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Introduction

This Learning Object is designed to help you to plan and get started with research at university. It offers advice and practice activities to enhance your understanding of what is involved in research.
This resource is designed for anyone who is about to begin, or who is already doing, a course of undergraduate or postgraduate study, but it is particularly aimed at international students in the UK. It should take you about 30 minutes to complete.

Page 1

Who does Reaseach?

As a student you will almost certainly need to do some kind of research, whether as a final dissertation project, a piece of group work or as a coursework assignment.
The type of research and the context in which you do it, will vary, depending on which subject you are studying. Research is the foundation upon which universities are built, and it is vital in any graduate or post-graduate course of study. But it is not just academics and experts who undertake research.
Without realising it, we are all engaged in various kinds of research all the time, whether its searching online to find the best price for a product, planning a holiday, or trying to find information for an essay we have to write. To start with, lets look at some examples of people who might need to do some research.

Page 2

Activity 1 - To consider the different contexts of research in the world, look at the 3 different professionals in this table.
Drag the words underneath into the spaces to complete what they do, and why they do it.

A Chef, A Gardener and a BIOMEDICAL SCIENTIST

For the answers 'What' and 'Why' chose the following:

1. to improve appearance and taste of food

2. mixes new combinations of foods

3. to create new flavours

4. studies the effects of traditional medicines from around the world

5. tries out new cooking techniques

6. to treat diseases more effectively

7. tries out different combinations of medicines

8. to improve patients' quality of life

9. treats plants in different ways

10. to improve restaurant profits

11. to produce more beautiful flowers and tastier fruit

These people do research in different ways and in different places. For example, a chef may carry out research in the kitchen, a biomedical scientist in a laboratory and so on. Similarly, as a student, the type of research you do will depend on what subject you are studying.

 

Page 3 - Creating a Research space

Whenever you carry out research at university, it is important to think very carefully about your subject, and to decide what is known about the subject and what is not known. Deciding what is not known about a subject is sometimes called….

'Creating a research space.'

Go to the next page to find out what our chef, gardener and biomedical scientist know, and what they don't know.

Page 4 -

Activity 2 - Here are the examples of people who might do research. To think about the context of research, read the transcript's then complete the table by typing in the boxes.

Chef: Every magazine and tv programme these days seems to have lots of articles about healthy eating, and in my restaurant, customers often ask about how many calories or how much fat is in a dish. However, most restaurants think more about taste, quality and price.
I want to create some more healthy dishes for our menu, and try them out with different customers to find out what is most popular and what we can serve in the restaurant.

Gardener: Everybody in my city is talking about climate change. When we younger, it seemed to rain very often, and now it hardly ever does, and the weather experts confirm this is true. Obviously as a gardener, this means that I have to water my plants more often, every day in the summer, and maybe this uses too much water. I can't change the climate again, so maybe I need to find plants which are more suitable for drier weather. I'm going to try and grow some flowers that are usually found in the South of my country, where it is drier and see if they will grow happily here now.

Biomedical Scientist: Having a cold is not the worst disease in the world, but it is very common, and it's no fun for anybody. No one has managed to find a cure for the cold, only treatments to make it less bad. I want to find a treatment that actually makes people better. I have some ideas, but I need to check that they are effective on a variety of people, and don't cause any other problems.

If you need help, click on the example button and see the first set of answers (the Chef)

Example of the Chef's answers:

1. The world – the wider context, a generally accepted fact or situation. Answer: people are concerned about healthy eating

2. The topic – the relevance of the situation for the researcher (narrows down the focus). Answer: this restaurant wants to make its dishes more healthy for customers

3. The research – what form will the research take? Answer: the chef will try out new dishes with a group of people to see which ones will be popular

Have a go at answering the two profession's for the same 3 questions.

 

Page 5 -

Activity 3 - In these research areas, the three people talked about what they know (the world and the topic), and what
they don't know (the focus of their research). This is called creating a research space - the space is what you
don't know, and that is why you need to find out. What is the research space for the three people below?
Fill in the gaps by using the words below.

dishes - grow - treatments - plants - variety - which - will

Question 1: Chef: GAP healthy GAP will be popular?

Question 2: Gardener: GAP the GAP from the South GAP successfully?

Question 3: Will the new GAP work for a GAP of people?

 

Page 6 - The aims of your research

When you have created a research space, you then need to decide on the aims / objectives of your research.
What exactly do you want to achieve by doing this research?

Now let's look at 2 more examples, and see how we can go from our research space to our aims.
Go to Page 7.

