lacking in precision and of course cannot index
all content everywhere i.e. it is a ceaseless work in progress to crawl the web. Thus, it is
the case that finding appropriate online sources can be problematic for the aspiring
researcher. A journal published by the University of London describes what researchers
have termed “Pathologies of information” which is a phenomenon brought about by the
steady emergence of new technologies that change the information environment (Bawden,
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D., Robinson, L 2009). The concepts of information overload and resource overload as
previously described are key examples of such pathologies. These new technologies will
in turn demand new solutions although they do warn that focusing purely upon the
information management itself is likely to be woefully inadequate and instead additional
topics must be addressed including education and how individuals respond to the ever-
increasing complexity of the information environment so that we are not continuing to
encounter the same issues from the past. There are ways to reduce this disorientation
however, including the researcher ensuring that they familiarise themselves with some of
the available tools and the most effective ways to use them. Also there is a warning that
perhaps the seemingly perfectionist approach of expecting to find consistent high-quality
information simply lacks realism because there is such a diverse range out there that could
potentially serve their purposes, and instead the researcher should be content with a level
of satisficing instead where they are happy with a satisfactory result rather than what might
be considered the perfect solution to their problems. However, this is not to say that they
should practice this in an arbitrary manner meaning that there must be a sound rational
basis for their selection and such an individual could be termed to be an “Information
literate person” (Bawden, D, Robinson, L. 2009) with which all researchers should
presumably aspire to be unless there are circumstances where it is mandatory that the
ideal solution must be located.
Another serious concern for the researcher is the credibility of web-based content and
other sources since the online environment is treacherous and subject to both scholarly
misconduct and misinformation which either on their own or combined can be powerful
barriers to being able to locate reputable information for example it might be wrong or
based upon non-existent evidence. A researcher named Fitzgerald defined five main
causes of misinformation with scholarly misconduct being one of these, and this is
composed of three subcategories namely fabrication (inventing all data that is then used in
a study), falsification (misrepresenting the data to reach a conclusion that the researcher
wants to reach), and plagiarism (a blatant copying of another’s work without referencing
them), with the main reason probably being to quickly author a journal to maintain their
perceived level of academic standing or even gain a promotion (Calvert, P. 2006). Many
journals available online are now peer-reviewed which at first glance would appear to
resolve such unfortunate issues from occurring, however another research paper has
stated that in fact worryingly this may not be the case at all and this is compounded by the
fact that there is an obvious over-dependence upon them. The researchers state that
many journals provide press releases to the press who simply don’t have time to study
each story in any real depth, and unless a full context to the story is provided to afford
further investigation if they did choose to follow it up further then there can be much more
confidence in the quality of that research. The problem is stated to be caused by the fact
that simply being in a prestigious journal is a type of short-circuit of way of signalling
achievement within the academic and wider community and that time pressures on
assessors are making this much more prevalent, with many institutions such as China and
Taiwan for example paying bonuses with higher pay-outs for its academics appearing in
the most prestigious journals (Nature. 1999). Thus, the fact that there exists a significant
dependence upon them for quality control is very worrying and this means that there must
ultimately be a drive towards allocating time and resources into independently assessing
them for credibility. Of course, there will be a fine line between certifying the quality of
research without stepping into the territory of a University or other institution resorting to
censorship. There must also be a drive to prevent monopolies having full control over
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information resources to prevent them having the power to spread misinformation (Nature,
1999). Again, the most realistic solution for the concerned researcher will tie in with our
previously mentioned “Information literate person” (Bawden, D, Robinson, L. 2009) who
will ideally be equipped with the required knowledge to be able to intuitively recognise the
signs of misinformation if they do come across it. Perhaps by triangulation of a plurality of
sources to ensure that they corroborate. Also, there are likely to be websites that have
been untouched for very long periods of time and the information contained within them
has become outdated or even obsolete and the researcher may be inadvertently pursuing
a line of enquiry that is long outdated. However, it is apparent that misinformation may
actually be caused by unintentional mistakes although the impact of this is likely to be fairly
low if a plurality of sources are consulted, but another more serious concern is that there
has been an introduction of bias by the researcher and this can affect all stages of the
research process for example the data collection stage, and detecting it is often not a
straightforward task since every study will contain a certain level of bias and it is only by
closely examining the study design and implementation will it then become apparent if they
were conducted properly which will in turn ensure that the level of bias is kept to a
minimum. The issue of bias must ideally be addressed at the planning stage since it is the
study design and subsequent execution of it that is the problem not the results. There are
dangers involved in trying to eliminate bias since this may backfire and simply create
further bias or perhaps that study may end up becoming less generalisable as a result.
When we have bias in research we will notice that there are factors that lead to a
prejudiced and impartial consideration of key questions, and the key definition of bias in
research is when “Systematic error is introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or
encouraging one answer or outcome over others” (Pannucci, C. Wilkins, E. 2010). The
greater the level of bias within a research study, the more that study will consequently be
lacking in validity. Again, the ultimate responsibility for recognising bias lies with the reader
of the research who must exercise discernment and be fully aware of how bias influences
research studies. Bias will in most cases be negative, but the reverse can be true i.e.
positive bias where only research that supports the hypothesis is utilised whilst the rest is
ignored by the researchers. There are many instances of bias and these are usually
grouped into categories, with one such case of being interviewer bias, where for example if
an interviewer is aware that a patient they are interviewing has a specific disease they may
continually probe that patient for risk factors (perhaps by asking how much they have
smoked or alcohol consumption) compared to a member of the control group who isn’t
subjected to questioning quite as intense as their counterpart. The way to resolve this
issue is to ensure that the interviewer is kept in the dark as to the outcomes that the
researchers are interested in i.e. they are blinded, and some studies will use double-
blinding where both the interviewer and participant are unaware of the true purpose of that
study. However, this may not always be a good solution since research by Lijmer et al.
(1999) has suggested that many research studies in the medical field were using double-
blinding inappropriately and that this led to the true level of diagnostic accuracy being
overestimated in many cases (Sica, G. 2006). Another example of bias is social desirability
bias where participants may attempt to portray themselves in the best possible way to
researchers by minimising any negative responses or overemphasising positive ones, and
this can be minimised by the researcher’s behaviour in that they will show positive regard
for the participants and ensuring them that even socially unacceptable answers are
welcome or even using forced-choice items instead. We be very careful of setting the
standard too high because many studies that do contain valuable information and insights

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may be disregarded due to be classified as imperfect and overly biased under such rigid
and unbending requirements.
Another problem that can arise when undertaking research is time constraints and this can
appear in several forms, with the most obvious example being rigid deadlines that must be
adhered to if the researchers are to ensure that they do not overrun on their budget and
the publishers get the study when they were promised it. An academic will usually have
many other duties besides carrying out one single study and must ensure that they
maintain a level of balance. If there is any revenue for the task for instance many
Universities in China and Taiwan pay researchers for journal entries then such funding will
be delayed if the study is behind schedule, and perhaps a proposal must be completed
and approved before funding is allocated to the researchers by a set date. It is also the
participants themselves who are likely to be lacking in time as they will likely have many of
their own responsibilities and thus interviews may be briskly conducted which might even
negatively impact upon the results. However, although at first glance it might appear
beneficial if researchers are given extended deadlines for completion of their research
study, a journal by the Journal of Consumer Research has presented an argument that
seems counterintuitive but is certainly worth considering. The author argues that the
common notion that greater time flexibility facilitates goal pursuit is mistaken and that
instead longer deadlines are prone to induce negative and detrimental consequences
upon goal pursuit that are completely unintentional but nevertheless harmful. The study
itself was concerned with consumers although arguably this can be extrapolated onto
researchers. The assertion is that once a longer deadline has been firmly established, a
phenomenon occurs where the perceived goal difficulty for those individuals increases
which in turn causes them to invest even more time and money into the pursuit of that goal
i.e. the resource commitments are also correspondingly increased. Thus, we can see that
in many cases the presence of a longer deadline is signalling that the goal difficulty is also
greater, and this often in turn causes researchers to overgeneralise and positively
associate the two factors (i.e. longer deadlines and increased goal difficulty) even though
the deadline length is nothing to do with the difficulty of the task at hand (Zhu, M. Bagchi,
R. Hock, S. 2018). It is apparent that researchers must become familiar with and develop
their time management skills so that they can accomplish their goals within the allotted
timeframes and get their work published as quickly as possible without sacrificing the
quality of the work, as well as keeping up with the expectations of their colleagues and
institutions. Another research study reported that the grant proposals that must be written
before the study can be executed are particularly stressful and time consuming and that
this will often conflict with their family responsibilities and in cases of rebuttal the negative
consequences are further amplified. Indeed, it reported that in 2012 the National Health
and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) received over 3727 research proposals taking
over 550 years and costing around $66 million, and the existence of a single annual
deadline for the funding proposals put extreme pressure on these researchers causing
them to neglect their personal lives due to time poverty (Herbert, D., Coveney, J., Clarke,
P. 2014) and this is exacerbated by the emerge of new technologies which further
increase time required to complete necessary tasks.
A researcher undertaking a research study that is gathering qualitative data must strive to
immerse themselves in that setting if they are to attain a clear and distinct understanding
of the events that unfold within it, and this presents them with a new set of unique
challenges because of the existence of the Hawthorne Effect which holds that observers

