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What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips

Published on August 25, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 20, 2023.

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 and your dissertation topic .

It should include:

  • The type of research you conducted
  • How you collected and analyzed your data
  • Any tools or materials you used in the research
  • How you mitigated or avoided research biases
  • 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, other interesting articles, 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 ? How did you prevent bias from affecting your data?

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 generalizable, you should describe quantitative research methods in enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study.

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

  • Information bias
  • Omitted variable bias
  • Regression to the mean
  • Survivorship bias
  • Undercoverage bias
  • Sampling bias

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 analyze?
  • How did you select them?

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

  • The Hawthorne effect
  • Observer bias
  • The placebo effect
  • Response bias and Nonresponse bias
  • The Pygmalion effect
  • Recall bias
  • Social desirability bias
  • Self-selection bias

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.

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Next, you should indicate how you processed and analyzed 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 analyzing 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 : Categorizing 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 behaviors, but they are effective for testing causal relationships between variables .
  • Qualitative: Unstructured interviews usually produce results that cannot be generalized 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 generalizable.

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.

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

  • Normal distribution
  • Measures of central tendency
  • Chi square tests
  • Confidence interval
  • Quartiles & Quantiles

Methodology

  • Cluster sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Thematic analysis
  • Cohort study
  • Peer review
  • Ethnography

Research bias

  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Conformity bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Availability heuristic
  • Attrition bias

Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research project . It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your objectives.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyze data (for example, experiments, surveys , and statistical tests ).

In shorter scientific papers, where the aim is to report the findings of a specific study, you might simply describe what you did in a methods section .

In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation , you will probably include a methodology section , where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.

In a scientific paper, the methodology always comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion . The same basic structure also applies to a thesis, dissertation , or research proposal .

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 systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.

Reliability and validity are both about how well a method measures something:

  • Reliability refers to the  consistency of a measure (whether the results can be reproduced under the same conditions).
  • Validity   refers to the  accuracy of a measure (whether the results really do represent what they are supposed to measure).

If you are doing experimental research, you also have to consider the internal and external validity of your experiment.

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.

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2023-2024 Academic Catalog

Loyola university chicago, 2023-2024 catalog.

The Academic Catalog is the official listing of courses, programs of study, academic policies and degree requirements for Loyola University Chicago. It is published every year in advance of the next academic year.

School and Academic Centers and Institutes

Undergraduate academic standards and regulations, arrupe academic standards and regulations, professional license disclosures, accreditation, research methodology (phd).

Use numbers and data to drive systematic change in education

A number is not simply a number in our research methodology program. Here, unlike in math or statistics, numbers are not the final answer. With a PhD in Research Methodology, you can work in educational and institutional research, using numbers to tell the story of the human experience and create meaningful change.

The PhD in Research Methodology requires 60cr hours, the completion of a research portfolio, and a dissertation. Students also participate in a consulting experience, where they conduct a research study and provide consulting assistance to a researcher or organization.

Required Courses

Comprehensive assessment.

A Comprehensive Research Portfolio is required. The portfolio contains three items: a) a report on a research consulting experience, b) a research paper demonstrating the candidates understanding of all phases in the research process and the ability to analyze and interpret data from a research study, and c) a literature review of an issue in the candidate's area of concentration.

Dissertation

A dissertation, as well as an oral defense of the dissertation, is required. Once completed, the final dissertation must be submitted to a publicly accessible database according to Graduate School policy.

Graduate & Professional Standards and Regulations

Students in graduate and professional programs can find their Academic Policies in Graduate and Professional Academic Standards and Regulations under their school. Any additional University Policies supercede school policies.

Learning Outcomes

You will be able to critically evaluate bodies of knowledge from a variety of methodological traditions, use a variety of software programs to implement analyses, and conduct all stages of a research study in applied settings. Plus, you'll participate in a required consulting experience, where you'll conduct a research study and then provide consulting advice to a researcher or organization.

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All research is based on some underlying philosophical assumptions about what constitutes 'valid' research and which research method(s) is/are appropriate for the development of knowledge in a given study. In order to conduct and evaluate any research, it is therefore important to know what these assumptions are. This chapter discusses the philosophical assumptions and also the design strategies underpinning this research study. Common philosophical assumptions were reviewed and presented; the interpretive paradigm was identified for the framework of the study. In addition, the chapter discusses the research methodologies, and design used in the study including strategies, instruments, and data collection and analysis methods, while explaining the stages and processes involved in the study. The research design for this study is a descriptive and interpretive case study that is analysed through qualitative methods. Questionnaires were used to evaluate participants' WebCT skills (before the course starts) and to determine their levels of satisfaction in the course (at the end of the case study). A descriptive statistical method was used to analyze the student satisfaction survey. Participant observation, face-to-face interviews, focus-group interviews, questionnaires, and member checking were used as data collection methods. Furthermore, the justification for each of the data collection methods used in the study was discussed. Finally, in order to ensure trustworthiness of the research, appropriate criteria for qualitative research were discussed, and several methods that include member checks, peer reviews, crystallisation and triangulation were suggested and later employed. The chapter closed with a diagrammatic representation of the major facets of the envisaged framework for the research design and development of the study, and a discussion on the project management approach envisaged for this study.

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Research Methodology Syllabus for NTA-PhD Entrance Exam 2023

Research Methodology for PhD entrance Exam

Research Methodology

The Research Methodology syllabus for the Ph.D. NTA Entrance Exam covers a comprehensive range of topics designed to equip prospective doctoral candidates with essential skills and knowledge related to conducting research effectively. The syllabus aims to provide a solid foundation in research principles, methodologies, and techniques.

