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How to Write a Research Paper
Writing a research paper is a bit more difficult that a standard high school essay. You need to site sources, use academic data and show scientific examples. Before beginning, you’ll need guidelines for how to write a research paper.
Start the Research Process
Before you begin writing the research paper, you must do your research. It is important that you understand the subject matter, formulate the ideas of your paper, create your thesis statement and learn how to speak about your given topic in an authoritative manner. You’ll be looking through online databases, encyclopedias, almanacs, periodicals, books, newspapers, government publications, reports, guides and scholarly resources. Take notes as you discover new information about your given topic. Also keep track of the references you use so you can build your bibliography later and cite your resources.
Develop Your Thesis Statement
When organizing your research paper, the thesis statement is where you explain to your readers what they can expect, present your claims, answer any questions that you were asked or explain your interpretation of the subject matter you’re researching. Therefore, the thesis statement must be strong and easy to understand. Your thesis statement must also be precise. It should answer the question you were assigned, and there should be an opportunity for your position to be opposed or disputed. The body of your manuscript should support your thesis, and it should be more than a generic fact.
Create an Outline
Many professors require outlines during the research paper writing process. You’ll find that they want outlines set up with a title page, abstract, introduction, research paper body and reference section. The title page is typically made up of the student’s name, the name of the college, the name of the class and the date of the paper. The abstract is a summary of the paper. An introduction typically consists of one or two pages and comments on the subject matter of the research paper. In the body of the research paper, you’ll be breaking it down into materials and methods, results and discussions. Your references are in your bibliography. Use a research paper example to help you with your outline if necessary.
Organize Your Notes
When writing your first draft, you’re going to have to work on organizing your notes first. During this process, you’ll be deciding which references you’ll be putting in your bibliography and which will work best as in-text citations. You’ll be working on this more as you develop your working drafts and look at more white paper examples to help guide you through the process.
Write Your Final Draft
After you’ve written a first and second draft and received corrections from your professor, it’s time to write your final copy. By now, you should have seen an example of a research paper layout and know how to put your paper together. You’ll have your title page, abstract, introduction, thesis statement, in-text citations, footnotes and bibliography complete. Be sure to check with your professor to ensure if you’re writing in APA style, or if you’re using another style guide.
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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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Methodology in a Research Paper: Definition and Example
Updated December 12, 2022
Published May 11, 2021
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 document their studies, they typically include a methodology to describe the processes and outcomes of their research. If you're covering a thesis topic, submitting a dissertation or documenting a project for your employer, including a methodology helps summarize your studies for readers who review your work. The methodology is also important to provide insight into the validity and reliability of your research.
In this article, we explore what a methodology is, what to include in this part of your paper and how it differs from your research methods with an example of methodology in a research paper.
What is a methodology in a research paper?
The methodology in a research paper, thesis paper or dissertation is the section in which you describe the actions you took to investigate and research a problem and your rationale for the specific processes and techniques you use within your research to identify, collect and analyze information that helps you understand the problem.
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. When writing a methodology for a research paper, it's important to keep the discussion clear and succinct and write in the past tense.
Quantitative and qualitative methodologies
There are two main approaches to methodology; quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research methodology relies on concrete facts and data-driven research, and qualitative research methodology relies on non-data-driven research, such as surveys and polls, to identify patterns and trends.
What to include in a methodology
Students, graduates and other researchers often include several key sections within the methodology section. Consider the following elements when developing a methodology in research papers:
Type of research
The first part of a methodology section usually describes the type of research you perform and how you develop your research methods. This section also discusses the question or problem you investigate through your research and the type of data you need to perform evaluations and research assessments. Additionally, the methodology often includes the criteria your experimental studies need to meet to produce valid and reliable evidence. The information you cover in this part of your methodology allows readers to gain insight into how you measure validity and reliability during your studies.
Data collection process
The methodology also includes an explanation of your data collection process. For instance, if you perform experimental tests on samples, conduct surveys or interviews or use existing data to form new studies, this section of your methodology details what you do and how you do it. Several key details to include in this section of a methodology focus on how you design your experiment or survey, how you collect and organize data and what kind of data you measure. You may also include specific criteria for collecting qualitative and quantitative data.
Data analysis process
Your data analysis approaches are also important in your methodology. Your data analysis describes the methods you use to organize, categorize and study the information you collect through your research processes. For instance, when explaining quantitative methods, you might include details about your data preparation and organization methods along with a brief description of the statistical tests you use. When describing your data analysis processes regarding qualitative methods, you may focus more on how you categorize, code and apply language, text and other observations during your analysis.
Resources, materials and tools
The tools, materials and other resources you need for your research and analysis are also important elements to describe in your methodology. Software programs, mathematical and statistical formulas and other tools that help you perform your research are essential in documenting your methodology. This section of your methodology can also detail any special techniques you apply to collect data and identify important variables. Additionally, your approaches to studying your hypothesis and underlying research questions are essential details in your methodology.
Rationale behind the research
Since your methodology aims to show readers why your research is valid and relevant, the last part of this section of your research paper needs to focus on your rationale. Details like why your studies are relevant, what industries your studies relate to and how other researchers can replicate your results are essential components of this part of your methodology. It's important to address any approaches you plan to take to continue evaluating your research over time and to cite the primary and secondary sources you use in your research.
Differences between the methodology and methods
Although the methodology section of your research paper includes details about the methods you use in your research, there are several differences between a methodology and the research methods you apply:
The overall purpose of your methodology differs from the set of methods you use to apply to your research. While the methodology is the entire section of your research paper that describes your processes, the methods refer to the actual steps you take throughout your research to collect and analyze data. The methodology serves as a summary that demonstrates the validity and reliability of your methods, while the methods you detail in this section of your paper are the scientific approaches to test and make conclusions about the data you study.
The format for a methodology differs from the format you use to list and explain your research and analysis methods. The methodology usually appears at the beginning of your paper and looks like a summary or essay in paragraph form detailing your research validity, process and rationale. The format you use to describe your research and analysis methods can take various forms, depending on the type of research, type of data and type of assessments you use.
For instance, when describing the methods you use to perform quantitative and statistical analyses, the format you use may focus on a graph or chart to display your data. Additionally, the methods you describe within each part of your methodology can include tables or lists to demonstrate your research process and outcomes.
The purpose and format ultimately influence the content that you include in both your methodology and your research method details. However, the content within your entire methodology focuses on delivering a concise summary of your research, approaches and outcomes. Therefore, the content of your methodology includes all aspects of performing your studies. The content in your research paper that details your collection and analysis methods differs because it's often necessary to explain your scientific approaches and research processes with lists and visual aids (like charts or graphs) to support the information.
Example of a methodology in a research paper
The following example of a methodology in a research paper can provide additional insight into what to include and how to structure yours:
This research paper explains the psychological and emotional effects of a support program for employees with mental illness. The program involved extended and individualized support for employment candidates through a job support agency that maintained contact with candidates after initial job placement to offer support in various ways. I used a 50% random sampling of individuals who took part in the support program through the job support agency between April and October, and who fit the study criteria I developed from previous and similar studies.
