Research approaches refers to methods that are used to conduct a research. Research is carried out for exploratory purposes, descriptive purposes and explanatory purposes (Creswell, 2003). Explanatory research seeks to explore new theoretical ideas either through a new topic or a new angle. Exploratory research sets precedence for future research in areas or angles that have never been exploited before. Descriptive research involves adding “meat to the bone” that has already been created by the exploratory approach. This research delves into more details into providing adequate information on a specific topic. Lastly, explanatory research looks at the relationship between variables i.e. cause and effect. It shows how variables affect each other and how a certain phenomenon came to be. There are three main types of hypothetical research approaches, they are qualitative, quantitative, and mixed (pragmatic approach to research). This paper delves in developing the three hypothetical research approaches from an emerging prospective research topic’s problem statement and purpose, how the approach is applicable to the purpose and the pros and cons of the different hypothetical research approaches.
Quantitative approach: In the research paper “Approach to holistic security in wireless sensor network (WSN)” the purpose statement is that there are issues that are affecting the efficiency of wireless sensor networks and they include; loss of information from unaware locations, problems of latency and problems of huge energy consumption (Bilouham and Gupta, 2011). The purpose of the study is to investigate these issues and mitigate them. A quantitative approach can be used to collect the data that is required for analyzing the information. This being a technical subject, the information would be manufacturers and installers of the wireless sensor networks. A random sampling plan will be used to choose the participants in the subject to obtain a diversified and objective view on the subject. The main research collection methods will be surveys (Questionnaires and structured interviews), non-participant observation, experiments and tests. The surveys will be based on the magnitude of the security threats on the physical layer, data link layer, network layer, transport layer and application layer. The participants will answer on the layers that think affect the latency, energy consumptions and loss of information. The statistics will be collected to determine what layer has the highest degree of all the three problems in order to determine the best holistic approach to curb the problem.
The researcher can use non-participant observation by monitoring the target population in and collecting his own data from the information and experienced from the natural environment. The researcher will sample different subjects in order to obtain statistics on the validity and degree of credibility from the different sources. Lastly the researcher should carry out experiments and tests on the wireless sensor networks with the help of an expert in the field, for example plotting a graph of simulation time against energy consumption by using different models of the simulator i.e. battery, radio and CPU models.
This approach will help to determine the quantity of energy consumed by wireless sensor networks and the quantity of energy consumed that is acceptable to operate the WSN effectively. The approach will help to determine the time period between the stimulation and response during latency in the transmission.
Qualitative approach: In the research paper “Approach to holistic security in wireless sensor network (WSN)” the problem statement is that security is the biggest problem facing WSN and there is a lack of collaboration in adopting a holistic approach to the security threats instead a layer-by-layer approach has strong support. The purpose of the study is to determine the different problems facing the WSN, the security threats and the best method to mitigate the threats. The target population will be random techno-savvy individuals who are experts in WSNs. The data collection methods utilized include; unstructured interviews, diaries, case studies, document analysis, and ethnographic studies.
Unstructured interviews will be used to obtain other problems facing WSNs other than security threats e.g., longevity and connectivity, for the purpose of comparison. Ethnographic studies can be carried out by observing how different WSNs perform depending on the layer, components, time, duration, and other observables; this can take months to obtain accurate information. A case study may be used to represent the wide setting of the topic, for example, a case study of energy efficiency. Lastly, document analysis and diaries are used to research on previous information on the topic that has been already documented and might be helpful in the subject.
The qualitative approach will achieve the purpose of the study by exploring the unique characteristics of the subject area, reducing subjectivity in the research topic and in-depth research through the use of secondary resources to come up with the different problems affecting WSNs, the security threats that are faced at the different level and a holistic approach to remedy the threat.
The mixed hypothetical approach is a pragmatic method that is versatile in using both qualitative and quantitative methods. In the above research it can mix different data collection methods, for example, experiments and ethnographic studies, to achieve a desired result. The mixed approach will enable the researcher to achieve the purpose by drawing the strength of the result from the different methods (Bergman, 2011).
Qualitative research is used to obtain people’s perceptions on a specific subject through in-depth analysis in order to construct a comprehensive hypothesis. Qualitative research does not require empirical support but rather it requires human reasoning on a subject area. This approach utilizes unstructured interviews, which are important in engaging the respondents and build their comments more actively compared to a structured survey. Qualitative approach analyses issues in details giving the researcher and the user of the research report adequate information on the topic (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Qualitative research enables the researcher to probe his/her respondents more, enabling him to gain more information and rationale on the subject. There is information that cannot be quantified, such as human desires, emotions, and needs, qualitative approach plays an important role in filling this gap in research (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1984). You cannot validate trends using statistical analysis e.g. using the p-test; this can only be done by the use of a continuous qualitative research. The structure of a qualitative approach is flexible as the surfacing of new information can be easily included in the research. The data in qualitative approaches are more compelling as they are narrated from human experience compared to empirical studies.
On the contrary, qualitative approaches have their own weaknesses. It is quite expensive and time consuming to collect a large amount of data because it is not possible to automate qualitative data collection. It may be difficult to preserve confidentiality in qualitative researches especially during presentation of findings as this may compromise on the confidentiality. The presence of the researcher during information gathering may pose leading questions and also force answers which increase biasness. The absence of the researcher during data collection may lead to wrong interpretation of data due to lack of clarification. Poor skills on the side of the researcher may compromise the credibility of the research. The scope of the research is limited due to the time consumed and resources required during an in-depth analysis.
The Quantitative research methods strength is brought about by the use of numerical data in analyzing of information. The structured case studies and surveys enhance comparability and assessment because the respondents answer similar questions. It is quite simple to compress a huge set of data using numbers that are easy to comprehend and easily convenient (Vogt, 2011). Compared to qualitative research, in quantitative research, the researcher is not a participant; therefore he cannot influence the research. Quantitative research collection methods are relatively easy to complete and consume less time due to the strict structures of the methods. Quantitative research the production of data statements through the use of statistics such as ANOVA, multiple regression, standard, deviation, mean, t-tests and mean.
In complex situations, research using the quantitative methods can be confusing for both the researcher and the purpose that the research is intended for. Having a small sample size may cause a researcher not to obtain a statistical significance level. Sometimes a huge sample size may cause the significance level to lose meaning. Quantitative research may not display a broad view of the subject matter, and it may be difficult to interpret the data, especially when respondents provide insufficient information due to the structured surveys and interviews.
It can sometimes be difficult to use of the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods because one has to do solid research using to methods, this can be quite cumbersome. The mixed-methods help in the triangulation of the different results that helps in providing rich data sets and in-depth analysis. If a researcher has not planned how to integrate both methods, then he cannot be able to achieve the purpose of the study, or rather, it will produce an incomprehensible and an inconclusive study. It is difficult to find a researcher that is good at both designs (Onwuegbuzie, Collins, Frels & O’Cathain, n.d.).