Reflective Essay On Research Methods
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The completion of the Research Report as a part of degree requirements has involved my engagement in a highly challenging and motivating research experience. The following texts represent the skill and learning statement that reflect the implications of the research experience on my personal and professional development.
The skill and learning statement includes the implications of interactions with mentor, an analysis of the extent to which research questions have been answered, a brief analysis of interpersonal and communication skills and their relevance to the research, as well as the contribution of the research experience to my professional and personal development.
1. Experiences of interactions with mentor
I had chances of meeting my project mentor three times and obtained practical support regarding various aspects of the work during these meetings. Our first meeting was mainly dedicated to clarifying our expectations from the research experience and the discussions took place related to the issues of selection of the research approach and formulation of research questions and objectives.
By the time I had a meeting with my mentor for the second time Introduction and Information gathering chapters of the work have been completed and I received detailed feedback for these chapters of the research. Also, discussions were held about data analysis and presentation associated with the project.
During the final meeting with my mentor the overall work has been scrutinised and a set of specific points have been mentioned by my mentor. Specifically, my mentor raised a point that my discussions of research findings lacked depth and scale. Then, these points have been addressed and the final draft of the Research Report was completed.
I found advices given by my mentor very helpful in terms of increasing the quality of my Research Report and equipping me with knowledge of effectively conducting similar studies in the future in general. Moreover, my Project Mentor was not only highlighting the shortages that were associated with my project, but also was giving detailed explanations why these changes were desirable in a passionate manner.
Furthermore, I found these three sessions with my mentor to be highly motivational and informative experience because they have increased the level of my personal interest in conducting businesses studies. Prior to conducting the Research Report and having discussions with my mentor I was assuming conducting analytical business studies to be a rather boring experience.
However, thanks to my mentor I learned to appreciate the importance of analysing a business case in terms of identifying a current strategic and financial position of a business, and formulating the ways of identifying further strategic options available to the business.
2. The extent to which research questions have been answered
Answering the research questions in my Research Report were directly related to the quality of secondary data, and the choice of methodology. Therefore, these issues were approached effectively by critically assessing the validity of the sources of secondary data and assessing alternative choices of methodology. Moreover, my first meeting with my Project mentor was mainly devoted to the discussion of the same issues.
As a result of comprehensive analysis the most reliable sources of secondary data in order to be used in Research Report were found to include published financial statements and annual reports, textbooks on financial and business analysis, information published in official company website, information available from ACCA website, as well as, various business journals an newspapers.
The choice of methods for conducting the study, on the other hand, was guided by the reliability of the data analysis methods and their relevance to the research issues. After spending additional amount of time for the choice of appropriate methodology and taking into account advises of my mentor, financial ratios and analytic tools have been chosen to be employed in my Research Report.
Purposely, financial and accounting ratios that were used in the study include profitability, liquidity, financial position and investor ratios, whereas, the choice of analytic tools consist of SWOT, PESTLE, and Porter’s five forces analysis.
To summarise this part, it is fair to state that all of the research questions in my Research Report have been effectively addressed, because the secondary data have been obtained from reliable sources, relevant methodology has been used to conduct the study, and the research findings have been critically discussed.
3. Interpersonal and communication skills and their relevance to the research
I have demonstrated my interpersonal and communication skills at various stages of doing Research Report and preparing for and making the presentation. Moreover, without my interpersonal and communication skills completing the Research Report and doing the presentation would have proved to be highly challenging.
For example, my listening skills have proved to be highly valuable in terms of understanding vital information given by my mentor about increasing the quality of my Research Report, because these advises were fully understood and implemented into the practice.
My interpersonal skills have also played a positive role when I asked some of my trusted colleagues to be an audience when I was rehearsing my presentation. I was making presentations in front of my colleagues and was asking for their opinions about the quality of my presentation. This practice took place many times in different settings and I believe that following this strategy has enhanced the quality of my presentation and my marks.
However, my communication skills have played a crucial role in terms of succeeding in making the presentation effectively. I have learned from my experiences within and outside of academic settings that communication skills play the most crucial role in terms of succeeding in personal and professional lives.
For instance, an individual may possess a deep knowledge about a certain area. However, if the individual lacks competency of communicating his or her ideas, knowledge and feelings in an effective manner, the overall competency of the individual and the level of his or her contribution to the organisation will always remain compromised.
Therefore, in my opinion, regardless of the field, industry or type of organisation, communication skills can be specified as a compulsory attribute for an employee in order to be considered an a competent. In my case in particular, my advanced level of communication skills have enabled me to do my Research Report presentation effectively which has resulted in positive acclaim from my peers and mentor.
4. The potential contribution of Research Report to the level of professional development
Conducting the Research Report and doing the presentation has increased the level of my professional competency in several ways. First of all, I have to mention the fact that I have developed a critical mindset towards solving business issues as a result of conducting the Research Report.
My mentor made it clear that it was important to critically analyse related issues in Research Report rather than just offering description of the issues and supplying calculations. The mentor had stressed many times that critical analysis and discussions are the elements of the work that increase its value. For the same reason I had to revise my Research Report several times until my mentor was satisfied with the level of critical analysis the work had included.
