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Research Methods | Definitions, Types, Examples
Research methods are specific procedures for collecting and analyzing data. Developing your research methods is an integral part of your research design . When planning your methods, there are two key decisions you will make.
First, decide how you will collect data . Your methods depend on what type of data you need to answer your research question :
- Qualitative vs. quantitative : Will your data take the form of words or numbers?
- Primary vs. secondary : Will you collect original data yourself, or will you use data that has already been collected by someone else?
- Descriptive vs. experimental : Will you take measurements of something as it is, or will you perform an experiment?
Second, decide how you will analyze the data .
- For quantitative data, you can use statistical analysis methods to test relationships between variables.
- For qualitative data, you can use methods such as thematic analysis to interpret patterns and meanings in the data.
Table of contents
Methods for collecting data, examples of data collection methods, methods for analyzing data, examples of data analysis methods, frequently asked questions about research methods.
Data is the information that you collect for the purposes of answering your research question . The type of data you need depends on the aims of your research.
Qualitative vs. quantitative data
Your choice of qualitative or quantitative data collection depends on the type of knowledge you want to develop.
For questions about ideas, experiences and meanings, or to study something that can’t be described numerically, collect qualitative data .
If you want to develop a more mechanistic understanding of a topic, or your research involves hypothesis testing , collect quantitative data .
You can also take a mixed methods approach , where you use both qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Primary vs. secondary research
Primary research is any original data that you collect yourself for the purposes of answering your research question (e.g. through surveys , observations and experiments ). Secondary research is data that has already been collected by other researchers (e.g. in a government census or previous scientific studies).
If you are exploring a novel research question, you’ll probably need to collect primary data . But if you want to synthesize existing knowledge, analyze historical trends, or identify patterns on a large scale, secondary data might be a better choice.
Descriptive vs. experimental data
In descriptive research , you collect data about your study subject without intervening. The validity of your research will depend on your sampling method .
In experimental research , you systematically intervene in a process and measure the outcome. The validity of your research will depend on your experimental design .
To conduct an experiment, you need to be able to vary your independent variable , precisely measure your dependent variable, and control for confounding variables . If it’s practically and ethically possible, this method is the best choice for answering questions about cause and effect.
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Your data analysis methods will depend on the type of data you collect and how you prepare it for analysis.
Data can often be analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. For example, survey responses could be analyzed qualitatively by studying the meanings of responses or quantitatively by studying the frequencies of responses.
Qualitative analysis methods
Qualitative analysis is used to understand words, ideas, and experiences. You can use it to interpret data that was collected:
- From open-ended surveys and interviews , literature reviews , case studies , ethnographies , and other sources that use text rather than numbers.
- Using non-probability sampling methods .
Qualitative analysis tends to be quite flexible and relies on the researcher’s judgement, so you have to reflect carefully on your choices and assumptions and be careful to avoid research bias .
Quantitative analysis methods
Quantitative analysis uses numbers and statistics to understand frequencies, averages and correlations (in descriptive studies) or cause-and-effect relationships (in experiments).
You can use quantitative analysis to interpret data that was collected either:
- During an experiment .
- Using probability sampling methods .
Because the data is collected and analyzed in a statistically valid way, the results of quantitative analysis can be easily standardized and shared among researchers.
Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.
Quantitative methods allow you to systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.
In mixed methods research , you use both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods to answer your research question .
A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population . Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research. For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.
In statistics, sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population.
The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .
- If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts and meanings, use qualitative methods .
- If you want to analyze a large amount of readily-available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how it is generated, collect primary data.
- If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.
Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research project . It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your objectives.
Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyze data (for example, experiments, surveys , and statistical tests ).
In shorter scientific papers, where the aim is to report the findings of a specific study, you might simply describe what you did in a methods section .
In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation , you will probably include a methodology section , where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.
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- Research Guides
Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper
- 6. The Methodology
- Purpose of Guide
- Design Flaws to Avoid
- Independent and Dependent Variables
- Glossary of Research Terms
- Reading Research Effectively
- Narrowing a Topic Idea
- Broadening a Topic Idea
- Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
- Academic Writing Style
- Choosing a Title
- Making an Outline
- Paragraph Development
- Research Process Video Series
- Executive Summary
- The C.A.R.S. Model
- Background Information
- The Research Problem/Question
- Theoretical Framework
- Citation Tracking
- Content Alert Services
- Evaluating Sources
- Primary Sources
- Secondary Sources
- Tiertiary Sources
- Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
- Qualitative Methods
- Quantitative Methods
- Using Non-Textual Elements
- Limitations of the Study
- Common Grammar Mistakes
- Writing Concisely
- Avoiding Plagiarism
- Footnotes or Endnotes?
- Further Readings
The methods section describes actions taken to investigate a research problem and the rationale for the application of specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information applied to understanding the problem, thereby, allowing the reader to critically evaluate a study’s overall validity and reliability. The methodology section of a research paper answers two main questions: How was the data collected or generated? And, how was it analyzed? The writing should be direct and precise and always written in the past tense.
Kallet, Richard H. "How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper." Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004): 1229-1232.
Importance of a Good Methodology Section
You must explain how you obtained and analyzed your results for the following reasons:
- Readers need to know how the data was obtained because the method you chose affects the results and, by extension, how you interpreted their significance in the discussion section of your paper.
- Methodology is crucial for any branch of scholarship because an unreliable method produces unreliable results and, as a consequence, undermines the value of your analysis of the findings.
- In most cases, there are a variety of different methods you can choose to investigate a research problem. The methodology section of your paper should clearly articulate the reasons why you have chosen a particular procedure or technique.
- The reader wants to know that the data was collected or generated in a way that is consistent with accepted practice in the field of study. For example, if you are using a multiple choice questionnaire, readers need to know that it offered your respondents a reasonable range of answers to choose from.
- The method must be appropriate to fulfilling the overall aims of the study. For example, you need to ensure that you have a large enough sample size to be able to generalize and make recommendations based upon the findings.
- The methodology should discuss the problems that were anticipated and the steps you took to prevent them from occurring. For any problems that do arise, you must describe the ways in which they were minimized or why these problems do not impact in any meaningful way your interpretation of the findings.
- In the social and behavioral sciences, it is important to always provide sufficient information to allow other researchers to adopt or replicate your methodology. This information is particularly important when a new method has been developed or an innovative use of an existing method is utilized.
Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Psychology Writing Center. University of Washington; Denscombe, Martyn. The Good Research Guide: For Small-Scale Social Research Projects . 5th edition. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 2014; Lunenburg, Frederick C. Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008.
Structure and Writing Style
I. Groups of Research Methods
There are two main groups of research methods in the social sciences:
- The e mpirical-analytical group approaches the study of social sciences in a similar manner that researchers study the natural sciences . This type of research focuses on objective knowledge, research questions that can be answered yes or no, and operational definitions of variables to be measured. The empirical-analytical group employs deductive reasoning that uses existing theory as a foundation for formulating hypotheses that need to be tested. This approach is focused on explanation.
- The i nterpretative group of methods is focused on understanding phenomenon in a comprehensive, holistic way . Interpretive methods focus on analytically disclosing the meaning-making practices of human subjects [the why, how, or by what means people do what they do], while showing how those practices arrange so that it can be used to generate observable outcomes. Interpretive methods allow you to recognize your connection to the phenomena under investigation. However, the interpretative group requires careful examination of variables because it focuses more on subjective knowledge.
The introduction to your methodology section should begin by restating the research problem and underlying assumptions underpinning your study. This is followed by situating the methods you used to gather, analyze, and process information within the overall “tradition” of your field of study and within the particular research design you have chosen to study the problem. If the method you choose lies outside of the tradition of your field [i.e., your review of the literature demonstrates that the method is not commonly used], provide a justification for how your choice of methods specifically addresses the research problem in ways that have not been utilized in prior studies.
The remainder of your methodology section should describe the following:
- Decisions made in selecting the data you have analyzed or, in the case of qualitative research, the subjects and research setting you have examined,
- Tools and methods used to identify and collect information, and how you identified relevant variables,
- The ways in which you processed the data and the procedures you used to analyze that data, and
- The specific research tools or strategies that you utilized to study the underlying hypothesis and research questions.
In addition, an effectively written methodology section should:
- Introduce the overall methodological approach for investigating your research problem . Is your study qualitative or quantitative or a combination of both (mixed method)? Are you going to take a special approach, such as action research, or a more neutral stance?
- Indicate how the approach fits the overall research design . Your methods for gathering data should have a clear connection to your research problem. In other words, make sure that your methods will actually address the problem. One of the most common deficiencies found in research papers is that the proposed methodology is not suitable to achieving the stated objective of your paper.
- Describe the specific methods of data collection you are going to use , such as, surveys, interviews, questionnaires, observation, archival research. If you are analyzing existing data, such as a data set or archival documents, describe how it was originally created or gathered and by whom. Also be sure to explain how older data is still relevant to investigating the current research problem.
- Explain how you intend to analyze your results . Will you use statistical analysis? Will you use specific theoretical perspectives to help you analyze a text or explain observed behaviors? Describe how you plan to obtain an accurate assessment of relationships, patterns, trends, distributions, and possible contradictions found in the data.
- Provide background and a rationale for methodologies that are unfamiliar for your readers . Very often in the social sciences, research problems and the methods for investigating them require more explanation/rationale than widely accepted rules governing the natural and physical sciences. Be clear and concise in your explanation.
- Provide a justification for subject selection and sampling procedure . For instance, if you propose to conduct interviews, how do you intend to select the sample population? If you are analyzing texts, which texts have you chosen, and why? If you are using statistics, why is this set of data being used? If other data sources exist, explain why the data you chose is most appropriate to addressing the research problem.
- Provide a justification for case study selection . A common method of analyzing research problems in the social sciences is to analyze specific cases. These can be a person, place, event, phenomenon, or other type of subject of analysis that are either examined as a singular topic of in-depth investigation or multiple topics of investigation studied for the purpose of comparing or contrasting findings. In either method, you should explain why a case or cases were chosen and how they specifically relate to the research problem.
- Describe potential limitations . Are there any practical limitations that could affect your data collection? How will you attempt to control for potential confounding variables and errors? If your methodology may lead to problems you can anticipate, state this openly and show why pursuing this methodology outweighs the risk of these problems cropping up.
NOTE : Once you have written all of the elements of the methods section, subsequent revisions should focus on how to present those elements as clearly and as logically as possibly. The description of how you prepared to study the research problem, how you gathered the data, and the protocol for analyzing the data should be organized chronologically. For clarity, when a large amount of detail must be presented, information should be presented in sub-sections according to topic. If necessary, consider using appendices for raw data.