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tend to behave differently if they are aware of being observed. The commonly held notion
is that such participants are influenced by perceived researcher expectations which in turn
strongly motivate them to conform to social norms and modify their behaviour to suit what
is they believe to be to be likely expected of them in order to maintain a healthy level of
social desirability. They may exaggerate any positive statements whilst neglecting to report
anything that might be deemed to be socially unacceptable. However, a research paper
has argued that although this is the widely accepted understanding of the phenomenon,
there appear to be many conflicting explanations for the mechanism behind the effect and
it is probably more accurate to define it as an instance where we are presented with study
findings that do not meet our pre-defined expectations, especially when these prove to be
a major disappointment or in cases where we are left with null findings in trials
(McCambridge, J., Witton, J. and Elbourne, D. 2014).
Although the Hawthorne Effect was initially observed at the famous Hawthorne Plant in the
1920’s and 1930’s as an interesting and outcome of how workers being observed
automatically increased their productivity since they were aware of being observed and it
was argued they were honoured to be singled out, it has now taken a central role in most
modern research particularly in the social sciences. It is another form of bias and it is quite
apparent that it is likely to be one of the most problematic biases since it is inbuilt into the
psychology of those participants and there is no obvious way to quantify this. However, a
research paper by the BMJ (British Medical Journal) has reported that not only can the
Hawthorne Effect be observed in the research participants, but that this is often observed
in the researchers and healthcare practitioners especially when their performance is under
scrutiny which is often the case. They state that placebos and sham treatments are often
given in trials to create a double-blind and that even so the practitioners usually know if
they are giving care in a clinical trial which will likely change their behaviour, and they talk
about the occurrence of “Non-specific treatment effects” i.e. effects not directly caused by
the treatment (Sedgwick, P. Greenwood, N 2019) which are collectively known as the
Placebo Effect which is caused directly by them administering placebos to the patients. In
addition, the patient will be affected by the actual ritual of treatment being given and the
interaction with that practitioner. The conclusion is that the Hawthorne Effect is not a single
entity but instead is much more likely to be a collection of potential biases that only further
research in both quantitative and qualitative formats will uncover with advice on
researchers triangulating sources to ensure that their data is accurate. Also, the best way
to overcome the Hawthorne effect is probably going to be building a good quality rapport
with the subjects so that they are at ease in the presence of the researchers and thus
good quality data can be gathered from the study, and indicators of this would likely be
humour or any other light-hearted comments from the participants.
Another problem that can arise when undertaking research is whether to use quantitative
or qualitative studies, and many researchers have directly criticised qualitative studies
because they supposedly lack objectivity and are constrained to the subjective viewpoints
of the researchers and for this reason quantitative research can provide us with results
that possess validity. However, the major strength in the qualitative methodology is that it
follows the tried and tested method of continually seeking to connect the context with the
explanation and thus we are not limited to one general picture of how things work as with
quantitative studies but instead have access to cross-contextual generalities (Mason, J
1997) that are based in principles of sound reasoning and are thus very compelling
arguments. Thus, we can immediately see the significance of context in the analysis and

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interpretation of qualitative research data and how it can be employed strategically to


reach highly complex, scientifically valid, and insightful conclusions despite purported
weaknesses i.e. that it is at best anecdotal i.e. based upon the personal opinions of the
researcher rather than being based in any type of objective and verifiable fact. It is not the
case that there is a universal prescriptive template for how to conduct a qualitative
research study, instead the reality is that the unique philosophies of researchers will
dictate studies that are infinitely customisable in ways that they see fit to construct them
and all these can nevertheless be defined as qualitative as long as they strive to maintain
a level of consistency with the key principles, and therein lies the true power of the
qualitative research data which is not subject to rigid constraints or restrictions. The debate
continues however, and most approaches nowadays favour the mixed methods approach
that will combine the two.
Another potential problem for researchers is what is known as the Halo Effect which is a
form of cognitive bias that is probably one of the most well-known psychological
phenomena. The traditional meaning of the term is that individuals in research studies
often perform “Global evaluations” of the totality of another individual’s traits i.e. a holistic
interpretation where any unknown attributes of that person are judged to be favourable
based upon if that person appears likeable, intelligent, good looking etc. However, a
research paper from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology argues that the
Halo Effect is likely to be much stronger than this typical definition in that these Global
Evaluations are not restricted to the realm of the ambiguous traits, where instead these will
also be powerful enough to influence stimuli that are thoroughly unambiguous and thus
that individual already has all they need to make a correct judgment. The example cited is
that if we have a certain liking for an individual then the Halo Effect will likely prompt us to
determine that the individual is also high on the attractiveness scale, even though we are
perfectly able to render an independent assessment on this with confidence without
resorting to any external justifications (i.e. that we like them). This stronger form of the
Halo Effect is supported by a research study by Landy and Sigall (1974) which showed
that male college students tasked to assess essays by the participants marked them
significantly higher when it was alleged to them that the writer was a very attractive female
compared to alleged less attractive females (these were fictional characters), and this was
even very strong when the essay was of very poor quality. The fact that they were
perfectly able to assess the quality of the essays independently of the perceived
attractiveness supports the stronger form although the criticism is that the study did not
completely capture the Halo Effect since only a single attribute was manipulated as
opposed to a Global Evaluation (Nisbett, R. Wilson, T. 1977). It must be remembered that
the Halo Effect also works in the opposing direction i.e. if an individual feels a dislike of a
given aspect of somebody then this may very well lead to an overall negative disposition
towards them including the stronger Global Evaluation which could prove to be very
unfavourable for the individual concerned. In conclusion researchers must keep the Halo
Effect in mind but overcoming it might be a different story although perhaps trying to
encourage participants and other researchers to make more educated judgments based
upon facts rather than succumbing to the automatic processes of the brain.

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LO2 – Know how to conduct a literature review

LO2.1 – Justify the use of research sources

Researchers will usually use a variety of sources to aid them in their work since most
people’s experiences are relatively limited and thus if they had to write about only those
things that they were very experienced in then the list would be short and restrictive. Also,
in the academic community there are unbending expectations that all researchers will have
consulted credible sources in their work to back up their arguments and maintained
integrity by ensuring that their work acknowledges these so that they are not guilty of
plagiarism i.e. passing another’s ideas off as our own. The researcher has shown by using
a variety of sources that they are not simply citing their personal opinions on the subject
and that they have arrived at their conclusions through a highly analytical and methodical
approach that has been informed through consulting a wide range of credible materials. It
is also very useful for others reading their work when it contains a list of sources used i.e.
a bibliography at the end since they can be followed up and investigated and perhaps this
will then inform further research down the line. There are many different formats available
to the researcher although electronic sources including web-based journals are probably
the most widely used, and these usually are going to cover topics that are specialist and
extremely specific compared to paper-based books which are in comparison much broader
in scope. Electronic resources have a very large capacity and the swiftness with which
information can be accessed does gives it major advantages over other forms. This brings
us to the downside of paper-based resources which can be heavy and will usually require
a large space i.e. a library to store them properly so that they can be ordered properly and
protected from the elements or theft. One of the major advantages of paper-based
resources such as books is that costs are dramatically reduced since they can be
borrowed for a set time period, and the coverage of the material is likely to be in much
greater depth than would be found in any online journal for example. The major
disadvantage of paper-based resources such as books is that they are likely to become
outdated and finding the relevant information within them can sometimes be very
challenging and time consuming. The fact that there exists only a finite amount of copies
within a library means that perhaps the material will not be readily available if particularly
popular and there may even be a waiting list, and the alternative of buying an academic
book for example can be extremely expensive. However, although most people do hold
that electronic resources are the dominant type of source, there are reports from studies
that reading from the computer screen or device often results in a much slower reading
speed and in the sphere of comprehension participants did report that their grasp of the
subject matter was improved with paper materials compared to electronic alternatives
(Isaias, P. Miranda, P. Pifano, S. 2011). They state that we should probably not try to
compare paper and electronic resources directly since the electronic resources serve the
purpose of being of assistance to various tasks rather than being a substitution for the
sources in paper format. Paper resources have a lot more flexibility in terms of their
manoeuvrability in a collaborative environment where they can be freely distributed due to
being so lightweight and information contained on various parts of the page easily
compared in a group discussion for example. However, there are many categories of
paper-based resources and they are not of equal usefulness, for example we have the

