What is Good Research?
The basis of all good research is good data, a methodology, and good research questions: “what is the data telling us about x, y, and z”?
Data can be “primary,” collected directly from sources such as interviews and focus groups, or “secondary”, collected by someone else and now found in public records, journals, or the internet. Good data might be defined as being clean (complete and accurate), impartial, and relevant. The ability of a researcher to assess if data meet these criteria is critical to the validity of the research. If no data that meet all of these criteria exist, the research project may not be viable.
Researchers have many different methods: the choosing of methods and their usage are together known as the “methodology.” The methodology is decided by the research questions and the nature of the data. For example, say a research question is:
“How well has a new program met the health needs of adults in Liverpool?”
It might be decided that adults in Liverpool are the best sources of relevant data, and so interviews and focus groups could be the most appropriate methods for collecting these data.
A good methodology means consistent collection and analysis. In the example above, it might provide firm answers to questions such as, “How many adults should I interview?” “What is the right number of participants in a focus group?” “How will I judge if health care needs have been met?” Early planning is essential for good research.
The formula below is one way to think about the research process: