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How a research methodology differs from a list of research methods

While you are considering or refining research methods for your own research, it is worth noting the difference between 'research methods' and 'research methodology'.

Although some supervisors* in some fields of study seem to regard them as the same, most academics take a research methodology to include an argument or a case for the methods that a researcher decides to use. In other words, a research methodology explains why certain research methods are used as well as what they are. This is just one more example of where imagining that one is a barrister making a case in a court of law orientates to what is needed - see also the page on the other roles that research students need to take on during their programme of work.

Research methods for particular research paradigms

In making the case for your research methodology, you need to understand that no research methods or techniques necessarily sit in only one research paradigm. What decides the research paradigm is not a research method, but how the resulting data are to be used.

To take an example which anyone in any discipline will understand: Questionnaires can be used to collect quantitative data for statistical number crunching in the traditional research paradigm, just as well as they can be used for qualitative descriptions of experiences and opinions in the interpretivist research paradigm. So the research method of questionnaires can be used in either research paradigm.

General information

To take another example, precise measurements of, say, the areas of rooms can be used in an argument for more or less space, in which case the data which is quantitative is used in the interpretivist research paradigm, rather than in the traditional one.

It is however true that some research methods are more likely than others to generate data suitable for one or other of the research paradigms.

Research paradigms, methods and related matters in your own research

This page does not intend to elaborate on particular research methods. Shelves of books are devoted to this, and your supervisor* and the resources of you department or group will advise you. The purpose of this page and the page on qualitative versus quantitative research is to provide a grounding so that you understand your choice of research methods and and can argue persuasively for your research methodology.

© Pat Cryer


* 'Supervisor' is a shorthand for 'research degree supervisor', 'advisor' or 'tutor', and applies to varying extents for all research degrees: PhD, DPhil. MPhil, Prof Doc and even undergraduate and masters' projects. In some countries, notably the USA, a 'supervisor' is known as an 'advisor'.