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Encyclopaedia which is unlikely to be very specific since its aim is to include as many
topics as possible in the smallest amount of space, and then there is the magazine or
newspaper which although perhaps informative to some level does not possess any level
of academic integrity and is likely to biased and full of subjective and politically-charged
opinion. There is also the analysing of social media channels on the Internet and this can
be useful in the sense that a lot of the information will be up-to-date although again there is
a distinct lack of academic credibility although it is very useful in the sense that it can
provide an accurate representation of the information that is trending on the Internet and
this can be collected and subsequently analysed in real-time. Social media research will
be unique in the sense that it can offer deep insights into people’s online behaviours, with
one such method being online survey data although this can be problematic in the sense
that there are malingerers online that simply want to cause havoc and will deliberately
exaggerate complaints in order to elicit a response from others, as well as this being a
rather inferior alternative to focus group discussions which will arguably offer much more
profound insights than a set of answers to highly regimented questions in such a survey.
However, one research paper has drawn our attention to the fact that scientists and
organisations that are involved in research use what are known as metrics (quantitative
assessments) so that the impact of that research can be measured and that the most
prolific methodology for achieving this is via citations found in peer reviewed articles which
in turn reference other articles. The article describes how popular metrics such as the h-
metric and its derivatives are routinely used so that the productivity and impact of the
researchers in question can be objectively quantified although there are several major
obstructions to achieving this i.e. this takes a considerable amount of time, the lack of
open-access research means that it can be problematic obtaining the metrics, and also
that much of the information is situated within proprietary databases which contain metrics
that are arguably lacking in transparency and are not easily reproducible. Also, even when
using citations to measure productivity we are only measuring the impact within the
scientific community itself and not the wider impact upon those who are using the
knowledge contained within the research e.g. those who make policies or the general
public i.e. the real-world impact. The author presents the usage of the social media
platform Twitter for gathering metrics that can be directly accessed via API’s (Application
Programming Interfaces) and that these “Altmetrics” can “Be used to gauge concepts such
as popularity, buzz, social impact, or uptake of new information” (Eysenbach, G. 2011).
This works because both scientists and the public when using the internet to search for
various forms of information inadvertently leave many digital traces and this is the arena of
“Infodemiology”, where for example tweets around a new movie could predict its level of
success before it is even released and thus we can see that the Internet has enabled us to
measure information that was previously immeasurable. The author calls this new field of
social-media driven analysis “Scientometrics 2.0” (Eysenbach, G. 2011) which is defined
as predicting the impact of the research and analysing the buzz that it creates once
released into the public domain. Thus, we can see that researchers using social media as
a source are likely to have a very powerful tool at their disposal which can provide unique
information that no other source can.

Google Scholar is a decent example of an electronic resource with many academic papers
and journals on an infinitude of disciplines, but the downside is that the resources are not
necessarily peer reviewed and a significant number of them are restricted to those that

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have subscriptions or memberships to academic institutions. However, as previously


described in the report there is a website known as Sci-Hub which contains many mirror
sites and reportedly works by exploiting authentication technology by using stolen user
credentials that many believe are likely obtained through phishing attacks since the
material is not actually hosted by the website it simply logs the user into the location where
it is stored. In December 2018 there was a court action by many of the big players against
Sci-Hub including Springer Nature and Elsevier with the result being the blocking of the
websites in Russia, with them stating that “Sci-Hub infringes intellectual property rights on
a massive scale. The site compromises the security of libraries and institutions around the
world to gain unauthorised access to scientific databases and illegally harvest journal
articles and e-books” (Thebookseller.com. 2018). This will prove to be a boon for the
researcher who does not have the financial means to pay for subscriptions or who does
not have an affiliation with an institution, or perhaps the institution is from a poorer third-
world country that cannot afford to fund their academics for these services. Thus, the
downside is that perhaps the researcher might be exposing themselves to potential legal
implications from using the website although this is probably unlikely. Also, the fact that
there has been a huge increase in electronic sources on Google Scholar and many other
websites and repositories means that low quality materials are submitted on a regular
basis and this lacks the required level of trustworthiness which in turn hinders the scientific
process since information progressively builds upon itself and this necessitates a decent
level of trust (Kelly, K. 2014). However, many electronic journals do provide a great deal of
clarity and will readily discuss alternative viewpoints as potential lines of enquiry even if
the researchers subscribe to a very specific viewpoint, and much of their work tends to be
backed up by good quality case studies which allow for the knowledge being transmitted to
be applied to real-life situations (Apiar.org.au. 2018). It must be noted that online journals
are not the only type of electronic source and others will include research databases and
databanks which in addition to research papers and journals may contain conference
notes or transcripts of scholarly discussions, and again these are likely to be more difficult
to access than online journals since login credentials will be required and some expertise
in querying databases which may be running on systems that are poorly designed and
outdated and thus difficult to navigate especially if foreign materials are required. Also we
might argue that perhaps only those who are high-up in the academic ranks such as those
with doctorates and professorships will be able to get the most out of the online electronic
resources however this is counterintuitively not the case since research by Sit (1998)
reported that it was younger users who demonstrated the greatest skills in searching for
electronic resources in the academic setting compared to those of middle-age who had
more issues with “Question making, understanding key words, and phrase search with
Boolean operators” (Shabazi, S. Keshtiaray, N. Yousefi, A 2012).

Also, it is apparent that each web-based electronic source is likely to have a different
navigation structure (the institution will likely have designed their own websites and
databases), and this only serves to further complicate the process of acquiring suitable
content. These researchers use the term “Web-based content” to refer to all content (free
and paid) that is accessed over the internet by researchers for their purposes. We are also
presented with the problem of “Information overload” which basically means that the sheer
volume of available information becoming continually created and distributed online makes
managing it become a very difficult task and this entails that the researcher will find it

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much more difficult to skilfully locate the appropriate information from online journals,
libraries, as well as additional academic content drawn from web-based databases and
databanks. The unfortunate outcome is that such information may prove to be more of a
hindrance than to that researcher although there may potentially be some useful
information within it, even in some cases leading to health concerns since it can potentially
turn into a high stress pursuit with feelings of lacking control (Hoggan, D. 2002). Directly
related to this is the opposing phenomenon of “Reference overload” (Bawden, D.,
Robinson, L 2009) which occurs when a library provides the researcher with too many
highly relevant sources for audio, electronic, and paper-based sources partly because the
librarian simply doesn’t know which to give the top priority to and also because they are
very keen to ensure that the public perception of them is that they are performing their
work duties to the fullest, and in the end the pressure would be upon them to perhaps
create some type of online resource guide to aid the researcher in the process of locating
suitable resources without being bombarded by them since their job is arguably to ensure
that the experience with them is rewarding and productive. However, we will also need to
answer the question of exactly when their commitment to us ends and whether it really is
their full responsibility to guide the researcher to every single resource that they offer,
although they must ensure that they are cautious in trying to serve the end user to the
point where they are being flooded with relevant resources since this seemingly defeats
the object of the reference interview (Reichardt. 2006). Thus we can see so far that both
information and reference overload affect a wide range of sources including audio, paper-
based and electronic and thus we cannot say that any one of them is better than the other
especially since they all have many strengths and weaknesses, and thus in conclusion the
ideal approach would be to use a mixture of all of them depending upon the nature of the
research question and the material that is currently available to the researchers in
whatever format it occurs. With audio sources these are also predominantly found on the
web or alternatively in subscription databases and these may include interviews and oral
histories, radio broadcasts, speeches, and music (Lemoyne.edu. 2019). These can
provide an information rich resource to researchers and the researchers must decide upon
how these sources will be used e.g. will they be used to collect raw data for scientific
research or perhaps as the focus of an analysis, and one such large collection can be
found on the Internet Archive Digital Library which is free. This is similar for video
resources and these are going to be a very good option for those that favour the visual
learning style. Researchers must be very careful as there may be various rights and
restrictions attached to both these types of sources and who exactly own the intellectual
property to them. Many might be fine with personal usage but if there is a commercial
usage then there could potentially be problems. However, both audio and video sources
will arguably provide very rich data and perhaps can also be a much less intrusive method
for collecting the required data which might overcome the Hawthorne Effect to some
degree. The data is permanently captured and thus will never be subjected to any loss of
content or richness over time, as well as providing a level of complexity that is difficult to
match using other methods e.g. a survey. There are concerns that the confidentiality of
participants might be an issue although there isn’t much that they can do once the
information is in the public domain.
We must now describe both primary and secondary categories of resources and whether
they have any limitations that will both challenge and hinder the researcher. With primary
resources we mean that such a source is a first-hand account and the scientific
experiment is a very good example where direct observations have been made by the
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researchers who had full control over the environment within which the experiment was
operating. There is a lack of any type of retrospective analysis or interpretation since the
events were documented as they occurred and primary sources will contain a reflection of
the perspectives of both the participants and the researchers (observers). It is timing that
is the key deciding factor upon whether a source is primary i.e. it must have been recorded
in the desired medium at the time the event occurred compared to secondary sources
which in contrast are more retrospective in nature meaning they are further removed from
the original event. In most cases the author of the secondary source did not personally
participate in the original event in any shape or form and instead is interpreting and
analysing information found in other primary and secondary sources e.g. articles, scholarly
books, dictionaries, almanacs, or book reviews. There are many other examples of primary
sources including oral interviews, eyewitness accounts, speeches, videos, photographs,
Government publications etc. It is not always straightforward to determine if a source is
primary or secondary since these can change depending upon the topic i.e. a primary
source in one topic can potentially also be a secondary source in another. However, it
must be noted that primary sources can be very easily be lacking in objectivity since it is
the researchers who may be imposing their viewpoints on the observed events in order to
fit their hypotheses, and also in oral interviews for example we might justifiably question
people’s accounts of the past especially if they are some time ago when memories can
conceivably have faded or perhaps memories are traumatic and we know that the concept
of psychological repression holds that such memories are often unconsciously forgotten to
protect the individual from stress. In many cases we may not even know the identity of that
author e.g. if the primary source is from a Governmental worker (Lib.uts.edu.au. 2013) and
so it can be difficult to establish credibility if there is no means to investigate the
credentials of that author. To make matters worse that author may no longer be living and
so any form of further consultation with them is impossible. Primary research sources in
comparison to secondary can be very time intensive to collect and costly e.g. designing
questionnaires and advertising for participants and any researchers planning on using their
own must ensure that they have an appreciation of these constraints beforehand. Also, the
fact that the focus with primary research sources is on the moment perhaps might entail
that the researchers may inadvertently be missing out on the bigger picture by having such
a narrow focus. Care must be taken when browsing websites for primary sources since the
website may be biased and host only content that supports the creator’s viewpoints. On
the other hand, there are issue with secondary research sources because quite simply
they are not first-hand accounts of a subject and any interpretive analysis carried out upon
the primary source may prove to misrepresent the information perhaps through bias of the
researcher or simply misunderstandings, especially if this occurs multiple times in different
publications which could progressively dilute the content. It might be the case that the data
the researchers are seeking in a secondary source is simply not available and thus they
would have to give serious consideration to conducting their own study. Also, because the
very nature of secondary research is to condense and summarise a wide variety of primary
sources into a format that is much more accessible to the wider community
(My.sunderland.ac.uk. 2019) there is the risk that the information will be oversimplified and
lacking the required depth of knowledge, and this will be further amplified by the biases of
the researchers. For these reasons it is recommended that both types i.e. primary and
secondary sources be used in the sense that secondary sources are supplemented with
primary sources to minimise the negative effects from purely using one or the other.

