What is Evaluation Research1

Evaluating your research quality

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The importance of assessing and reviewing your research findings is what drives quality data collection processes. It presents a need to understand the requirement of certain characteristics in the information that has been collected and accordingly label the information as being worthy and useful as a valuable input. The basic elements that entail a thorough evaluation involves

  •  understanding of accuracy, relevance, issues of bias and credibility
  •  consolidating information in a manner that it becomes fit for further assessment in terms of research specific evaluations
  • the need to identify the correct sources to gather information
  • ensuring consistency and reliability across multiple research processes.

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Information resources

Social media

Social media has developed into a highly useful platform for data collection processes to be carried out due to its massive usability and large volumes of traffic from different demographics. By converging such a large base of audience at one place, social media makes it easy to track market sentiments and gain access to first hand audience information that is free from any bias or acquiescence. The content and messaging that gets posted on such platforms is unmonitored and as such, cannot be verified for it authenticity and correctness, thus,  limiting its usage as a source of information.

News articles

News articles provide a detailed overview of stories or events that are believed to be of interest to the readers. These articles are framed on the basis of first-hand knowledge of the event or with the help of others who provide their valuable account to feed detailed articles. These articles try to dodge any confusions caused by use of advance language or incorrect framing. The aim is to maximise accuracy and convey the intended meaning in manner that is grasped by all reader groups alike. 

Magazine articles

Magazine articles focus on explaining the reasoning behind why something happened. Being less frequently published, magazine articles are able to devote more time to fact checking and so can be considered more reliable as against news articles. The content published here has a similar focus to that of new articles with the idea being identifying what is relevant and adopting a reader centric approach to deciding the content worthy of attracting quality readership.

Scholarly articles

Scholarly articles focus on providing a detailed insight based formalized study that is a highly reliable source when it comes to a research context. These articles are written by experts in specific fields and tend to inspire future research. They project a lengthy and comprehensive overview of topics under consideration and involve use of technical jargon that might cause confusion but is necessary for an advanced level understanding of the issue as a whole. 

Books

Books cover ideas and topics in a greater detail than any other format. A book gets published gets published after going through a comprehensive editing process. This filtration mechanism eliminates any information that may not be true. A simple mistake or lack of fact checking can reduce the usage of a book as a reliable tool of judgement. The topics covered by books must be deeply researched and verified before going ahead with putting it out for the readers, experts and other users.

Exploratory Research Guide

Conducting exploratory research seems tricky but an effective guide can help.

Criteria for choosing the correct source

The decision regarding choosing the right source is based on the criteria that you feel fits the research purpose. Examining the research data through every scope is not practical due to very obvious reasons. To ensure time bound assessment, certain general criteria can be kept in mind to assess how good is the data collected, its usefulness in terms of end objectives and identify areas where it can be improved upon. 

Quality

It has become a general consensus that information that is widely available is less reliable and has a greater chance of being plagiarized since it is available for all. Scholarly articles and books published after carrying out the requisite amount of study ask for certain subscriptions and payments to gain access to the data. This, in itself, is the consideration they ask for, in return for the improved quality that they provide. This makes such sources a unique avenue to be used as a source of information. Further, a quality assurance check entails certain other characteristics like:

  •       the sample being representative of the target population under study
  •       the right tools being used to translate the data into a presentable format without causing any distortion
  •       uncovering insights and collecting data that is not previously known
  •       usefulness of the data collected in formulating the correct and informed decisions

Accuracy

Accuracy is simple the practice of stating what is correct. The degree of familiarity with a topic of study determines the level of accuracy that can be predicted by a person. An expert in a field of physics, would be able to identify any discrepancy in calculations of a motion study problem due to his pre-requisite knowledge.

The accuracy of a research gets judged by the source or the mode chosen to extract the data. The more reliable the source, higher will be the accuracy of the dataset. For example: The study of the consumption habits of middle income families can be done accurately only when the sample selected for the study includes the earning and buying members, who are actually responsible for the purchasing decisions within the house. Further, their responses must be unbiased and representative of the entire middle income population under the purview of such a study.

