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Research Methodology – Types, Examples and writing Guide

Table of Contents

Research Methodology

Research Methodology

Definition:

Research Methodology refers to the systematic and scientific approach used to conduct research, investigate problems, and gather data and information for a specific purpose. It involves the techniques and procedures used to identify, collect , analyze , and interpret data to answer research questions or solve research problems . Moreover, They are philosophical and theoretical frameworks that guide the research process.

Structure of Research Methodology

Research methodology formats can vary depending on the specific requirements of the research project, but the following is a basic example of a structure for a research methodology section:

I. Introduction

  • Provide an overview of the research problem and the need for a research methodology section
  • Outline the main research questions and objectives

II. Research Design

  • Explain the research design chosen and why it is appropriate for the research question(s) and objectives
  • Discuss any alternative research designs considered and why they were not chosen
  • Describe the research setting and participants (if applicable)

III. Data Collection Methods

  • Describe the methods used to collect data (e.g., surveys, interviews, observations)
  • Explain how the data collection methods were chosen and why they are appropriate for the research question(s) and objectives
  • Detail any procedures or instruments used for data collection

IV. Data Analysis Methods

  • Describe the methods used to analyze the data (e.g., statistical analysis, content analysis )
  • Explain how the data analysis methods were chosen and why they are appropriate for the research question(s) and objectives
  • Detail any procedures or software used for data analysis

V. Ethical Considerations

  • Discuss any ethical issues that may arise from the research and how they were addressed
  • Explain how informed consent was obtained (if applicable)
  • Detail any measures taken to ensure confidentiality and anonymity

VI. Limitations

  • Identify any potential limitations of the research methodology and how they may impact the results and conclusions

VII. Conclusion

  • Summarize the key aspects of the research methodology section
  • Explain how the research methodology addresses the research question(s) and objectives

Research Methodology Types

Types of Research Methodology are as follows:

Quantitative Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the collection and analysis of numerical data using statistical methods. This type of research is often used to study cause-and-effect relationships and to make predictions.

Qualitative Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the collection and analysis of non-numerical data such as words, images, and observations. This type of research is often used to explore complex phenomena, to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular topic, and to generate hypotheses.

Mixed-Methods Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that combines elements of both quantitative and qualitative research. This approach can be particularly useful for studies that aim to explore complex phenomena and to provide a more comprehensive understanding of a particular topic.

Case Study Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves in-depth examination of a single case or a small number of cases. Case studies are often used in psychology, sociology, and anthropology to gain a detailed understanding of a particular individual or group.

Action Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves a collaborative process between researchers and practitioners to identify and solve real-world problems. Action research is often used in education, healthcare, and social work.

Experimental Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the manipulation of one or more independent variables to observe their effects on a dependent variable. Experimental research is often used to study cause-and-effect relationships and to make predictions.

Survey Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the collection of data from a sample of individuals using questionnaires or interviews. Survey research is often used to study attitudes, opinions, and behaviors.

Grounded Theory Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the development of theories based on the data collected during the research process. Grounded theory is often used in sociology and anthropology to generate theories about social phenomena.

Research Methodology Example

An Example of Research Methodology could be the following:

Research Methodology for Investigating the Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Reducing Symptoms of Depression in Adults

Introduction:

The aim of this research is to investigate the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in reducing symptoms of depression in adults. To achieve this objective, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) will be conducted using a mixed-methods approach.

Research Design:

The study will follow a pre-test and post-test design with two groups: an experimental group receiving CBT and a control group receiving no intervention. The study will also include a qualitative component, in which semi-structured interviews will be conducted with a subset of participants to explore their experiences of receiving CBT.

Participants:

Participants will be recruited from community mental health clinics in the local area. The sample will consist of 100 adults aged 18-65 years old who meet the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder. Participants will be randomly assigned to either the experimental group or the control group.

Intervention :

The experimental group will receive 12 weekly sessions of CBT, each lasting 60 minutes. The intervention will be delivered by licensed mental health professionals who have been trained in CBT. The control group will receive no intervention during the study period.

Data Collection:

Quantitative data will be collected through the use of standardized measures such as the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7). Data will be collected at baseline, immediately after the intervention, and at a 3-month follow-up. Qualitative data will be collected through semi-structured interviews with a subset of participants from the experimental group. The interviews will be conducted at the end of the intervention period, and will explore participants’ experiences of receiving CBT.

Data Analysis:

Quantitative data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics, t-tests, and mixed-model analyses of variance (ANOVA) to assess the effectiveness of the intervention. Qualitative data will be analyzed using thematic analysis to identify common themes and patterns in participants’ experiences of receiving CBT.

Ethical Considerations:

This study will comply with ethical guidelines for research involving human subjects. Participants will provide informed consent before participating in the study, and their privacy and confidentiality will be protected throughout the study. Any adverse events or reactions will be reported and managed appropriately.

Data Management:

All data collected will be kept confidential and stored securely using password-protected databases. Identifying information will be removed from qualitative data transcripts to ensure participants’ anonymity.

Limitations:

One potential limitation of this study is that it only focuses on one type of psychotherapy, CBT, and may not generalize to other types of therapy or interventions. Another limitation is that the study will only include participants from community mental health clinics, which may not be representative of the general population.

Conclusion:

This research aims to investigate the effectiveness of CBT in reducing symptoms of depression in adults. By using a randomized controlled trial and a mixed-methods approach, the study will provide valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying the relationship between CBT and depression. The results of this study will have important implications for the development of effective treatments for depression in clinical settings.

How to Write Research Methodology

Writing a research methodology involves explaining the methods and techniques you used to conduct research, collect data, and analyze results. It’s an essential section of any research paper or thesis, as it helps readers understand the validity and reliability of your findings. Here are the steps to write a research methodology:

  • Start by explaining your research question: Begin the methodology section by restating your research question and explaining why it’s important. This helps readers understand the purpose of your research and the rationale behind your methods.
  • Describe your research design: Explain the overall approach you used to conduct research. This could be a qualitative or quantitative research design, experimental or non-experimental, case study or survey, etc. Discuss the advantages and limitations of the chosen design.
  • Discuss your sample: Describe the participants or subjects you included in your study. Include details such as their demographics, sampling method, sample size, and any exclusion criteria used.
  • Describe your data collection methods : Explain how you collected data from your participants. This could include surveys, interviews, observations, questionnaires, or experiments. Include details on how you obtained informed consent, how you administered the tools, and how you minimized the risk of bias.
  • Explain your data analysis techniques: Describe the methods you used to analyze the data you collected. This could include statistical analysis, content analysis, thematic analysis, or discourse analysis. Explain how you dealt with missing data, outliers, and any other issues that arose during the analysis.
  • Discuss the validity and reliability of your research : Explain how you ensured the validity and reliability of your study. This could include measures such as triangulation, member checking, peer review, or inter-coder reliability.
  • Acknowledge any limitations of your research: Discuss any limitations of your study, including any potential threats to validity or generalizability. This helps readers understand the scope of your findings and how they might apply to other contexts.
  • Provide a summary: End the methodology section by summarizing the methods and techniques you used to conduct your research. This provides a clear overview of your research methodology and helps readers understand the process you followed to arrive at your findings.

When to Write Research Methodology

Research methodology is typically written after the research proposal has been approved and before the actual research is conducted. It should be written prior to data collection and analysis, as it provides a clear roadmap for the research project.

The research methodology is an important section of any research paper or thesis, as it describes the methods and procedures that will be used to conduct the research. It should include details about the research design, data collection methods, data analysis techniques, and any ethical considerations.

The methodology should be written in a clear and concise manner, and it should be based on established research practices and standards. It is important to provide enough detail so that the reader can understand how the research was conducted and evaluate the validity of the results.

Applications of Research Methodology

Here are some of the applications of research methodology:

  • To identify the research problem: Research methodology is used to identify the research problem, which is the first step in conducting any research.
  • To design the research: Research methodology helps in designing the research by selecting the appropriate research method, research design, and sampling technique.
  • To collect data: Research methodology provides a systematic approach to collect data from primary and secondary sources.
  • To analyze data: Research methodology helps in analyzing the collected data using various statistical and non-statistical techniques.
  • To test hypotheses: Research methodology provides a framework for testing hypotheses and drawing conclusions based on the analysis of data.
  • To generalize findings: Research methodology helps in generalizing the findings of the research to the target population.
  • To develop theories : Research methodology is used to develop new theories and modify existing theories based on the findings of the research.
  • To evaluate programs and policies : Research methodology is used to evaluate the effectiveness of programs and policies by collecting data and analyzing it.
  • To improve decision-making: Research methodology helps in making informed decisions by providing reliable and valid data.

Purpose of Research Methodology

Research methodology serves several important purposes, including:

  • To guide the research process: Research methodology provides a systematic framework for conducting research. It helps researchers to plan their research, define their research questions, and select appropriate methods and techniques for collecting and analyzing data.
  • To ensure research quality: Research methodology helps researchers to ensure that their research is rigorous, reliable, and valid. It provides guidelines for minimizing bias and error in data collection and analysis, and for ensuring that research findings are accurate and trustworthy.
  • To replicate research: Research methodology provides a clear and detailed account of the research process, making it possible for other researchers to replicate the study and verify its findings.
  • To advance knowledge: Research methodology enables researchers to generate new knowledge and to contribute to the body of knowledge in their field. It provides a means for testing hypotheses, exploring new ideas, and discovering new insights.
  • To inform decision-making: Research methodology provides evidence-based information that can inform policy and decision-making in a variety of fields, including medicine, public health, education, and business.

Advantages of Research Methodology

Research methodology has several advantages that make it a valuable tool for conducting research in various fields. Here are some of the key advantages of research methodology:

  • Systematic and structured approach : Research methodology provides a systematic and structured approach to conducting research, which ensures that the research is conducted in a rigorous and comprehensive manner.
  • Objectivity : Research methodology aims to ensure objectivity in the research process, which means that the research findings are based on evidence and not influenced by personal bias or subjective opinions.
  • Replicability : Research methodology ensures that research can be replicated by other researchers, which is essential for validating research findings and ensuring their accuracy.
  • Reliability : Research methodology aims to ensure that the research findings are reliable, which means that they are consistent and can be depended upon.
  • Validity : Research methodology ensures that the research findings are valid, which means that they accurately reflect the research question or hypothesis being tested.
  • Efficiency : Research methodology provides a structured and efficient way of conducting research, which helps to save time and resources.
  • Flexibility : Research methodology allows researchers to choose the most appropriate research methods and techniques based on the research question, data availability, and other relevant factors.
  • Scope for innovation: Research methodology provides scope for innovation and creativity in designing research studies and developing new research techniques.

Research Methodology Vs Research Methods

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Here's What You Need to Understand About Research Methodology

Deeptanshu D

Table of Contents

Research methodology involves a systematic and well-structured approach to conducting scholarly or scientific inquiries. Knowing the significance of research methodology and its different components is crucial as it serves as the basis for any study.

Typically, your research topic will start as a broad idea you want to investigate more thoroughly. Once you’ve identified a research problem and created research questions , you must choose the appropriate methodology and frameworks to address those questions effectively.

What is the definition of a research methodology?

Research methodology is the process or the way you intend to execute your study. The methodology section of a research paper outlines how you plan to conduct your study. It covers various steps such as collecting data, statistical analysis, observing participants, and other procedures involved in the research process

The methods section should give a description of the process that will convert your idea into a study. Additionally, the outcomes of your process must provide valid and reliable results resonant with the aims and objectives of your research. This thumb rule holds complete validity, no matter whether your paper has inclinations for qualitative or quantitative usage.

Studying research methods used in related studies can provide helpful insights and direction for your own research. Now easily discover papers related to your topic on SciSpace and utilize our AI research assistant, Copilot , to quickly review the methodologies applied in different papers.

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The need for a good research methodology

While deciding on your approach towards your research, the reason or factors you weighed in choosing a particular problem and formulating a research topic need to be validated and explained. A research methodology helps you do exactly that. Moreover, a good research methodology lets you build your argument to validate your research work performed through various data collection methods, analytical methods, and other essential points.

Just imagine it as a strategy documented to provide an overview of what you intend to do.

While undertaking any research writing or performing the research itself, you may get drifted in not something of much importance. In such a case, a research methodology helps you to get back to your outlined work methodology.

A research methodology helps in keeping you accountable for your work. Additionally, it can help you evaluate whether your work is in sync with your original aims and objectives or not. Besides, a good research methodology enables you to navigate your research process smoothly and swiftly while providing effective planning to achieve your desired results.

What is the basic structure of a research methodology?

Usually, you must ensure to include the following stated aspects while deciding over the basic structure of your research methodology:

1. Your research procedure

Explain what research methods you’re going to use. Whether you intend to proceed with quantitative or qualitative, or a composite of both approaches, you need to state that explicitly. The option among the three depends on your research’s aim, objectives, and scope.

2. Provide the rationality behind your chosen approach

Based on logic and reason, let your readers know why you have chosen said research methodologies. Additionally, you have to build strong arguments supporting why your chosen research method is the best way to achieve the desired outcome.

3. Explain your mechanism

The mechanism encompasses the research methods or instruments you will use to develop your research methodology. It usually refers to your data collection methods. You can use interviews, surveys, physical questionnaires, etc., of the many available mechanisms as research methodology instruments. The data collection method is determined by the type of research and whether the data is quantitative data(includes numerical data) or qualitative data (perception, morale, etc.) Moreover, you need to put logical reasoning behind choosing a particular instrument.

4. Significance of outcomes

The results will be available once you have finished experimenting. However, you should also explain how you plan to use the data to interpret the findings. This section also aids in understanding the problem from within, breaking it down into pieces, and viewing the research problem from various perspectives.

5. Reader’s advice

Anything that you feel must be explained to spread more awareness among readers and focus groups must be included and described in detail. You should not just specify your research methodology on the assumption that a reader is aware of the topic.  

All the relevant information that explains and simplifies your research paper must be included in the methodology section. If you are conducting your research in a non-traditional manner, give a logical justification and list its benefits.

6. Explain your sample space

Include information about the sample and sample space in the methodology section. The term "sample" refers to a smaller set of data that a researcher selects or chooses from a larger group of people or focus groups using a predetermined selection method. Let your readers know how you are going to distinguish between relevant and non-relevant samples. How you figured out those exact numbers to back your research methodology, i.e. the sample spacing of instruments, must be discussed thoroughly.

For example, if you are going to conduct a survey or interview, then by what procedure will you select the interviewees (or sample size in case of surveys), and how exactly will the interview or survey be conducted.

7. Challenges and limitations

This part, which is frequently assumed to be unnecessary, is actually very important. The challenges and limitations that your chosen strategy inherently possesses must be specified while you are conducting different types of research.

The importance of a good research methodology

You must have observed that all research papers, dissertations, or theses carry a chapter entirely dedicated to research methodology. This section helps maintain your credibility as a better interpreter of results rather than a manipulator.

A good research methodology always explains the procedure, data collection methods and techniques, aim, and scope of the research. In a research study, it leads to a well-organized, rationality-based approach, while the paper lacking it is often observed as messy or disorganized.

You should pay special attention to validating your chosen way towards the research methodology. This becomes extremely important in case you select an unconventional or a distinct method of execution.

Curating and developing a strong, effective research methodology can assist you in addressing a variety of situations, such as:

  • When someone tries to duplicate or expand upon your research after few years.
  • If a contradiction or conflict of facts occurs at a later time. This gives you the security you need to deal with these contradictions while still being able to defend your approach.
  • Gaining a tactical approach in getting your research completed in time. Just ensure you are using the right approach while drafting your research methodology, and it can help you achieve your desired outcomes. Additionally, it provides a better explanation and understanding of the research question itself.
  • Documenting the results so that the final outcome of the research stays as you intended it to be while starting.

Instruments you could use while writing a good research methodology

As a researcher, you must choose which tools or data collection methods that fit best in terms of the relevance of your research. This decision has to be wise.

There exists many research equipments or tools that you can use to carry out your research process. These are classified as:

a. Interviews (One-on-One or a Group)

An interview aimed to get your desired research outcomes can be undertaken in many different ways. For example, you can design your interview as structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. What sets them apart is the degree of formality in the questions. On the other hand, in a group interview, your aim should be to collect more opinions and group perceptions from the focus groups on a certain topic rather than looking out for some formal answers.

In surveys, you are in better control if you specifically draft the questions you seek the response for. For example, you may choose to include free-style questions that can be answered descriptively, or you may provide a multiple-choice type response for questions. Besides, you can also opt to choose both ways, deciding what suits your research process and purpose better.

c. Sample Groups

Similar to the group interviews, here, you can select a group of individuals and assign them a topic to discuss or freely express their opinions over that. You can simultaneously note down the answers and later draft them appropriately, deciding on the relevance of every response.

d. Observations

If your research domain is humanities or sociology, observations are the best-proven method to draw your research methodology. Of course, you can always include studying the spontaneous response of the participants towards a situation or conducting the same but in a more structured manner. A structured observation means putting the participants in a situation at a previously decided time and then studying their responses.

Of all the tools described above, it is you who should wisely choose the instruments and decide what’s the best fit for your research. You must not restrict yourself from multiple methods or a combination of a few instruments if appropriate in drafting a good research methodology.

Types of research methodology

A research methodology exists in various forms. Depending upon their approach, whether centered around words, numbers, or both, methodologies are distinguished as qualitative, quantitative, or an amalgamation of both.

1. Qualitative research methodology

When a research methodology primarily focuses on words and textual data, then it is generally referred to as qualitative research methodology. This type is usually preferred among researchers when the aim and scope of the research are mainly theoretical and explanatory.

The instruments used are observations, interviews, and sample groups. You can use this methodology if you are trying to study human behavior or response in some situations. Generally, qualitative research methodology is widely used in sociology, psychology, and other related domains.

2. Quantitative research methodology

If your research is majorly centered on data, figures, and stats, then analyzing these numerical data is often referred to as quantitative research methodology. You can use quantitative research methodology if your research requires you to validate or justify the obtained results.

In quantitative methods, surveys, tests, experiments, and evaluations of current databases can be advantageously used as instruments If your research involves testing some hypothesis, then use this methodology.

3. Amalgam methodology

As the name suggests, the amalgam methodology uses both quantitative and qualitative approaches. This methodology is used when a part of the research requires you to verify the facts and figures, whereas the other part demands you to discover the theoretical and explanatory nature of the research question.

The instruments for the amalgam methodology require you to conduct interviews and surveys, including tests and experiments. The outcome of this methodology can be insightful and valuable as it provides precise test results in line with theoretical explanations and reasoning.

