There are two different accepted methods of conducting research in social sciences. These are quantitative and qualitative research studies. Both methods can be used to test hypotheses by carrying out investigations with groups of participants, but they achieve that in different ways. Quantitative research relies solely on numbers. For instance, the researcher may give out surveys to a large number of participants and then analyze the data from their answers by looking for patterns and correlations among different variables. In these studies, numerical data are analyzed using various statistical methods, and the researcher may not have to ever talk to any participants face-to-face.
When conducting qualitative research, the researcher often relies on a smaller group of participants, often conducts individual interviews with them and is interested in hearing their perspectives. The goal of a qualitative study isn't to find wide generalizations but to identify and analyze specific examples of a certain phenomenon and consider its possible implications. Qualitative methods often include in-depth interviews, group discussions and general participant observations by the researcher.
Why an Introduction is Important
An introduction is a crucial part of your study because it gives your readers a road map of what they can expect in reading your paper. It doesn't need to be long or elaborate, but it has to include the following elements.
State the Problem
Introduce the reader to the issue that your study addresses. Provide a concise overview of the problem and mention briefly how previous studies (if any) attempted to solve it. Don't go into details here. You'll have a chance to write a more in-depth literature review later.
Describe the Methods
Give the reader a brief overview (a couple of sentences will suffice) of the methodology you employed in your study. This is where you make it clear that your study relies on qualitative research methods. Again, don't go into as much detail as you will later in the methodology section.
State the Conclusion
That’s right. State the conclusion right in the introduction. It can be tempting to keep this part a secret until the reader gets to the end (why give everything away, you may be thinking?), but remember, you’re not writing a work of fiction. Your reader doesn't want to be surprised. They want an overview of what to expect in the conclusion and how you got there.
Address the Bigger Picture
Explain why this study is important in the bigger scheme of things. Think beyond the particular problem that your study addresses. What bigger questions will it help solve?
- Though quantitative methods are often employed as an effort of supporting the results and interpretations in a qualitative research study, they are not and should not be the focus of the report. Consequently, in your explanation and justification sections of your introduction, indicate the ways in which quantitative research played a complementary role to your qualitative analysis.
Tanya Mozias Slavin is a former academic and language teacher. She writes about education and linguistic technology, and has published articles in the Washington Post, Fast Company, CBC and other places. Find her at www.tanyamoziasslavin.com