Unlike what a layman generally presumes, Research is not just about determining a hypothesis and unraveling a conclusion for that hypothesis. Every research approach that we take up falls under the category of a type of methodology and every methodology is exclusive and intricate in its depth.
So what are these research methodologies and how do the researchers make use of them? This is what we are going to explore through this blog. Before we attempt to understand these methods, let us understand what research methodology actually means.
What are Research Methods?
Firstly, let's understand why we undertake research? What exactly is the point of it?
Research is mainly done to gain knowledge to support a survey or quest regarding a particular conception or theory and to reach a resolute conclusion regarding the same. Research is generally an approach for gaining knowledge which is required to interpret, write, delve further and to distribute data.
For ensuring that a fulfilling experience is delivered, it is essential that the Research is premium in its quality and that’s where Research Methods come to the rescue.
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Types of Research Methods
An area is selected, a specific hypothesis is determined and a defined conclusion is required to be achieved. But how is this conclusion reached? What is the approach that can be taken up? As per CR Kothari’s book “Research Methodology Methods and Techniques” (The Second Revised Edition), the basic types of Research Methods are the following :
Types of Research Methods
Descriptive Research is a form of research that incorporates surveys as well as different varieties of fact-finding investigations. This form of research is focused on describing the prevailing state of affairs as they are. Descriptive Research is also termed as Ex post facto research.
This research form emphasises on factual reporting, the researcher cannot control the involved variables and can only report the details as they took place or as they are taking place.
Researchers mainly make use of a descriptive research approach for purposes such as when the research is aimed at deciphering characteristics, frequencies or trends.
Ex post facto studies also include attempts by researchers to discover causes even when they cannot control the variables. The descriptive research methods are mainly, observations, surveys as well as case studies.
(Speaking of variables, have you ever wondered - What are confounding variables?)
Analytical Research is a form of research where the researcher has to make do with the data and factual information available at their behest and interpret this information to undertake an acute evaluation of the data.
This form of research is often undertaken by researchers to uncover some evidence that supports their present research and which makes it more authentic. It is also undertaken for concocting fresh ideas relating to the topic on which the research is based.
From conducting meta analysis, literary research or scientific trials and learning public opinion, there are many methods through which this research is done.
When a business or say, the society is faced with an issue that needs an immediate solution or resolution, Applied Research is the research type that comes to the rescue.
We primarily make use of Applied Research when it comes to resolving the issues plaguing our daily lives, impacting our work, health or welfare. This research type is undertaken to uncover solutions for issues relating to varying sectors like education, engineering, psychology or business.
For instance, a company might employ an applied researcher for concluding the best possible approach of selecting employees that would be the best fit for specific positions in the company.
The crux of Applied Research is to figure out the solution to a certain growing practical issue.
The 3 Types of Applied Research are mainly
Evaluation Research - Research where prevailing data regarding the topic is interpreted to arrive at proper decisions
Research and Development - Where the focus is on setting up fresh products or services which focus on the target market requirements
Action Research - Which aims at offering practical solutions for certain business issues by giving them proper direction, are the 3 types of Applied Research.
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This is a Research type that is primarily concerned with formulating a theory or understanding a particular natural phenomenon. Fundamental Research aims to discover information with an extensive application base, supplementing the existing concepts in a certain field or industry.
Research on pure mathematics or research regarding generalisation of the behavior of humans are also examples of Fundamental Research. This form of research is mainly carried out in sectors like Education, Psychology and Science.
For instance, in Psychology fundamental research assists the individual or the company in gaining better insights regarding certain behaviors such as deciphering how consumption of caffeine can possibly impact the attention span of a student or how culture stereotypes can possibly trigger depression.
Quantitative Research, as the name suggests, is based on the measurement of a particular amount or quantity of a particular phenomenon. It focuses on gathering and interpreting numerical data and can be adopted for discovering any averages or patterns or for making predictions.
This form of Research is number based and it lies under the two main Research Types. It makes use of tables, data and graphs to reach a conclusion. The outcomes generated from this research are measurable and can be repeated unlike the outcomes of qualitative research. This research type is mainly adopted for scientific and field based research.
Quantitative research generally involves a large number of people and a huge section of data and has a lot of scope for accuracy in it.
These research methods can be adopted for approaches like descriptive, correlational or experimental research.