My team and I randomly assigned the resulting 350 cases to either the treatment group or the control group, which comprised life skills development and employment training within an in-house workshop environment. My team and I measured all 350 participants upon intake and again at the 90-day threshold of employment. The psychological functioning and self-esteem measurements we used provided significant data on the effects of treatment within both measures, including opposing outcomes that differed from our initial hypothesis.
We found through our research that instead of improved function and higher self-esteem, the individuals within the treatment group displayed lower levels of cognitive and emotional function and lower self-esteem. These results led my research team and I to conclude that individuals who work in roles they find unfulfilling often experience significant decreases in performance due to higher job stress and diminished emotional well-being, regardless of their mental health conditions.
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- What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips
What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips
Published on August 25, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on January 30, 2023.
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 and your dissertation topic .
It should include:
- The type of research you conducted
- How you collected and analyzed your data
- Any tools or materials you used in the research
- How you mitigated or avoided research biases
- 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.
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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 ? How did you prevent bias from affecting your data?
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 generalizable, you should describe quantitative research methods in enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study.
Here, explain how you operationalized your concepts and measured your variables. Discuss your sampling method or inclusion and 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 July 4–8, 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.
- Information bias
- Omitted variable bias
- Regression to the mean
- Survivorship bias
- Undercoverage bias
- Sampling bias
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 analyze?
- How did you select them?
In order to gain better insight into possibilities for future improvement of the fitness store’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.
- The Hawthorne effect
- Observer bias
- The placebo effect
- Response bias and Nonresponse bias
- The Pygmalion effect
- Recall bias
- Social desirability bias
- Self-selection bias
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.
Next, you should indicate how you processed and analyzed 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 analyzing 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 : Categorizing 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 behaviors, but they are effective for testing causal relationships between variables .
- Qualitative: Unstructured interviews usually produce results that cannot be generalized 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 generalizable.
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 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.
In a scientific paper, the methodology always comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion . The same basic structure also applies to a thesis, dissertation , or research proposal .
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 systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.
Reliability and validity are both about how well a method measures something:
- Reliability refers to the consistency of a measure (whether the results can be reproduced under the same conditions).
- Validity refers to the accuracy of a measure (whether the results really do represent what they are supposed to measure).
If you are doing experimental research, you also have to consider the internal and external validity of your experiment.
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.
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This paper should be used only as an example of a research paper write-up. Horizontal rules signify the top and bottom edges of pages. For sample references which are not included with this paper, you should consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 4th Edition .
This paper is provided only to give you an idea of what a research paper might look like. You are not allowed to copy any of the text of this paper in writing your own report.
Because word processor copies of papers don’t translate well into web pages, you should note that an actual paper should be formatted according to the formatting rules for your context. Note especially that there are three formatting rules you will see in this sample paper which you should NOT follow. First, except for the title page, the running header should appear in the upper right corner of every page with the page number below it. Second, paragraphs and text should be double spaced and the start of each paragraph should be indented. Third, horizontal lines are used to indicate a mandatory page break and should not be used in your paper.
The Effects of a Supported Employment Program on Psychosocial Indicators for Persons with Severe Mental Illness William M.K. Trochim Cornell University
Running Head: SUPPORTED EMPLOYMENT
This paper describes the psychosocial effects of a program of supported employment (SE) for persons with severe mental illness. The SE program involves extended individualized supported employment for clients through a Mobile Job Support Worker (MJSW) who maintains contact with the client after job placement and supports the client in a variety of ways. A 50% simple random sample was taken of all persons who entered the Thresholds Agency between 3/1/93 and 2/28/95 and who met study criteria. The resulting 484 cases were randomly assigned to either the SE condition (treatment group) or the usual protocol (control group) which consisted of life skills training and employment in an in-house sheltered workshop setting. All participants were measured at intake and at 3 months after beginning employment, on two measures of psychological functioning (the BPRS and GAS) and two measures of self esteem (RSE and ESE). Significant treatment effects were found on all four measures, but they were in the opposite direction from what was hypothesized. Instead of functioning better and having more self esteem, persons in SE had lower functioning levels and lower self esteem. The most likely explanation is that people who work in low-paying service jobs in real world settings generally do not like them and experience significant job stress, whether they have severe mental illness or not. The implications for theory in psychosocial rehabilitation are considered.
The Effects of a Supported Employment Program on Psychosocial Indicators for Persons with Severe Mental Illness
Over the past quarter century a shift has occurred from traditional institution-based models of care for persons with severe mental illness (SMI) to more individualized community-based treatments. Along with this, there has been a significant shift in thought about the potential for persons with SMI to be “rehabilitated” toward lifestyles that more closely approximate those of persons without such illness. A central issue is the ability of a person to hold a regular full-time job for a sustained period of time. There have been several attempts to develop novel and radical models for program interventions designed to assist persons with SMI to sustain full-time employment while living in the community. The most promising of these have emerged from the tradition of psychiatric rehabilitation with its emphases on individual consumer goal setting, skills training, job preparation and employment support (Cook, Jonikas and Solomon, 1992). These are relatively new and field evaluations are rare or have only recently been initiated (Cook and Razzano, 1992; Cook, 1992). Most of the early attempts to evaluate such programs have naturally focused almost exclusively on employment outcomes. However, theory suggests that sustained employment and living in the community may have important therapeutic benefits in addition to the obvious economic ones. To date, there have been no formal studies of the effects of psychiatric rehabilitation programs on key illness-related outcomes. To address this issue, this study seeks to examine the effects of a new program of supported employment on psychosocial outcomes for persons with SMI.
Over the past several decades, the theory of vocational rehabilitation has experienced two major stages of evolution. Original models of vocational rehabilitation were based on the idea of sheltered workshop employment. Clients were paid a piece rate and worked only with other individuals who were disabled. Sheltered workshops tended to be “end points” for persons with severe and profound mental retardation since few ever moved from sheltered to competitive employment (Woest, Klein & Atkins, 1986). Controlled studies of sheltered workshop performance of persons with mental illness suggested only minimal success (Griffiths, 1974) and other research indicated that persons with mental illness earned lower wages, presented more behavior problems, and showed poorer workshop attendance than workers with other disabilities (Whitehead, 1977; Ciardiello, 1981).
In the 1980s, a new model of services called Supported Employment (SE) was proposed as less expensive and more normalizing for persons undergoing rehabilitation (Wehman, 1985). The SE model emphasizes first locating a job in an integrated setting for minimum wage or above, and then placing the person on the job and providing the training and support services needed to remain employed (Wehman, 1985). Services such as individualized job development, one-on-one job coaching, advocacy with co-workers and employers, and “fading” support were found to be effective in maintaining employment for individuals with severe and profound mental retardation (Revell, Wehman & Arnold, 1984). The idea that this model could be generalized to persons with all types of severe disabilities, including severe mental illness, became commonly accepted (Chadsey-Rusch & Rusch, 1986).
