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Research Methodology – Types, Examples and writing Guide

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Research Methodology

Research Methodology

Definition:

Research Methodology refers to the systematic and scientific approach used to conduct research, investigate problems, and gather data and information for a specific purpose. It involves the techniques and procedures used to identify, collect , analyze , and interpret data to answer research questions or solve research problems . Moreover, They are philosophical and theoretical frameworks that guide the research process.

Structure of Research Methodology

Research methodology formats can vary depending on the specific requirements of the research project, but the following is a basic example of a structure for a research methodology section:

I. Introduction

  • Provide an overview of the research problem and the need for a research methodology section
  • Outline the main research questions and objectives

II. Research Design

  • Explain the research design chosen and why it is appropriate for the research question(s) and objectives
  • Discuss any alternative research designs considered and why they were not chosen
  • Describe the research setting and participants (if applicable)

III. Data Collection Methods

  • Describe the methods used to collect data (e.g., surveys, interviews, observations)
  • Explain how the data collection methods were chosen and why they are appropriate for the research question(s) and objectives
  • Detail any procedures or instruments used for data collection

IV. Data Analysis Methods

  • Describe the methods used to analyze the data (e.g., statistical analysis, content analysis )
  • Explain how the data analysis methods were chosen and why they are appropriate for the research question(s) and objectives
  • Detail any procedures or software used for data analysis

V. Ethical Considerations

  • Discuss any ethical issues that may arise from the research and how they were addressed
  • Explain how informed consent was obtained (if applicable)
  • Detail any measures taken to ensure confidentiality and anonymity

VI. Limitations

  • Identify any potential limitations of the research methodology and how they may impact the results and conclusions

VII. Conclusion

  • Summarize the key aspects of the research methodology section
  • Explain how the research methodology addresses the research question(s) and objectives

Research Methodology Types

Types of Research Methodology are as follows:

Quantitative Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the collection and analysis of numerical data using statistical methods. This type of research is often used to study cause-and-effect relationships and to make predictions.

Qualitative Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the collection and analysis of non-numerical data such as words, images, and observations. This type of research is often used to explore complex phenomena, to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular topic, and to generate hypotheses.

Mixed-Methods Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that combines elements of both quantitative and qualitative research. This approach can be particularly useful for studies that aim to explore complex phenomena and to provide a more comprehensive understanding of a particular topic.

Case Study Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves in-depth examination of a single case or a small number of cases. Case studies are often used in psychology, sociology, and anthropology to gain a detailed understanding of a particular individual or group.

Action Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves a collaborative process between researchers and practitioners to identify and solve real-world problems. Action research is often used in education, healthcare, and social work.

Experimental Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the manipulation of one or more independent variables to observe their effects on a dependent variable. Experimental research is often used to study cause-and-effect relationships and to make predictions.

Survey Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the collection of data from a sample of individuals using questionnaires or interviews. Survey research is often used to study attitudes, opinions, and behaviors.

Grounded Theory Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the development of theories based on the data collected during the research process. Grounded theory is often used in sociology and anthropology to generate theories about social phenomena.

Research Methodology Example

An Example of Research Methodology could be the following:

Research Methodology for Investigating the Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Reducing Symptoms of Depression in Adults

Introduction:

The aim of this research is to investigate the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in reducing symptoms of depression in adults. To achieve this objective, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) will be conducted using a mixed-methods approach.

Research Design:

The study will follow a pre-test and post-test design with two groups: an experimental group receiving CBT and a control group receiving no intervention. The study will also include a qualitative component, in which semi-structured interviews will be conducted with a subset of participants to explore their experiences of receiving CBT.

Participants:

Participants will be recruited from community mental health clinics in the local area. The sample will consist of 100 adults aged 18-65 years old who meet the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder. Participants will be randomly assigned to either the experimental group or the control group.

Intervention :

The experimental group will receive 12 weekly sessions of CBT, each lasting 60 minutes. The intervention will be delivered by licensed mental health professionals who have been trained in CBT. The control group will receive no intervention during the study period.

Data Collection:

Quantitative data will be collected through the use of standardized measures such as the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7). Data will be collected at baseline, immediately after the intervention, and at a 3-month follow-up. Qualitative data will be collected through semi-structured interviews with a subset of participants from the experimental group. The interviews will be conducted at the end of the intervention period, and will explore participants’ experiences of receiving CBT.

Data Analysis:

Quantitative data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics, t-tests, and mixed-model analyses of variance (ANOVA) to assess the effectiveness of the intervention. Qualitative data will be analyzed using thematic analysis to identify common themes and patterns in participants’ experiences of receiving CBT.

Ethical Considerations:

This study will comply with ethical guidelines for research involving human subjects. Participants will provide informed consent before participating in the study, and their privacy and confidentiality will be protected throughout the study. Any adverse events or reactions will be reported and managed appropriately.

Data Management:

All data collected will be kept confidential and stored securely using password-protected databases. Identifying information will be removed from qualitative data transcripts to ensure participants’ anonymity.

Limitations:

One potential limitation of this study is that it only focuses on one type of psychotherapy, CBT, and may not generalize to other types of therapy or interventions. Another limitation is that the study will only include participants from community mental health clinics, which may not be representative of the general population.

Conclusion:

This research aims to investigate the effectiveness of CBT in reducing symptoms of depression in adults. By using a randomized controlled trial and a mixed-methods approach, the study will provide valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying the relationship between CBT and depression. The results of this study will have important implications for the development of effective treatments for depression in clinical settings.

How to Write Research Methodology

Writing a research methodology involves explaining the methods and techniques you used to conduct research, collect data, and analyze results. It’s an essential section of any research paper or thesis, as it helps readers understand the validity and reliability of your findings. Here are the steps to write a research methodology:

  • Start by explaining your research question: Begin the methodology section by restating your research question and explaining why it’s important. This helps readers understand the purpose of your research and the rationale behind your methods.
  • Describe your research design: Explain the overall approach you used to conduct research. This could be a qualitative or quantitative research design, experimental or non-experimental, case study or survey, etc. Discuss the advantages and limitations of the chosen design.
  • Discuss your sample: Describe the participants or subjects you included in your study. Include details such as their demographics, sampling method, sample size, and any exclusion criteria used.
  • Describe your data collection methods : Explain how you collected data from your participants. This could include surveys, interviews, observations, questionnaires, or experiments. Include details on how you obtained informed consent, how you administered the tools, and how you minimized the risk of bias.
  • Explain your data analysis techniques: Describe the methods you used to analyze the data you collected. This could include statistical analysis, content analysis, thematic analysis, or discourse analysis. Explain how you dealt with missing data, outliers, and any other issues that arose during the analysis.
  • Discuss the validity and reliability of your research : Explain how you ensured the validity and reliability of your study. This could include measures such as triangulation, member checking, peer review, or inter-coder reliability.
  • Acknowledge any limitations of your research: Discuss any limitations of your study, including any potential threats to validity or generalizability. This helps readers understand the scope of your findings and how they might apply to other contexts.
  • Provide a summary: End the methodology section by summarizing the methods and techniques you used to conduct your research. This provides a clear overview of your research methodology and helps readers understand the process you followed to arrive at your findings.

When to Write Research Methodology

Research methodology is typically written after the research proposal has been approved and before the actual research is conducted. It should be written prior to data collection and analysis, as it provides a clear roadmap for the research project.

The research methodology is an important section of any research paper or thesis, as it describes the methods and procedures that will be used to conduct the research. It should include details about the research design, data collection methods, data analysis techniques, and any ethical considerations.

The methodology should be written in a clear and concise manner, and it should be based on established research practices and standards. It is important to provide enough detail so that the reader can understand how the research was conducted and evaluate the validity of the results.

Applications of Research Methodology

Here are some of the applications of research methodology:

  • To identify the research problem: Research methodology is used to identify the research problem, which is the first step in conducting any research.
  • To design the research: Research methodology helps in designing the research by selecting the appropriate research method, research design, and sampling technique.
  • To collect data: Research methodology provides a systematic approach to collect data from primary and secondary sources.
  • To analyze data: Research methodology helps in analyzing the collected data using various statistical and non-statistical techniques.
  • To test hypotheses: Research methodology provides a framework for testing hypotheses and drawing conclusions based on the analysis of data.
  • To generalize findings: Research methodology helps in generalizing the findings of the research to the target population.
  • To develop theories : Research methodology is used to develop new theories and modify existing theories based on the findings of the research.
  • To evaluate programs and policies : Research methodology is used to evaluate the effectiveness of programs and policies by collecting data and analyzing it.
  • To improve decision-making: Research methodology helps in making informed decisions by providing reliable and valid data.

Purpose of Research Methodology

Research methodology serves several important purposes, including:

  • To guide the research process: Research methodology provides a systematic framework for conducting research. It helps researchers to plan their research, define their research questions, and select appropriate methods and techniques for collecting and analyzing data.
  • To ensure research quality: Research methodology helps researchers to ensure that their research is rigorous, reliable, and valid. It provides guidelines for minimizing bias and error in data collection and analysis, and for ensuring that research findings are accurate and trustworthy.
  • To replicate research: Research methodology provides a clear and detailed account of the research process, making it possible for other researchers to replicate the study and verify its findings.
  • To advance knowledge: Research methodology enables researchers to generate new knowledge and to contribute to the body of knowledge in their field. It provides a means for testing hypotheses, exploring new ideas, and discovering new insights.
  • To inform decision-making: Research methodology provides evidence-based information that can inform policy and decision-making in a variety of fields, including medicine, public health, education, and business.

Advantages of Research Methodology

Research methodology has several advantages that make it a valuable tool for conducting research in various fields. Here are some of the key advantages of research methodology:

  • Systematic and structured approach : Research methodology provides a systematic and structured approach to conducting research, which ensures that the research is conducted in a rigorous and comprehensive manner.
  • Objectivity : Research methodology aims to ensure objectivity in the research process, which means that the research findings are based on evidence and not influenced by personal bias or subjective opinions.
  • Replicability : Research methodology ensures that research can be replicated by other researchers, which is essential for validating research findings and ensuring their accuracy.
  • Reliability : Research methodology aims to ensure that the research findings are reliable, which means that they are consistent and can be depended upon.
  • Validity : Research methodology ensures that the research findings are valid, which means that they accurately reflect the research question or hypothesis being tested.
  • Efficiency : Research methodology provides a structured and efficient way of conducting research, which helps to save time and resources.
  • Flexibility : Research methodology allows researchers to choose the most appropriate research methods and techniques based on the research question, data availability, and other relevant factors.
  • Scope for innovation: Research methodology provides scope for innovation and creativity in designing research studies and developing new research techniques.

Research Methodology Vs Research Methods

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Library Guides

Dissertations 4: methodology: methods.

  • Introduction & Philosophy
  • Methodology

Primary & Secondary Sources, Primary & Secondary Data

When describing your research methods, you can start by stating what kind of secondary and, if applicable, primary sources you used in your research. Explain why you chose such sources, how well they served your research, and identify possible issues encountered using these sources.  

