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Research Methodology

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Research Methodology

Every research project looks a little bit different. While research questions can span a wide breadth of topics, it is important that researchers follow specific procedures and protocols when conducting their research. The procedure a person follows to conduct research is called research methodology. It is important to understand the parts of a research methodology to ensure research is organized, credible, and impactful.

Research Methodology, Choosing a Method, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Choosing a research methodology is a critical part of research.

Research Methodology Definition

As the name suggests, a research methodology is a way of conducting research. The methodology a researcher chooses will depend on the research question(s) asked.

A research methodology is a procedure a researcher chooses for carrying out research.

To choose a research methodology, researchers need to reflect on the goals of their research and the type of data they want to collect and analyze.

Research Methodology Types

Most research falls under the umbrella of either qualitative or quantitative research. Within each category, there are sub-types that researchers will choose. There is also mixed-method research which combines both qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Quantitative Research Methodology

Quantitative research is about the collection and analysis of numerical data. It typically involves the collection of data through methods like surveys. Researchers analyze that data through various methods of mathematical and statistical analysis. Quantitative research is done in a wide range of fields, such as economics, marketing, public health, and psychology, and includes methods like the following:

Descriptive Quantitative Research

Descriptive quantitative research aims to describe a phenomenon through quantifiable data. For example, a descriptive research question might ask how many women vote for a certain presidential candidate. Researchers conducting descriptive quantitative research typically do not start with a hypothesis, but rather with systematic data collection.

A hypothesis is a statement that makes a prediction about the research at hand.

Experimental Quantitative Research

Experimental quantitative research follows the scientific method. Researchers conducting experimental research craft a hypothesis, which makes a prediction about the research at hand. One of the variables is called the independent variable, which means it is not impacted by the other. The other variable is called the dependent variable, which may be impacted by the other. Experimental researchers design and conduct an experiment in which they manipulate the independent variable to examine the impact on the dependent variable. The numerical data they collect tests their hypothesis to determine if it was true or not.

Qualitative Research Methodology

Qualitative research is about the collection and analysis of non-numerical data, like written or spoken words. It typically involves interviews and participant observation in order to examine people’s lived experiences. Qualitative research is typically rooted in social theory and used in social sciences such as social anthropology and sociology. There are also several research approaches within qualitative research, including the following:

Research Methodology, qualitative interviews, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Qualitative research often involves in-depth interviews.

Ethnography

The Greek root word ethno- means “culture” or “race” and -graphy means "study." Thus, ethnography is the study of cultures and social relations. Qualitative researchers who conduct ethnographies are called ethnographers. They use in-depth direct observations to investigate cultural patterns and behaviors. During these observations, they take detailed field notes which are their main source of data.

Narrative Research

Qualitative researchers who conduct narrative research are interested in the lived experiences of specific individuals. These researchers typically conduct long interviews with a couple of people to better understand their life stories.

Case Studies

Qualitative case studies are used to research a specific phenomenon in a distinct context. For instance, a qualitative researcher interested in how natural disasters impact elementary students might conduct a case study of an elementary school that was affected by a natural disaster. Case studies typically involve multiple data collection methods including observations and interviews.

Mixed-Method Research

Mixed-method research is research that involves both qualitative and quantitative methods. For example, imagine a researcher is interested in the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on fifth-grade classrooms. To address this research question he might interview teachers about their experiences teaching during the pandemic, but they may also conduct student assessments to analyze students' academic performance. Mixed-method research is often done in fields such as healthcare, education, and sociology.

When choosing which type of research to conduct, researchers should consider what the goal of their research is. For instance, will numerical data help answer the research question? If so, the researcher should probably take a quantitative approach. Will observing or interviewing participants from a particular group address the topic? If so the researcher will likely take a qualitative approach.

Parts of Research Methodology

After researchers select the research methodology they are going to use, they need to outline the various parts of it. To do this, they should address the following questions:

Why have I chosen this method?

