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How to write a Good Research Methodology in Research papers

How to write a Good Research Methodology in Research papers

It can be difficult to write a research methodology for your paper because you have no idea what it should include. This article is going to walk you through the steps so it’s not such a daunting task. You’ll learn about defining variables, selecting participants, creating hypotheses, designing experiments or surveys depending on your type of study.

What is Research Methodology?

Research methodology is the process of systematically planning and executing research. It in an important step that determines how to design a study and what data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted.

It includes things like deciding on the methods that are going to be used (e.g., experimental or observational), determining how data will be collected (e.g., interviews or surveys), choosing an appropriate design for analysis, as well as addressing any ethical considerations such as informed consent and confidentiality issues.

Steps of writing the research methodology

The purpose of the research methodology is to clearly define what you will do and how you will go about doing it. Your research design (methodology) should contain all of the following stages:

  1. Define the problem or set goals for your research study.
  2. Formulate a hypothesis related to your problem or goal that can be tested in research
  3. Choose a strategy to solve your problem

It includes defining an independent variable (IV), a dependent variable (DV), and other variables if needed. A good operational definition is key. For instance, decide exactly what “intelligence” means–this will be crucial later when gathering data. Also consider confounding variables that are likely to affect your results (which should be controlled for or eliminated)

  1. Choose population (or group of people) and sampling methods
  2. Select a research design

This involves deciding on one or more ways you will measure the IV. You also need to decide what type of study (e.g. correlation vs. experiment). Also consider validity, reliability, etc., as well as ethical considerations if needed.

  1. Determine how you will collect your data/respondents information in your research
  2. Define how you will analyze your data (i.e., statistical tests to use), based on the goals of your study

In our previous post, we talked about the 6 steps of writing a research paper. You can go through the post to read more.

Core Sections of the Research Methodology

  • Analysis is key: How are you going to analyze the data?

In research methodology sections, you need to write down exactly how you will do this because it is often difficult for people with limited statistics knowledge to see if a thesis’s analysis section is well done. For instance, say you are involved in research methods in psychology, your method of analysis should be appropriate for the research design that you have chosen; explain why. If you are using multiple regression, don’t just say “I used multiple regression”. Tell us how many variables entered into the model and why, what the statistical tests were (e.g., F test), whether or not your results were significant in a traditional sense (p < 0.05) and what values that they had, etc. The more specific you are, the better readers will understand why your results matter and whether or not there are any problems with your research design.

It is especially important for grad students to be explicit about how they analyzed their data because just saying “I used t-tests” may not let the readers know you did paired t-tests (which were appropriate, given that it was a pre/post study) and not independent t-tests (which would not have been appropriate). The issue of statistical power and effect size also needs to be addressed; if you don’t tell us what your sample was, we can’t know whether or not you had enough participants in your study.

If we don’t know this, then we can’t tell if your results matter at all. Remember, when reviewers say that something is wrong with your analysis, they probably mean that something is wrong with your design. Whether it’s a matter of statistical power or confounding variables, if we don’t know why you did what you did, then we can’t tell if your analysis was done properly.

If there were more than one IVs in an experiment:

  • What kind of experiment was this?
  • Was the effect due to only one IV? Multiple groups?
  • Anything else that was manipulated (e.g., gender)?
  • Did you control for any confounding variables (i.e., pretesting intelligence) as well as randomize subjects into groups (the same people should not always be placed into different experimental conditions).
  • Were blinding and placebo used in appropriate instances (e.g., drug studies; keep in mind that blinding is impossible if you are using self-report measures)?
  • Did participants drop out of the study and why?
  • Were they included in analyses as if they were never there or excluded from analyses completely?
  • If some data had been deleted, how was this handled (e.g., mean substitution, last value carried forward, etc.) and why did you choose only one method rather than a different method for each analysis (given that it’s possible to use more than one method)?
  • Results

The results section of the research methodology should clearly highlight what you found your data. Your presentation must be logical and easy to understand without jargon: These are important because readers will often be non-specialists; therefore, avoid over reliance on technical language. Provide sufficient tables and figures, but do not include unnecessary tables and figures. Ensure each table or figure is captioned with a brief descriptive title.