ANOTHER NOTE : If you are conducting a qualitative analysis of a research problem , the methodology section generally requires a more elaborate description of the methods used as well as an explanation of the processes applied to gathering and analyzing of data than is generally required for studies using quantitative methods. Because you are the primary instrument for generating the data [e.g., through interviews or observations], the process for collecting that data has a significantly greater impact on producing the findings. Therefore, qualitative research requires a more detailed description of the methods used.
YET ANOTHER NOTE : If your study involves interviews, observations, or other qualitative techniques involving human subjects , you may be required to obtain approval from the university's Office for the Protection of Research Subjects before beginning your research. This is not a common procedure for most undergraduate level student research assignments. However, i f your professor states you need approval, you must include a statement in your methods section that you received official endorsement and adequate informed consent from the office and that there was a clear assessment and minimization of risks to participants and to the university. This statement informs the reader that your study was conducted in an ethical and responsible manner. In some cases, the approval notice is included as an appendix to your paper.
III. Problems to Avoid
Irrelevant Detail The methodology section of your paper should be thorough but concise. Do not provide any background information that does not directly help the reader understand why a particular method was chosen, how the data was gathered or obtained, and how the data was analyzed in relation to the research problem [note: analyzed, not interpreted! Save how you interpreted the findings for the discussion section]. With this in mind, the page length of your methods section will generally be less than any other section of your paper except the conclusion.
Unnecessary Explanation of Basic Procedures Remember that you are not writing a how-to guide about a particular method. You should make the assumption that readers possess a basic understanding of how to investigate the research problem on their own and, therefore, you do not have to go into great detail about specific methodological procedures. The focus should be on how you applied a method , not on the mechanics of doing a method. An exception to this rule is if you select an unconventional methodological approach; if this is the case, be sure to explain why this approach was chosen and how it enhances the overall process of discovery.
Problem Blindness It is almost a given that you will encounter problems when collecting or generating your data, or, gaps will exist in existing data or archival materials. Do not ignore these problems or pretend they did not occur. Often, documenting how you overcame obstacles can form an interesting part of the methodology. It demonstrates to the reader that you can provide a cogent rationale for the decisions you made to minimize the impact of any problems that arose.
Literature Review Just as the literature review section of your paper provides an overview of sources you have examined while researching a particular topic, the methodology section should cite any sources that informed your choice and application of a particular method [i.e., the choice of a survey should include any citations to the works you used to help construct the survey].
It’s More than Sources of Information! A description of a research study's method should not be confused with a description of the sources of information. Such a list of sources is useful in and of itself, especially if it is accompanied by an explanation about the selection and use of the sources. The description of the project's methodology complements a list of sources in that it sets forth the organization and interpretation of information emanating from those sources.
Azevedo, L.F. et al. "How to Write a Scientific Paper: Writing the Methods Section." Revista Portuguesa de Pneumologia 17 (2011): 232-238; Blair Lorrie. “Choosing a Methodology.” In Writing a Graduate Thesis or Dissertation , Teaching Writing Series. (Rotterdam: Sense Publishers 2016), pp. 49-72; Butin, Dan W. The Education Dissertation A Guide for Practitioner Scholars . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010; Carter, Susan. Structuring Your Research Thesis . New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012; Kallet, Richard H. “How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper.” Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004):1229-1232; Lunenburg, Frederick C. Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008. Methods Section. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Rudestam, Kjell Erik and Rae R. Newton. “The Method Chapter: Describing Your Research Plan.” In Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process . (Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications, 2015), pp. 87-115; What is Interpretive Research. Institute of Public and International Affairs, University of Utah; Writing the Experimental Report: Methods, Results, and Discussion. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Methods and Materials. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College.
Statistical Designs and Tests? Do Not Fear Them!
Don't avoid using a quantitative approach to analyzing your research problem just because you fear the idea of applying statistical designs and tests. A qualitative approach, such as conducting interviews or content analysis of archival texts, can yield exciting new insights about a research problem, but it should not be undertaken simply because you have a disdain for running a simple regression. A well designed quantitative research study can often be accomplished in very clear and direct ways, whereas, a similar study of a qualitative nature usually requires considerable time to analyze large volumes of data and a tremendous burden to create new paths for analysis where previously no path associated with your research problem had existed.
To locate data and statistics, GO HERE .
Another Writing Tip
Knowing the Relationship Between Theories and Methods
There can be multiple meaning associated with the term "theories" and the term "methods" in social sciences research. A helpful way to delineate between them is to understand "theories" as representing different ways of characterizing the social world when you research it and "methods" as representing different ways of generating and analyzing data about that social world. Framed in this way, all empirical social sciences research involves theories and methods, whether they are stated explicitly or not. However, while theories and methods are often related, it is important that, as a researcher, you deliberately separate them in order to avoid your theories playing a disproportionate role in shaping what outcomes your chosen methods produce.
Introspectively engage in an ongoing dialectic between the application of theories and methods to help enable you to use the outcomes from your methods to interrogate and develop new theories, or ways of framing conceptually the research problem. This is how scholarship grows and branches out into new intellectual territory.
Reynolds, R. Larry. Ways of Knowing. Alternative Microeconomics . Part 1, Chapter 3. Boise State University; The Theory-Method Relationship. S-Cool Revision. United Kingdom.
Yet Another Writing Tip
Methods and the Methodology
Do not confuse the terms "methods" and "methodology." As Schneider notes, a method refers to the technical steps taken to do research . Descriptions of methods usually include defining and stating why you have chosen specific techniques to investigate a research problem, followed by an outline of the procedures you used to systematically select, gather, and process the data [remember to always save the interpretation of data for the discussion section of your paper].
The methodology refers to a discussion of the underlying reasoning why particular methods were used . This discussion includes describing the theoretical concepts that inform the choice of methods to be applied, placing the choice of methods within the more general nature of academic work, and reviewing its relevance to examining the research problem. The methodology section also includes a thorough review of the methods other scholars have used to study the topic.
Bryman, Alan. "Of Methods and Methodology." Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal 3 (2008): 159-168; Schneider, Florian. “What's in a Methodology: The Difference between Method, Methodology, and Theory…and How to Get the Balance Right?” PoliticsEastAsia.com. Chinese Department, University of Leiden, Netherlands.
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- What are research designs?
What are research methodologies?
Quantitative research methodologies, qualitative research methodologies, mixed method methodologies, selecting a methodology.
- What are research methods?
- Additional Sources
According to Dawson (2019),a research methodology is the primary principle that will guide your research. It becomes the general approach in conducting research on your topic and determines what research method you will use. A research methodology is different from a research method because research methods are the tools you use to gather your data (Dawson, 2019). You must consider several issues when it comes to selecting the most appropriate methodology for your topic. Issues might include research limitations and ethical dilemmas that might impact the quality of your research. Descriptions of each type of methodology are included below.
Quantitative research methodologies are meant to create numeric statistics by using survey research to gather data (Dawson, 2019). This approach tends to reach a larger amount of people in a shorter amount of time. According to Labaree (2020), there are three parts that make up a quantitative research methodology:
- Sample population
- How you will collect your data (this is the research method)
- How you will analyze your data
Once you decide on a methodology, you can consider the method to which you will apply your methodology.
Qualitative research methodologies examine the behaviors, opinions, and experiences of individuals through methods of examination (Dawson, 2019). This type of approach typically requires less participants, but more time with each participant. It gives research subjects the opportunity to provide their own opinion on a certain topic.
Examples of Qualitative Research Methodologies
- Action research: This is when the researcher works with a group of people to improve something in a certain environment. It is a common approach for research in organizational management, community development, education, and agriculture (Dawson, 2019).
- Ethnography: The process of organizing and describing cultural behaviors (Dawson, 2019). Researchers may immerse themselves into another culture to receive in "inside look" into the group they are studying. It is often a time consuming process because the researcher will do this for a long period of time. This can also be called "participant observation" (Dawson, 2019).
- Feminist research: The goal of this methodology is to study topics that have been dominated by male test subjects. It aims to study females and compare the results to previous studies that used male participants (Dawson, 2019).
- Grounded theory: The process of developing a theory to describe a phenomenon strictly through the data results collected in a study. It is different from other research methodologies where the researcher attempts to prove a hypothesis that they create before collecting data. Popular research methods for this approach include focus groups and interviews (Dawson, 2019).
A mixed methodology allows you to implement the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. In some cases, you may find that your research project would benefit from this. This approach is beneficial because it allows each methodology to counteract the weaknesses of the other (Dawson, 2019). You should consider this option carefully, as it can make your research complicated if not planned correctly.
What should you do to decide on a research methodology? The most logical way to determine your methodology is to decide whether you plan on conducting qualitative or qualitative research. You also have the option to implement a mixed methods approach. Looking back on Dawson's (2019) five "W's" on the previous page , may help you with this process. You should also look for key words that indicate a specific type of research methodology in your hypothesis or proposal. Some words may lean more towards one methodology over another.
Quantitative Research Key Words
- How satisfied
Qualitative Research Key Words
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Examples of Methodology in Research Papers (With Definition)
Updated September 30, 2022
Published July 25, 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
When researchers record their findings, they often include a methodology section that details the research techniques used and outcomes. When writing a thesis or dissertation, or documenting a project for your employer, including details about methodology assists readers in understanding your findings. Learning more about the concept and reviewing examples of methodology is important for providing insight into the validity and reliability of research.
In this article, we explain why it's important to review examples of methodology, explore what a methodology is, highlight what it includes, learn how it differs from research methods, and discover an example of methodology in a research paper.
Why review examples of methodology?
If you're writing a thesis, it may be useful to review some examples of methodology. By reviewing these examples, you can learn more about research approaches that give credibility to studies. You can also learn more about the language used and the details included, which can help you make your own methodology sections of reports more effective.
What is a methodology in a research paper?
In a research paper, thesis, or dissertation, the methodology section describes the steps you took to investigate and research a hypothesis and your rationale for the specific processes and techniques used to identify, collect, and analyze data. The methodology element of your research report enables readers to assess the study's overall validity and reliability and provides an important insight into two key components, namely your data gathering and analysis techniques and your reason for investigating. When composing this section for a research paper, it's important to keep the topic concise and write in the past tense.
What to include in a methodology section
When developing a methodology for research papers, it's worth considering the following elements:
Type of research
The first part of a methodology section typically outlines the type of research you did, and how you established your research procedures. This section highlights the subject of your study and addresses the type of data necessary to conduct evaluations and research assessments. The methodology section commonly contains the criteria that your experimental investigations followed to provide valid and trustworthy data. The material in this section provides readers with an insight into the methods you used to assess validity and reliability throughout your investigations.
Data collection process
The methodology section also contains a description of how you collected the data. Whether you ran experimental testing on samples, conducted surveys or interviews, or created new research using existing data, this section of your methodology describes what you did and how you did it. Key aspects to mention include how you developed your experiment or survey, how you collected and organized data, and what kind of data you measured. Additionally, you may outline how you set particular criteria for qualitative and quantitative data collection.
