INDEX BY: Edition / Title
Research using IT
By Hilary Coombes
Published in 2001 by Palgrave
274pp ISBN 0-333-91450-3 £10.99

Research using IT

Research using IT is a valuable asset to the literature already published on research methods. It is not as the title suggests solely for those who wish to use computers in their research but provides a simple guide through the whole research process from the selection of the topic to publication of the findings and will be applicable for all those new or inexperienced in the research process.

The individual chapters of this book take a step by step approach and are each divided into two sections, part A explains the area under consideration followed by a clearly indicated part B which explains the computer support available in this area. For example Chapter 3 Methods of Research: Part A: details the various techniques of qualitative and quantitative research and Part B; goes into detail concerning word processing and the functions particularly relevant to research such as the importance of folders for saving information logically.

The initial chapter, Getting Started, is written in a manner that will remove the possible fear of doing research from the inexperienced and places this subject into an everyday perspective. It leads the reader through answers to questions such as; why research, what is a hypothesis and why use a computer, emphasising that the use of a computer will save time. Identifying an area of research, the second chapter, is instructive in that it covers choosing a research topic and suggestions on how to focus the research to a manageable task. However there is a section on an initial literature search using books, which could be superfluous and detracts from the overall important concept. There is however in Part B a very useful section on computer support for literature searching.

The following four chapters consider the various research methods covering chapters detailing the various Methods of Research, Collection of data, Interviews and Questionnaires. The techniques used in research are concisely described with the advantages and disadvantages of each method listed. The chapter headed Collection of Data is perhaps misnamed as it is primarily concerned with the collection of previously published data and gives an indication where the researcher can gather such information, not the collection of the researchers own data. It would have been useful in this chapter for more emphasis to be placed on information that can be obtained from peer-reviewed journals where other researchers in the topic of interest have published research. There is an excellent section on referencing and writing the bibliography which is continued into Part B where how to cite literature gathered from the Internet is detailed, this is an area rarely touched on in other books on research. Part B also includes details on how to obtain information from the Internet, with a valuable warning about the quality of information obtained from this source and possible issues of plagiarism and copyright.

Part A of the next two chapters provides very valuable explanations of the practical aspects of using interviews and questionnaires. With regard to interviewing there are some very useful suggestions on techniques for the interviewer including body communication for example the facial expressions smiling/frowning that would make a difference between compliance and non-compliance with the request for an interview. Part B of the interview chapter is concerned with email as a tool to provide a cheap and effective vehicle for collaboration. While it is acknowledged that email can be helpful in research more caution should have been expressed in the use of this to obtain respondents, students using this book would be keen on using email but many Universities prevent the use of emailing other staff and students on block as it overloads the system. The design of questionnaires is covered in a clear explicit manner with many of the problems that are encountered, such as leading questions, illustrated and ways shown to recognise and avoid them. Part B of this chapter which explains the use of a computer to formulate the questionnaire, although useful, may be outside the scope or ability of the inexperienced researcher who is the more likely reader of this text.

Analysis of the data is covered clearly if somewhat briefly for such an important part of the research process but does provide a succinct overview and for some may remove the mystery of computer use for this process. There are good sections on data presentation demonstrating how a chart can be clearer than the written word in some instances. A section on validity and reliability is included which is an often-omitted area in any research text.

The final chapters, Getting Down to Writing, Powerful Presentations and Finding a Voice-sharing your research findings, are a valuable resource, which rounds off the research process. There are areas covering a suggested layout including practical details of how to write the final report with an important emphasis on proofreading. The problems and fears encountered in any presentation are set out with ways suggested to overcome these, such as suggestions for one’s opening words, which may capture the listener’s attention. Finally the chapter on the dissemination of your findings impresses the reader on the importance of publication of the work that has been researched.

The title of this book “Research using IT” unfortunately may deter some from reading a valuable text on how to do research due to the inclusion of IT in the title. This is a pity since it is a clearly written text and would be of great assistance to many even if they were novices or fear using computers. Part A of each chapter can be read alone to gather valuable information concerning different research techniques.

This book is well written and removes the mystic surrounding research and researchers by demonstrating in a clear explicit language that the process is relatively straightforward and within the reach of many individuals. It is a book that could be used by undergraduates, postgraduates and inexperienced researchers to provide a framework for planning and carrying out their research and is well within their budgets.

Peggy Maxwell
Liverpool John Moores University