Definitions  

There is some confusion on the use of the terms primary and secondary sources, and primary and secondary data. The confusion is also due to disciplinary differences (Lombard 2010). Whilst you are advised to consult the research methods literature in your field, we can generalise as follows:  

Secondary sources 

Secondary sources normally include the literature (books and articles) with the experts' findings, analysis and discussions on a certain topic (Cottrell, 2014, p123). Secondary sources often interpret primary sources.  

Primary sources 

Primary sources are "first-hand" information such as raw data, statistics, interviews, surveys, law statutes and law cases. Even literary texts, pictures and films can be primary sources if they are the object of research (rather than, for example, documentaries reporting on something else, in which case they would be secondary sources). The distinction between primary and secondary sources sometimes lies on the use you make of them (Cottrell, 2014, p123). 

Primary data 

Primary data are data (primary sources) you directly obtained through your empirical work (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p316). 

Secondary data 

Secondary data are data (primary sources) that were originally collected by someone else (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p316).   

Comparison between primary and secondary data   

Use  

Virtually all research will use secondary sources, at least as background information. 

Often, especially at the postgraduate level, it will also use primary sources - secondary and/or primary data. The engagement with primary sources is generally appreciated, as less reliant on others' interpretations, and closer to 'facts'. 

The use of primary data, as opposed to secondary data, demonstrates the researcher's effort to do empirical work and find evidence to answer her specific research question and fulfill her specific research objectives. Thus, primary data contribute to the originality of the research.    

Ultimately, you should state in this section of the methodology: 

What sources and data you are using and why (how are they going to help you answer the research question and/or test the hypothesis. 

If using primary data, why you employed certain strategies to collect them. 

What the advantages and disadvantages of your strategies to collect the data (also refer to the research in you field and research methods literature). 

Quantitative, Qualitative & Mixed Methods

The methodology chapter should reference your use of quantitative research, qualitative research and/or mixed methods. The following is a description of each along with their advantages and disadvantages. 

Quantitative research 

Quantitative research uses numerical data (quantities) deriving, for example, from experiments, closed questions in surveys, questionnaires, structured interviews or published data sets (Cottrell, 2014, p93). It normally processes and analyses this data using quantitative analysis techniques like tables, graphs and statistics to explore, present and examine relationships and trends within the data (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2015, p496). 

Qualitative research  

Qualitative research is generally undertaken to study human behaviour and psyche. It uses methods like in-depth case studies, open-ended survey questions, unstructured interviews, focus groups, or unstructured observations (Cottrell, 2014, p93). The nature of the data is subjective, and also the analysis of the researcher involves a degree of subjective interpretation. Subjectivity can be controlled for in the research design, or has to be acknowledged as a feature of the research. Subject-specific books on (qualitative) research methods offer guidance on such research designs.  

Mixed methods 

Mixed-method approaches combine both qualitative and quantitative methods, and therefore combine the strengths of both types of research. Mixed methods have gained popularity in recent years.  

When undertaking mixed-methods research you can collect the qualitative and quantitative data either concurrently or sequentially. If sequentially, you can for example, start with a few semi-structured interviews, providing qualitative insights, and then design a questionnaire to obtain quantitative evidence that your qualitative findings can also apply to a wider population (Specht, 2019, p138). 

Ultimately, your methodology chapter should state: 

Whether you used quantitative research, qualitative research or mixed methods. 

Why you chose such methods (and refer to research method sources). 

Why you rejected other methods. 

How well the method served your research. 

The problems or limitations you encountered. 

Doug Specht, Senior Lecturer at the Westminster School of Media and Communication, explains mixed methods research in the following video:

LinkedIn Learning Video on Academic Research Foundations: Quantitative

The video covers the characteristics of quantitative research, and explains how to approach different parts of the research process, such as creating a solid research question and developing a literature review. He goes over the elements of a study, explains how to collect and analyze data, and shows how to present your data in written and numeric form.

how to write secondary data methodology

Link to quantitative research video

Some Types of Methods

There are several methods you can use to get primary data. To reiterate, the choice of the methods should depend on your research question/hypothesis. 

Whatever methods you will use, you will need to consider: 

why did you choose one technique over another? What were the advantages and disadvantages of the technique you chose? 

what was the size of your sample? Who made up your sample? How did you select your sample population? Why did you choose that particular sampling strategy?) 

ethical considerations (see also tab...)  

safety considerations  

validity  

feasibility  

recording  

procedure of the research (see box procedural method...).  

Check Stella Cottrell's book  Dissertations and Project Reports: A Step by Step Guide  for some succinct yet comprehensive information on most methods (the following account draws mostly on her work). Check a research methods book in your discipline for more specific guidance.  

Experiments 

Experiments are useful to investigate cause and effect, when the variables can be tightly controlled. They can test a theory or hypothesis in controlled conditions. Experiments do not prove or disprove an hypothesis, instead they support or not support an hypothesis. When using the empirical and inductive method it is not possible to achieve conclusive results. The results may only be valid until falsified by other experiments and observations. 

For more information on Scientific Method, click here . 

Observations 

Observational methods are useful for in-depth analyses of behaviours in people, animals, organisations, events or phenomena. They can test a theory or products in real life or simulated settings. They generally a qualitative research method.  

Questionnaires and surveys 

Questionnaires and surveys are useful to gain opinions, attitudes, preferences, understandings on certain matters. They can provide quantitative data that can be collated systematically; qualitative data, if they include opportunities for open-ended responses; or both qualitative and quantitative elements. 

Interviews  

Interviews are useful to gain rich, qualitative information about individuals' experiences, attitudes or perspectives. With interviews you can follow up immediately on responses for clarification or further details. There are three main types of interviews: structured (following a strict pattern of questions, which expect short answers), semi-structured (following a list of questions, with the opportunity to follow up the answers with improvised questions), and unstructured (following a short list of broad questions, where the respondent can lead more the conversation) (Specht, 2019, p142). 

This short video on qualitative interviews discusses best practices and covers qualitative interview design, preparation and data collection methods. 

Focus groups   

In this case, a group of people (normally, 4-12) is gathered for an interview where the interviewer asks questions to such group of participants. Group interactions and discussions can be highly productive, but the researcher has to beware of the group effect, whereby certain participants and views dominate the interview (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p419). The researcher can try to minimise this by encouraging involvement of all participants and promoting a multiplicity of views. 

This video focuses on strategies for conducting research using focus groups.  

Check out the guidance on online focus groups by Aliaksandr Herasimenka, which is attached at the bottom of this text box. 

Case study 

Case studies are often a convenient way to narrow the focus of your research by studying how a theory or literature fares with regard to a specific person, group, organisation, event or other type of entity or phenomenon you identify. Case studies can be researched using other methods, including those described in this section. Case studies give in-depth insights on the particular reality that has been examined, but may not be representative of what happens in general, they may not be generalisable, and may not be relevant to other contexts. These limitations have to be acknowledged by the researcher.     

Content analysis 

Content analysis consists in the study of words or images within a text. In its broad definition, texts include books, articles, essays, historical documents, speeches, conversations, advertising, interviews, social media posts, films, theatre, paintings or other visuals. Content analysis can be quantitative (e.g. word frequency) or qualitative (e.g. analysing intention and implications of the communication). It can detect propaganda, identify intentions of writers, and can see differences in types of communication (Specht, 2019, p146). Check this page on collecting, cleaning and visualising Twitter data.

Extra links and resources:  

Research Methods  

A clear and comprehensive overview of research methods by Emerald Publishing. It includes: crowdsourcing as a research tool; mixed methods research; case study; discourse analysis; ground theory; repertory grid; ethnographic method and participant observation; interviews; focus group; action research; analysis of qualitative data; survey design; questionnaires; statistics; experiments; empirical research; literature review; secondary data and archival materials; data collection. 

Doing your dissertation during the COVID-19 pandemic  

Resources providing guidance on doing dissertation research during the pandemic: Online research methods; Secondary data sources; Webinars, conferences and podcasts; 

  • Virtual Focus Groups Guidance on managing virtual focus groups

5 Minute Methods Videos

The following are a series of useful videos that introduce research methods in five minutes. These resources have been produced by lecturers and students with the University of Westminster's School of Media and Communication. 

5 Minute Method logo

Case Study Research

Research Ethics

Quantitative Content Analysis 

Sequential Analysis 

Qualitative Content Analysis 

Thematic Analysis 

Social Media Research 

Mixed Method Research 

Procedural Method

In this part, provide an accurate, detailed account of the methods and procedures that were used in the study or the experiment (if applicable!). 

Include specifics about participants, sample, materials, design and methods. 

If the research involves human subjects, then include a detailed description of who and how many participated along with how the participants were selected.  

Describe all materials used for the study, including equipment, written materials and testing instruments. 

Identify the study's design and any variables or controls employed. 

Write out the steps in the order that they were completed. 

Indicate what participants were asked to do, how measurements were taken and any calculations made to raw data collected. 

Specify statistical techniques applied to the data to reach your conclusions. 

Provide evidence that you incorporated rigor into your research. This is the quality of being thorough and accurate and considers the logic behind your research design. 

Highlight any drawbacks that may have limited your ability to conduct your research thoroughly. 

You have to provide details to allow others to replicate the experiment and/or verify the data, to test the validity of the research. 

Bibliography

Cottrell, S. (2014). Dissertations and project reports: a step by step guide. Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lombard, E. (2010). Primary and secondary sources.  The Journal of Academic Librarianship , 36(3), 250-253

Saunders, M.N.K., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2015).  Research Methods for Business Students.  New York: Pearson Education. 

Specht, D. (2019).  The Media And Communications Study Skills Student Guide . London: University of Westminster Press.  

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  • Last Updated: Sep 14, 2022 12:58 PM
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Secondary research: definition, methods, & examples.

19 min read This ultimate guide to secondary research helps you understand changes in market trends, customers buying patterns and your competition using existing data sources.

In situations where you’re not involved in the data gathering process ( primary research ), you have to rely on existing information and data to arrive at specific research conclusions or outcomes. This approach is known as secondary research.

In this article, we’re going to explain what secondary research is, how it works, and share some examples of it in practice.

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What is secondary research?

Secondary research, also known as desk research, is a research method that involves compiling existing data sourced from a variety of channels . This includes internal sources (e.g.in-house research) or, more commonly, external sources (such as government statistics, organizational bodies, and the internet).

Secondary research comes in several formats, such as published datasets, reports, and survey responses , and can also be sourced from websites, libraries, and museums.

The information is usually free — or available at a limited access cost — and gathered using surveys , telephone interviews, observation, face-to-face interviews, and more.

When using secondary research, researchers collect, verify, analyze and incorporate it to help them confirm research goals for the research period.

As well as the above, it can be used to review previous research into an area of interest. Researchers can look for patterns across data spanning several years and identify trends — or use it to verify early hypothesis statements and establish whether it’s worth continuing research into a prospective area.

How to conduct secondary research

There are five key steps to conducting secondary research effectively and efficiently:

1.    Identify and define the research topic

First, understand what you will be researching and define the topic by thinking about the research questions you want to be answered.

Ask yourself: What is the point of conducting this research? Then, ask: What do we want to achieve?

This may indicate an exploratory reason (why something happened) or confirm a hypothesis. The answers may indicate ideas that need primary or secondary research (or a combination) to investigate them.

