What Is Research Methodology and Why Is It Important?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 December 2022

Published 27 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Deciding on a methodology is an important part of the research process. It allows you to understand the type of data you're gathering and the techniques you can use to collect relevant information. Learning the different types of methodologies may help you achieve your research objectives. In this article, we explain what research methodology is, discuss why it's important, provide the different types of methodologies and share how you can decide on the right one for your research.

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What is research methodology?

Research methodology is a collection of techniques that researchers use to gather information. It includes the steps that you may take to ensure that your research is valid, reliable, unbiased and achieves your objectives. It describes what data you may collect to better understand your topic and who you might collect it from. Methodologies also define your data collection methods, analysis techniques and how the data impacts your research. Most scholarly documents that contain research, including theses, academic journals and dissertations, have a methodology section that goes over the techniques that a professional used to gather their research.

Including this section validates research and allows them to explain why they chose a specific methodology. For example, if a professional interviews physical trainers to gather research about the fitness industry, they might include a section that describes why they chose this methodology to collect information. It's also common for professionals gathering data to include a section that discusses their findings. For example, if a sales professional performs qualitative research by presenting customers with surveys to measure their satisfaction, they might include a section in their research that explains their surveying process.

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Why is it important to use a methodology while researching?

Here are several reasons why it's important to use methodology while researching:

  • Justify research: By using a methodology, you can justify the data that you collected by explaining how that technique was the best fit to help you achieve your research goals.

  • Provide reliable results: You can perform research techniques within each methodology when collecting data to ensure that you have reliable results. If you have similar results with each technique, then it can help to show that your research is valid.

  • Answer questions: Any researchers who receive questions on their research can refer to their methodology to explain their research approach.

  • Create a specific plan: Deciding on a methodology can help researchers create a specific outline for their research, which may allow their data collection process to go smoothly.

  • Change methodology: If a researcher finds that one methodology isn't the right fit for their research, they may adjust their plans by using a different methodology to help them achieve their objective.

What are the different types of methodologies?

During your research, you can choose from a number of methodologies, depending on the topic you're analysing and your research goals. Here are the three types of research methodologies:

Qualitative

Qualitative research involves collecting data from text, including written and spoken words. If analysing spoken words, like a speech or conversation, the researcher may also look at visual elements, like the speaker's body language or the environment in which they're speaking. The purpose of qualitative research is to gain a better understanding of a research topic through firsthand experiences, like observing a conversation take place or witnessing someone react in a specific situation.

This is an excellent methodology if a researcher is trying to better understand human behaviour, including how their surrounding influences their emotions or how they extract meaning from their surroundings. For example, if a biologist is trying to understand how humans interact with one another, they might perform qualitative research to observe behaviours. As this research involves interacting with or observing others, it can sometimes be a more time-consuming methodology. Professionals often use this methodology when exploring a topic without a specific goal, like if a marketing department wants to better understand consumers' interests and company perceptions.

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Quantitative

Quantitative research involves collecting and testing numerical data, often from a large sample of participants or existing measurements and numbers. Researchers often use this methodology when confirming a research aim or objective. For example, a scientist might perform quantitative research to confirm the relationship between two variables or to confirm if a hypothesis is correct. Since researchers can perform this research by using software systems to gather numbers and variables, this is typically a quicker methodology.

Mixed-method

The mixed-method research methodology combines the strategies from the qualitative and quantitative methods. Researchers may utilise the mixed-method approach to consider several perspectives in their research, which may offer them a better understanding of their topic. They may use this type of methodology to achieve results for various goals, for instance, if a researcher wants to understand the numerical data while also interpreting a demographic's behaviour.

This type of research can also allow professionals to encounter multiple findings. This methodology uses numbers, facts and figures while also understanding the human aspect of research. For example, if a manager's goal is to better understand the employee retention rate, they may review the numbers of previous turnover rates and perform exit interviews to understand why employees resign. This may provide them with an understanding of the turnover rate's numerical data and the behaviours that cause an employee to leave.

How to select a methodology for research

Before researching, there are several steps you can take to determine which methodology can help you achieve your research objectives. These steps include:

1. Determine your research goals

To begin, determine your research goals, which allow you to understand the type of sample that you want to research, the techniques you may use to collect data and how you plan to analyse your information. Write a list of objectives that you want your data to achieve. Be specific in each goal so that you can define whether the goal is exploratory or to confirm a hypothesis. For example, an exploratory goal might state that you want to learn about parents' buying behaviours, while a confirmation goal tries to prove that parents buy more toys during certain holiday seasons.

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2. Decide on the sampling design

A sampling design allows you to decide which individuals you plan to collect data from, also known as your sample group. Probability sampling involves selecting participants randomly from your population, which is the entire group that you're researching. For example, if you're researching school students, you may use probability sampling to select the students you're observing randomly, regardless of their gender or age. Typically, this type of sampling involves participants that are generalisable, which means that you can expect similar results from each participant. This allows the ones you select randomly to represent the entire population accurately.

Non-probability sampling involves selecting participants depending on the convenience or specific traits that you want your sample to have. If a researcher wants to find participants quickly, they might select individuals that you have easy access to, like a family member or colleague. If they want the sample to have specific personality traits or physical characteristics, they may look for people that fit the description. Decide on which type of probability you want to use and how it may affect your research.

Read more: Probability vs. Non-Probability Sampling: Key Differences

3. Determine which data collection method is best

Understanding which data collection method may help in achieving your research goals can allow you to decide which methodology is best. After deciding on your population sample, you can determine the proper data collection methods. When considering your data collection methods, think about your topic, the population sample and the type of data you're gathering. Then, decide which technique can allow you to gather this information effectively. Here are the different types of data collection methods that you can use:

  • Surveys: It's common to use surveys when collecting quantitative data since you can measure the information on surveys using numbers, graphs and charts. You can use online or physical surveys, depending on the research sample, for instance, if you're gathering research for an online store, then an online survey might suffice.

  • Interviews: You may conduct interviews when gathering qualitative data to observe an individual's reactions, behaviours and body language.

  • Observations: You can observe your sample to understand their natural behaviours, which lowers the chance of them adjusting their behaviours if they know you're observing them.

  • Documents: You may collect data from published reports and documents to gather quantitative data, like numerical information or variables.

4. Choose a methodology

After creating your research goals, deciding on a population sample and determining which data collection techniques you want to use, you can select the methodology that aligns most closely with your research outline. Review your information to see which method allows you to achieve the desired objective. For example, if your research goal is to find the percentage of sales increase at your workplace over the last ten years, your population sample is customers at the store and your data collection method involves reviewing past sales reports, then you may follow a quantitative methodology.

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