After collecting and analyzing the data, the researcher has to accomplish the task of drawing inferences followed by report writing. This has to be done very carefully, otherwise mi conclusions may be drawn and the whole purpose of doing research may get vitiated. It is only through interpretation that the researcher can expose relations and processes that underlie his findings.
In case of hypotheses testing studies, if hypotheses are tested and upheld several times, the researcher may arrive at generalizations. But in case the researcher had no hypothesis to start with, he would try to explain his findings on the basis of some theory. This may at times result in new questions, leading to further researches. All this analytical information and consequential inference(s) may well be communicated, preferably through research report, to the consult of research results who may be either an individual or a group of individuals or some public private organisation.
Meaning of Interpretation
Interpretation refers to the task of drawing inferences from the collected facts after an analytical and or experimental study. In fact, it is a search for broader meaning of research findings. The task of interpretation has two major aspects viz.,
- the effort to establish continuity in research through linking the results of a given study with those of another, and
- the establishment of some explaflat concepts. “In one sense, interpretation is concerned with relationships within the collected data, partially overlapping analysis. Interpretation also extends beyond the data of the study to inch the results of other research, theory and hypotheses.” Thus, interpenetration is the device through which the factors that seem to explain what has been observed by researcher in the course of the study can be better understood and it also provides a theoretical conception which can serve as a guide for further researches.
Interpretation is essential for the simple reason that the usefulness and utility of research findings lie in proper interpretation. It is being considered a basic component of research process because of the following reasons:
- It is through interpretation that the researcher can well under- stand the abstract principle that works beneath his findings. Through this he can link up his findings with those of other studies, having the same abstract principle, and thereby can predict about the concrete world of events. Fresh inquiries can test these predictions later on. This way the continuity in research can be maintained.
- Interpretation leads to the establishment of explanatory concepts that can serve as a guide for future research studies; it opens new avenues of intellectual adventure and stimulates the quest for more knowledge.
- Researcher can better appreciate only through interpretation why his findings are what they are and can make others to under- stand the real significance of his research findings.
- The interpretation of the findings of exploratory research study often results into hypotheses for experimental research and as such interpretation is involved in the transition from exploratory to experimental research. Since an exploratory study does not have a hypothesis to start with, the findings of such a study have to be interpreted on a post factum basis in which case the interpretation is technically described as ‘post factum’ interpretation.
Technique of Interpretation
The task of interpretation is not an easy job, rather it requires a great skill and dexterity on the part of researcher. Interpretation is an art that one learns through practice and experience. The researcher may, at times, seek the guidance from experts for accomplishing the task of interpretation.The technique of interpretation often involves the following steps:
- Researcher must give reasonable explanations of the relations which he has found and he must interpret the lines of relationship in terms of the underlying processes and must try to find out the thread of uniformity that lies under the surface layer of his diversified research findings. In fact, this is the technique of how generalization should be done and concepts be formulated.
- Extraneous information, if collected during the study, must be considered while interpreting the final results of research study, for it may prove to be a key factor in understanding the problem under consideration.
- It is advisable, before embarking upon final interpretation, to , consult someone having insight into the study and who is frank and honest and will not hesitate to point out omissions and errors in logical argumentation. Such a consultation will result in correct interpretation and, thus, will enhance the utility of research results.
- Researcher must accomplish the task of interpretation only after considering all relevant factors affecting the problem to avoid false generalization. He must be in no hurry while interpreting results, for quite often the conclusions, which appear to be all right at the beginning, may not at all be accurate.
Precautions in Interpretation
One should always remember that even if the data are properly collected and analyzed, wrong interpretation would lead to inaccurate conclusions. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that the task of , interpretation be accomplished with patience in an impartial manner and also in correct perspective. Researcher must pay attention to the following points for correct interpretation:
(i) At the outset, researcher must invariably satisfy himself that
(a) the data are appropriate, trustworthy and adequate for drawing inferences;
(b) the data reflect good homogeneity; and that
(c) proper analysis has been done through statistical methods.
(ii) The researcher must remain cautious about the errors that can possibly arise in the process of interpreting results. Errors can arise due to false generalization and/or due to wrong interpretation of statistical measures, such as the application of findings beyond the range of observations, identification of correlation with causation . and the like. Another major pitfall is the tendency to affirm that definite relationships exist on the basis of confirmation of particular hypotheses. In fact, the positive test results accepting the hypothesis must be interpreted as “being in accord” with the hypothesis, rather than as “confirming the validity of the hypothesis”. The researcher must remain vigilant about all such things so that false generalization may not take place. He should be well equipped with and must know the correct use of statistical measures for drawing inferences concerning his study.