– This section can be written in narrative format (i.e., as if it were an essay) or you can “show” results by using tables/figures alone.

– If you use the latter method, then please be sure to label your graphs clearly (what each axis represents), as well as provide captions for these graphs which explain what they are intended to represent; otherwise your audience will have no idea what on earth the graphs are supposed to show them!

  • Discussion

The discussion section should address how these results relate to the literature and begin asking questions about why things are the way they are. Specifically, what might be causing certain results? Is it a result of a certain variable or set of variables, or is it due to something else entirely?

  • Interpretation

The interpretation section should provide an integrated summary of your findings (i.e., how you think these results fit together) and then make specific suggestions for future research based on your findings. Don’t just end with “more research needs to be done” in every paper! Provide specifics about why additional studies should be conducted and propose ways that such studies can proceed (i.e., more narrow vs. broader hypothesis testing). Of course, this step may require that you make recommendations regarding the design of future experiments, but this is not necessary.

  • Conclusion

The conclusions section should summarize the overall import of your research methodology findings (i.e., what do you think these results mean) and clarify how they relate to your hypotheses (you can also briefly address your own research limitations). Do not simply restate your hypotheses! Be sure to clearly state whether or not you found support for each hypothesis tested. If one or more of your hypotheses were rejected, then provide a clear description about why this occurred; don’t just gloss over it in silence by saying that the “results went against predictions” and never explain why this happened (unless there are time constraints). In addition, be sure to indicate whether or not statistical tests were significant and which ones were significant (yes, you can include a table in the paper which lists each hypothesis that was tested along with whether or not it was supported by your results)

Types of Research Methodologies for research papers

According to research methodology experts, there are five basic types of research methodologies: surveys, experiments, observational studies, naturalistic studies, and case studies. They can be group

What is quantitative research?

Quantitative research methodology is used when the researcher wants to gather and analyze data using statistical tools. The data collected is usually numerical in nature like data on age, age distribution, educational levels etc.; either because it can be converted into numbers or because this type of information is easy to collect since people are already accustomed to providing such details when required by law.

In this methodology data is analyzed using numbers only, either as raw scores or transformed to z-scores, t-scores or F-scores depending on what constitutes good or bad performance from a statistical perspective. This method takes into account all variables including demographic factors like age, gender and location, educational achievement as measured by grades and test scores; race and ethnicity; family income level; mother’s education levels; etc.

Types of Quantitative Research methods

  • Questionnaire Surveys

One of the most common quantitative research methods is to ask questions about a certain topic directly from the source, who may be a person or group of people. The answers are usually coded according to themes or categories and analyzed by simple statistical inferential tools such as averages, percentages etc.

  • Interviews

In this research methodology, one individual is asked questions directly regarding a particular topic/theme/subject at hand in order to gather information about it through his/her opinion/view on it and responses are recorded using an audio recorder etc., then transcribed verbatim so that they do not get mixed up with any other data collected simultaneously. Statistical analysis can serve only as an illustrative tool for understanding the context in which data was gathered.

  • Questionnaires

These are similar to surveys except that they are usually administered and collected through a mail or online survey and then analyzed using statistical tools like percentages, averages etc., after the responses are transcribed verbatim.

What is qualitative research?

Qualitative research methodology refers to a wide range of methods with differing levels of rigor and scientificness that are employed during data collection and analysis stages. In qualitative studies there is no hypothesis being tested; rather, there is an underlying theory or concept that guides the study but which is not expressed as hypotheses. The researcher’s role concerns collecting data using different approaches such as interviews, observations, and focus group discussions. The data collected are converted to a holistic picture of the topic or situation being studied. This is made possible through the use of qualitative approaches such as narrative analysis, discourse analysis, case studies, etc.