The amalgam method, makes your work both factual and rational at the same time.

Final words: How to decide which is the best research methodology?

If you have kept your sincerity and awareness intact with the aims and scope of research well enough, you must have got an idea of which research methodology suits your work best.

Before deciding which research methodology answers your research question, you must invest significant time in reading and doing your homework for that. Taking references that yield relevant results should be your first approach to establishing a research methodology.

Moreover, you should never refrain from exploring other options. Before setting your work in stone, you must try all the available options as it explains why the choice of research methodology that you finally make is more appropriate than the other available options.

You should always go for a quantitative research methodology if your research requires gathering large amounts of data, figures, and statistics. This research methodology will provide you with results if your research paper involves the validation of some hypothesis.

Whereas, if  you are looking for more explanations, reasons, opinions, and public perceptions around a theory, you must use qualitative research methodology.The choice of an appropriate research methodology ultimately depends on what you want to achieve through your research.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Research Methodology

1. how to write a research methodology.

You can always provide a separate section for research methodology where you should specify details about the methods and instruments used during the research, discussions on result analysis, including insights into the background information, and conveying the research limitations.

2. What are the types of research methodology?

There generally exists four types of research methodology i.e.

  • Observation
  • Experimental
  • Derivational

3. What is the true meaning of research methodology?

The set of techniques or procedures followed to discover and analyze the information gathered to validate or justify a research outcome is generally called Research Methodology.

4. Where lies the importance of research methodology?

Your research methodology directly reflects the validity of your research outcomes and how well-informed your research work is. Moreover, it can help future researchers cite or refer to your research if they plan to use a similar research methodology.

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  • What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips

What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips

Published on 25 February 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 10 October 2022.

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.

It should include:

  • The type of research you conducted
  • How you collected and analysed your data
  • Any tools or materials you used in the research
  • 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 ).

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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.

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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.

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 ?

Once you have introduced your reader to your methodological approach, you should share full details about your data collection methods .

Quantitative methods

In order to be considered generalisable, you should describe quantitative research methods in enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study.

Here, explain how you operationalised your concepts and measured your variables. Discuss your sampling method or inclusion/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 4–8 July 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.

Qualitative methods

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 analyse?
  • How did you select them?

In order to gain better insight into possibilities for future improvement of the fitness shop’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.

Mixed methods

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 here.

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Next, you should indicate how you processed and analysed 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 analysing 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 : Categorising 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 behaviours, but they are effective for testing causal relationships between variables .
  • Qualitative: Unstructured interviews usually produce results that cannot be generalised 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 generalisable.

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. Developing your methodology involves studying the research methods used in your field and the theories or principles that underpin them, in order to choose the approach that best matches your objectives.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyse data (e.g. interviews, experiments , surveys , statistical tests ).

In a dissertation or scientific paper, the methodology chapter or methods section comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion .

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 test a hypothesis by systematically collecting and analysing data, while qualitative methods allow you to explore ideas and experiences in depth.

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.

Statistical sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population. There are various sampling methods you can use to ensure that your sample is representative of the population as a whole.

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How To Choose Your Research Methodology

Qualitative vs quantitative vs mixed methods.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA). Expert Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2021

Without a doubt, one of the most common questions we receive at Grad Coach is “ How do I choose the right methodology for my research? ”. It’s easy to see why – with so many options on the research design table, it’s easy to get intimidated, especially with all the complex lingo!

In this post, we’ll explain the three overarching types of research – qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods – and how you can go about choosing the best methodological approach for your research.

Overview: Choosing Your Methodology

Understanding the options – Qualitative research – Quantitative research – Mixed methods-based research

Choosing a research methodology – Nature of the research – Research area norms – Practicalities

Free Webinar: Research Methodology 101

1. Understanding the options

Before we jump into the question of how to choose a research methodology, it’s useful to take a step back to understand the three overarching types of research – qualitative , quantitative and mixed methods -based research. Each of these options takes a different methodological approach.

Qualitative research utilises data that is not numbers-based. In other words, qualitative research focuses on words , descriptions , concepts or ideas – while quantitative research makes use of numbers and statistics. Qualitative research investigates the “softer side” of things to explore and describe, while quantitative research focuses on the “hard numbers”, to measure differences between variables and the relationships between them.

Importantly, qualitative research methods are typically used to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of a situation – to draw a rich picture . In contrast to this, quantitative methods are usually used to confirm or test hypotheses . In other words, they have distinctly different purposes. The table below highlights a few of the key differences between qualitative and quantitative research – you can learn more about the differences here.

  • Uses an inductive approach
  • Is used to build theories
  • Takes a subjective approach
  • Adopts an open and flexible approach
  • The researcher is close to the respondents
  • Interviews and focus groups are oftentimes used to collect word-based data.
  • Generally, draws on small sample sizes
  • Uses qualitative data analysis techniques (e.g. content analysis , thematic analysis , etc)
  • Uses a deductive approach
  • Is used to test theories
  • Takes an objective approach
  • Adopts a closed, highly planned approach
  • The research is disconnected from respondents
  • Surveys or laboratory equipment are often used to collect number-based data.
  • Generally, requires large sample sizes
  • Uses statistical analysis techniques to make sense of the data

Mixed methods -based research, as you’d expect, attempts to bring these two types of research together, drawing on both qualitative and quantitative data. Quite often, mixed methods-based studies will use qualitative research to explore a situation and develop a potential model of understanding (this is called a conceptual framework), and then go on to use quantitative methods to test that model empirically.

In other words, while qualitative and quantitative methods (and the philosophies that underpin them) are completely different, they are not at odds with each other. It’s not a competition of qualitative vs quantitative. On the contrary, they can be used together to develop a high-quality piece of research. Of course, this is easier said than done, so we usually recommend that first-time researchers stick to a single approach , unless the nature of their study truly warrants a mixed-methods approach.

The key takeaway here, and the reason we started by looking at the three options, is that it’s important to understand that each methodological approach has a different purpose – for example, to explore and understand situations (qualitative), to test and measure (quantitative) or to do both. They’re not simply alternative tools for the same job. 

Right – now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at how you can go about choosing the right methodology for your research.

Methodology choices in research

2. How to choose a research methodology

To choose the right research methodology for your dissertation or thesis, you need to consider three important factors . Based on these three factors, you can decide on your overarching approach – qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. Once you’ve made that decision, you can flesh out the finer details of your methodology, such as the sampling , data collection methods and analysis techniques (we discuss these separately in other posts ).

The three factors you need to consider are:

  • The nature of your research aims, objectives and research questions
  • The methodological approaches taken in the existing literature
  • Practicalities and constraints

Let’s take a look at each of these.

Factor #1: The nature of your research

As I mentioned earlier, each type of research (and therefore, research methodology), whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed, has a different purpose and helps solve a different type of question. So, it’s logical that the key deciding factor in terms of which research methodology you adopt is the nature of your research aims, objectives and research questions .

But, what types of research exist?

Broadly speaking, research can fall into one of three categories:

  • Exploratory – getting a better understanding of an issue and potentially developing a theory regarding it
  • Confirmatory – confirming a potential theory or hypothesis by testing it empirically
  • A mix of both – building a potential theory or hypothesis and then testing it

As a rule of thumb, exploratory research tends to adopt a qualitative approach , whereas confirmatory research tends to use quantitative methods . This isn’t set in stone, but it’s a very useful heuristic. Naturally then, research that combines a mix of both, or is seeking to develop a theory from the ground up and then test that theory, would utilize a mixed-methods approach.

Exploratory vs confirmatory research

Let’s look at an example in action.

If your research aims were to understand the perspectives of war veterans regarding certain political matters, you’d likely adopt a qualitative methodology, making use of interviews to collect data and one or more qualitative data analysis methods to make sense of the data.

If, on the other hand, your research aims involved testing a set of hypotheses regarding the link between political leaning and income levels, you’d likely adopt a quantitative methodology, using numbers-based data from a survey to measure the links between variables and/or constructs .

So, the first (and most important thing) thing you need to consider when deciding which methodological approach to use for your research project is the nature of your research aims , objectives and research questions. Specifically, you need to assess whether your research leans in an exploratory or confirmatory direction or involves a mix of both.

The importance of achieving solid alignment between these three factors and your methodology can’t be overstated. If they’re misaligned, you’re going to be forcing a square peg into a round hole. In other words, you’ll be using the wrong tool for the job, and your research will become a disjointed mess.

If your research is a mix of both exploratory and confirmatory, but you have a tight word count limit, you may need to consider trimming down the scope a little and focusing on one or the other. One methodology executed well has a far better chance of earning marks than a poorly executed mixed methods approach. So, don’t try to be a hero, unless there is a very strong underpinning logic.

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methodology of research work

Factor #2: The disciplinary norms

Choosing the right methodology for your research also involves looking at the approaches used by other researchers in the field, and studies with similar research aims and objectives to yours. Oftentimes, within a discipline, there is a common methodological approach (or set of approaches) used in studies. While this doesn’t mean you should follow the herd “just because”, you should at least consider these approaches and evaluate their merit within your context.

A major benefit of reviewing the research methodologies used by similar studies in your field is that you can often piggyback on the data collection techniques that other (more experienced) researchers have developed. For example, if you’re undertaking a quantitative study, you can often find tried and tested survey scales with high Cronbach’s alphas. These are usually included in the appendices of journal articles, so you don’t even have to contact the original authors. By using these, you’ll save a lot of time and ensure that your study stands on the proverbial “shoulders of giants” by using high-quality measurement instruments .

Of course, when reviewing existing literature, keep point #1 front of mind. In other words, your methodology needs to align with your research aims, objectives and questions. Don’t fall into the trap of adopting the methodological “norm” of other studies just because it’s popular. Only adopt that which is relevant to your research.

Factor #3: Practicalities

When choosing a research methodology, there will always be a tension between doing what’s theoretically best (i.e., the most scientifically rigorous research design ) and doing what’s practical , given your constraints . This is the nature of doing research and there are always trade-offs, as with anything else.

But what constraints, you ask?

When you’re evaluating your methodological options, you need to consider the following constraints:

  • Data access
  • Equipment and software
  • Your knowledge and skills

Let’s look at each of these.

Constraint #1: Data access

The first practical constraint you need to consider is your access to data . If you’re going to be undertaking primary research , you need to think critically about the sample of respondents you realistically have access to. For example, if you plan to use in-person interviews , you need to ask yourself how many people you’ll need to interview, whether they’ll be agreeable to being interviewed, where they’re located, and so on.

If you’re wanting to undertake a quantitative approach using surveys to collect data, you’ll need to consider how many responses you’ll require to achieve statistically significant results. For many statistical tests, a sample of a few hundred respondents is typically needed to develop convincing conclusions.

So, think carefully about what data you’ll need access to, how much data you’ll need and how you’ll collect it. The last thing you want is to spend a huge amount of time on your research only to find that you can’t get access to the required data.

Constraint #2: Time

The next constraint is time. If you’re undertaking research as part of a PhD, you may have a fairly open-ended time limit, but this is unlikely to be the case for undergrad and Masters-level projects. So, pay attention to your timeline, as the data collection and analysis components of different methodologies have a major impact on time requirements . Also, keep in mind that these stages of the research often take a lot longer than originally anticipated.

Another practical implication of time limits is that it will directly impact which time horizon you can use – i.e. longitudinal vs cross-sectional . For example, if you’ve got a 6-month limit for your entire research project, it’s quite unlikely that you’ll be able to adopt a longitudinal time horizon. 

Constraint #3: Money

As with so many things, money is another important constraint you’ll need to consider when deciding on your research methodology. While some research designs will cost near zero to execute, others may require a substantial budget .

Some of the costs that may arise include:

  • Software costs – e.g. survey hosting services, analysis software, etc.
  • Promotion costs – e.g. advertising a survey to attract respondents
  • Incentive costs – e.g. providing a prize or cash payment incentive to attract respondents
  • Equipment rental costs – e.g. recording equipment, lab equipment, etc.
  • Travel costs
  • Food & beverages

These are just a handful of costs that can creep into your research budget. Like most projects, the actual costs tend to be higher than the estimates, so be sure to err on the conservative side and expect the unexpected. It’s critically important that you’re honest with yourself about these costs, or you could end up getting stuck midway through your project because you’ve run out of money.

Budgeting for your research

Constraint #4: Equipment & software

Another practical consideration is the hardware and/or software you’ll need in order to undertake your research. Of course, this variable will depend on the type of data you’re collecting and analysing. For example, you may need lab equipment to analyse substances, or you may need specific analysis software to analyse statistical data. So, be sure to think about what hardware and/or software you’ll need for each potential methodological approach, and whether you have access to these.

Constraint #5: Your knowledge and skillset

The final practical constraint is a big one. Naturally, the research process involves a lot of learning and development along the way, so you will accrue knowledge and skills as you progress. However, when considering your methodological options, you should still consider your current position on the ladder.

Some of the questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Am I more of a “numbers person” or a “words person”?
  • How much do I know about the analysis methods I’ll potentially use (e.g. statistical analysis)?
  • How much do I know about the software and/or hardware that I’ll potentially use?
  • How excited am I to learn new research skills and gain new knowledge?
  • How much time do I have to learn the things I need to learn?

Answering these questions honestly will provide you with another set of criteria against which you can evaluate the research methodology options you’ve shortlisted.

So, as you can see, there is a wide range of practicalities and constraints that you need to take into account when you’re deciding on a research methodology. These practicalities create a tension between the “ideal” methodology and the methodology that you can realistically pull off. This is perfectly normal, and it’s your job to find the option that presents the best set of trade-offs.

Recap: Choosing a methodology

In this post, we’ve discussed how to go about choosing a research methodology. The three major deciding factors we looked at were:

  • Exploratory
  • Confirmatory
  • Combination
  • Research area norms
  • Hardware and software
  • Your knowledge and skillset

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. If you’d like a helping hand with your research methodology, check out our 1-on-1 research coaching service , or book a free consultation with a friendly Grad Coach.

methodology of research work

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This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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Research methodology example

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What is research methodology?

methodology of research work

The basics of research methodology

Why do you need a research methodology, what needs to be included, why do you need to document your research method, what are the different types of research instruments, qualitative / quantitative / mixed research methodologies, how do you choose the best research methodology for you, frequently asked questions about research methodology, related articles.

When you’re working on your first piece of academic research, there are many different things to focus on, and it can be overwhelming to stay on top of everything. This is especially true of budding or inexperienced researchers.

If you’ve never put together a research proposal before or find yourself in a position where you need to explain your research methodology decisions, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

Once you understand the ins and outs, handling academic research in the future will be less intimidating. We break down the basics below:

A research methodology encompasses the way in which you intend to carry out your research. This includes how you plan to tackle things like collection methods, statistical analysis, participant observations, and more.

You can think of your research methodology as being a formula. One part will be how you plan on putting your research into practice, and another will be why you feel this is the best way to approach it. Your research methodology is ultimately a methodological and systematic plan to resolve your research problem.

In short, you are explaining how you will take your idea and turn it into a study, which in turn will produce valid and reliable results that are in accordance with the aims and objectives of your research. This is true whether your paper plans to make use of qualitative methods or quantitative methods.

The purpose of a research methodology is to explain the reasoning behind your approach to your research - you'll need to support your collection methods, methods of analysis, and other key points of your work.

Think of it like writing a plan or an outline for you what you intend to do.

When carrying out research, it can be easy to go off-track or depart from your standard methodology.

Tip: Having a methodology keeps you accountable and on track with your original aims and objectives, and gives you a suitable and sound plan to keep your project manageable, smooth, and effective.

With all that said, how do you write out your standard approach to a research methodology?

As a general plan, your methodology should include the following information:

  • Your research method.  You need to state whether you plan to use quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, or mixed-method research methods. This will often be determined by what you hope to achieve with your research.
  • Explain your reasoning. Why are you taking this methodological approach? Why is this particular methodology the best way to answer your research problem and achieve your objectives?
  • Explain your instruments.  This will mainly be about your collection methods. There are varying instruments to use such as interviews, physical surveys, questionnaires, for example. Your methodology will need to detail your reasoning in choosing a particular instrument for your research.
  • What will you do with your results?  How are you going to analyze the data once you have gathered it?
  • Advise your reader.  If there is anything in your research methodology that your reader might be unfamiliar with, you should explain it in more detail. For example, you should give any background information to your methods that might be relevant or provide your reasoning if you are conducting your research in a non-standard way.
  • How will your sampling process go?  What will your sampling procedure be and why? For example, if you will collect data by carrying out semi-structured or unstructured interviews, how will you choose your interviewees and how will you conduct the interviews themselves?
  • Any practical limitations?  You should discuss any limitations you foresee being an issue when you’re carrying out your research.

In any dissertation, thesis, or academic journal, you will always find a chapter dedicated to explaining the research methodology of the person who carried out the study, also referred to as the methodology section of the work.

A good research methodology will explain what you are going to do and why, while a poor methodology will lead to a messy or disorganized approach.

You should also be able to justify in this section your reasoning for why you intend to carry out your research in a particular way, especially if it might be a particularly unique method.

Having a sound methodology in place can also help you with the following:

  • When another researcher at a later date wishes to try and replicate your research, they will need your explanations and guidelines.
  • In the event that you receive any criticism or questioning on the research you carried out at a later point, you will be able to refer back to it and succinctly explain the how and why of your approach.
  • It provides you with a plan to follow throughout your research. When you are drafting your methodology approach, you need to be sure that the method you are using is the right one for your goal. This will help you with both explaining and understanding your method.
  • It affords you the opportunity to document from the outset what you intend to achieve with your research, from start to finish.

A research instrument is a tool you will use to help you collect, measure and analyze the data you use as part of your research.

The choice of research instrument will usually be yours to make as the researcher and will be whichever best suits your methodology.

There are many different research instruments you can use in collecting data for your research.

Generally, they can be grouped as follows:

  • Interviews (either as a group or one-on-one). You can carry out interviews in many different ways. For example, your interview can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. The difference between them is how formal the set of questions is that is asked of the interviewee. In a group interview, you may choose to ask the interviewees to give you their opinions or perceptions on certain topics.
  • Surveys (online or in-person). In survey research, you are posing questions in which you ask for a response from the person taking the survey. You may wish to have either free-answer questions such as essay-style questions, or you may wish to use closed questions such as multiple choice. You may even wish to make the survey a mixture of both.
  • Focus Groups.  Similar to the group interview above, you may wish to ask a focus group to discuss a particular topic or opinion while you make a note of the answers given.
  • Observations.  This is a good research instrument to use if you are looking into human behaviors. Different ways of researching this include studying the spontaneous behavior of participants in their everyday life, or something more structured. A structured observation is research conducted at a set time and place where researchers observe behavior as planned and agreed upon with participants.

