A First Course in Research Methods


The book, “A First Course in Research Methods”, is published by Jovila Educational Services, Lagos, Nigeria. In this website, you are presented with the online version to study. The contents of the online version and the print version are the same but pagination differs. Therefore, any references, in terms of paraphrasing and direct quotation, should indicate page numbers or chapters as appropriate, somewhat as under:

Direct Quotation

“In research, we seek to establish facts, facts that may be used to theorise or solve real world problems” (Avwokeni, 2020, p. 1)


We use research findings to invent explanations or prescribe solutions to real world problems (Avwokeni, 2020, ch. 1, p.1).


Avwokeni, A. J. (2020). A First Course in Research Methods. Jovila Academy Press. Available at https://jovilaacademy.com

Organisation of the Book

The book is organised into four parts, as under:

Part I: Research & Practice

This part of the book clarifies what research means and what it takes to embark upon a research project. It explains how to prepare a school research proposal and a grant proposal, and how to write the final manuscript of the school research project and abridge it for publication in a peer reviewed journal. This part also explains how to format the manuscript using APA manual of style (7th edition). A chapter is also dedicated to explain research ethics.

We consider it appropriate to start with the practice of research because it presents to the reader a landscape overview of what research is. Armed with this knowledge, readers can decide what to learn, unlearn, and relearn to firm up practice. Practice is echoed as a prelude to learn research because reading is the first step to learning.

Academic staff must also do research projects, report, and publish in peer reviewed journals. In academics, you either publish or perish with your career. We publish to outlive ourselves, our career, because we all must “perish” someday—whether we publish or not.

Part II: Philosophy, Theories & Research

This part of the book provides a philosophical foundation to the theory of research. The purpose is to aid the reader to mirror theory to guide practice. The end-result is objective reality

Part III: Research Methodologies

Research methodology is the approach used to conduct the study while the design is the details of the approach. Thus, beneath every design is methodology. In other words, methodology underlies research design. In this part of the book, we describe some common research methodologies and the research designs associated with them. These descriptions will help you identify the methodology that underlies your design.

Part IV: Elements of Research Design

This final part of the book explains and illustrates the components of all research designs whether the methodology is qualitative or quantitative. However, only the basics of analysis are explained. This is because we are concerned with the acquisition of concepts, not computational skills. Computation is now a matter for computers and statistical software, and only rarely will an individual be required to revert to the arithmetical agony of his childhood. Nevertheless, there is the need to be apprised of existing statistical techniques and the fundamental questions they are designed to answer. The final chapter meets this objective.

Is the Author Simple on Readers?

Generally, our authors are gentle and simple on readers. The book is written with a lively pen to carry readers along. We present some sections from the book for you to evaluate our claim on the simplicity of writing.

Selected Sections From the Book

The Spirit of Literacy

Education is not all about the means to maintain records; it also teaches you to seek opportunities to originate and discover new ways of living, new knowledge, new feelings, and new ways of thinking about problems. The end result is growth in self-consciousness for a lifetime. This is the spirit of literacy. Research is the means by which man develops self-consciousness. Research seeks to establish facts, which man may use to theorise or to solve problems, but the overall result is growth in self-consciousness.

The Meaning of Research

Research is a study designed to establish facts for theorising or for problem solving. Stated in some other words, the purpose of research is either to provide facts that may be used to make explanations or to prescribe solutions to a problem. If the purpose of the study is to help man invents explanations (i.e., theorise), the study is called theoretical research (also called basic research or pure research), but if the purpose is to help man prescribes solutions to a known problem, the study is called applied research. Research, whether pure or applied, is characterised with theorising. Theorising takes a variety of form.

(a) It could be in terms of analysis of a problem or a question to be answered. The purpose is to tease out the research variables to embark upon a study.

(b) It could be in terms of the rationale for the selection of research variables. You may conduct a study to answer a specific question, e.g. do investors consider the liquidity status of a company when pricing stock? In answering this question, other variables such as earnings and book value of equity per share that also influence shares need to be taken into account. A rationale for the selection of other variables must be provided. The rationale could be that prior research studies have established them as determinants of share value.

(c) It could be in terms of how variables interact, e.g. how does earnings, liquidity, and equity interact to affect the value investors place on the stock of a company?

(e) It could be in terms of a conceptual foundation for specification of hypothesis, e.g. Ohlson theorises that investors consider reported earnings and the book value of equity in placing a value on the stock of a company. Since liquidity is the manure to grow earnings, I expect investors to consider also the liquidity status of a company when pricing the stock of a company.

(f) It could be in terms of existing network of relationships or theory, e.g. our findings extend prior research or agency theory.

1.3. In fact, insufficient theorisation is sufficient reason to reject a manuscript for publication. Theorisation is so important that a separate section or chapter called literature review is dedicated to theorising in every piece of research. Literature review is not part of the research process, but it provides the necessary background or backcloth for a study.

The Value of Research

One does not embark upon an activity if there is no value. So, for every piece of research, there should be a value. A researcher must convince the scientific community that one’s study has a value. So, if you conduct research to answer the question whether investors consider the liquidity status of a company when placing a value on its stock, what is the value? The value is the significance of the study. An argument such as the answer to this question will help accounting standards setters cut down on the volume of disclosure in financial statements is needed to demonstrate the worth of the study.