(III) He must always keep in view that the task of interpretation is very much intertwined with analysis and cannot be distinctly separated. As such he must take the task of interpretation as a special aspectof analysis and accordingly must take all those precautions that one usually observes while going through the process of analysis viz., precautions concerning the reliability of data, computational checks, validation and comparison of results.
(iv) He must never lose sight of the fact that his task is not only to make sensitive observations of relevant occurrences, but also to identify and disengage the factors that are initiallyhidden to the eye. This will enable him to do his job of interpretation on proper lines. Broad generalization should be avoided as most research is not amen- able to it because the coverage may be restricted to a particular time, a particular area and particular conditions. Such restrictions, if any, must invariably be specified and the results must be framed within their limits.
(v) The researcher must remember that “ideally in the course of a research study, there should be constant interaction between initial hypothesis, empirical observation and theoretical conceptions. It is exactly in this area of interaction between theoretical orientation and empirical observation that opportunities for originality and creativity lie.” He must pay special attention to this aspect while engaged in the task of interpretation.
Significance of Report Writing
Research report is considered a major component of the research study for the research task remains incomplete till the report has been presented and/or written. As a matter of fact even the most brilliant hypothesis, highly well designed and conducted research study, and the most striking generalizations and findings are of little value Unless they are effectively communicated to others. The purpose of research is not well served unless the findings are made known to others. Research results must invariably enter the general store of knowledge. All this explains the significance of writing research report. There are people who do not consider writing of report as an integral part of the research process. But the general opinion is in favour of treating the presentation of research results or the writing of report as part and parcel of the research project. Writing of report is the last step in a research study and requires a set of skills somewhat different from those called for in respect of the earlier stages of research. This task should be accomplished by the researcher with utmost care; he may seek the assistance and guidance of experts for the purpose.
Different Steps in Writing Report
Research reports are the product of slow, painstaking, accurate inductive work. The usual steps involved in writing report are:
(a) logical analysis of the subject-matter;
(b) preparation of the final outline;
(c) preparation of the rough draft;
(d) rewriting and polishing;
(e) preparation of the final bibliography; and
(f) writing the final draft. Though all these steps are self explanatory, yet a brief mention of each one of these will be appropriate for better under-standing. Logical analysis of the subject matter. It is the first step which is primarily concerned with the development of a subject. There are two ways in which to develop a subject—
(a) logically and
(b) chronologically. The logical development is made on the basis of mental connections and associations between one thing and another by means of analysis. Logical treatment often consists in developing the material from the simple possible to the most complex structures. Chronological development is based on a connection or sequence in time or occurrence. The directions for doing or making something usually follow the chronological order. Preparation of the final outline. It is the next step in writing the research report. “Outlines are the framework upon which long written works are constructed. They are an aid to the logical organisation of the material and a reminder of the points to be stressed in the report.”
Preparation of the rough draft
This follows the logical analysis of the subject and the preparation of the final outline. Such a step is of utmost importance for the researcher now sits to write down what he has done in the context of his research study. He will write down the procedure adopted by him in collecting the material for his study along with various limitations faced by him, the technique of analysis adopted by him, the broad findings and generalizations and the various suggestions he wants to offer regarding the problem concerned.Rewriting and polishing of the rough draft. This step happens to be the most difficult part of all formal writing. Usually this step requires more time than the writing of the rough draft. The careful revision makes the difference between a mediocre and a good piece of writing. While rewriting and polishing, one should check the report for weaknesses in logical development or presentation. The researcher should also “see whether or not the material, as it is presented, has unity and cohesion; does the report stand upright and firm and exhibit a definite pattern, like a marble arch? Or does it resemble an old wall of moldering cement and loose bricks.” In addition the researcher should give due attention to the fact that in his rough draft he has been consistent or not. He should check the mechanics of writing spelling and usage. Preparation of the final bibliography. Next in order comes the task of the preparation of the final bibliography. The bibliography, which is generally appended to the research report, is a list of books in some way pertinent to the research which has been done. It should contain all those works which the researcher has consulted. The bibliography should be arranged alphabetically and may be divided into two parts; the first part may contain the names of books and pamphlets, and the second part may contain the names of magazine and newspaper articles. Generally, this pattern of bibliography is considered convenient and satisfactory from the point of view of reader, though it is not the only way of presenting bibliography.