One of the more notable SE programs was developed at Thresholds, the site for the present study, which created a new staff position called the mobile job support worker (MJSW) and removed the common six month time limit for many placements. MJSWs provide ongoing, mobile support and intervention at or near the work site, even for jobs with high degrees of independence (Cook & Hoffschmidt, 1993). Time limits for many placements were removed so that clients could stay on as permanent employees if they and their employers wished. The suspension of time limits on job placements, along with MJSW support, became the basis of SE services delivered at Thresholds.
There are two key psychosocial outcome constructs of interest in this study. The first is the overall psychological functioning of the person with SMI. This would include the specification of severity of cognitive and affective symptomotology as well as the overall level of psychological functioning. The second is the level of self-reported self esteem of the person. This was measured both generally and with specific reference to employment.
The key hypothesis of this study is:
- HO: A program of supported employment will result in either no change or negative effects on psychological functioning and self esteem.
which will be tested against the alternative:
- HA: A program of supported employment will lead to positive effects on psychological functioning and self esteem.
The population of interest for this study is all adults with SMI residing in the U.S. in the early 1990s. The population that is accessible to this study consists of all persons who were clients of the Thresholds Agency in Chicago, Illinois between the dates of March 1, 1993 and February 28, 1995 who met the following criteria: 1) a history of severe mental illness (e.g., either schizophrenia, severe depression or manic-depression); 2) a willingness to achieve paid employment; 3) their primary diagnosis must not include chronic alcoholism or hard drug use; and 4) they must be 18 years of age or older. The sampling frame was obtained from records of the agency. Because of the large number of clients who pass through the agency each year (e.g., approximately 500 who meet the criteria) a simple random sample of 50% was chosen for inclusion in the study. This resulted in a sample size of 484 persons over the two-year course of the study.
On average, study participants were 30 years old and high school graduates (average education level = 13 years). The majority of participants (70%) were male. Most had never married (85%), few (2%) were currently married, and the remainder had been formerly married (13%). Just over half (51%) are African American, with the remainder Caucasian (43%) or other minority groups (6%). In terms of illness history, the members in the sample averaged 4 prior psychiatric hospitalizations and spent a lifetime average of 9 months as patients in psychiatric hospitals. The primary diagnoses were schizophrenia (42%) and severe chronic depression (37%). Participants had spent an average of almost two and one-half years (29 months) at the longest job they ever held.
While the study sample cannot be considered representative of the original population of interest, generalizability was not a primary goal – the major purpose of this study was to determine whether a specific SE program could work in an accessible context. Any effects of SE evident in this study can be generalized to urban psychiatric agencies that are similar to Thresholds, have a similar clientele, and implement a similar program.
All but one of the measures used in this study are well-known instruments in the research literature on psychosocial functioning. All of the instruments were administered as part of a structured interview that an evaluation social worker had with study participants at regular intervals.
Two measures of psychological functioning were used. The Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS)(Overall and Gorham, 1962) is an 18-item scale that measures perceived severity of symptoms ranging from “somatic concern” and “anxiety” to “depressive mood” and “disorientation.” Ratings are given on a 0-to-6 Likert-type response scale where 0=“not present” and 6=“extremely severe” and the scale score is simply the sum of the 18 items. The Global Assessment Scale (GAS)(Endicott et al, 1976) is a single 1-to-100 rating on a scale where each ten-point increment has a detailed description of functioning (higher scores indicate better functioning). For instance, one would give a rating between 91-100 if the person showed “no symptoms, superior functioning…” and a value between 1-10 if the person “needs constant supervision…”
Two measures of self esteem were used. The first is the Rosenberg Self Esteem (RSE) Scale (Rosenberg, 1965), a 10-item scale rated on a 6-point response format where 1=“strongly disagree” and 6=“strongly agree” and there is no neutral point. The total score is simply the sum across the ten items, with five of the items being reversals. The second measure was developed explicitly for this study and was designed to measure the Employment Self Esteem (ESE) of a person with SMI. This is a 10-item scale that uses a 4-point response format where 1=“strongly disagree” and 4=“strongly agree” and there is no neutral point. The final ten items were selected from a pool of 97 original candidate items, based upon high item-total score correlations and a judgment of face validity by a panel of three psychologists. This instrument was deliberately kept simple – a shorter response scale and no reversal items – because of the difficulties associated with measuring a population with SMI. The entire instrument is provided in Appendix A.
All four of the measures evidenced strong reliability and validity. Internal consistency reliability estimates using Cronbach’s alpha ranged from .76 for ESE to .88 for SE. Test-retest reliabilities were nearly as high, ranging from .72 for ESE to .83 for the BPRS. Convergent validity was evidenced by the correlations within construct. For the two psychological functioning scales the correlation was .68 while for the self esteem measures it was somewhat lower at .57. Discriminant validity was examined by looking at the cross-construct correlations which ranged from .18 (BPRS-ESE) to .41 (GAS-SE).
A pretest-posttest two-group randomized experimental design was used in this study. In notational form, the design can be depicted as:
- R = the groups were randomly assigned
- O = the four measures (i.e., BPRS, GAS, RSE, and ESE)
- X = supported employment
The comparison group received the standard Thresholds protocol which emphasized in-house training in life skills and employment in an in-house sheltered workshop. All participants were measured at intake (pretest) and at three months after intake (posttest).
This type of randomized experimental design is generally strong in internal validity. It rules out threats of history, maturation, testing, instrumentation, mortality and selection interactions. Its primary weaknesses are in the potential for treatment-related mortality (i.e., a type of selection-mortality) and for problems that result from the reactions of participants and administrators to knowledge of the varying experimental conditions. In this study, the drop-out rate was 4% (N=9) for the control group and 5% (N=13) in the treatment group. Because these rates are low and are approximately equal in each group, it is not plausible that there is differential mortality. There is a possibility that there were some deleterious effects due to participant knowledge of the other group’s existence (e.g., compensatory rivalry, resentful demoralization). Staff were debriefed at several points throughout the study and were explicitly asked about such issues. There were no reports of any apparent negative feelings from the participants in this regard. Nor is it plausible that staff might have equalized conditions between the two groups. Staff were given extensive training and were monitored throughout the course of the study. Overall, this study can be considered strong with respect to internal validity.
Between 3/1/93 and 2/28/95 each person admitted to Thresholds who met the study inclusion criteria was immediately assigned a random number that gave them a 50/50 chance of being selected into the study sample. For those selected, the purpose of the study was explained, including the nature of the two treatments, and the need for and use of random assignment. Participants were assured confidentiality and were given an opportunity to decline to participate in the study. Only 7 people (out of 491) refused to participate. At intake, each selected sample member was assigned a random number giving them a 50/50 chance of being assigned to either the Supported Employment condition or the standard in-agency sheltered workshop. In addition, all study participants were given the four measures at intake.
