Research techniques

Research techniques are the resources that allow obtaining data and / or information in an organized and coherent way for the search for knowledge.

The techniques used in an investigation must be supported and justified on a theoretical basis. For example, in an investigation on the growth of children over a certain period of time, one must resort to forms of physical measurement that reflect growth, such as height and weight, not to the estimation of their parents of how much their children have grown up.

There are universal research techniques that can be applied to any area of ​​knowledge. Others, however, are specific to a field. Below are different techniques that can be used in documentary, field, and scientific research.

1. Bibliographic search

The bibliographic search is the compilation of information on a certain topic. The purpose is to know what is written on the subject of our interest so that we avoid repetitions, compare the previous information available and discover gaps. The bibliographic search is undoubtedly the main technique in most research areas.

For the bibliographic research process, informative material such as books, popular magazines or scientific research, and Web sites must be available. You can also have other types of documents such as videos, footage and audios. These documents can be located in physical and virtual libraries, as well as in newspaper archives.

When the bibliographic search is carried out, we can consider two types of sources:

  • Primary sources : they are the writings of an author or authors about a research, which provides first-hand data, that is, periodicals, books and reference works.
  • Secondary sources : are those documents made from primary sources, such as a translation, an anthology or a catalog of publications. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and databases are also considered secondary sources.

2. Tokens

The cards are white or lined half-page cards traditionally used by researchers due to their easy handling. Today they can be replaced by computer files from any word processor using electronic means.

We can identify two types of tokens:

  • Reference sheets : are those that contain the identification data of a publication, such as the bibliographic file (includes data from books or any other non-periodical publication) and the hemerographic file (contains information on articles consulted in various periodicals, such as magazines, the press, reviews, documents, interviews, lectures).
  • Worksheets : contain summaries of the readings that we have analyzed, verbatim citations, observations, comments and reflections on the sources of information that we have consulted.

3. Survey

The survey is a field research technique where information is obtained directly from the study subject. In the survey, questions are formulated that are annotated and applied to a group of people. The questions are previously prepared by the research team, with a rating system that will allow the measurement of the responses of the respondents.

The best known polls are opinion polls that are carried out prior to an election in a country to investigate the trend of the different candidates.

4. Interview

The interview is a field research technique where a subject is asked questions to obtain the information to be analyzed. Interviews are generally individual, but can be applied to small groups.

The interviewer acts as a research instrument by extracting qualitative data from a study subject, which is why it is widely used in the social sciences.

One of the advantages of the interview is that it can be applied to learn about past events or inquire into the interviewee’s private situations. For example, in a study on video game addiction in adolescents, the interview would be an ideal technique to investigate the reasons for this phenomenon.

You may be interested in seeing the types of interviews .

5. Observation

Observation as a research technique is intentional perception with a specific objective. It is selective because it has a purpose within the area in which it is applied. For example, astronomers observe the sky in order to find a new space object or phenomenon.

While the observation is being carried out, what we perceive must be interpreted, in the context of the area of ​​knowledge involved. For example, if an astronomer observes a strange object in the sky, he must interpret it based on the possible options he has within the astronomy area, be it an asteroid, a comet or a planet.

The observation process has the following steps:

  1. Object perception : recognizing the presence of the object, for example, the biologist who observes through the optical microscope a dark spot on a cell.
  2. Interpretation of the object : the researcher must recognize the perceived object. Thus, the biologist can interpret the dark spot in the cell as an organelle, as a dust particle on the preparation, or as an intracellular parasite.
  3. Description of the object : with the language of the research area in which the observation is developed, objectively. For example, the biologist will describe the dark spot as a circular shaped structure with a diameter of 1 micron adjacent to the nucleus of the cell, etc.

In all observation there is an object that is perceived in certain circumstances by a subject or observer. The circumstances of observation are the environment of the object and the subject. The observer can use means of observation, such as the camera and the thermometer. All of the above is inserted into a body of knowledge, which will help to give the appropriate explanation.

Scientific observation is of a public nature, that is, the results of the observation have to be reproducible by other specialists under similar conditions. However, there are situations that cannot be repeated such as an earthquake, the explosion of a star or a social upheaval.

6. Experiment

The experiment is the scientific investigation technique where the conditions that affect an object are manipulated, in order to later observe and interpret the result of the manipulation. For example, if you want to determine the effect of light on plant growth, the experiment will be to place some plants in an area with light and other plants in the dark.

In the experiment, the factors surrounding the object are controlled artificially, either directly, such as when a stimulus is applied to the object, or indirectly, when the environment surrounding the object is altered. In the case of plants that are placed in the dark, the growing conditions of the plant, which is the object of research, are indirectly altered.

The changes or alterations that the researcher makes in an experiment are based on prior knowledge and on the assumptions or hypotheses that he seeks to test. In this way, if the hypothesis is that magnesium favors the performance of athletes, the experiment will consist of measuring in some way the physical activity of two groups of athletes, one control without magnesium, and the other experimental group with an ingestion of a certain amount. amount of magnesium.

7. Thought experiments

The thought experiment is the scientific investigation technique where models are assembled that explain a phenomenon, such as atomic models, or situations are simulated using a computer.

Computer simulations are a viable, fast and inexpensive way to perform experiments that seek to apply theories that have already been determined through real experiments. They have application in applied science and technology.

However, thought experiments are not substitutes for reality. For example, epidemiological predictions of the spread of a disease show a possible scenario and serve to take preventive measures.

8. Random sampling

Random sampling is the extraction of a small subset from an initial set. For example, if you want to study the physical conditions of the students of a university, you randomly select a group of students from that university, from different faculties and characteristics.

The purpose of random sampling is to ensure that in the selected sample there is no predilection for a certain trait and that the results of the study can approximate the general characteristics of the population.

You may also be interested in seeing Population and sample .

9. Animal models

Animal models are used in many investigations in the area of ​​biology. They are used to study complex cellular and biochemical processes and to evaluate the efficacy and safety of potential therapeutic agents. Those results can then be applied to humans.

Among the most used animals we have mice, rats, rabbits, pigs, zebrafish and guinea pigs. Another advantage of some animal models is that they can be genetically modified, canceling or inserting genes, with which the effect of said gene can be studied.

The researcher must evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each model according to the experimental objectives. For example, in wound repair research in dermatology, mice and rats are used as animal models. On the other hand, rabbits are used in cholesterol metabolism research.

10. Cell cultures

Cell cultures are a research technique where cells are grown in a liquid or solid medium. The cell culture technique must be adapted to the type of cell, using the appropriate micronutrients, temperature and growth factors for their development.

It is applied in microbiology to study the presence of bacteria and their characteristics, as well as to determine their development in the presence of antibiotics. Also in studies of molecular biology, physiology, biochemistry, among others, when you want to address the behavior of a certain type of cell.

11. Genomic sequencing

Genome sequencing techniques are based on identifying each DNA base one by one, like someone who spells the words written in a book. This technique is widely used in genetic research.

Knowing the sequence of a DNA allows determining mutations that explain some disease, the sequence of the genome of individuals, the relationship between genes and possible treatments based on genetics.

12. PCR: polymerase chain reaction

The polymerase chain reaction or PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is a technique that revolutionized the way of detecting minute amounts of DNA in biological samples. It is based on duplicating DNA strands over and over again using an enzyme, polymerase, until it has a sufficient quantity that can be measured.

PCR has various applications, from detecting minute amounts of virus to detecting the presence of DNA in fossil samples.

You may be interested in seeing the types of research and research methods .

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