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INTRODUCTION

The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

—Eden Phillpotts

LEARNING OUTCOMES

The information provided in this chapter will assist the reader to:

  • Understand the components of engaging in the research process.

  • Define the steps required to complete a research process.

  • Identify potential challenges in the research process.

INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH

Research can be an enjoyable, stimulating, and fascinating activity to engage in along one’s professional journey. Often anyone who is required to write a research thesis starts out overwhelmed by the idea, yet comes to enjoy the challenge and ends up feeling proud of the results. Great satisfaction can be derived from completing this exacting, often complex, and always stimulating process.

Unfortunately, some people avoid research because of their preconceived notions. Research is the systematic investigation of a problem, issue, or question undertaken to increase our knowledge. This includes reviewing numerous sources of literature on a given topic and drawing new conclusions about that topic, manipulating certain variables to see what happens to other variables, or searching for the meaningfulness of a variable to an individual or group.

Systematic investigation involves the process of logic, often called deductive and inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning starts with a general theory and ends with a specific conclusion; this is sometimes called a “top-down” approach. For example, the researcher starts with a general theory, forms a hypothesis based on the theory, tests the hypothesis, assesses the results, and forms a conclusion (Box 1-1).

BOX 1-1 Deductive Reasoning

Theory → Hypothesis → Observations → Conclusion

An occupational therapist believes that positive encouragement improves patient outcomes (general theory) and hypothesizes that positive reinforcement will decrease stroke recovery time. The therapist tests the hypothesis on 100 patients and finds that stroke recovery time decreased by 50% (observations). The therapist concludes that positive reinforcement decreases stroke recovery time (conclusion). This confirms the original theory.

Inductive reasoning starts with a specific observation that eventually forms a general theory; this is sometimes called a “bottom-up” approach. In this type of reasoning, the researcher starts with an interesting observation, then looks for a pattern of similar observations. From this pattern, the researcher develops a hypothesis, which forms the basis of a general theory (Box 1-2).

BOX 1-2 Inductive Reasoning

Observation → Pattern → Hypothesis → Theory

An occupational therapist observes that a patient’s ability to climb stairs improves when preceded by a balance task (e.g., standing on one leg with eyes closed). Over the next several months, the therapist looks for a pattern whether the balance task causes improvements in other areas (cognition, motor skills, etc.). After observing improvements in other areas, the therapist ...

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