Qualitative uses different scientific techniques like participant observation, oral history interviews, documentary analysis, case study research, Grounded theory methodology and Phenomenography in collecting data from large populations for research papers. Even though it is more subjective than quantitative research methodologies because of its nature of interpreting words instead of numbers during collection and analyses stages yet it could still yield statistically valid results if done properly.

Sociological research such as psychology research employs qualitative methodologies most of the time since they focus on investigating a particular situation by gathering data from within it, i.e., from firsthand sources such as informants (people who have been directly involved with an issue/group under study for a considerable length of time) instead of asking people questions about things they may not be fully aware of or from outside sources that can give only one-sided views of the issues concerned because information is received second-hand.

Most of the data collected through qualitative research are qualitative i.e., it consists of details like observations, interpretations and emphasis on context, instead of just numerical data, which can be used to arrive at only limited conclusions.

Types of Qualitative Research Methods

  • Focus Groups

Focus groups help understand the opinions, thoughts and beliefs of a group in relation to something specific. They are usually employed for small teams such as students gathered together to give their opinion on certain topics that have been written by the researcher.

  • Participant Observation

Participant observation is a specific type of observational approach in which the researcher studies a social group or community by participating in their activities and recording his/her thoughts. This is done over a long period of time and as close to the natural setting as possible.

  • Use of Documents

Documentary analysis in research methodology involves analyzing documents related to the research topic such as government papers, statistics, newspaper reports about an event, etc. The researcher will collect documents based on his/her study area and read through them carefully. He then evaluates the material to identify patterns, trends that led to certain results, changes over time etc., from which he can derive relevant information for his study.

This approach is considered more reliable since it uses authentic and objective sources rather than subjectivity of human memory recollection during interviews or observations used in other qualitative approaches.

  • Modeling

In modeling, the researcher takes a specific individual who has been involved in the research problem and models their behavior. For example, if one is studying a certain group of students and how they solve problems involving different geometry concepts, he may model himself or another knowledgeable mathematics teacher to observe and analyse their approaches towards solving these problems.

Modeling is considered limited since it requires someone having prior knowledge of the situation being studied before engaging in data collection. It also involves only one subject as opposed to generalization that can be made from multiple subjects’ experiences or observations during scientific research.

  • Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis seeks to study trends, patterns or changes through analyzing spoken or written texts on a topic or on themes studies others have written about. For example, if a researcher is studying the lives of working women in Africa and their experiences at work, she may analyze women’s testimonies or life stories on this topic that have been published in books, newspapers or journals to see what similarities and differences exist among them.

In discourse analysis the research paper will present the findings through a close textual reading of sources provided by the author. This is not a quantitative type of approach since no standardized data were collected but just interpreting words from different authors and trying to relate them together as coherently as possible.

  • Conceptual Mapping

Conceptual mapping involves organizing ideas, concepts etc., in an orderly manner according to relationships between these objects. This is done through creating a diagram using symbols, concept maps, mind-maps or information graphics to depict the relationships between these objects. Conceptual mapping is usually used as a pre-design tool for data analysis in grounded theory research methodology.

  • Use of Grounded Theory

Grounded theory is based on the idea that theory cannot be created a priori by the researcher but can only be arrived at through inductive and iterative process in which individual facts are grouped according to their similarities into categories or themes and these categories together form broader ones until finally an overall set of concepts about a phenomenon under study emerges from them.

Grounded theory methodology helps the researcher create useful generalized statements about social reality. However, it requires in depth knowledge of qualitative methods like participant observation, interviews etc., before using those methods since it accounts for any biases, distortions or changes in the data produced at each stage.

  • Analysis of Texts

Analysis of texts is used to study the interpretation and understanding of an object, person etc.; from a source such as literature, newspaper articles, speeches etc., by studying the underlying meanings behind words and sentences and categorizing them logically according to thematic categories.