Although, such an approach to work seemed to be very challenging and confusing during the research process, I appreciated the value of critical analysis once the final work was completed. The skills of critical analysis that I have developed and applied in Research Report can easily be applied when real business issues would need to be resolved by me in the future in my professional capacity.
Completing the Research Report was similar to project management in real businesses environment in terms of strict deadlines, scarcity of resources, organising and planning, scheduling meetings, doing presentations etc. Therefore, the skills I developed during the process of completing Research Report can be used in order to successfully manage business projects in the future.
Moreover, my writing skills have also been greatly improved as a result of engaging in Research Report. Despite the popular opinion that with the increasing importance of information technology the practice of writing letters and reports are being replaced by alternative means of business communications, the importance of writing will always remain significant for business managers.
From this point of view engaging in Research Report was a very beneficial experience for me on a personal level. Specifically, writing the paper of almost ten thousand words in total, including this personal reflection, has made me better prepared to join the full-time workforce once my studies are completed.
Lastly, as a result of preparing the Research Report my professional interest on the issues associated with corporate strategy has been enhanced. Moreover, I am planning to continue studying the issues of corporate strategy and that knowledge would benefit me in the future as a corporate leader.
5. Gains derived from conducting Research Report experience on a personal level
On a personal level I benefited from conducting the Research Report and doing the presentation in a number of ways. The research experience with Oxford Brookes has increased the level of my motivation for studying, making bold plans for my future career and implements necessary measures and initiatives in order to accomplish these plans. My mentor deserves to be mentioned here specifically for all encouragements and practical tips that can be applied in various alternative settings apart from academic life.
The level of my self-confidence has also been increased because I could complete the Research Report in time. Moreover, the presentation experience has increased the level of my self-confidence dramatically, because I understood that if I could do a successful presentation in front of my mentor and colleagues, doing the presentations of multi-million projects in front of top executives was just a matter of time.
The paramount importance of self-confidence for an individual is an undisputable matter. Self-confidence allows us to set ambitious plans and utilise all the available resources efficiently in order to achieve these plans.
My time-management skills have also been improved by the end of the Research Report. This is because there was a specific deadline for both, the Research Report and presentation and I had to adopt some principles related to time management in order to be able to submit my work on time.
These principles included setting specific deadlines for each chapter of the work, and above all, dramatically cutting the amount of time I used to browse social networking sites on the internet. I can highlight this fact as one of the most substantial gains in a personal level. This is because prior to the research experience I used to spend several hours a day browsing a set of social networking sites with no real benefit whatsoever. However, once the priority was given to the Research Project, this bad habit was dealt with effectively and irreversibly.
To summarise, completing the Research Report and making presentation with Oxford Brookes University following my ACCA course has increased the level of my preparedness to join the full-time workforce and successfully utilise my energy and knowledge. In my opinion the biggest benefit I received from enrolling to this course of study is that the course of study, the Research Report and doing the presentation have made me to believe in my skills and capabilities and they have also awoke my desire to approach studying as a lifelong process.
Moreover, I have obtained a set of professional and personal gains as a result of completing the Research Report and making presentation that include the development of a critical mindset, improvement my writing and time management skills and enhancement of the level of my self-confidence.
Fieldwork experiences can often be a daunting way of conducting research but they can also be fulfilling. I have had first-hand experience conducting fieldwork for my master’s degree, and while it was a generally enjoyable experience, I did make a number of mistakes during the process. However, I learned some valuable lessons as a result of this too. During my fieldwork in Rwanda, I increasingly realised that it was important to incorporate primary research data into my study, but because of a lack of data on my topic, I made use of other sources of qualitative data to validate my findings. This strategy, according to Denzin (1970), is known as methodological triangulation and it allows researchers to make use of various data gathering methods to ensure internal validity. Based on the use of methodological triangulation, I specifically designed interviews targeted at both elite groups and slum dwellers in Rwanda to investigate the thinking behind the urban policies designed by political elites, and how it impacts marginalised slum dwellers.
The first group of interviewees that I targeted comprised of government officials and the second comprised of a group people living in slums. The elite interviews were generally semi-structured in nature and were based on open- and closed-ended questions. Scholars such as Harvey (2011) have noted that this is the best approach for elite interviews because it allows flexibility and hence, maximises response rates. Notably, scholars such as Aberbach and Rockman (2002), Hoffmann-Lange (1987) as well as Zuckerman (1972) have also shown that elites prefer to engage with open-ended questions so that they can articulate their views coherently. During my interviews with elite groups, I did not always draft formal questions, but I made sure that I was familiar with the topic so that I could comfortably develop a natural rapport with the respondents. Interview times ranged from thirty minutes to up to two hours, and respondents commonly offered me some data sets to consult, which followed with some discussion. I was often required to submit a formal application to access these files, and although I formally submitted a request letter to the Ministry of Urban Development, my efforts proved futile, and it became increasingly frustrating for me to access the data sets I needed.
