Research Methodology is a critical component of any research exercise as it can make the difference between a completely irrelevant and a completely relevant exercise. Frequently, the research methodology underlying a multimillion dollar research project can make the difference between completely accurate and completely inaccurate results, although the underlying methods or processes may have been done accurately.
Research methodology is thus the foundation or general rules that determine the accuracy and validity of any research activity. It’s important to understand the difference between the terms ‘methodology’ and ‘method’, as the former refers to the general rules and guidelines pertaining to a set of methods, and explains why a specific strategy to address a specific research question is to be applied. Research methodology can cover the following three key areas of research:
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Research methodology will determine how a specific survey is to be designed and how large the sample population should be, in addition to other practical questions such as which scaling method to use, what kind of target population to which to address the survey, how the survey is to be disseminated and so on. Each of these components will constitute a larger body of knowledge and have its own impact on the outcome and validity of the survey. For instance, using a Likert scale as opposed to a True-False type of question can lead to substantial variations in the accuracy of the survey.
In the same fashion, telephone interviews versus mail-response interviews each has its own set of pros and cons. Data collection is thus another important aspect of the research methodology. Data analysis is an extremely important aspect to consider when conducting research. There are a number of different methods that can be applied to similar problems based on the type of response (multiple choice, true false, numerical, etc.), sample size and expected outcome. Furthermore, each type of test will have its’ own pros and cons. For instance, in testing significance of variables, parametric (t-test, z-test, ANOVA, etc.) or non-parametric (chi-square, Kruskal-Wallis, Wilcoxon signed-rank, etc.) tests may be used. Based on the specific features of a dataset, a specific set of methods will have to be adopted in order to produce the most accurate possible result.
Types of research methodologies
Research is typically categorized in two forms:
Given the nature of each type of research, different research methodologies are applied to each type; for instance, while a qualitative research project uses techniques such as case study, ethnography, and discourse analysis, quantitative methodologies use experiments, interviews, surveys and the like. Each research methodology, in addition to prescribing specific methods for design, data collection and analysis, provides general guidelines as to applicability and validity.
In general, qualitative research methodologies share the following common characteristics:
Its drawbacks include but are not limited to the following:
Quantitative research generally share the following characteristics:
Above all, research methodology helps set the reasonable boundaries of a research project at the start, and anticipate the various problems that may be encountered during the activity.In addition to the said components, research methodology can be greatly influenced by the judgment, skills and beliefs of the researcher as well. There may be wide variations in the adopted methodology as time, funds and other resources permit.