These are the most common ways of carrying out research, but it is really dependent on your needs as a researcher and what approach you think is best to take.

It is also possible to combine a number of research instruments if this is necessary and appropriate in answering your research problem.

There are three different types of methodologies, and they are distinguished by whether they focus on words, numbers, or both.

➡️ Want to learn more about the differences between qualitative and quantitative research, and how to use both methods? Check out our guide for that!

If you've done your due diligence, you'll have an idea of which methodology approach is best suited to your research.

It’s likely that you will have carried out considerable reading and homework before you reach this point and you may have taken inspiration from other similar studies that have yielded good results.

Still, it is important to consider different options before setting your research in stone. Exploring different options available will help you to explain why the choice you ultimately make is preferable to other methods.

If proving your research problem requires you to gather large volumes of numerical data to test hypotheses, a quantitative research method is likely to provide you with the most usable results.

If instead you’re looking to try and learn more about people, and their perception of events, your methodology is more exploratory in nature and would therefore probably be better served using a qualitative research methodology.

It helps to always bring things back to the question: what do I want to achieve with my research?

Once you have conducted your research, you need to analyze it. Here are some helpful guides for qualitative data analysis:

➡️  How to do a content analysis

➡️  How to do a thematic analysis

➡️  How to do a rhetorical analysis

Research methodology refers to the techniques used to find and analyze information for a study, ensuring that the results are valid, reliable and that they address the research objective.

Data can typically be organized into four different categories or methods: observational, experimental, simulation, and derived.

Writing a methodology section is a process of introducing your methods and instruments, discussing your analysis, providing more background information, addressing your research limitations, and more.

Your research methodology section will need a clear research question and proposed research approach. You'll need to add a background, introduce your research question, write your methodology and add the works you cited during your data collecting phase.

The research methodology section of your study will indicate how valid your findings are and how well-informed your paper is. It also assists future researchers planning to use the same methodology, who want to cite your study or replicate it.

Rhetorical analysis illustration

  • How it works

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Research Methodology

The research methodology is a part of your research paper that describes your research process in detail. It would help if you always tried to make the section of the research methodology enjoyable.

As you describe the procedure that has already been completed, you need to write it in the past tense.

Your research methodology should explain:

What was the purpose of your research?

What type of research method is used?

What were the data collecting methods?

How did you analyze the data?

What kind of resources has been used in your research?

Why did you choose these methods?

How to Write a Research Methodology?

Start writing your research methodology with the research problem giving a clear picture of your study’s purpose. It’ll help your readers focus on the research objectives and understand the remaining procedure of your research.

You should explain:

What type of research have you conducted?

The types of research can be categorized from the following perspectives;

Application of the study

Aim of the research

Mode of inquiry

Research approach

While talking about the research methods, you should highlight the key points, such as:

  • The objective of choosing a specific research method.
  • Is the purpose of the study fulfilled?
  • The criteria of validity and reliability
  • Did you meet the ethical considerations?

What kind of data gathering methods you’ve used in your research?

There are three types of data collecting methods such as:

Qualitative Method

Qualitative research is based on quality, and it looks in-depth at non-numerical data. It enables us to understand the comprehensive details of the problem. The researcher prepares open-ended questions to gather as much information as possible.

Quantitative Method

The quantitative research is associated with the aspects of measurement, quantity, and extent. It follows the statistical, mathematical, and computational techniques in numerical data such as percentages and statistics. The research is conducted on a large group of population.

Mixed Methods

When you combine quantitative and qualitative methods of research, the resulting approach becomes mixed methods of research.

Example: In quantitative correlation research , you aim to identify the cause-and-effect relationship between two or more variables. It would help if you also focused on explaining the difference between correlation and causation.
Example: In a qualitative research case study , your research’s focus is to find answers to how and why questions. You need to collect data collection from multiple sources over time. You need to analyse real-world problems in-depth, then you can use the method of the case study.

Describe the Research Methods

After explaining the research method you have used, you should describe the data collection methods you used. Mention the procedure and materials you used in your research.

Qualitative Methods

Interview/Focus Group Discussion

Describe the details and criteria of the interviews and. You should include the following points:

The type of questionnaire you have used in your interview.

The procedure for selecting participants.

The size of your sample (number of participation)

The duration and location of interviews.

Observation

Describe the procedure of your observation and include the following points:

Who were the participants of your observation?

How did you get access to that specific group?

How did you record the data? (written form, audio or video recording)

Archival Data

Here you have to describe the existing data you’ve’ used. You should explain:

What type of resources have you used? (texts, images, audio, videos)

  • How did you get access to them?
To seek in-depth information about the stress level among men and women, semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten men and ten women of company X. The participants were aged between 20-40. The interviews were held in the canteen to create a stress-free environment that lasted 15 minutes each. The responses were written and filmed.

Quantitative Methods

Describe the entire procedure of your survey. Include the following points:

What type of survey have you conducted? (Questionnaire/interview/ rating scale/ Online Survey)

Who were the participants of your survey? How did you select them?

What was the sample size ?

What type of questions you’ve used in your survey? (open-ended/closed-ended)

How many questions have you used?

What was the response rate of the participants?

Experiments

Explain the detailed procedure you have followed in your experiment. Try to provide as much information you can provide. Include the following points:

The type of your experimental design .

Sampling method you’ve used to select subjects.

Tools and techniques used in the experiment.

The way you identified a cause-and-effect relationship between the variables.

Describe the existing data you’ve used in your research. Include the following points:

  • What type of resources have you used? (journals, newspapers, books, online content)
  • Who is the author of the source?
  • Who published it? When?
The survey included ten multiple-choice questions and ten open-ended questions. The survey’s objective is to determine the stress level of working women who have to deal with household responsibilities. From 17-20 Jan 2018, between 11:00 to 13:00, the survey questionnaire was distributed among the women at the working counters. The participants were given 10 minutes to fill the questionnaire. Out of 500 participants, 450 responded, and 350 were included in the analysis.

Describe Methods of Data Analysis

In this section, you should briefly describe the methods you’ve used to analyse the data you’ve collected.

The qualitative method includes analysing language, images, audio, videos, or any textual data (textual analysis). The following types of methods are used in textual analysis .

Discourse analysis : Discourse analysis is an essential aspect of studying a language and its uses in day-to-day life.

Content analysis : It is a method of studying and retrieving meaningful information from documents

Thematic analysis: It’s a method of identifying patterns of themes in the collected information, such as face-to-face interviews, texts, and transcripts.

Example: After collecting the data, it was checked thoroughly to find the missing information. The interviews were transcribed, and textual analysis was conducted. The repetitions of the text, types of colours displayed, the tone of the speakers was measured.

Quantitative data analysis is used for analysing numerical data. Include the following points:

The methods of preparing data before analysing it.

Which statistical test you have used? (one-ended test, two-ended test)

The type of software you’ve used.

After collecting the data, it was checked thoroughly to find out the missing information. The coding system was used to interpret the data.

Provide Background and Justification

Many research methods are available, from standard to an averaged approach based on the requirements and abilities. In the research methodology section, it’s essential to mention the reasons behind selecting a specific research method.

You should also explain why you did not choose any other standard approach to your topic when it fits your requirements. Talk about your research objectives and highlight the points that could affect your research procedure if you select another research method.

You can discuss the limitations of other research methods compared to your research requirements and the method you’ve used.

Ethnographic research requires a lot of time, and one has to struggle a lot to gain access to the community. A researcher has to spend time with the target group in their natural environment. Sometimes, it’s difficult for a researcher to introduce himself as a researcher/participant with the community.
The online survey does not provide reliable responses. The only benefit of conducting an online survey would be its quick response rate and cost-effectiveness.

Points to Remember while Writing Methodology

While writing your methodology, you need to keep in mind that you don’t need to make it complicated with unnecessary details.

The aim of your writing a research methodology is not merely discussing the methods and techniques you’ve used.

You have to provide a detailed account of the procedure you’ve followed, the obstacles you faced, and the way you overcome them.

Your research question and objectives of the research are the base of your research. You should discuss the objectives and explain how this specific method helped you answer your research question. You can use goals and outcomes as evidence to support your discussion.

If you’ve used any standard method in your research, you don’t need to provide many details about it as it would be common in your field. However, if you’ve used any specific approach rarely used in your field, you should explain it in detail. Your explanation and information can help other researchers in their research.

Your methodology should be well-structured and easy to understand, with all the necessary information, evidence to support your argument.

After gathering the data, it’s essential to credit the sources you have used in your research. Mention the resources you’ve used, the way you got access to those resources. Use any suitable referencing style to cite sources such as APA, MLA, and Chicago, etc.

All Articles in this Category

Research methods for dissertation – types with comparison, qualitative vs quantitative research – a comprehensive guide, types of variables – a comprehensive guide, a complete guide to experimental research, ethnographic research – complete guide with examples, a quick guide to case study with examples, discourse analysis – a definitive guide with steps & types, action research for my dissertation – the do’s and the don’ts, methods of data collection – guide with tips, inductive and deductive reasoning – examples & limitations, hypothesis testing – a complete guide with examples, correlational research – steps & examples, how to conduct surveys – guide with examples, a quick guide to textual analysis – definition & steps, thematic analysis – a guide with examples, historical research – a guide based on its uses & steps, types of research – tips and examples, reliability and validity – definitions, types & examples, sampling methods – a guide with examples, a quick guide to descriptive research, tips to transcribe an interview – a guide with tips & examples, what is content analysis – steps & examples, primary vs secondary research – a guide with examples, what are confounding variables, advantages of secondary research – a definitive guide, disadvantages of secondary research – a definitive guide, advantages of primary research – types & advantages, disadvantages of primary research, meta-analysis – guide with definition, steps & examples, popular articles in this category.

The methodology is perhaps the most challenging and laborious part of research work. Here is a guide on how to write the methodology chapter for the dissertation!

Struggling to figure out “whether I should choose primary research or secondary research in my dissertation?” Here are some tips to help you decide.

The authenticity of the dissertation is largely influenced by the research method employed. Here we present the most notable research methods for dissertation.

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • 6. The Methodology
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
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  • Academic Writing Style
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  • Research Process Video Series
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  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
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  • Limitations of the Study
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The methods section describes actions taken to investigate a research problem and the rationale for the application of specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information applied to understanding the problem, thereby, allowing the reader to critically evaluate a study’s overall validity and reliability. The methodology section of a research paper answers two main questions: How was the data collected or generated? And, how was it analyzed? The writing should be direct and precise and always written in the past tense.

Kallet, Richard H. "How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper." Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004): 1229-1232.

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 chose affects the results and, by extension, how you interpreted their significance in the discussion section of your paper.
  • Methodology is crucial for any branch of scholarship because an unreliable method produces unreliable results and, as a consequence, undermines the value of your analysis of the findings.
  • In most cases, there are a variety of different methods you can choose to investigate a research problem. The methodology section of your paper should clearly articulate the reasons why you have chosen a particular procedure or technique.
  • 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 multiple choice questionnaire, readers need to know that it offered your respondents a reasonable range of answers to choose from.
  • The method must be appropriate to fulfilling the overall aims of the study. For example, you need to ensure that 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 do arise, you must describe the ways in which they were minimized or why these problems do not impact in any meaningful way your interpretation of the findings.
  • In the social and behavioral sciences, it is important to always provide sufficient information to allow other researchers to adopt or replicate your methodology. This information is particularly important when a new method has been developed or an innovative use of an existing method is utilized.

Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Psychology Writing Center. University of Washington; Denscombe, Martyn. The Good Research Guide: For Small-Scale Social Research Projects . 5th edition. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 2014; 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 e mpirical-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 formulating hypotheses that need to be tested. This approach is focused on explanation.
  • The i nterpretative 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.

II.  Content

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 used 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 the method 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.
  • Provide a justification for case study selection . A common method of analyzing research problems in the social sciences is to analyze specific cases. These can be a person, place, event, phenomenon, or other type of subject of analysis that are either examined as a singular topic of in-depth investigation or multiple topics of investigation studied for the purpose of comparing or contrasting findings. In either method, you should explain why a case or cases were chosen and how they specifically relate to 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. If necessary, consider using appendices for raw data.

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 [e.g., through interviews or observations], 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.

YET ANOTHER NOTE :   If your study involves interviews, observations, or other qualitative techniques involving human subjects , you may be required to obtain approval from the university's Office for the Protection of Research Subjects before beginning your research. This is not a common procedure for most undergraduate level student research assignments. However, i f your professor states you need approval, you must include a statement in your methods section that you received official endorsement and adequate informed consent from the office and that there was a clear assessment and minimization of risks to participants and to the university. This statement informs the reader that your study was conducted in an ethical and responsible manner. In some cases, the approval notice is included as an appendix to your paper.

III.  Problems to Avoid

Irrelevant Detail The methodology section of your paper should be thorough but concise. Do not provide any background information that does not directly help the reader understand why a particular method was chosen, how the data was gathered or obtained, and how the data was analyzed in relation to the research problem [note: analyzed, not interpreted! Save how you interpreted the findings for the discussion section]. With this in mind, the page length of your methods section will generally be less than any other section of your paper except the conclusion.

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.

Problem Blindness 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.

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 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.

Writing Tip

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.

To locate data and statistics, GO HERE .

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 the application of 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.

Yet Another Writing Tip

Methods and the Methodology

Do not confuse the terms "methods" and "methodology." As Schneider notes, a method refers to the technical steps taken to do research . Descriptions of methods usually include defining and stating why you have chosen specific techniques to investigate a research problem, followed by an outline of the procedures you used to systematically select, gather, and process the data [remember to always save the interpretation of data for the discussion section of your paper].

The methodology refers to a discussion of the underlying reasoning why particular methods were used . This discussion includes describing the theoretical concepts that inform the choice of methods to be applied, placing the choice of methods within the more general nature of academic work, and reviewing its relevance to examining the research problem. The methodology section also includes a thorough review of the methods other scholars have used to study the topic.

Bryman, Alan. "Of Methods and Methodology." Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal 3 (2008): 159-168; Schneider, Florian. “What's in a Methodology: The Difference between Method, Methodology, and Theory…and How to Get the Balance Right?” PoliticsEastAsia.com. Chinese Department, University of Leiden, Netherlands.

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Research Methodologies

  • What are research designs?

What are research methodologies?

Quantitative research methodologies, qualitative research methodologies, mixed method methodologies, selecting a methodology.

  • What are research methods?
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According to Dawson (2019),a research methodology is the primary principle that will guide your research.  It becomes the general approach in conducting research on your topic and determines what research method you will use. A research methodology is different from a research method because research methods are the tools you use to gather your data (Dawson, 2019).  You must consider several issues when it comes to selecting the most appropriate methodology for your topic.  Issues might include research limitations and ethical dilemmas that might impact the quality of your research.  Descriptions of each type of methodology are included below.

Quantitative research methodologies are meant to create numeric statistics by using survey research to gather data (Dawson, 2019).  This approach tends to reach a larger amount of people in a shorter amount of time.  According to Labaree (2020), there are three parts that make up a quantitative research methodology:

  • Sample population
  • How you will collect your data (this is the research method)
  • How you will analyze your data

Once you decide on a methodology, you can consider the method to which you will apply your methodology.

Qualitative research methodologies examine the behaviors, opinions, and experiences of individuals through methods of examination (Dawson, 2019).  This type of approach typically requires less participants, but more time with each participant.  It gives research subjects the opportunity to provide their own opinion on a certain topic.

Examples of Qualitative Research Methodologies

  • Action research:  This is when the researcher works with a group of people to improve something in a certain environment.  It is a common approach for research in organizational management, community development, education, and agriculture (Dawson, 2019).
  • Ethnography:  The process of organizing and describing cultural behaviors (Dawson, 2019).  Researchers may immerse themselves into another culture to receive in "inside look" into the group they are studying.  It is often a time consuming process because the researcher will do this for a long period of time.  This can also be called "participant observation" (Dawson, 2019).
  • Feminist research:  The goal of this methodology is to study topics that have been dominated by male test subjects.  It aims to study females and compare the results to previous studies that used male participants (Dawson, 2019).
  • Grounded theory:  The process of developing a theory to describe a phenomenon strictly through the data results collected in a study.  It is different from other research methodologies where the researcher attempts to prove a hypothesis that they create before collecting data.  Popular research methods for this approach include focus groups and interviews (Dawson, 2019).

A mixed methodology allows you to implement the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative research methods.  In some cases, you may find that your research project would benefit from this.  This approach is beneficial because it allows each methodology to counteract the weaknesses of the other (Dawson, 2019).  You should consider this option carefully, as it can make your research complicated if not planned correctly.

What should you do to decide on a research methodology?  The most logical way to determine your methodology is to decide whether you plan on conducting qualitative or qualitative research.  You also have the option to implement a mixed methods approach.  Looking back on Dawson's (2019) five "W's" on the previous page , may help you with this process.  You should also look for key words that indicate a specific type of research methodology in your hypothesis or proposal.  Some words may lean more towards one methodology over another.

Quantitative Research Key Words

  • How satisfied

Qualitative Research Key Words

  • Experiences
  • Thoughts/Think
  • Relationship
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  • What Is a Research Design | Types, Guide & Examples

What Is a Research Design | Types, Guide & Examples

Published on June 7, 2021 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023 by Pritha Bhandari.

A research design is a strategy for answering your   research question  using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about:

  • Your overall research objectives and approach
  • Whether you’ll rely on primary research or secondary research
  • Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
  • Your data collection methods
  • The procedures you’ll follow to collect data
  • Your data analysis methods

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research objectives and that you use the right kind of analysis for your data.

Table of contents

Step 1: consider your aims and approach, step 2: choose a type of research design, step 3: identify your population and sampling method, step 4: choose your data collection methods, step 5: plan your data collection procedures, step 6: decide on your data analysis strategies, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research design.

  • Introduction

Before you can start designing your research, you should already have a clear idea of the research question you want to investigate.

There are many different ways you could go about answering this question. Your research design choices should be driven by your aims and priorities—start by thinking carefully about what you want to achieve.

The first choice you need to make is whether you’ll take a qualitative or quantitative approach.

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible and inductive , allowing you to adjust your approach based on what you find throughout the research process.