All participants spent the initial two weeks in the program in training and orientation. This consisted of life skill training (e.g., handling money, getting around, cooking and nutrition) and job preparation (employee roles, coping strategies). At the end of that period, each participant was assigned to a job site – at the agency sheltered workshop for those in the control condition, and to an outside employer if in the Supported Employment group. Control participants were expected to work full-time at the sheltered workshop for a three-month period, at which point they were posttested and given an opportunity to obtain outside employment (either Supported Employment or not). The Supported Employment participants were each assigned a case worker – called a Mobile Job Support Worker (MJSW) – who met with the person at the job site two times per week for an hour each time. The MJSW could provide any support or assistance deemed necessary to help the person cope with job stress, including counseling or working beside the person for short periods of time. In addition, the MJSW was always accessible by cellular telephone, and could be called by the participant or the employer at any time. At the end of three months, each participant was post-tested and given the option of staying with their current job (with or without Supported Employment) or moving to the sheltered workshop.
There were 484 participants in the final sample for this study, 242 in each treatment. There were 9 drop-outs from the control group and 13 from the treatment group, leaving a total of 233 and 229 in each group respectively from whom both pretest and posttest were obtained. Due to unexpected difficulties in coping with job stress, 19 Supported Employment participants had to be transferred into the sheltered workshop prior to the posttest. In all 19 cases, no one was transferred prior to week 6 of employment, and 15 were transferred after week 8. In all analyses, these cases were included with the Supported Employment group (intent-to-treat analysis) yielding treatment effect estimates that are likely to be conservative.
The major results for the four outcome measures are shown in Figure 1.
Insert Figure 1 about here
It is immediately apparent that in all four cases the null hypothesis has to be accepted – contrary to expectations, Supported Employment cases did significantly worse on all four outcomes than did control participants.
The mean gains, standard deviations, sample sizes and t-values (t-test for differences in average gain) are shown for the four outcome measures in Table 1.
Insert Table 1 about here
The results in the table confirm the impressions in the figures. Note that all t-values are negative except for the BPRS where high scores indicate greater severity of illness. For all four outcomes, the t-values were statistically significant (p<.05).
The results of this study were clearly contrary to initial expectations. The alternative hypothesis suggested that SE participants would show improved psychological functioning and self esteem after three months of employment. Exactly the reverse happened – SE participants showed significantly worse psychological functioning and self esteem.
There are two major possible explanations for this outcome pattern. First, it seems reasonable that there might be a delayed positive or “boomerang” effect of employment outside of a sheltered setting. SE cases may have to go through an initial difficult period of adjustment (longer than three months) before positive effects become apparent. This “you have to get worse before you get better” theory is commonly held in other treatment-contexts like drug addiction and alcoholism. But a second explanation seems more plausible – that people working full-time jobs in real-world settings are almost certainly going to be under greater stress and experience more negative outcomes than those who work in the relatively safe confines of an in-agency sheltered workshop. Put more succinctly, the lesson here might very well be that work is hard. Sheltered workshops are generally very nurturing work environments where virtually all employees share similar illness histories and where expectations about productivity are relatively low. In contrast, getting a job at a local hamburger shop or as a shipping clerk puts the person in contact with co-workers who may not be sympathetic to their histories or forgiving with respect to low productivity. This second explanation seems even more plausible in the wake of informal debriefing sessions held as focus groups with the staff and selected research participants. It was clear in the discussion that SE persons experienced significantly higher job stress levels and more negative consequences. However, most of them also felt that the experience was a good one overall and that even their “normal” co-workers “hated their jobs” most of the time.
One lesson we might take from this study is that much of our contemporary theory in psychiatric rehabilitation is naive at best and, in some cases, may be seriously misleading. Theory led us to believe that outside work was a “good” thing that would naturally lead to “good” outcomes like increased psychological functioning and self esteem. But for most people (SMI or not) work is at best tolerable, especially for the types of low-paying service jobs available to study participants. While people with SMI may not function as well or have high self esteem, we should balance this with the desire they may have to “be like other people” including struggling with the vagaries of life and work that others struggle with.
Future research in this are needs to address the theoretical assumptions about employment outcomes for persons with SMI. It is especially important that attempts to replicate this study also try to measure how SE participants feel about the decision to work, even if traditional outcome indicators suffer. It may very well be that negative outcomes on traditional indicators can be associated with a “positive” impact for the participants and for the society as a whole.
Chadsey-Rusch, J. and Rusch, F.R. (1986). The ecology of the workplace. In J. Chadsey-Rusch, C. Haney-Maxwell, L. A. Phelps and F. R. Rusch (Eds.), School-to-Work Transition Issues and Models. (pp. 59-94), Champaign IL: Transition Institute at Illinois.
Ciardiello, J.A. (1981). Job placement success of schizophrenic clients in sheltered workshop programs. Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Bulletin, 14, 125-128, 140.
Cook, J.A. (1992). Job ending among youth and adults with severe mental illness. Journal of Mental Health Administration, 19(2), 158-169.
Cook, J.A. & Hoffschmidt, S. (1993). Psychosocial rehabilitation programming: A comprehensive model for the 1990’s. In R.W. Flexer and P. Solomon (Eds.), Social and Community Support for People with Severe Mental Disabilities: Service Integration in Rehabilitation and Mental Health. Andover, MA: Andover Publishing.
Cook, J.A., Jonikas, J., & Solomon, M. (1992). Models of vocational rehabilitation for youth and adults with severe mental illness. American Rehabilitation, 18, 3, 6-32.
Cook, J.A. & Razzano, L. (1992). Natural vocational supports for persons with severe mental illness: Thresholds Supported Competitive Employment Program, in L. Stein (ed.), New Directions for Mental Health Services, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 56, 23-41.
Endicott, J.R., Spitzer, J.L. Fleiss, J.L. and Cohen, J. (1976). The Global Assessment Scale: A procedure for measuring overall severity of psychiatric disturbance. Archives of General Psychiatry, 33, 766-771.
Griffiths, R.D. (1974). Rehabilitation of chronic psychotic patients. Psychological Medicine, 4, 316-325.
Overall, J. E. and Gorham, D. R. (1962). The Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. Psychological Reports, 10, 799-812.
Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and Adolescent Self Image. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.
Wehman, P. (1985). Supported competitive employment for persons with severe disabilities. In P. McCarthy, J. Everson, S. Monn & M. Barcus (Eds.), School-to-Work Transition for Youth with Severe Disabilities, (pp. 167-182), Richmond VA: Virginia Commonwealth University.
Whitehead, C.W. (1977). Sheltered Workshop Study: A Nationwide Report on Sheltered Workshops and their Employment of Handicapped Individuals. (Workshop Survey, Volume 1), U.S. Department of Labor Service Publication. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Woest, J., Klein, M. and Atkins, B.J. (1986). An overview of supported employment strategies. Journal of Rehabilitation Administration, 10(4), 130-135.