Data analysis process
Your approach to data analysis is equally important to the processes of data collection. The term data analysis refers to the procedures you employed to organize, classify, and examine the data gathered throughout your research operations. For instance, when presenting your quantitative approaches, you may add information regarding the data preparation and organization procedures you used and a short description of the statistical tests involved. When presenting your qualitative data analysis techniques, you may prefer to concentrate on how you classified, coded, and applied language, text, and other observations throughout your study.
Resources, materials, and tools
The tools, materials, and other resources necessary for conducting your research and analysis are also important factors to include when outlining your approach. In documenting your processes, it's important to outline your use of software programs, mathematical and statistical formulae, and other instruments that assisted you in your study. Additionally, this area of your approach may describe any unique strategies you used to gather data and identify significant factors. The methods you used to investigate your hypothesis and underlying research questions are also key components of your methodology.
The rationale behind the research
Because the methodology section of your research paper demonstrates to readers why your study is legitimate and important, the final part of this section can concentrate on your justification for the research. Details such as why your studies are important, which sectors they pertain to, and how other researchers might reproduce your findings are critical components of this section. It's important to discuss any strategies you intend to employ to continue reviewing your research and to properly reference the primary and secondary sources you utilized.
Differences between the methodology and research methods
While the methodology section of your research paper contains information about the research techniques you employed, there are many distinctions between the methodology and the actual research methods you used, including:
The overall objective of your approach is distinct from the procedures you used to carry out your study. While the methodology section of your research paper describes your processes in detail, the methods section refers to the specific steps you took to collect and analyze data throughout your research. The methodology acts as a summary that proves the validity and dependability of your procedures, while the methods are the scientific ways to test and reach conclusions about the data you investigate.
The structure of the methodology section differs from how you describe and explain your research and analytic approaches. The methodology section is often located at the beginning of your article and takes the form of a summary or essay in paragraphs, outlining the validity, procedure, and justification for your study. The structure in which you discuss your methods varies according to the type of study, data, and evaluations used. For example, when presenting the methods, you may use a graph or chart to illustrate your results.
The objectives and style of your methodology and research techniques ultimately impact on the material that you present. It's important that your methodology provides a succinct review of your research, methods, and findings. As a result, the methodology section of your paper can include the elements you employed to conduct your investigations. The content of your research paper that describes your methods of data collection and analysis techniques may vary, as it's often required to clarify your scientific approaches and research procedures using lists and visual aids, such as charts or graphs, to supplement the material.
Example of a methodology in a research paper
The following example of a methodology in a research paper provides insight into the structure and content to consider when writing your own:
This research article discusses the psychological and emotional impact of a mental health support program for employees. The program provided prolonged and tailored help to job seekers via a job support agency that kept contact with applicants beyond initial job placement to give different forms of assistance. I chose a 50% random selection of respondents who participated in the employment agency's support program between April and October and met the research criteria I created based on prior and comparable studies.
My colleagues and I randomly allocated the 350 resultant patients to the treatment or control groups, which included life skills development and career training in an in-house workshop setting. My colleagues and I assessed the 350 participants upon admission and again after they reached the 90-day employment requirement. The psychological functioning and self-esteem assessments we conducted revealed considerable evidence of the impact of treatment on both measures, including results that contradicted our original premise.
We discovered that, rather than demonstrating better functioning and higher self-esteem, participants in the therapy group exhibited poorer cognitive and emotional functioning and self-esteem. These findings prompted my study team and me to conclude that people who consider themselves unfulfilled in their jobs often endure a substantial decline in performance as a consequence of increased workplace stress and lower emotional well-being, irrespective of their mental health status.
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How to write a methodology in 8 steps (definition and types)
Updated 21 July 2022
Published 3 January 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Writing a methodology is an essential part of presenting your research findings to the public. Your methodology supports your findings by explaining your research techniques and creating a roadmap of how you reached your conclusion. Knowing how to write this section of your research paper allows you to present the case for why you chose the methods you used and explain how these methods directly lead to answers to the questions you raised in your research. In this article, we explain what a methodology is, why it's important, how to write a methodology and common types of research methodologies.
What is a methodology and why is it important?
A methodology is a detailed description of a research process that you choose to conduct your research as a scientist or a researcher. In other words, it's a contextual framework that presents a logical path for answering questions that you raise at the beginning of your thesis or paper. Typically, the methodology makes up its own section in a paper, in which you can describe your method for gathering, grouping and analysing observational, experimental, simulation and derived data.
Sharing your methodology gives legitimacy to your research. This is especially important if you're conducting scientific or academic research. In this case, your reader expects you to follow common practices that can lead you to a reliable, logical and coherent conclusion. It's also critical that your methodology is repeatable, meaning anyone who uses the same methods can reach the same conclusions you reached.
How to write a methodology
Knowing how to write a methodology may help you improve your research and make sure your results are repeatable. Although the way in which you approach choosing your methods and writing your methodology may be different depending on the type of research you're conducting, there are several basic steps that almost all researchers take to complete this section. Here are eight key steps to writing a methodology:
1. Restate your thesis or research problem
The first step to writing an effective methodology requires that you restate your initial thesis. It's an important step that allows the reader to remember the most important aspects of your research and follow each step of your methodology. Restating your thesis may also be an effective way to address any assumptions you made in your research and to list any variables you tested as a part of your research.
2. Explain the approach you chose
Once you inform the reader about your thesis or research problem by restating it, it's important that you make sure to thoroughly explain the type of research you chose for your paper or project. During this step, you can present your unique viewpoint to the reader. Consider mentioning if you chose quantitative or qualitative data collection methods. If you used both, which is known as the blended approach, or another alternative method, you can explain what led you to this decision.
3. Discuss any uncommon methodologies you use
If the research you're conducting is innovative, you may consider using less-popular research methods. You may even decide to create your own method that lies outside the realm of usual research practices in your field. In a situation like this, it's important that you clarify your choice and explain how this unique method you're working with contributes to the research.
4. Describe how you collected the data you used
There are various data collection methods that you can use to prove or disprove your research question. In this step, you can describe how you collected your data and discuss in more detail why you've decided to choose either the quantitative or qualitative method or combine them to create an alternative method. While describing your collection process, it's important that you introduce transparency to the research by stating how many experiments you conducted and what tools you used to test your subjects. It's also critical to list the criteria you used to choose existing data from other sources.
5. Explain the methods you used to analyse the data you collected
Once you explain how you collected your data, it's important to discuss how you analysed it. Consider telling the reader what tools you used to process data, but do so without sharing the results of your experiments or research yet. In this step, you may also make sure that the arguments for certain data collection and analysis techniques show that your research was accurate. For example, you can do this by listing the exact steps you took and mentioning any software you used.
6. Evaluate and justify the methodological choices you made
This step allows you to spend some time reflecting on your approach, including any potential weaknesses or limitations in your methodology. It's important that you inform the reader about it, as reviewing these weaknesses helps them to better understand the viewpoint and approach that you had throughout your research. This way, you can clearly and accurately present any evidence that supports the methodology of your choice.
7. Mention any obstacles and their solutions
Although you typically want to encounter as few obstacles as possible when conducting research, it's important that you mention them in your methodology if they happen. Consider explaining what caused them and how you managed to overcome them, for example, by adjusting the properties of your research method. This shows the reader your strong problem-solving skills and, in some cases, it may even reinforce the validity of your research.
8. Cite all sources you used to determine your choice of methodology
The final step to writing an effective, complete methodology is referencing sources you used. This includes all papers and other sources that helped you develop the framework for your research and determine your overall methodology. Providing this information allows the reader to understand the bigger picture and helps them gain further knowledge in the field.
Common types of research methodologies
Depending on your research question and sometimes even the field you're in, you may consider using different research methods to draw a conclusion or answer your research question. In some instances, you may also combine several methodologies to draw more accurate conclusions. For example, you can do this if you're research is unusually extensive and summarises a few years of work. Here are 10 common types of research methodologies to consider:
Quantitative research: Quantitative research focuses on collecting and analysing numerical data. There are various subtypes of quantitative research, including surveys, correlational research and experimental research.
Qualitative research: The opposite to quantitative research is qualitative research, which focuses on analysing non-numerical data. For example, you can use it if you're researching languages.
Descriptive research: If you're researching a phenomenon or certain characteristics of a population, you may consider using descriptive research. Rather than answering how or when certain characteristics occurred, it answers the 'what' question.
Conclusive research: Conclusive research, as the name suggests, helps you draw conclusions that you can use to answer your primary research question or prove your thesis. It's also useful when making decisions about developing your methodology.
Surveys: Surveys are lists of questions that you can present to your research subjects to gather data that you want to use in your research. You can conduct surveys in almost all environments, including by phone, email, online or in-person.
Case studies: Case studies are in-depth examinations of particular real-world cases. You can use them to describe scientific phenomena in their natural settings.
Applied research: Applied research is a unique type of methodology that allows you to solve practical problems by using scientific data and study. You can consider using it, for example, when you're conducting medical or technological research.
Fundamental research: Fundamental research, also known as academic or basic research, allows you to better understand or predict phenomena, including natural phenomena. It gives you the opportunity to improve scientific theories.
Exploratory research: Using exploratory research makes it possible for you to analyse a scientific problem that you've not clearly defined. It also makes it possible for you to better understand the cause but doesn't provide an answer or results.
Analytical research: Analytical research is a unique type of research for which you use critical thinking to evaluate facts that relate to your research. In other words, it allows you to find the most relevant information.
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How To Write a Methodology (With Tips and FAQs)
Updated August 8, 2022
Published November 5, 2020
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Writing a methodology is an essential part of presenting research findings. Your methodology is a detailed description of the research process you used to support your findings and it explains your techniques and creates a roadmap for how you reached your conclusions. A well-written methodology not only describes the tactics you used but also presents the case for why you chose the methods you used.
In this article, we list the steps necessary in writing a methodology, offer tips for writing a methodology and answer frequently asked questions about writing a methodology.
Why is a methodology important?
Sharing your methodology gives legitimacy to your research. An unreliable or erroneous methodology produces unreliable or erroneous results. The reader of your research expects you to have followed accepted practices so that the conclusions you reach are valid. The methodology you report needs to be repeatable, meaning anyone who uses the methods you write about should reach the same conclusions you reached.
How to write a methodology
Here are the steps to follow when writing a methodology:
1. Restate your thesis or research problem
The first part of your methodology is a restatement of the problem your research investigates. This allows your reader to follow your methodology step by step, from beginning to end. Restating your thesis also provides you an opportunity to address any assumptions you made in your research and to list any variables or conditions you tested in your research.