Relevance

Relevance refers to how well a source or mode is able to correlate with your specific needs. It is not necessary that all your research needs gets satisfied from a single source. There will be differences in terms of what you’re looking for and what a particular source has to offer. It’s how well the relevant content from all these sources gets compiled to fulfill your peculiar needs. Picking out relevant sources is always more about a deep and patient analysis rather than opting for convenience. The number of sources you have to look for a thorough analysis to take place depends on the nature of the topic, past records and studies centred around similar themes and the kind of research that you’re looking to carry out.

Bias

Bias is the practice of presenting one side of a coin. A good research bears result that present a balanced overview of a topic or issue without leaning strongly towards one particular side. The idea is to study an issue in its entirety before jumping on to any conclusions. Bias particularly arises when a source is ardent on pressing their own point of views on other through simple alterations such as lack of examples to support all sides or a particular stress on one point while keeping other sides to the minimum. The use of strong phrases and unequal substantiation are strong signs to look out for while spotting bias. 

Reputation

It is imperative to consider how others talk about the source that you wish to choose. Simple signs of reputation include:

  •       journal ratings
  •       nature of reviews
  •       credibility of the author
  •       other related works of the publication and the author

It is easy to find heads that are relevant to your study and may add to the achievement of your end objectives but the reputation is a great indication of the kind of work that is done by an author. Questions like:

  • Are the theories mentioned here valid?
  • Are there enough examples to support an argument?
  • Can any particular area of the work be challenged or countered?

The more popular and renowned an author is, the more is the obligation to publish and write correct and valid material and higher is the reliability of the source. 

Credibility

Credibility is the end result of the measure that a source occupies on the above mentioned characteristics. It is the ability of a source to be categorized as trustworthy and reliable. A source is only used when there is reason to believe that the content mentioned in it can create a value addition. This is complemented by there being a progressive flow, correct formatting, in-depth insights and complete coverage. Relevant, high quality and accurate content that consists of an unbiased presentation by a reputable author is highly credible for being used as a valuable source.

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Aspects to study while examining a source

Introduction

The introduction to a source provides an overview of the basic approach that the writer has adopted while examining an issue. The perspective from which the source chooses to present the issue will serve a lot in terms of adding value to the research. It even supplements such perspective with the interests, reasons and information that pushed the author to study this particular issue. This serves as a valuable background information which generalises the flow of the source and how it proceeds to arrive at it’s end conclusions.

Table of contents

Table of contents provides the blocks under which the entire topic has been studied. In order to concentrate on the relevant aspects, it’s better to understand the bifurcations and skip studying the areas that do not have a role to play in your particular research coverage to maximize efficiency.

Reference lists

Examine the work put in by the author by gauging the credibility of the sources used by the author themselves. Understand what the sources used by the author say and how that content is utilised by the author to deliver upon their own ideas. The underlined idea is that the number and quality of sources and references used by the author will determine how solid is your source, which will ultimately go on to translate into the end result that your arrive upon. Make sure the limited number of previous works you use as references are solid and help you build a strong, unbiased and comprehensive overview of your research idea.

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General pointers to keep in mind

Strike a balance between number and quality

Focusing too much on one aspect of study can hinder your research. It can happen that you’ve acquired the required number of sources that you need as input for your research but the information and facts stated are incorrect or based on past data. While on the other hand, finding quality sources and content is extremely important but ignoring additional sources might bereft you from discovering different insights and perspectives that may not be covered by the sources that you’ve selected. This is why it’s imperative that a balance maintained wherein the researcher selects quality inputs in the right amount to derive meaningful results.

Keep an exhaustive limit

You might be examining an exploratory topic where you may not find substantial or sufficient sources. It is prudent to set an exhaustive time limit which shall act as a point beyond which focusing on the same topic is futile. At such a point, it is better to broaden your field of study or change the topic altogether.

Time driven assessment

Time driven assessment is a goal that needs to followed strictly for meeting research deadlines. Ensure you plan out the requisite time that you need to devote to each phase of your research process while leaving out sufficient buffer time to incorporate for any uncertainties or changes that might arise during the course of your study.

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