Research findings; definition; objectives; step by step procedure; significance & importance

1.1 Definition

Research finding is the outcome gotten from data analysis and represents the factual link or association between or amongst the variables being interrogated by the researcher. It is any results arrived at and portrays the true position of how two or more variables relate with one another.

1.2 Objectives of Establishing Research Findings

The researcher ends his/her research assignment when he/she establishes the research findings. It is the end that justifies the means. So, the specific objectives of establishing the research findings of any type of study are;

  1. To establish the answers to the research questions already in the mind of the researcher.
  2. To assess/evaluate the extent to which the set specific objective(s) have been achieved by the study.
  3. To establish the level of significance of the predictors influence on the dependent variable
  4. To prove or disapprove the claim(s) or suppositions of the researcher.
  5. To have a basis of suggesting further research.
  6. To justify why it is necessary to utilize the research resources allocated for the research assignment.

In a nutshell, research findings are the totality of outcome. But NOT conclusions or recommendations drawn from it. So, research findings are characterized by reporting PURELY the results as they are. At this point or stage, no suggestion or recommendations by the researcher. Next point then is, how can you appropriately prepare Research Findings? The following are step by step procedure to be followed;

Step by step presentation of research findings

Research findings section in most of the times domiciled in chapter four of the research project or thesis in almost all research institution project or thesis formats. There are basically 5 steps that govern how to write good research finding section. These steps are as explained below;

Step 1: Review the specific objectives of your research project

The specific objectives set during proposal development is always the basis or the theoretical foundation of research findings. That is, all aspects of research findings are anchored on the specific objectives. So, the first step is to align the research findings with the specific objectives in twofold ways;

i). Number of Specific Objectives-If there are FOUR specific objectives, there will be FOUR research findings (outcomes), whether significant or insignificant.

ii). Aim of the specific objective-the research findings end goal is to achieve the specific objectives set. This is true even if the specific objectives will be achieved significantly or not significantly.

Step 2: Focus on the actual results

In this step, portray the main research findings and the minor research findings. Main research findings mean the findings approving the researcher’s proposition or theory if the independent variable shows statistically significant relationship with the dependent variable. Minor research findings are those which do not comply with the researcher’s proposition or theory. The student or researcher in question should report the two perspectives of the research findings.

On the same breath, the researcher should report other past studies with either similar research findings so as to appreciate that in research one cannot re-invent the wheel and equally those past research findings with contrary results should be reported but the researcher has to disclose why there exists a significant difference. 

Step 3: Visual presentations

Visual presentations involve use of tools such as tables, figures, maps, graphs or photos to enhance reporting. The design used should be as per the respective institution’s design or the sponsor’s preferred approach. However, there are some set standards to be adhered to such as APA style of reporting which have specific requirements. Therefore, if one is reporting to a Journal, each of them have their specific preferences and therefore the researcher need to stick to the set demands.

Note the Following;

Table of Contents

The researcher needs to note that when presenting or incorporating the tables and figures in the table of contents section in the preliminary pages of the thesis or project, Tables are ranked number Four Heading and Figures are in Fifth Heading in that order. This is expressed as below;

Heading one: is the chapter title of the project or thesis.

Sub-heading two: is the sub-heading such as introduction of a particular concept of the project or Thesis.

Sub-heading three: is sub-sub heading of sub heading two of the project or Thesis.

Sub-heading four: is for Tables found in the project or Thesis.

Sub-heading five: is for Figures in the project or Thesis.

This is well elaborated in the article about table of contents where description on how to prepare table of content is explained in details.

Labeling of Visual tools

Tables

The researcher has to number the tables using capitalization option in MS-word program if the table has a specific title describing it. For example, a table which describes the population size will be referred to as population frame, and will be indicated as; 

Table1.1: Population Frame” and NOT “1.1 table 1.1: Population Frame.”