2.    Find research and existing data sources

If secondary research is needed, think about where you might find the information. This helps you narrow down your secondary sources to those that help you answer your questions. What keywords do you need to use?

Which organizations are closely working on this topic already? Are there any competitors that you need to be aware of?

Create a list of the data sources, information, and people that could help you with your work.

3.    Begin searching and collecting the existing data

Now that you have the list of data sources, start accessing the data and collect the information into an organized system. This may mean you start setting up research journal accounts or making telephone calls to book meetings with third-party research teams to verify the details around data results.

As you search and access information, remember to check the data’s date, the credibility of the source, the relevance of the material to your research topic, and the methodology used by the third-party researchers. Start small and as you gain results, investigate further in the areas that help your research’s aims.

4.    Combine the data and compare the results

When you have your data in one place, you need to understand, filter, order, and combine it intelligently. Data may come in different formats where some data could be unusable, while other information may need to be deleted.

After this, you can start to look at different data sets to see what they tell you. You may find that you need to compare the same datasets over different periods for changes over time or compare different datasets to notice overlaps or trends. Ask yourself: What does this data mean to my research? Does it help or hinder my research?

5.    Analyze your data and explore further

In this last stage of the process, look at the information you have and ask yourself if this answers your original questions for your research. Are there any gaps? Do you understand the information you’ve found? If you feel there is more to cover, repeat the steps and delve deeper into the topic so that you can get all the information you need.

If secondary research can’t provide these answers, consider supplementing your results with data gained from primary research. As you explore further, add to your knowledge and update your findings. This will help you present clear, credible information.

Primary vs secondary research

Unlike secondary research, primary research involves creating data first-hand by directly working with interviewees, target users, or a target market. Primary research focuses on the method for carrying out research, asking questions, and collecting data using approaches such as:

  • Interviews (panel, face-to-face or over the phone)
  • Questionnaires or surveys
  • Focus groups

Using these methods, researchers can get in-depth, targeted responses to questions, making results more accurate and specific to their research goals. However, it does take time to do and administer.

Unlike primary research, secondary research uses existing data, which also includes published results from primary research. Researchers summarize the existing research and use the results to support their research goals.

Both primary and secondary research have their places. Primary research can support the findings found through secondary research (and fill knowledge gaps), while secondary research can be a starting point for further primary research. Because of this, these research methods are often combined for optimal research results that are accurate at both the micro and macro level.

Sources of Secondary Research

There are two types of secondary research sources: internal and external. Internal data refers to in-house data that can be gathered from the researcher’s organization. External data refers to data published outside of and not owned by the researcher’s organization.

Internal data

Internal data is a good first port of call for insights and knowledge, as you may already have relevant information stored in your systems. Because you own this information — and it won’t be available to other researchers — it can give you a competitive edge . Examples of internal data include:

  • Database information on sales history and business goal conversions
  • Information from website applications and mobile site data
  • Customer-generated data on product and service efficiency and use
  • Previous research results or supplemental research areas
  • Previous campaign results

External data

External data is useful when you: 1) need information on a new topic, 2) want to fill in gaps in your knowledge, or 3) want data that breaks down a population or market for trend and pattern analysis. Examples of external data include:

  • Government, non-government agencies, and trade body statistics
  • Company reports and research
  • Competitor research
  • Public library collections
  • Textbooks and research journals
  • Media stories in newspapers
  • Online journals and research sites

Three examples of secondary research methods in action

How and why might you conduct secondary research? Let’s look at a few examples:

1.    Collecting factual information from the internet on a specific topic or market

There are plenty of sites that hold data for people to view and use in their research. For example, Google Scholar, ResearchGate, or Wiley Online Library all provide previous research on a particular topic. Researchers can create free accounts and use the search facilities to look into a topic by keyword, before following the instructions to download or export results for further analysis.

This can be useful for exploring a new market that your organization wants to consider entering. For instance, by viewing the U.S Census Bureau demographic data for that area, you can see what the demographics of your target audience are , and create compelling marketing campaigns accordingly.

2.    Finding out the views of your target audience on a particular topic

If you’re interested in seeing the historical views on a particular topic, for example, attitudes to women’s rights in the US, you can turn to secondary sources.

Textbooks, news articles, reviews, and journal entries can all provide qualitative reports and interviews covering how people discussed women’s rights. There may be multimedia elements like video or documented posters of propaganda showing biased language usage.

By gathering this information, synthesizing it, and evaluating the language, who created it and when it was shared, you can create a timeline of how a topic was discussed over time.

3.    When you want to know the latest thinking on a topic

Educational institutions, such as schools and colleges, create a lot of research-based reports on younger audiences or their academic specialisms. Dissertations from students also can be submitted to research journals, making these places useful places to see the latest insights from a new generation of academics.

Information can be requested — and sometimes academic institutions may want to collaborate and conduct research on your behalf. This can provide key primary data in areas that you want to research, as well as secondary data sources for your research.

Advantages of secondary research

There are several benefits of using secondary research, which we’ve outlined below:

  • Easily and readily available data – There is an abundance of readily accessible data sources that have been pre-collected for use, in person at local libraries and online using the internet. This data is usually sorted by filters or can be exported into spreadsheet format, meaning that little technical expertise is needed to access and use the data.
  • Faster research speeds – Since the data is already published and in the public arena, you don’t need to collect this information through primary research. This can make the research easier to do and faster, as you can get started with the data quickly.
  • Low financial and time costs – Most secondary data sources can be accessed for free or at a small cost to the researcher, so the overall research costs are kept low. In addition, by saving on preliminary research, the time costs for the researcher are kept down as well.
  • Secondary data can drive additional research actions – The insights gained can support future research activities (like conducting a follow-up survey or specifying future detailed research topics) or help add value to these activities.
  • Secondary data can be useful pre-research insights – Secondary source data can provide pre-research insights and information on effects that can help resolve whether research should be conducted. It can also help highlight knowledge gaps, so subsequent research can consider this.
  • Ability to scale up results – Secondary sources can include large datasets (like Census data results across several states) so research results can be scaled up quickly using large secondary data sources.

Disadvantages of secondary research

The disadvantages of secondary research are worth considering in advance of conducting research :

  • Secondary research data can be out of date – Secondary sources can be updated regularly, but if you’re exploring the data between two updates, the data can be out of date. Researchers will need to consider whether the data available provides the right research coverage dates, so that insights are accurate and timely, or if the data needs to be updated. Also, fast-moving markets may find secondary data expires very quickly.
  • Secondary research needs to be verified and interpreted – Where there’s a lot of data from one source, a researcher needs to review and analyze it. The data may need to be verified against other data sets or your hypotheses for accuracy and to ensure you’re using the right data for your research.
  • The researcher has had no control over the secondary research – As the researcher has not been involved in the secondary research, invalid data can affect the results. It’s therefore vital that the methodology and controls are closely reviewed so that the data is collected in a systematic and error-free way.
  • Secondary research data is not exclusive – As data sets are commonly available, there is no exclusivity and many researchers can use the same data. This can be problematic where researchers want to have exclusive rights over the research results and risk duplication of research in the future.

When do we conduct secondary research?

Now that you know the basics of secondary research, when do researchers normally conduct secondary research?

It’s often used at the beginning of research, when the researcher is trying to understand the current landscape . In addition, if the research area is new to the researcher, it can form crucial background context to help them understand what information exists already. This can plug knowledge gaps, supplement the researcher’s own learning or add to the research.

Secondary research can also be used in conjunction with primary research. Secondary research can become the formative research that helps pinpoint where further primary research is needed to find out specific information. It can also support or verify the findings from primary research.

You can use secondary research where high levels of control aren’t needed by the researcher, but a lot of knowledge on a topic is required from different angles.

Secondary research should not be used in place of primary research as both are very different and are used for various circumstances.

Questions to ask before conducting secondary research

Before you start your secondary research, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there similar internal data that we have created for a similar area in the past?

If your organization has past research, it’s best to review this work before starting a new project. The older work may provide you with the answers, and give you a starting dataset and context of how your organization approached the research before. However, be mindful that the work is probably out of date and view it with that note in mind. Read through and look for where this helps your research goals or where more work is needed.

  • What am I trying to achieve with this research?

When you have clear goals, and understand what you need to achieve, you can look for the perfect type of secondary or primary research to support the aims. Different secondary research data will provide you with different information – for example, looking at news stories to tell you a breakdown of your market’s buying patterns won’t be as useful as internal or external data e-commerce and sales data sources.

  • How credible will my research be?

If you are looking for credibility, you want to consider how accurate the research results will need to be, and if you can sacrifice credibility for speed by using secondary sources to get you started. Bear in mind which sources you choose — low-credibility data sites, like political party websites that are highly biased to favor their own party, would skew your results.

  • What is the date of the secondary research?

When you’re looking to conduct research, you want the results to be as useful as possible , so using data that is 10 years old won’t be as accurate as using data that was created a year ago. Since a lot can change in a few years, note the date of your research and look for earlier data sets that can tell you a more recent picture of results. One caveat to this is using data collected over a long-term period for comparisons with earlier periods, which can tell you about the rate and direction of change.

  • Can the data sources be verified? Does the information you have check out?

If you can’t verify the data by looking at the research methodology, speaking to the original team or cross-checking the facts with other research, it could be hard to be sure that the data is accurate. Think about whether you can use another source, or if it’s worth doing some supplementary primary research to replicate and verify results to help with this issue.

We created a front-to-back guide on conducting market research, The ultimate guide to conducting market research , so you can understand the research journey with confidence.

In it, you’ll learn more about:

  • What effective market research looks like
  • The use cases for market research
  • The most important steps to conducting market research
  • And how to take action on your research findings

Download the free guide for a clearer view on secondary research and other key research types for your business.

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Market intelligence 10 min read, marketing insights 11 min read, ethnographic research 11 min read, qualitative vs quantitative research 13 min read, qualitative research questions 11 min read, qualitative research design 12 min read, primary vs secondary research 14 min read, request demo.

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Home Market Research

Secondary Research: Definition, Methods and Examples.

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In the world of research, there are two main types of data sources: primary and secondary. While primary research involves collecting new data directly from individuals or sources, secondary research involves analyzing existing data already collected by someone else. Today we’ll discuss secondary research.

One common source of this research is published research reports and other documents. These materials can often be found in public libraries, on websites, or even as data extracted from previously conducted surveys. In addition, many government and non-government agencies maintain extensive data repositories that can be accessed for research purposes.

LEARN ABOUT: Research Process Steps

While secondary research may not offer the same level of control as primary research, it can be a highly valuable tool for gaining insights and identifying trends. Researchers can save time and resources by leveraging existing data sources while still uncovering important information.

What is Secondary Research: Definition

Secondary research is a research method that involves using already existing data. Existing data is summarized and collated to increase the overall effectiveness of the research.

One of the key advantages of secondary research is that it allows us to gain insights and draw conclusions without having to collect new data ourselves. This can save time and resources and also allow us to build upon existing knowledge and expertise.