Descriptive research - The study variables are analyzed and a summary of the same is seeked.
Correlational Research - The relationship between the study variables is analyzed.
Experimental Research - It is deciphered to analyse whether a cause and effect relationship between the variables exists.
Quantitative research methods
- Experiment Research - This method controls or manages independent variables for calculating the effect it has on dependent variables.
- Survey - Surveys involve inquiring questions from a certain specified number or set of people either online, face to face or over the phone.
- (Systematic) observation - This method involves detecting any occurrence and monitoring it in a natural setting.
- Secondary research : This research focuses on making use of data which has been previously collected for other purposes such as for say, a national survey.
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As the name suggests, this form of Research is more considered with the quality of a certain phenomenon, it dives into the “why” alongside the “what”. For instance, let’s consider a gender neutral clothing store which has more women visiting it than men.
Qualitative research would be determining why men are not visiting the store by carrying out an in-depth interview of some potential customers in this category.
This form of research is interested in getting to the bottom of the reasons for human behaviour, i.e understanding why certain actions are taken by people or why they think certain thoughts.
Through this research the factors influencing people into behaving in a certain way or which control their preferences towards a certain thing can be interpreted.
An example of Qualitative Research would be Motivation Research. This research focuses on deciphering the rooted motives or desires through intricate methods like in depth interviews. It involves several tests like story completion or word association.
Another example would be Opinion Research. This type of research is carried out to discover the opinion and perspective of people regarding a certain subject or phenomenon.
This is a theory based form of research and it works by describing an issue by taking into account the prior concepts, ideas and studies. The experience of the researcher plays an integral role here.
The Types of Qualitative Research includes the following methods :
Qualitative research methods
- Observations: In this method what the researcher sees, hears of or encounters is recorded in detail.
- Interviews: Personally asking people questions in one-on-one conversations.
- Focus groups: This involves asking questions and discussions among a group of people to generate conclusions from the same.
- Surveys: In these surveys unlike the quantitative research surveys, the questionnaires involve extensive open ended questions that require elaborate answers.
- Secondary research: Gathering the existing data such as images, texts or audio or video recordings. This can involve a text analysis, a research of a case study, or an In-depth interview.
This research is related to an abstract idea or a theory. It is adopted by thinkers and philosophers with the aim of developing a new concept or to re-examine the existing concepts.
Conceptual Research is mainly defined as a methodology in which the research is conducted by observing and interpreting the already present information on a present topic. It does not include carrying out any practical experiments.
This methodology has often been adopted by famous Philosophers like Aristotle, Copernicus, Einstein and Newton for developing fresh theories and insights regarding the working of the world and for examining the existing ones from a different perspective.
The concepts were set up by philosophers to observe their environment and to sort, study, and summarise the information available.
This is a research method that focuses solely on aspects like observation and experience, without focusing on the theory or system. It is based on data and it can churn conclusions that can be confirmed or verified through observation and experiment. Empirical Research is mainly undertaken to determine proof that certain variables are affecting the others in a particular way.
This kind of research can also be termed as Experimental Research. In this research it is essential that all the facts are received firsthand, directly from the source so that the researcher can actively go and carry out the actions and manipulate the concerned materials to gain the information he requires.
In this research a hypothesis is generated and then a path is undertaken to confirm or invalidate this hypothesis. The control that the researcher holds over the involved variables defines this research. The researcher can manipulate one of these variables to examine its effect.
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Other Types of Research
All research types apart from the ones stated above are mainly variations of them, either in terms of research purpose or in the terms of the time that is required for accomplishing the research, or say, the research environment.
If we take the perspective of time, research can be considered as either One-time research or Longitudinal Research.
A research can also be set in a field or a laboratory or be a simulation, it depends on the environment that the research is based on.
We’ve also got Historical Research which makes use of historical sources such as documents and remains for examining past events and ideas. This also includes the philosophy of an individual and groups at a particular time.
Research may be clinical or diagnostic. These kinds of research generally carry out case study or in-depth interview approaches to determine basic causal relationships.
Research can also be Exploratory or Formalized.
We can also classify Research as conclusion-oriented and decision-oriented.
The common and well known research methods have been listed in this blog. Hopefully this blog will give the readers and present and future researchers proper knowledge regarding important methods they can adopt to conduct their Research.