Jan 26, 2023

Types of Research Methods: Examples and Tips

types of research methods, books on a shelf
Applying the most appropriate research methods in your study will ensure that your work is well received by journals.

What are research methods?

Research methods are the techniques and procedures used to collect and analyze data in order to answer research questions and test a research hypothesis. There are several different types of research methods, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. 

Common Types of Research Methods

There are several main types of research methods that are employed in academic articles. The type of research method applied depends on the nature of the data to be collected and analyzed, as well as any restrictions or limitations that dictate the study’s resources and methodology. Surveying articles from your target journal and identifying the methods commonly used in these studies is also recommended before choosing a research method or methods.

SurveysSurveys are a type of research method that involve collecting data from a large number of people through questionnaires or interviews. Surveys are often used to gather information about attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
ExperimentsExperiments are a type of research method that involve manipulating one or more variables in order to observe the effect on another variable. Experiments are often used to test cause-and-effect relationships.
Case studiesCase studies are a type of research method that involve an in-depth examination of a single individual, group, or event. Case studies are often used to gather detailed information about a specific phenomenon.
ObservationsObservations are a type of research method that involve watching and recording the behavior of individuals or groups. Observations are often used to gather information about naturalistic behavior.
Content analysisContent analysis is a type of research method that involves analyzing and interpreting written or spoken text. Content analysis is often used to analyze large amounts of data, such as news articles or social media posts.
Historical researchHistorical research is a type of research method that involves studying the past through the examination of primary and secondary sources, such as documents, artifacts, and photographs.

It’s important to note that research methods can be combined for a more complete understanding of a research question or hypothesis. For example, an experiment can be followed by a survey to gather more information about participants’ attitudes and behaviors.

Overall, the choice of research method depends on the research question, the type of data needed, and the resources available to the researcher.

Data Collection Methods

Data is information collected in order to answer research questions. The kind of data you choose to collect will depend on the nature of your research question and the aims of your study. There are a few main category distinctions of data a researcher can collect.

Quantitative vs qualitative data

Qualitative and quantitative data are two types of data that are often used in research studies. They are different in terms of their characteristics, how they are collected, and how they are analyzed.

Quantitative data is numerical and is collected through methods such as surveys, polls, and experiments. It is often used to measure and describe the characteristics of a large group of people or objects. This data can be analyzed using statistical methods to find patterns and trends.

Qualitative data, on the other hand, is non-numerical and is collected through methods such as interviews, observations, and focus groups. It is often used to understand the experiences, attitudes, and perceptions of individuals or small groups. This data is analyzed using methods such as content analysis, thematic analysis, and discourse analysis to identify patterns and themes.

Overall, quantitative data provides a more objective and generalizable understanding of a phenomenon, while qualitative data provides a more subjective and in-depth understanding. Both types of data are important and can be used together to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a topic.

Positives    Negatives
Qualitative data-Methods can be adjusted as the study progresses to answer different questions.
-Can be induced with a smaller study or sample size.
-No statistical analysis or application to wider populations or phenomena.
-Higher risk for research bias as it is more difficult to standardize metrics..
Quantitative data-Very systematic and specific in yielding data.
-Knowledge generated is testable and reproducible.
-Requires an understanding of statistics to analyze data. 
-Larger sample sizes are needed to yield relevant data.

You can also make use of both qualitative and quantitative research methods in your study.

Primary vs secondary data

Primary and secondary research are two different types of research methods that are used in the field of academia and market research. Both primary and secondary sources can be applied in most studies.

Primary research is research that is conducted by the individual or organization themselves. It involves collecting original data through methods such as surveys, interviews, or experiments. The data collected through primary research is specific to the research question and objectives, and is not typically available through other sources.

Secondary research, on the other hand, involves the use of existing data that has already been collected by someone else. This can include data from government reports, academic journals, or industry publications. The advantage of secondary research is that it is typically less time-consuming and less expensive than primary research, as the data has already been collected. However, the data may not be as specific or relevant to the research question and objectives.

The choice between using primary and secondary research will depend on the research question, study budget, and time constraints of the project, as well as the target journal to which you are submitting your manuscript.

Primary dataCan more directly answer your research question..Researcher has more control over the constraints and controls of the data.Takes significant time and resources to collectRequires a strong understanding of how to collect data.
Secondary dataMuch more convenient and faster to access.Data can be collected from various time frames and locations.No ability to adjust or control how data is created.Takes longer time to process and verify as relevant data.

Experimental vs descriptive data collection

Experimental data is collected through a controlled experiment, in which the researcher manipulates one or more variables to observe the effect on another variable. The goal of experimental data is to determine cause-and-effect relationships. For example, in a study on the effectiveness of a new drug for treating a certain condition, the researchers would randomly assign participants to either a group that receives the drug or a group that receives a placebo, and then compare the outcomes between the two groups. The data collected in this study would be considered experimental data.

Descriptive data, on the other hand, is data that is collected through observation or surveys and is used to describe the characteristics of a population or phenomenon. The goal of descriptive data is to provide a snapshot of the current state of a certain population or phenomenon, rather than to determine cause-and-effect relationships. For example, in a study on the dietary habits of a certain population, the researchers would collect data on what types of food the participants typically eat and how often they eat them. This data would be considered descriptive data.

In summary, experimental data is collected through a controlled experiment to determine cause-and-effect relationships, while descriptive data is collected through observation or surveys to describe the characteristics of a population or phenomenon.

Descriptive data examples:

  1. A survey that asks people about their favorite type of music
  2. A census that counts the number of people living in a certain area
  3. A poll that asks people about their political affiliation

Experimental data examples:

  1. A study comparing the effectiveness of two different medications for treating a certain condition
  2. An experiment measuring the effect of different levels of a certain chemical on plant growth
  3. A clinical trial comparing the side effects of a new treatment to a standard treatment for a disease

Examples of Difference Data Collection Methods

Research methodPrimary/secondaryQualitative/quantitativeWhen to apply
ExperimentPrimaryQuantitativeTo test causal relationships.
Case studyEitherEitherTo analyze a specific case in-depth, often when you do not have the resources to perform a study with a large sample group.
ObservationPrimaryEitherTo analyze how a phenomenon functions in a natural state.
Literature reviewSecondaryEitherTo position your work in a body of research and/or uncover trends within a research topic.
Content analysisSecondaryEitherTo determine the presence of certain words, themes, or concepts within some given qualitative data, often text.

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