I. Groups of Research Methods
There are two main groups of research methods in the social sciences:
- The empirical-analytical groupapproaches the study of social sciences in a similar manner that researchers study the natural sciences. This type of research focuses on objective knowledge, research questions that can be answered yes or no, and operational definitions of variables to be measured. The empirical-analytical group employs deductive reasoning that uses existing theory as a foundation for formulating hypotheses that need to be tested. This approach is focused on explanation.
- The interpretative group of methods is focused on understanding phenomenon in a comprehensive, holistic way. Interpretive methods focus on analytically disclosing the meaning-making practices of human subjects [the why, how, or by what means people do what they do], while showing how those practices arrange so that it can be used to generate observable outcomes. Interpretive methods allow you to recognize your connection to the phenomena under investigation. However, the interpretative group requires careful examination of variables because it focuses more on subjective knowledge.
The introduction to your methodology section should begin by restating the research problem and underlying assumptions underpinning your study. This is followed by situating the methods you will use to gather, analyze, and process information within the overall “tradition” of your field of study and within the particular research design you have chosen to study the problem. If the method you choose lies outside of the tradition of your field [i.e., your review of the literature demonstrates that it is not commonly used], provide a justification for how your choice of methods specifically addresses the research problem in ways that have not been utilized in prior studies.
The remainder of your methodology section should describe the following:
- Decisions made in selecting the data you have analyzed or, in the case of qualitative research, the subjects and research setting you have examined,
- Tools and methods used to identify and collect information, and how you identified relevant variables,
- The ways in which you processed the data and the procedures you used to analyze that data, and
- The specific research tools or strategies that you utilized to study the underlying hypothesis and research questions.
In addition, an effectively written methodology section should:
- Introduce the overall methodological approach for investigating your research problem. Is your study qualitative or quantitative or a combination of both (mixed method)? Are you going to take a special approach, such as action research, or a more neutral stance?
- Indicate how the approach fits the overall research design. Your methods for gathering data should have a clear connection to your research problem. In other words, make sure that your methods will actually address the problem. One of the most common deficiencies found in research papers is that the proposed methodology is not suitable to achieving the stated objective of your paper.
- Describe the specific methods of data collection you are going to use, such as, surveys, interviews, questionnaires, observation, archival research. If you are analyzing existing data, such as a data set or archival documents, describe how it was originally created or gathered and by whom. Also be sure to explain how older data is still relevant to investigating the current research problem.
- Explain how you intend to analyze your results. Will you use statistical analysis? Will you use specific theoretical perspectives to help you analyze a text or explain observed behaviors? Describe how you plan to obtain an accurate assessment of relationships, patterns, trends, distributions, and possible contradictions found in the data.
- Provide background and a rationale for methodologies that are unfamiliar for your readers. Very often in the social sciences, research problems and the methods for investigating them require more explanation/rationale than widely accepted rules governing the natural and physical sciences. Be clear and concise in your explanation.
- Provide a justification for subject selection and sampling procedure. For instance, if you propose to conduct interviews, how do you intend to select the sample population? If you are analyzing texts, which texts have you chosen, and why? If you are using statistics, why is this set of data being used? If other data sources exist, explain why the data you chose is most appropriate to addressing the research problem.
- Describe potential limitations. Are there any practical limitations that could affect your data collection? How will you attempt to control for potential confounding variables and errors? If your methodology may lead to problems you can anticipate, state this openly and show why pursuing this methodology outweighs the risk of these problems cropping up.
NOTE: Once you have written all of the elements of the methods section, subsequent revisions should focus on how to present those elements as clearly and as logically as possibly. The description of how you prepared to study the research problem, how you gathered the data, and the protocol for analyzing the data should be organized chronologically. For clarity, when a large amount of detail must be presented, information should be presented in sub-sections according to topic.
ANOTHER NOTE: If you are conducting a qualitative analysis of a research problem, the methodology section generally requires a more elaborate description of the methods used as well as an explanation of the processes applied to gathering and analyzing of data than is generally required for studies using quantitative methods. Because you are the primary instrument for generating the data, the process for collecting that data has a significantly greater impact on producing the findings. Therefore, qualitative research requires a more detailed description of the methods used.
III. Problems to Avoid
The methodology section of your paper should be thorough but to the point. Do not 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. An exception to this rule is if you select an unconventional methodological approach; if this is the case, be sure to explain why this approach was chosen and how it enhances the overall process of discovery.
It is almost a given that you will encounter problems when collecting or generating your data, or, gaps will exist in existing data or archival materials. Do not ignore these problems or pretend they did not occur. Often, documenting how you overcame obstacles can form an interesting part of the methodology. It demonstrates to the reader that you can provide a cogent rationale for the decisions you made to minimize the impact of any problems that arose.
Just as the literature review section of your paper provides an overview of sources you have examined while researching a particular topic, the methodology section should cite any sources that informed your choice and application of a particular method [i.e., the choice of a survey should include any citations to the works you used to help construct the survey].
It’s More than Sources of Information!
A description of a research study's method should not be confused with a description of the sources of information. Such a list of sources is useful in and of itself, especially if it is accompanied by an explanation about the selection and use of the sources. The description of the project's methodology complements a list of sources in that it sets forth the organization and interpretation of information emanating from those sources.
