Is There Some Hope of Doing Perfect Research?
Nov 21, 2010 Study Skills 2082 Views
Research, as defined by Cambridge dictionary, is "a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding." As per Webster, it implies careful or diligent search, studious inquiry or examination, collecting of information about a particular subject.
I think a majority of us would tend to agree.
However, the argument is certainly not with a view to discredit the research itself as it is undoubtedly indispensable & an absolute requisite for further advancement in various fields.
Any research, whether deductive or inductive, qualitative or quantitative, is always contingent upon a host of factors, both internal and external, and is always prone to errors and can never be perfect. While a research can be easily categorized into so many segments & techniques, the primary factors affecting it are manifold such as individual biases, beliefs, customs, practices, sample size, analysis techniques, measurement precision, to name a few. While it is impossible to control all the parameters as most of these are in a constant state of flux, the eventuality of not getting the same result twice over is a strong likelihood. A perfect research is that which throws up a result that remains constant but that is highly unlikely as everything is subject to variations.
Many years back, during my college days, we were given an assignment on the awareness levels on the contraceptives available in the market. Believe me, this was a really tough subject at the time as we were a highly conservative society then (true even now despite the increased awareness levels thanks to the information overload from every possible medium) where such subjects were considered taboo. Even asking someone for opinion would have been unthinkable then.
Later, we did a lot of brainstorming on how to go about completing the assignment on hand and subsequently, it was decided to frame a questionnaire and circulate it physically (remember these were not the Gmail days) among the randomly selected group without them having to disclose their particulars thereby keeping their identities a secret. Though it did help, not all of them were too forthcoming, leaving us with a very small sample size thereby impacting the final outcome.
Another example can be that of researcher's bias. For instance, if the researcher is working on a subject that he or she feels very strongly about, the end result would be a lopsided view as the researcher would, consciously or unconsciously, gravitate towards validating his own view overlooking the other side of the argument.
Even looking at the many famous economic laws as formulated by many economists, they have all been subject to "other things being equal or constant" and worked well within a restricted framework. However, if other things are brought into play, the hypothesis can easily be proved to be incorrect. Take the law of demand, as an example, which states that, if all other factors remain equal, the higher the price of a good, the less people will demand that good. Or consider the law of supply, which states that higher the price, higher the quantity supplied, other things being constant. However, these are subject to limitations such as choice and tastes of the customers which is assumed to be a constant, to cite one and therefore not very dynamic in their approach.
Take the Black-Scholes model, the option pricing model, named after Fisher Black and Myron Scholes,which works basis several assumptions, and most significant among these is the volatility of a particular stock which is assumed to be constant throughout and although still considered the most reliable model but is subject to assumptions and has failed to predict the future outcomes accurately previously especially in volatile times.
As is evident, while we keep trying to achieve the elusive "perfect" state of research, it is impossible, given the various limitations.