Figure 1. Pretest and posttest means for treatment (SE) and control groups for the four outcome measures.
The Employment Self Esteem Scale
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with each of the following statements.
Which one are you?
I am new to conjointly, i am already using conjointly.
Organizing Academic Research Papers: 6. The Methodology
- Purpose of Guide
- Design Flaws to Avoid
- Glossary of Research Terms
- 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
- Executive Summary
- Background Information
- The Research Problem/Question
- Theoretical Framework
- Citation Tracking
- Content Alert Services
- Evaluating Sources
- Primary Sources
- Secondary Sources
- Tertiary Sources
- What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
- Qualitative Methods
- Quantitative Methods
- Using Non-Textual Elements
- Limitations of the Study
- Common Grammar Mistakes
- Avoiding Plagiarism
- Footnotes or Endnotes?
- Further Readings
- Annotated Bibliography
- Dealing with Nervousness
- Using Visual Aids
- Grading Someone Else's Paper
- How to Manage Group Projects
- Multiple Book Review Essay
- Reviewing Collected Essays
- About Informed Consent
- Writing Field Notes
- Writing a Policy Memo
- Writing a Research Proposal
The methods section of a research paper provides the information by which a study’s validity is judged. The method section answers two main questions: 1) How was the data collected or generated? 2) How was it analyzed? The writing should be direct and precise and written in the past tense.
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 choose affects the results and, by extension, how you likely interpreted those results.
- Methodology is crucial for any branch of scholarship because an unreliable method produces unreliable results and it misappropriates interpretations of findings .
- In most cases, there are a variety of different methods you can choose to investigate a research problem. Your methodology section of your paper should make clear the reasons why you chose a particular method or procedure .
- 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 questionnaire, readers need to know that it offered your respondents a reasonable range of answers to choose from.
- The research method must be appropriate to the objectives of the study . For example, be sure 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 did arise, you must describe the ways in which their impact was minimized or why these problems do not affect the findings in any way that impacts your interpretation of the data.
- Often in social science research, it is useful for other researchers to adapt or replicate your methodology. Therefore, it is important to always provide sufficient information to allow others to use or replicate the study . This information is particularly important when a new method had been developed or an innovative use of an existing method has been utilized.
Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article . Psychology Writing Center. University of Washington; 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 empirical-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 hypotheses that need to be tested. This approach is focused on explanation .
- The interpretative group is focused on understanding phenomenon in a comprehensive, holistic way . This research method allows you to recognize your connection to the subject under study. Because the interpretative group focuses more on subjective knowledge, it requires careful interpretation of variables.
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 should have a clear connection with 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 unsuited 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.
- 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?
- Provide background and 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 rationale 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 statisics being used? If other data sources exist, explain why the data you chose is most appropriate.
- Address 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.
III. Problems to Avoid
Irrelevant Detail The methodology section of your paper should be thorough but to the point. Don’t provide any background information that doesn’t directly help the reader to understand why a particular method was chosen, how the data was gathered or obtained, and how it was analyzed. 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. NOTE: An exception to this rule is if you select an unconventional approach to doing the method; if this is the case, be sure to explain why this approach was chosen and how it enhances the overall research process. Problem Blindness It is almost a given that you will encounter problems when collecting or generating your data. 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 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; 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; 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; 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.
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 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.
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Research methodology example
- December 17, 2021
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Scientists experiment various social, scientific and other issues. Researcher adopt different available research methodologies that suits their study better.
Research as a scientific tool helps these researchers to measure sample data with as minimum as possible biases and much higher accuracy rate. This helps them to confidently put forth a conclusion to the society knowing that the data gathered is legit and the results drawn from the studies are systematic and statistically sensible.
Researchers adopt various methods of research which best suits their study. In this article we will be seeing various types of research methodology that are classified based on their common features and use.
In this article we will be seeing examples types of research methodology and their basic purpose in a tabular format for better understanding:
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What (Exactly) Is Research Methodology? A Plain-Language Explanation & Definition (With Examples)
By: Derek Jansen (MBA) and Kerryn Warren (PhD) | June 2020
If you’ve started working on your first piece of formal research – be it a dissertation, thesis or research project – you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed by all the technical lingo that gets thrown around. “Research methodology”, “research methods”, “data collection and analysis”… it seems never-ending.
Research Methodology 101
In this post, we’ll explain in plain, straightforward language :
- What exactly research methodology means
- What qualitative , quantitative and mixed methodologies are
- What sampling design is, and what the main sampling options are
- What the most common data collection methods are
- What the most common data analysis methods are
- How to choose your research methodology
What is research methodology?
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:
- What data to collect (and what data to ignore)
- Who to collect it from (in research, this is called “ sampling design ”)
- How to collect it (this is called “ data collection methods ”)
- How to analyse it (this is called “ data analysis methods ”)
In a dissertation, thesis, academic journal article (or pretty much any formal piece of research), you’ll find a research methodology chapter (or section) which covers the aspects mentioned above. Importantly, a good methodology chapter in a dissertation or thesis explains not just what methodological choices were made, but also explains why they were made.
In other words, the methodology chapter should justify the design choices, by showing that the chosen methods and techniques are the best fit for the research aims and objectives, and will provide valid and reliable results. A good research methodology provides scientifically sound findings, whereas a poor methodology doesn’t. We’ll look at the main design choices below.
Need a helping hand?
What are qualitative, quantitative and mixed-method methodologies?
Qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods are different types of methodologies, distinguished by whether they focus on words, numbers or both. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but its a good starting point for understandings. Let’s take a closer look.
Qualitative research refers to research which focuses on collecting and analysing words (written or spoken) and textual data, whereas quantitative research focuses on measurement and testing using numerical data . Qualitative analysis can also focus on other “softer” data points, such as body language or visual elements.
It’s quite common for a qualitative methodology to be used when the research aims and objectives are exploratory in nature. For example, a qualitative methodology might be used to understand peoples’ perceptions about an event that took place, or a candidate running for president.
Contrasted to this, a quantitative methodology is typically used when the research aims and objectives are confirmatory in nature. For example, a quantitative methodology might be used to measure the relationship between two variables (e.g. personality type and likelihood to commit a crime) or to test a set of hypotheses .
As you’ve probably guessed, the mixed-method methodology attempts to combine the best of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to integrate perspectives and create a rich picture.
What are the main sampling design approaches?
As we mentioned earlier, sampling design is about deciding who you’re going to collect your data from (i.e. your sample). There are many sample options, but the two main categories of sampling design are probability sampling and non-probability sampling.
Probability sampling means that you use a completely random sample from the group of people you’re interested in (this group is called the “population”). By using a completely random sample, the results of your study will be generalisable to the entire population. In other words, you can expect the same results across the entire group, without having to collect data from the entire group (which is often not possible for large groups).