Azevedo, L.F. et al. "How to Write a Scientific Paper: Writing the Methods Section." Revista Portuguesa de Pneumologia 17 (2011): 232-238; Blair Lorrie. “Choosing a Methodology.” In Writing a Graduate Thesis or Dissertation, Teaching Writing Series. (Rotterdam: Sense Publishers 2016), pp. 49-72; Butin, Dan W. The Education Dissertation A Guide for Practitioner Scholars. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010; Carter, Susan. Structuring Your Research Thesis. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012; Kallet, Richard H. “How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper.” Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004):1229-1232; Lunenburg, Frederick C. Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008. Methods Section. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Rudestam, Kjell Erik and Rae R. Newton. “The Method Chapter: Describing Your Research Plan.” In Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process. (Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications, 2015), pp. 87-115; What is Interpretive Research. Institute of Public and International Affairs, University of Utah; Writing the Experimental Report: Methods, Results, and Discussion. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Methods and Materials. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College.
Types of Research
Research can be classified in many different ways on the basis of the methodology of research, the knowledge it creates, the user group, the research problem it investigates etc.
This research is conducted largely for the enhancement of knowledge, and is research which does not have immediate commercial potential. The research which is done for human welfare, animal welfare and plant kingdom welfare. It is called basic, pure, fundamental research. The main motivation here is to expand man's knowledge, not to create or invent something. According to Travers, “Basic Research is designed to add to an organized body of scientific knowledge and does not necessarily produce results of immediate practical value.” Such a research is time and cost intensive. (Example: A experimental research that may not be or will be helpful in the human reproduction process)
Applied research is designed to solve practical problems of the modern world, rather than to acquire knowledge for knowledge's sake. The goal of applied research is to improve the human condition. It focuses on analysis and solving social and real life problems. This research is generally conducted on a large scale basis and is expensive. As such, it is often conducted with the support of some financing agency like the national government, public corporation, world bank, UNICEF, UGC, Etc. According to Hunt, “applied research is an investigation for ways of using scientific knowledge to solve practical problems” for example:- improve agriculture crop production, treat or cure a specific disease, improve the energy efficiency of homes, offices, how can communication among workers in large companies be improved
Problem oriented research
Research is done by industry apex body for sorting out problems faced by all the companies. Eg:- WTO does problem oriented research for developing countries, in India agriculture and processed food export development authority (APEDA) conduct regular research for the benefit of agri-industry.
• As the name indicates, Problem identifying researches are undertaken to know the exact nature of problem that is required to be solved.
• Here, one clarification is needed when we use the term ‘Problem’, it is not a problem in true sense. It is usually a decision making dilemma or it is a need to tackle a particular business situation.
• It could be a difficulty or an opportunity.
For e.g.:-Revenue of Mobile company has decreased by 25% in the last year. The cause of the problem can be any one of the following:
• Poor quality of the product. • Lack of continuous availability. • Not so effective advertising campaign. • High price. • Poor calibre / lack of motivation in sales people/marketing team. • Tough competition from imported brands. • Depressed economic conditions
• In the same case, suppose the prime cause of problem is poor advertising campaign & secondary cause is higher pricing. • To tackle the problem of poor advertising, we have to answer questions like, what can be the new advertising campaign, who can be the brand ambassador, which media, which channel, at what time & during which programme advertisements will be broadcast.
This type of research is done by an individual company for the problem faced by it. Marketing research and market research are the applied research. For eg:- videocon international conducts research to study customer satisfaction level, it will be problem solving research. In short, the main aim of problem solving research is to discover some solution for some pressing practical problem.
This research is based on numeric figures or numbers. Quantitative research aim to measure the quantity or amount and compares it with past records and tries to project for future period. In social sciences, “quantitative research refers to the systematic empirical investigation of quantitative properties and phenomena and their relationships”. The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theories or hypothesis pertaining to phenomena.
The process of measurement is central to quantitative research because it provides fundamental connection between empirical observation and mathematical expression of quantitative relationships. Statistics is the most widely used branch of mathematics in quantitative research. Statistical methods are used extensively with in fields such as economics and commerce.
In sum, the research using the normative approach conducts why may be called quantative research as the inferences from it are largely based on quantative data. Moreover, objectivity is the primary guard so that the research may be replicated by others, if necessary.
Qualtitivity Proke Research
Qualtitivity Proke research presents non-quantitative type of analysis. Qualtitivity Proke research is collecting, analyzing and interpreting data by observing what people do and say. Qualtitivity Proke research refers to the meanings, definitions, characteristics, symbols, metaphors, and description of things. Qualtitivity Proke research is much more subjective and uses very different methods of collecting information,mainly individual, in-depth interviews and focus groups.
The nature of this type of research is exploratory and open ended. Small number of people are interviewed in depth and or a relatively small number of focus groups are conducted. Qualtitivity Proke research can be further classified in the following type.
I. Phenomenology:-a form of research in which the researcher attempts to understand how one or more individuals experience a phenomenon. Eg:-we might interview 20 victims of bhopal tragedy.
II. Ethnography:- this type of research focuses on describing the culture of a group of people. A culture is the shared attributes, values, norms, practices, language, and material things of a group of people. Eg:-the researcher might decide to go and live with the tribal in Andaman island and study the culture and the educational practices.
III. Case study:-is a form of qualitative research that is focused on providing a detailed account of one or more cases. Eg:-we may study a classroom that was given a new curriculum for technology use.
IV. Grounded theory:- it is an inductive type of research,based or grounded in the observations of data from which it was developed; it uses a variety of data sources, including quantitative data, review of records, interviews, observation and surveys
V. Historical research:-it allows one to discuss past and present events in the context of the present condition, and allows one to reflect and provide possible answers to current issues and problems. Eg:-the lending pattern of business in the 19th century.
In addition to the above, we also have the descriptive research. Fundamental research, of which this is based on establishing various theories
Also the research is classified into:
- Descriptive research
- Analytical research
- Fundamental research
- Conceptual research
- Empirical research
- One time research or longitudinal research
- Field-setting research or laboratory research or simulation research
- Clinical or diagnostic research
- Exploratory research
- Historical research
- Conclusion oriented research
- Case study research
- Short term research