Or

A table describing the list of teachers who teach Geography will be indicated as

“Table 1.1: “List of Geography teachers and NOT “table 1.1: List of Geography teachers”

NB:

i). The name table should start with capital letter “T”

ii). APA style requirement of labeling

The researcher needs to note that for APA format, the title of the table is always on the top as indicated below in Table 1.1

 

Figures

Similarly, figures should be labeled using capitalization option in MS-word program such that for example, a figure with a title such as population frame, should be indicated as “Figure 1.1: Population Frame” and NOT “figure 1.1: Population Frame.”

Or

A figure on list of teachers who teach Geography should be indicated as “Figure 1.1: List of Geography teachers and NOT “figure 1.1: List of Geography teachers”

 

NB:

i). The name Figure should start with capital letter “F”

ii). APA style requirement of labeling

The researcher needs to note that for APA format, the title of the figure is always below as indicated herein

Figures are labeled from below as indicated in Figure 1.1

Relationship between Numbering of Tables and Chapters of the Research project/thesis

The numbering of the tables in the research project or thesis is based in a certain order as follows

Whereby digit 1 before the decimal point (1.) represents the chapter of the research project/thesis where the table appears. Such that in this case, the table is in chapter one.

Whereas, the digit after the decimal point (.1) which is also a 1 represents the nth number of tables in a particular chapter. Such that in this case, the table is the first one in chapter one of the research project or thesis.

 

In summary, Table 1.2 below portrays the order in which the tables should be arranged and numbered in the project/thesis.

Step 4: Write Research findings section

This is the stage of actual write up pertaining the results gotten. In this step, the researcher needs to capture the true picture of the research findings. To achieve this objective, he/she need to carefully transfer the report as it is portrayed in the tables, figures and maps amongst other tools which the researcher has visually utilized. It will be a grievous mistake to distort the research findings especially when reasonable care is not applied. Also, the language used should be simple and well-structured considering the right gramma to be put in place. The researcher should bank on Active voice for writing research-finding chapters. For example, from the table;

One should not say;

“From Table 4.4, 23% of the respondents feel... (It is not from the Table 4.4 that the

respondents feel or reason in a certain manner.)

One should say;

Table 4.4 reveals that 40% of the respondents feel... or reason in a certain manner.

 Edit the work to clean issues of punctuation, and spelling.

Step 5: Specific Objective Confirmation

In this step, the researcher needs to counter check whether the specific objectives have been achieved by the research findings.  This is because, they are the reason as to why the researcher had to go to the field to collect the relevant data. So, satisfaction of those objective(s) will imply that the changes witnessed in the dependent variable is not due to chance. Hence the results will portray statistically significant results.

Step 6: Review draft of the research findings section

In this stage it entails re-visiting the information captured after data analysis is over with the intention of ensuring that it is accurate and correct for the end users. This is achieved by comparing the information domiciled in the visual tools and what is recorded under research findings/specific objectives.

Significant research findings

The expectation of any researcher, be it a professional or a postgraduate student, is that the research findings portray statistically significant results/outcome. In this case, two questions arise;

a). What are significant research findings?

b). What causes or makes research findings to be statistically significant?

Answer “a”

Statistically significant research findings are research outcome where by the dependent or outcome variable commonly referred to as dependent variable is explained by a factor or factors where by there exists strong evidence in the form of an observed difference that is too large to be explained solely by chance.

Answer “b”

The answer to the question “b” is as follows; that the endeavors the researcher need to undertake to realize statistically significant results, and I would also advise you as a scholar or professional researcher to follow suit is that; 

  1. If a suitable sampling technique is used to establish the correct sample size. If the researcher chooses the appropriate sampling technique, the right sample size which truly represents the characteristics of the population will be identified and this avoids invalidity.
  2. If the appropriate method of data analysis is used.
  3. If sufficient data is collected from the whole population or from a sample size which is a true representative of the entire population. If sufficient/enough data is available. i.e., collected, then, chances are high that the research findings will portray statistically significant results.

