Research is equally important for social scientists in studying social relationships and in seeking answers to various social problems. It provides the intellectual satisfaction of knowing a few things just for the sake of knowledge and also has practical utility for the social scientist to know for the sake of being able to do something better or in a more efficient manner. Research in social sciences is concerned both with knowledge for its own sake and with knowledge for what it can contribute to practical concerns. “This double emphasis is perhaps especially appropriate in the case of social science. On the one hand, its responsibility as a science is to develop a body of principles that make possible the understanding and prediction of the whole range of human interactions. On the other hand, because of its social orientation, it is increasingly being looked to for practical guidance in solving immediate problems’ of human relations.”
Research has its special significance in solving various operational and planning problems of business and industry. Operations research and market research, along with motivational research, are considered crucial and their results assist, in more than one way, in taking business decisions. Market research is the investigation of the structure and development of a market for the purpose of formulating efficient policies for purchasing, production and sales. Operations research refers to the application of mathematical, logical and analytical techniques to the solution of business problems of cost minimization or of profit maximization or what can be termed as optimization problems. Motivational research of determining why people behave as they do is mainly concerned with market characteristics. In other words, it is concerned with the determination of motivations underlying the consumer (market) behavior. All these are of great help to people in business and industry who are responsible for taking business decisions. Research with regard to demand and market factors has great utility in business. Given knowledge of future demand, it is generally not difficult for a firm, or for an industry to adjust its supply schedule within the limits of its projected capacity. Market analysis has become an integral tool of business policy these days. Business budgeting, which ultimately results in a projected profit and loss account, is based mainly on sales estimates which in turn depend on business research. Once sales forecasting is done, efficient production and investment programs can be set up around which are grouped the purchasing and financing plans. Research, thus, replaces intuitive business decisions by more logical and scientific decisions.
Decision making may not be a part of research, but research certainly facilitates the decisions of the policy maker. Government has also to chalk out programs for dealing with all facets of the country’s existence and most of these will be related directly or indirectly to economic conditions. The plight of cultivators, the problems of big and small business and industry, working conditions, trade union activities, the problems of distribution, even the size and nature of defense services are matters requiring research. Thus, research is considered necessary with regard to the allocation of nation’s resources. Another area in government, where research is necessary, is collecting information on the economic and social structure of the nation. Such information indicates what is happening in the economy and what changes are taking place. Collecting such statistical information is by no means a routine task, but it involves a variety of research problems. These days nearly all governments maintain large staff of research technicians or experts to carry on this work. Thus, in the context of government, research as a tool to economic policy has three distinct phases of operation, viz., (i) investigation of economic structure through continual compilation of facts; (ii) diagnosis of events that are taking place and the analysis of the forces underlying them; and (iii) the prognosis, i.e., the prediction of future developments.
“All progress is born of inquiry. Doubt is often better than overconfidence, for it leads to inquiry, and inquiry leads to invention” is a famous Hudson Maxim in context of which the significance of research can well be understood. Increased amounts of research make progress possible. Research inculcates scientific and inductive thinking and it promotes the development of logical habits of thinking and organization. The role of research in several fields of applied economics, whether related to business or to the economy as a whole, has greatly increased in modern times. The increasingly complex nature of business and government has focused attention on the use of research in solving operational problems. Research, as an aid to economic policy, has gained added importance, both for government and business. Research provides the basis for nearly all government policies in our economic system. For instance, government’s budgets rest in part on an analysis of the needs and desires of the people and on the availability of revenues to meet these needs. The cost of needs has to be equated to probable revenues and this is a field where research is most needed. Through research we can devise alternative policies and can as well examine the consequences of each of these alternatives.
There are two basic research approaches, viz., quantitative approach and the qualitative approach. The former involves the generation of data in quantitative form which can be subjected to rigorous quantitative analysis in a formal and rigid fashion. This approach can be further sub-classified into inferential, experimental and simulation approaches to research. The purpose of inferential approach to research is to form a data base from which to infer characteristics or relationships of population. This usually means survey research where a sample of population is studied (questioned or observed) to determine its characteristics, and it is then inferred that the population has the same characteristics. Experimental approach is characterized by much greater control over the research environment and in this case some variables are manipulated to observe their effect on other variables. Simulation approach involves the construction of an artificial environment within which relevant information and data can be generated. This permits an observation of the dynamic behavior of a system (or its sub-system) under controlled conditions. The term ‘simulation’ in the context of business and social sciences applications refers to “the operation of a numerical model that represents the structure of a dynamic process. Given the values of initial conditions, parameters and exogenous variables, a simulation is run to represent the behavior of the process over time.”? Simulation approach can also be useful in building models for understanding future conditions. Qualitative approach to research is concerned with subjective assessment of attitudes, opinions and behavior. Research in such a situation is a function of researcher’s insights and impressions. Such an approach to research generates results either in non-quantitative form or in the form which are not subjected to rigorous quantitative analysis. Generally, techniques of focused group interviews, projective techniques and depth interviews are used.