Non-probability sampling , on the other hand, doesn’t use a random sample . For example, it might involve using a convenience sample, which means you’d interview or survey people that you have access to (perhaps your friends, family or work colleagues), rather than a truly random sample (which might be difficult to achieve due to resource constraints). With non-probability sampling, the results are typically not generalisable.
What are the main data collection methods?
There are many different options in terms of how you go about collecting data for your study. However, these options can be grouped into the following types:
- Interviews (which can be unstructured, semi-structured or structured)
- Focus groups and group interviews
- Surveys (online or physical surveys)
- Documents and records
- Case studies
The choice of which data collection method to use depends on your overall research aims and objectives , as well as practicalities and resource constraints. For example, if your research is exploratory in nature, qualitative methods such as interviews and focus groups would likely be a good fit. Conversely, if your research aims to measure specific variables or test hypotheses, large-scale surveys that produce large volumes of numerical data would likely be a better fit.
What are the main data analysis methods?
Data analysis methods can be grouped according to whether the research is qualitative or quantitative.
Popular data analysis methods in qualitative research include:
- Qualitative content analysis
- Thematic analysis
- Discourse analysis
- Narrative analysis
- Grounded theory
Qualitative data analysis all begins with data coding , after which one (or more) analysis technique is applied.
Popular data analysis methods in quantitative research include:
- Descriptive statistics (e.g. means, medians, modes)
- Inferential statistics (e.g. correlation, regression, structural equation modelling)
Again, the choice of which data collection method to use depends on your overall research aims and objectives , as well as practicalities and resource constraints.
How do I choose a research methodology?
As you’ve probably picked up by now, your research aims and objectives have a major influence on the research methodology . So, the starting point for developing your research methodology is to take a step back and look at the big picture of your research, before you make methodology decisions. The first question you need to ask yourself is whether your research is exploratory or confirmatory in nature.
If your research aims and objectives are primarily exploratory in nature, your research will likely be qualitative and therefore you might consider qualitative data collection methods (e.g. interviews) and analysis methods (e.g. qualitative content analysis).
Conversely, if your research aims and objective are looking to measure or test something (i.e. they’re confirmatory), then your research will quite likely be quantitative in nature, and you might consider quantitative data collection methods (e.g. surveys) and analyses (e.g. statistical analysis).
Designing your research and working out your methodology is a large topic, which we’ll cover in other posts. For now, however, the key takeaway is that you should always start with your research aims and objectives. Every methodology decision will flow from that.
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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Thank you for this simple yet comprehensive and easy to digest presentation. God Bless!
You’re most welcome, Leo. Best of luck with your research!
I found it very useful. many thanks
This is really directional. A make-easy research knowledge.
Thank you for this, I think will help my research proposal
Thanks for good interpretation,well understood.
Good morning sorry I want to the search topic
Thank u more
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Very educative a.nd exciting platform. A bigger thank you and I’ll like to always be with you
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So simple yet so insightful. Thank you.
This really easy to read as it is self-explanatory. Very much appreciated…
Thanks for this. It’s so helpful and explicit. For those elements highlighted in orange, they were good sources of referrals for concepts I didn’t understand. A million thanks for this.
Thankyou So much Sir Derek…
Good morning thanks so much for the on line lectures am a student of university of Makeni.select a research topic and deliberate on it so that we’ll continue to understand more.sorry that’s a suggestion.
Beautiful presentation. I love it.
please provide a research mehodology example for zoology
It’s very educative and well explained
Thanks for the concise and informative data.
This is really good for students to be safe and well understand that research is all about
Thank you so much Derek sir🖤🙏🤗
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very useful, Thank you very much..
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in a nutshell..thank you!
Thanks for updating my understanding on this aspect of my Thesis writing.
Very simple but yet insightful Thank you
This has been an eye opening experience. Thank you grad coach team.
Very useful message for research scholars
Really very helpful thank you
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Research methodology with a simplest way i have never seen before this article.
wow thank u so much
Good morning thanks so much for the on line lectures am a student of university of Makeni.select a research topic and deliberate on is so that we will continue to understand more.sorry that’s a suggestion.
Very precise and informative.
Thanks for simplifying these terms for us, really appreciate it.
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I found the notes and the presentation assisting and opening my understanding on research methodology
Im so glad you clarified my misconceptions. Im now ready to fry my onions. Thank you so much. God bless
thanks for the easy way of learning and desirable presentation.
Thanks a lot. I am inspired
I am writing a APA Format paper . I using questionnaire with 120 STDs teacher for my participant. Can you write me mthology for this research. Send it through email sent. Just need a sample as an example please. My topic is ” impacts of overcrowding on students learning
Thanks for your comment.
We can’t write your methodology for you. If you’re looking for samples, you should be able to find some sample methodologies on Google. Alternatively, you can download some previous dissertations from a dissertation directory and have a look at the methodology chapters therein.
All the best with your research.
Thank you so much for this!! God Bless
Thank you. Explicit explanation
Thank you, Derek and Kerryn, for making this simple to understand. I’m currently at the inception stage of my research.
Thnks a lot , this was very usefull on my assignment
I’m currently working on my master’s thesis, thanks for this! I’m certain that I will use Qualitative methodology.
Thanks a lot for this concise piece, it was quite relieving and helpful. God bless you BIG…
I am currently doing my dissertation proposal and I am sure that I will do quantitative research. Thank you very much it was extremely helpful.
Very interesting and informative yet I would like to know about examples of Research Questions as well, if possible.
I’m about to submit a research presentation, I have come to understand from your simplification on understanding research methodology. My research will be mixed methodology, qualitative as well as quantitative. So aim and objective of mixed method would be both exploratory and confirmatory. Thanks you very much for your guidance.
OMG thanks for that, you’re a life saver. You covered all the points I needed. Thank you so much ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
Thank you immensely for this simple, easy to comprehend explanation of data collection methods. I have been stuck here for months 😩. Glad I found your piece. Super insightful.
I’m going to write synopsis which will be quantitative research method and I don’t know how to frame my topic, can I kindly get some ideas..
Thanks for this, I was really struggling.
This was really informative I was struggling but this helped me.
Thanks a lot for this information, simple and straightforward. I’m a last year student from the University of South Africa UNISA South Africa.
its very much informative and understandable. I have enlightened.
An interesting nice exploration of a topic.
Thank you. Accurate and simple🥰
This article was really helpful, it helped me understanding the basic concepts of the topic Research Methodology. The examples were very clear, and easy to understand. I would like to visit this website again. Thank you so much for such a great explanation of the subject.
Thank you Doctor Derek for this wonderful piece, please help to provide your details for reference purpose. God bless.
Many compliments to you
Great work , thank you very much for the simple explanation
Thank you. I had to give a presentation on this topic. I have looked everywhere on the internet but this is the best and simple explanation.
thank you, its very informative.
Well explained. Now I know my research methodology will be qualitative and exploratory. Thank you so much, keep up the good work
Well explained, thank you very much.
This is good explanation, I have understood the different methods of research. Thanks a lot.