Quantitative research designs tend to be more fixed and deductive , with variables and hypotheses clearly defined in advance of data collection.

It’s also possible to use a mixed-methods design that integrates aspects of both approaches. By combining qualitative and quantitative insights, you can gain a more complete picture of the problem you’re studying and strengthen the credibility of your conclusions.

Practical and ethical considerations when designing research

As well as scientific considerations, you need to think practically when designing your research. If your research involves people or animals, you also need to consider research ethics .

  • How much time do you have to collect data and write up the research?
  • Will you be able to gain access to the data you need (e.g., by travelling to a specific location or contacting specific people)?
  • Do you have the necessary research skills (e.g., statistical analysis or interview techniques)?
  • Will you need ethical approval ?

At each stage of the research design process, make sure that your choices are practically feasible.

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methodology of research work

Within both qualitative and quantitative approaches, there are several types of research design to choose from. Each type provides a framework for the overall shape of your research.

Types of quantitative research designs

Quantitative designs can be split into four main types.

  • Experimental and   quasi-experimental designs allow you to test cause-and-effect relationships
  • Descriptive and correlational designs allow you to measure variables and describe relationships between them.

With descriptive and correlational designs, you can get a clear picture of characteristics, trends and relationships as they exist in the real world. However, you can’t draw conclusions about cause and effect (because correlation doesn’t imply causation ).

Experiments are the strongest way to test cause-and-effect relationships without the risk of other variables influencing the results. However, their controlled conditions may not always reflect how things work in the real world. They’re often also more difficult and expensive to implement.

Types of qualitative research designs

Qualitative designs are less strictly defined. This approach is about gaining a rich, detailed understanding of a specific context or phenomenon, and you can often be more creative and flexible in designing your research.

The table below shows some common types of qualitative design. They often have similar approaches in terms of data collection, but focus on different aspects when analyzing the data.

Your research design should clearly define who or what your research will focus on, and how you’ll go about choosing your participants or subjects.

In research, a population is the entire group that you want to draw conclusions about, while a sample is the smaller group of individuals you’ll actually collect data from.

Defining the population

A population can be made up of anything you want to study—plants, animals, organizations, texts, countries, etc. In the social sciences, it most often refers to a group of people.

For example, will you focus on people from a specific demographic, region or background? Are you interested in people with a certain job or medical condition, or users of a particular product?

The more precisely you define your population, the easier it will be to gather a representative sample.

  • Sampling methods

Even with a narrowly defined population, it’s rarely possible to collect data from every individual. Instead, you’ll collect data from a sample.

To select a sample, there are two main approaches: probability sampling and non-probability sampling . The sampling method you use affects how confidently you can generalize your results to the population as a whole.

Probability sampling is the most statistically valid option, but it’s often difficult to achieve unless you’re dealing with a very small and accessible population.

For practical reasons, many studies use non-probability sampling, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations and carefully consider potential biases. You should always make an effort to gather a sample that’s as representative as possible of the population.

Case selection in qualitative research

In some types of qualitative designs, sampling may not be relevant.

For example, in an ethnography or a case study , your aim is to deeply understand a specific context, not to generalize to a population. Instead of sampling, you may simply aim to collect as much data as possible about the context you are studying.

In these types of design, you still have to carefully consider your choice of case or community. You should have a clear rationale for why this particular case is suitable for answering your research question .

For example, you might choose a case study that reveals an unusual or neglected aspect of your research problem, or you might choose several very similar or very different cases in order to compare them.

Data collection methods are ways of directly measuring variables and gathering information. They allow you to gain first-hand knowledge and original insights into your research problem.

You can choose just one data collection method, or use several methods in the same study.

Survey methods

Surveys allow you to collect data about opinions, behaviors, experiences, and characteristics by asking people directly. There are two main survey methods to choose from: questionnaires and interviews .

Observation methods

Observational studies allow you to collect data unobtrusively, observing characteristics, behaviors or social interactions without relying on self-reporting.

Observations may be conducted in real time, taking notes as you observe, or you might make audiovisual recordings for later analysis. They can be qualitative or quantitative.

Other methods of data collection

There are many other ways you might collect data depending on your field and topic.

If you’re not sure which methods will work best for your research design, try reading some papers in your field to see what kinds of data collection methods they used.

Secondary data

If you don’t have the time or resources to collect data from the population you’re interested in, you can also choose to use secondary data that other researchers already collected—for example, datasets from government surveys or previous studies on your topic.

With this raw data, you can do your own analysis to answer new research questions that weren’t addressed by the original study.

Using secondary data can expand the scope of your research, as you may be able to access much larger and more varied samples than you could collect yourself.

However, it also means you don’t have any control over which variables to measure or how to measure them, so the conclusions you can draw may be limited.

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As well as deciding on your methods, you need to plan exactly how you’ll use these methods to collect data that’s consistent, accurate, and unbiased.

Planning systematic procedures is especially important in quantitative research, where you need to precisely define your variables and ensure your measurements are high in reliability and validity.

Operationalization

Some variables, like height or age, are easily measured. But often you’ll be dealing with more abstract concepts, like satisfaction, anxiety, or competence. Operationalization means turning these fuzzy ideas into measurable indicators.

If you’re using observations , which events or actions will you count?

If you’re using surveys , which questions will you ask and what range of responses will be offered?

You may also choose to use or adapt existing materials designed to measure the concept you’re interested in—for example, questionnaires or inventories whose reliability and validity has already been established.

Reliability and validity

Reliability means your results can be consistently reproduced, while validity means that you’re actually measuring the concept you’re interested in.

For valid and reliable results, your measurement materials should be thoroughly researched and carefully designed. Plan your procedures to make sure you carry out the same steps in the same way for each participant.

If you’re developing a new questionnaire or other instrument to measure a specific concept, running a pilot study allows you to check its validity and reliability in advance.

Sampling procedures

As well as choosing an appropriate sampling method , you need a concrete plan for how you’ll actually contact and recruit your selected sample.

That means making decisions about things like:

  • How many participants do you need for an adequate sample size?
  • What inclusion and exclusion criteria will you use to identify eligible participants?
  • How will you contact your sample—by mail, online, by phone, or in person?

If you’re using a probability sampling method , it’s important that everyone who is randomly selected actually participates in the study. How will you ensure a high response rate?

If you’re using a non-probability method , how will you avoid research bias and ensure a representative sample?

Data management

It’s also important to create a data management plan for organizing and storing your data.

Will you need to transcribe interviews or perform data entry for observations? You should anonymize and safeguard any sensitive data, and make sure it’s backed up regularly.

Keeping your data well-organized will save time when it comes to analyzing it. It can also help other researchers validate and add to your findings (high replicability ).

On its own, raw data can’t answer your research question. The last step of designing your research is planning how you’ll analyze the data.

Quantitative data analysis

In quantitative research, you’ll most likely use some form of statistical analysis . With statistics, you can summarize your sample data, make estimates, and test hypotheses.

Using descriptive statistics , you can summarize your sample data in terms of:

  • The distribution of the data (e.g., the frequency of each score on a test)
  • The central tendency of the data (e.g., the mean to describe the average score)
  • The variability of the data (e.g., the standard deviation to describe how spread out the scores are)

The specific calculations you can do depend on the level of measurement of your variables.

Using inferential statistics , you can:

  • Make estimates about the population based on your sample data.
  • Test hypotheses about a relationship between variables.

Regression and correlation tests look for associations between two or more variables, while comparison tests (such as t tests and ANOVAs ) look for differences in the outcomes of different groups.

Your choice of statistical test depends on various aspects of your research design, including the types of variables you’re dealing with and the distribution of your data.

Qualitative data analysis

In qualitative research, your data will usually be very dense with information and ideas. Instead of summing it up in numbers, you’ll need to comb through the data in detail, interpret its meanings, identify patterns, and extract the parts that are most relevant to your research question.

Two of the most common approaches to doing this are thematic analysis and discourse analysis .

There are many other ways of analyzing qualitative data depending on the aims of your research. To get a sense of potential approaches, try reading some qualitative research papers in your field.

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A research design is a strategy for answering your   research question . It defines your overall approach and determines how you will collect and analyze data.

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims, that you collect high-quality data, and that you use the right kind of analysis to answer your questions, utilizing credible sources . This allows you to draw valid , trustworthy conclusions.

Quantitative research designs can be divided into two main categories:

  • Correlational and descriptive designs are used to investigate characteristics, averages, trends, and associations between variables.
  • Experimental and quasi-experimental designs are used to test causal relationships .

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible. Common types of qualitative design include case study , ethnography , and grounded theory designs.

The priorities of a research design can vary depending on the field, but you usually have to specify:

  • Your research questions and/or hypotheses
  • Your overall approach (e.g., qualitative or quantitative )
  • The type of design you’re using (e.g., a survey , experiment , or case study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., questionnaires , observations)
  • Your data collection procedures (e.g., operationalization , timing and data management)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical tests  or thematic analysis )

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.

Operationalization means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.

For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioral avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalize the variables that you want to measure.

A research project is an academic, scientific, or professional undertaking to answer a research question . Research projects can take many forms, such as qualitative or quantitative , descriptive , longitudinal , experimental , or correlational . What kind of research approach you choose will depend on your topic.

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What is Research Methodology? Definition, Types, and Examples

methodology of research work

Research methodology 1,2 is a structured and scientific approach used to collect, analyze, and interpret quantitative or qualitative data to answer research questions or test hypotheses. A research methodology is like a plan for carrying out research and helps keep researchers on track by limiting the scope of the research. Several aspects must be considered before selecting an appropriate research methodology, such as research limitations and ethical concerns that may affect your research.

The research methodology section in a scientific paper describes the different methodological choices made, such as the data collection and analysis methods, and why these choices were selected. The reasons should explain why the methods chosen are the most appropriate to answer the research question. A good research methodology also helps ensure the reliability and validity of the research findings. There are three types of research methodology—quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method, which can be chosen based on the research objectives.

What is research methodology ?

A research methodology describes the techniques and procedures used to identify and analyze information regarding a specific research topic. It is a process by which researchers design their study so that they can achieve their objectives using the selected research instruments. It includes all the important aspects of research, including research design, data collection methods, data analysis methods, and the overall framework within which the research is conducted. While these points can help you understand what is research methodology, you also need to know why it is important to pick the right methodology.

Why is research methodology important?

Having a good research methodology in place has the following advantages: 3

  • Helps other researchers who may want to replicate your research; the explanations will be of benefit to them.
  • You can easily answer any questions about your research if they arise at a later stage.
  • A research methodology provides a framework and guidelines for researchers to clearly define research questions, hypotheses, and objectives.
  • It helps researchers identify the most appropriate research design, sampling technique, and data collection and analysis methods.
  • A sound research methodology helps researchers ensure that their findings are valid and reliable and free from biases and errors.
  • It also helps ensure that ethical guidelines are followed while conducting research.
  • A good research methodology helps researchers in planning their research efficiently, by ensuring optimum usage of their time and resources.

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Types of research methodology.

There are three types of research methodology based on the type of research and the data required. 1

  • Quantitative research methodology focuses on measuring and testing numerical data. This approach is good for reaching a large number of people in a short amount of time. This type of research helps in testing the causal relationships between variables, making predictions, and generalizing results to wider populations.
  • Qualitative research methodology examines the opinions, behaviors, and experiences of people. It collects and analyzes words and textual data. This research methodology requires fewer participants but is still more time consuming because the time spent per participant is quite large. This method is used in exploratory research where the research problem being investigated is not clearly defined.
  • Mixed-method research methodology uses the characteristics of both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies in the same study. This method allows researchers to validate their findings, verify if the results observed using both methods are complementary, and explain any unexpected results obtained from one method by using the other method.

What are the types of sampling designs in research methodology?

Sampling 4 is an important part of a research methodology and involves selecting a representative sample of the population to conduct the study, making statistical inferences about them, and estimating the characteristics of the whole population based on these inferences. There are two types of sampling designs in research methodology—probability and nonprobability.

  • Probability sampling

In this type of sampling design, a sample is chosen from a larger population using some form of random selection, that is, every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. The different types of probability sampling are:

  • Systematic —sample members are chosen at regular intervals. It requires selecting a starting point for the sample and sample size determination that can be repeated at regular intervals. This type of sampling method has a predefined range; hence, it is the least time consuming.
  • Stratified —researchers divide the population into smaller groups that don’t overlap but represent the entire population. While sampling, these groups can be organized, and then a sample can be drawn from each group separately.
  • Cluster —the population is divided into clusters based on demographic parameters like age, sex, location, etc.
  • Convenience —selects participants who are most easily accessible to researchers due to geographical proximity, availability at a particular time, etc.
  • Purposive —participants are selected at the researcher’s discretion. Researchers consider the purpose of the study and the understanding of the target audience.
  • Snowball —already selected participants use their social networks to refer the researcher to other potential participants.
  • Quota —while designing the study, the researchers decide how many people with which characteristics to include as participants. The characteristics help in choosing people most likely to provide insights into the subject.

What are data collection methods?

During research, data are collected using various methods depending on the research methodology being followed and the research methods being undertaken. Both qualitative and quantitative research have different data collection methods, as listed below.

Qualitative research 5

  • One-on-one interviews: Helps the interviewers understand a respondent’s subjective opinion and experience pertaining to a specific topic or event
  • Document study/literature review/record keeping: Researchers’ review of already existing written materials such as archives, annual reports, research articles, guidelines, policy documents, etc.
  • Focus groups: Constructive discussions that usually include a small sample of about 6-10 people and a moderator, to understand the participants’ opinion on a given topic.
  • Qualitative observation : Researchers collect data using their five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing).

Quantitative research 6

  • Sampling: The most common type is probability sampling.
  • Interviews: Commonly telephonic or done in-person.
  • Observations: Structured observations are most commonly used in quantitative research. In this method, researchers make observations about specific behaviors of individuals in a structured setting.
  • Document review: Reviewing existing research or documents to collect evidence for supporting the research.
  • Surveys and questionnaires. Surveys can be administered both online and offline depending on the requirement and sample size.

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What are data analysis methods.

The data collected using the various methods for qualitative and quantitative research need to be analyzed to generate meaningful conclusions. These data analysis methods 7 also differ between quantitative and qualitative research.

Quantitative research involves a deductive method for data analysis where hypotheses are developed at the beginning of the research and precise measurement is required. The methods include statistical analysis applications to analyze numerical data and are grouped into two categories—descriptive and inferential.

Descriptive analysis is used to describe the basic features of different types of data to present it in a way that ensures the patterns become meaningful. The different types of descriptive analysis methods are:

  • Measures of frequency (count, percent, frequency)
  • Measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode)
  • Measures of dispersion or variation (range, variance, standard deviation)
  • Measure of position (percentile ranks, quartile ranks)

Inferential analysis is used to make predictions about a larger population based on the analysis of the data collected from a smaller population. This analysis is used to study the relationships between different variables. Some commonly used inferential data analysis methods are:

  • Correlation: To understand the relationship between two or more variables.
  • Cross-tabulation: Analyze the relationship between multiple variables.
  • Regression analysis: Study the impact of independent variables on the dependent variable.
  • Frequency tables: To understand the frequency of data.
  • Analysis of variance: To test the degree to which two or more variables differ in an experiment.

Qualitative research involves an inductive method for data analysis where hypotheses are developed after data collection. The methods include:

  • Content analysis: For analyzing documented information from text and images by determining the presence of certain words or concepts in texts.
  • Narrative analysis: For analyzing content obtained from sources such as interviews, field observations, and surveys. The stories and opinions shared by people are used to answer research questions.
  • Discourse analysis: For analyzing interactions with people considering the social context, that is, the lifestyle and environment, under which the interaction occurs.
  • Grounded theory: Involves hypothesis creation by data collection and analysis to explain why a phenomenon occurred.
  • Thematic analysis: To identify important themes or patterns in data and use these to address an issue.

How to choose a research methodology?

Here are some important factors to consider when choosing a research methodology: 8

  • Research objectives, aims, and questions —these would help structure the research design.
  • Review existing literature to identify any gaps in knowledge.
  • Check the statistical requirements —if data-driven or statistical results are needed then quantitative research is the best. If the research questions can be answered based on people’s opinions and perceptions, then qualitative research is most suitable.
  • Sample size —sample size can often determine the feasibility of a research methodology. For a large sample, less effort- and time-intensive methods are appropriate.
  • Constraints —constraints of time, geography, and resources can help define the appropriate methodology.

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How to write a research methodology .

A research methodology should include the following components: 3,9

  • Research design —should be selected based on the research question and the data required. Common research designs include experimental, quasi-experimental, correlational, descriptive, and exploratory.
  • Research method —this can be quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method.
  • Reason for selecting a specific methodology —explain why this methodology is the most suitable to answer your research problem.
  • Research instruments —explain the research instruments you plan to use, mainly referring to the data collection methods such as interviews, surveys, etc. Here as well, a reason should be mentioned for selecting the particular instrument.
  • Sampling —this involves selecting a representative subset of the population being studied.
  • Data collection —involves gathering data using several data collection methods, such as surveys, interviews, etc.
  • Data analysis —describe the data analysis methods you will use once you’ve collected the data.
  • Research limitations —mention any limitations you foresee while conducting your research.
  • Validity and reliability —validity helps identify the accuracy and truthfulness of the findings; reliability refers to the consistency and stability of the results over time and across different conditions.
  • Ethical considerations —research should be conducted ethically. The considerations include obtaining consent from participants, maintaining confidentiality, and addressing conflicts of interest.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the key components of research methodology?

A1. A good research methodology has the following key components:

  • Research design
  • Data collection procedures
  • Data analysis methods
  • Ethical considerations

Q2. Why is ethical consideration important in research methodology?

A2. Ethical consideration is important in research methodology to ensure the readers of the reliability and validity of the study. Researchers must clearly mention the ethical norms and standards followed during the conduct of the research and also mention if the research has been cleared by any institutional board. The following 10 points are the important principles related to ethical considerations: 10

  • Participants should not be subjected to harm.
  • Respect for the dignity of participants should be prioritized.
  • Full consent should be obtained from participants before the study.
  • Participants’ privacy should be ensured.
  • Confidentiality of the research data should be ensured.
  • Anonymity of individuals and organizations participating in the research should be maintained.
  • The aims and objectives of the research should not be exaggerated.
  • Affiliations, sources of funding, and any possible conflicts of interest should be declared.
  • Communication in relation to the research should be honest and transparent.
  • Misleading information and biased representation of primary data findings should be avoided.

Q3. What is the difference between methodology and method?