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LO2.2 – Evaluate the importance of using primary information sources

When using primary sources, a researcher will want to ensure that they possess validity
i.e. they are credible or otherwise any subsequent interpretations or studies based upon
this information will generate conclusions that are lacking in truth or misrepresenting it in
some way. It is not self-evident that all primary sources are valid simply because they are
primary sources, and thus researchers must use their discernment when selecting them. It
is clear that “Primary data are data that are collected for the specific research problem at
hand, using procedures that fit the research problem best” (Hox, J. Boeije, H. 2005) and
then this data is consequently added to the wider social knowledge base which acts as a
store from which other researchers progressively draw information i.e. it is reused for other
studies and subsequent generation of secondary research sources. Thus, if there is any
lack in accuracy or validity at this stage then the entire system is going to be negatively
impacted. A lot of primary research is conducted with the scientific experiment and for this
reason the researcher usually creates the research setting themselves and to some
degree has a lot of control over it since it is likely to be artificial i.e. a laboratory setting with
many variables being tightly controlled to prevent them from interfering with the results.
We can say that primary sources of research are very important to us since any records
that were created at the very same time as the event itself are always going to be much
more accurate than those created later after the fact from a retrospective interpretation. A
researcher should probably ensure that they do not limit themselves and would ideally try
to consult non-textual sources such as photographs in combination with textual sources
which is a form of corroboration which is technically known as Triangulation. A research
paper has reported that researchers tend to favour one methodological technique which
after a certain time becomes their habitual method of research, for instance many
qualitative studies will employ only one research technology such as participant
observation or interviewing, and a great deal of them perceive their preferred method as
being an atheoretical tool (one that lacks any type of theoretical basis). The problem is that
they don’t seem to grasp that each method will impose certain perspectives upon reality
(Berg, B. 2001) for example when studying a population a researcher might want to
interview a sample from a neighbourhood concerning some type of ingrained social issue
currently affecting the community and this carries with it an implied theoretical assumption
before the fact that there exists a stability and consistency to reality, and perhaps another
researcher is observing participants in a given setting an this also carries the pre-decided
theoretical assumption that the various actions of both the participants and themselves
have a direct and significant impact upon reality. Berg claims that these are both what he
calls “Lines of sight” towards the observation of the same things i.e. social and symbolic
reality (Berg, B. 2001) and that therefore it would be auspicious to combine as many of
these as possible to ensure that we have a much richer and verifiable grasp of
phenomena. In other words, he is talking about the concept of Triangulation which brings
us much closer to conclusions that possess validity through combining multiple “Lines of
sight” into one comprehensive enquiry, rather than the tried and tested method of
favouring only one. Triangulation is rooted in navigation, law enforcement, and military
activities where an unknown point such as a pirate radio station transmitter is located with
three known points being used to draw lines of sight towards that transmitter which is at an
unknown point in that area, and where the lines cross is what is termed the “Triangle of
error” which is a much smaller triangle. What happens next is that since the three lines of

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sight are likely to be equal in terms of error and thus the unknown object (radio transmitter
in this case) is very likely to be in the very centre of the triangle of error based upon thee
considerations. This could be achieved with only two lines but adding a third ensures that
the process will be much more straightforward and accurate, and this methodology applies
directly to the way researchers employ multiple (probably three) distinct techniques of data
collection although this is not simply a case of combining them as this will not combat the
threats to the validity of each method that exists. Indeed, Fielding & Fielding (1986) claim
that simply attempting to combine the data is too simplistic and that instead we can
overcome the threats to the validity of each method if we make a serious attempt to relate
them (Berg, B. 2001) through cross-checking and comparison. However, we must be
aware that the term triangulation is being used in the right way since there are two
accepted definitions i.e. firstly that it simply increases the depth of understanding of the
phenomenon to the wider audience, and secondly that it is a validity measure that will
have a direct impact upon the accuracy of the given study. We will favour the second
definition because it is arguably a much stronger position and it entails that we utilise a
mixed-methods approach to a research study i.e. both qualitative and quantitative so that
their strengths can be combined and thus their weaknesses are mitigated to a greater
degree than with using only one or the other as has been the traditional methodology.
Thus, the researcher can readily apply this second definition when triangulating sources
where they will search for sources from both qualitative and quantitative data sets and now
undoubtedly their research can be expected to be much more credible. There are
researchers who would disagree with this though because there are held to be
irreconcilable epistemological and ontological differences with both qualitative and
quantitative data with the key concern being that the underlying assumptions between both
approaches being too different (Hussein, A. 2009), but again it is considered best to
consider this a strength and that both approaches are mutually complimentary. The paper
reports that the final decision lies with the researcher and there is a high level of flexibility
where they are free to decide upon whether they will favour one method over another
depending upon their philosophical leanings for example they may favour the quantitative
approach with the bulk of the sources coming from these studies, and simply use a smaller
number of qualitative sources to strengthen the key findings. They must endeavour to
provide a clear justification as to why they personally feel that triangulation is necessary in
their research since it “Is an important aspect in reaping the benefits and neutralising the
flaws of the methods to be triangulated towards increasing the credibility of the research
results” (Hussein, A. 2009) and thus the burden of proof is upon them. It will also be a
good idea to check if other credible researchers have referenced the source since this will
be a sign that it is much more likely to possess validity.
Another factor to consider when looking for information sources is how current they are
because they may have become outdated although of course the criteria for this will vary
depending upon the topic. It may be appropriate to use some much older sources if they
provide the background information such as the foundations of the current research and
what developments led up to the current point in time for example a primary source
account of a historical event is likely to be relevant regardless of how long ago it occurred.
One key term that is favoured by historians when searching for primary sources is what is
known as the “Time and place rule” which states that “The closer in time and place a
source and its creator were to an event in the past, the better the source will be”
(Edteck.com. 2018). If on the other hand the same event was documented several years
later by somebody lacking first-hand knowledge of that occurrence then even though this
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is more current it will not be as desirable as the previous option. However, in the broader
sense the benefits of using current sources to inform research are numerous including the
ability of researchers to keep up with their competitors and to facilitate collaboration
opportunities with others in similar fields.
Researchers must be very careful before classifying a source as outdated that might be a
very important foundational work that still has a very strong influence in the current time,
and thus it is not only the age of the evidence that will be the sole deciding factor but also
the strength of that evidence that must be assessed. There are two ways to look at the
currency of a source i.e. “Current best evidence” and alternatively “Most current evidence”
(Nursing Blog. 2013) with the second definition clearly stating that the most recent
evidence is the best choice, and this will probably be the first choice for students and other
researchers who are likely to be given a maximum time-limit on the age of the sources
they are using for their work e.g. no longer than 10 years old. The ongoing question is
exactly where we draw the line and stop reaching for past sources in favour of the most
current, and the best solution is likely to be keeping a balance between them. It is likely
that in most cases researchers will want to utilise sources that are much more current
especially in the sciences where information is likely be to very time sensitive as new
developments are continually occurring. The first thing that must be established by a
researcher is exactly when the given source was published and if there have been any
type of modifications or revisions then the dates of these must be available also. This will
likely be at the bottom of the page alongside the copyright information if there is any,
although if there is a lack of any revision dates or copyright dates then this is probably a
good indicator that the information is not current. It is not good enough to simply assume
that just because information is available on the web that it is current, there is instead a
certain amount of detective work that must be performed by the researcher when looking
for appropriate sources. One very good indicator of a website that might arouse suspicion
is one that contains any broken links since this entails that the website has not been
updated recently and thus any information contained on it will also be out of date, and we
would usually expect a good webmaster on an active website to fix these issues quickly.
Thus, we can see that overall the problem for researchers is keeping up-to-date with new
research developments since this is undoubtedly one of their central activities and this is
going to be a very challenging task for them. Indeed, a research paper has reported that
“Researchers have to locate relevant information within a body of literature that is growing
by millions of new articles per year” (Pontis, S. Blandford, A. Greifender, E. 2017). These
researchers argue that in opposition to using current information systems and tools to find
current sources of information nothing comes close to social interactions with their
colleagues and peers since this offers a level of customisability that is unparalleled. They
state that there is an over-dependence on digital research tools to locate the most up-to-
date sources and that there is an increasing need for methods to help them to filter such
information that is more tailored to their often very specific interests. They report that when
a researcher has a need e.g. they need to find sources to help support a research
hypothesis then this will in turn trigger what are termed “Information-seeking behaviours”
and that “Validating and interpreting” the information is the most critical stage which needs
the most support since there is such a large volume of up-to-date information available
that there is a risk that unless it is found at the exact point of need then it will probably be
filed away and forgotten (Pontis, S. Blandford, A. Greifender, E. 2017). We see that their
colleagues and peers play a key role in helping to filter this information and that it is not

