Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Adapting Research Approaches

How to adapt research approaches with insufficient evidence?

If you have tried to do an evidence synthesis, and it has become clear that there is insufficient evidence, you may need to collect new primary data. Although much of the research you may need to do will require funding, it may be possible to integrate some of this work into an existing research project or do small tasks unfunded, as you have time. Your choice of research design and methods will need to reflect both your purpose and context. While the purpose will differ according to the issues you are researching, we all have the challenge of adapting to a context in which timeliness is valued as much as rigour. Some questions will inevitably take years to answer, but where there is a quicker, equally rigorous option, for example synthesising existing evidence, this should always be considered. Your choice of methods will dictate the time and resources needed, the number of assumptions necessary, and ultimately both the rigour and timeliness of your outputs.

Taxonomy of methods that can explore how different groups define policy problems and relevant solutions.

The figure above provides a taxonomy of methods to help you explore how different groups define policy problems and relevant solutions

First, you will need to choose the epistemological approach you are most comfortable with, noting how your choice may limit the kinds of questions you will be able to ask. Objectivist methods will help you describe, predict and objectively evaluate policy problems and potential solutions. More subjectivist methods will help you uncover perceptions and different ways of understanding the policy problem, how it is likely to evolve and the likely outcome of alternative solutions for different groups.

Illustration of a group of people sitting at a table, discussing various policy-related issues. The background features numerous colorful icons and gears representing different elements such as light bulbs, charts, and global symbols, indicating brainstorming and problem-solving activities. The word 'POLICY' is prominently displayed among the icons.

Alternatively, you may want to choose a combination of both objectivist and subjectivist methods, and some mixed methods approaches can integrate data generated in very different ways. Some of these methods are more useful for exploring how problems have evolved and how they are currently experienced. Other methods are more useful for understanding how problems are likely to evolve and the likely outcomes of alternative solutions to those problems. Some methods have the potential to provide insights into past, present, and future dimensions of the problem and solutions.

Application Activity

Consider whether there is sufficient high-quality published literature to improve the evidence base via evidence synthesis, and if so, what sort of evidence synthesis might be most appropriate (from the seven types identified above). If there is insufficient existing evidence, consider which research approach and methods from the figure above might be most relevant for a research proposal to generate the necessary evidence.