A3. Research methodology is different from a research method, although both terms are often confused. Research methods are the tools used to gather data, while the research methodology provides a framework for how research is planned, conducted, and analyzed. The latter guides researchers in making decisions about the most appropriate methods for their research. Research methods refer to the specific techniques, procedures, and tools used by researchers to collect, analyze, and interpret data, for instance surveys, questionnaires, interviews, etc.

Research methodology is, thus, an integral part of a research study. It helps ensure that you stay on track to meet your research objectives and answer your research questions using the most appropriate data collection and analysis tools based on your research design.

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  • Research methodologies. Pfeiffer Library website. Accessed August 15, 2023. https://library.tiffin.edu/researchmethodologies/whatareresearchmethodologies
  • Types of research methodology. Eduvoice website. Accessed August 16, 2023. https://eduvoice.in/types-research-methodology/
  • The basics of research methodology: A key to quality research. Voxco. Accessed August 16, 2023. https://www.voxco.com/blog/what-is-research-methodology/
  • Sampling methods: Types with examples. QuestionPro website. Accessed August 16, 2023. https://www.questionpro.com/blog/types-of-sampling-for-social-research/
  • What is qualitative research? Methods, types, approaches, examples. Researcher.Life blog. Accessed August 15, 2023. https://researcher.life/blog/article/what-is-qualitative-research-methods-types-examples/
  • What is quantitative research? Definition, methods, types, and examples. Researcher.Life blog. Accessed August 15, 2023. https://researcher.life/blog/article/what-is-quantitative-research-types-and-examples/
  • Data analysis in research: Types & methods. QuestionPro website. Accessed August 16, 2023. https://www.questionpro.com/blog/data-analysis-in-research/#Data_analysis_in_qualitative_research
  • Factors to consider while choosing the right research methodology. PhD Monster website. Accessed August 17, 2023. https://www.phdmonster.com/factors-to-consider-while-choosing-the-right-research-methodology/
  • What is research methodology? Research and writing guides. Accessed August 14, 2023. https://paperpile.com/g/what-is-research-methodology/
  • Ethical considerations. Business research methodology website. Accessed August 17, 2023. https://research-methodology.net/research-methodology/ethical-considerations/

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  • Open access
  • Published: 07 September 2020

A tutorial on methodological studies: the what, when, how and why

  • Lawrence Mbuagbaw   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-5855-5461 1 , 2 , 3 ,
  • Daeria O. Lawson 1 ,
  • Livia Puljak 4 ,
  • David B. Allison 5 &
  • Lehana Thabane 1 , 2 , 6 , 7 , 8  

BMC Medical Research Methodology volume  20 , Article number:  226 ( 2020 ) Cite this article

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Methodological studies – studies that evaluate the design, analysis or reporting of other research-related reports – play an important role in health research. They help to highlight issues in the conduct of research with the aim of improving health research methodology, and ultimately reducing research waste.

We provide an overview of some of the key aspects of methodological studies such as what they are, and when, how and why they are done. We adopt a “frequently asked questions” format to facilitate reading this paper and provide multiple examples to help guide researchers interested in conducting methodological studies. Some of the topics addressed include: is it necessary to publish a study protocol? How to select relevant research reports and databases for a methodological study? What approaches to data extraction and statistical analysis should be considered when conducting a methodological study? What are potential threats to validity and is there a way to appraise the quality of methodological studies?

Appropriate reflection and application of basic principles of epidemiology and biostatistics are required in the design and analysis of methodological studies. This paper provides an introduction for further discussion about the conduct of methodological studies.

Peer Review reports

The field of meta-research (or research-on-research) has proliferated in recent years in response to issues with research quality and conduct [ 1 , 2 , 3 ]. As the name suggests, this field targets issues with research design, conduct, analysis and reporting. Various types of research reports are often examined as the unit of analysis in these studies (e.g. abstracts, full manuscripts, trial registry entries). Like many other novel fields of research, meta-research has seen a proliferation of use before the development of reporting guidance. For example, this was the case with randomized trials for which risk of bias tools and reporting guidelines were only developed much later – after many trials had been published and noted to have limitations [ 4 , 5 ]; and for systematic reviews as well [ 6 , 7 , 8 ]. However, in the absence of formal guidance, studies that report on research differ substantially in how they are named, conducted and reported [ 9 , 10 ]. This creates challenges in identifying, summarizing and comparing them. In this tutorial paper, we will use the term methodological study to refer to any study that reports on the design, conduct, analysis or reporting of primary or secondary research-related reports (such as trial registry entries and conference abstracts).

In the past 10 years, there has been an increase in the use of terms related to methodological studies (based on records retrieved with a keyword search [in the title and abstract] for “methodological review” and “meta-epidemiological study” in PubMed up to December 2019), suggesting that these studies may be appearing more frequently in the literature. See Fig.  1 .

figure 1

Trends in the number studies that mention “methodological review” or “meta-

epidemiological study” in PubMed.

The methods used in many methodological studies have been borrowed from systematic and scoping reviews. This practice has influenced the direction of the field, with many methodological studies including searches of electronic databases, screening of records, duplicate data extraction and assessments of risk of bias in the included studies. However, the research questions posed in methodological studies do not always require the approaches listed above, and guidance is needed on when and how to apply these methods to a methodological study. Even though methodological studies can be conducted on qualitative or mixed methods research, this paper focuses on and draws examples exclusively from quantitative research.

The objectives of this paper are to provide some insights on how to conduct methodological studies so that there is greater consistency between the research questions posed, and the design, analysis and reporting of findings. We provide multiple examples to illustrate concepts and a proposed framework for categorizing methodological studies in quantitative research.

What is a methodological study?

Any study that describes or analyzes methods (design, conduct, analysis or reporting) in published (or unpublished) literature is a methodological study. Consequently, the scope of methodological studies is quite extensive and includes, but is not limited to, topics as diverse as: research question formulation [ 11 ]; adherence to reporting guidelines [ 12 , 13 , 14 ] and consistency in reporting [ 15 ]; approaches to study analysis [ 16 ]; investigating the credibility of analyses [ 17 ]; and studies that synthesize these methodological studies [ 18 ]. While the nomenclature of methodological studies is not uniform, the intents and purposes of these studies remain fairly consistent – to describe or analyze methods in primary or secondary studies. As such, methodological studies may also be classified as a subtype of observational studies.

Parallel to this are experimental studies that compare different methods. Even though they play an important role in informing optimal research methods, experimental methodological studies are beyond the scope of this paper. Examples of such studies include the randomized trials by Buscemi et al., comparing single data extraction to double data extraction [ 19 ], and Carrasco-Labra et al., comparing approaches to presenting findings in Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations (GRADE) summary of findings tables [ 20 ]. In these studies, the unit of analysis is the person or groups of individuals applying the methods. We also direct readers to the Studies Within a Trial (SWAT) and Studies Within a Review (SWAR) programme operated through the Hub for Trials Methodology Research, for further reading as a potential useful resource for these types of experimental studies [ 21 ]. Lastly, this paper is not meant to inform the conduct of research using computational simulation and mathematical modeling for which some guidance already exists [ 22 ], or studies on the development of methods using consensus-based approaches.

When should we conduct a methodological study?

Methodological studies occupy a unique niche in health research that allows them to inform methodological advances. Methodological studies should also be conducted as pre-cursors to reporting guideline development, as they provide an opportunity to understand current practices, and help to identify the need for guidance and gaps in methodological or reporting quality. For example, the development of the popular Preferred Reporting Items of Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were preceded by methodological studies identifying poor reporting practices [ 23 , 24 ]. In these instances, after the reporting guidelines are published, methodological studies can also be used to monitor uptake of the guidelines.

These studies can also be conducted to inform the state of the art for design, analysis and reporting practices across different types of health research fields, with the aim of improving research practices, and preventing or reducing research waste. For example, Samaan et al. conducted a scoping review of adherence to different reporting guidelines in health care literature [ 18 ]. Methodological studies can also be used to determine the factors associated with reporting practices. For example, Abbade et al. investigated journal characteristics associated with the use of the Participants, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, Timeframe (PICOT) format in framing research questions in trials of venous ulcer disease [ 11 ].

How often are methodological studies conducted?

There is no clear answer to this question. Based on a search of PubMed, the use of related terms (“methodological review” and “meta-epidemiological study”) – and therefore, the number of methodological studies – is on the rise. However, many other terms are used to describe methodological studies. There are also many studies that explore design, conduct, analysis or reporting of research reports, but that do not use any specific terms to describe or label their study design in terms of “methodology”. This diversity in nomenclature makes a census of methodological studies elusive. Appropriate terminology and key words for methodological studies are needed to facilitate improved accessibility for end-users.

Why do we conduct methodological studies?

Methodological studies provide information on the design, conduct, analysis or reporting of primary and secondary research and can be used to appraise quality, quantity, completeness, accuracy and consistency of health research. These issues can be explored in specific fields, journals, databases, geographical regions and time periods. For example, Areia et al. explored the quality of reporting of endoscopic diagnostic studies in gastroenterology [ 25 ]; Knol et al. investigated the reporting of p -values in baseline tables in randomized trial published in high impact journals [ 26 ]; Chen et al. describe adherence to the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement in Chinese Journals [ 27 ]; and Hopewell et al. describe the effect of editors’ implementation of CONSORT guidelines on reporting of abstracts over time [ 28 ]. Methodological studies provide useful information to researchers, clinicians, editors, publishers and users of health literature. As a result, these studies have been at the cornerstone of important methodological developments in the past two decades and have informed the development of many health research guidelines including the highly cited CONSORT statement [ 5 ].

Where can we find methodological studies?

Methodological studies can be found in most common biomedical bibliographic databases (e.g. Embase, MEDLINE, PubMed, Web of Science). However, the biggest caveat is that methodological studies are hard to identify in the literature due to the wide variety of names used and the lack of comprehensive databases dedicated to them. A handful can be found in the Cochrane Library as “Cochrane Methodology Reviews”, but these studies only cover methodological issues related to systematic reviews. Previous attempts to catalogue all empirical studies of methods used in reviews were abandoned 10 years ago [ 29 ]. In other databases, a variety of search terms may be applied with different levels of sensitivity and specificity.

Some frequently asked questions about methodological studies

In this section, we have outlined responses to questions that might help inform the conduct of methodological studies.

Q: How should I select research reports for my methodological study?

A: Selection of research reports for a methodological study depends on the research question and eligibility criteria. Once a clear research question is set and the nature of literature one desires to review is known, one can then begin the selection process. Selection may begin with a broad search, especially if the eligibility criteria are not apparent. For example, a methodological study of Cochrane Reviews of HIV would not require a complex search as all eligible studies can easily be retrieved from the Cochrane Library after checking a few boxes [ 30 ]. On the other hand, a methodological study of subgroup analyses in trials of gastrointestinal oncology would require a search to find such trials, and further screening to identify trials that conducted a subgroup analysis [ 31 ].

The strategies used for identifying participants in observational studies can apply here. One may use a systematic search to identify all eligible studies. If the number of eligible studies is unmanageable, a random sample of articles can be expected to provide comparable results if it is sufficiently large [ 32 ]. For example, Wilson et al. used a random sample of trials from the Cochrane Stroke Group’s Trial Register to investigate completeness of reporting [ 33 ]. It is possible that a simple random sample would lead to underrepresentation of units (i.e. research reports) that are smaller in number. This is relevant if the investigators wish to compare multiple groups but have too few units in one group. In this case a stratified sample would help to create equal groups. For example, in a methodological study comparing Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews, Kahale et al. drew random samples from both groups [ 34 ]. Alternatively, systematic or purposeful sampling strategies can be used and we encourage researchers to justify their selected approaches based on the study objective.

Q: How many databases should I search?

A: The number of databases one should search would depend on the approach to sampling, which can include targeting the entire “population” of interest or a sample of that population. If you are interested in including the entire target population for your research question, or drawing a random or systematic sample from it, then a comprehensive and exhaustive search for relevant articles is required. In this case, we recommend using systematic approaches for searching electronic databases (i.e. at least 2 databases with a replicable and time stamped search strategy). The results of your search will constitute a sampling frame from which eligible studies can be drawn.

Alternatively, if your approach to sampling is purposeful, then we recommend targeting the database(s) or data sources (e.g. journals, registries) that include the information you need. For example, if you are conducting a methodological study of high impact journals in plastic surgery and they are all indexed in PubMed, you likely do not need to search any other databases. You may also have a comprehensive list of all journals of interest and can approach your search using the journal names in your database search (or by accessing the journal archives directly from the journal’s website). Even though one could also search journals’ web pages directly, using a database such as PubMed has multiple advantages, such as the use of filters, so the search can be narrowed down to a certain period, or study types of interest. Furthermore, individual journals’ web sites may have different search functionalities, which do not necessarily yield a consistent output.

Q: Should I publish a protocol for my methodological study?

A: A protocol is a description of intended research methods. Currently, only protocols for clinical trials require registration [ 35 ]. Protocols for systematic reviews are encouraged but no formal recommendation exists. The scientific community welcomes the publication of protocols because they help protect against selective outcome reporting, the use of post hoc methodologies to embellish results, and to help avoid duplication of efforts [ 36 ]. While the latter two risks exist in methodological research, the negative consequences may be substantially less than for clinical outcomes. In a sample of 31 methodological studies, 7 (22.6%) referenced a published protocol [ 9 ]. In the Cochrane Library, there are 15 protocols for methodological reviews (21 July 2020). This suggests that publishing protocols for methodological studies is not uncommon.

Authors can consider publishing their study protocol in a scholarly journal as a manuscript. Advantages of such publication include obtaining peer-review feedback about the planned study, and easy retrieval by searching databases such as PubMed. The disadvantages in trying to publish protocols includes delays associated with manuscript handling and peer review, as well as costs, as few journals publish study protocols, and those journals mostly charge article-processing fees [ 37 ]. Authors who would like to make their protocol publicly available without publishing it in scholarly journals, could deposit their study protocols in publicly available repositories, such as the Open Science Framework ( https://osf.io/ ).

Q: How to appraise the quality of a methodological study?

A: To date, there is no published tool for appraising the risk of bias in a methodological study, but in principle, a methodological study could be considered as a type of observational study. Therefore, during conduct or appraisal, care should be taken to avoid the biases common in observational studies [ 38 ]. These biases include selection bias, comparability of groups, and ascertainment of exposure or outcome. In other words, to generate a representative sample, a comprehensive reproducible search may be necessary to build a sampling frame. Additionally, random sampling may be necessary to ensure that all the included research reports have the same probability of being selected, and the screening and selection processes should be transparent and reproducible. To ensure that the groups compared are similar in all characteristics, matching, random sampling or stratified sampling can be used. Statistical adjustments for between-group differences can also be applied at the analysis stage. Finally, duplicate data extraction can reduce errors in assessment of exposures or outcomes.

Q: Should I justify a sample size?

A: In all instances where one is not using the target population (i.e. the group to which inferences from the research report are directed) [ 39 ], a sample size justification is good practice. The sample size justification may take the form of a description of what is expected to be achieved with the number of articles selected, or a formal sample size estimation that outlines the number of articles required to answer the research question with a certain precision and power. Sample size justifications in methodological studies are reasonable in the following instances:

Comparing two groups

Determining a proportion, mean or another quantifier

Determining factors associated with an outcome using regression-based analyses

For example, El Dib et al. computed a sample size requirement for a methodological study of diagnostic strategies in randomized trials, based on a confidence interval approach [ 40 ].

Q: What should I call my study?

A: Other terms which have been used to describe/label methodological studies include “ methodological review ”, “methodological survey” , “meta-epidemiological study” , “systematic review” , “systematic survey”, “meta-research”, “research-on-research” and many others. We recommend that the study nomenclature be clear, unambiguous, informative and allow for appropriate indexing. Methodological study nomenclature that should be avoided includes “ systematic review” – as this will likely be confused with a systematic review of a clinical question. “ Systematic survey” may also lead to confusion about whether the survey was systematic (i.e. using a preplanned methodology) or a survey using “ systematic” sampling (i.e. a sampling approach using specific intervals to determine who is selected) [ 32 ]. Any of the above meanings of the words “ systematic” may be true for methodological studies and could be potentially misleading. “ Meta-epidemiological study” is ideal for indexing, but not very informative as it describes an entire field. The term “ review ” may point towards an appraisal or “review” of the design, conduct, analysis or reporting (or methodological components) of the targeted research reports, yet it has also been used to describe narrative reviews [ 41 , 42 ]. The term “ survey ” is also in line with the approaches used in many methodological studies [ 9 ], and would be indicative of the sampling procedures of this study design. However, in the absence of guidelines on nomenclature, the term “ methodological study ” is broad enough to capture most of the scenarios of such studies.

Q: Should I account for clustering in my methodological study?

A: Data from methodological studies are often clustered. For example, articles coming from a specific source may have different reporting standards (e.g. the Cochrane Library). Articles within the same journal may be similar due to editorial practices and policies, reporting requirements and endorsement of guidelines. There is emerging evidence that these are real concerns that should be accounted for in analyses [ 43 ]. Some cluster variables are described in the section: “ What variables are relevant to methodological studies?”

A variety of modelling approaches can be used to account for correlated data, including the use of marginal, fixed or mixed effects regression models with appropriate computation of standard errors [ 44 ]. For example, Kosa et al. used generalized estimation equations to account for correlation of articles within journals [ 15 ]. Not accounting for clustering could lead to incorrect p -values, unduly narrow confidence intervals, and biased estimates [ 45 ].

Q: Should I extract data in duplicate?

A: Yes. Duplicate data extraction takes more time but results in less errors [ 19 ]. Data extraction errors in turn affect the effect estimate [ 46 ], and therefore should be mitigated. Duplicate data extraction should be considered in the absence of other approaches to minimize extraction errors. However, much like systematic reviews, this area will likely see rapid new advances with machine learning and natural language processing technologies to support researchers with screening and data extraction [ 47 , 48 ]. However, experience plays an important role in the quality of extracted data and inexperienced extractors should be paired with experienced extractors [ 46 , 49 ].

Q: Should I assess the risk of bias of research reports included in my methodological study?

A : Risk of bias is most useful in determining the certainty that can be placed in the effect measure from a study. In methodological studies, risk of bias may not serve the purpose of determining the trustworthiness of results, as effect measures are often not the primary goal of methodological studies. Determining risk of bias in methodological studies is likely a practice borrowed from systematic review methodology, but whose intrinsic value is not obvious in methodological studies. When it is part of the research question, investigators often focus on one aspect of risk of bias. For example, Speich investigated how blinding was reported in surgical trials [ 50 ], and Abraha et al., investigated the application of intention-to-treat analyses in systematic reviews and trials [ 51 ].