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simply a case of finding up-to-date sources but also how to filter them properly so that they
are available at the researcher’s point of need and thus prevent them from experiencing
information overload and valuable sources discarded unnecessarily. The researchers term
the colleague and peers as information intermediaries” and that valuable insights are
gathered in the process of academic conversation, and so these relationships must be
fostered throughout the career of the researcher rather than simply relying wholly on digital
tools. This is not to say that a researcher will simply rely on these information
intermediaries to recommend the most current sources to them, and instead they will be
discussing shared interests and ideas and recommending possible sources to one another
and it is the most senior researchers who benefit from this the most since the insights
gained are far more sophisticated than reading written materials although they will still be
using these.
A researcher will be able to achieve even more social interactions with colleagues and
peers by using social bookmarking and networking websites such as LinkedIn,
Academia.edu, or Mendeley to collaborate with others who are likely to be able to point the
researcher to sources and websites of interest that are the most current which would take
a lot of work out of having to locate them individually. A researcher can use various tools
such as citation alerts to ensure that they are aware in real-time when an article is cited by
other articles and thus they can ensure that they are fully up-to-date with all new
developments, as well as “Arguments, emerging trends, and identification of new authors
in that area” (NTU Library. 2017). They could also use Google Alerts to monitor any
changes to websites of interest and alert the researcher of any new information quickly
and effortlessly. They may also want to set up RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds which will
ensure that the researcher is alerted to new content updates appearing on the web which
would be very time consuming to search for themselves, and of course it is possible to
customise these feeds so that only relevant information is received on their chosen
interface e.g. Feedly. For best results these RSS feeds will be the segmented into groups
so that they can be managed properly i.e. updated, reviewed, and marked off as having
been read. In addition, they will probably want to not restrict their primary sources to
written information with many podcasts being readily available online that might have been
made on the very same day, although again their origin and the credibility of the speakers
must be investigated to ensure that the information is credible even if it is more up-to-date
than anything else. Thus, in conclusion locating the most up-to-date sources can be a very
challenging task for researchers although following these guidelines will arguably make the
process much more straightforward especially developing healthy academic relationships
with their colleagues and peers to gain insights that digital tools often struggle to provide.

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LO2.3 – Describe a recognised system of referencing

Referencing and citation in research is vital for the prevention of plagiarism or passing
another’s work off as our own without giving due credit to the original author. Indeed,
plagiarism is defined as using materials or ideas “From any published or unpublished
sources, whether print, web-based (even if freely available), or audio-visual”
(Macmillianihe.com. 2017) without acknowledging that source fully. The worst part is that
many researchers are not intentionally plagiarising but might instead simply have poor
referencing skills and thus there is a very fine line between the two, perhaps exacerbated
by educational institutions offering inconsistent advice and the wide variety of referencing
styles available which can be very confusing. The intellectual property of various authors is
often protected under copyright laws and we must continually be aware of this and strive to
honour these laws. Proper referencing also allows the readers (or viewers/listeners) of a
source to follow up on these sources independently to both aid their own understanding
and to verify the credentials of the authors of these sources perhaps through triangulation
as previously described. We can state that the main purpose of referencing is to “Facilitate
the collective development and transmission of academic knowledge” and thus there is no
reason for any researcher to be intimidated by the prospect of potential plagiarism since
the real purpose of such rigorous demands is Utilitarian in nature i.e. the greatest good for
the greatest number of people, despite the fact that there exists what he calls a “Moral
panic” in higher education establishments in the UK which has become unbalanced in the
sense that they overemphasise the ‘when’ and ‘how’ rather than the more fundamental
underpinning principles such as how to effectively develop an authorial identity in our
writing (Neville, C. 2012). It is not only writing that must be referenced but anything
belonging to another author e.g. photographs, conference papers, or even audio on a
podcast. The key with any reference is that is should possess the required amount of
detail to allow any interested party to be able to independently locate that information i.e. it
is much like a co-ordinate system on a map. The main distinguishing feature between an
academic source and one that is not is the fact that a great deal of care is taken by the
authors to substantiate their claims or arguments which will invariably refer to other
academic literature to support their assertions. However, it must be noted that avoiding
plagiarism is not the only reason why academic referencing is necessary with the main
reason for it being that “In order for a text to function as such a response to previous
statements and to be available for further statements by others, it must follow the
reference conventions of its discipline and of the type of text” (Awelu.srv.lu.se. 2017). This
means that a researcher must conform to the traditional guidelines and expectations for
the formal construction requirements of their work laid out by the academic community,
and they will be giving their implicit consent to this if they seek to publish research in this
sphere. These writers are signalling that they have in-depth knowledge of relevant
research in their field by correctly referencing other researchers, and this is often going to
be opposing views which they will often employ strategically to form the background and
basis for their own arguments including the usage of primary research data to provide a
sound scientific basis for their claims. A properly constructed bibliography will condense a
huge amount of useful information into a very short space that can be used to help the
researcher to discover patterns across a multitude of studies and demonstrates that they
have a keen eye for detail and are well informed in their chosen fields of study giving them
increased credibility and potential for career advancement or further funding from

