Every profession and professional activity has tools that help improve techniques and assure a quality product. Research is no exception. The tools of the trade are often classified into three categories: hardware, software, and methods or knowledge. Hardware tools may include hammers, copy machines, trucks, computers, or cell phones. Software tools relate to computer programs such as word processing or data base programs, and changeable forms such as written tests, worksheets, or rubrics. The methods of a profession refer to knowledge and understanding of the procedures involved. For example, when a medical professional performs a CAT scan on a patient, the machine they use is considered hardware, the computer program used to collect and analyze the data is the software, and the use of the machine and software as well as the interpretation of results and application to treatment is the methods. All three types of tools are typically necessary to every profession, with research being no exception.
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