Q: What variables are relevant to methodological studies?

A: There is empirical evidence that certain variables may inform the findings in a methodological study. We outline some of these and provide a brief overview below:

Country: Countries and regions differ in their research cultures, and the resources available to conduct research. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that there may be differences in methodological features across countries. Methodological studies have reported loco-regional differences in reporting quality [ 52 , 53 ]. This may also be related to challenges non-English speakers face in publishing papers in English.

Authors’ expertise: The inclusion of authors with expertise in research methodology, biostatistics, and scientific writing is likely to influence the end-product. Oltean et al. found that among randomized trials in orthopaedic surgery, the use of analyses that accounted for clustering was more likely when specialists (e.g. statistician, epidemiologist or clinical trials methodologist) were included on the study team [ 54 ]. Fleming et al. found that including methodologists in the review team was associated with appropriate use of reporting guidelines [ 55 ].

Source of funding and conflicts of interest: Some studies have found that funded studies report better [ 56 , 57 ], while others do not [ 53 , 58 ]. The presence of funding would indicate the availability of resources deployed to ensure optimal design, conduct, analysis and reporting. However, the source of funding may introduce conflicts of interest and warrant assessment. For example, Kaiser et al. investigated the effect of industry funding on obesity or nutrition randomized trials and found that reporting quality was similar [ 59 ]. Thomas et al. looked at reporting quality of long-term weight loss trials and found that industry funded studies were better [ 60 ]. Kan et al. examined the association between industry funding and “positive trials” (trials reporting a significant intervention effect) and found that industry funding was highly predictive of a positive trial [ 61 ]. This finding is similar to that of a recent Cochrane Methodology Review by Hansen et al. [ 62 ]

Journal characteristics: Certain journals’ characteristics may influence the study design, analysis or reporting. Characteristics such as journal endorsement of guidelines [ 63 , 64 ], and Journal Impact Factor (JIF) have been shown to be associated with reporting [ 63 , 65 , 66 , 67 ].

Study size (sample size/number of sites): Some studies have shown that reporting is better in larger studies [ 53 , 56 , 58 ].

Year of publication: It is reasonable to assume that design, conduct, analysis and reporting of research will change over time. Many studies have demonstrated improvements in reporting over time or after the publication of reporting guidelines [ 68 , 69 ].

Type of intervention: In a methodological study of reporting quality of weight loss intervention studies, Thabane et al. found that trials of pharmacologic interventions were reported better than trials of non-pharmacologic interventions [ 70 ].

Interactions between variables: Complex interactions between the previously listed variables are possible. High income countries with more resources may be more likely to conduct larger studies and incorporate a variety of experts. Authors in certain countries may prefer certain journals, and journal endorsement of guidelines and editorial policies may change over time.

Q: Should I focus only on high impact journals?

A: Investigators may choose to investigate only high impact journals because they are more likely to influence practice and policy, or because they assume that methodological standards would be higher. However, the JIF may severely limit the scope of articles included and may skew the sample towards articles with positive findings. The generalizability and applicability of findings from a handful of journals must be examined carefully, especially since the JIF varies over time. Even among journals that are all “high impact”, variations exist in methodological standards.

Q: Can I conduct a methodological study of qualitative research?

A: Yes. Even though a lot of methodological research has been conducted in the quantitative research field, methodological studies of qualitative studies are feasible. Certain databases that catalogue qualitative research including the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) have defined subject headings that are specific to methodological research (e.g. “research methodology”). Alternatively, one could also conduct a qualitative methodological review; that is, use qualitative approaches to synthesize methodological issues in qualitative studies.

Q: What reporting guidelines should I use for my methodological study?

A: There is no guideline that covers the entire scope of methodological studies. One adaptation of the PRISMA guidelines has been published, which works well for studies that aim to use the entire target population of research reports [ 71 ]. However, it is not widely used (40 citations in 2 years as of 09 December 2019), and methodological studies that are designed as cross-sectional or before-after studies require a more fit-for purpose guideline. A more encompassing reporting guideline for a broad range of methodological studies is currently under development [ 72 ]. However, in the absence of formal guidance, the requirements for scientific reporting should be respected, and authors of methodological studies should focus on transparency and reproducibility.

Q: What are the potential threats to validity and how can I avoid them?

A: Methodological studies may be compromised by a lack of internal or external validity. The main threats to internal validity in methodological studies are selection and confounding bias. Investigators must ensure that the methods used to select articles does not make them differ systematically from the set of articles to which they would like to make inferences. For example, attempting to make extrapolations to all journals after analyzing high-impact journals would be misleading.

Many factors (confounders) may distort the association between the exposure and outcome if the included research reports differ with respect to these factors [ 73 ]. For example, when examining the association between source of funding and completeness of reporting, it may be necessary to account for journals that endorse the guidelines. Confounding bias can be addressed by restriction, matching and statistical adjustment [ 73 ]. Restriction appears to be the method of choice for many investigators who choose to include only high impact journals or articles in a specific field. For example, Knol et al. examined the reporting of p -values in baseline tables of high impact journals [ 26 ]. Matching is also sometimes used. In the methodological study of non-randomized interventional studies of elective ventral hernia repair, Parker et al. matched prospective studies with retrospective studies and compared reporting standards [ 74 ]. Some other methodological studies use statistical adjustments. For example, Zhang et al. used regression techniques to determine the factors associated with missing participant data in trials [ 16 ].

With regard to external validity, researchers interested in conducting methodological studies must consider how generalizable or applicable their findings are. This should tie in closely with the research question and should be explicit. For example. Findings from methodological studies on trials published in high impact cardiology journals cannot be assumed to be applicable to trials in other fields. However, investigators must ensure that their sample truly represents the target sample either by a) conducting a comprehensive and exhaustive search, or b) using an appropriate and justified, randomly selected sample of research reports.

Even applicability to high impact journals may vary based on the investigators’ definition, and over time. For example, for high impact journals in the field of general medicine, Bouwmeester et al. included the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM), BMJ, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), and PLoS Medicine ( n  = 6) [ 75 ]. In contrast, the high impact journals selected in the methodological study by Schiller et al. were BMJ, JAMA, Lancet, and NEJM ( n  = 4) [ 76 ]. Another methodological study by Kosa et al. included AIM, BMJ, JAMA, Lancet and NEJM ( n  = 5). In the methodological study by Thabut et al., journals with a JIF greater than 5 were considered to be high impact. Riado Minguez et al. used first quartile journals in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) for a specific year to determine “high impact” [ 77 ]. Ultimately, the definition of high impact will be based on the number of journals the investigators are willing to include, the year of impact and the JIF cut-off [ 78 ]. We acknowledge that the term “generalizability” may apply differently for methodological studies, especially when in many instances it is possible to include the entire target population in the sample studied.

Finally, methodological studies are not exempt from information bias which may stem from discrepancies in the included research reports [ 79 ], errors in data extraction, or inappropriate interpretation of the information extracted. Likewise, publication bias may also be a concern in methodological studies, but such concepts have not yet been explored.

A proposed framework

In order to inform discussions about methodological studies, the development of guidance for what should be reported, we have outlined some key features of methodological studies that can be used to classify them. For each of the categories outlined below, we provide an example. In our experience, the choice of approach to completing a methodological study can be informed by asking the following four questions:

What is the aim?

Methodological studies that investigate bias

A methodological study may be focused on exploring sources of bias in primary or secondary studies (meta-bias), or how bias is analyzed. We have taken care to distinguish bias (i.e. systematic deviations from the truth irrespective of the source) from reporting quality or completeness (i.e. not adhering to a specific reporting guideline or norm). An example of where this distinction would be important is in the case of a randomized trial with no blinding. This study (depending on the nature of the intervention) would be at risk of performance bias. However, if the authors report that their study was not blinded, they would have reported adequately. In fact, some methodological studies attempt to capture both “quality of conduct” and “quality of reporting”, such as Richie et al., who reported on the risk of bias in randomized trials of pharmacy practice interventions [ 80 ]. Babic et al. investigated how risk of bias was used to inform sensitivity analyses in Cochrane reviews [ 81 ]. Further, biases related to choice of outcomes can also be explored. For example, Tan et al investigated differences in treatment effect size based on the outcome reported [ 82 ].

Methodological studies that investigate quality (or completeness) of reporting

Methodological studies may report quality of reporting against a reporting checklist (i.e. adherence to guidelines) or against expected norms. For example, Croituro et al. report on the quality of reporting in systematic reviews published in dermatology journals based on their adherence to the PRISMA statement [ 83 ], and Khan et al. described the quality of reporting of harms in randomized controlled trials published in high impact cardiovascular journals based on the CONSORT extension for harms [ 84 ]. Other methodological studies investigate reporting of certain features of interest that may not be part of formally published checklists or guidelines. For example, Mbuagbaw et al. described how often the implications for research are elaborated using the Evidence, Participants, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, Timeframe (EPICOT) format [ 30 ].

Methodological studies that investigate the consistency of reporting

Sometimes investigators may be interested in how consistent reports of the same research are, as it is expected that there should be consistency between: conference abstracts and published manuscripts; manuscript abstracts and manuscript main text; and trial registration and published manuscript. For example, Rosmarakis et al. investigated consistency between conference abstracts and full text manuscripts [ 85 ].

Methodological studies that investigate factors associated with reporting

In addition to identifying issues with reporting in primary and secondary studies, authors of methodological studies may be interested in determining the factors that are associated with certain reporting practices. Many methodological studies incorporate this, albeit as a secondary outcome. For example, Farrokhyar et al. investigated the factors associated with reporting quality in randomized trials of coronary artery bypass grafting surgery [ 53 ].

Methodological studies that investigate methods

Methodological studies may also be used to describe methods or compare methods, and the factors associated with methods. Muller et al. described the methods used for systematic reviews and meta-analyses of observational studies [ 86 ].

Methodological studies that summarize other methodological studies

Some methodological studies synthesize results from other methodological studies. For example, Li et al. conducted a scoping review of methodological reviews that investigated consistency between full text and abstracts in primary biomedical research [ 87 ].

Methodological studies that investigate nomenclature and terminology

Some methodological studies may investigate the use of names and terms in health research. For example, Martinic et al. investigated the definitions of systematic reviews used in overviews of systematic reviews (OSRs), meta-epidemiological studies and epidemiology textbooks [ 88 ].

Other types of methodological studies

In addition to the previously mentioned experimental methodological studies, there may exist other types of methodological studies not captured here.

What is the design?

Methodological studies that are descriptive

Most methodological studies are purely descriptive and report their findings as counts (percent) and means (standard deviation) or medians (interquartile range). For example, Mbuagbaw et al. described the reporting of research recommendations in Cochrane HIV systematic reviews [ 30 ]. Gohari et al. described the quality of reporting of randomized trials in diabetes in Iran [ 12 ].

Methodological studies that are analytical

Some methodological studies are analytical wherein “analytical studies identify and quantify associations, test hypotheses, identify causes and determine whether an association exists between variables, such as between an exposure and a disease.” [ 89 ] In the case of methodological studies all these investigations are possible. For example, Kosa et al. investigated the association between agreement in primary outcome from trial registry to published manuscript and study covariates. They found that larger and more recent studies were more likely to have agreement [ 15 ]. Tricco et al. compared the conclusion statements from Cochrane and non-Cochrane systematic reviews with a meta-analysis of the primary outcome and found that non-Cochrane reviews were more likely to report positive findings. These results are a test of the null hypothesis that the proportions of Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews that report positive results are equal [ 90 ].

What is the sampling strategy?

Methodological studies that include the target population

Methodological reviews with narrow research questions may be able to include the entire target population. For example, in the methodological study of Cochrane HIV systematic reviews, Mbuagbaw et al. included all of the available studies ( n  = 103) [ 30 ].

Methodological studies that include a sample of the target population

Many methodological studies use random samples of the target population [ 33 , 91 , 92 ]. Alternatively, purposeful sampling may be used, limiting the sample to a subset of research-related reports published within a certain time period, or in journals with a certain ranking or on a topic. Systematic sampling can also be used when random sampling may be challenging to implement.

What is the unit of analysis?

Methodological studies with a research report as the unit of analysis

Many methodological studies use a research report (e.g. full manuscript of study, abstract portion of the study) as the unit of analysis, and inferences can be made at the study-level. However, both published and unpublished research-related reports can be studied. These may include articles, conference abstracts, registry entries etc.

Methodological studies with a design, analysis or reporting item as the unit of analysis

Some methodological studies report on items which may occur more than once per article. For example, Paquette et al. report on subgroup analyses in Cochrane reviews of atrial fibrillation in which 17 systematic reviews planned 56 subgroup analyses [ 93 ].

This framework is outlined in Fig.  2 .

figure 2

A proposed framework for methodological studies

Conclusions

Methodological studies have examined different aspects of reporting such as quality, completeness, consistency and adherence to reporting guidelines. As such, many of the methodological study examples cited in this tutorial are related to reporting. However, as an evolving field, the scope of research questions that can be addressed by methodological studies is expected to increase.

In this paper we have outlined the scope and purpose of methodological studies, along with examples of instances in which various approaches have been used. In the absence of formal guidance on the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of methodological studies, we have provided some advice to help make methodological studies consistent. This advice is grounded in good contemporary scientific practice. Generally, the research question should tie in with the sampling approach and planned analysis. We have also highlighted the variables that may inform findings from methodological studies. Lastly, we have provided suggestions for ways in which authors can categorize their methodological studies to inform their design and analysis.

Availability of data and materials

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analyzed in this study.

Abbreviations

Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials

Evidence, Participants, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, Timeframe

Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations

Participants, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, Timeframe

Preferred Reporting Items of Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses

Studies Within a Review

Studies Within a Trial

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Mbuagbaw, L., Lawson, D.O., Puljak, L. et al. A tutorial on methodological studies: the what, when, how and why. BMC Med Res Methodol 20 , 226 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-020-01107-7

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methodology of research work

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15 Research Methodology Examples

research methodologies examples, explained below

Research methodologies can roughly be categorized into three group: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods.

  • Qualitative Research : This methodology is based on obtaining deep, contextualized, non-numerical data. It can occur, for example, through open-ended questioning of research particiapnts in order to understand human behavior. It’s all about describing and analyzing subjective phenomena such as emotions or experiences.
  • Quantitative Research: This methodology is rationally-based and relies heavily on numerical analysis of empirical data . With quantitative research, you aim for objectivity by creating hypotheses and testing them through experiments or surveys, which allow for statistical analyses.
  • Mixed-Methods Research: Mixed-methods research combines both previous types into one project. We have more flexibility when designing our research study with mixed methods since we can use multiple approaches depending on our needs at each time. Using mixed methods can help us validate our results and offer greater predictability than just either type of methodology alone could provide.

Below are research methodologies that fit into each category.

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Qualitative Research Methodologies

1. case study.

Conducts an in-depth examination of a specific case, individual, or event to understand a phenomenon.

Instead of examining a whole population for numerical trend data, case study researchers seek in-depth explanations of one event.

The benefit of case study research is its ability to elucidate overlooked details of interesting cases of a phenomenon (Busetto, Wick & Gumbinger, 2020). It offers deep insights for empathetic, reflective, and thoughtful understandings of that phenomenon.

However, case study findings aren’t transferrable to new contexts or for population-wide predictions. Instead, they inform practitioner understandings for nuanced, deep approaches to future instances (Liamputtong, 2020).

2. Grounded Theory

Grounded theory involves generating hypotheses and theories through the collection and interpretation of data (Faggiolani, n.d.). Its distinguishing features is that it doesn’t test a hypothesis generated prior to analysis, but rather generates a hypothesis or ‘theory’ that emerges from the data.

It also involves the application of inductive reasoning and is often contrasted with the hypothetico-deductive model of scientific research. This research methodology was developed by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss in the 1960s (Glaser & Strauss, 2009). 

The basic difference between traditional scientific approaches to research and grounded theory is that the latter begins with a question, then collects data, and the theoretical framework is said to emerge later from this data.

By contrast, scientists usually begin with an existing theoretical framework , develop hypotheses, and only then start collecting data to verify or falsify the hypotheses.

3. Ethnography

In ethnographic research , the researcher immerses themselves within the group they are studying, often for long periods of time.

This type of research aims to understand the shared beliefs, practices, and values of a particular community by immersing the researcher within the cultural group.

Although ethnographic research cannot predict or identify trends in an entire population, it can create detailed explanations of cultural practices and comparisons between social and cultural groups.

When a person conducts an ethnographic study of themselves or their own culture, it can be considered autoethnography .

Its strength lies in producing comprehensive accounts of groups of people and their interactions.

Common methods researchers use during an ethnographic study include participant observation , thick description, unstructured interviews, and field notes vignettes. These methods can provide detailed and contextualized descriptions of their subjects.

Example Study

Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street by Karen Ho involves an anthropologist who embeds herself with Wall Street firms to study the culture of Wall Street bankers and how this culture affects the broader economy and world.

4. Phenomenology

Phenomenology to understand and describe individuals’ lived experiences concerning a specific phenomenon.

As a research methodology typically used in the social sciences , phenomenology involves the study of social reality as a product of intersubjectivity (the intersection of people’s cognitive perspectives) (Zahavi & Overgaard, n.d.).

This philosophical approach was first developed by Edmund Husserl.

5. Narrative Research

Narrative research explores personal stories and experiences to understand their meanings and interpretations.

It is also known as narrative inquiry and narrative analysis(Riessman, 1993).

This approach to research uses qualitative material like journals, field notes, letters, interviews, texts, photos, etc., as its data.

It is aimed at understanding the way people create meaning through narratives (Clandinin & Connelly, 2004).

6. Discourse Analysis

A discourse analysis examines the structure, patterns, and functions of language in context to understand how the text produces social constructs.

This methodology is common in critical theory , poststructuralism , and postmodernism. Its aim is to understand how language constructs discourses (roughly interpreted as “ways of thinking and constructing knowledge”).

As a qualitative methodology , its focus is on developing themes through close textual analysis rather than using numerical methods. Common methods for extracting data include semiotics and linguistic analysis.

7. Action Research

Action research involves researchers working collaboratively with stakeholders to address problems, develop interventions, and evaluate effectiveness.

Action research is a methodology and philosophy of research that is common in the social sciences.