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professional bodies. The vetting process is streamlined as well because most publications
go through editing processes including peer-review and having a solid foundation of quality
and relevant references makes it much more likely that there won’t be any delays or
setbacks from these editors who are likely to pass the work through much more quickly.
We can see immediately that academic referencing is not a simple task and has many
facets, including the demand that a reference must contain the correct publication details
such as the name of the author and the title and date of the article, and one researcher
highlighted how careless copying of references i.e. “Inaccurate referencing, liberal
rephrasing, and empty references” (Harzing, AW. 2002) was found to be directly
attributable to high expatriate failure rates in academic institutions in the USA in the 1990’s
of around 25 – 40% which is a very significant number and shows just how vital it is to get
the referencing right. The return rate of these students before the end of their course was
held to be a major issue for employers in sending their employees abroad on work
placements. The researcher also claims that many top-level academics are guilty of
violating best practices for academic referencing just as are expatriates and that we must
be very careful in dismissing this as a trivial matter since the effect on their field of study
can be very significant. She draws our attention to management research which unlike the
natural sciences lacks a solid empirical base with which researchers can draw data from
(there are countless scientific studies in any area imaginable), mainly because of the
difficulty in conducting such studies especially when this discipline has an international
reach making co-ordinating a study even more problematic due to the ever-increasing
complexity. For this reason, the researcher claims they must avoid resorting to “Careless
and opportunistic second-source referencing” (Harzing, AW. 2002) and instead must
ensure that given they are presented with a highly limited empirical base that they are
obliged to ensure that the evidence they are using does have reliability and validity and is
truly empirical. The fact is that this type of behaviour is rife and due to the demands upon
academics in terms of continual expectations for them to publish new research and rapid
increases in student enrolments makes combatting the issue that much more difficult due
to the ever-increasing time pressures. One major threat to academic referencing traditions
is the prevalence of web 2.0 authoring forms i.e. wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, as well
as audio and video podcasts (Gray, K. Thompson, C. Clerehan, R. Sheard, J 2008) and
whether they are appropriate for scholarly and scientific communication based upon
concerns about how to ensure that academic integrity is maintained despite the ease with
which intellectual property is now able to be manipulated in a fluid manner using such
tools. The major concern of these researchers is that academics traditionally have relied
upon a very rigid and unbending style of referencing and that this has served them well,
but with the advent of web 2.0 authoring forms they must find more appropriate protocols
to reference, paraphrase, or quote these properly or risk not providing adequate
information about them and thus directly threatening the “Great chain of knowledge” that
forms the basis of today’s academic discoveries and achievements. The problem lies in
the fact that the traditional referencing methods simply fail to adequately capture the
nature of the content presented in the web 2.0 authoring forms which “Are described as
inherently co-constructed, connected, and continuous” (Gray, K. Thompson, C. Clerehan,
R. Sheard, J 2008) with continuous being especially relevant since such sources are
continuously subjected to endless revisions and updates and thus lead a perpetual
existence of remaining solely at the draft stage. Compare this to the standard journal entry
for example and it is easy to see how the traditional methods quickly become obsolete
when attempting to reference, paraphrase or quote material that is in continual flux and
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change. Their aim is to encourage such researchers to not simply reference such sources
but also to be confident that they can publish work using the same tools and thus it is valid
and credible since it lends itself to proper referencing and thus avoiding academic integrity
issues in both referencing other’s work and publishing their own. The researchers draw our
attention to how a lot of new content appears first on or even exclusively in the web 2.0
authoring forms and so the demand is for a move from the traditional scholar to what they
termed a “Social scholar” i.e. a scholar who can readily switch between more traditional
sources and those that are much less so with the implication that they are using the
correct referencing protocols not simply because other’s deserve to have their work
acknowledged but also perhaps more importantly that the researcher strengthens their
identity and level of success with the academic and wider community. The major challenge
they state is how to control and manage the usage of such tools within the academic
environment especially with students since their widespread usage is directly attributable
to rising levels of plagiarism, and that more rigorous teaching methodologies will be the
only way to ensure that these issues are kept in check. One researcher has claimed that
“Plagiarism, far from being some sort of internet-borne plague on the house of education,
is a symptom of an emerging mode of reading and writing as usage – as participation in
the creation of a social network of texts” (Sigthorsson, G. 2005), with people moving
through countless websites via a complex system of linkage and being tempted to
copy/paste material caused by them simply being overwhelmed by that very linkage. They
state that they must be aware that just because there is linkage this does not mean that
they necessarily point to material that has academic integrity, and thus these people must
ensure that they take full responsibility for their writing and be aware of the consequences
of being tempted to pass off an example as their own for instance. There is also a danger
that the content of the source being referenced is misrepresented by the researcher and
this must be avoided at all costs. There is also the issue of empty references which are
those that merely rely upon other sources to back-up their assertions rather than supplying
original evidence for the phenomenon under investigation, and these too must be avoided
since they can form chains of empty references leading to key data becoming grossly
misrepresented or being factually incorrect. Researchers must be aware of the dangers of
over-referencing in their compulsion to be perceived as well informed since they may for
example give references to back up claims that many will simply take to be common
knowledge within that community that their writing is primarily aimed at making them
appear behind the times.
One very respected system of referencing is known as Harvard Referencing named after
the famous University in the USA from a Zoology Professor in 1881, and it is a system “In
which names and dates are given in the body of the text and the references alphabetically
at the end of the paper” (Dwyer, M. 1990) showing us why it is commonly referred to
simply as the author-date system. Most undergraduate courses at Universities will favour
the Harvard system, and most if not all will have their own comprehensive guides for
students on every aspect of the system from how to correctly reference religious texts,
plays, magazine articles, technical reports, international legislation, patents, sculptures,
live music performances, medical images, and many more. There are other referencing
systems such as APA which do have key differences although their overall purpose
remains the same for all of them. The citation is composed of the authors surname and the
year of publication, together with the page numbers if applicable, and this is placed into the
body of the work itself e.g. the thesis. The reference list is situated at the end of the thesis
(or other work) and is listed alphabetically, and with Harvard Referencing only those
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citations contained within the text are included in this final list. It is not allowed under this
system to mix any other type of recommended reading in with the final reference list. It is
the bibliography (this is not mandatory) that will contain any additional sources of potential
interest to the reader and this is separate from the reference list. If we have a situation
where there are multiple works by the very same author, then it is a requirement that these
be listed chronologically by date of publication. The titles of the both journals and books
are always to be written in italics or alternatively they can be underlined with Harvard
Referencing to make it easier for the reader to see, although this is not the case for titles of
articles or contributions to journals (Hv.se.libguides.com. 2018) and it must be either one
or the other. If for any reason the name of the author is currently not available then the title
will take the place in the final reference list although the researcher might want to be
concerned about the credibility of that source if the author cannot potentially be
investigated for credibility. For an online source after the name or title there is the year of
publication followed by the title, and after this the type of document will be included in
brackets e.g. [online], and this is followed by the location where that researcher located the
resource i.e. the link if that is on the internet. Finally, we have brackets containing the
exact date that the source was first accessed by the researcher e.g. [Accessed 20 Feb.
2019]. Each type of source will have a slightly different layout, and this can be found in one
of the innumerable guides e.g. those provided by the Universities themselves to guide the
students as previously mentioned. The researcher must always have a copy of such a
guide next to them so that they do not make any mistakes when Harvard Referencing and
deviate from the established rules which could become a habit. The researcher must strive
to ensure that all punctuation throughout the reference list is consistent. When quoting
another’s idea for example the citation must be immediately after so that it is clear to the
reader (and the researcher) exactly what idea has been borrowed from another to avoid
any confusion. We can say that when used properly according to the rules the Harvard
System of referencing will allow the researcher to avoid the pitfalls previously described
and focus upon the positive outcomes especially the development of what was termed an
“Authorial identity” (Neville, C. 2012) in our writing which is in direct opposition to
plagiarism since the writer with a stronger authorial identity will assume the role of an
author with a greater sense of control over their work. This control will encompass the
material to be included and how it is to be interpreted with relation to various conflicting
potential pathways which are to be assigned varying levels of importance by that author
including a choice of how to conclude the writing and what weight to give those
conclusions in relation to the initial hypotheses. Thus, an individual with a strong authorial
identity will not simply be passively quoting the opinions of others and choosing a pre-
established conclusion that seems to fit their viewpoint, but instead will be taking a much
more active role in deciding for themselves how much importance to assign to different
areas of their writing and the direction that it is headed in from their own ideas about the
sources they have accessed. The problem is that there is no objective and valid measure
of authorial identity (Thepsychologist.bps.org.uk. 2019) but nevertheless using an
established referencing system such as Harvard will undoubtedly allow them to be working
within a credible framework that will facilitate the development of these positive traits and
ensure that their readers are able to easily follow up leads to sources of interest, whilst
crediting the original authors for the usage of their intellectual property.

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LO3 – Be able to present a research proposal

