Front Cover
 Title Page
 What is applied research?
 Is theory important?
 Institutional and resource...
 Planning for applied research
 Experimental and non-experimental...
 So what?

Group Title: Staff paper - Food and Resource Economics Department, University of Florida - 9
Title: We call it research
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00054843/00001
 Material Information
Title: We call it research
Series Title: Staff paper Food and Resource Economics Dept.
Physical Description: 11 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Andrew, Chris O
Hildebrand, Peter E
Publisher: Food and Resource Economics Dept., Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville
Publication Date: 1975
Subject: Research   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by C.O. Andrew and P.E. Hildebrand.
General Note: "June 1975."
Funding: Staff paper (University of Florida. Food and Resource Economics Dept.) ;
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00054843
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Marston Science Library, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Holding Location: Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Engineering and Industrial Experiment Station; Institute for Food and Agricultural Services (IFAS), University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001625067
oclc - 22372106
notis - AHP9744

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Page I
    What is applied research?
        Page 1
    Is theory important?
        Page 2
    Institutional and resource considerations
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Planning for applied research
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
    Experimental and non-experimental research
        Page 8
    So what?
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
Full Text
/ 4,-. -?1C

Staff Paper Series

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611



C.O. Andrew and P.E. Hildebrand

Staff Paper 9

June 1975

Staff Papers are circulated without formal review
by the Food and Resource Economics Department.
Content is the sole responsibility of the author.

Food and Resource Economics Department
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611



C.O. Andrew and P.E. Hildebrand

Applied research, as a service to a client desiring to resolve
a problem, is the basic theme of this paper. Because such research

has a definite purpose, there is usually a time constraint or dead-

line within which the work must be completed as well as a limit on

the other resources the client has available for resolution of the

problem. Consequently, the researcher must be cognizant of the ef-

ficient use of the research resources while attempting to maximize

the likelihood of providing a useful product to the client.

What is Applied Research?

Research is the orderly procedure by which man increases his

knowledge. In contrast to accidental discovery, it follows a series

of steps designed precisely for the purpose of developing information.

And applied research differs from basic research because it is under-

taken specifically to help resolve a particular problem.

Applied research is carried out in all parts of the world --

it is a much more widespread activity than basic research. Even

though it is a necessity only the wealthiest countries can afford to

The authors express their appreciation to Drs. Holt, Mathis
and Prochaska for their insights and comments.

undertake much basic research. Most applied research is conducted

under moderate to severe resource limitations, so efficiency in the

research process is vital. An effective applied research methodology

focuses on the efficient use of available research resources to maxi-

mize the probability of achieving meaningful results to help resolve


> Perhaps the most critical deficiency in applied research is the

failure to identify clearly and fully the specific problem toward

which the research is to be oriented. Disappointment in the results

of applied research -- a "So what?" response -- in most instances can

be traced directly to inadequate problem identification. This may

result when the researcher uncritically accepts the problem as stated

by the client or by his spokesman.

Another serious deficiency may occur even after properly iden-

tifying the problem. This is the failure to formulate hypotheses and

objectives correctly oriented-toward the resolution of the problem

and then (and only then) to specify appropriate analytical techniques.

Hence, the most critical concepts in applied research are those of

problem identification and the interrelationships involved between

problem identification, hypotheses, objectives, analytical techniques,

and resource restraints.

Is Theory Important?

The role of theory is critical to applied research. Without

discounting the value of practice and experience, the greater the

researcher's command of theory, the broader will be his capabilities

and the more efficient he will be in planning and conducting the

applied research project. This is true because theory envelops and

supports the entire research process. Without a good command of stress

theory an engineer cannot properly design nor efficiently build a safe

bridge. A plant breeder must understand the theory of genetics before

he can hope to effectively develop a disease resistant strain. An ag-

ricultural economist cannot determine an optimum farm organization

without knowledge of production economics theory.

The researcher's foundation in theory provides the orientation

for defining a problem that is researchable within the discipline or

disciplines relevant to the research and with the resources available.

Theory also provides the basis for the formulation of hypotheses and

in the selection of the analytical techniques to be used. And it

should be obivous that the interpretation of the results depends

heavily on the theoretical orientation of the researcher.

Although theory permeates the entire research process, the

researcher's practical experience is equally important because ap-

plied research is frequently conducted under sub-optimum conditions.