Implications of statistically significant research findings

Statistically significant research findings means that the researcher’s claim or proposition is true.

i). The changes noticed in the dependent variable are not due to chance only but the responsible predictor variable under consideration has caused a significant influence as stated in answer “b” above.

ii). The conceptualized idea/concept is logical/ plausible/practical/theoretical and is underpinned by a theory.

iii). The relational link between or amongst the study variables is logical in its natural phenomenon. E.g., a dog bite is logical as compared to a man bite.

iv). The null hypothesis has been rejected (failed to accept the null hypothesis) and the alternative hypothesis has been accepted (failed to reject the alternative hypothesis)

What causes insignificant research findings?

Ok, in research, we say “research findings were “not statistically significant”. But we do not say research findings were “insignificant”. This is for the sake of you as a scholar adopting the right practice in research.

The following are some of the reasons which make results not to be statistically significant

  1. When the concept is not logical/not plausible e.g., if the researcher is for instance investigating a case of a man biting a dog.
  2. When available data is not enough. That is, if the data collected was from a sample size that was not a true representation of the population.
  3. When the wrong data analysis method is used.

Relationship between research findings and suggestion for further research

Does your Research Findings have any connection with your Suggestions or areas for Further Research?

The answer is YES.

In an ideal situation, the research findings gotten from any research activity will either fit well in the research questions or the specific objectives already set. What do I mean by this?

The research findings will satisfactorily answer the research questions and number two; the research findings will fulfill the set objectives as supposedly.

However, ideal situations like the one aforementioned are rare. The research findings may either answer all the research questions as supposedly, or may partially answer the research questions. Whichever way, you should note that suggestion for further research is pegged on the research findings. Such that the suggested areas should be in line with the thematic issues stated in the specific objectives/research questions of the study. So, it should be noted that the researcher should not introduce new areas for further research. Therefore, in a nutshell, the relationship between research findings and suggestion for further research is manifold as stated below;

  1. Both aspects of research findings and suggestions for further research are aligned on a common thematic issue and the researcher should not make a mistake of introducing a new area of study.
  2. Both should be specifically stated in a manner that there is no confusion or ambiguity. That is, the manner in which specific objectives are SMART, both research findings and suggestion for further research should be specific

Common mistake by postgraduate students when suggesting area for further research

Most students in research and even some times the professional researchers ill-treat the research findings and suggestion for further research sections in their project or thesis. Especially postgraduate students carelessly and casually suggest just anything of their interest to be the suggestion for further research. The following are some of the common research mistakes. They include;

 

1). Deviation from thematic aspects of research objectives. Sometimes the researcher suggests further research areas which are not in line with the specific objectives. This is not correct for no one can re-invent the wheel.

 

Look at this…….

 

EXTRACT 1

Let us assume that in this case, the topic of the study is as indicated below, the research findings as further shown and lastly the researcher’s wrong suggestion for further research.

 

Topic: “Factors Affecting Financial Performance of Firms Listed at Shanghai Stock Exchange.”

 

Specific objectives:

The specific objectives were as stated below;

 

  1. To examine the influence of liquidity on financial performance of firms listed at

    Shanghai Stock Exchange 50 (SSE 50).

  2. To examine the influence of asset utilization on financial performance of firms listed at

    Shanghai Stock Exchange 50 (SSE 50).

  3. To examine the influence of leverage on financial performance of firms listed at

    Shanghai Stock Exchange 50 (SSE 50).

  4. To examine the influence of firm size on financial performance of firms listed

    at Shanghai Stock Exchange 50 (SSE 50)

Corresponding Research Findings

  1. Results for Objective-1; Liquidity positively influenced firm financial performance
    but it was not statistically significant.
  2. Results for Objective-2; Asset utilization positively influenced firm financial performance which was statistically significant.
  3. Results for Objective-3; Leverage negatively influenced firm financial performance and was statistically significant.
  4. Results for Objective-4; Firm size had no statistically significant influence on firm financial performance.

