The notion of a warrant is important in research. It helps to know what the term means, particularly if you get asked a question about your research warrant in, say, a conference presentation or supervision tutorial.
Most dictionaries define a warrant as a justification for an action, belief or feeling. If an action is warranted then there is a sound rationale, cause or basis for it. An action that is warranted is one which has good grounds.
But how is this relevant to research?
At the end of a piece of research we want to be able to say what we “found” – but we have to make claims that are justified. In other words, for the research to be trustworthy, it has to be both defensible in both ‘process and product’. A ‘research warrant’ thus refers to the ways in which our data supports the claims that we make. The warrant connects our original rationale for the study, the data and analysis and the claims we make at the end.
The warrant for claims generally includes:
(1) the research design – was the research in a credible tradition? did the researcher position themselves explicitly so that readers could see the situatedness of the study? did the methods allow the question to be answered? was the sample sufficient? (note that the emphases in these questions and their weighting will vary by discipline.)
(2) the conduct of the research – was the data generated in an appropriate manner? was the analysis thorough and defensible? was the research conducted according to current ethical standards?
(3) the logic between the claims and the research – do the claims made follow from the actual results? have the results and analysis been presented in a logical sequence so that the steps in the argument are clear?
(4) an awareness of what the research can and cannot do – has the researcher considered the limitations of their research? has the researcher demonstrated reflexivity?
Particular traditions and disciplines also have their own questions germane to warrant – for example, it is crucial in participatory traditions to involve participants in the research as well as in decisions about their representation. In ethnography the evidence of long-term involvement in the field is germane to credibility. In experimental research the provision of raw data, records of analysis and decision-making go to the transferability and confirmability of the results.
So there you go, the research warrant.