The underlying meaning is derived from deconstructing the text into separate units like words or phrases and analyzing these separately; then comparing their connotations with others to find out what they have in common and grouping together similar ones under themes that may depict certain situations mentioned in the text or communicate certain ideas conveyed through it.

This approach is limited since there are no tools to apply for measuring or quantifying the data collected.

  • Critical Discourse Analysis

Critical discourse analysis is an approach that studies the way power and inter-group relations are manifested, reproduced and resisted in texts through the use of language. It focuses on visible social inequalities like race, gender etc., instead of just studying how they are expressed in words.

Texts used by a researcher for critical discourse analysis may be literature, advertisements, political speeches or any written material which conveys certain ideas about identity groups like women, people of color etc., which have become invisible yet impact their lives in some form or another.

  • Postmodern Interpretation

Postmodern interpretation is based on close textual reading as well as content analysis but it employs postmodern theories to interpret the social realities described in the text. It questions dominant, elite discourses or language and tries to unveil the multiple subjects present in any given situation or discourse.

Postmodern interpretation is useful for analyzing sources like poetry and prose written in first person narrative as well as academic journals published by minority groups because it helps unpack their meaning from inside out.

Quantitative Versus Qualitative Research (Plus Table)

Research methodologies can either be quantitative or qualitative. For research papers, students are required to use one of these two methodologies. Students can easily identify what these two methodologies are all about by recognizing the language used in each of them.

What is the difference between quantitative versus Qualitative research?

Qualitative methodology focuses on the collection and interpretation of qualitative data for analysis while quantitative methodology involves no theory or interpretation, just simple measurements of variables involved in a given situation.

Quantitative Methodology Qualitative Methodology
People Needs to be a generalizable population or distribution of people and their needs Evaluate one variable at a time  – More linear research design, hypothesis testing, more focused on causal relationships between variables. People are often recruited for studies based on pre-existing conditions that may limit the scope of findings.
Product/Service Needs to be a generalizable product or service and the set of criteria that may appeal to potential customers (think about how Apple tests ideas, this method is often used in their process) Evaluate multiple variables simultaneously. This type of research methodology is great for observational analysis without having to make new assumptions about causality.
Stakeholders  (often political capital required) Needs to be a generalizable satisfaction among stakeholders on some level Evaluates one variable at a time, and a few variables simultaneously. Stakeholders are often given surveys or asked for insights, so their usefulness is limited by how reliable the data is from each stakeholder (remember that it’s politically charged). Also can’t measure complex relationships across multiple dimensions as easily (i.e., correlation vs causation)
Practicality  (requires upfront capital to set up in some cases) Needs to be generalizable time periods/costs of development and project investment. Useful for research on feasibility testing with prototypes and live projects like A/B tests, multivariate test comparisons, etc. Critique: Can’t measure complex relationships across multiple dimensions as easily (i.e., correlation vs causation)
Multivariate Testing (requires upfront capital to set up in some cases) Needs to be generalizable time periods/costs of development and project investment, and a product or service that has multiple variables. This type of research methodology is great for multivariate testing with control groups and randomization so it can prove causality with less pain points as discussed above


Ethnographic Research

Ethnographic research involves studying the culture of a group or an individual and their behavior by observing them – the way they speak, eat, play, and work etc., as well as spending time with them to understand how they view things. It helps one know about not only what people do but also why they do it that way thus giving more insights into the meaning of any action or practice. This approach has its limitations since it cannot be used for studying cultures of people that one does not belong to. It is most useful for analyzing cultures or behavior of people in different regions or countries who are distant from each other, since they may have disparate approaches to a given phenomenon but similar reasons for acting the way they do.

Common Goal of Qualitative and quantitative research

The common goal behind all [kinds/forms] {types} of research is to achieve a better understanding of our world. Always remember that achieving this goal involves two phases: Studying the data and then interpreting it . In other words, you need to do some analyzing before you can say anything meaningful.

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