When conducting secondary research, it’s important to be thorough and thoughtful in our approach. This means carefully selecting the sources and ensuring that the data we’re analyzing is reliable and relevant to the research question . It also means being critical and analytical in the analysis and recognizing any potential biases or limitations in the data.

LEARN ABOUT: Level of Analysis

Secondary research is much more cost-effective than primary research , as it uses already existing data, unlike primary research, where data is collected firsthand by organizations or businesses or they can employ a third party to collect data on their behalf.

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Secondary Research Methods with Examples

Secondary research is cost-effective, one of the reasons it is a popular choice among many businesses and organizations. Not every organization is able to pay a huge sum of money to conduct research and gather data. So, rightly secondary research is also termed “ desk research ”, as data can be retrieved from sitting behind a desk.

how to write secondary data methodology

The following are popularly used secondary research methods and examples:

1. Data Available on The Internet

One of the most popular ways to collect secondary data is the internet. Data is readily available on the internet and can be downloaded at the click of a button.

This data is practically free of cost, or one may have to pay a negligible amount to download the already existing data. Websites have a lot of information that businesses or organizations can use to suit their research needs. However, organizations need to consider only authentic and trusted website to collect information.

2. Government and Non-Government Agencies

Data for secondary research can also be collected from some government and non-government agencies. For example, US Government Printing Office, US Census Bureau, and Small Business Development Centers have valuable and relevant data that businesses or organizations can use.

There is a certain cost applicable to download or use data available with these agencies. Data obtained from these agencies are authentic and trustworthy.

3. Public Libraries

Public libraries are another good source to search for data for this research. Public libraries have copies of important research that were conducted earlier. They are a storehouse of important information and documents from which information can be extracted.

The services provided in these public libraries vary from one library to another. More often, libraries have a huge collection of government publications with market statistics, large collection of business directories and newsletters.

4. Educational Institutions

Importance of collecting data from educational institutions for secondary research is often overlooked. However, more research is conducted in colleges and universities than any other business sector.

The data that is collected by universities is mainly for primary research. However, businesses or organizations can approach educational institutions and request for data from them.

5. Commercial Information Sources

Local newspapers, journals, magazines, radio and TV stations are a great source to obtain data for secondary research. These commercial information sources have first-hand information on economic developments, political agenda, market research, demographic segmentation and similar subjects.

Businesses or organizations can request to obtain data that is most relevant to their study. Businesses not only have the opportunity to identify their prospective clients but can also know about the avenues to promote their products or services through these sources as they have a wider reach.

Key Differences between Primary Research and Secondary Research

Understanding the distinction between primary research and secondary research is essential in determining which research method is best for your project. These are the two main types of research methods, each with advantages and disadvantages. In this section, we will explore the critical differences between the two and when it is appropriate to use them.

How to Conduct Secondary Research?

We have already learned about the differences between primary and secondary research. Now, let’s take a closer look at how to conduct it.

Secondary research is an important tool for gathering information already collected and analyzed by others. It can help us save time and money and allow us to gain insights into the subject we are researching. So, in this section, we will discuss some common methods and tips for conducting it effectively.

Here are the steps involved in conducting secondary research:

1. Identify the topic of research: Before beginning secondary research, identify the topic that needs research. Once that’s done, list down the research attributes and its purpose.

2. Identify research sources: Next, narrow down on the information sources that will provide most relevant data and information applicable to your research.

3. Collect existing data: Once the data collection sources are narrowed down, check for any previous data that is available which is closely related to the topic. Data related to research can be obtained from various sources like newspapers, public libraries, government and non-government agencies etc.

4. Combine and compare: Once data is collected, combine and compare the data for any duplication and assemble data into a usable format. Make sure to collect data from authentic sources. Incorrect data can hamper research severely.

4. Analyze data: Analyze collected data and identify if all questions are answered. If not, repeat the process if there is a need to dwell further into actionable insights.

Advantages of Secondary Research

Secondary research offers a number of advantages to researchers, including efficiency, the ability to build upon existing knowledge, and the ability to conduct research in situations where primary research may not be possible or ethical. By carefully selecting their sources and being thoughtful in their approach, researchers can leverage secondary research to drive impact and advance the field. Some key advantages are the following:

1. Most information in this research is readily available. There are many sources from which relevant data can be collected and used, unlike primary research, where data needs to collect from scratch.

2. This is a less expensive and less time-consuming process as data required is easily available and doesn’t cost much if extracted from authentic sources. A minimum expenditure is associated to obtain data.

3. The data that is collected through secondary research gives organizations or businesses an idea about the effectiveness of primary research. Hence, organizations or businesses can form a hypothesis and evaluate cost of conducting primary research.

4. Secondary research is quicker to conduct because of the availability of data. It can be completed within a few weeks depending on the objective of businesses or scale of data needed.

As we can see, this research is the process of analyzing data already collected by someone else, and it can offer a number of benefits to researchers.

Disadvantages of Secondary Research

On the other hand, we have some disadvantages that come with doing secondary research. Some of the most notorious are the following:

1. Although data is readily available, credibility evaluation must be performed to understand the authenticity of the information available.

2. Not all secondary data resources offer the latest reports and statistics. Even when the data is accurate, it may not be updated enough to accommodate recent timelines.

3. Secondary research derives its conclusion from collective primary research data. The success of your research will depend, to a greater extent, on the quality of research already conducted by primary research.

LEARN ABOUT: 12 Best Tools for Researchers

In conclusion, secondary research is an important tool for researchers exploring various topics. By leveraging existing data sources, researchers can save time and resources, build upon existing knowledge, and conduct research in situations where primary research may not be feasible.

There are a variety of methods and examples of secondary research, from analyzing public data sets to reviewing previously published research papers. As students and aspiring researchers, it’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of this research and to approach it thoughtfully and critically. By doing so, we can continue to advance our understanding of the world around us and contribute to meaningful research that positively impacts society.

QuestionPro can be a useful tool for conducting secondary research in a variety of ways. You can create online surveys that target a specific population, collecting data that can be analyzed to gain insights into consumer behavior, attitudes, and preferences; analyze existing data sets that you have obtained through other means or benchmark your organization against others in your industry or against industry standards. The software provides a range of benchmarking tools that can help you compare your performance on key metrics, such as customer satisfaction, with that of your peers.

Using QuestionPro thoughtfully and strategically allows you to gain valuable insights to inform decision-making and drive business success. Start today for free! No credit card is required.

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  • What is Secondary Research? + [Methods & Examples]

busayo.longe

In some situations, the researcher may not be directly involved in the data gathering process and instead, would rely on already existing data in order to arrive at research outcomes. This approach to systematic investigation is known as secondary research. 

There are many reasons a researcher may want to make use of already existing data instead of collecting data samples, first-hand. In this article, we will share some of these reasons with you and show you how to conduct secondary research with Formplus. 

What is Secondary  Research?

Secondary research is a common approach to a systematic investigation in which the researcher depends solely on existing data in the course of the research process. This research design involves organizing, collating and analyzing these data samples for valid research conclusions. 

Secondary research is also known as desk research since it involves synthesizing existing data that can be sourced from the internet, peer-reviewed journals , textbooks, government archives, and libraries. What the secondary researcher does is to study already established patterns in previous researches and apply this information to the specific research context. 

Interestingly, secondary research often relies on data provided by primary research and this is why some researches combine both methods of investigation. In this sense, the researcher begins by evaluating and identifying gaps in existing knowledge before adopting primary research to gather new information that will serve his or her research. 

What are Secondary Research Methods?

As already highlighted, secondary research involves data assimilation from different sources, that is, using available research materials instead of creating a new pool of data using primary research methods. Common secondary research methods include data collection through the internet, libraries, archives, schools and organizational reports. 

  • Online Data

Online data is data that is gathered via the internet. In recent times, this method has become popular because the internet provides a large pool of both free and paid research resources that can be easily accessed with the click of a button. 

While this method simplifies the data gathering process , the researcher must take care to depend solely on authentic sites when collecting information. In some way, the internet is a virtual aggregation for all other sources of secondary research data. 

  • Data from Government and Non-government Archives

You can also gather useful research materials from government and non-government archives and these archives usually contain verifiable information that provides useful insights on varying research contexts. In many cases, you would need to pay a sum to gain access to these data. 

The challenge, however, is that such data is not always readily available due to a number of factors. For instance, some of these materials are described as classified information as such, it would be difficult for researchers to have access to them. 

  • Data from Libraries

Research materials can also be accessed through public and private libraries. Think of a library as an information storehouse that contains an aggregation of important information that can serve as valid data in different research contexts. 

Typically, researchers donate several copies of dissertations to public and private libraries; especially in cases of academic research. Also, business directories, newsletters, annual reports and other similar documents that can serve as research data, are gathered and stored in libraries, in both soft and hard copies. 

  • Data from Institutions of Learning

Educational facilities like schools, faculties, and colleges are also a great source of secondary data; especially in academic research. This is because a lot of research is carried out in educational institutions more than in other sectors. 

It is relatively easier to obtain research data from educational institutions because these institutions are committed to solving problems and expanding the body of knowledge. You can easily request research materials from educational facilities for the purpose of a literature review. 

Secondary research methods can also be categorized into qualitative and quantitative data collection methods . Quantitative data gathering methods include online questionnaires and surveys, reports about trends plus statistics about different areas of a business or industry.  

Qualitative research methods include relying on previous interviews and data gathered through focus groups which helps an organization to understand the needs of its customers and plan to fulfill these needs. It also helps businesses to measure the level of employee satisfaction with organizational policies. 

When Do We Conduct Secondary Research?

Typically, secondary research is the first step in any systematic investigation. This is because it helps the researcher to understand what research efforts have been made so far and to utilize this knowledge in mapping out a novel direction for his or her investigation. 

For instance, you may want to carry out research into the nature of a respiratory condition with the aim of developing a vaccine. The best place to start is to gather existing research material about the condition which would help to point your research in the right direction. 

When sifting through these pieces of information, you would gain insights into methods and findings from previous researches which would help you define your own research process. Secondary research also helps you to identify knowledge gaps that can serve as the name of your own research. 

Questions to ask before conducting Secondary Research

Since secondary research relies on already existing data, the researcher must take extra care to ensure that he or she utilizes authentic data samples for the research. Falsified data can have a negative impact on the research outcomes; hence, it is important to always carry out resource evaluation by asking a number of questions as highlighted below:

  • What is the purpose of the research? Again, it is important for every researcher to clearly define the purpose of the research before proceeding with it. Usually, the research purpose determines the approach that would be adopted. 
  • What is my research methodology? After identifying the purpose of the research, the next thing to do is outline the research methodology. This is the point where the researcher chooses to gather data using secondary research methods. 
  • What are my expected research outcomes? 
  • Who collected the data to be analyzed? Before going on to use secondary data for your research, it is necessary to ascertain the authenticity of the information. This usually affects the data reliability and determines if the researcher can trust the materials.  For instance, data gathered from personal blogs and websites may not be as credible as information obtained from an organization’s website. 
  • When was the data collected? Data recency is another factor that must be considered since the recency of data can affect research outcomes. For instance, if you are carrying out research into the number of women who smoke in London, it would not be appropriate for you to make use of information that was gathered 5 years ago unless you plan to do some sort of data comparison. 
  • Is the data consistent with other data available from other sources? Always compare and contrast your data with other available research materials as this would help you to identify inconsistencies if any.
  • What type of data was collected? Take care to determine if the secondary data aligns with your research goals and objectives. 
  • How was the data collected? 

