What Is Research Methodology?

The ability to conduct research, which is the art of finding information, is an important ability in today’s world. Whether you’re engaged in formal academic research as a student or professional or simply trying to locate information on where to buy something you need or the best vacation spot, research consumes an increasing amount of time in our lives thanks to the amount of information available on the internet. Research is a skill, one that takes time to learn. How should you go about looking for the information you need, and how can you be certain that what you’ve found is accurate and reliable? There are established ways of locating or producing trustworthy information. These are known as research methods or research methodology. Let’s take a look at what research methodology is and isn’t and learn how to choose the appropriate research methodology that is suitable to the task at hand.

What Is Research Methodology?

Research methodology is the underlying framework that guides your research. Research methodology must be systematic and intentional. This does not mean that it needs to be overly complex; it simply means that there must be some thought behind the methods that you choose to base your research on. In the context of academia, an explanation of the research methodology that was followed  forms an essential part of any article or study. The research methodology of an academic publication helps readers understand:

  • What data was collected
  • How the data was collected
  • How the data was analyzed
  • Why was the study conducted the way it was

Why is research methodology important? Let’s take an example. Suppose you are studying the effects of drug X on a specific disease. You find one study that claims drug X is very effective for people who have the disease and another that claims drug X is only effective for people who have not had the disease for very long. In such a case, how do you figure out which study is reliable?

The truth is, although studies sometimes simply find conflicting results, usually, the reasons behind such different results can be found in the research methodology section. There is a possibility that the first study that found drug X to be very effective only studied people who had a milder form of the disease. Perhaps the first study only examined women, while the second study examined an equal number of men and women. Maybe the drug dosages administered to the study group were different in the two studies. All of this information can be found in the research methodology section of a study and is essential for understanding what the research really means and determining how significant the results are.

Types of Research Methodology

There are different types of research methodologies. One methodology is not necessarily better than another. Rather, each methodology is suitable for different purposes. The two main types of research methodologies are quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research methodology generally uses statistics or other such numerical data (tangibles), while qualitative research methodology analyzes beliefs, cultural behaviors, concepts, descriptions, and other similar data (intangibles). The mixed methods research methodology uses both quantitative and qualitative research techniques.

You have likely encountered all three types of research methodologies in your life. Quantitative research methodology examples would include studies like the one above on drug efficacy, with efficacy measured in numerical terms (how much percent did a tumor shrink? how much did the white blood cell count increase? how many days did it take for the patient to regain consciousness?). Qualitative research methods are used to determine how many people support a political policy or how much rising oil prices have impacted food costs for the average consumer.

Qualitative research methodology examples include studies in which people are asked about their perceptions (who they think won an electoral debate, whether they consider themselves middle class), their understanding of an idea (what does kindness mean to you?), or identity concepts (do you consider yourself male, female, or neither?). Quantitative research methods are used to understand phenomena that cannot be easily quantified. Mixed methods research examples include the use of both broad representative survey data and key informant interviews, where the public is asked their opinion on an issue and then experts are interviewed in-depth to provide a bigger picture of the issue.

Selecting and Explaining Your Research Methodology

The primary driving factor behind your choice of research methodology is simple: what do you want to know, and how can you know it. If you want to find out whether American children prefer lemon or apple-flavored candy so that you can sell more candy in the US, perhaps a survey of a representative sample of children would give you your answer in numerical form; therefore, you should choose a quantitative research method. However, if you want to understand why so many engineering terms in Korean are of German and Japanese origin, perhaps a review of historical documents and interviews with engineers in Korea might help, in which case, you should choose a qualitative research method.

When you write a research methodology section in your research study, you will need to make sure that you clearly explain what method you chose, why you chose it, and how you went about implementing it. If you performed a survey among children, how did you find those children? What questions did you ask them? Why did you ask those particular questions? How did you analyze their answers? Did you quantify the data results? How? All of these elements must be included so that readers can both understand what you did and why you did it. Ideally, someone else who reads your study should be able to replicate it exactly after reading your methodology section and examining your data.

Although it sounds a little overwhelming, writing a research methodology section well is not very difficult. If you’re concerned about the technical writing aspect, you can always turn to an online grammar checker like Trinka to make sure that your tone and style are appropriate, technical terms are correctly used, and the writing style is sufficiently formal. As long as you have a clear research question and properly mapped-out strategy to obtain the data you need and analyze it, you have all the necessary elements to write a great research methodology.

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