2. Explain the approach you chose
After restating your research problem, explain the type of research you used. Describe your reasoning for choosing either qualitative or quantitative research or for using a blended approach or any alternative method your specific field recognizes.
3. Explain any uncommon methodology you use
If any part of your process is outside of the realm of usual practices in your field, clarify your choice. For example, you may have created a unique approach specific to your thesis topic or you may have adapted a process usually used in another line of research. Since your methodology provides evidence that your findings are valid, a strong statement of why you use alternative methods in your research answers potential criticism of any unusual methods.
4. Describe how you collected the data you used
Report whether you used quantitative or qualitative data in your research. Describe any experiments you conducted, including how you designed the experiment, how you measured any variables and what tools you needed to conduct the experiment. Explain how you sourced existing data — including how that data was originally gathered — and list the criteria you used to choose existing data from other sources.
5. Explain the methods you used to analyze the data you collected
The next part of your methodology tells your reader how you processed and analyzed the data you collected but doesn't discuss any results or conclusions. If your research was strictly quantitative, list the steps you took to ensure the data was accurate, any software you used to analyze the numbers and any statistical testing you used. If you used purely qualitative research, your analysis may be content-based, theme-based or discourse-based.
6. Evaluate and justify the methodological choices you made
Describe the criteria you used in choosing your approach to your research. List any potential weaknesses in your methodology and present evidence supporting your choice. Include a brief evaluation of other methodology you might have chosen.
7. Discuss any obstacles and their solutions
Outline any obstacles you encountered in your research and list how you overcame them. The problem-solving skills you present in this section strengthen the validity of your research with readers.
8. Cite all sources you used to determine your choice of methodology
The final section of your methodology references the sources you used when determining your overall methodology. This reinforces the validity of your research.
Tips for writing a methodology
When writing a methodology, use these tips to guide your work:
Show how and why Go beyond a simple description of your methods to show how as well as why you used them. This helps demonstrate that you rigorously conducted your research.
Draft as you go Take notes and outline your methodology as you work to make sure you capture all details accurately. The better you record your methods and techniques in real-time, the better your methodology will be.
Focus on your research questions Relate your methodology choices to the central theme of your research. This shows that you chose the best methods to address the problem raised in your thesis.
Write for your audience Craft a methodology that is clearly written and well-structured. Address the audience of your research with good writing, providing more than a list of technical details and procedures.
Frequently asked questions about methodologies
Here are some frequently asked questions about methodology and their answers:
What is the difference between methods and methodology?
Methodology is the overall strategy of your research. Methods are procedures like surveys and experiments that you use to collect and analyze your data.
Where does methodology go?
In your final paper or report, the methodology section follows your introduction and precedes your results and conclusions.
What is the difference between quantitative and qualitative research?
Quantitative research uses numbers and statistics to test a hypothesis through data collection and analysis. Qualitative research explores ideas and experiences using words and meanings.
Are validity and reliability the same thing?
Validity and reliability are related but distinct concepts about how well a method measures something. Validity refers to whether results measure what they are supposed to measure. Reliability refers to whether the same results will be consistently reproduced when all conditions are the same.
What is sampling?
Sampling is the selection of a group from which data is collected. The sample size is determined by the requirements specific to your research topic.
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How To Write The Methodology Chapter
The what, why & how explained simply (with examples).
By: Jenna Crossley (PhD). Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | September 2021
So, you’ve pinned down your research topic and undertaken a review of the literature – now it’s time to write up the methodology section of your dissertation, thesis or research paper. But what exactly is the methodology chapter all about – and how do you go about writing one? In this post, we’ll unpack the topic, step by step .
Overview: The Methodology Chapter
- The purpose and function of the methodology chapter
- The importance of the chapter/section
- How to write and structure the methodology chapter
- General advice for writing a great methodology section
What (exactly) is the methodology chapter?
Your methodology chapter is where you highlight the philosophical underpinnings of your research and outline the specific research design choices you’ve made. The point of the methodology chapter is to tell the reader exactly how you designed your research and to justify your design choices .
The methodology chapter should comprehensively describe and justify all the research design choices you made. For example, the type of research you conducted (e.g. qualitative or quantitative ), how you collected your data, how you analysed your data and who or where you collected data from (sampling). We’ll explain all the key design choices later in this post .
Why is the methodology chapter important?
The methodology chapter is important for two reasons:
Firstly, it demonstrates your understanding of research design theory, which is what earns you marks. A flawed research design or methodology would mean flawed results, so this chapter is vital as it allows you to show the marker that you know what you’re doing and that your results are credible .
Secondly, the methodology chapter is what helps to make your study replicable – in other words, it allows other researchers to undertake your study using the same design, and compare their findings to yours. This is very important within academic research, as each study builds on previous studies.
The methodology chapter is also important because it allows you to identify and discuss any methodological issues or problems you encountered (i.e. limitations), and to explain how you mitigated the impacts of these. Every research project has its limitations and shortcomings , so it’s important to acknowledge these openly and highlight your study’s value despite its limitations. Again, this demonstrates your understanding of research design, which will earn you marks. We’ll discuss limitations in more detail later in this post.
Need a helping hand?
How to write up the methodology chapter
First off, it’s worth noting that the exact structure and contents of the methodology chapter will vary depending on the field of research (for example, humanities vs chemistry vs engineering) as well as the university . So, it’s always a good idea to check the guidelines provided by your institution for clarity and, if possible, review past dissertations and theses from your university. Here we’re going to discuss a generic structure for a methodology chapter typically found in the sciences, especially the social sciences (e.g. psychology).
Before you start writing, we always recommend that you draw up a rough outline , so that you have a clear direction to head in. Don’t just start writing without knowing what will go where. If you do, you’ll most likely end up with a disjointed, poorly flowing narrative . As a result, you’ll waste a lot of time rewriting in an attempt to try to stitch all the pieces together. Start with the end in mind.
Section 1 – Introduction
As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the methodology chapter should have a brief introduction. In this introduction, you should remind your readers what the focus of your study is, especially the research aims . As we’ve discussed many times on this blog, your research design needs to align with your research aims, objectives and research questions , so it’s useful to frontload this to remind the reader (and yourself!) what you’re trying to achieve with your design and methodology.
In this section, you can also briefly mention how you’ll structure the chapter. This will help orient the reader and provide a bit of a roadmap so that they know what to expect.
Section 2 – The Research Design
The next section of your methodology chapter should present your research design to the reader. In this section, you need to detail and justify all the key design choices in a logical, intuitive fashion. This is the heart of your methodology chapter, so you need to get specific – don’t hold back on the details here. This is not one of those “less is more” situations.
Let’s have a look at the most common design choices you’ll need to cover.
Design Choice #1 – Research Philosophy
Research philosophy refers to the underlying beliefs (i.e. world view) regarding how data about a phenomenon should be gathered , analysed and used . Your research philosophy will serve as the core of your study and underpin all of the other research design choices, so it’s critically important that you understand which philosophy you’ll adopt and why you made that choice. If you’re not clear on this, take the time to get clarity before you make any research design choices.
While several research philosophies exist, two commonly adopted ones are positivism and interpretivism .
Positivism is commonly the underlying research philosophy in quantitative studies. It states that the researcher can observe reality objectively and that there is only one reality, which exists independent of the observer.
Contrasted with this, interpretivism , which is often the underlying research philosophy in qualitative studies, assumes that the researcher performs a role in observing the world around them and that reality is unique to each observer . In other words, reality is observed subjectively .
These are just two philosophies (there are many) , but they demonstrate significantly different approaches to research and have a significant impact on all the research design choices. Therefore, it’s vital that you clearly outline and justify your research philosophy at the beginning of your methodology chapter, as it sets the scene for everything that follows.
Design Choice #2 – Research Type
The next thing you would typically discuss in your methodology section is the research type. The starting point for this is to indicate whether the research you conducted is inductive or deductive . With inductive research, theory is generated from the ground up (i.e. from the collected data), and therefore these studies tend to be exploratory in terms of approach. Deductive research, on the other hand, starts with established theory and builds onto it with collected data, and therefore these studies tend to be confirmatory in approach.
Related to this, you’ll need to indicate whether your study adopts a qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods methodology. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a strong link between this choice and your research philosophy, so make sure that your choices are tightly aligned . Again, when you write this section up, remember to clearly justify your choices, as they form the foundation of your study.
Design Choice #3 – Research Strategy
Next, you’ll need to discuss your research strategy (i.e., your research “action plan”). This research design choice refers to how you conduct your research based on the aims of your study.
Several research strategies exist, including experiments , case studies , ethnography , grounded theory, action research , and phenomenology . Let’s look at two these, experimental and ethnographic, to see how they contrast.
Experimental research makes use of the scientific method , where one group is the control group (in which no variables are manipulated ) and another is the experimental group (in which a variable is manipulated). This type of research is undertaken under strict conditions in controlled, artificial environments – for example, within a laboratory. By having firm control over the environment, experimental research often allows the researcher to establish causation between variables. Therefore, it can be a good choice if you have research aims that involve identifying or measuring cause and effect.
Ethnographic research , on the other hand, involves observing and capturing the experiences and perceptions of participants in their natural environment (for example, at home or in the office). In other words, in an uncontrolled environment. Naturally this means that this research strategy would be far less suitable if your research aims involve identifying causation, but it would be very valuable if you’re looking to explore and examine a group culture, for example.
As you can see, the right research strategy will depend largely on your research aims and research questions – in other words, what you’re trying to figure out. Therefore, as with every other design choice, it’s essential to justify why you chose the research strategy you did.
Design Choice #4 – Time Horizon
The next thing you need to cover in your methodology chapter is the time horizon. There are two options here – cross-sectional and longitudinal . In other words, whether the data for your study were all collected at one point in time (i.e. cross-sectional) or at multiple points in time (i.e. longitudinal).
The choice you make here depends again on your research aims, objectives and research questions. If, for example, you aim to assess how a specific group of people’s perspectives regarding a topic change over time , you’d likely adopt a longitudinal time horizon.
Another important factor is simply the practical constraints – in other words, whether you have the time necessary to adopt a longitudinal approach (which could involve collecting data over multiple years). Oftentimes, the time pressures of your degree program will force your hand into adopting a cross-sectional time horizon, so keep this in mind.
Design Choice #5 – Sampling Strategy
Next, you’ll need to discuss your chosen sampling strategy . There are two main categories of sampling, probability and non-probability sampling. Probability sampling involves a random (and therefore representative) selection of participants from a population, whereas non-probability sampling entails selecting participants in a non-randomized (and therefore non-representative) manner. For example, selecting participants based on ease of access (this is called a convenience sample).
The right sampling approach depends largely on what you’re trying to achieve in your study. Specifically, whether you trying to develop findings that are generalisable to a population or not. Practicalities and resource constraints also play a large role here, as it can oftentimes be challenging to gain access to a truly random sample.