Advantages of Secondary Research

  • Easily Accessible With secondary research, data can easily be accessed in no time; especially with the use of the internet. Apart from the internet, there are different data sources available in secondary research like public libraries and archives which are relatively easy to access too. 
  • Secondary research is cost-effective and it is not time-consuming. The researcher can cut down on costs because he or she is not directly involved in the data collection process which is also time-consuming. 
  • Secondary research helps researchers to identify knowledge gaps which can serve as the basis of further systematic investigation. 
  • It is useful for mapping out the scope of research thereby setting the stage for field investigations. When carrying out secondary research, the researchers may find that the exact information they were looking for is already available, thus eliminating the need and expense incurred in carrying out primary research in these areas. 

Disadvantages of Secondary Research  

  • Questionable Data: With secondary research, it is hard to determine the authenticity of the data because the researcher is not directly involved in the research process. Invalid data can affect research outcomes negatively hence, it is important for the researcher to take extra care by evaluating the data before making use of it. 
  • Generalization: Secondary data is unspecific in nature and may not directly cater to the needs of the researcher. There may not be correlations between the existing data and the research process. 
  • Common Data: Research materials in secondary research are not exclusive to an individual or group. This means that everyone has access to the data and there is little or no “information advantage” gained by those who obtain the research.
  • It has the risk of outdated research materials. Outdated information may offer little value especially for organizations competing in fast-changing markets.

How to Conduct Online Surveys with Formplus 

Follow these 5 steps to create and administer online surveys for secondary research: 

  • Sign into Formplus

In the Formplus builder, you can easily create an online survey for secondary research by dragging and dropping preferred fields into your form. To access the Formplus builder, you will need to create an account on Formplus. 

Once you do this, sign in to your account and click on “Create Form ” to begin. 

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  • Edit Form Title

secondary-research-survey

Click on the field provided to input your form title, for example, “Secondary Research Survey”.

  • Click on the edit button to edit the form.

secondary-research-survey

  • Add Fields: Drag and drop preferred form fields into your form in the Formplus builder inputs column. There are several field input options for questionnaires in the Formplus builder. 
  • Edit fields
  • Click on “Save”
  • Preview form. 
  • Customize your Form

how to write secondary data methodology

With the form customization options in the form builder, you can easily change the outlook of your form and make it more unique and personalized. Formplus allows you to change your form theme, add background images and even change the font according to your needs. 

  • Multiple Sharing Options

how to write secondary data methodology

Formplus offers multiple form sharing options which enables you to easily share your questionnaire with respondents. You can use the direct social media sharing buttons to share your form link to your organization’s social media pages. 

You can send out your survey form as email invitations to your research subjects too. If you wish, you can share your form’s QR code or embed it on your organization’s website for easy access. 

Why Use Formplus as a Secondary Research Tool?

  • Simple Form Builder Solution

The Formplus form builder is easy to use and does not require you to have any knowledge in computer programming, unlike other form builders. For instance, you can easily add form fields to your form by dragging and dropping them from the inputs section in the builder. 

In the form builder, you can also modify your fields to be hidden or read-only and you can create smart forms with save and resume options, form lookup, and conditional logic. Formplus also allows you to customize your form by adding preferred background images and your organization’s logo. 

  • Over 25 Form Fields

With over 25 versatile form fields available in the form builder, you can easily collect data the way you like. You can receive payments directly in your form by adding payment fields and you can also add file upload fields to allow you receive files in your form too. 

  • Offline Form feature

With Formplus, you can collect data from respondents even without internet connectivity . Formplus automatically detects when there is no or poor internet access and allows forms to be filled out and submitted in offline mode. 

Offline form responses are automatically synced with the servers when the internet connection is restored. This feature is extremely useful for field research that may involve sourcing for data in remote and rural areas plus it allows you to scale up on your audience reach. 

  • Team and Collaboration

 You can add important collaborators and team members to your shared account so that you all can work on forms and responses together. With the multiple users options, you can assign different roles to team members and you can also grant and limit access to forms and folders. 

This feature works with an audit trail that enables you to track changes and suggestions made to your form as the administrator of the shared account. You can set up permissions to limit access to the account while organizing and monitoring your form(s) effectively. 

  • Embeddable Form

Formplus allows you to easily add your form with respondents with the click of a button. For instance, you can directly embed your form in your organization’s web pages by adding Its unique shortcode to your site’s HTML. 

You can also share your form to your social media pages using the social media direct sharing buttons available in the form builder. You can choose to embed the form as an iframe or web pop-up that is easy to fill. 

With Formplus, you can share your form with numerous form respondents in no time. You can invite respondents to fill out your form via email invitation which allows you to also track responses and prevent multiple submissions in your form. 

In addition, you can also share your form link as a QR code so that respondents only need to scan the code to access your form. Our forms have a unique QR code that you can add to your website or print in banners, business cards and the like. 

While secondary research can be cost-effective and time-efficient, it requires the researcher to take extra care in ensuring that the data is authentic and valid. As highlighted earlier, data in secondary research can be sourced through the internet, archives, and libraries, amongst other methods. 

Secondary research is usually the starting point of systematic investigation because it provides the researcher with a background of existing research efforts while identifying knowledge gaps to be filled. This type of research is typically used in science and education. 

It is, however, important to note that secondary research relies on the outcomes of collective primary research data in carrying out its systematic investigation. Hence, the success of your research will depend, to a greater extent, on the quality of data provided by primary research in relation to the research context.

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  • What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips

What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips

Published on 25 February 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 10 October 2022.

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.

It should include:

  • The type of research you conducted
  • How you collected and analysed your data
  • Any tools or materials you used in the research
  • 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, 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 ?

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

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

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 analyse?
  • How did you select them?

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

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 here.

Next, you should indicate how you processed and analysed 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 analysing 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 : Categorising 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 behaviours, but they are effective for testing causal relationships between variables .
  • Qualitative: Unstructured interviews usually produce results that cannot be generalised 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 generalisable.

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.

Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research. Developing your methodology involves studying the research methods used in your field and the theories or principles that underpin them, in order to choose the approach that best matches your objectives.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyse data (e.g. interviews, experiments , surveys , statistical tests ).

In a dissertation or scientific paper, the methodology chapter or methods section comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion .

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 test a hypothesis by systematically collecting and analysing data, while qualitative methods allow you to explore ideas and experiences in depth.

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.

Statistical sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population. There are various sampling methods you can use to ensure that your sample is representative of the population as a whole.

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McCombes, S. (2022, October 10). What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips. Scribbr. Retrieved 6 May 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/methodology/

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How to Analyse Secondary Data for a Dissertation

Secondary data refers to data that has already been collected by another researcher. For researchers (and students!) with limited time and resources, secondary data, whether qualitative or quantitative can be a highly viable source of data.  In addition, with the advances in technology and access to peer reviewed journals and studies provided by the internet, it is increasingly popular as a form of data collection.  The question that frequently arises amongst students however, is: how is secondary data best analysed?

The process of data analysis in secondary research

Secondary analysis (i.e., the use of existing data) is a systematic methodological approach that has some clear steps that need to be followed for the process to be effective.  In simple terms there are three steps:

  • Step One: Development of Research Questions
  • Step Two: Identification of dataset
  • Step Three: Evaluation of the dataset.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail:

Step One: Development of research questions

Using secondary data means you need to apply theoretical knowledge and conceptual skills to be able to use the dataset to answer research questions.  Clearly therefore, the first step is thus to clearly define and develop your research questions so that you know the areas of interest that you need to explore for location of the most appropriate secondary data.

Step Two: Identification of Dataset

This stage should start with identification, through investigation, of what is currently known in the subject area and where there are gaps, and thus what data is available to address these gaps.  Sources can be academic from prior studies that have used quantitative or qualitative data, and which can then be gathered together and collated to produce a new secondary dataset.  In addition, other more informal or “grey” literature can also be incorporated, including consumer report, commercial studies or similar.  One of the values of using secondary research is that original survey works often do not use all the data collected which means this unused information can be applied to different settings or perspectives.

Key point: Effective use of secondary data means identifying how the data can be used to deliver meaningful and relevant answers to the research questions.  In other words that the data used is a good fit for the study and research questions.

Step Three: Evaluation of the dataset for effectiveness/fit

A good tip is to use a reflective approach for data evaluation.  In other words, for each piece of secondary data to be utilised, it is sensible to identify the purpose of the work, the credentials of the authors (i.e., credibility, what data is provided in the original work and how long ago it was collected).  In addition, the methods used and the level of consistency that exists compared to other works. This is important because understanding the primary method of data collection will impact on the overall evaluation and analysis when it is used as secondary source. In essence, if there is no understanding of the coding used in qualitative data analysis to identify key themes then there will be a mismatch with interpretations when the data is used for secondary purposes.  Furthermore, having multiple sources which draw similar conclusions ensures a higher level of validity than relying on only one or two secondary sources.

A useful framework provides a flow chart of decision making, as shown in the figure below.

Analyse Secondary Data

Following this process ensures that only those that are most appropriate for your research questions are included in the final dataset, but also demonstrates to your readers that you have been thorough in identifying the right works to use.

Writing up the Analysis

Once you have your dataset, writing up the analysis will depend on the process used.  If the data is qualitative in nature, then you should follow the following process.

Pre-Planning

  • Read and re-read all sources, identifying initial observations, correlations, and relationships between themes and how they apply to your research questions.
  • Once initial themes are identified, it is sensible to explore further and identify sub-themes which lead on from the core themes and correlations in the dataset, which encourages identification of new insights and contributes to the originality of your own work.

Structure of the Analysis Presentation

Introduction.

The introduction should commence with an overview of all your sources. It is good practice to present these in a table, listed chronologically so that your work has an orderly and consistent flow. The introduction should also incorporate a brief (2-3 sentences) overview of the key outcomes and results identified.

The body text for secondary data, irrespective of whether quantitative or qualitative data is used, should be broken up into sub-sections for each argument or theme presented. In the case of qualitative data, depending on whether content, narrative or discourse analysis is used, this means presenting the key papers in the area, their conclusions and how these answer, or not, your research questions. Each source should be clearly cited and referenced at the end of the work. In the case of qualitative data, any figures or tables should be reproduced with the correct citations to their original source. In both cases, it is good practice to give a main heading of a key theme, with sub-headings for each of the sub themes identified in the analysis.

Do not use direct quotes from secondary data unless they are:

  • properly referenced, and
  • are key to underlining a point or conclusion that you have drawn from the data.

All results sections, regardless of whether primary or secondary data has been used should refer back to the research questions and prior works. This is because, regardless of whether the results back up or contradict previous research, including previous works shows a wider level of reading and understanding of the topic being researched and gives a greater depth to your own work.

Summary of results

The summary of the results section of a secondary data dissertation should deliver a summing up of key findings, and if appropriate a conceptual framework that clearly illustrates the findings of the work. This shows that you have understood your secondary data, how it has answered your research questions, and furthermore that your interpretation has led to some firm outcomes.

