There are many different types of research methodologies. This article will address some of the most common ones and give an example for each. Learn about the main types of research methods and find out what data you need for each type!
Research methodology refers to the application of research techniques or methods. It is the entirety of human intervention, including the technique and instruments used in data collection and analysis.
There are two broad research methodology categories, namely, qualitative research methods and quantitative research methods.
Qualitative methods: These are primarily observational studies, where the researcher records data in its natural context without altering the situation. Qualitative studies come in handy in market research.
Quantitative methods: They are mainly experiments where the researcher manipulates one variable while keeping all others constant. Researchers use quantitative methods to collect data from large groups.
Qualitative data collection methods include case studies, interviews, focus groups, ethnography, historical research, phenomenology, grounded theory, and narrative inquiry.
In a case study, one or more persons are selected, and their situation is studied in depth. Case studies tend to be descriptive rather than analytical and focus on a specific event or activity. This method is often used in market research.
For example, a researcher may want to understand the motivations of women in their twenties who choose to attend university. To do this, she may select 50 university students and interview them in-depth about their motives. The experiences of all 50 women will then be used in drawing conclusions for the study.
An interview is where the interviewer asks questions about a particular topic, and these responses are recorded for analysis. Collecting data through an interview requires special skills, both by the interviewer and the interviewee.
An interview can either be one-on-one where the interviewer and interviewee are physically present. It can also be over the phone or a video call.
For example, if a researcher wants to know what students feel about homework, they could conduct a physical interview with 20 students. The researcher will hear the students’ views and record them firsthand for analysis.
A focus group is an interview with more than one person, usually about a particular topic, where the interviewer asks questions.
These interviews are helpful in situations where the participants need to interact with each other. There shouldn’t be a single spokesperson representing the whole group.
For example, a researcher conducting a study on teenage pregnancy may join 3-4 teenagers in a group. The researcher will ask the teenagers questions about their experience of teen pregnancy.
Ethnography is a research design whose aim is to understand how people make sense of their everyday lives. This procedure is done through observation of people who are interacting with each other in their natural surroundings.
Ethnography typically involves visiting different homes and spending time with the people who live there. The researcher observes the participants’ daily activities such as cooking, shopping, or talking. It’s also called participant observation, and it’s excellent in obtaining firsthand data.
For example: If a researcher wants to know what teenagers do when they are out of school, they could spend time in various public places, including parks and shopping malls. This interaction will give the researcher a chance to observe teenagers and understand their behavior patterns.
This type of research refers to the study of past events and written records from the past. It’s a method that uses existing knowledge to inform present and future studies.
For example: Assuming a researcher wants to know how women have been represented in history. They could consult works of literature or historical documents that were written at the time.
This approach helps the researcher to understand how people experience something, such as a phenomenon. This method involves the researcher conducting an in-depth exploration of the participant’s subjective, internal world.
The researcher will attempt to grasp the essence of the phenomenon by using intuition.
For example, a researcher may want to explore the experience of having schizophrenia. In this case, they can sit down with their participant and ask them questions about what it feels like to have schizophrenia. The researcher taps into the participant’s experiences and understands what it is like to have the disorder.
Grounded theory is an approach to research in which the researcher generates a theory from initial data. The research process starts with an interview or a focus group and ends with a theory about the topic. It’s used in situations where there is no existing literature on the subject.
The researcher creates an initial theory based on past research and then revises the theory based on new knowledge.
Example: A researcher is trying to understand why people cheat. They can pose a question to the focus group and begin to formulate a theory about why people cheat.
Narrative inquiry encourages participants to share their life stories and experiences. After interviewing people for a certain period, the researcher has a set of data to study.
It’s the most flexible research method because it allows for different accounts, interpretations, and theories to be explored. The participant determines the research topic by the experience they share.
Example: A researcher wants to explore different life stories of African American men after the Civil War. They would sit down with participants and ask them to share stories.
Deductive reasoning involves using the information that is available to conclude or formulate a theory. This method is not used as much as others because it doesn’t provide new information.
The process starts with formulating a theory and then analyzing the data to see if it supports or contradicts the initial theory.
For example, a researcher decides to find out why people are less likely to take public transportation. They could observe various public transportation systems and determine why people are not using them as frequently.
The main types of collecting numerical data are control study, correlation, experimental, and surveys.
This type of study is used when you want to compare two groups. One group has been exposed to a particular condition while the other group hasn’t. The latter is known as the control group.