The term was first coined in 1944 by Kurt Lewin, a German-American psychologist who also introduced applied research and group communication (Altrichter & Gstettner, 1993).

Lewin originally defined action research as involving two primary processes: taking action and doing research (Lewin, 1946).

Action research involves planning, action, and information-seeking about the result of the action.

Since Lewin’s original formulation, many different theoretical approaches to action research have been developed. These include action science, participatory action research, cooperative inquiry, and living educational theory among others.

Using Digital Sandbox Gaming to Improve Creativity Within Boys’ Writing (Ellison & Drew, 2019) is a study conducted by a school teacher who used video games to help teach his students English. It involved action research, where he interviewed his students to see if the use of games as stimuli for storytelling helped draw them into the learning experience, and iterated on his teaching style based on their feedback (disclaimer: I am the second author of this study).

See More: Examples of Qualitative Research

Quantitative Research Methodologies

8. experimental design.

As the name suggests, this type of research is based on testing hypotheses in experimental settings by manipulating variables and observing their effects on other variables.

The main benefit lies in its ability to manipulate specific variables to determine their effect on outcomes which is a great method for those looking for causational links in their research.

This is common, for example, in high-school science labs, where students are asked to introduce a variable into a setting in order to examine its effect.

9. Non-Experimental Design

Non-experimental design observes and measures associations between variables without manipulating them.

It can take, for example, the form of a ‘fly on the wall’ observation of a phenomenon, allowing researchers to examine authentic settings and changes that occur naturally in the environment.

10. Cross-Sectional Design

Cross-sectional design involves analyzing variables pertaining to a specific time period and at that exact moment.

This approach allows for an extensive examination and comparison of distinct and independent subjects, thereby offering advantages over qualitative methodologies such as case studies or surveys.

While cross-sectional design can be extremely useful in taking a ‘snapshot in time’, as a standalone method, it is not useful for examining changes in subjects after an intervention. The next methodology addresses this issue.

The prime example of this type of study is a census. A population census is mailed out to every house in the country, and each household must complete the census on the same evening. This allows the government to gather a snapshot of the nation’s demographics, beliefs, religion, and so on.

11. Longitudinal Design

Longitudinal research gathers data from the same subjects over an extended period to analyze changes and development.

In contrast to cross-sectional tactics, longitudinal designs examine variables more than once, over a pre-determined time span, allowing for multiple data points to be taken at different times.

A cross-sectional design is also useful for examining cohort effects , by comparing differences or changes in multiple different generations’ beliefs over time.

With multiple data points collected over extended periods ,it’s possible to examine continuous changes within things like population dynamics or consumer behavior. This makes detailed analysis of change possible.

12. Quasi-Experimental Design

Quasi-experimental design involves manipulating variables for analysis, but uses pre-existing groups of subjects rather than random groups.

Because the groups of research participants already exist, they cannot be randomly assigned to a cohort as with a true experimental design study. This makes inferring a causal relationship more difficult, but is nonetheless often more feasible in real-life settings.

Quasi-experimental designs are generally considered inferior to true experimental designs.

13. Correlational Research

Correlational research examines the relationships between two or more variables, determining the strength and direction of their association.

Similar to quasi-experimental methods, this type of research focuses on relationship differences between variables.

This approach provides a fast and easy way to make initial hypotheses based on either positive or negative correlation trends that can be observed within dataset.

Methods used for data analysis may include statistic correlations such as Pearson’s or Spearman’s.

Mixed-Methods Research Methodologies

14. sequential explanatory design (quan→qual).

This methodology involves conducting quantitative analysis first, then supplementing it with a qualitative study.

It begins by collecting quantitative data that is then analyzed to determine any significant patterns or trends.

Secondly, qualitative methods are employed. Their intent is to help interpret and expand the quantitative results.

This offers greater depth into understanding both large and smaller aspects of research questions being addressed.

The rationale behind this approach is to ensure that your data collection generates richer context for gaining insight into the particular issue across different levels, integrating in one study, qualitative exploration as well as statistical procedures.

15. Sequential Exploratory Design (QUAL→QUAN)

This methodology goes in the other direction, starting with qualitative analysis and ending with quantitative analysis.

It starts with qualitative research that delves deeps into complex areas and gathers rich information through interviewing or observing participants.

After this stage of exploration comes to an end, quantitative techniques are used to analyze the collected data through inferential statistics.

The idea is that a qualitative study can arm the researchers with a strong hypothesis testing framework, which they can then apply to a larger sample size using qualitative methods.

When I first took research classes, I had a lot of trouble distinguishing between methodologies and methods.

The key is to remember that the methodology sets the direction, while the methods are the specific tools to be used. A good analogy is transport: first you need to choose a mode (public transport, private transport, motorized transit, non-motorized transit), then you can choose a tool (bus, car, bike, on foot).

While research methodologies can be split into three types, each type has many different nuanced methodologies that can be chosen, before you then choose the methods – or tools – to use in the study. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so choose wisely!

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Gauch, H. G. (2002). Scientific Method in Practice . Cambridge University Press.

Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (2009). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research . Transaction Publishers.

Kothari, C. R. (2004). Research Methodology: Methods and Techniques . New Age International.

Kuada, J. (2012). Research Methodology: A Project Guide for University Students . Samfundslitteratur.

Lewin, K. (1946). Action research and minority problems. Journal of Social Issues , 2,  4 , 34–46. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.1946.tb02295.x

Mills, J., Bonner, A., & Francis, K. (2006). The Development of Constructivist Grounded Theory. International Journal of Qualitative Methods , 5 (1), 25–35. https://doi.org/10.1177/160940690600500103

Mingers, J., & Willcocks, L. (2017). An integrative semiotic methodology for IS research. Information and Organization , 27 (1), 17–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infoandorg.2016.12.001

OECD. (2015). Frascati Manual 2015: Guidelines for Collecting and Reporting Data on Research and Experimental Development . Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/science-and-technology/frascati-manual-2015_9789264239012-en

Peirce, C. S. (1992). The Essential Peirce, Volume 1: Selected Philosophical Writings (1867–1893) . Indiana University Press.

Reese, W. L. (1980). Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion: Eastern and Western Thought . Humanities Press.

Riessman, C. K. (1993). Narrative analysis . Sage Publications, Inc.

Saussure, F. de, & Riedlinger, A. (1959). Course in General Linguistics . Philosophical Library.

Thomas, C. G. (2021). Research Methodology and Scientific Writing . Springer Nature.

Zahavi, D., & Overgaard, S. (n.d.). Phenomenological Sociology—The Subjectivity of Everyday Life .

Tio

Tio Gabunia (B.Arch, M.Arch)

Tio Gabunia is an academic writer and architect based in Tbilisi. He has studied architecture, design, and urban planning at the Georgian Technical University and the University of Lisbon. He has worked in these fields in Georgia, Portugal, and France. Most of Tio’s writings concern philosophy. Other writings include architecture, sociology, urban planning, and economics.

  • Tio Gabunia (B.Arch, M.Arch) #molongui-disabled-link 6 Types of Societies (With 21 Examples)
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  • Tio Gabunia (B.Arch, M.Arch) #molongui-disabled-link Social Interaction Types & Examples (Sociology)

Chris

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 50 Durable Goods Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 100 Consumer Goods Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 30 Globalization Pros and Cons
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methodology of research work

Who Are You? The Art and Science of Measuring Identity

Table of contents.

As a shop that studies human behavior through surveys and other social scientific techniques, we have a good line of sight into the contradictory nature of human preferences. Today, we’re calling out one of those that affects us as pollsters: categorizing our survey participants in ways that enhance our understanding of how people think and behave.

Here’s the tension: On the one hand, many humans really like to group other humans into categories. Think, “Women are more likely to vote Democratic and men to vote Republican.” It helps us get a handle on big, messy trends in societal thought. To get this info, surveys need to ask each respondent how they would describe themselves.

On the other hand, most of us as individuals don’t like being put into these categories. “I’m more than my gender! And I’m not really a Republican, though I do always vote for them.” On top of that, many don’t like being asked nosy questions about sensitive topics. A list of the common demographic questions at the end of a survey can basically serve as a list of things not to raise at Thanksgiving dinner.

But our readers want to see themselves in our reports, and they want to know what people who are like them – and unlike them – think. To do that, it’s helpful for us to categorize people.

Which traits do we ask about, and why?

Unlike most Pew Research Center reports, where the emphasis is on original research and the presentation of findings, our goal here is to explain how we do this – that is, how we measure some of the most important core characteristics of the public, which we then use to describe Americans and talk about their opinions and behaviors.

To do so, we first chose what we judged to be the most important personal characteristics and identities for comparing people who take part in our surveys. Then, for each trait, we looked at a range of aspects: why and how it came to be important to survey research; how its measurement has evolved over time; what challenges exist to the accurate measurement of each; and what controversies, if any, remain over its measurement.

These considerations and more shape how we at Pew Research Center measure several important personal characteristics and identities in our surveys of the U.S. public. Here are some things to know about key demographic questions we ask:

  • Our main religion question asks respondents to choose from 11 groups that encompass 98% of the U.S. public: eight religious groups and three categories of people who don’t affiliate with a religion. Other, less common faiths are measured by respondents writing in their answer. Our questions have evolved in response to a rise in the share of Americans who do not identify with any religion and to the growing diversity in the country’s population. (Chapter 1)
  • Measuring income is challenging because it is both sensitive and sometimes difficult for respondents to estimate. We ask for a person’s “total family income” the previous calendar year from all sources before taxes, in part because that may correspond roughly to what a family computed for filing income taxes. To reduce the burden, we present ranges (e.g., “$30,000 to less than $40,000”) rather than asking for a specific number. (Chapter 2)
  • We ask about political party affiliation using a two-part question. People who initially identify as an independent or “something else” (instead of as a Republican or Democrat) and those who refuse to answer receive a follow-up question asking whether they lean more to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. In many of their attitudes and behaviors, those who only lean to a party greatly resemble those who identify with it. (Chapter 3)
  • Our gender question tries to use terminology that is easily understood. It asks, “Do you describe yourself as a man, a woman or in some other way?” Amid national conversation on the subjects, gender and sexual orientation are topics on the cutting edge of survey measurement. (Chapter 4)
  • In part because we use U.S. Census Bureau estimates to statistically adjust our data, we ask about race and Hispanic ethnicity separately, just as the census does. People can select all races that apply to them. In the future, the census may combine race and ethnicity into one question. (Chapter 5)
  • A person’s age tells us both where they fall in the life span, indicating what social roles and responsibilities they may have, and what era or generation they belong to, which may tell us what events in history had an effect on their political or social thinking. We typically ask people to report just the year of their birth, which is less intrusive than their exact date of birth. (Chapter 6)

Each of these presents interesting challenges and choices. While there are widely accepted best practices for some, polling professionals disagree about how most effectively to measure many characteristics and identities. Complicating the effort is that some people rebel against the very idea of being categorized and think the effort to measure some of these dimensions is divisive.

It’s important that our surveys accurately represent the public

In addition to being able to describe opinions using characteristics like race, sex and education, it’s important to measure these traits for another reason: We can use them to make sure our samples are representative of the population. That’s because most of them are also measured in large, high-quality U.S. Census Bureau surveys that produce trustworthy national statistics. We can make sure that the makeup of our samples – what share are high school graduates, or are ages 65 or older, or identify as Hispanic, and so on – match benchmarks established by the Census Bureau . To do this, we use a tool called weighting to adjust our samples mathematically.

Some of the characteristics we’ll talk about are not measured by the government: notably, religion and party affiliation. We’ve developed an alternative way of coming up with trustworthy estimates for those characteristics – our National Public Opinion Reference Survey , which we conduct annually for use in weighting our samples.

You are who you say you are – usually

methodology of research work

We mostly follow the rule that “you are who you say you are,” meaning we place people into whichever categories they say they are in. But that was not always true in survey research for some kinds of characteristics. Through 1950, enumerators for the U.S. census typically coded a person’s race by observation , not by asking. And pollsters using telephone surveys used respondents’ voices and other cues in the interview to identify their gender, rather than by asking them.

Nowadays, we typically ask. We still make judgments that sometimes end up placing a person in a different category than the one in which they originally placed themselves. For example, when we group people by religion, we use some categories that are not familiar to everyone, such as “mainline Protestant” for a set of denominations that includes the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and others.

And we sometimes use respondents’ answers to categorize them in ways that go beyond what a single question can capture – such as when we use a combination of family income, household size and geographic location to classify people as living in an upper-, middle- or lower-income household .

Nosy but necessary questions

methodology of research work

As much as people enjoy hearing about people like themselves, some find these types of personal questions intrusive or rude. The advice columnist Judith Martin, writing under the name Miss Manners, once provided a list of topics that “polite people do not bring into social conversation.” It included “sex, religion, politics, money, illness” and many, many more. Obviously, pollsters have to ask about many of these if we are to describe the views of different kinds of people (at Pew Research Center, we at least occasionally ask about all of these). But as a profession, we have an obligation to do so in a respectful and transparent manner and to carefully protect the confidentiality of the responses we receive.

If you’ve participated in a survey, it’s likely that the demographic questions came at the end. Partly out of concern that people might quit the survey prematurely in reaction to the questions, pollsters typically place these questions last because they are sensitive for some people and boring for most. Like other organizations that use survey panels – collections of people who have agreed to take surveys on a regular basis and are compensated for their participation – we benefit from a high level of trust that builds up over months or years of frequent surveys. This is reflected in the fact that we have fewer people refusing to answer our question about family income (about 5%) than is typical for surveys that ask about that sensitive topic. Historically, in the individual telephone surveys we conducted before we created the online American Trends Panel , 10% or more of respondents refused to disclose their family income.

One other nice benefit of a survey panel, as opposed to one-off surveys (which interview a sample of people just one time) is that we don’t have to subject people to demographic questions as frequently. In a one-off survey, we have to ask about any and all personal characteristics we need for the analysis. Those take up precious questionnaire space and potentially annoy respondents. In our panel, we ask most of these questions just once per year, since we are interviewing the same people regularly and most of these characteristics do not change very much.

Speaking of questions that Miss Manners might avoid, let’s jump into the deep end: measuring religion. (Or choose your own adventure by clicking on the menu.)

Choose a demographic category

Religion and religious affiliation, party affiliation, gender and sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age and generations, acknowledgments.

This essay was written by Scott Keeter, Anna Brown and Dana Popky with the support of the U.S. Survey Methods team at Pew Research Center. Several others provided helpful comments and input on this study, including Tanya Arditi, Nida Asheer, Achsah Callahan, Alan Cooperman, Claudia Deane, Carroll Doherty, Rachel Drian, Juliana Horowitz, Courtney Kennedy, Jocelyn Kiley, Hannah Klein, Mark Hugo Lopez, Kim Parker, Jeff Passel, Julia O’Hanlon, Baxter Oliphant, Maya Pottiger, Talia Price and Greg Smith. Graphics were created by Bill Webster, developed by Nick Zanetti and produced by Sara Atske. Anna Jackson offered extensive copy editing of the finished product. See full acknowledgments .

All of the illustrations and photos are from Getty Images.

Find related content about our survey practices and methodological research.

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About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

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NIH Extramural Nexus

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NIH Director Statement on Catalyzing the Development of Novel Alternative Methods

Last week, Dr. Monica Bertagnolli accepted recommendations from the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director on considering approaches that use novel alternative methods in biomedical and behavioral research. This is an exciting step in our ongoing efforts to support research that complements traditional models when scientifically feasible (listen to this All About Grants podcast episode for more). As we note on our Animals in NIH Research page , animal models are critical and employed in all fields of biomedical research. NIH encourages researchers to use novel complementary approaches to ensure rigorous and reproducible studies (see also this blog ). We encourage you to review her full statement below, and submit any questions related to this effort to [email protected] .

Major leaps in science are often driven by the invention of new technologies and approaches. For example, while genome editing technologies have been around for decades, the novel approach used by the CRISPR-CAS system transformed researchers’ capabilities to solve previously intractable problems. By harnessing this new technological approach, we now have our first  FDA-approved gene editing therapy for patients suffering from Sickle Cell Disease .

We also are seeing dramatic leaps in technologies that allow researchers to use complementary, non-animal-based approaches to study biological functions and human disease. These so called “novel alternative methods” or NAMs, which include computational modeling and predictive technologies, cell-free methods and assays and cell-based culture models, hold tremendous promise when applied to the appropriate scientific inquiry.

With the explosion of work being done in developing and using NAMs, NIH charged a  working group  of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) to assess the challenges and opportunities for NAMs, as well as provide recommendations to the ACD for priority investments to catalyze their use and development in biomedical research. The working group consulted with experts in the field and reviewed input from the community to deliver its  report  to the ACD during the Dec. 14, 2023, meeting. This report, which the ACD enthusiastically endorsed and conveyed to the agency, recommended that NIH work with the community to:

  • Prioritize the development and use of combinatorial NAMs
  • Establish resources, infrastructure, and collaborations to promote the use of interoperable, reliable, and well curated/high quality datasets produced from research using NAMs
  • Promote effective dissemination and interconnection of NAM technologies
  • Invest in comprehensive training to bolster continuous advances in development and use of NAMs
  • Facilitate multidisciplinary teams with expertise across technologies and the lifecycle of NAM development and use
  • Promote social responsibility in both the creation and deployment of NAMs across the research lifecycle
  • Support and maintain coordinated infrastructure to catalyze effective and responsible NAM development and use

I want to thank the members of the ACD and the working group for their diligent work and thoughtful insights. After careful review and consideration of the report, NIH accepts these recommendations and is committed to continuing its investment in building a robust suite of tools for researchers to study human biology and disease. These recommendations build on an existing foundation of NIH investment in NAMs projects. This foundation includes complex lab-based systems like cells and tissues grown on chips and 3D cultures of cells that can replicate some features of organs. There are computer and machine learning/AI models for neurodegenerative disease, wound healing, learning and behavior, SARS-CoV-2 propagation and many other conditions. Current NAMs also include biochemical screening and other assays such as those for skin irritation and eye toxicity. NIH continues to advance the validation and regulatory implementation of NAMs in partnership with other federal agencies via the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods ( ICCVAM ).

I am also pleased to see new efforts underway such as a newly proposed Common Fund research program aimed to drive these integrative approaches forward. The new concept, Complement Animal Research in Experimentation ( Complement-ARIE ), received concept approval at a recent meeting of NIH’s Council of Councils. The program aims to further the ACD recommendations by accelerating the development, standardization, validation and use of new methods and approaches that will more accurately model human biology and can complement, or in some cases, replace traditional models. Through the work of Complement-ARIE and other efforts across the agency, NIH hopes to provide new tools that will transform the way that we do basic, translational and clinical research and accelerate progress toward all people living longer, healthier and happier lives.