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The Essential Guide to Doing Your Research Project

Student resources, steps in secondary data analysis, stepping your way through effective secondary data analysis.

Determine your research question  – As indicated above, knowing exactly what you are looking for

Locating data – Knowing what is out there and whether you can gain access to it. A quick Internet search, possibly with the help of a librarian, will reveal a wealth of options.

Evaluating relevance of the data  – Considering things like the data’s original purpose, when it was collected, population, sampling strategy/sample, data collection protocols, operationalization of concepts, questions asked, and form/shape of the data.

Assessing credibility of the data  – Establishing the credentials of the original researchers, searching for full explication of methods including any problems encountered, determining how consistent the data is with data from other sources, and discovering whether the data has been used in any credible published research.

Analysis –  This will generally involve a range of statistical processes as discussed in Chapter 13.

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How To Write The Methodology Chapter

The what, why & how explained simply (with examples).

By: Jenna Crossley (PhD) | Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | September 2021 (Updated April 2023)

So, you’ve pinned down your research topic and undertaken a review of the literature – now it’s time to write up the methodology section of your dissertation, thesis or research paper . But what exactly is the methodology chapter all about – and how do you go about writing one? In this post, we’ll unpack the topic, step by step .

Overview: The Methodology Chapter

  • The purpose  of the methodology chapter
  • Why you need to craft this chapter (really) well
  • How to write and structure the chapter
  • Methodology chapter example
  • Essential takeaways

What (exactly) is the methodology chapter?

The methodology chapter is where you outline the philosophical underpinnings of your research and outline the specific methodological choices you’ve made. The point of the methodology chapter is to tell the reader exactly how you designed your study and, just as importantly, why you did it this way.

Importantly, this chapter should comprehensively describe and justify all the methodological choices you made in your study. For example, the approach you took to your research (i.e., qualitative, quantitative or mixed), who  you collected data from (i.e., your sampling strategy), how you collected your data and, of course, how you analysed it. If that sounds a little intimidating, don’t worry – we’ll explain all these methodological choices in this post .

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Why is the methodology chapter important?

The methodology chapter plays two important roles in your dissertation or thesis:

Firstly, it demonstrates your understanding of research theory, which is what earns you marks. A flawed research design or methodology would mean flawed results. So, this chapter is vital as it allows you to show the marker that you know what you’re doing and that your results are credible .

Secondly, the methodology chapter is what helps to make your study replicable. In other words, it allows other researchers to undertake your study using the same methodological approach, and compare their findings to yours. This is very important within academic research, as each study builds on previous studies.

The methodology chapter is also important in that it allows you to identify and discuss any methodological issues or problems you encountered (i.e., research limitations ), and to explain how you mitigated the impacts of these. Every research project has its limitations , so it’s important to acknowledge these openly and highlight your study’s value despite its limitations . Doing so demonstrates your understanding of research design, which will earn you marks. We’ll discuss limitations in a bit more detail later in this post, so stay tuned!

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How to write up the methodology chapter

First off, it’s worth noting that the exact structure and contents of the methodology chapter will vary depending on the field of research (e.g., humanities, chemistry or engineering) as well as the university . So, be sure to always check the guidelines provided by your institution for clarity and, if possible, review past dissertations from your university. Here we’re going to discuss a generic structure for a methodology chapter typically found in the sciences.

Before you start writing, it’s always a good idea to draw up a rough outline to guide your writing. Don’t just start writing without knowing what you’ll discuss where. If you do, you’ll likely end up with a disjointed, ill-flowing narrative . You’ll then waste a lot of time rewriting in an attempt to try to stitch all the pieces together. Do yourself a favour and start with the end in mind .

Section 1 – Introduction

As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the methodology chapter should have a brief introduction. In this section, you should remind your readers what the focus of your study is, especially the research aims . As we’ve discussed many times on the blog, your methodology needs to align with your research aims, objectives and research questions. Therefore, it’s useful to frontload this component to remind the reader (and yourself!) what you’re trying to achieve.

In this section, you can also briefly mention how you’ll structure the chapter. This will help orient the reader and provide a bit of a roadmap so that they know what to expect. You don’t need a lot of detail here – just a brief outline will do.

The intro provides a roadmap to your methodology chapter

Section 2 – The Methodology

The next section of your chapter is where you’ll present the actual methodology. In this section, you need to detail and justify the key methodological choices you’ve made in a logical, intuitive fashion. Importantly, this is the heart of your methodology chapter, so you need to get specific – don’t hold back on the details here. This is not one of those “less is more” situations.

Let’s take a look at the most common components you’ll likely need to cover. 

Methodological Choice #1 – Research Philosophy

Research philosophy refers to the underlying beliefs (i.e., the worldview) regarding how data about a phenomenon should be gathered , analysed and used . The research philosophy will serve as the core of your study and underpin all of the other research design choices, so it’s critically important that you understand which philosophy you’ll adopt and why you made that choice. If you’re not clear on this, take the time to get clarity before you make any further methodological choices.

While several research philosophies exist, two commonly adopted ones are positivism and interpretivism . These two sit roughly on opposite sides of the research philosophy spectrum.

Positivism states that the researcher can observe reality objectively and that there is only one reality, which exists independently of the observer. As a consequence, it is quite commonly the underlying research philosophy in quantitative studies and is oftentimes the assumed philosophy in the physical sciences.

Contrasted with this, interpretivism , which is often the underlying research philosophy in qualitative studies, assumes that the researcher performs a role in observing the world around them and that reality is unique to each observer . In other words, reality is observed subjectively .

These are just two philosophies (there are many more), but they demonstrate significantly different approaches to research and have a significant impact on all the methodological choices. Therefore, it’s vital that you clearly outline and justify your research philosophy at the beginning of your methodology chapter, as it sets the scene for everything that follows.

The research philosophy is at the core of the methodology chapter

Methodological Choice #2 – Research Type

The next thing you would typically discuss in your methodology section is the research type. The starting point for this is to indicate whether the research you conducted is inductive or deductive .

Inductive research takes a bottom-up approach , where the researcher begins with specific observations or data and then draws general conclusions or theories from those observations. Therefore these studies tend to be exploratory in terms of approach.

Conversely , d eductive research takes a top-down approach , where the researcher starts with a theory or hypothesis and then tests it using specific observations or data. Therefore these studies tend to be confirmatory in approach.

Related to this, you’ll need to indicate whether your study adopts a qualitative, quantitative or mixed  approach. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a strong link between this choice and your research philosophy, so make sure that your choices are tightly aligned . When you write this section up, remember to clearly justify your choices, as they form the foundation of your study.

Methodological Choice #3 – Research Strategy

Next, you’ll need to discuss your research strategy (also referred to as a research design ). This methodological choice refers to the broader strategy in terms of how you’ll conduct your research, based on the aims of your study.

Several research strategies exist, including experimental , case studies , ethnography , grounded theory, action research , and phenomenology . Let’s take a look at two of these, experimental and ethnographic, to see how they contrast.

Experimental research makes use of the scientific method , where one group is the control group (in which no variables are manipulated ) and another is the experimental group (in which a specific variable is manipulated). This type of research is undertaken under strict conditions in a controlled, artificial environment (e.g., a laboratory). By having firm control over the environment, experimental research typically allows the researcher to establish causation between variables. Therefore, it can be a good choice if you have research aims that involve identifying causal relationships.

Ethnographic research , on the other hand, involves observing and capturing the experiences and perceptions of participants in their natural environment (for example, at home or in the office). In other words, in an uncontrolled environment.  Naturally, this means that this research strategy would be far less suitable if your research aims involve identifying causation, but it would be very valuable if you’re looking to explore and examine a group culture, for example.

As you can see, the right research strategy will depend largely on your research aims and research questions – in other words, what you’re trying to figure out. Therefore, as with every other methodological choice, it’s essential to justify why you chose the research strategy you did.

Methodological Choice #4 – Time Horizon

The next thing you’ll need to detail in your methodology chapter is the time horizon. There are two options here: cross-sectional and longitudinal . In other words, whether the data for your study were all collected at one point in time (cross-sectional) or at multiple points in time (longitudinal).

The choice you make here depends again on your research aims, objectives and research questions. If, for example, you aim to assess how a specific group of people’s perspectives regarding a topic change over time , you’d likely adopt a longitudinal time horizon.

Another important factor to consider is simply whether you have the time necessary to adopt a longitudinal approach (which could involve collecting data over multiple months or even years). Oftentimes, the time pressures of your degree program will force your hand into adopting a cross-sectional time horizon, so keep this in mind.

Methodological Choice #5 – Sampling Strategy

Next, you’ll need to discuss your sampling strategy . There are two main categories of sampling, probability and non-probability sampling.

Probability sampling involves a random (and therefore representative) selection of participants from a population, whereas non-probability sampling entails selecting participants in a non-random  (and therefore non-representative) manner. For example, selecting participants based on ease of access (this is called a convenience sample).

The right sampling approach depends largely on what you’re trying to achieve in your study. Specifically, whether you trying to develop findings that are generalisable to a population or not. Practicalities and resource constraints also play a large role here, as it can oftentimes be challenging to gain access to a truly random sample. In the video below, we explore some of the most common sampling strategies.

Methodological Choice #6 – Data Collection Method

Next up, you’ll need to explain how you’ll go about collecting the necessary data for your study. Your data collection method (or methods) will depend on the type of data that you plan to collect – in other words, qualitative or quantitative data.

Typically, quantitative research relies on surveys , data generated by lab equipment, analytics software or existing datasets. Qualitative research, on the other hand, often makes use of collection methods such as interviews , focus groups , participant observations, and ethnography.

So, as you can see, there is a tight link between this section and the design choices you outlined in earlier sections. Strong alignment between these sections, as well as your research aims and questions is therefore very important.

Methodological Choice #7 – Data Analysis Methods/Techniques

The final major methodological choice that you need to address is that of analysis techniques . In other words, how you’ll go about analysing your date once you’ve collected it. Here it’s important to be very specific about your analysis methods and/or techniques – don’t leave any room for interpretation. Also, as with all choices in this chapter, you need to justify each choice you make.

What exactly you discuss here will depend largely on the type of study you’re conducting (i.e., qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods). For qualitative studies, common analysis methods include content analysis , thematic analysis and discourse analysis . In the video below, we explain each of these in plain language.

For quantitative studies, you’ll almost always make use of descriptive statistics , and in many cases, you’ll also use inferential statistical techniques (e.g., correlation and regression analysis). In the video below, we unpack some of the core concepts involved in descriptive and inferential statistics.

In this section of your methodology chapter, it’s also important to discuss how you prepared your data for analysis, and what software you used (if any). For example, quantitative data will often require some initial preparation such as removing duplicates or incomplete responses . Similarly, qualitative data will often require transcription and perhaps even translation. As always, remember to state both what you did and why you did it.

Section 3 – The Methodological Limitations

With the key methodological choices outlined and justified, the next step is to discuss the limitations of your design. No research methodology is perfect – there will always be trade-offs between the “ideal” methodology and what’s practical and viable, given your constraints. Therefore, this section of your methodology chapter is where you’ll discuss the trade-offs you had to make, and why these were justified given the context.

