There Is No Hope In Doing Perfect Research
In her book, Educational Research for Social Justice: Getting off the fence, Morwenna Grifiths, a renowned writer and professor stated that, there is no hope in doing perfect research. In order to verify or denounce this statement, we must begin by clearly deciphering the true meaning of perfect research. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines research as an investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws. Perfection, on the other hand denotes the state of flawlessness, totality, and accuracy. Perfect research can therefore be understood to be research that is immaculate and irreproachable. It has to be unmitigated and entirely without defect.
Research is both an investigative and confirmative evaluation of a hypothesis or hypotheses. One cannot claim to be conducting a research if they do not formulate a hypothesis to point at the specific or general question the research seeks to answer. Research may take two forms: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative or quantitative research can take quasi-experimental, comparative, case study, historical and developmental analysis. A researcher is therefore required to focus his/her energies in comparison, differentiation, review, appraisal, judgement, advancement and evaluation of research conducted prior by fellow researchers.
From this front, I opine that every single research that has been conducted on earth, or elsewhere, is perfect. Why? Every perfect open ended question has infinitely variable possible answers. Therefore, it can rightly and fairly be argued that, every result derived from research is perfect. This is entirely because the objective of research is to discover facts or prove laws and theories. Whether the laws or theories are proved or denounced and whatever the facts discovered are or are not, this is an expected and necessary end to any research. If the results were known certainly before the investigation or experiment is conducted it would not be research, would it?
New facts, inventions and re-invention are all possible results of any given research. Isaac Newton defined the law of universal gravitation with reference to Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. His lack of appreciation of Heliocentrism and his contrasting ideas led him to the discovery of gravity. Given the unembellished meaning of research (to search again), research is a continuous process of improvement, dismissal or appraisal of facts, theories and laws that have been advanced prior. It is therefore deductible that no single research is adherent to the rule of authenticity presented with the definition of research. Every research problem must have a source (Exell, 12). Research is borne by the researcher’s environment, encounters, previous research findings, state of mind, background et cetera. The researcher’s creativity notwithstanding, societal, psychological and occupational factors also come into play. Therefore, no research problem is totally authentic and in the end no research is perfect.
There can be perfect research if the researcher, his/her tools, methodologies, resources, the environment and the specimen are impeccably perfect. However, due to our earthly nature, none of these factors can be said to be without defect. One research method may be considered to be better that the other, based on either ease of use, faster or more accurate results. However, no single research method is considered perfect. In fact, it is widely accepted that research is imperfect given the two types of errors that plague the qualitative or quantitative research process and results – random and systematic.
Random errors are caused by changes in quantitative experiments that cannot be known or predicted. These changes may be methodological or instrumental. The precision of the final result of a research is how similar the results of repeated measurement of the same quantity. Random errors can be minimized but they cannot be completely eliminated. Systematic errors on the other hand arise from the natural imperfections of the instruments used by the researcher or the imperfection in the manner of use by the researcher. Consequently, the instruments produce consistent fake patterns of differences between the values that are observed by the researcher and the true values. Given that the systematic errors are consistent, they are undetectable and unavoidable no matter how many times the experiment is conducted.
Besides random and systematic errors, the research process biases in the selection, measurement and intervention also threaten the accuracy of research (Mehra,45). In addition to that, the researcher’s personal bias in selection of say, the research topic, samples and specimen yields inaccurate results. As long as these unavoidable errors continue to occur in research, there is no hope of perfect research.
True Meaning of Perfect Research
Research that lacks constraints is flawless. Such research is also a fallacy. Any research that comes without budgets, time and other limitations is absolutely obsolete and unrealistic (Mehra, 42). Common research practices require that a researcher sets the time, environment and resources to be consumed for his/her research. Given that the world is full of limitless possibilities, there are inexhaustible amounts of data that can be gathered, processed and analyzed. Therefore, every reasonable researcher must expect to encounter constraints. Research limitations extradite the fallacy of perfection in research.
Research can never be complete. Every researcher’s conclusion is open to discussion and testing by him/her and other researchers. Over time, theories and laws are put to the test. Some are revised while others are disregarded. Partial acceptance and partial severance of theories and laws is common too. Provided the earth continues to revolve, change is the only constant factor known to man and as such, research is open to varying results in varying times and environments. No researcher’s conclusion is final (Mehra, 15).
In conclusion, every research process that is completed and yields conclusions is a success. However, the idea of a perfect research is, in my opinion, illogical. Every research problem has a source; none is perfectly authentic. Secondly, every research is diseased by errors and biases that are not predictable and some, not known. Thirdly, no research can be said to be exhaustive. The world is limitless and so is research. Every environment is static. The parameters or variables are cannot remain unchanged. Then there is the most obvious challenge of the imperfect human nature of researchers.
Every researcher is imperfect, so are their research processes and conclusions. If research were perfect, the world would be bland. Knowledge would be doctored and limited. It is in its imperfection that research finds perpetuity and relevance. The ideal research is flawed and incomplete, imperfect so to speak. In light of the discussion above, I concur with the Griffith’s submission, there is absolutely no hope of doing perfect research.
Mehra, B. (2002) Bias in Qualitative Research: Voices from an online classroom. The Qualitative Report, 7(1)
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