Design Choice #6 – Data Collection Method
Next up, you need to explain how exactly you’ll go about collecting the necessary data for your study. Your data collection method (or methods) will depend on the type of data that you plan to collect – in other words, qualitative or quantitative data.
Typically, quantitative research relies on surveys , data generated by lab equipment, analytics software or existing datasets. Qualitative research, on the other hand, often makes use of collection methods such as interviews , focus groups , participant observations, and ethnography.
So, as you can see, there is a tight link between this section and the design choices you outlined in earlier sections. Strong alignment between these sections is therefore very important.
Design Choice #7 – Data Analysis Methods/Techniques
The final major design choice that you need to address is that of analysis techniques . In other words, once you’ve collected your data, how will you go about analysing it. Here it’s important to be specific about your analysis methods and/or techniques – don’t leave any room for interpretation. Also, as with all choices in this chapter, you need to justify each choice you make.
What exactly you discuss here will depend largely on the type of study you’re conducting (i.e., qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods). For qualitative studies, common analysis methods include content analysis , thematic analysis and discourse analysis . For quantitative studies, you’ll almost always make use of descriptive statistics, and in many cases, you’ll also use inferential statistical techniques (e.g. correlation and regression analysis).
In this section, it’s also important to discuss how you prepared your data for analysis, and what software you used (if any). For example, quantitative data will often require some initial preparation such as removing duplicates or incomplete responses . As always, remember to state both what you did and why you did it.
Section 3 – The Methodological Limitations
With the key research design choices outlined and justified, the next step is to discuss the limitations of your design. No research design or methodology is perfect – there will always be trade-offs between the “ideal” design and what’s practical and viable, given your constraints. Therefore, this section of your methodology chapter is where you’ll discuss the trade-offs you had to make, and why these were justified given the context.
Methodological limitations can vary greatly from study to study, ranging from common issues such as time and budget constraints to issues of sample or selection bias . For example, you may find that you didn’t manage to draw in enough respondents to achieve the desired sample size (and therefore, statistically significant results), or your sample may be skewed heavily towards a certain demographic, thereby negatively impacting representativeness .
In this section, it’s important to be critical of the shortcomings of your study. There’s no use trying to hide them (your marker will be aware of them regardless). By being critical, you’ll demonstrate to your marker that you have a strong understanding of research design, so don’t be shy here. At the same time, don’t beat your study to death . State the limitations, why these were justified, how you mitigated their impacts to the best degree possible, and how your study still provides value despite these limitations.
Section 4 – Concluding Summary
Finally, it’s time to wrap up the methodology chapter with a brief concluding summary. In this section, you’ll want to concisely summarise what you’ve presented in the chapter. Here, it can be useful to use a figure to summarise the key design decisions, especially if your university recommends using a specific model (for example, Saunders’ Research Onion ).
Importantly, this section needs to be brief – a paragraph or two maximum (it’s a summary, after all). Also, make sure that when you write up your concluding summary, you include only what you’ve already discussed in your chapter; don’t add any new information.
And there you have it – the methodology chapter in a nutshell. As we’ve mentioned, the exact contents and structure of this chapter can vary between universities , so be sure to check in with your institution before you start writing. If possible, try to find dissertations or theses from former students of your specific degree program – this will give you a strong indication of the expectations and norms when it comes to the methodology chapter (and all the other chapters!).
Also, remember the golden rule of the methodology chapter – justify every choice ! Make sure that you clearly explain the “why” for every “what”, and reference credible methodology textbooks or academic sources to back up your justifications.
If you need a helping hand with your research methodology (or any other section of your dissertation or thesis), be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through every step of the research journey. Until next time, good luck!
Psst… there’s more (for free)
This post is part of our research writing mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
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How to Write Research Methodology
Last Updated: October 30, 2022 References Approved
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The research methodology section of any academic research paper gives you the opportunity to convince your readers that your research is useful and will contribute to your field of study. An effective research methodology is grounded in your overall approach – whether qualitative or quantitative – and adequately describes the methods you used. Justify why you chose those methods over others, then explain how those methods will provide answers to your research questions.  X Research source
Describing Your Methods
- In your restatement, include any underlying assumptions that you're making or conditions that you're taking for granted. These assumptions will also inform the research methods you've chosen.
- Generally, state the variables you'll test and the other conditions you're controlling or assuming are equal.
- If you want to research and document measurable social trends, or evaluate the impact of a particular policy on various variables, use a quantitative approach focused on data collection and statistical analysis.
- If you want to evaluate people's views or understanding of a particular issue, choose a more qualitative approach.
- You can also combine the two. For example, you might look primarily at a measurable social trend, but also interview people and get their opinions on how that trend is affecting their lives.
- For example, if you conducted a survey, you would describe the questions included in the survey, where and how the survey was conducted (such as in person, online, over the phone), how many surveys were distributed, and how long your respondents had to complete the survey.
- Include enough detail that your study can be replicated by others in your field, even if they may not get the same results you did.  X Research source
- Qualitative research methods typically require more detailed explanation than quantitative methods.
- Basic investigative procedures don't need to be explained in detail. Generally, you can assume that your readers have a general understanding of common research methods that social scientists use, such as surveys or focus groups.
- For example, suppose you conducted a survey and used a couple of other research papers to help construct the questions on your survey. You would mention those as contributing sources.
Justifying Your Choice of Methods
- Describe study participants specifically, and list any inclusion or exclusion criteria you used when forming your group of participants.
- Justify the size of your sample, if applicable, and describe how this affects whether your study can be generalized to larger populations. For example, if you conducted a survey of 30 percent of the student population of a university, you could potentially apply those results to the student body as a whole, but maybe not to students at other universities.
- Reading other research papers is a good way to identify potential problems that commonly arise with various methods. State whether you actually encountered any of these common problems during your research.
- If you encountered any problems as you collected data, explain clearly the steps you took to minimize the effect that problem would have on your results.
- In some cases, this may be as simple as stating that while there were numerous studies using one method, there weren't any using your method, which caused a gap in understanding of the issue.
- For example, there may be multiple papers providing quantitative analysis of a particular social trend. However, none of these papers looked closely at how this trend was affecting the lives of people.
Connecting Your Methods to Your Research Goals
- Depending on your research questions, you may be mixing quantitative and qualitative analysis – just as you could potentially use both approaches. For example, you might do a statistical analysis, and then interpret those statistics through a particular theoretical lens.
- For example, suppose you're researching the effect of college education on family farms in rural America. While you could do interviews of college-educated people who grew up on a family farm, that would not give you a picture of the overall effect. A quantitative approach and statistical analysis would give you a bigger picture.
- If in answering your research questions, your findings have raised other questions that may require further research, state these briefly.
- You can also include here any limitations to your methods, or questions that weren't answered through your research.
- Generalization is more typically used in quantitative research. If you have a well-designed sample, you can statistically apply your results to the larger population your sample belongs to.
Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.
- Organize your methodology section chronologically, starting with how you prepared to conduct your research methods, how you gathered data, and how you analyzed that data.  X Research source ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Write your research methodology section in past tense, unless you're submitting the methodology section before the research described has been carried out.  X Research source ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Discuss your plans in detail with your advisor or supervisor before committing to a particular methodology. They can help identify possible flaws in your study.  X Research source ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
You Might Also Like
- ↑ http://expertjournals.com/how-to-write-a-research-methodology-for-your-academic-article/
- ↑ http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/methodology
- ↑ https://www.skillsyouneed.com/learn/dissertation-methodology.html
- ↑ http://uir.unisa.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10500/4245/05Chap%204_Research%20methodology%20and%20design.pdf
- ↑ https://elc.polyu.edu.hk/FYP/html/method.htm
About This Article
To write a research methodology, start with a section that outlines the problems or questions you'll be studying, including your hypotheses or whatever it is you're setting out to prove. Then, briefly explain why you chose to use either a qualitative or quantitative approach for your study. Next, go over when and where you conducted your research and what parameters you used to ensure you were objective. Finally, cite any sources you used to decide on the methodology for your research. To learn how to justify your choice of methods in your research methodology, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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- What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips
What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips
Published on 25 February 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 10 October 2022.
Your research methodology discusses and explains the data collection and analysis methods you used in your research. A key part of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, the methodology chapter explains what you did and how you did it, allowing readers to evaluate the reliability and validity of your research.
It should include:
- The type of research you conducted
- How you collected and analysed your data
- Any tools or materials you used in the research
- Why you chose these methods
- Your methodology section should generally be written in the past tense .
- Academic style guides in your field may provide detailed guidelines on what to include for different types of studies.
- Your citation style might provide guidelines for your methodology section (e.g., an APA Style methods section ).
Table of contents
How to write a research methodology, why is a methods section important, step 1: explain your methodological approach, step 2: describe your data collection methods, step 3: describe your analysis method, step 4: evaluate and justify the methodological choices you made, tips for writing a strong methodology chapter, frequently asked questions about methodology.
Your methods section is your opportunity to share how you conducted your research and why you chose the methods you chose. It’s also the place to show that your research was rigorously conducted and can be replicated .
It gives your research legitimacy and situates it within your field, and also gives your readers a place to refer to if they have any questions or critiques in other sections.
Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.
You can start by introducing your overall approach to your research. You have two options here.
Option 1: Start with your “what”
What research problem or question did you investigate?
- Aim to describe the characteristics of something?
- Explore an under-researched topic?
- Establish a causal relationship?
And what type of data did you need to achieve this aim?
- Quantitative data , qualitative data , or a mix of both?
- Primary data collected yourself, or secondary data collected by someone else?
- Experimental data gathered by controlling and manipulating variables, or descriptive data gathered via observations?
Option 2: Start with your “why”
Depending on your discipline, you can also start with a discussion of the rationale and assumptions underpinning your methodology. In other words, why did you choose these methods for your study?
- Why is this the best way to answer your research question?
- Is this a standard methodology in your field, or does it require justification?
- Were there any ethical considerations involved in your choices?
- What are the criteria for validity and reliability in this type of research ?
Once you have introduced your reader to your methodological approach, you should share full details about your data collection methods .
In order to be considered generalisable, you should describe quantitative research methods in enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study.
Here, explain how you operationalised your concepts and measured your variables. Discuss your sampling method or inclusion/exclusion criteria, as well as any tools, procedures, and materials you used to gather your data.
Surveys Describe where, when, and how the survey was conducted.
- How did you design the questionnaire?
- What form did your questions take (e.g., multiple choice, Likert scale )?
- Were your surveys conducted in-person or virtually?
- What sampling method did you use to select participants?
- What was your sample size and response rate?
Experiments Share full details of the tools, techniques, and procedures you used to conduct your experiment.
- How did you design the experiment ?
- How did you recruit participants?
- How did you manipulate and measure the variables ?