The first key part of a research methodology is the explanation for why it was chosen. It is important that researchers reflect on their method to ensure it is logical.

When choosing a research method for a literary research paper, researchers should ask themselves what the goal of their research is. For instance, perhaps a writer is interested in how well a book about a historical event represents people's lived experiences of that event. This writer could meet these goals by conducting qualitative interviews of people who lived through the event. Or perhaps a researcher wants to understand how a text was perceived when it was written.

This researcher could benefit from an analysis of historical archives from the time period the book was published.

Where will I conduct my research?

The second critical part of a research methodology is the research setting, which is where they going to conduct their research. For instance, if they are doing a qualitative study that involves interviews, they will need to select where the interviews will take place and when. Or if they are conducting a survey for a quantitative study they will need to decide how that survey will be conducted, such as on the internet or on paper in a classroom.

When choosing a research setting researchers should again consider their research goals. For instance, the researcher conducting interviews about people's experiences of a historical event would collect detailed information by speaking to people in person to observe their facial expressions and body language. They might therefore choose to conduct interviews in participants' homes where they are comfortable.

Who will my participants be and how will I select them?

In addition to determining where the study will take place, researchers also have to review who they want to participate in their study and how they will select those participants. It is critical that the participants are from a group of people whose participation can help address the research question. For example, if a qualitative researcher is interested in teachers’ experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, they will have to interview teachers who taught during that time period. In order to decide which participants to choose, researchers should consider age, gender, race, socioeconomic background, or job experience as relevant factors.

In some cases, researchers will not need to select any participants. For instance, a researcher might be conducting data analysis on a set of data from a secondary source. This means that they did not collect the data themselves and the dataset already existed.

The researcher should identify people who can provide insight into the topic they want to know about. For instance, recall the researcher who is collecting data about a historical event to compare reality to the book's representation. This researcher should strive to ensure they are speaking to participants who have first-hand knowledge.

Depending on the research method, researchers will also have to choose a method of selecting participants. For instance in quantitative research, participant selection could be random to ensure the sample of participants is diverse. However, sometimes researchers need people from hard-to-reach populations to participate, such as people in prison. In such cases, random sampling might not be possible because there might not be as many available participants. No matter what method researchers use to select participants, they have to make sure they specify how the participants were chosen and why.

What instruments will I use to collect data?

Researchers will have to decide if they will collect data. First, they should choose if they will use primary or secondary sources. Primary sources are original sources of information. These can include first-hand accounts from qualitative interviews or results of a survey created for a quantitative study. Secondary sources are sources of information that are not based on first-hand experience, but they provide information about one. For instance, articles from scholarly journals and textbooks are secondary sources.

Once researchers have decided to use primary or secondary sources, they will have to select which data collection instruments to use. The term "instrument” is used to describe the method used for data collection. For example, a qualitative researcher might choose to use interviews to collect data. The script and list of questions the researchers use to conduct those interviews are called the interview protocol. This protocol is the data collection instrument.

When writing an English paper, one of the main sources of data will likely be the text or texts that motivated the research. Researchers might also use historical sources about the text such as reviews or newspaper articles from the time the text was written.

Research Methodology, Taking fieldnotes, StudySmarterFig. 3 - Data collection can involve many methods, including taking observational field notes.

How will I use the data?

The next crucial part of a research methodology is the procedure for data analysis. Depending on the type of data and the information a researcher hopes to collect from the data, the data analysis process will be different. For instance, in qualitative research, researchers often “code” their data thematically, which means they try to identify the main ideas in it. In quantitative research, researchers often visualize the data they collect in charts or graphs and look for trends and their implications.

Analyzing data for a literary research paper may look different than analyzing data for a quantitative social science study. For instance, it may involve more thematic reflection and the analysis of secondary sources about a text.

What are the limitations of this research?