Great work…very well explanation
Thanks Derek. Kerryn was just fantastic!
Great to hear that, Hyacinth. Best of luck with your research!
Its a good templates very attractive and important to PhD students and lectuter
Thanks for the feedback, Matobela. Good luck with your research methodology.
Thank you. This is really helpful.
You’re very welcome, Elie. Good luck with your research methodology.
Well explained thanks
This is a very helpful site especially for young researchers at college. It provides sufficient information to guide students and equip them with the necessary foundation to ask any other questions aimed at deepening their understanding.
Thanks for the kind words, Edward. Good luck with your research!
Thank you. I have learned a lot.
Great to hear that, Ngwisa. Good luck with your research methodology!
Thank you for keeping your presentation simples and short and covering key information for research methodology. My key takeaway: Start with defining your research objective the other will depend on the aims of your research question.
My name is Zanele I would like to be assisted with my research , and the topic is shortage of nursing staff globally want are the causes , effects on health, patients and community and also globally
Thanks for making it simple and clear. It greatly helped in understanding research methodology. Regards.
This is well simplified and straight to the point
Thank you Dr
I was given an assignment to research 2 publications and describe their research methodology? I don’t know how to start this task can someone help me?
Sure. You’re welcome to book an initial consultation with one of our Research Coaches to discuss how we can assist – https://gradcoach.com/book/new/ .
Thanks a lot I am relieved of a heavy burden.keep up with the good work
I’m very much grateful Dr Derek. I’m planning to pursue one of the careers that really needs one to be very much eager to know. There’s a lot of research to do and everything, but since I’ve gotten this information I will use it to the best of my potential.
Thank you so much, words are not enough to explain how helpful this session has been for me!
Thanks this has thought me alot.
Very concise and helpful. Thanks a lot
Thank Derek. This is very helpful. Your step by step explanation has made it easier for me to understand different concepts. Now i can get on with my research.
I wish i had come across this sooner. So simple but yet insightful
really nice explanation thank you so much
I’m so grateful finding this site, it’s really helpful…….every term well explained and provide accurate understanding especially to student going into an in-depth research for the very first time, even though my lecturer already explained this topic to the class, I think I got the clear and efficient explanation here, much thanks to the author.
It is very helpful material
I would like to be assisted with my research topic : Literature Review and research methodologies. My topic is : what is the relationship between unemployment and economic growth?
Its really nice and good for us.
THANKS SO MUCH FOR EXPLANATION, ITS VERY CLEAR TO ME WHAT I WILL BE DOING FROM NOW .GREAT READS.
Short but sweet.Thank you
Informative article. Thanks for your detailed information.
I’m currently working on my Ph.D. thesis. Thanks a lot, Derek and Kerryn, Well-organized sequences, facilitate the readers’ following.
great article for someone who does not have any background can even understand
I am a bit confused about research design and methodology. Are they the same? If not, what are the differences and how are they related?
Thanks in advance.
concise and informative.
Thank you very much
How can we site this article is Harvard style?
Very well written piece that afforded better understanding of the concept. Thank you!
Am a new researcher trying to learn how best to write a research proposal. I find your article spot on and want to download the free template but finding difficulties. Can u kindly send it to my email, the free download entitled, “Free Download: Research Proposal Template (with Examples)”.
Thank too much
Thank you very much for your comprehensive explanation about research methodology so I like to thank you again for giving us such great things.
Good very well explained.Thanks for sharing it.
Thank u sir, it is really a good guideline.
so helpful thank you very much.
Thanks for the video it was very explanatory and detailed, easy to comprehend and follow up. please, keep it up the good work
It was very helpful, a well-written document with precise information.
how do i reference this?
MLA Jansen, Derek, and Kerryn Warren. “What (Exactly) Is Research Methodology?” Grad Coach, June 2021, gradcoach.com/what-is-research-methodology/.
APA Jansen, D., & Warren, K. (2021, June). What (Exactly) Is Research Methodology? Grad Coach. https://gradcoach.com/what-is-research-methodology/
Your explanation is easily understood. Thank you
Very help article. Now I can go my methodology chapter in my thesis with ease
I feel guided ,Thank you
This simplification is very helpful. It is simple but very educative, thanks ever so much
The write up is informative and educative. It is an academic intellectual representation that every good researcher can find useful. Thanks
Wow, this is wonderful long live.
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Thank you very much for your simple and clear explanations I’m really satisfied by the way you did it By now, I think I can realize a very good article by following your fastidious indications May God bless you
Thanks very much, it was very concise and informational for a beginner like me to gain an insight into what i am about to undertake. I really appreciate.
very informative sir, it is amazing to understand the meaning of question hidden behind that, and simple language is used other than legislature to understand easily. stay happy.
This one is really amazing. All content in your youtube channel is a very helpful guide for doing research. Thanks, GradCoach.
Please send me more information concerning dissertation research.
Nice piece of knowledge shared….. #Thump_UP
This is amazing, it has said it all. Thanks to Gradcoach
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This is the answer I am searching about…
realy thanks a lot
Thank you very much for this awesome, to the point and inclusive article.
Thank you very much I need validity and reliability explanation I have exams
Thank you for a well explained piece. This will help me going forward.
Very simple and well detailed Many thanks
This is so very simple yet so very effective and comprehensive. An Excellent piece of work.
I wish I saw this earlier on! Great insights for a beginner(researcher) like me. Thanks a mil!
Thank you very much, for such a simplified, clear and practical step by step both for academic students and general research work. Holistic, effective to use and easy to read step by step. One can easily apply the steps in practical terms and produce a quality document/up-to standard
Thanks for simplifying these terms for us, really appreciated.
Thanks for a great work. well understood .
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Great and amazing research guidelines. Best site for learning research
hello sir/ma’am, i didn’t find yet that what type of research methodology i am using. because i am writing my report on CSR and collect all my data from websites and articles so which type of methodology i should write in dissertation report. please help me. i am from India.
how does this really work?
perfect content, thanks a lot
As a researcher, I commend you for the detailed and simplified information on the topic in question. I would like to remain in touch for the sharing of research ideas on other topics. Thank you
Impressive. Thank you, Grad Coach 😍
Thank you Grad Coach for this piece of information. I have at least learned about the different types of research methodologies.
Very useful content with easy way
Thank you very much for the presentation. I am an MPH student with the Adventist University of Africa. I have successfully completed my theory and starting on my research this July. My topic is “Factors associated with Dental Caries in (one District) in Botswana. I need help on how to go about this quantitative research
I am so grateful to run across something that was sooo helpful. I have been on my doctorate journey for quite some time. Your breakdown on methodology helped me to refresh my intent. Thank you.
thanks so much for this good lecture. student from university of science and technology, Wudil. Kano Nigeria.
It’s profound easy to understand I appreciate
Thanks a lot for sharing superb information in a detailed but concise manner. It was really helpful and helped a lot in getting into my own research methodology.