LO3.2 – Discuss the role of ethics in research

It is evident that ethical tensions will play a key role in all forms of research, but this is
especially the case if other people are going to be involved, because if not then the
standard ethical issues such as not plagiarising work and showing academic integrity will
be the most pressing concerns. These ethical issues that arise when people are part of
research are likely to be quite complex depending upon the nature of that research e.g.
perhaps the researcher is carrying out interviews and focus groups on participants who
have some form of disability or may not be of adult age. There is unlikely to ever be a right
or wrong answer to any type of ethical dilemma and instead we must approximate to the
truth by exercising professional judgement that will be informed by the research ensuring
they have familiarised themselves with the key issues and ongoing debates in their chosen
field of study (and without if they have time). What complicates matters further is the fact
that ethical protocol design is made much more complex and challenging by the fact that it
must be able to cross various boundaries such as institutional, professional, and national
(Bps.org.uk. 2014) and the continual emergence of new topics means that the creation of
very specific, formal, and prescriptive regulations that cover all aspects of ethical practice
is a misguided and ultimately flawed approach. An over-reliance on such rigid and
unbending guidelines is arguably not following the spirit of ethical thinking and may
backfire and cause them to conduct studies that demonstrate serious ethical flaws. The
researcher must instead rely upon a healthy level of well-informed moral reasoning and
part of this is that they must continually be aware that they are in a position of power and
have the definite ability to cause harm and distress to their participants, and so any form of
exploitation is going to raise serious ethical concerns. This might also result in negative
publicity for that researcher and even bring their affiliated institution or even the entire
profession into disrepute and thus it is imperative that they are keenly aware of ethical
issues when conducting research. There might be an ethical dilemma in what contexts and
to whom any personal information is disclosed to concerning such participants and exactly
what rights to privacy that they have since the findings are highly likely to be placed into
the public arena. One researcher claims that especially in qualitative research in the social
sciences we cannot hope to solve ethical issues by simply “By the application of abstract
rules, principles, or guidelines” (Mauthner, M. Jessop, J. 2012) and that instead we must
be aware that these ethical issues are by their very nature both empirical and theoretical
and a key part of the internal make-up of the qualitative research process and thus we
cannot simply apply static or formal rules and hope that they will solve everything. To
make matters more complicated there may be unforeseen events when conducting
qualitative research such as a participant with a chronic disease getting very emotional
during an interview and opening-up about an unrelated history of domestic abuse without
warning, and this surely raises both ethical and even potentially legal implications for those
researchers who have been presented with an unpredictable situation. One research study
states that this type of emergent issue that unexpectedly arises during the process of
gathering data for a research study should be termed as “Ethically important moments”
(Guillemin, M. Gillam, L. 2004) and that these are very subtle yet probably the most
pressing type of ethical dilemma that researchers will have to face without much pre-

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warning in many cases. This is not to say that it is only qualitative research that is subject
to ethical concerns because quantitative research also will have ethical concerns perhaps
in clinical trials or even if there is only an indirect relationship to humans for example if
human remains are studied or any form of documentation that concerns their lives. We
must start by adjusting our perception of those involved either directly or indirectly in our
research from simply being identified as “Subjects” to the much more favourable “Partners”
or “Participants” (Gcu.ac.uk. 2018) which immediately communicates the required level of
respect for them from the very beginning rather than seeing them as the receiver of an
impersonal and nihilistic experiment that is purely concerned with results and does not see
them as anything more than objects to be manipulated for personal gain. To define exactly
how we can respect our participants the BPS (British Psychological Society) has identified
three key characteristics that the researcher cannot ignore when conducting their research
i.e. autonomy, privacy, and dignity. When we speak about autonomy we mean that the
participant is given the freedom to make their own choices even if this conflicts with the
agenda that the researcher has in mind since they are autonomous individuals with a right
to make their own decisions and it follows that there should be no attempt to manipulate
them into doing something against their expressed wishes. What necessarily follows from
this is that such participants must also give their full consent to be in that experiment, since
part of treating them as partners or participants and showing them adequate respect will
be gaining their permission to take part with any form of coercion or bribery. Any consent
obtained will ideally be in written format (although in some circumstances it will be oral
only) so that in the event of any type of dispute there will be concrete evidence of their
consent, and there will be two steps of this process i.e. stage 1 – giving information (the
participant is simply handed information about the study and at this stage are not obliged
to make any decisions until they familiarise themselves with it), and then stage 2 – the
formal obtaining of their consent (the researcher will go over the key points again and
confirm that the participant agrees to each in turn) and of course the process of consent
must be easily understood (admin.ox.ac.uk. 2018) or it will be verging upon deception. It
must be noted that in certain instances it may not be possible to obtain consent such as in
online surveys or if the research does involve a level of deception, or perhaps there are
some people who will not be able to give consent e.g. those with advanced dementia, and
it is possible for another party or legal representative to give consent on their behalf in line
with the regulations set out by the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (1977).
Of course, this raises more questions about how to achieve a balance between their
interests and those of the researchers, and perhaps one method would be to have the
foresight to consult them in earlier stages so that when their condition does become
advanced the ethical concerns are significantly reduced. However, Berghmans (1998)
argues strongly that even in the early stages of dementia these people may not be in a
position to give valid consent because the criteria is extremely demanding, and this is
further complicated by the fact that they may fall prey to what he calls a “Therapeutic
illusion” where they are mistakenly focusing on the benefits whilst not giving enough
attention to the potential disadvantages (Alzheimer-europe.org. 2009).
The second point is privacy which allows them the right to anonymity and confidentiality
e.g. if they do not want their name and age or their photograph published then they have a
right at any time to request this, even after the study has taken place. One research
example was a PHD thesis by Boyce (2006) who conducted research on a community
where recent nationally reported anti-paedophile demonstrations had taken place, and the
community was given the pseudonym “Stanley” as well as mostly photographs of places
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but only two with people and these are wearing costumes at a carnival thus protecting their
identity and one from kids playing in the 1940’s. However, any individual who can recall
recent news stories will readily be able to identify that community, and even though the
residents were anonymised any community members are highly likely to be able to
circumvent this and recognise them simply based upon their views (Crow, G. Wiles, R.
2006). We might ask why if there are ethical worries such as these why we wouldn’t simply
leave out the photographs, however Crow argues that we must often include photographs
of the community that is being studied or viewers of that study may not be able to
determine the relevance as well since the photograph gives provides them with a sense of
place. A researcher named Bordieu (1999) was very keenly aware of these issues and
took measures to protect his participants by “Changing the names of places and
individuals to prevent identification… and to protect them from the dangers of
misrepresentation” (Crow, G. Wiles, W. 2008) with extremely vivid descriptions that
afforded the readers an imaginative interpretation of the setting although this isn’t going to
be very common in many other studies who simply rely on the photograph which is a lot
more straightforward. Thus, he found a novel way to overcome any ethical concerns posed
by photographing individuals or communities although this will likely prove difficult and
time-consuming to replicate. The third point is dignity which warns researchers that people
are complex individuals and cannot be reduced to stereotypes, they deserve adequate
respect regardless of their person belief systems or current life circumstances. Treating
them in any manner that does not reflect such respect is deemed to be deeply unethical
according to these guidelines (Bps.org.uk. 2014). To back this up, a web-based article has
claimed that the Mental Health Alliance has accused the Mental Health Act in the UK of
violating the dignity of those who use mental health services in a study of around 8000
participants including carers and professionals (Bps.org.uk. 2019). This is based around
people that have been detained under the act and received treatment that violates their will
even with physical measures taken to restrain them and the researchers argue that since it
is over 34 years old then it is urgent that a major revision is required.
It is readily apparent that psychological studies have the definite potential to permanently
change people, and this may not be for the better, and so it is up to that researcher to
decide whether the study is harmful and ensure that the research design reflects a keen
understanding of the key ethical principles and a willingness to act upon them if they are to
remain credible. They should ideally perform a comprehensive risk assessment well before
the study begins with risk being defined in this context as “The potential physical or
psychological harm, discomfort or stress to human participants that a research project may
generate” (Bps.org.uk. 2014). One very famous psychological study was conducted by
Milgram (1963) which set out to examine the relationship between obedience and personal
conscience based upon those who committed genocide in World War II and gave
justifications that orders were simply be followed in the Nuremberg War Criminal Trials. He
wanted to determine if this type of effect could be replicated under laboratory conditions by
advertising in a local newspaper for a study to take place at Yale University, with an
element of trickery involved in that there was supposedly a random assignment of teacher
or learner but the participant always ended up being the teacher and a stooge working
undercover for Milgram was always the learner. The leaner was placed into a fake electric
chair and given a memory test by the teacher with progressively painful electric shocks
each time a question was answered wrong (deliberately) with a connected speaker
hearing them yelling that could be heard in the other room by the teacher (participant). The
teachers believed they were giving real shocks and were ordered to continue even if they
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didn’t want to inflict any more pain, and surprisingly 2/3 of them went to the highest level
and none went under 300 Volts, showing that people are responsive to perceived authority
figures and will be compelled against their will to inflict harm on others if commanded to by
these same figures. This is probably one of the best examples of an ethically questionable
study since the participants were visibly afraid to inflict any more pain and arguably this
study did cause them psychological harm, especially since they were blatantly tricked into
thinking that they were inflicting real harm upon another person. One way in which
participants can be protected from harm which is undoubtedly a key ethical imperative in
any type of research study is the act of debriefing since this will serve to mitigate the
negative effects if conducted properly. What happens is that at the end of the study the
participants are given structed or semi-structured interviews where the researchers
discuss the purposes of the study with them and explain for example why it was necessary
to deceive them and why i.e. in the Milgram experiment this could have far-reaching
implications for prevention of genocide and harm to others in a wide variety of contexts.
The participants would be given the opportunity to ask any questions they have, and these
should be answered honestly by those researchers. We can sum up debriefing as “Not just
to provide information, but also to help the participant leave the experimental situation in a
similar frame of mind as when he or she entered it” (Mcleod, S. 2015) and thus the ethical
imperative not to cause participants harm or distress has theoretically been adhered to.
However, this is probably only going to have the strongest effect in healthy participants
since those that are in vulnerable groups e.g. disabled may not have the same capacity to
walk away from such a study unharmed by their experiences and so a lot of care must be
taken in the selection of the participants in studies that are leaning towards being more
ethically questionable. The argument the researcher would likely present is that even
though such a study may have caused harm to those participants this is not going to
completely ruin their lives and any Utilitarian would argue that we must strive to achieve
the greatest good for the greatest number of people i.e. there may be some key benefits to
the overall sum of human happiness from the results of such a study that far outweighs
any temporary and low-level harm caused to a small group of participants who did give
their consent to be in that study even if they were deceived in some ways. This is backed
up by Rosenthal and Rosnow (1984) who state that in fact the consequences of not
carrying out such research will have more far-reaching and negative implications than
simply ignoring topics that raise ethical concerns in favour of safer options which are likely
to be much less insightful. Indeed, Thomas Blass (1999) conducted further research on
obedience that did strongly correlate with Milgram’s research findings (Verywell Mind.
2018) and this illustrates how Milgram has made a positive contribution to the scientific
community and will continue to do so for a very long time. However, we would still argue
that researchers must refrain from the deliberate deception of participants because we
may end up with a situation where every unethical study is unjustly given credibility even
though it is extremely unethical and the help of a consultation with an independent expert
might be one way of resolving this since they are likely to offer an unbiased and
professional opinion. Even if these participants gave their informed consent to be in the
study they did not explicitly consent to be deceived or being put into a situation that
caused them distress and this is where the grey area continues to exist. Also, the BPS
(British Psychological Society) states that these researchers could be mistaken that they
are ethically responsible because there are two major risks posed by psychological
research namely the normalisation of unhelpful behaviours and the unintended formation
of self-doubt in the participants. The normalisation of unhelpful behaviours holds that the

