Discover new Knowledge
The main purpose of research is to discover new knowledge. This involves the discovery of new facts, their correct interpretation and practical application. Although there are other sources of knowledge, research remains the most efficient and reliable source of knowledge. It is the most accurate system of securing useful knowledge. Quite often, a scientist will take an interest in a topic without having any other clear ideas about what to expect in the way of relationship among variables. Initially, the relevant variables are not even clear. The initial research, in fact may have the identification of important variables on its primary purpose.
Much of social research is conducted to explore a topic, to provide a beginning familiarity with that topic. This purpose is typically when a researcher is examining a new interest or when the subject of study is itself relatively new and unstudied. Exploratory studies are also appropriate in the case of more persistent phenomena. Exploratory studies are more typically done for three purposes:
1. To satisfy the researcher‘s does curiosity and desire for better understand
2. To test the feasibility of undertaking a more careful study; and
3. To develop the methods to be employed in a more careful study.
A major purpose of many studies is to describe situations and events. Descriptive studies try to discover answers to the questions; who, what, when, where and sometimes how. The researcher observes and then describes what was observed. A census is an excellent example of descriptive e social research. The goal of the census is to describe accurately and precisely a wide variety of characteristics of a population, as well as the population of smaller areas such as towns and rural councils. Other examples of descriptive studies are the computation of age-sex profiles of population done by demographers and the computation of crime rates for different towns. A poll conducted during a political election campaign has the purpose of describing the voting intentions of the electorate.
Reporting the voting intentions of an electorate is a descriptive activity, but reporting why some people plan to vote for candidate A and others for candidate B is an explanatory activity, as reporting why some towns have higher crime rates than others. A researcher has an explanatory purpose is if he/she wishes to know why a student‘s demonstration ended in a violent confrontation with police, as opposed to simply describing what happened.
Prediction is the ability to estimate phenomena A given B. If we can provide a plausible explanation of an event after it has occurred, it is desirable to be able to predict when and in what situations the event will occur. For example, the aviation industry may be interested in explaining the radiation risks for flight crews and passengers from the sun and stars. The variables might include attitude, proximity or air routes to the poles, time of year and aircraft shielding. Perhaps the relations among the four variables explain the radiation risk variable. This type of study often calls for a high order of inference making. Why, for example would a flight at a specified attitude at one time of the year not produce so great a radiation risk to the airliner‘s occupants as the same flight in another season? The answer to such a question would be valuable in planning air routes.
The researcher undertakes it as a result of external pressure to do so. There are two major categories:
- Junior faculty members whose professional security or advancement may depend, in part, on scientific publications; and
- College students who must undertake research to satisfy the requirements of a course in research methods.