Methodological limitations can vary greatly from study to study, ranging from common issues such as time and budget constraints to issues of sample or selection bias . For example, you may find that you didn’t manage to draw in enough respondents to achieve the desired sample size (and therefore, statistically significant results), or your sample may be skewed heavily towards a certain demographic, thereby negatively impacting representativeness .

In this section, it’s important to be critical of the shortcomings of your study. There’s no use trying to hide them (your marker will be aware of them regardless). By being critical, you’ll demonstrate to your marker that you have a strong understanding of research theory, so don’t be shy here. At the same time, don’t beat your study to death . State the limitations, why these were justified, how you mitigated their impacts to the best degree possible, and how your study still provides value despite these limitations .

Section 4 – Concluding Summary

Finally, it’s time to wrap up the methodology chapter with a brief concluding summary. In this section, you’ll want to concisely summarise what you’ve presented in the chapter. Here, it can be a good idea to use a figure to summarise the key decisions, especially if your university recommends using a specific model (for example, Saunders’ Research Onion ).

Importantly, this section needs to be brief – a paragraph or two maximum (it’s a summary, after all). Also, make sure that when you write up your concluding summary, you include only what you’ve already discussed in your chapter; don’t add any new information.

Keep it simple

Methodology Chapter Example

In the video below, we walk you through an example of a high-quality research methodology chapter from a dissertation. We also unpack our free methodology chapter template so that you can see how best to structure your chapter.

Wrapping Up

And there you have it – the methodology chapter in a nutshell. As we’ve mentioned, the exact contents and structure of this chapter can vary between universities , so be sure to check in with your institution before you start writing. If possible, try to find dissertations or theses from former students of your specific degree program – this will give you a strong indication of the expectations and norms when it comes to the methodology chapter (and all the other chapters!).

Also, remember the golden rule of the methodology chapter – justify every choice ! Make sure that you clearly explain the “why” for every “what”, and reference credible methodology textbooks or academic sources to back up your justifications.

If you need a helping hand with your research methodology (or any other component of your research), be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through every step of the research journey. Until next time, good luck!

how to write secondary data methodology

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How to Write a Research Methodology for Your Academic Article

This article is part of an ongoing series on academic writing help of scholarly articles. Previous parts explored how to write an introduction for a research paper and a literature review outline and format .

The Methodology section portrays the reasoning for the application of certain techniques and methods in the context of the study.

For your academic article, when you describe and explain your chosen methods it is very important to correlate them to your research questions and/or hypotheses. The description of the methods used should include enough details so that the study can be replicated by other Researchers, or at least repeated in a similar situation or framework.

Every stage of your research needs to be explained and justified with clear information on why you chose those particular methods, and how they help you answer your research question or purpose.

As the Authors, in this section you get to explain the rationale of your article for other Researchers. You should focus on answering the following questions:

  • How did you collect the data or how did you generate the data?
  • Which research methods did you use?
  • Why did you choose these methods and techniques?
  • How did you use these methods for analyzing the research question or problem?

The responses to these questions should be clear and precise, and the answers should be written in past tense.

First off, let’s establish the differences between research methods and research methodology.

Research Methods and Research Methodology

As an Academic and Author of valuable research papers, it’s important not to confuse these two terms.

Research Methodology Definition

Research Methodology refers the discussion regarding the specific methods chosen and used in a research paper. This discussion also encompasses the theoretical concepts that further provide information about the methods selection and application.

In other words, you should highlight how these theoretical concepts are connected with these methods in a larger knowledge framework and explain their relevance in examining the purpose, problem and questions of your study. Thus, the discussion that forms your academic article’s research methodology also incorporates an extensive literature review about similar methods, used by other Authors to examine a certain research subject.

Research Method Definition

A Research Method represents the technical steps involved in conducting the research. Details about the methods focus on characterizing and defining them, but also explaining your chosen techniques, and providing a full account on the procedures used for selecting, collecting and analyzing the data.

Important Tips for a Good Methodology Section

The methodology section is very important for the credibility of your article and for a professional academic writing style.

Data Collection or Generation for Your Academic Article

Readers, academics and other researchers need to know how the information used in your academic article was collected. The research methods used for collecting or generating data will influence the discoveries and, by extension, how you will interpret them and explain their contribution to general knowledge.

The most basic methods for data collection are:

Secondary data

Secondary data are data that have been previously collected or gathered for other purposes than the aim of the academic article’s study. This type of data is already available, in different forms, from a variety of sources.

Secondary data collection could lead to Internal or External secondary data research.

Primary data

Primary data represent data originated for the specific purpose of the study, with its research questions. The methods vary on how Authors and Researchers conduct an experiment, survey or study, but, in general, it uses a particular scientific method.

Primary data collection could lead to Quantitative and Qualitative research.

Readers need to understand how the information was gathered or generated in a way that is consistent with research practices in a field of study . For instance, if you are using a multiple choice survey, the readers need to know which questionnaire items you have examined in your primary quantitative research. Similarly, if your academic article involves secondary data from FED or Eurostat it is important to mention the variables used in your study, their values, and their time-frame.

For primary research, that involve surveys, experiments or observations, for a valuable academic article, Authors should provide information about:

  • Study participants or group participants,
  • Inclusion or exclusion criteria

Selecting and Applying Research Methods

Establishing the main premises of methodology is pivotal for any research because a method or technique that is not reliable for a certain study context will lead to unreliable results, and the outcomes’ interpretation (and overall academic article) will not be valuable.

In most cases, there is a wide variety of methods and procedures that you can use to explore a research topic in your academic article. The methods section should fully explain the reasons for choosing a specific methodology or technique .

Also, it’s essential that you describe the specific research methods of data collection you are going to use , whether they are primary or secondary data collection.

For primary research methods, describe the surveys, interviews, observation methods, etc.

For secondary research methods, describe how the data was originally created, gathered and which institution created and published it.

Reasons for Choosing Specific Research Methods

For this aspect that characterizes a good research methodology, indicate how the research approach fits with the general study , considering the literature review outline and format , and the following sections.

The methods you choose should have a clear connection with the overall research approach and you need to explain the reasons for choosing the research techniques in your study, and how they help you towards understanding your study’s purpose.

Data Analysis Methods

This section should also focus on information on how you intend to analyze your results .

Describe how you plan and intend to achieve an accurate assessment of the hypotheses, relationships, patterns, trends, distributions associated with your data and research purpose.

The data type, how it was measured, and which statistical tests were conducted and performed, should be detailed and reported in an accurate manner.

For explaining the data analysis methods, you should aim to answer questions, such as:

  • Will your research be based on statistical analysis?
  • Will you use theoretical frameworks to help you (and your Readers) analyze a set of hypotheses or relationships?
  • Which data analysis methods will you choose?
  • Which other Authors or studies have used the same methods and should be cited in your academic article?

Issues to Avoid

There are certain aspects that you need to pay extra attention in relation to your research methodology section. The most common issues to avoid are:

  • Irrelevant details and complicated background information that provides too information and does not provide accurate understanding for Readers
  • Unnecessary description and explanations of basic or well-known procedures, for an academic audience who is already has a basin understanding of the study
  • For unconventional research approaches, it is important to provide accurate details and explain why your innovative method contributes to general knowledge (save more details for your Discussion/ Conclusion section in which you can highlight your contributions)
  • Research limitations and obstacles should be described in a separate section (Research Limitations)
  • The methodology should include sources and references that support your choice of methods and procedures, compared to the literature review that provides a general outlook and framework for your study.

Which aspects are you generally focusing on when writing your academic article’s research methodology section?

You may also like, related policies and links, responsibilities of the publisher in the relationship with journal editors, general duties of publisher.

how to write secondary data methodology

how to write secondary data methodology

Secondary Data Collection Methods

Data is physical or digital information; information is knowledge and knowledge is power! But to leverage that powerful data and…

Sources of secondary data collection

Data is physical or digital information; information is knowledge and knowledge is power! But to leverage that powerful data and execute a successful strategy, businesses need to first gather the data—simply known as data collection.

Collecting data is more than just searching on Google. Although our society is heavily dependent on data, the importance of collecting it still eludes many. Accurately collecting data is crucial for ensuring quality assurance, keeping research integrity and making informed business decisions. There are methods, goals, time and money involved. Researchers have to have a data-driven approach and achieve the desired end results. Only after having a clear picture of the objective can a researcher decide whether to use primary or secondary data and where the primary or s econdary data can be collected from.

But before we learn about the sources of secondary data in research methodology , we must first understand the meaning of data collection. 

What Is Data Collection?

What is secondary data collection, various methods of collecting secondary data, how to use sources of secondary data in research methodology, advantages of secondary data collection methods, disadvantages of secondary data collection methods, secondary data collection examples.

Data collection is a crucial element of statistical research. The process involves collecting information from available sources to come up with solutions for a problem. The process evaluates the outcome and predicts trends and possibilities of the future. Researchers start by collecting the most basic data related to the problem and then progress with the volume and type of data to be collected.

There are two methods of data collection—primary data collection methods and secondary data collection methods. Data collection involves identifying data types, their sources and the methods being used. There are different collection methods that are used across commercial, governmental and research fields, and various sources are accessed where primary and secondary data can be collected from . Whether it’s for academic research or promoting a new product, data collection helps us make better choices and get better results. 

In this article, we’ll discuss secondary data collection, the various methods of collecting secondary data , its advantages, disadvantages, secondary data collection examples and sources of secondary data in research methodology .

Secondary data collection refers to gathering information that’s already available. The data was previously collected, has undergone necessary statistical analysis and isn’t owned by the researcher. This data is usually one that was collected from primary sources and later made available for everyone to access. In other words, secondary data is second-hand information that’s collected by third parties. A researcher may ask others to collect data or obtain it from other sources. Existing data is typically collated and summarized to boost the overall effectiveness of a research.

There are two t ypes of secondary data collection —qualitative secondary data collection and quantitative secondary data collection. Qualitative data deals with the intangibles and covers factors such as quality, color, preference or appearance. Quantitative data deals with numbers, statistics and percentages. Although the end goal determines which of the two types of secondary data collection a researcher chooses, secondary data collection is mostly concerned with quantitative data.

Let’s look at the common secondary data collection methods :

Collecting Information Available On The Internet 

One of the most popular methods of collecting secondary data is by using the internet. Readily available data can be accessed with the click of a button, which makes the internet one of the best places where secondary data can be collected from . It’s practically free of cost, although some websites may charge money—usually low prices. However, organizations and individuals must look out for inauthentic and untrustworthy sources of information.

Collecting Data Available In Government And Non-Government Agencies 

Government and non-government agencies such as Census bureaus, government printing offices and business development centers store relevant data and valuable information that both individuals and organizations can access.

Accessing Public Libraries 

Public libraries house copies of research, public documents and statistical information. Although services may vary, libraries usually have a vast collection of publications highlighting market statistics, business directories and newsletters. 

Using Data From Educational Institutions

Educational institutions are often overlooked when deciding a method of collection. Educational institutions conduct more research than any other sector. Universities have a plethora of primary data that can act as vital information for secondary research.

