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Research Methodologies

A guide on the different types of research methods, and how to determine which one to use in your own research.

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. 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

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

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).

Mixed Method Methodologies

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.

Selecting a Methodology

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 many
  • Test
  • Verify
  • How often
  • How satisfied

Qualitative Research Key Words

  • Discover
  • Motivation
  • Experiences
  • Thoughts/Think
  • Problems
  • Behavior
  • What are
  • Relationship