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Key areas of study include:

1. Science and Research: Definition – History – Evolution of Scientific Inquiry, Scientific Research: Definition, Characteristics, types, need of research. Identification of the problem, assessing the status of the problem, formulating the objectives, preparing design (experimental or otherwise), Actual investigation.

2. Introduction to Research: Meaning and importance of Research – Types of Research – Selection and formulation of Research Problem

Research Design – Need – Features – Inductive, Deductive and Development of models

Developing a Research Plan – Exploration, Description, Diagnosis, Experimentation, Determining Experimental and Sample Designs.

Analysis of Literature Review – Primary and Secondary Sources, Web sources –critical Literature Review

Hypothesis – Different Types – Significance – Development of Working Hypothesis, Null hypothesis

Research Methods: Scientific method vs Arbitrary Method, Logical Scientific Methods: Deductive, Inductive, Deductive-Inductive, pattern of Deductive – Inductive logical process – Different types of inductive logical methods.

3. Data Collection:

Sources of Data – Primary and Secondary Types of Data – Categorical (nominal and ordinal), Numerical (discrete, continuous, ratio and interval)

Methods of Data Collection: Survey, Interviews (in-depth or Key Informant interviews), Focus Group Discussion (FGD), Observation, Records or Experimental Observations.

Sampling methods – Data Processing and Analysis strategies- Graphical representation – Descriptive Analysis – Inferential Analysis- Correlation analysis – Least square method – Data Analysis using statistical package – Hypothesis – testing – Generalization and Interpretation – Modeling.

4. Data Processing and Analysis: Statistical Graphics – Histograms, Frequency Polygon, Ogive, Dotplots, Stemplots, Bar Graphs, Pareto Charts, Pie Charts, Scatterplots, Boxplots Descriptive Analysis – Frequency Distributions, Measures of Central Tendency, Measures of Variation/Dispersion, Skewness and Kurtosis, Measures of Relative Standing Qualitative Approaches Including Grounded Theory, Ethnography, Narrative Inquiry, Phenomenology and Case-Study.

5. Scientific Writing:

Structure and components of Scientific Reports – types of Report – Technical Reports and Thesis – Significance – Different steps in the preparation – Layout, structure and Language of typical reports – Illustrations and tables – Bibliography, Referencing and foot notes –Importance of Effective Communication.

Preparing Research papers for journals, Seminars and Conferences – Design of paper using TEMPLATE, Calculations of Impact factor of a journal, citation Index, ISBN & ISSN. Preparation of Project Proposal – Title, Abstract, Introduction – Rationale, Objectives, Methodology – Time frame and work plan – Budget and Justification – References.

Preparation of the Project Proposal – Title, Abstract, Introduction – Rationale, Objectives, Methodology – Time frame and Work Plan – Budget and Justification.

Documentation and scientific writing Results and Conclusions, Preparation of manuscript for Publication of Research paper, presenting a paper in scientific seminar, Thesis writing. Structure and Components of Research Report, Types of Report: research papers, thesis, Research Project Reports, Pictures and Graphs, citation styles, writing a review of paper, Bibliography.

6. Information sources: Types of publications, Indexing and abstracting services, Online library, Search engines, Citation indexes, Citations analysis, Online searching methods, Initiatives for knowledge management.

7. Research Ethics: Research Ethics Committees/Institutional Review Board – Roles and Importance Intellectual Property rights – Commercialization, Royalty Reproduction of Published Material – Citation and Acknowledgement, Plagiarism.

8. References: How to cite and list correctly, Common documentation styles, Citation of sources in the text, Reference management softwares, Selecting a journal, conference.

9. Computer applications and Statistics: Use of word processing, spread sheet and database software. Plotting of graphs. Internet and its application: E‐mail, WWW, Web browsing, acquiring technical skills, drawing inferences from data, Introduction to Statistics – Probability Theories ‐ Conditional Probability, Poisson distribution, Binomial Distribution and Properties of Normal Distributions, Estimates of Means and Proportions; Chi Square Test, Association of Attributes t-Test –Anova, Standard deviation Coefficient of variations. Co relation and Regression Analysis.

SAMPLE MCQs

  • What is the primary purpose of a research methodology? a) To summarize existing research b) To provide a theoretical framework c) To guide the research process d) To present statistical analysis
  • Which research approach focuses on numerical data and statistical analysis? a) Qualitative research b) Descriptive research c) Quantitative research d) Case study research
  • Which sampling method gives every individual in the population an equal chance of being selected? a) Convenience sampling b) Purposive sampling c) Quota sampling d) Random sampling
  • What is the purpose of a literature review in research? a) To showcase the author’s writing skills b) To provide a summary of the methodology c) To analyze and critique existing research d) To present personal opinions on the topic
  • In hypothesis testing, which type of error occurs when a true null hypothesis is rejected? a) Type I error b) Type II error c) Sampling error d) Measurement error
  • What is the role of an Institutional Review Board (IRB) in research? a) Data analysis and interpretation b) Selection of research participants c) Ensuring ethical considerations are met d) Writing research reports
  • Which research method involves studying a single individual or case in depth? a) Survey research b) Experimental research c) Case study research d) Correlational research
  • What is the purpose of triangulation in research? a) To use multiple methods to confirm findings b) To manipulate research data c) To select a representative sample d) To conduct cross-cultural research
  • What does a p-value in statistical analysis indicate? a) The size of the sample b) The strength of the relationship between variables c) The probability of obtaining results by chance d) The number of research participants
  • Which section of a research paper discusses the implications and significance of the findings? a) Introduction b) Methodology c) Results d) Discussion

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Ph.D. Entrance Exam 2023 II LIFE SCIENCES Syllabus

  • Molecules and their Interaction Relevant to Biology
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  • Developmental Biology
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