Analysis criteria

We can then realize how it is of fundamental importance that when planning, carrying out and concluding an investigation, the researcher is attentive to how much of himself there is in that work of his. The awareness of its implication leads the researcher to discover artifices (theoretical and methodological rigor) so that it is not only his subjectivity that guides the research, by the bias of his desires, defenses, beliefs, certainties, partisanism or prejudice or anticipated conception, but, so that he has the domain, at least partially, of his involvement in the ways of research through a planned project with the rigor required by an investigation. But, that consciousness also becomes important so that, in the opposite direction, it can use its involvement in a way to enrich the research with human knowledge, the knowledge of the life experiences of that person who perhaps is also a researcher. It is inserted in that game of distance and proximity in which the investigation is given. Difficult, but intrinsic and inevitable.

If we return to the subject of this article and seek to understand the relationship between research under commission and the involvement of the researcher, we are again presented with more questions, such as: How to handle the question of research involvement on request ? What is the degree of distance and exemption of the researcher if the object of the investigation has been defined by another? Would it be easier to handle its implications when elections are not yours? The researcher happens to be clearly a performer of a project of another? In that case, how would his involvement manifest? Is it possible to reconcile theoretical choices, methodologies and definition of criteria for analyzing the reality investigated between who asks and who does it? If in the unrolling of the research other objectives are shown that are not those defined in the initial contract, how should the researcher position himself in front of the main interested parties in the research? (The one who orders and those who constitute the universe of the investigation?) It will be that the population that composes the universe of the investigation would perceive and react to the investigator of different forms in case that an investigation took place on own initiative or by order ?

In addition to these, other practical issues arise that must always be well defined in the agreements between the person commissioning the investigation and the researcher himself. Even in these cases, it is essential that one and the other discuss the adjustments and details of the investigation to the maximum, from its explicit objectives to the use of the results of the same: Who owns the research? Who defines the rules of the game, that is, how are power relations established? What is the researcher’s autonomy to introduce changes in the development of research based on his observations, his perceptions, his difficulties? What guarantees will be offered to you that your results, whether or not they confirm the initial hypotheses, will be respected as they are and fully disclosed? Is it permissible to take advantage of the development of research commissioned to carry out in parallel a research of self-interest? Should all results be delivered to whoever commissioned the investigation?

Commissioned research

In a research-action story of which I participated as field team leader, integrating the EICOS Postgraduate Program, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, government agencies and community entities, we had the opportunity to discuss the great challenges inherent in the search for the integration of diverse objectives in community action projects, so that all social actors could, together, produce social changes for the community, changes in public policies and scientific / academic knowledge.

We noted in the above that the concern with ethics and social commitment must go through every researcher, mainly the social area. We raise innumerable questions for which there seem to be no definitive or decisive answers, but that go through the professional activity of any researcher and that will demand a position at each step. The important thing, in any case, is that the researcher is aware of his responsibility as a social actor, since we all know that research is, in itself, a form of social intervention and that – it arises at the initiative of the researcher or another person, group or institution – will always be interfering in the social reality, creating demands and expectations, suggesting forms of action and raising questions, sometimes never put before. In the last analysis, these interferences / changes will end up returning to the researcher, who must reflect on the possible consequences of his work.

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Investigating always means producing new knowledge from a certain reality. Where there is research, the existence of non-knowledge, doubt, problem, malaise is assumed. However, the research activity can come from diverse initiatives, defining objectives that will set out their directions, from their planning, going through the theoretical and methodological guidelines that will guide them, until the presentation of the results. The origin – person or institution – of the interest for the development of a research will originate, therefore, crucial implications in elections in which the researcher will have to decide for some paradigms such as: the definition of his object of investigation, the adequate techniques for achieve and grasp that object, the determination of criteria for analysis, and even how to write and present their results and conclusions.

From there arise some ethical and epistemological questions for the researcher in any area of knowledge. For researchers in the social area, however, these issues reflect a legitimate and extremely relevant concern for their social commitments: Who is interested in carrying out such research? What uses will be made with your results? Who will benefit from it? How will the products of this research be brought to knowledge for a better understanding and information of a social reality or for effective changes in the sense of a more just and dignified society? Will a “return” of the results and conclusions (true) be made to the population used as a research universe, to those social actors that contributed with the data, with their histories and realities so that the research becomes possible? What benefits, immediate or in the long term, could come from research for that population? Or would the research serve only the maintenance of the status quo of the “academic scientific research” of the researcher and his institution ?, or serving as an instrument of social control, or maintenance of social inequalities? In the end, what types of actions or decisions could occur as consequences of that investigation?

If these issues lead us to reflect on our ethical stance and our social commitments as researchers, when at the same time we are ourselves – individually or as a team – those who produce our research projects, these issues become fundamental when, through invitations or contractual impositions, we are induced to conduct entrusted investigations. In these circumstances, these questions will be added to many others, according to circumstantial specificities or the peculiarities of the proponent. In addition to the motivations with a view to the real production of knowledge that has relief for the welfare of the people, for the understanding of a certain reality, for the transformation of a group, a community or society, in the direction of the improvement of its quality of life, many other reasons can generate a commission for research. Political-partisan or electoral interests, financial interests, interests of knowing to better control, regulate and bend a certain social group, counterattack interests to positions of power, personal vanities, may be underlying a commission of investigation. Many times the well-intentioned and “politically correct” researcher can be entangled in the conduct of investigations that constitute real cheating. Unfortunately, you may only realize this when you are confronted or induced to use certain technical / methodological mechanisms, to distort – albeit partially – your results, hide information or present your results in a certain direction.

In other situations, no interference is made in the conduction of the investigation, but after the delivery of the final report, it is noticed that they published it or disseminated it in a partial and tendentious manner. In other cases, research data may be used for purposes not foreseen in the initial project. It could be argued that the responsibility of the investigator in these cases should be limited to carry out what was commissioned, which is still legitimate. There is, however, the weighting on the consequences (sometimes, contrary or deviated from their ideological stance or their investigator rigors) that the research presented. Even, because no research is neutral and will always be at the service of some ideology or interest.

Implication and ethics

The concept of implication, opposing the position of exemption and neutrality, supposes the subjective involvement of the researcher with its object of investigation. Therefore, some considerations about the involvement of the researcher with his research are necessary at that point. Following R. Barbier, we consider that the involvement of the researcher occurs in three areas:

1) the psycho-affective sphere, it refers to the unconscious elements that determine the choices, projections and investments that the researcher makes in his practice and that define, as if to give an example, because one professional chooses to investigate about dispossessed children while another prefers devote to the study of professional relationships in companies;

2) in the historical-existential field, it is about the social values, of the ideology that as a historical entity inserted in a certain class or social group, the researcher incorporates in his existence as social actor projects;

3) in the structural-professional field, the researcher is perceived as professionally referenced from the position of psychologist, social worker, sociologist, educator, historian, that is, from a position of knowledge conferred socially, which will also define his or her look at its research object as much as the other areas, all, of course, inseparable from each other.

It is true that, if in the end, we choose our research object as such it is because our gaze is guided by what affects us, on the other hand, we conduct research because we do not know everything and we know that we still have to learn about whatever it is. and, this must be enough for us to be careful with our inclination to try to prove what we want to be in a certain way, or provoked by something that we already believe we know what it is. What we could call “easy credulity” and to avoid it we seek to confirm our hypothesis through research.