- What tools did you use?
Existing data Explain how you gathered and selected the material (such as datasets or archival data) that you used in your analysis.
- Where did you source the material?
- How was the data originally produced?
- What criteria did you use to select material (e.g., date range)?
The survey consisted of 5 multiple-choice questions and 10 questions measured on a 7-point Likert scale.
The goal was to collect survey responses from 350 customers visiting the fitness apparel company’s brick-and-mortar location in Boston on 4–8 July 2022, between 11:00 and 15:00.
Here, a customer was defined as a person who had purchased a product from the company on the day they took the survey. Participants were given 5 minutes to fill in the survey anonymously. In total, 408 customers responded, but not all surveys were fully completed. Due to this, 371 survey results were included in the analysis.
In qualitative research , methods are often more flexible and subjective. For this reason, it’s crucial to robustly explain the methodology choices you made.
Be sure to discuss the criteria you used to select your data, the context in which your research was conducted, and the role you played in collecting your data (e.g., were you an active participant, or a passive observer?)
Interviews or focus groups Describe where, when, and how the interviews were conducted.
- How did you find and select participants?
- How many participants took part?
- What form did the interviews take ( structured , semi-structured , or unstructured )?
- How long were the interviews?
- How were they recorded?
Participant observation Describe where, when, and how you conducted the observation or ethnography .
- What group or community did you observe? How long did you spend there?
- How did you gain access to this group? What role did you play in the community?
- How long did you spend conducting the research? Where was it located?
- How did you record your data (e.g., audiovisual recordings, note-taking)?
Existing data Explain how you selected case study materials for your analysis.
- What type of materials did you analyse?
- How did you select them?
In order to gain better insight into possibilities for future improvement of the fitness shop’s product range, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 8 returning customers.
Here, a returning customer was defined as someone who usually bought products at least twice a week from the store.
Surveys were used to select participants. Interviews were conducted in a small office next to the cash register and lasted approximately 20 minutes each. Answers were recorded by note-taking, and seven interviews were also filmed with consent. One interviewee preferred not to be filmed.
Mixed methods research combines quantitative and qualitative approaches. If a standalone quantitative or qualitative study is insufficient to answer your research question, mixed methods may be a good fit for you.
Mixed methods are less common than standalone analyses, largely because they require a great deal of effort to pull off successfully. If you choose to pursue mixed methods, it’s especially important to robustly justify your methods here.
Next, you should indicate how you processed and analysed your data. Avoid going into too much detail: you should not start introducing or discussing any of your results at this stage.
In quantitative research , your analysis will be based on numbers. In your methods section, you can include:
- How you prepared the data before analysing it (e.g., checking for missing data , removing outliers , transforming variables)
- Which software you used (e.g., SPSS, Stata or R)
- Which statistical tests you used (e.g., two-tailed t test , simple linear regression )
In qualitative research, your analysis will be based on language, images, and observations (often involving some form of textual analysis ).
Specific methods might include:
- Content analysis : Categorising and discussing the meaning of words, phrases and sentences
- Thematic analysis : Coding and closely examining the data to identify broad themes and patterns
- Discourse analysis : Studying communication and meaning in relation to their social context
Mixed methods combine the above two research methods, integrating both qualitative and quantitative approaches into one coherent analytical process.
Above all, your methodology section should clearly make the case for why you chose the methods you did. This is especially true if you did not take the most standard approach to your topic. In this case, discuss why other methods were not suitable for your objectives, and show how this approach contributes new knowledge or understanding.
In any case, it should be overwhelmingly clear to your reader that you set yourself up for success in terms of your methodology’s design. Show how your methods should lead to results that are valid and reliable, while leaving the analysis of the meaning, importance, and relevance of your results for your discussion section .
- Quantitative: Lab-based experiments cannot always accurately simulate real-life situations and behaviours, but they are effective for testing causal relationships between variables .
- Qualitative: Unstructured interviews usually produce results that cannot be generalised beyond the sample group , but they provide a more in-depth understanding of participants’ perceptions, motivations, and emotions.
- Mixed methods: Despite issues systematically comparing differing types of data, a solely quantitative study would not sufficiently incorporate the lived experience of each participant, while a solely qualitative study would be insufficiently generalisable.
Remember that your aim is not just to describe your methods, but to show how and why you applied them. Again, it’s critical to demonstrate that your research was rigorously conducted and can be replicated.
1. Focus on your objectives and research questions
The methodology section should clearly show why your methods suit your objectives and convince the reader that you chose the best possible approach to answering your problem statement and research questions .
2. Cite relevant sources
Your methodology can be strengthened by referencing existing research in your field. This can help you to:
- Show that you followed established practice for your type of research
- Discuss how you decided on your approach by evaluating existing research
- Present a novel methodological approach to address a gap in the literature
3. Write for your audience
Consider how much information you need to give, and avoid getting too lengthy. If you are using methods that are standard for your discipline, you probably don’t need to give a lot of background or justification.
Regardless, your methodology should be a clear, well-structured text that makes an argument for your approach, not just a list of technical details and procedures.
Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research. Developing your methodology involves studying the research methods used in your field and the theories or principles that underpin them, in order to choose the approach that best matches your objectives.
Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyse data (e.g. interviews, experiments , surveys , statistical tests ).
In a dissertation or scientific paper, the methodology chapter or methods section comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion .
Depending on the length and type of document, you might also include a literature review or theoretical framework before the methodology.
Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.
Quantitative methods allow you to test a hypothesis by systematically collecting and analysing data, while qualitative methods allow you to explore ideas and experiences in depth.
A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population. Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research.
For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.
Statistical sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population. There are various sampling methods you can use to ensure that your sample is representative of the population as a whole.
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- How it works
The research methodology is a part of your research paper that describes your research process in detail. It would help if you always tried to make the section of the research methodology enjoyable.
As you describe the procedure that has already been completed, you need to write it in the past tense.
Your research methodology should explain:
What was the purpose of your research?
What type of research method is used?
What were the data collecting methods?
How did you analyze the data?
What kind of resources has been used in your research?
Why did you choose these methods?
How to Write a Research Methodology?
Start writing your research methodology with the research problem giving a clear picture of your study’s purpose. It’ll help your readers focus on the research objectives and understand the remaining procedure of your research.
You should explain:
What type of research have you conducted?
The types of research can be categorized from the following perspectives;
Application of the study
Aim of the research
Mode of inquiry
While talking about the research methods, you should highlight the key points, such as:
- The objective of choosing a specific research method.
- Is the purpose of the study fulfilled?
- The criteria of validity and reliability
- Did you meet the ethical considerations?
What kind of data gathering methods you’ve used in your research?
There are three types of data collecting methods such as:
Qualitative research is based on quality, and it looks in-depth at non-numerical data. It enables us to understand the comprehensive details of the problem. The researcher prepares open-ended questions to gather as much information as possible.
The quantitative research is associated with the aspects of measurement, quantity, and extent. It follows the statistical, mathematical, and computational techniques in numerical data such as percentages and statistics. The research is conducted on a large group of population.
When you combine quantitative and qualitative methods of research, the resulting approach becomes mixed methods of research.
Example: In quantitative correlation research , you aim to identify the cause-and-effect relationship between two or more variables. It would help if you also focused on explaining the difference between correlation and causation.
Example: In a qualitative research case study , your research’s focus is to find answers to how and why questions. You need to collect data collection from multiple sources over time. You need to analyse real-world problems in-depth, then you can use the method of the case study.
Describe the Research Methods
After explaining the research method you have used, you should describe the data collection methods you used. Mention the procedure and materials you used in your research.
Interview/Focus Group Discussion
Describe the details and criteria of the interviews and. You should include the following points:
The type of questionnaire you have used in your interview.
The procedure for selecting participants.
The size of your sample (number of participation)
The duration and location of interviews.
Describe the procedure of your observation and include the following points:
Who were the participants of your observation?
How did you get access to that specific group?
How did you record the data? (written form, audio or video recording)
Here you have to describe the existing data you’ve’ used. You should explain:
What type of resources have you used? (texts, images, audio, videos)
- How did you get access to them?
To seek in-depth information about the stress level among men and women, semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten men and ten women of company X. The participants were aged between 20-40. The interviews were held in the canteen to create a stress-free environment that lasted 15 minutes each. The responses were written and filmed.
Describe the entire procedure of your survey. Include the following points:
What type of survey have you conducted? (Questionnaire/interview/ rating scale/ Online Survey)
Who were the participants of your survey? How did you select them?
What was the sample size ?
What type of questions you’ve used in your survey? (open-ended/closed-ended)
How many questions have you used?
What was the response rate of the participants?
Explain the detailed procedure you have followed in your experiment. Try to provide as much information you can provide. Include the following points:
The type of your experimental design .
Sampling method you’ve used to select subjects.
Tools and techniques used in the experiment.
The way you identified a cause-and-effect relationship between the variables.
Describe the existing data you’ve used in your research. Include the following points:
- What type of resources have you used? (journals, newspapers, books, online content)
- Who is the author of the source?
- Who published it? When?
The survey included ten multiple-choice questions and ten open-ended questions. The survey’s objective is to determine the stress level of working women who have to deal with household responsibilities. From 17-20 Jan 2018, between 11:00 to 13:00, the survey questionnaire was distributed among the women at the working counters. The participants were given 10 minutes to fill the questionnaire. Out of 500 participants, 450 responded, and 350 were included in the analysis.
Describe Methods of Data Analysis
In this section, you should briefly describe the methods you’ve used to analyse the data you’ve collected.
The qualitative method includes analysing language, images, audio, videos, or any textual data (textual analysis). The following types of methods are used in textual analysis .
Discourse analysis : Discourse analysis is an essential aspect of studying a language and its uses in day-to-day life.
Content analysis : It is a method of studying and retrieving meaningful information from documents
Thematic analysis: It’s a method of identifying patterns of themes in the collected information, such as face-to-face interviews, texts, and transcripts.
Example: After collecting the data, it was checked thoroughly to find the missing information. The interviews were transcribed, and textual analysis was conducted. The repetitions of the text, types of colours displayed, the tone of the speakers was measured.
Quantitative data analysis is used for analysing numerical data. Include the following points:
The methods of preparing data before analysing it.
Which statistical test you have used? (one-ended test, two-ended test)
The type of software you’ve used.
After collecting the data, it was checked thoroughly to find out the missing information. The coding system was used to interpret the data.
Provide Background and Justification
Many research methods are available, from standard to an averaged approach based on the requirements and abilities. In the research methodology section, it’s essential to mention the reasons behind selecting a specific research method.
You should also explain why you did not choose any other standard approach to your topic when it fits your requirements. Talk about your research objectives and highlight the points that could affect your research procedure if you select another research method.
You can discuss the limitations of other research methods compared to your research requirements and the method you’ve used.