Finally, it is important for researchers to reflect on the potential imitations of their researcher and their ethical implications for it. No research project can cover the entire scope of a topic, and there are therefore limitations to all studies. For instance, financial limitations or time constraints might limit the number of participants the researcher could select. Noting limitations and reflecting on their implications is a key part of a reflexive, transparent research paper. It is also important for researchers to note the ethical guidelines for the type of research they are conducting and explain that they were acknowledged and followed.

Importance of Research Methodology

Research methodology is essential because it structures the research process and ensures valid, effective research is conducted. It is also important that researchers understand how to describe their research methodology to their readers. Writers typically introduce their research methodology in an abstract, a brief summary of their research at the beginning of their paper. Briefly describing the research methodology will tell other researchers looking at the paper whether or not it is relevant to the type of research they are searching for. It will also help them get a short, comprehensive understanding of your study right from the start.

When introducing the research methodology in the abstract, researchers should mention:

  • The type of research and why it was chosen

  • The research setting and participants

  • The data collection process

  • The data analysis process

  • Limitations to the research

After referencing the research methodology in the abstract, writers will later devote a section of their paper to the research methodology. The research methodology section is where the researcher goes into more detail about each part of the methodology.

Research Methodology Example

The following is an example of an abstract that provides a brief, effective summary of the chosen research methodology:

Research Methodology, Example abstract, StudySmarterFig. 4 - Abstracts should briefly reference all parts of the chosen research methodology.

Research Methodology - Key Takeaways

  • The research methodology is a procedure a researcher chooses for carrying out research.
  • Common research methodologies include qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods.
  • Parts of a research methodology include the explanation for the choice of the method, the research setting, the data collection methods, the data analysis methods, and mentions of limitations or ethical considerations.
  • Researchers should introduce their research methodology in their abstract and then include a more detailed section on the topic in the body of their paper.

Frequently Asked Questions about Research Methodology

A research methodology is a procedure a researcher chooses for carrying out research.

It is important to follow the parts of a research methodology to ensure research is organized and credible.

An example of research methodology is a qualitative case study that uses observational field notes and interview transcripts as data.

The types of research methodology are quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method.

The parts of a research methodology are:

  • the explanation for the research method
  • the research setting and participant selection
  • the data collection process
  • the data analysis process
  • the limitations and ethical considerations

Final Research Methodology Quiz

Question

What is a research methodology?

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Answer

A research methodology is a procedure a researcher chooses for carrying out research.

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Question

What is the difference between quantitative and qualitative research methodology? 

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Answer

Quantitative research is based on numerical data and qualitative is based on non-numerical data.

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Question

Which type of research seeks to describe a research phenomenon in detail through quantifiable data?


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Answer

Descriptive

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Question

Which of the following is not a part of a research methodology? 

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Answer

Personal experience with the topic

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Question

What is ethnography?

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Answer

The qualitative study of cultural and social phenomena.

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Question

What is a hypothesis?

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Answer

A hypothesis is a statement that makes a prediction about the research at hand.

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Question

What is a primary source?

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Answer

Primary sources are sources of original information. 

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Question

True or False. Descriptive research needs a hypothesis. 

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Answer

False. Descriptive quantitative research does not need to predict the relationships between variables. 

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Question

True or False. The process of analyzing data is an important part of a research methodology. 

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Answer

True. 

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Question

What should be included when discussing the research methodology in the abstract of a paper?

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Answer

  • The type of research and why it was chosen 

  • The research setting and participants 

  • The data collection process 

  • The data analysis process

  • Limitations to the research 

Show question

Question

This involves numbers and data.

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Answer

Quantitative research

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This involves explaining something using data.

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Answer

Descriptive quantitative research

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Descriptive quantitative research often begins with a hypothesis.

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Answer

False

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Question

It follows the scientific method, using a hypothesis.

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Experimental quantitative research

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It is often rooted in social theory.

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Qualitative research

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This is research into individual lives.

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Narrative research

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Narrative research mostly uses second-hand information.

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Answer

False

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Question

Research must either be quantitative or qualitative.

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False

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Case studies require a great deal of contextualization.

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Answer

True

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It's where research is conducted.

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Research setting

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