In some of the interviews, I found that political elites provided evasive answers because of the politically sensitive nature of some of the questions posed. The general etiquette according to Peabody et al. (1990) suggests that political elites should ideally not be interviewed using recording devices as it can cause elusiveness and anxiety – although I did not use a recorder, I continued to receive elusive responses which sometimes left me frustrated and disillusioned with my project. I felt particularly irritated because the absence of a recording device meant I was unable to get hold of a verbatim record of my interviews. Because I had to write down observational notes while engaging with the respondent, it was difficult to record all the information and I lost out on some important points. I tried to strike a balance between note taking and the interview process, but I found this to be a difficult endeavour. I was able to access more political elites than initially anticipated, however it often felt futile because I couldn’t source as much information as I had wanted from this sample group. I tried to counteract these limitations by shifting my focus to the second sample in my study, the slum dwellers, although this was also fraught with some complications. Comparatively and overall, the second sample group proved to be more cooperative and I quickly learned that I had wasted a significant amount of time focusing on political elites, when a lot of the responses I desired could have easily been sourced from policy documents and government reports.
As mentioned, I discovered that slum dwellers, after gaining their trust, provided a great deal of nuanced insight into my understanding of urban regeneration in Rwanda, which was very beneficial for my project. Harvey (2011) has highlighted how field researchers must endeavour to earn the trust of their respondents to gain access to high quality data and looking at the results I garnered, I believe I was able to do this successfully. The data acquisition from the sample group was however, not without complications. The first complication pertained to my status as a foreigner, which I realised made several people wary of my presence. After visiting the research site continuously over a period of time, they became more familiar with me and thus opened up to the idea of participating in my study. I also ensured that I hired a local research assistant, and I realised that my association with a local gave me a greater deal of legitimacy in the eyes of my potential research respondents.
While oftentimes the data collection process was extremely stressful, and sometimes precarious, I learned to be resilient in, and how to maintain focus on meeting my set objectives. Concurrently, I also learned when to change approaches in the field – especially when a particular research method had proven to be unsuccessful. In hindsight, I should have changed my approach much earlier to save a lot of the time I wasted. Looking back, I would have placed less emphasis on the elite sample group as primary data was not necessary for addressing my research questions concerning government policy. I could have saved time and effort in sourcing this information from secondary sources such as government reports and books. I also would have employed a local researcher much earlier in the process as it paved the way for gaining the trust of respondents. At the same time, I realised that I should have provided a lot more training for the research assistant who also served as a translator, due to the events that ensued in the field.
According to scholars such as Temple and Edwards (2002, p.2) “the interpreter is a conduit linking the interviewer with the interviewee and ideally is a neutral party who should not add or subtract from what the primary parties communicate to each other” but in my research, I quickly realised that this was not the case. Generally, the research assistant was highly opinionated and in some instances tried to impose his political views on my respondents. Looking back, I think I could have done a better job in training him and getting him to understand why the responses of interviewees should not be pre-empted. There were several instances where I also noticed that the translation process was not as effective as it should be during the fieldwork process. Due to my increasing familiarity with local dialects, I was able to discern when the translator was not providing the full picture with respect to the responses of the respondents. In my opinion, this was indicative of the lack of training which the translator received and I learned to not just assume that job roles were obvious, especially in this context. In instances where omissions were obvious, I questioned the translator to gain further details. During the early stages of the fieldwork, he was also far too independent and in some instances, did not stick to the script, in terms of the interview questions I had drafted. In hindsight, I should have done a trial run or pilot study, so that he was better acquainted with the standard of research I was expecting.
Overall, the process was a challenging one that introduced me to the iterative nature of fieldwork. It became increasingly obvious to me that in the field, nothing ever goes as neatly as planned on paper. I realised how imperative both resilience and flexibility was in the field. In hindsight, I would have prepared back-up alternatives for each aspect of my study, since in some cases I was completely thrown off guard and had to take a few days off to re-strategise. I lost a few valuable days by doing this and if I had managed my expectations with more caution, I believe I would have been better prepared for the unexpected occurrences in the field. On reflection, I would also have taken my positionality far more seriously, as I never imagined that the way I was perceived by others could affect my study. During my interviews with elite groups, they were often bemused and yet intrigued at the same time about my role as a foreign female researcher. Scholars such as Kobayashi (1994) have highlighted how gender identities play out during fieldwork, meaning women are often discriminated against on the basis of their sex. I did not experience discrimination, but I feel my being a woman helped me gain access to certain respondents that I never anticipated to access, because I was somewhat perceived as a damsel in distress who needed help. While the pity I received worked in my favour, it had no bearing within the interviews themselves as I was not able to acquire the data that I hoped to. Having a better understanding of the cultural nuances would have helped me to manage my expectations better. Indeed, researchers such as Denzin and Lincoln (2011) have highlighted how a researcher’s ability to gain access is shaped by personal characteristics, including gender. Looking back, I believe my fieldwork project was fairly successful, mostly because of its ability to gain nuanced insight from the second sample involving slum dwellers. The major pitfalls of the project mostly pertained to the logistics of the project – specifically the lack of training for the research assistant, and the general lack of a research focus.
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