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Approaches to Research – Definition and Scope – #1 of 5 in a Series

Research is conducted for many purposes and with many resources. However, most research projects follow a five step process. Here is Step 1, defining the project and its scope.

Research is defined as “methodological investigation into a subject in order to develop a plan of action based on the facts discovered”. In a nutshell, research is organized study for a specific purpose. The next step, then, is understanding the components of the methodology, how to organize the study.

Definition and Scope
The first step is to define the purpose. What is it that we want to create a plan of action for? What do we want to understand? What type of facts do we want to gather? Typically, the more specific the purpose, the more helpful the information is to creating a plan of action.

However, that said, there are times when a general purpose is what is needed. For example, a survey conducted at the federal level for a comparison between state systems and outcomes will necessarily be general in order to accommodate the differences between states. Or another example may be an “environmental scan” or a baseline study. An environmental scan is research for a

A baseline study is used for general understanding and education, rather than for creating a plan of action. Often it will be followed by research with a more specific purpose and a plan of action after the general assessment is made.

In general, however, a research will be most helpful when it has a specific purpose. In working to define the scope of a study, it is helpful to answer some questions about the purpose:

➢ What do we want to achieve?
➢ What question do we want to answer?
➢ What issues are we addressing (or measuring)?
➢ What is the study covering?
➢ Who is the study covering?
➢ How big is the study?

Once you and your team have answered the questions about definition and scope, you are ready to move to the next step in the process – Defining the Population.

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