Researcher’s wrong Thematic Suggestion for Further Research was as follows;

1.)Results for Objective-1; Liquidity positively influenced firm financial performance
but it was not statistically significant.

SUGGESTION-1; The researcher suggested that since the scope of the study was limited to the top 50 listed companies in Shanghai stock exchange, further study should be done to include Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).  

2). Results for Objective-2; Asset utilization positively influenced firm financial performance which was statistically significant.

SUGGESTION-2; the researcher suggested that since annual data is the only best source that s available, and that the fact the Chinese economy continues to develop, we will expect to see more new data sets available, therefore further research should be pegged on the new data in the future.

 

3). Results for Objective-3; Leverage negatively influenced firm financial performance and was statistically significant.

SUGGESTION 3: The researcher suggested that since this study selected only four factors to test influence on financial performance of firms listed on Shanghai stock exchange 50, further study using economic factors such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Exchange rate and Inflation rate is important.

 

4). Results for Objective-4; Results for Objective-4; Firm size had no statistically significant influence on firm financial performance.

SUGGESTION 4: The researcher suggested that in future, other researchers to include qualitative component in designing the research. This would have provided more comprehensive insight into the boards’ accountability to all firms listed on Shanghai stock exchange.50.

 

How to correctly suggest for further research

Suggestion for further research ought to originate from the research findings which the researcher has realized. Whether with significant or without significant results. But may be much emphasis can be done on the cases with no statistical significance. Therefore, suggestion for further research for this study should be as follows

First research finding- liquidity positively but insignificantly affected firms’ financial performance in this study.

Using the same example above on the topic “Factors Affecting Financial Performance of Firms Listed at Shanghai Stock Exchange” the following are the correct way of suggesting further research; 

Suggestion for further research:

Results for Objective-1; The aspect of liquidity did not show statistical significance influence to financial performance. Hence, there is need to carry further research to find out if a different methodology of measuring liquidity perspective is used would result to significant outcome. This is because may be the context in which liquidity is based on in the current study is not plausible or logical to the users. 

Results for Objective-2; Asset utilization positively influenced firm financial performance which was statistically significant. Since asset utilization is an aspect of physical fixed assets and how they are effectively utilized, the researcher can suggest further area of research by preferring to incorporate Asset Tangibility viewpoint to investigate the extent to which this factor can influence financial performance of the of firms listed at Shanghai Stock Exchange 50 (SSE 50). 

Results for Objective-3; Leverage negatively influenced firm financial performance and was statistically significant. A correct suggestion for further research can be that, since leverage is a variable with capital structure implications, further research on the influence of other capital structure perspectives such as long term or short-term influence on financial performance can be necessary for the firms listed at Shanghai Stock Exchange 50 (SSE 50).

Results for Objective-4; Since firm size did not significantly affect financial performance of the firms in question, further interrogation is necessary to establish whether the variable has any other conceptual role it plays in the natural/physical phenomenon such as being a moderator on the link between the selected determinants of financial performance instead of it being classified as a PURE predictor of financial performance.

 

Importance of research findings

  1. It is the source of new knowledge to be added in the already existing body of knowledge.
  2. It is the basis where the suggestions for further research is anchored on. That is, if the research findings fail to provide answers research questions as supposedly, then there will be suggestions made for areas of further research.
  3. Research finding guide in assessing the extent to which a hypothesis is proved to be true or false
  4. It is the basis that either the null hypothesis is accepted or rejected
  5. Increases the researchers in depth understanding of the research problem.
  6. Portrays the level of significance of undertaking the research activity at hand
  7. It is the research findings which guide the users of research to provide solutions to the problem at hand.

About the Author - Dr Geoffrey Mbuva(PhD-Finance) is a lecturer of Finance and Accountancy at Kenyatta University, Kenya. He is an enthusiast of teaching and making accounting & research tutorials for his readers.