Monica M. Bertagnolli, M.D. Director, National Institutes of Health

RELATED NEWS

Can this announcement be downloaded?

Please notify us all though Extramural Nexus when this initiative results in specific RFAs.

This is a thinly disguised plan to take money away from animal research and use it to fund pseudoscience. It reinforces my fear that the current NIH director favors politics and political correctness over scientific rigor.

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College of Nursing

Driving change: a case study of a dnp leader in residence program in a gerontological center of excellence.

View as pdf A later version of this article appeared in Nurse Leader , Volume 21, Issue 6 , December 2023 . 

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) published the Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Practice Nursing in 2004 identifying the essential curriculum needed for preparing advanced practice nurse leaders to effectively assess organizations, identify systemic issues, and facilitate organizational changes. 1 In 2021, AACN updated the curriculum by issuing The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education to guide the development of competency-based education for nursing students. 1 In addition to AACN’s competency-based approach to curriculum, in 2015 the American Organization of Nurse Leaders (AONL) released Nurse Leader Core Competencies (updated in 2023) to help provide a competency based model to follow in developing nurse leaders. 2

Despite AACN and AONL competency-based curriculum and model, it is still common for nurse leaders to be promoted to management positions based solely on their work experience or exceptional clinical skills, rather than demonstration of management and leadership competencies. 3 The importance of identifying, training, and assessing executive leaders through formal leadership development programs, within supportive organizational cultures has been discussed by national leaders. As well as the need for nurturing emerging leaders through fostering interprofessional collaboration, mentorship, and continuous development of leadership skills has been identified. 4 As Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) nurse leaders assume executive roles within healthcare organizations, they play a vital role within complex systems. Demonstration of leadership competence and participation in formal leadership development programs has become imperative for their success. However, models of competency-based executive leadership development programs can be hard to find, particularly programs outside of health care systems.

The implementation of a DNP Leader in Residence program, such as the one designed for The Barbara and Richard Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence, addresses many of the challenges facing new DNP leaders and ensures mastery of executive leadership competencies and readiness to practice through exposure to varied experiences and close mentoring. The Csomay Center , based at The University of Iowa, was established in 2000 as one of the five original Hartford Centers of Geriatric Nursing Excellence in the country. Later funding by the Csomay family established an endowment that supports the Center's ongoing work. The current Csomay Center strategic plan and mission aims to develop future healthcare leaders while promoting optimal aging and quality of life for older adults. The Csomay Center Director created the innovative DNP Leader in Residence program to foster the growth of future nurse leaders in non-healthcare systems. The purpose of this paper is to present a case study of the development and implementation of the Leader in Residence program, followed by suggested evaluation strategies, and discussion of future innovation of leadership opportunities in non-traditional health care settings.

Development of the DNP Leader in Residence Program

The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle has garnered substantial recognition as a valuable tool for fostering development and driving improvement initiatives. 5 The PDSA cycle can function as an independent methodology and as an integral component of broader quality enhancement approaches with notable efficacy in its ability to facilitate the rapid creation, testing, and evaluation of transformative interventions within healthcare. 6 Consequently, the PDSA cycle model was deemed fitting to guide the development and implementation of the DNP Leader in Residence Program at the Csomay Center.

PDSA Cycle: Plan

Existing resources. The DNP Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership Program offered by the University of Iowa is comprised of comprehensive nursing administration and leadership curriculum, led by distinguished faculty composed of national leaders in the realms of innovation, health policy, leadership, clinical education, and evidence-based practice. The curriculum is designed to cultivate the next generation of nursing executive leaders, with emphasis on personalized career planning and tailored practicum placements. The DNP Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership curriculum includes a range of courses focused on leadership and management with diverse topics such as policy an law, infrastructure and informatics, finance and economics, marketing and communication, quality and safety, evidence-based practice, and social determinants of health. The curriculum is complemented by an extensive practicum component and culminates in a DNP project with additional hours of practicum.

New program. The DNP Leader in Residence program at the Csomay Center is designed to encompass communication and relationship building, systems thinking, change management, transformation and innovation, knowledge of clinical principles in the community, professionalism, and business skills including financial, strategic, and human resource management. The program fully immerses students in the objectives of the DNP Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership curriculum and enables them to progressively demonstrate competencies outlined by AONL. The Leader in Residence program also includes career development coaching, reflective practice, and personal and professional accountability. The program is integrated throughout the entire duration of the Leader in Residence’s coursework, fulfilling the required practicum hours for both the DNP coursework and DNP project.

The DNP Leader in Residence program begins with the first semester of practicum being focused on completing an onboarding process to the Center including understanding the center's strategic plan, mission, vision, and history. Onboarding for the Leader in Residence provides access to all relevant Center information and resources and integration into the leadership team, community partnerships, and other University of Iowa College of Nursing Centers associated with the Csomay Center. During this first semester, observation and identification of the Csomay Center Director's various roles including being a leader, manager, innovator, socializer, and mentor is facilitated. In collaboration with the Center Director (a faculty position) and Center Coordinator (a staff position), specific competencies to be measured and mastered along with learning opportunities desired throughout the program are established to ensure a well-planned and thorough immersion experience.

Following the initial semester of practicum, the Leader in Residence has weekly check-ins with the Center Director and Center Coordinator to continue to identify learning opportunities and progression through executive leadership competencies to enrich the experience. The Leader in Residence also undertakes an administrative project for the Center this semester, while concurrently continuing observations of the Center Director's activities in local, regional, and national executive leadership settings. The student has ongoing participation and advancement in executive leadership roles and activities throughout the practicum, creating a well-prepared future nurse executive leader.

After completing practicum hours related to the Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership coursework, the Leader in Residence engages in dedicated residency hours to continue to experience domains within nursing leadership competencies like communication, professionalism, and relationship building. During residency hours, time is spent with the completion of a small quality improvement project for the Csomay Center, along with any other administrative projects identified by the Center Director and Center Coordinator. The Leader in Residence is fully integrated into the Csomay Center's Leadership Team during this phase, assisting the Center Coordinator in creating agendas and leading meetings. Additional participation includes active involvement in community engagement activities and presenting at or attending a national conference as a representative of the Csomay Center. The Leader in Residence must mentor a master’s in nursing student during the final year of the DNP Residency.

Implementation of the DNP Leader in Residence Program

PDSA Cycle: Do

Immersive experience. In this case study, the DNP Leader in Residence was fully immersed in a wide range of center activities, providing valuable opportunities to engage in administrative projects and observe executive leadership roles and skills during practicum hours spent at the Csomay Center. Throughout the program, the Leader in Residence observed and learned from multidisciplinary leaders at the national, regional, and university levels who engaged with the Center. By shadowing the Csomay Center Director, the Leader in Residence had the opportunity to observe executive leadership objectives such as fostering innovation, facilitating multidisciplinary collaboration, and nurturing meaningful relationships. The immersive experience within the center’s activities also allowed the Leader in Residence to gain a deep understanding of crucial facets such as philanthropy and community engagement. Active involvement in administrative processes such as strategic planning, budgeting, human resources management, and the development of standard operating procedures provided valuable exposure to strategies that are needed to be an effective nurse leader in the future.

Active participation. The DNP Leader in Residence also played a key role in advancing specific actions outlined in the center's strategic plan during the program including: 1) the creation of a membership structure for the Csomay Center and 2) successfully completing a state Board of Regents application for official recognition as a distinguished center. The Csomay Center sponsored membership for the Leader in Residence in the Midwest Nurse Research Society (MNRS), which opened doors to attend the annual MNRS conference and engage with regional nursing leadership, while fostering socialization, promotion of the Csomay Center and Leader in Residence program, and observation of current nursing research. Furthermore, the Leader in Residence participated in the strategic planning committee and engagement subcommittee for MNRS, collaborating directly with the MNRS president. Additional active participation by the Leader in Residence included attendance in planning sessions and completion of the annual report for GeriatricPain.org , an initiative falling under the umbrella of the Csomay Center. Finally, the Leader in Residence was involved in archiving research and curriculum for distinguished nursing leader and researcher, Dr. Kitty Buckwalter, for the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, the University of Pennsylvania Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, and the University of Iowa library archives.

Suggested Evaluation Strategies of the DNP Leader in Residence Program

PDSA Cycle: Study

Assessment and benchmarking. To effectively assess the outcomes and success of the DNP Leader in Residence Program, a comprehensive evaluation framework should be used throughout the program. Key measures should include the collection and review of executive leadership opportunities experienced, leadership roles observed, and competencies mastered. The Leader in Residence is responsible for maintaining detailed logs of their participation in center activities and initiatives on a semester basis. These logs serve to track the progression of mastery of AONL competencies by benchmarking activities and identifying areas for future growth for the Leader in Residence.

Evaluation. In addition to assessment and benchmarking, evaluations need to be completed by Csomay Center stakeholders (leadership, staff, and community partners involved) and the individual Leader in Residence both during and upon completion of the program. Feedback from stakeholders will identify the contributions made by the Leader in Residence and provide valuable insights into their growth. Self-reflection on experiences by the individual Leader in Residence throughout the program will serve as an important measure of personal successes and identify gaps in the program. Factors such as career advancement during the program, application of curriculum objectives in the workplace, and prospects for future career progression for the Leader in Residence should be considered as additional indicators of the success of the program.

The evaluation should also encompass a thorough review of the opportunities experienced during the residency, with the aim of identifying areas for potential expansion and enrichment of the DNP Leader in Residence program. By carefully examining the logs, reflecting on the acquired executive leadership competencies, and studying stakeholder evaluations, additional experiences and opportunities can be identified to further enhance the program's efficacy. The evaluation process should be utilized to identify specific executive leadership competencies that require further immersion and exploration throughout the program.

Future Innovation of DNP Leader in Residence Programs in Non-traditional Healthcare Settings

PDSA Cycle: Act

As subsequent residents complete the program and their experiences are thoroughly evaluated, it is essential to identify new opportunities for DNP Leader in Residence programs to be implemented in other non-health care system settings. When feasible, expansion into clinical healthcare settings, including long-term care and acute care environments, should be pursued. By leveraging the insights gained from previous Leaders in Residence and their respective experiences, the program can be refined to better align with desired outcomes and competencies. These expansions will broaden the scope and impact of the program and provide a wider array of experiences and challenges for future Leaders in Residency to navigate, enriching their development as dynamic nurse executive leaders within diverse healthcare landscapes.

This case study presented a comprehensive overview of the development and implementation of the DNP Leader in Residence program developed by the Barbara and Richard Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence. The Leader in Residence program provided a transformative experience by integrating key curriculum objectives, competency-based learning, and mentorship by esteemed nursing leaders and researchers through successful integration into the Center. With ongoing innovation and application of the PDSA cycle, the DNP Leader in Residence program presented in this case study holds immense potential to help better prepare 21 st century nurse leaders capable of driving positive change within complex healthcare systems.

Acknowledgements

         The author would like to express gratitude to the Barbara and Richard Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence for the fostering environment to provide an immersion experience and the ongoing support for development of the DNP Leader in Residence program. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The essentials: core competencies for professional nursing education. https://www.aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/AcademicNursing/pdf/Essentials-2021.pdf . Accessed June 26, 2023.
  • American Organization for Nursing Leadership. Nurse leader core competencies. https://www.aonl.org/resources/nurse-leader-competencies . Accessed July 10, 2023.
  • Warshawsky, N, Cramer, E. Describing nurse manager role preparation and competency: findings from a national study. J Nurs Adm . 2019;49(5):249-255. DOI:  10.1097/NNA.0000000000000746
  • Van Diggel, C, Burgess, A, Roberts, C, Mellis, C. Leadership in healthcare education. BMC Med. Educ . 2020;20(465). doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02288-x
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Plan-do-study-act (PDSA) worksheet. https://www.ihi.org/resources/Pages/Tools/PlanDoStudyActWorksheet.aspx . Accessed July 4, 2023.
  • Taylor, M, McNicolas, C, Nicolay, C, Darzi, A, Bell, D, Reed, J. Systemic review of the application of the plan-do-study-act method to improve quality in healthcare. BMJ Quality & Safety. 2014:23:290-298. doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2013-002703

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COMMENTS

  1. What Is a Research Methodology?

    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 Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about methodology How to write a research methodology

  2. Research Methods

    Methodology Research Methods | Definitions, Types, Examples Research methods are specific procedures for collecting and analyzing data. Developing your research methods is an integral part of your research design. When planning your methods, there are two key decisions you will make. First, decide how you will collect data.

  3. What Is Research Methodology? Definition + Examples

    Research methodology simply refers to the practical "how" of a research study. More specifically, it's about how a researcher systematically designs a study to ensure valid and reliable results that address the research aims, objectives and research questions. Specifically, how the researcher went about deciding:

  4. Research Methodology

    Research Methodology refers to the systematic and scientific approach used to conduct research, investigate problems, and gather data and information for a specific purpose. It involves the techniques and procedures used to identify, collect, analyze, and interpret data to answer research questions or solve research problems.

  5. What Is Research Methodology? (Why It's Important and Types)

    Remote jobs Urgently hiring jobs View more jobs on Indeed What is research methodology? Research methodology is a way of explaining how a researcher intends to carry out their research. It's a logical, systematic plan to resolve a research problem.

  6. Your Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Good Research Methodology

    Provide the rationality behind your chosen approach. Based on logic and reason, let your readers know why you have chosen said research methodologies. Additionally, you have to build strong arguments supporting why your chosen research method is the best way to achieve the desired outcome. 3. Explain your mechanism.

  7. What Is a Research Methodology?

    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 How to write a research methodology

  8. How To Choose The Right Research Methodology

    Factor #2: The disciplinary norms. Choosing the right methodology for your research also involves looking at the approaches used by other researchers in the field, and studies with similar research aims and objectives to yours. Oftentimes, within a discipline, there is a common methodological approach (or set of approaches) used in studies.

  9. What is research methodology? [Update 2024]

    The purpose of a research methodology is to explain the reasoning behind your approach to your research - you'll need to support your collection methods, methods of analysis, and other key points of your work. Think of it like writing a plan or an outline for you what you intend to do. When carrying out research, it can be easy to go off-track ...

  10. A Comprehensive Guide to Research Methodology

    The research methodology is a part of your research paper that describes your research process in detail. It would help if you always tried to make the section of the research methodology enjoyable. As you describe the procedure that has already been completed, you need to write it in the past tense. Your research methodology should explain:

  11. 6. The Methodology

    The methods section describes actions taken to investigate a research problem and the rationale for the application of specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information applied to understanding the problem, thereby, allowing the reader to critically evaluate a study's overall validity and reliability.

  12. How to Write Research Methodology in 2024: Overview, Tips, and

    Methodology in research is defined as the systematic method to resolve a research problem through data gathering using various techniques, providing an interpretation of data gathered and drawing conclusions about the research data. Essentially, a research methodology is the blueprint of a research or study (Murthy & Bhojanna, 2009, p. 32).

  13. What are research methodologies?

    According to Dawson (2019),a research methodology is the primary principle that will guide your research. It becomes the general approach in conducting research on your topic and determines what research method you will use.

  14. What Is a Research Design

    Step 1: Consider your aims and approach Step 2: Choose a type of research design Step 3: Identify your population and sampling method Step 4: Choose your data collection methods Step 5: Plan your data collection procedures Step 6: Decide on your data analysis strategies Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about research design

  15. What is Research Methodology? Definition, Types, and Examples

    A research methodology describes the techniques and procedures used to identify and analyze information regarding a specific research topic. It is a process by which researchers design their study so that they can achieve their objectives using the selected research instruments.

  16. A tutorial on methodological studies: the what, when, how and why

    Methodological studies - studies that evaluate the design, analysis or reporting of other research-related reports - play an important role in health research. They help to highlight issues in the conduct of research with the aim of improving health research methodology, and ultimately reducing research waste. We provide an overview of some of the key aspects of methodological studies such ...

  17. PDF Methodology Section for Research Papers

    Methodology Section for Research Papers The methodology section of your paper describes how your research was conducted. This information allows readers to check whether your approach is accurate and dependable. A good methodology can help increase the reader's trust in your findings.

  18. Research Methodology: Examples and Tips from Experts

    The methodology is the overall plan of your project, which includes studying the methods applied in research and the basic principles and theories to develop a suitable approach for achieving your purposes. As for methods, they involve specific procedures used for collecting and analyzing data, like surveys, statistical tests, and experiments.

  19. PDF Methodology: What It Is and Why It Is So Important

    on each of these levels because they work together and make for good science and scientific research. The purpose of this introductory chapter is to convey what methodology is, why it is needed, and the key tenets that guide what we do as scientists. These foci may seem obvious—after all, everyone knows what methodology is and why it is needed.

  20. Methodology in a Research Paper: Definition and Example

    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 ...

  21. 15 Research Methodology Examples (2024)

    15 Research Methodology Examples. Research methodologies can roughly be categorized into three group: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods. Qualitative Research: This methodology is based on obtaining deep, contextualized, non-numerical data. It can occur, for example, through open-ended questioning of research particiapnts in order to ...

  22. (PDF) Chapter 3

    The research methodology and research method used in this research is acknowledged and discussed. The chapter starts off by providing a comprehensive introduction to research. Then the...

  23. (PDF) Research Methodology

    Research methodology indicates the logic of development of the process used to generate theory that is procedural framework within which the research is conducted (Remenyi et al. 1998). It...

  24. Engineering Research Methodology

    This article offers an overview of engineering research methodology, including its characteristics and types, and the entire process, from proposal development to scientific publication. The first part of the review focuses on the initiation of a research project, including a literature review, proposal writing, and evaluation.

  25. Who Are You? The Art and Science of Measuring Identity

    About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions.

  26. NIH Director Statement on Catalyzing the Development of Novel

    Last week, Dr. Monica Bertagnolli accepted recommendations from the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director on considering approaches that use novel alternative methods in biomedical and behavioral research. This is an exciting step in our ongoing efforts to support research that complements traditional models when scientifically feasible (listen to this All About Grants podcast episode for more).

  27. Driving change: a case study of a DNP leader in residence program in a

    The purpose of this paper is to present a case study of the development and implementation of the Leader in Residence program, followed by suggested evaluation strategies, and discussion of future innovation of leadership opportunities in non-traditional health care settings.Development of the DNP Leader in Residence ProgramThe Plan-Do-Study ...