Institutional and budgetary restraints, less than ideal field condi-

tions, poorly trained personnel, inadequate background information

and other similar factors have a very significant effect on the re-

search process and therefore must be recognized and dealt with ac-

cordingly. Along with theoretical training practical experience is

invaluable in helping the researcher overcome the obstacles which are

so often encountered in applied research.

Institutional and Resource Considerations

The success a researcher will have in serving his client is

tempered by the research environment within which he labors. An

applied researcher cannot be effective in satisfying clients when he

is isolated from them by a system that reduces or prevents effective

communication among them. This can happen, for example, when an ex-

tention service with direct client contact has little communication

with research personnel even though they may be in the same organi-

zation. It can also happen in a research organization in which proj-

ects are dictated by administrators who have little contact with the

clients and hence have no appreciation of their real problems.

These institutional problems may suggest a need for smaller

research organizations, but more realistically, they suggest organi-

zations in which researchers maintain close personal contact with

their clients and in which they all share a voice in determining the

research priorities of the organization. We suggest that a better

coordinated working relationship between research administrators,

researchers, and clients will develop if all three groups carefully

consider the problem identification phase of research planning.

The proposed scope of an applied research project and the

quantity and quality of research resources which can be devoted to

the solution of the problem at hand must be united in the research

planning process. Because the research is oriented toward the re-

solution of a specific problem, there is usually a time restraint

fixed by the need to make a decision. Time as an important resource

or constraint interacts with other resources as a complement and

substitute. Applied research is carried out under varying degrees

of financial restrictions and usually under rather severe shortages

of trained manpower and modern data processing resources. Another

research resource which is" seldom abundant under many conditions of

applied research is published data, other forms of secondary data or

reliable information in general. Basic physical facilities such as

means of transportation of land area for research can also limit the

scope of research activities.

S The researcher must be aware of the effect that various resource

limitations can have on his research. This cognizance will improve

his research effort by increasing the probability that the proposed

project will produce useful results. Projects designed in the ab-

sence of this consideration can and frequently do encounter diffi-

culties such that the productive potential of the resources utilized

is not attained. The result is that less effective information is

made available for decision making and problem resolution. Careful

consideration of resource availability can help prevent situations

where the deadline arrives and the researcher, still engrossed in

gathering data or making analyses, has little of value to report

to his client.

Planning for Applied Research

The most important and critical steps in planning research and

developing a research proposal are problems, hypotheses, and objec-

tives. These three aspects,constituting the first phase of applied

research, are not independent from each other, nor are they inde-

pendent from other portions of the proposal and aspects of con-

ducting the research. However, this phase of the development of

a research proposal is the most important key to efficient research.

It is much too common, and seemingly easier, to embark on the next

steps of the research process -- data collection, analysis, and in-

terpretation -- with a poorly specified project statement. The con-

sequence is usually that budget and time restrictions cannot be met

and one of the following results:

1) Conclusions must be drawn on the basis of inadequate


2) More resources and more time must be devoted to the

project to allow completion, or

3) The project withers and dies and is relegated to a

drawer in the file, never to be heard from again.

The time spent in careful development of the problem statement,

the hypothesis, and the objectives can well be the most productive

time spent by the researcher. Even in cases where the researcher

may have only one month, one week, or perhaps just one day to pro-

vide an answer, the time spent in this phase of the research is

critical to the success of the undertaking. Many, many times when

a person is given a rush task, the tendency is to "come up with

something." Little time is spent on analyzing the situation to

determine precisely what the client wants, what is really needed,

and what resources are available to accomplish the necessary, task.

Too often the results have no value because the "something" which

the researcher "comes up with" is not really'related to the prob-

lem of the client.

Problems.appropriately specified for applied research have

the following characteristics:

1) they are based on felt needs of individuals, groups and


2) the causal relationships expressed in a problem statement

are not hypothetical and are relevant to the problem;

3) problem statements must suggest testable hypothetical

relationships that, when analyzed, yield relevant and

non-trivial results;

4) the problem and the research to resolve the problem must

be relevant and manageable with resource restrictions.

Researchable problems can be distinguished from problematic situations

in that numerous researchable problems can be formulated from a prob-

lematic situation.

The hypotheses serve as guides to executing the research. Hy-

potheses must:

1) be stated to provide direction for the research;

2) be formulated as causal relationships with if: then impli-

cations ;

3) be capable of tests within the limits of the research


4) be stated as simply as possible; and,

5) as a groip be adequate and efficient in suggesting

means to one or more meaningful solutions to the problem.