Using Sources Of Commercial Information 

Secondary data collection methods are cost-effective and hence quite popular among businesses and individuals. Small businesses that can’t afford expensive research have to resort to a cheaper method of data collection. They can request and obtain data from anywhere it’s available to identify prospective clients and have a wider reach when promoting products and services.

Here are the steps to conduct research using sources of secondary data collection :

  • Identify the topic of research, make a list of research attributes and define the purpose of research. 
  • Information sources have to be narrowed down and identified to access the most relevant data applicable to the research. 
  • Once the secondary data sources are narrowed down, check and collect all existing data related to the research from similar sources. 
  • After collecting the data, check for duplication before assembling it into a usable format. 
  • Analyze the collected data and check if it answers all questions crucial to meet the objective. 

The most important aspect of secondary research is looking out for any inauthentic source or incorrect data that may hamper the research.

These are the advantages of secondary data collection: Most of the data and information is readily available and there are plenty of sources of secondary data collection .  

  • The process is less expensive compared to the primary method. There’s minimum expenditure associated with obtaining data from authentic sources. 
  • Data collected for secondary research can give a fair idea about how effective the primary research was. Businesses can hypothesize and evaluate the cost of primary research. 
  • Re-evaluating data from another person’s point of view can uncover things that may have been overlooked. This may lead to discovering new features or fixing a bug in an app. 
  • Secondary data collection is less time-consuming as the data doesn’t need to be collected from the root. Hence, data collection time is significantly lower than primary methods. 
  • Longitudinal and comparative studies are easier to conduct with secondary data as we don’t have to wait to draw conclusions. For example, to compare the population difference in a country across five years, we can simply compare the present census with that of five years back. 

Researchers can look to collect data from both internal and external sources, which prevents relying on any special or specific data collection method. 

Let’s discuss the disadvantages of secondary data collection:

  • Data may be readily available but the credibility of sources is under constant scrutiny. Research can break down due to a lack of credible and authentic information
  • Most secondary data sources don’t offer the latest statistics, studies or reports. Accurate data doesn’t necessarily mean updated data
  • As a researcher has no control over the primary source or quality of information, the success of secondary research heavily depends on the quality of the primary research that was conducted 

Primary data collection may often be expensive but the credibility, accuracy and quality of information is seldom questionable. 

Here are some secondary data collection examples :

  • Journals and blogs are popular examples of secondary sources of data collection today. They’re both regularly updated but blogs run the risk of being less authentic than journals as the latter is backed by periodically updated information with new publications.
  • Newspapers have been at the top of the most reliable and authentic sources of secondary data collection for centuries. Although they mostly cover economic, educational and political information, there is specialized content available with newspapers dedicated to covering topics such as science, environment and sports. 
  • Podcasts are the new-age alternative to radio and are widely becoming a common source of secondary information. Presenters talk to the audience about specific topics or conduct interviews on the show. With the digital media boom, interactive podcasts have become wildly common and popular.

Some other examples of secondary data collection are letters, books, government records and columns.

Secondary data finds use across the fields of business, research and statistics. Researchers may choose secondary data due to finance issues, availability, research needs or time. Due to various factors, secondary data may sometimes be the only data available. In such cases, collecting authentic and relevant data and coming up with solutions to meet the objective may come down to a manager’s ability of CRITICAL THINKING . 

Using secondary data has its drawbacks and data collection is concerned with finding solutions. Managers need to go behind the scenes to fully understand the process of problem-solving. Learn to make research foolproof and analyze scenarios error-free with Harappa’s Create New Solutions pathway. Continuously seek, absorb and interpret new information. Lay down insightful questions, look for relevant data and use smart analyses to create working solutions. Strive to get all available information first and then make the best possible decision. Make well-reasoned and clearly articulated arguments that are backed by logic and evidence. 

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IMAGES

  1. Secondary Data: Advantages, Disadvantages, Sources, Types

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  2. SOLUTION: How to write a research methodology in 4 steps

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  3. Writing Methodology for Secondary Data research paper

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  4. FREE 10+ Sample Data Analysis Templates in PDF

    how to write secondary data methodology

  5. 15 Research Methodology Examples (2023)

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  6. 15 Secondary Research Examples (2024)

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VIDEO

  1. TEN 24 25: Write Secondary Headers

  2. Primary and Secondary Data

  3. How to Write the Methodology

  4. Ph.D. Coursework| Research Methodology| Secondary Data Sources| Case study| Survey versus Experiment

  5. Secondary Research

  6. DATA PROCESSING| RESEARCH METHODOLOGY| STAGES| PRIMARY DATA| SECONDARY DATA| EDITING| ANALYSIS

COMMENTS

  1. Secondary Data In Research Methodology (With Examples)

    In this article, we define what secondary data in research methodology is, explain the differences between primary and secondary data, list secondary data research methods, provide examples of secondary research, offer a step-by-step guide detailing how to use secondary data in research and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using it. ...

  2. What is Secondary Research?

    Secondary research is a research method that uses data that was collected by someone else. In other words, whenever you conduct research using data that already exists, you are conducting secondary research. On the other hand, any type of research that you undertake yourself is called primary research. Example: Secondary research.

  3. Secondary Data

    Types of secondary data are as follows: Published data: Published data refers to data that has been published in books, magazines, newspapers, and other print media. Examples include statistical reports, market research reports, and scholarly articles. Government data: Government data refers to data collected by government agencies and departments.

  4. Secondary Data Analysis: Your Complete How-To Guide

    Step 3: Design your research process. After defining your statement of purpose, the next step is to design the research process. For primary data, this involves determining the types of data you want to collect (e.g. quantitative, qualitative, or both) and a methodology for gathering them. For secondary data analysis, however, your research ...

  5. Secondary Qualitative Research Methodology Using Online Data within the

    For this reason, we propose a new systematic step-by-step guideline with a set of methods for secondary data collection, filtering, and analysis to mitigate the downfalls of secondary data analysis, particularly in the setting of forced migration research when using online, publicly accessible data. ... The full process of writing the ...

  6. Research Methodology

    How to Write Research Methodology. Writing a research methodology involves explaining the methods and techniques you used to conduct research, collect data, and analyze results. It's an essential section of any research paper or thesis, as it helps readers understand the validity and reliability of your findings. Here are the steps to write a ...

  7. Dissertations 4: Methodology: Methods

    The use of primary data, as opposed to secondary data, demonstrates the researcher's effort to do empirical work and find evidence to answer her specific research question and fulfill her specific research objectives. Thus, primary data contribute to the originality of the research. Ultimately, you should state in this section of the methodology:

  8. How to Write an APA Methods Section

    To structure your methods section, you can use the subheadings of "Participants," "Materials," and "Procedures.". These headings are not mandatory—aim to organize your methods section using subheadings that make sense for your specific study. Note that not all of these topics will necessarily be relevant for your study.

  9. Secondary Research: Definition, Methods & Examples

    Secondary research, also known as desk research, is a research method that involves compiling existing data sourced from a variety of channels. This includes internal sources (e.g.in-house research) or, more commonly, external sources (such as government statistics, organizational bodies, and the internet).

  10. Secondary Research: Definition, Methods & Examples

    So, rightly secondary research is also termed " desk research ", as data can be retrieved from sitting behind a desk. The following are popularly used secondary research methods and examples: 1. Data Available on The Internet. One of the most popular ways to collect secondary data is the internet.

  11. What is Secondary Research? + [Methods & Examples]

    Common secondary research methods include data collection through the internet, libraries, archives, schools and organizational reports. Online Data. Online data is data that is gathered via the internet. In recent times, this method has become popular because the internet provides a large pool of both free and paid research resources that can ...

  12. PDF An Introduction to Secondary Data Analysis

    Secondary analysis of qualitative data is a topic unto itself and is not discussed in this volume. The interested reader is referred to references such as James and Sorenson (2000) and Heaton (2004). The choice of primary or secondary data need not be an either/or ques-tion. Most researchers in epidemiology and public health will work with both ...

  13. What Is a Research Methodology?

    Revised on 10 October 2022. 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.

  14. How to Analyse Secondary Data for a Dissertation

    The process of data analysis in secondary research. Secondary analysis (i.e., the use of existing data) is a systematic methodological approach that has some clear steps that need to be followed for the process to be effective. In simple terms there are three steps: Step One: Development of Research Questions. Step Two: Identification of dataset.

  15. Steps in Secondary Data Analysis

    Steps in Secondary Data Analysis. Locating data - Knowing what is out there and whether you can gain access to it. A quick Internet search, possibly with the help of a librarian, will reveal a wealth of options. Evaluating relevance of the data - Considering things like the data's original purpose, when it was collected, population ...

  16. How to do your dissertation secondary research in 4 steps

    METHOD PURPOSE; Using secondary data set in isolation: Re-assessing a data set with a different research question in mind: Combining two secondary data sets: Investigating the relationship between variables in two data sets or comparing findings from two past studies: Combining secondary and primary data sets

  17. How To Write The Methodology Chapter

    You don't need a lot of detail here - just a brief outline will do. Section 2 - The Methodology. The next section of your chapter is where you'll present the actual methodology. In this section, you need to detail and justify the key methodological choices you've made in a logical, intuitive fashion.

  18. Conducting secondary analysis of qualitative data: Should we, can we

    SDA involves investigations where data collected for a previous study is analyzed - either by the same researcher(s) or different researcher(s) - to explore new questions or use different analysis strategies that were not a part of the primary analysis (Szabo and Strang, 1997).For research involving quantitative data, SDA, and the process of sharing data for the purpose of SDA, has become ...

  19. How to Write a Research Methodology for Your Academic Article

    The Methodology section portrays the reasoning for the application of certain techniques and methods in the context of the study. For your academic article, when you describe and explain your chosen methods it is very important to correlate them to your research questions and/or hypotheses. The description of the methods used should include ...

  20. Research Methods

    The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question. If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis, use quantitative methods. If you want to explore ideas, thoughts and meanings, use qualitative methods. If you want to analyze a large amount of readily-available data, use secondary data.

  21. Finding And Using Secondary Data In Research

    This video outlines the purpose of secondary data in research, and gives an overview of how to find and use that data. The book on qualitative secondary anal...

  22. Secondary Data Collection Methods

    Various Methods Of Collecting Secondary Data. There are two t ypes of secondary data collection —qualitative secondary data collection and quantitative secondary data collection. Qualitative data deals with the intangibles and covers factors such as quality, color, preference or appearance. Quantitative data deals with numbers, statistics and ...

  23. Data Collection

    Step 2: Choose your data collection method. Based on the data you want to collect, decide which method is best suited for your research. Experimental research is primarily a quantitative method. Interviews, focus groups, and ethnographies are qualitative methods. Surveys, observations, archival research and secondary data collection can be ...

  24. Full article: More than my appearance: a pilot evaluation of the expand

    Furthermore, collecting the writing task entries anonymously allowed the authors to identify which aspects of functionality were relevant to the group; however, it is possible that collecting the writing data may have impacted how honest the participants felt that they could be with the writing tasks, which may reduce its ecological validity.