For example, if a researcher wants to see how different diets affect weight loss, they would need a control group. This group does not change their eating habits and stays on their regular diets while the other group starts eating healthier. By the end of the study, the results of both groups could be compared and analyzed.
This type of study is used when you want to see the relationship between two variables. You can either correlate or regress the data to see how one thing is related to another.
For example, a researcher wants to explore what type of personality leads to certain health behaviors. They could administer a questionnaire to two groups and compare their tendency towards certain behaviors with their personality type.
This data collection method involves two groups of participants. Both are exposed to a certain condition, but one group gets the treatment while the other doesn’t. This study is typically used when you want to determine causation between two variables.
Example: If a researcher desires to find out what effect a particular medication has on diabetes, they could use two groups. The researcher will administer the treatment to one group and the placebo to another.
The group receiving the medication will have a higher probability of being cured. This method is known as using a double-blind design.
A survey is a common way of collecting quantitative information. It involves asking a set number of participants a set number of questions and recording their responses. The research questions should be clearly defined, and the questions should cover a range of areas.
For example, a researcher wants to survey global warming. They would have to identify their target population and formulate a list of relevant questions. These questions should cover issues like whether the participant believes in global warming, what they think are the leading causes, etc.
The researcher should ensure the sample of participants is representative of the target population.
Quantitative data analysis methods include:
Content analysis: This entails breaking down the text into categories and recurring themes.
Example: A researcher is studying a novel that is set in World War II. They analyze the novel and categorize events as they happen chronologically to understand its plot development.
Mapping: This is a visual representation of the data. The information should be centralized while the categories, themes, or progressions are represented using different symbols.
For example, a researcher wants to know the relationship between different types of coffee and anxiety. They could create a graph that shows whether anxiety levels increase or decrease depending on the type of coffee drank.
Time-series analysis: It’s a data analysis method that involves finding relationships between variables measured at different points in time.
For example, a researcher could record the total number of crashes at a specific intersection over six months. The results may show that there are more accidents during the weekend and at night. The researcher may also find that there are fewer accidents during rush hour traffic.
Textual analysis: This entails extracting ideas or information from the text. This method uses techniques like sentence activity, content category, and contrast statement to analyze data.
Example: A researcher wants to study how a certain novel’s protagonist changes throughout the story. They read the text and mark any words or phrases that show their transformation. This marking eliminates the bias of the researcher’s interpretation of the novel.
Meta-analysis: This is used to identify patterns in the collected data. It involves analyzing the findings of multiple studies to find commonalities.
For example, a researcher wants to know the effects of certain medications. They search for relevant research studies and analyze their data to determine what medication works best in which type of patient.
Statistical analysis: This is used to verify findings using statistical methods.
For example, a researcher experiments on five participants to see if sugar affects memory. They are only able to remember ten words from a list of 40. The results are not significant, so the researcher can’t reject their hypothesis.
They use a statistical method to verify their findings and calculate their results from random chance alone. It turns out that the probability of this is 0.81, which means their results are more likely attributable to sugar than random chance alone.
Quantitative analysis methods are used when researchers want to study objective data.
Qualitative data analysis methods are used when the research question is subjective. These methods are used to gain insight into people’s behavior, beliefs, thinking processes, and motivations.
The most common qualitative analysis method is:
Thematic analysis: This is used to identify and label patterns in qualitative data.
Example: A researcher wants to understand why people cheat on their taxes. They read through their interviewees’ responses and label each of them according to the theme. They might come across an interviewee that says she only cheats on her taxes when she doesn’t think anyone will find out.
Another interviewee might say that he feels like the government isn’t doing anything to improve his life, so it’s okay for him to cheat.
These themes can then be incorporated into a written report that transcribes the interviewee’s responses.
Some of the factors that researchers consider when choosing a research methodology are:
- The type and number of variables
- Acceptable measurement tools for each variable
- The availability and types of data needed to run the analysis
- Expected ethical concerns
- Available resources
- The research questions and objectives
Different research methodologies can be used to answer different types of questions. The researcher should choose a methodology appropriate for the type of question being asked and the data available.
To avoid bias, researchers often use more than one method in their studies. By analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data, they will better understand the overall trend in their data. Some common methods are interviews, surveys, focus groups, experiments, content analysis, and meta-analysis.
Research methods determine how variables are analyzed to answer a question or solve a particular problem. Researchers should take the time to examine their research questions and determine what type of data they need. This step leads them to select an appropriate approach for their study.