Ethnographic research requires a lot of time, and one has to struggle a lot to gain access to the community. A researcher has to spend time with the target group in their natural environment. Sometimes, it’s difficult for a researcher to introduce himself as a researcher/participant with the community.
The online survey does not provide reliable responses. The only benefit of conducting an online survey would be its quick response rate and cost-effectiveness.
Points to Remember while Writing Methodology
While writing your methodology, you need to keep in mind that you don’t need to make it complicated with unnecessary details.
The aim of your writing a research methodology is not merely discussing the methods and techniques you’ve used.
You have to provide a detailed account of the procedure you’ve followed, the obstacles you faced, and the way you overcome them.
Your research question and objectives of the research are the base of your research. You should discuss the objectives and explain how this specific method helped you answer your research question. You can use goals and outcomes as evidence to support your discussion.
If you’ve used any standard method in your research, you don’t need to provide many details about it as it would be common in your field. However, if you’ve used any specific approach rarely used in your field, you should explain it in detail. Your explanation and information can help other researchers in their research.
Your methodology should be well-structured and easy to understand, with all the necessary information, evidence to support your argument.
After gathering the data, it’s essential to credit the sources you have used in your research. Mention the resources you’ve used, the way you got access to those resources. Use any suitable referencing style to cite sources such as APA, MLA, and Chicago, etc.
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Home Market Research
What is Research: Definition, Methods, Types & Examples
The search for knowledge is closely linked to the object of study; that is, to the reconstruction of the facts that will provide an explanation to an observed event and that at first sight can be considered as a problem. It is very human to seek answers and satisfy our curiosity. Let’s talk about research.
What is Research?
What are the characteristics of research.
- Comparative analysis chart
Quantitative methods, 8 tips for conducting accurate research.
Research is the careful consideration of study regarding a particular concern or problem using scientific methods. According to the American sociologist Earl Robert Babbie, “research is a systematic inquiry to describe, explain, predict, and control the observed phenomenon. It involves inductive and deductive methods.”
Inductive methods analyze an observed event, while deductive methods verify the observed event. Inductive approaches are associated with qualitative research , and deductive methods are more commonly associated with quantitative analysis.
Research is conducted with a purpose to:
- Identify potential and new customers
- Understand existing customers
- Set pragmatic goals
- Develop productive market strategies
- Address business challenges
- Put together a business expansion plan
- Identify new business opportunities
- Good research follows a systematic approach to capture accurate data. Researchers need to practice ethics and a code of conduct while making observations or drawing conclusions.
- The analysis is based on logical reasoning and involves both inductive and deductive methods.
- Real-time data and knowledge is derived from actual observations in natural settings.
- There is an in-depth analysis of all data collected so that there are no anomalies associated with it.
- It creates a path for generating new questions. Existing data helps create more research opportunities.
- It is analytical and uses all the available data so that there is no ambiguity in inference.
- Accuracy is one of the most critical aspects of research. The information must be accurate and correct. For example, laboratories provide a controlled environment to collect data. Accuracy is measured in the instruments used, the calibrations of instruments or tools, and the experiment’s final result.
What is the purpose of research?
There are three main purposes:
- Exploratory: As the name suggests, researchers conduct exploratory studies to explore a group of questions. The answers and analytics may not offer a conclusion to the perceived problem. It is undertaken to handle new problem areas that haven’t been explored before. This exploratory process lays the foundation for more conclusive data collection and analysis.
- Descriptive: It focuses on expanding knowledge on current issues through a process of data collection. Descriptive research describe the behavior of a sample population. Only one variable is required to conduct the study. The three primary purposes of descriptive studies are describing, explaining, and validating the findings. For example, a study conducted to know if top-level management leaders in the 21st century possess the moral right to receive a considerable sum of money from the company profit.
- Explanatory: Causal or explanatory research is conducted to understand the impact of specific changes in existing standard procedures. Running experiments is the most popular form. For example, a study that is conducted to understand the effect of rebranding on customer loyalty.
Here is a comparative analysis chart for a better understanding:
It begins by asking the right questions and choosing an appropriate method to investigate the problem. After collecting answers to your questions, you can analyze the findings or observations to draw reasonable conclusions.
When it comes to customers and market studies, the more thorough your questions, the better the analysis. You get essential insights into brand perception and product needs by thoroughly collecting customer data through surveys and questionnaires . You can use this data to make smart decisions about your marketing strategies to position your business effectively.
To make sense of your study and get insights faster, it helps to use a research repository as a single source of truth in your organization and manage your research data in one centralized repository.
Types of research methods and Examples
Research methods are broadly classified as Qualitative and Quantitative .
Both methods have distinctive properties and data collection methods.
Qualitative research is a method that collects data using conversational methods, usually open-ended questions . The responses collected are essentially non-numerical. This method helps a researcher understand what participants think and why they think in a particular way.
Types of qualitative methods include:
- One-to-one Interview
- Focus Groups
- Ethnographic studies
- Text Analysis
Quantitative methods deal with numbers and measurable forms . It uses a systematic way of investigating events or data. It answers questions to justify relationships with measurable variables to either explain, predict, or control a phenomenon.
Types of quantitative methods include:
- Survey research
- Descriptive research
- Correlational research
Remember, it is only valuable and useful when it is valid, accurate, and reliable. Incorrect results can lead to customer churn and a decrease in sales.
It is essential to ensure that your data is:
- Valid – founded, logical, rigorous, and impartial.
- Accurate – free of errors and including required details.
- Reliable – other people who investigate in the same way can produce similar results.
- Timely – current and collected within an appropriate time frame.
- Complete – includes all the data you need to support your business decisions.
- Identify the main trends and issues, opportunities, and problems you observe. Write a sentence describing each one.
- Keep track of the frequency with which each of the main findings appears.
- Make a list of your findings from the most common to the least common.
- Evaluate a list of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats identified in a SWOT analysis .
- Prepare conclusions and recommendations about your study.
- Act on your strategies
- Look for gaps in the information, and consider doing additional inquiry if necessary
- Plan to review the results and consider efficient methods to analyze and interpret results.
Review your goals before making any conclusions about your study. Remember how the process you have completed and the data you have gathered help answer your questions. Ask yourself if what your analysis revealed facilitates the identification of your conclusions and recommendations.
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Writing a paper? Don't get lost.
What is research methodology?
- What is a research methodology?
When you’re working on your first piece of academic research, there are many different things to focus on and it can be overwhelming to stay on top of everything. This is especially true of budding or inexperienced researchers.
If you’ve never put together a research proposal before or find yourself in a position where you need to explain your research methodology decisions, there are a few things you need to be aware of.
Once you understand the in's and out's, handling academic research in the future will be less intimidating. We break down the basics below:
- The basics of a research methodology
A research methodology encompasses the way in which you intend to carry out your research. This includes how you plan to tackle things like collection methods, statistical analysis, participant observations, and more.
You can think of your research methodology as being a formula. One part will be how you plan on putting your research into practice and another will be why you feel this is the best way to approach it. Your research methodology is ultimately a methodological and systematic plan to resolve your research problem.
In short, you are explaining how you will take your idea and turn it into a study, which in turn will produce valid and reliable results that are in accordance with the aims and objectives of your research. This is true whether your paper plans to make use of qualitative methods or quantitative methods.
- Why do you need a research methodology?
The purpose of a research methodology is to explain the reasoning behind your approach to your research - you'll need to support your collection methods, methods of analysis, and other key points of your work.
Think of it like writing a plan or an outline for you what you intend to do.
When carrying out research, it can be easy to go off-track or depart from your standard methodology.
Having a methodology keeps you accountable and on track with your original aims and objectives, and gives you a suitable and sound plan to keep your project manageable, smooth, and effective.
- What needs to be included?
With all that said, how do you write out your standard approach to a research methodology?
As a general plan, your methodology should include the following information:
- Your research method. You need to state whether you plan to use quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, or mixed-method research method. This will often be determined by what you hope to achieve with your research.
- Explain your reasoning. Why are you taking this methodological approach? Why is this particular methodology the best way to answer your research problem and achieve your objectives?
- Explain your instruments. This will mainly be about your collection methods. There are varying instruments to use such as interviews, physical surveys, questionnaires, for example. Your methodology will need to detail your reasoning in choosing a particular instrument for your research.
- What will you do with your results? How are you going to analyze the data once you have gathered it?
- Advise your reader. If there is anything in your research methodology that your reader might be unfamiliar with, you should explain it in more detail. For example, you should give any background information to your methods that might be relevant or provide your reasoning if you are conducting your research in a non-standard way.
- How will your sampling process go? What will your sampling procedure be and why? For example, if you will collect data through carrying out semi-structured or unstructured interviews, how will you choose your interviewees and how will you conduct the interviews themselves?
- Any practical limitations? You should discuss any limitations you foresee being an issue when you’re carrying out your research.
- Why do you need to document your research method?
In any dissertation, thesis, or academic journal, you will always find a chapter dedicated to explaining the research methodology of the person who carried out the study, also referred to as the methodology sections of the work.
A good research methodology will explain what you are going to do and why, while a poor methodology will lead to a messy or disorganized approach.
You should also be able to justify in this section your reasoning for why you intend on carrying out your research in a particular way, especially if it might be a particularly unique method.
Having a sound methodology in place can also help you in the following scenarios:
- If another researcher at a later date wishes to try and replicate your research.
- In the event you receive any criticism or questioning on the research you carried out at a later point, you will be able to refer back to it and succinctly explain the how and why of your approach.
- It provides you with a plan to follow throughout your research. When you are drafting your methodology approach, you need to be sure that the method you are using is the right one for your goal. This will help you with both explaining and understanding your method.
- It affords you the opportunity to document from the outset what you intend to achieve with your research, from start to finish.
- What are the different types of research instruments?
A research instrument is a tool you will use to help you collect, measure and analyze the data you use as part of your research.
The choice of research instrument will usually be yours to make as the researcher and will be whichever best suits your methodology.
There are many different research instruments you can use in collecting data for your research.
Generally, they can be grouped as follows:
- Interviews (either as a group or one-on-one). You can carry out interviews in many different ways. For example, your interview can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. The difference between them is how formal the set of questions is that is asked of the interviewee. In a group interview, you may choose to ask the interviewees to give you their opinions or perceptions on certain topics.
- Surveys (online or in-person). In survey research, you are posing questions in which you ask for a response from the person taking the survey. You may wish to have either free-answer questions such as essay style questions, or you may wish to use closed questions such as multiple choice. You may even wish to make the survey a mixture of both.
- Focus Groups. Similar to the group interview above, you may wish to ask a focus group to discuss a particular topic or opinion while you make a note of the answers given.