Comment * thanks very much
This was sooo helpful for me thank you so much i didn’t even know what i had to write thank you!
You’re most welcome 🙂
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I am nkasa lizwi doing my research proposal on honors with the university of Walter Sisulu Komani I m on part 3 now can you assist me.my topic is: transitional challenges faced by educators in intermediate phase in the Alfred Nzo District.
Appreciate the presentation. Very useful step-by-step guidelines to follow.
I appreciate sir
wow! This is super insightful for me. Thank you!
Indeed this material is very helpful! Kudos writers/authors.
- What Is A Literature Review (In A Dissertation Or Thesis) - Grad Coach - […] the literature review is to inform the choice of methodology for your own research. As we’ve discussed on the Grad Coach blog,…
- Free Download: Research Proposal Template (With Examples) - Grad Coach - […] Research design (methodology) […]
- Dissertation vs Thesis: What's the difference? - Grad Coach - […] and thesis writing on a daily basis – everything from how to find a good research topic to which…
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- Monosyllabic Rhyme
- Optimistic vs Worried Tone
- Serious vs Humorous Tone
- Surprised Tone
- Tone English Langugage
- Analyzing Informational Texts
- Comparing Texts
- Context Cues
- Creative Writing
- Digital Resources
- Ethical Issues In Data Collection
- Formulate Questions
- Internet Search Engines
- Literary Analysis
- Personal Writing
- Print Resources
- Research Process
- Research and Analysis
- Technical Writing
- Action Verbs
- Adjectival Clause
- Adverbial Clause
- Appositive Phrase
- Argument from Authority
- Auditory Description
- Basic Rhetorical Modes
- Begging the Question
- Building Credibility
- Causal Flaw
- Causal Relationships
- Cause and Effect Rhetorical Mode
- Central Idea
- Chronological Description
- Circular Reasoning
- Classical Appeals
- Close Reading
- Coherence Between Sentences
- Coherence within Paragraphs
- Coherences within Sentences
- Complex Rhetorical Modes
- Compound Complex Sentences
- Concrete Adjectives
- Concrete Nouns
- Consistent Voice
- Counter Argument
- Definition by Negation
- Description Rhetorical mode
- Direct Discourse
- Extended Metaphor
- False Connections
- False Dichotomy
- False Equivalence
- Faulty Analogy
- Faulty Causality
- Fear Arousing
- Gustatory Description
- Hasty Generalization
- Induction Rhetoric
- Levels of Coherence
- Line of Reasoning
- Missing the Point
- Modifiers that Qualify
- Modifiers that Specify
- Narration Rhetorical Mode
- Non-Testable Hypothesis
- Objective Description
- Olfactory Description
- Parenthetical Element
- Participial Phrase
- Personal Narrative
- Placement of Modifiers
- Post-Hoc Argument
- Process Analysis Rhetorical Mode
- Red Herring
- Reverse Causation
- Rhetorical Fallacy
- Rhetorical Modes
- Rhetorical Question
- Rhetorical Situation
- Scare Tactics
- Sentimental Appeals
- Situational Irony
- Slippery Slope
- Spatial Description
- Straw Man Argument
- Subject Consistency
- Subjective Description
- Tactile Description
- Tense Consistency
- Tone and Word Choice
- Twisting the Language Around
- Unstated Assumption
- Verbal Irony
- Visual Description
- Authorial Intent
- Authors Technique
- Language Choice
- Prompt Audience
- Prompt Purpose
- Rhetorical Strategies
- Understanding Your Audience
- Auditory Imagery
- Gustatory Imagery
- Olfactory Imagery
- Tactile Imagery
- Main Idea and Supporting Detail
- Statistical Evidence
- Cultural Competence
- Intercultural Communication
- Object Subject Verb
- Subject Verb Object
- Verb Subject Object
- Author Authority
- Direct Quote
- First Paragraph
- Historical Context
- Intended Audience
- Primary Source
- Second Paragraph
- Secondary Source
- Source Material
- Third Paragraph
- Character Analysis
- Citation Analysis
- Text Structure Analysis
- Vocabulary Assessment
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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. Methodology, or making sure you have documented the steps you took, is therefore important in research. The procedure a person follows to conduct research is called a research methodology. It is important to understand the parts of a research methodology to ensure research is organized, credible, and impactful.
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. The definition, then, is:
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
While there are different types of research methodology, 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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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 important because it structures the research proce ss and ensures valid, effective research is conducted. The methodology is also important in research to make sure no steps have been missed (which may undermine your hypothesis) and to prove you followed the ethical guidelines concerning the type of participant chosen.
It is then important that researchers understand how to describe their research methodology to their readers. Writers typically introduce their research methodology in an abstract, which is 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, it is important that researchers 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. Read through the abstract and think about the why, where, who, what, and how as well as the all-important what limitations.
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
--> what is research methodology, --> why is research methodology important.
It is important to follow the parts of a research methodology to ensure research is organized, credible, impactful, and to make sure that the hypothesis is fully supported by the evidence collected and analysed.
--> What is an example of research methodology?
An example of research methodology is a qualitative case study that uses observational field notes and interview transcripts as data.
--> What are the types of research methodology?
The types of research methodology are quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method.
--> What are the important parts to describe in a research methodology?
The parts of a research methodology to describe 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
What is a research methodology?
What is the difference between quantitative and qualitative research methodology?
Quantitative research is based on numerical data and qualitative is based on non-numerical data.
Which type of research seeks to describe a research phenomenon in detail through quantifiable data?
Which of the following is not a part of a research methodology?
Personal experience with the topic
What is ethnography?
The qualitative study of cultural and social phenomena.
What is a hypothesis?
What is a primary source?
Primary sources are sources of original information.
True or False. Descriptive research needs a hypothesis.
False. Descriptive quantitative research does not need to predict the relationships between variables.
True or False. The process of analyzing data is an important part of a research methodology.
What should be included when discussing the research methodology in the abstract of a paper?
The type of research and why it was chosen
The research setting and participants
The data collection process
Limitations to the research
This involves numbers and data.
This involves explaining something using data.
Descriptive quantitative research
Descriptive quantitative research often begins with a hypothesis.
It follows the scientific method, using a hypothesis.
Experimental quantitative research
It is often rooted in social theory.
This is research into individual lives.
Narrative research mostly uses second-hand information.
Research must either be quantitative or qualitative.
Case studies require a great deal of contextualization.
It's where research is conducted.
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The sample methodology in a research paper provides the information to show that the research is valid. It must tell what was done to answer the research question and how the research was done.
To make an acknowledgement in a research paper, a writer should express thanks by using the full or professional names of the people being thanked and should specify exactly how the people being acknowledged helped.
Writing a research paper is a bit more difficult that a standard high school essay. You need to site sources, use academic data and show scientific examples. Before beginning, you’ll need guidelines for how to write 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
The methodology serves as a summary that demonstrates the validity and reliability of your methods, while the methods you detail in this section
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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