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participants may leave the study feeling that certain behaviours fostered in that study
setting e.g. compelling them to become disproportionately angry are normal and this may
carry over into their daily lives with negative consequences. The second risk is that of self-
doubt where their self-esteem is damaged especially if they are susceptible individuals that
have some type of undiagnosed mental disorders such as depression which is very
common and even though they have been debriefed they might see themselves as bad
people e.g. in Milgram’s study they may be amazed by how far they were prepared to go
to hurt somebody. Debriefing only serves to reduce the risks and part of this is to protect
the researcher from any criticism, leaving an open question as to exactly how effective it is
especially for individuals that have pre-existing personal issues that were not declared to
the researchers. These participants must also be aware of their right to withdraw from the
research study at any time, even if this is halfway through and would mean that there is a
high level of inconvenience to those researchers as well as financial costs incurred. This
also extends to them having the full say over whether their data is used or not i.e. if they
want it destroyed then this must always be allowed regardless of the circumstances.
Overall the researcher must be aware that they have a moral obligation and duty of care to
individuals which are being studied either directly or indirectly including respecting their
individual differences such as race, sexuality, gender, religion, socioeconomic status,
current level of education etc. Part of helping researchers to ensure that they are meeting
ethical standards is the existence of ethics committees or REC (Research Ethics
Committees) which exist in many countries throughout the world in various forms e.g. they
may be governmental, independent, or affiliated with universities or healthcare institutions
and these may have different names although they mean the same thing for example a
research committee in the setting of an academic institution might be termed and IRB
(Institutional Review Board) or a local setting would be a LREC (Local Research Ethics
Committee) of which there are many in the UK. Their main purpose is to ensure that when
research is conducted with human subjects that it meets both ethical standards and
scientific merit (a distinct lack of scientific merit would be classified as unethical) and that
any participants have their rights that we have been previously discussing protected in the
course of such research. The main way that this aim is achieved is through ensuring that
they have full access to the required information and that this is in a format that they can
comprehend easily, with strategies being put together to assist them if there happen to be
any negative consequences from the research that they are involved in including any
necessary insurance arrangements. It is arguable that all researchers should be
continually striving out of a sense of moral duty to be improving the experiences of their
research participants especially in the health care field. This is not to say that the sole
focus is upon the individual however since there will also be an obligation to protect the
wider community and society at large because in truth it is society who ultimately facilitates
the conducting of research because they provide the resources to enable this to happen.
However, this require that experts in various research fields must be on the committee
because otherwise they will not understand the inner workings of the studies and their
potential impacts upon those participants, and it is not acceptable to wait for a major
problem to occur and then learn from it although this does sometimes happen. The ideal
situation is one where the occurrence of events that raise major ethical concerns are
prevented before they occur and this will require a high level of expertise and foresight,
and this will likely be supplemented by specialist consultants who can offer a superior level
of advice in many cases. There will also be lay members who will ensure that the written
information that the researchers are required to write to fully inform participants about the

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study so that they can give their full consent are understandable, bearing in mind that the
committee will expect that the researcher will send comprehensive written information
about the study and sent a copy of this with the application which will include any potential
risks or side-effects. Indeed, it is mandatory to have a diversity of backgrounds and
educational levels on the ethics committee since this will safeguard against judgements
being inappropriately dominated by a single perspective (WHO. 2009). This information is
likely to be very carefully scrutinised and frequent revisions are often requested (Gelling, L.
1999). It must be remembered that the advice of a committee is advisory and will not be
the final authority on whether a research paper is approved, although in many institutions
there will be serious repercussions if a researcher deliberately attempts to bend the rules.
One major downside of ethics committees in the educational institution is that in their
search for funding they may be tempted to overlook ethically questionable research in
some cases to ensure that the institution receives funding and recognition for producing
good quality and current research. However, when receiving the information from
researchers in the formal written format they can certainly ensure that they are meeting the
high standards expected of them, even if this is not an absolute safeguard against bias
when data is being interpreted or in the event of discreet researcher misconduct (Gelling,
L. 1999). One major example of misconduct would be an academic researcher starting
their research study before full approval is given by the ethics committee for that
institution, and most will argue that it is impossible for retrospective approval to be granted
(Campus, S. 2017) with the implication that any data that researcher has decide to collect
before seeking such approval must be discarded. Also, this ethical approval will not only
apply to primary data but also to secondary data even if that data is in an anonymised
format or is freely available in the public domain. The only way to circumvent this process
would be to provide a sound justification as to why a given project does not constitute
research. As previously discussed in the report there are issues when dealing with those in
vulnerable situations e.g. those with dementia or is socially-disadvantaged communities,
and the ethics committee has an international regulation at their disposal to help with the
decision-making process i.e. the CIOMS Guidelines which demand that “Special
justification is required for inviting vulnerable individuals to serve as research subjects, and
if they are selected, the means of protecting their rights and welfare must be strictly
applied” (WHO. 2009), for example if they are promised access to diagnostic or
therapeutic products that are developed as a result of that research so they will personally
benefit from it. It must be remembered that the ethics committee does have an obligation
to protect the researcher since they too have rights in the sense that they have worked
hard to design a study and thus it would be unfair to hastily dismiss it without due
consideration. In fact, there have been major concerns raised perhaps unsurprisingly that
there are disparities amongst research committees, and this is likely to be because
different committees simply have a unique mixture of skill-sets so they will as a result
value different parts of the research process (Gelling, L. 1999) for example one may be
much more concerned with participant rights and another with the research implications for
the wider community. Overall the ethics committee can justify its decision as possessing
ethical legitimacy since there is a consensus from members of a wide variety of skillsets
and backgrounds and any major objections from a significant number of members will
ensure that a research study does not receive approval, bearing in mind that the entire
process is not purely prescriptive and is fully open to discussion and fair decision-making.
They protect the limited resources in society from being wasted in research studies that
are deemed to be unwholesome and not worthwhile, although they must be very careful

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not to be biased against researchers who present research that challenges established
research orthodoxy’s (Gelling, L. 1999) that nevertheless might very well be based upon
ethically sound principles.

Unit 7 – Research Skills Page 35


Level 5 HND in Computing & Systems Development – Year 2 James Pannell: (133121)

Conclusion

Put on a separate Page

Text would be inserted here

Conclusion in terms of what were your key conclusions that you derived from your research?
Did you achieve the aims and objectives that you set out in your Introduction? What key
points do you want to reinforce as part of your final summing up (summary) of this report?
What areas are still left unanswered and hence what further work and study is still required?

Unit 7 – Research Skills Page 36


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Sica, G. (2006). Bias in research studies – Radiology volume 238. [online] Available at:
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Feb. 2019].

Zhu, M. Bagchi, R. Hock, S. (2018). The mere deadline effect: why more time might
sabotage goal pursuit. [online] Available at: http://sci-
hub.tw/https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article-
abstract/45/5/1068/4962206?redirectedFrom=fulltext [Accessed 4 Feb. 2019]

Herbert, D., Coveney, J., Clarke, P. (2014). The impact of funding deadlines on personal
workloads, stress and family relationships: a qualitative study of Australian
researchers. BMJ Open, 4(3), p.e004462. [online] Available at:
https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/3/e004462 [Accessed 4 Feb. 2019]

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