Sport research/What is research
Research can be defined as the search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, with an open mind, to establish novel facts, usually using a scientific method. It's all about addressing an issue or asking and answering a question or solving a problem. Research requires you to conduct a study and provide evidence for how you address the issue or answer a question. The methods that you apply to provide this evidence must be transparent, so that anyone who looks at your research could replicate it if desired. In sport we generally consider two types of research:
- Quantitative - involves analysis of numerical data (e.g., website hits, blood lactate levels, jump height)
- Qualitative - involves analysis of data such as words (e.g., from interviews), pictures (e.g., video), or objects (e.g., an artifact)
Hopkins provides some useful steps for the initial process of research.
- Identify an issue, question, or problem and talk with people who want or need your study.
- Find out what's already known about it. Talk with experts and/or read their reviews and the original research on the topic.
As you find out more you will identify gaps in the knowledge of a certain area and it is these gaps that will help form your research question. Generically, research questions often take the form:
- What is the nature of the relationship between a and b?
- What is the difference between f and g?
- What is the effect of x on y?
Forming a research question
Examples of research questions in exercise and sport
- Does possession in rugby lead to a winning performance?
- Is family or school leadership more effective in the healthy weight control of primary school children?
- Does beta-alanine supplementation lead to improved 400m sprinting performance?
- Is marketing a university based student football game more effective through facebook or twitter?
- Are step classes or body pump classes more effective in combating osteoporosis in post menopausal women?
The research question you come up with should be:
- needed, i.e. you will need to find literature to support your argument for coming up with the research question you have
- testable, i.e. can you conduct a study that will directly address the question you have? This will relate to your research design
Delimitations and limitations
As you examine more evidence and research that exists in your research area you are likely to find that the questions you ask becomes more and more specific. In well researched areas this will need to be the case in order to make an original contribution (i.e. research that has not been conducted before, that seeks to reach new findings). As the research becomes more specific, you are effectively adding delimitations. Delimitations and limitations are important in the interpretation of your research findings and generally should be acknowledged in your discussion.
- Limitations - are generally considered to be conditions that restrict the scope of the study or may affect the outcome and cannot be controlled by the researcher. Often limitations reflect methodological issues that the researcher would have preferred to change if possible (e.g. access to subjects only at certain times or reliance on data collection that is not considered to be the gold standard way of collecting that type of data - see Validity and Reliability)
- Delimitations - are generally considered to be the restrictions or boundaries that researchers impose prior to the inception of the study to narrow the scope of a study. This means that whatever results are found, they should only be interpreted within the scope of the delimitations (e.g. research conducted specifically on adult females should not be generalised to all adults).
Activities are mini-tasks that will give you some practice with the concepts of each section. Activities should appear here soon, if not, feel free to add some open access ones yourself.
Think about, find out about, and document your answer to these questions.
- what is your research question?
- how did you come to the research question?
- how can you test the question?
- what limitations are there? and which ones can you control? how?
- what delimitations apply to your study?
- Will Hopkin's "what is research?" is a powerpoint slideshow on what is research in the context of sport.
- Choosing a research project by Paul Doughty at ANU
- Research Questions & Hypotheses (wilderdom.com)\
- Research Limitations (psychology and society.com)
How to write a PhD thesis by S. Joseph Levine - a great source of info even though you aren't doing a PhD
How to do a research project: related web links offers a host of information on all aspects of research which you can explore.
UNSW's Learning Centre has established a delcious resource with lots of links to study and research resources and links.
The University of Washington has a good open resource: Research 101 - an interactive online tutorial for students wanting an introduction to research skills. The tutorial covers the basics, including how to select a topic and develop research questions, as well as how to select, search for, find, and evaluate information source.
The UK's Higher Education Academy has an excellent resource for students in the Research Gateway. An online resource to support student research project work in Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism.
Will Hopkin's offers more information about finding out what's known, a critique of different sources of information and evaluating them.
- Hopkins WG (2002). What is research? [Slideshow]. Sportscience 6, http://sportsci.org/jour/0201/What_is_research.ppt
- Neill J (2007). Qualitative versus Quantitative Research: Key Points in a Classic Debate http://wilderdom.com/research/QualitativeVersusQuantitativeResearch.html