The value of any applied research is the efficacy of the findings to address the problem being experienced in society. One must apply the findings to address the problem in order to convince scientific readers that the study is important. In applied research, the findings are not direct solutions to the problem. To explain, consider the problem of corruption in society. A problem is the outcome of some events; so, one has to identify the events associated with corruption in order to tackle corruption. The events associated with corruption are the causes of corruption.

Poor achievement in relation to age propels corruption. Come to think of it: One is 50 years old but no house, no car. This status can propel corruption. Poor reward for labour propels corruption. If reward is not commensurate with labour, individuals will tend to be corrupt. Peer pressure propels corruption. If younger ones drive exotic cars and live in luxurious apartments, and society does not question the source of wealth, the tendency to be corrupt will exist. This explains why officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad Unit of the Nigeria Police Force confront the young ones living luxurious life. The intention is good, but the approach is not. So, the real research issue is establishing that these are determinants of corruption, and once established, one has a licence to prescribe solutions. It is not the responsibility of the researcher to test the efficacy of the prescribed solutions. The testing ground for applied research findings are commerce, industry, and governance.

Question or Problem Analysis

Research entails critical thinking. One has to analyse the question to be answered or the problem to be solved in order to theorise. If (as an example) the question to answer is whether investors place a premium on liquidity status of a company when valuing the stock of a company, one must analyse the question to identify all variables that investors consider when pricing the stock of a company. One should analyse this question in terms of what investors want. Investors want dividend and appreciation in the price of investment. Dividends are distributed from earnings and hence more earnings more dividend, and this should lead to increase in prices of stock as investors push for the stock of such a company. Liquidity is the manure to grow profitability; hence, more liquid firms should report more earnings. This analysis reveals that liquidity status and earnings are variables that propel market prices of stock.

In the case of applied research, one analyses the problem in terms of the context in which it occurred. An analysis of the context will reveal the causes of the problem, and once the causes are known, solutions can be prescribed. Context variables are like shock absorbers, e.g. culture can hold back a problem but for how long? Context variables expire, and when they do, they explode to cause the problem—an outcome. The explosion is transmitted to beneficiaries as a problem. The transmission channels are mechanism variables. So, when a problem occurs, ask yourself:

 What are the context variables that have expired?

 What are the mechanism variables (channels) through which the problem is transmitted?

The real research issue is then to determine which mechanism (technique) goes with each context variable, and once this has been done, solution to the problem can be prescribed.

Theoretical Framework

A network of relationships is a theory. It could be an established theory or a network of relationships that have been established in prior studies. A network of relationships established in prior studies awaits theory development, and as such could be stressed as the theoretical framework. An established relationship is an axiom. When established relationships are logically structured, they become a theory. So, you can structure relationships into a theory and stress such a theory as the theoretical framework of your study

What constitutes an established theory depends on whether the discipline is an art or an exact science. In sciences, a theory consists of axioms logically structured to produce exact results. In fact, theories in sciences are laws because they produce exact results. This, however, is not the case in arts and social sciences. In these disciplines, theories consist of principles, not axioms. One cannot structure principles to produce exact results because principles are derived from prevailing practices. Nevertheless, one could apply axioms to structure principles into a theory, but such theories are not like the theories we have in the exact sciences. Theories consisting of principles logically structured by axioms are called normative theories. They cannot produce exact results as we have in the physical sciences. At best, they could predict or explain what ought to rather than what is.

So, if you knew of a normative theory in the literature which you could apply to explain or predict the purpose of your study then discuss and apply it to explain what should be the desired correction or modification to the state of affairs that you as the researcher desired for human understanding or to commerce and industry. If, however, principles have not been logically structured into a normative theory that addresses the purpose of your study, then you should structure existing principles into a normative theory and apply it to explain the purpose of the study. Nevertheless, in some disciplines where principles guide practice, you can discuss principles and apply them to explain the purpose of the study. In blunter terms, principles may be stressed as the theoretical framework of a study… Continue

The Research Process

We said a little earlier that a review of the literature is not an element of the research process but that it provides the necessary backgrounding to plan and design a study. The research process begins with a question to be answered. In fact, research can be defined as a study designed to answer a fundamental question. Whether the study is pure or applied, it must be triggered by a fundamental question. The question must have a value for it to be a fundamental question. The subject matter of the question defines the area of study. The question, “do investors consider the liquidity status of a company when pricing stock?” is a pure research question. The subject matter of the question is “accounting as a tool for resource allocation”, and this defines the broad area of reading, which is “financial reporting”. The question, “what are the causes of corruption?” is an applied research question. The subject matter is corruption in society, and the area of reading is criminal sociology. The question that triggered a study is the central research question and must be analysed to tease out the research variables before one can embark upon a study…Continue

Multiple Choice Questions

In each of the multiple choice question below, choose an option that you think is the answer and explain your choice.

1. Which of the following is not a general purpose of research?
A: The accumulation of findings
B: Problem solving
C: Contribution to theory development
D: Clarification of a concept

2. Which of the following is not the subject matter of theorising?
A: Analysis to tease out research variables
B: Operationalizing a concept
C: Extending an existing theory
D: Demonstrating the worth of a project

3. The significance of a study is …
A: The contribution of the study to theory
B: The value of the question to be answered
C: The contribution of the study to practice
D: The implications of the findings

4. Which of the following statements is not correct?
A: The interaction of context and mechanism variables explains a problem.
B: Theory development is for pure research
C: Problem solving is for applied research
D: Mixed research involves both pure and applied research

5. An existing network of relationships is a …
(a) hypothesis (b) theory (c) model (d) scientific explanation

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