- Observations. This is a good research instrument to use if you are looking into human behaviors. Different ways of researching this include studying the spontaneous behavior of participants in their everyday life, or something more structured. A structured observation is research conducted at a set time and place where researchers observe behavior as planned and agreed upon with participants.
These are the most common ways of carrying out research, but it is really dependent on your needs as a researcher and what approach you think is best to take.
It is also possible to combine a number of research instruments if this is necessary and appropriate in answering your research problem.
- Qualitative / quantitative / mixed research methodologies
There are three different types of methodologies and they are distinguished by whether they focus on words, numbers, or both.
- How do you choose the best research methodology for you?
If you've done your due diligence, you'll have an idea of which methodology approach is best suited to your research.
It’s likely that you will have carried out considerable reading and homework before you reach this point and you may have taken inspiration from other similar studies that have yielded good results.
Still, it is important to consider different options before setting your research into stone. Exploring different options available will help you to explain why the choice you ultimately make is preferable to other methods.
If proving your research problem requires you to gather large volumes of numerical data to test hypotheses, a quantitative research method is likely to provide you with the most usable results.
If instead you’re looking to try and learn more about people, and their perception of events, your methodology is more exploratory in nature and would therefore probably be better served using a qualitative research methodology.
It helps to always bring things back to the question: what do I want to achieve with my research?
- Frequently Asked Questions about research methodology
Research methodology refers to the techniques used to find and analyze information for a study, ensuring that the results are valid, reliable and that they address the research objective.
Data can typically be organized into four different categories or methods: observational, experimental, simulation and derived.
Writing a methodology section is a process of introducing your methods and instruments, discussing your analysis, providing more background information, addressing your research limitations, and more.
Your research methodology section will need a clear research question and proposed research approach. You'll need to add a background, introduce your research question, write your methodology and add the works you cited during your data collecting phase.
The research methodology section of your study will indicate how valid your findings are and how well-informed your paper is. It also assists future researchers planning to use the same methodology, who want to cite your study or replicate it.
- Related Articles
How to Choose Best Research Methodology for Your Study
Successful research conduction requires proper planning and execution. While there are multiple reasons and aspects behind a successful research completion, choice of best research methodology is one of the most difficult and confusing decisions. Since your research will dictate the kinds of approaches you follow, it is crucial to choose research methodology to underpin your work and methods you use in order to collect data. The correct choice of methodology in research allows you to collate required information and accomplish the final goals of the study.
In this article, we will discuss the available research methodologies and the basis of selecting the most suitable one.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Choosing Best Research Methodology
Research methodology is determined before research conduction. Correct choice of research methodology helps in determining the success and overall quality of your research study and its documentation. Furthermore, becoming familiar with the research methods used by an area of study allows you to understand it more effectively.
Which are the Different Types of Research Methodology?
Based on the nature of your research, norms of research area, and practicalities you can choose the best research methodology for your research.
- Qualitative research utilizes data that cannot be quantified numerically. In other words, qualitative research focuses on words, descriptions, concepts, beliefs, ideas, and other such intangibles.
- Quantitative research utilizes numeric and statistical data. It measures variables and verifies existing theories or hypotheses.
- Mixed methods-based research attempts to bring both, qualitative and quantitative research It uses qualitative research to explore a situation and develop a potential model of understanding, which is also called a conceptual framework, and then uses quantitative methods to test that model empirically.
Broadly, research falls into one of three categories:
- Exploratory Research: It provides a better understanding of an issue and potentially develops a theory regarding it. Thus, it tends to adopt qualitative research approach.
- Confirmatory Research: It confirms a potential theory or hypothesis by empirical testing. Therefore, it tends to use quantitative research
- Mix of Both: It builds a potential theory or hypothesis and then tests it empirically utilizing the mixed-methods approach.
Factors to Consider Before Choosing the Best Research Methodology for Your Study
Nature of your research.
Each research, irrespective of its type (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed), has a different purpose and approach that helps in solving its question. Therefore, the key factor for deciding which research methodology to adopt depends on the nature of your research aims, objectives, and research questions .
Norms of Research Area
Appropriate selection of your research methodology also involves scrutinizing and considering the approaches used by other researchers in the discipline or studies with similar aims and objectives. Researchers from same disciplines often follow a common methodological approach or set of approaches. While it doesn’t mean you should follow the herd, you should at least consider these approaches and evaluate their merit to your research’s benefit.
Practicalities of the Methodology
While most methodological approaches will deliver the most scientifically rigorous research design theoretically, the chances of constraints faced practically cannot be overlooked. Hence, it is all the more important to evaluate your research methodology on the basis of its practicality in experimental conditions
What are the Steps to Follow While Choosing the Best Research Methodology?
Step 1: define the goals, objectives, and research question..
Before worrying about the inferences, it is important to draw a path toward conclusive results. Therefore, it is essential to clearly understand what you want to research before deciding upon how to research. Most importantly, determine the variables that need to be studied in order to get an answer to the research question. Sticking to variables will lead you to the final result.
Step 2: Refer pertinent research and effectively used methodology
As there are immeasurable ways of conducting research all may not be meant for your study. Furthermore, determining the best research methodology can be difficult if you aren’t aware of the approach undertaken by other researchers from your field. Therefore, reading pertinent literature in your research area and then evaluating its methodology based on the feasibility and limitations is essential.
Step 3: Structuring the plan and finding resources to conduct research
While the research area may be same, the method of data collation may not be. Some may be time consuming, some may be found on the internet, others might need field study, or might be expensive. Therefore, it is essential to base your decision after giving a thought to these limitations of data collection as well.
Step 4: Write the research methodology in detail and review it
After selecting a particular approach to conduct your research, you must make a note of all activities. It must include the approximate time and resources each step might take. This helps in understanding the approach that your research would take and prepare you for the hurdles on its way to conclusive results.
Reasons to Select a Specific Research Methodology
You should select a qualitative research methodology because:.
- It uses an inductive and subjective approach. Furthermore, it adopts an open and flexible approach.
- Qualitative research builds theories.
- Word-based data can be collected via interviews and focus groups.
- It draws on small sample sizes and uses qualitative data analysis techniques such as content analysis, thematic analysis, etc.
You should select a quantitative research methodology because:
- It uses a deductive approach and objective approach. In addition, it adopts a closed and highly planned approach.
- Quantitative research tests theories.
- Numeric data can be collected via surveys or laboratory instrumentational experiments .
- It draws on large sample sizes and uses statistical data analysis techniques.
While it may seem that the goal of the research is the primary reason to choose the best research methodology, it is essential to consider other factors that influence successful research completion. Remember that the choice of the most appropriate method and its correct execution is what that drives your research.
Let us know how do you choose the best research methodology in the comments section below! You can also visit our Q&A forum for frequently asked questions related to different aspects of research writing and publishing answered by our team that comprises subject-matter experts, eminent researchers, and publication experts.
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Step 1: Explain your methodological approach Step 2: Describe your data collection methods Step 3: Describe your analysis method Step 4: Evaluate and justify the methodological choices you made Tips for writing a strong methodology chapter Frequently asked questions about methodology How to write a research methodology
Research methods are specific procedures for collecting and analyzing data. Developing your research methods is an integral part of your research design. When planning your methods, there are two key decisions you will make. First, decide how you will collect data. Your methods depend on what type of data you need to answer your research question:
Research methodology simply refers to the practical "how" of any given piece of research. More specifically, it's about how a researcher systematically designs a study to ensure valid and reliable results that address the research aims and objectives . For example, how did the researcher go about deciding:
The methods section describes actions taken to investigate a research problem and the rationale for the application of specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information applied to understanding the problem, thereby, allowing the reader to critically evaluate a study's overall validity and reliability.
Methodology in research is defined as the systematic method to resolve a research problem through data gathering using various techniques, providing an interpretation of data gathered and drawing conclusions about the research data. Essentially, a research methodology is the blueprint of a research or study (Murthy & Bhojanna, 2009, p. 32).
Qualitative Research Methodologies Qualitative research methodologies examine the behaviors, opinions, and experiences of individuals through methods of examination (Dawson, 2019). This type of approach typically requires less participants, but more time with each participant.
What is a methodology in a research paper? In a research paper, thesis, or dissertation, the methodology section describes the steps you took to investigate and research a hypothesis and your rationale for the specific processes and techniques used to identify, collect, and analyze data.
Methodology Section for Research Papers The methodology section of your paper describeshow your research was conducted. This information allows readers to check whether your approach is accurate and dependable. A good methodology can help increase the reader's trust in your findings. First, we will define and differentiate quantitative and ...
Here are 10 common types of research methodologies to consider: Quantitative research: Quantitative research focuses on collecting and analysing numerical data. There are various subtypes of quantitative research, including surveys, correlational research and experimental research.
The methodology section of your research paper allows readers to evaluate the overall validity and reliability of your study and gives important insight into two key elements of your research: your data collection and analysis processes and your rationale for conducting your research.
Here are the steps to follow when writing a methodology: 1. Restate your thesis or research problem The first part of your methodology is a restatement of the problem your research investigates. This allows your reader to follow your methodology step by step, from beginning to end.
Your methodology chapter is where you highlight the philosophical underpinnings of your research and outline the specific research design choices you've made. The point of the methodology chapter is to tell the reader exactly how you designed your research and to justify your design choices.
There are two general research methodology approaches when collecting and analyzing data; these approaches are quantitative and qualitative. Selecting a research method depends on the type...
An effective research methodology is grounded in your overall approach - whether qualitative or quantitative - and adequately describes the methods you used. Justify why you chose those methods over others, then explain how those methods will provide answers to your research questions.  Part 1 Describing Your Methods 1
Revised on 10 October 2022. Your research methodology discusses and explains the data collection and analysis methods you used in your research. A key part of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, the methodology chapter explains what you did and how you did it, allowing readers to evaluate the reliability and validity of your research.
The research methodology is a part of your research paper that describes your research process in detail. It would help if you always tried to make the section of the research methodology enjoyable. As you describe the procedure that has already been completed, you need to write it in the past tense. Your research methodology should explain:
work, research methodology makes the right pla tform to the researcher t o mapping out the research . work in relevance to make solid plans. More over research methodolog y guides the researcher to .
Researchers need to practice ethics and a code of conduct while making observations or drawing conclusions. The analysis is based on logical reasoning and involves both inductive and deductive methods. Real-time data and knowledge is derived from actual observations in natural settings.
The purpose of a research methodology is to explain the reasoning behind your approach to your research - you'll need to support your collection methods, methods of analysis, and other key points of your work. Think of it like writing a plan or an outline for you what you intend to do. When carrying out research, it can be easy to go off-track ...
Step 2: Refer pertinent research and effectively used methodology. As there are immeasurable ways of conducting research all may not be meant for your study. Furthermore, determining the best research methodology can be difficult if you aren't aware of the approach undertaken by other researchers from your field.