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The research process

Understanding the research process is an important step towards executing a thorough research or study. Let us examine the different phases in research planning as well as the stages involved in a research process.

A deeper understanding of the process of research will help you identify the similar features that occur in the different fields, and the variety in the purpose and approaches to some studies.

Understanding the research process will help you understand the implication of deviating from a systematic approach to research, as well as the associating consequences of ineffective and ineffectual research.

The six steps of research

Adopting the proposed model by Rummel and Ballaine (1963), there are six steps involved in the research process. These include identifying the area of study, choosing the topic, formulating a research plan, collecting and then analysing the data and then finally writing up the study. These steps can be represented in three phases, namely the planning phase and the research phase and then finally the presentation phase. This is illustrated in the figure below.

Six step figure showing the progression of research. Step 1. Identify the general study area. Step 2. Choose your research topic. Step 3. Formulate a plan and methodology. Step 4. Collecting data. Step 5 Analyse and iterpret the data. Step 6 Present your findings.

(Adapted from Rummel 1963)

Progression through a project is generally made by stepping through all the highlighted steps where careful compliance with the model improves the prospects of completing the project successfully. Frequent revision of earlier steps can be a sign that these initial steps have been inadequately carried out. Research viewed this way can be seen as a series of linked activities. This process is regarded as a linear process.

Research can, however, also be iterative, whereby new activities that arise from the linear process can be incorporated back into previous steps. For example, data collection follows on to analysis steps, which then guides further data collection. Research planned in this way follows a more cyclical process.

Regardless of which process you choose, there are five important considerations before you begin collecting any data, namely:

  • Deciding upon a research question

  • The conceptual approach or the philosophical underpinnings of your research

  • Research design showing the organisation of data collection and analysis

  • Data collection techniques revealing how data will be collected

  • Sampling from what or whom data is collected

Your task

What do you consider to be the most challenging steps in the research process?

Share your ideas with the learning community.


Rummel, J. F., Ballaine, W. C. (1963). Research methodology in business. Harper & Row.

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This article is from the free online course:

Researching Risk, Disasters and Emergencies

Coventry University