Conceptual research is that related to some abstract idea(s) or theory. It is generally used by philosophers and thinkers to develop new concepts or to reinterpret existing ones. On the other hand, empirical research relies on experience or involves observation alone, often without due regard for system and theory. It is a data-based research, with analyses coming up with conclusions, which are capable of being verified by observation or experiment. We can also call it as ‘experimental type of research. In such a research it is necessary to get at facts at the firsthand, at their source, and actively to go about doing certain things to usually stimulate the production of the desired information. In such a research, the researcher must first provide himself with a working hypothesis or guess as to the probable results. He then works to get enough facts (data) to prove or disprove his hypothesis. He then sets up his experimental designs, which he thinks will manipulate the persons or the materials concerned so as to bring forth the desired information. Such research is thus, characterized by the experimenter’s control over the variables under study and his deliberate manipulation of one of them to study its effects. Empirical research is appropriate when proof is sought that certain variables affect other variables in some way. Evidence gathered through experiments or empirical studies is today considered to be the most powerful support possible for a given hypothesis.
Quantitative research is based on the measurement of quantity or amount. It is applicable to phenomena that can be expressed in terms of quantity. Qualitative research, on the other hand, is concerned with qualitative phenomenon, i.e., phenomena relating to or involving quality or kind. For instance, when we are interested in investigating the reasons for human behavior (i.e., why people think or do certain things), we quite often talk of ‘Motivation Research’, an important type of qualitative research. This type of research aims at discovering the underlying motives and desires using in depth interviews for the purpose. Other techniques of such research are word association tests, sentence completion tests, story completion tests and similar other projective techniques. Attitude or opinion research i.e., research designed to find out how people feel or what they think about a particular subject or institution is also qualitative research. Qualitative research is especially important in the behavioral sciences where the aim is to discover the underlying motives of human behavior. Through such research we can analyze the various factors which motivate people to behave in a particular manner or which make people like or dislike a particular thing. It may be stated, however, that to apply qualitative research in practice is relatively a difficult job and therefore, while doing such research, one should seek guidance from experimental psychologists.
Applied vs. Fundamental: Research can either be applied (or action) research or fundamental (to basic or pure) research. Applied research aims at finding a solution for an immediate problem facing a society or an industrial/business organization, whereas fundamental research is mainly concerned with generalizations and with the formulation of a theory. “Gathering knowledge for knowledge’s sake is termed ‘pure’ or ‘basic’ research.?” Research concerning some natural phenomenon or relating to pure mathematics are examples of fundamental research. Similarly, research studies, concerning human behavior carried on with a view to make generalizations about human behavior, are also examples of fundamental research, but research aimed at certain conclusions (say, a solution) facing a concrete social or business problem is an example of applied research. Research to identify social, economic or political trends that may affect a particular institution or the copy research (research to find out whether certain communications will be read and understood) or the marketing research or evaluation research are examples of applied research. Thus, the central aim of applied research is to discover a solution for some pressing practical problem, whereas basic research is directed towards finding information that has a broad base of applications and thus, adds to the already existing organized body of scientific knowledge.
Descriptive research includes surveys and fact-finding enquiries of different kinds. The major purpose of descriptive research is description of the state affairs as it exists at present. In social science and business research we quite often the term Ex post facto research for descriptive research studies. The main characteristic of this method is that the researcher has no control over the variables; he can only report what has happened or what is happening. Most ex post facto research projects are used for descriptive studies in which the researcher seeks to measure such items as, for example, frequency of shopping, preferences of people, or similar data. Ex post facto studies also include attempts by researchers to discover causes even when they cannot control the variables. The methods of research utilized in descriptive research are survey methods of all kinds, including comparative and correlational methods. In analytical research, on the other hand, the researcher has to use facts or information already available, and analyze these to make a critical evaluation of the material.