In general, objectives describe what is expected to be achieved

by the project. Specifically, objectives:

1) define the limits of the research project;

2) suggest or clarify the means of conducting research;

3) describe the nature of the potential research product

to the client; and,

4) identify the client or clients.

Experimental and Non-Experimental Research

A major difference between experimental and non-experimental

research is the degree of control the researcher exercises over the

variables being studied or measured. In an experiment, the researcher

controls the design and levels of certain variables and the measurement

of phenomena resulting from the experiment. In non-experimental re-

search, the researcher in most instances cannot influence the design

and level of the variables nor directly measure the phenomena, but

controls only the technique used in measurement (primarily a sample

survey and questionnaire).

Experimentation and experimental design usually are associated

with objectivity, precision, and scientific purity -- concepts that

imply rigidity and inflexibility in procedure. In basic research

this is mostly true, but in applied research, considerations other

than pure scientific objectivity can become more important.in de-

termining the type of design to be used for any given experiment.

Resource limitations will usually force a reduction in the accuracy

obtainable. Other factors such as extension demonstration uses with

selected pilot farms where dual goals of research and extension are

met simultaneously, will modify the nature of the design ultimately

selected. It is important that the applied researcher maintain a

flexible attitude with respect to experimentation and experimental

design in order to increase his effectiveness and make him more ef-

ficient in his work.

The success of non-experimental data collection rests upon the

ability of the researcher to sample the defined population accurately

and, once the sample is drawn, communicate with the selected respon-

dents. In designing the questionnaire, two important communication

problems must be considered: 1) differences in terminology between

various groups, and 2) cultural differences in beliefs and values.

Pretesting the questionnaire under actual field conditions can pro-

vide information both about its effectiveness as a data gathering

tool and information on the population which can help in establishing

sample size.

As is the case in experimentation, guidelines for optimum sample

selection procedures and questionnaire design can be stated, but in

applied research it is important that the researcher also remain

flexible in his attitude. Scientific perfection can serve as a

norm, but the researcher must remember that for the client, it is

almost always better to have some information to help hime make his

decisions than to have no information except that the researcher is

still designing a better questionnaire (mousetrap) or tying to decide

on the best means of choosing the respondents.

So What?

The real skill of the applied researcher comes into play after

the data have been collected. Experience and imagination have a par-

ticularly high payoff in the analysis and the interpretation of the


data and can make a difference between a useful project and one

which ends up in a file drawer. It is in this process that the

researcher finally comes down to the point of determining what

the data entail; data do.not "speak for themselves" but must be

interpreted and analyzed. The researcher-must draw conclusions

from the analysis and, in the end, make recommendations to his

client to help in resolving the problem that originated the proj-

ect. This, of course, is the reason for undertaking applied re-

search in the first place.

Often with interpretation of applied research results, per-

sonal experience becomes very important. This experience might be

called, in part, the art of research, or subjective analysis.or,

by the purist, personal viewpoints and judgements. We prefer to

think of subjective analysis as flexibility in ones attitude toward

his use of scientific procedures. This is the attitude that allows

the researcher to completely ."milk". the data and draw out all the

information which might be of help to the client. Furthermore, this

attitude encourages the good applied researcher to insist on a role

in the interpretation of the statistical or other analyses which

have been used (either by him, by another person, by a computer,

etc.) rather than accept these impersonal results without question.

Because the client must make a decision, it is also necessary

that he understand the information which the-researcher presents as

the results of the research. Too often the investigator writes his

report as if he were communicating only with other professionals and
thereby ignores the needs of the client toward whom the presentation

must be directed. The agricultural economist who, upon completing a


sound piece of research, writes for other agricultural economists

in such a way that his client (possibly an extension agent or a

farmer) can not possibly comprehend has failed his client as mis-

erably as if the research results had been unsound.

When the moment for recommendations arrives, the client is

expecting a useful product. Applied research is not useful to

S the client when the researcher reports that he had to go back for

more data so he has no conclusions. Conclusions and recommendations

must be made on the basis of the results at hand because that is the

best information that is or will be available within the allowable

time and resource restrictions.

Finally, no amount of planning, no elegant data collection

procedures, and no sophisticated analyses are going to help the

researcher who is too timid when the moment of truth arrives to

utilize all his information, draw meaningful conclusions and make

appropriate recommendations to the-client.

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