Page 7 -

Activity 4 - The unknown information is called your research space, as your research should fill that space by finding out
the information. The following table shows known and unknown information.

The Topic for Question 1 is English Wine.

What is known: Grapes grow when there is a good summer. Climate is changing and getting warmer.

What is unknown: Whether it would be profitable. Whether people from other countries would buy English wine.

The Research Focus IS: 'The possibiliy' is the start of the sentence, the words below are mixed up - put them in the correct order to complete the snetence:

for - of - wine - grape - production - the - growing - and - of - export - commercial

The completed answer is: The possibility of growing grapes for the commercial production and export of wine.

 

The Topic for Question 2 is Social Programme for students:

What is known: Students study for 15 hours a week. Many of them have jobs in the evening. They want to visit more of London.

What is unknown: Where students really want to visit. The best day of the week for students to go out.

The Research Focus IS: 'The best' is the start of the sentence, the words below are mixed up - put them in the correct order to complete the snetence:

activities - and - for - places - organise - times - the - social - to - students

The completed answer is: The best times and places to organise social activities for the students.

 

Page 8 -

Activity 5 - Look at the research focus again for each topic. From the list of possible aims, select which ones would be appropriate for each task.

1. English Wine: The possibility of growing grapes for the commercial production and export of wine.

Aims List:

1. to compare the taste of British and Portuguese wine

2. to find out if it would be possible to produce British wine on a commercial scale

3. to find out more about international attitudes to the idea of British wine

4. to find out more about British grapes

5. to find out how often British people drink wine

6. to find out if British wine is good for cooking

7. to find out if it would be profitable to export British wine

Answers:

1. is wrong because it's not ACHIEVABLE - taste is a personal thing and cannot be measured

2. correct

3. correct

4. is wrong because it's not SPECIFIC- what do you want to learn about British grapes?

5. wrong because they don't match the research focus.

6. wrong because they don't match the research focus.

7. correct

 

2. Social Programme for students: The best times and places to organise social activities for the students.

Aims List:

1. to find out if students want to visit Paris

2. to find out which time of day is best to organise social trips

3. to find out whether students know the best places in London

4. to find out the places students are most interested in visiting

5. to find out which days of the week and how often students want to go on

6. to find out if students have jobs

7. to find out about students' lives outside class

 

Answers:

1. is not the topic of the research

2. orrect

3. is neither specific nor achievable- not everyone would agree what the best places

4. correct

5. correct

6. is already known

7. is not specific enough, as well as being a bit nosey!

 

Page 9 - Summary

What have you learnt from this unit?

Research happens everywhere, both at university and in the outside world The type of research you need to do as a student will vary according to your subject.
Whatever kind of research you do, think about these questions:
What is ALready known about the subject?
What is not known and what would you like to find out.
THIS is your Research Space.
When you have decided on your research space you then have to think about the aims of your research. If you start out with aims which are not relevant or appropriate you may waste a lot of time carrying out research which has little value. You need to be specific. Dont set yourself unrealistic or impossible aims.
If you spend time thinking carefully about your aims, your research is more likely to be successful.
Now see if you can answer the True or False questions on the next page

 

Page 10 - Quiz - true or false

Look at the four questions below and decide if they are True or False in each case.

1. Research only happens at university.

2. A 'research space' tells you what is known about a subject.

3. Before you create a research space, you need to decide on your aims.

4. The type of research you do will depend on which subject you are studying.

5. The type of research you do will depend on what subject you are studying
(for example, a chemistry student may carry out research in a laboratory,
whereas a psychology student may conduct interviews and create questionnaires)

6. Your aims can be quite general. They do not need to be specific.

Answers:

1. False

2. False

3. True

4. True

5. True

6. False

 

Page 11 - Further resources and credits

Access the Links below to find out more about the research process.
Can you find the answers to the following questions?

1. What is meant by 'Primary' and 'secondary' research?

2. What is the difference between 'quantitative' and 'qualitative' research?

Links (3):

1. http://www.learnhigher.ac.uk/

2. http://ro.uwe.ac.uk/RenderPages/RenderHomePage.aspx

3. http://www.mondofacto.com/

 

We do hope you have enjoyed using this Learning Resource,
have a look at the other Learning resources in this series...

Edited and Repurposed: Jim Pettiward
Technical Design and Development: Chris O'Reilly
(Original content Andy Harris and Alex Black)
Photography: Steve Blunt - Video: Mark Sydserff

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