A Guide to Understanding Research Methods

Planning your research project is a task which is not to be underestimated. If this is your first time undertaking primary research, don’t panic. There may be lots of new terminology and philosophy around research methods, but we have tried to explain it in the simplest terms possible.

At this stage, you may have decided on your research question or project title.

In your research proposal, you will have to give an indication of the type of research you want to do and provide the reasoning behind it. The reasoning behind the topic of research will come from your hypothesis or literature review. Your planning of how to undertake the research to get the answers you need is what we are discussing here.

Before you start, you need to ask yourself this:

What is the purpose and scope of your research and what is the rationale?

Types of Research

Firstly, we will define the two overarching types of research. In most cases, research will fall into one category or the other. There are no set rules, though, so if there is some crossover in your research methods, that is fine, so long as it makes sense.


With deductive research, you start with a theory. You create a hypothesis and test it with the aim to confirm or disprove the hypothesis.

When testing a theory, the research approach is usually quantitative. The aim is to draw general conclusions.

Quantitative research has a focus on statistical and numerical data collection and analysis. The results you will be interpreting will be in numerical form of some kind. If you are researching the relationships between two things and envisage a correlation graph in your results, then this is most likely to be quantitative.

Examples of quantitative research include, but are not limited to, surveys and questionnaires which have closed questions. Think yes/no answers or a numerical rating scale.


The other side of the spectrum is inductive research. With this approach, you start with data and infer conclusions from said data. In order to have worthwhile results, a qualitative approach is the most common for inductive research.

Qualitative research includes, generally, any data which is not numerical. The data collected is likely to be descriptive of something, rather than precisely measuring it. Qualitative data is interpreted to create new theory from new data, usually with new phenomena.

The researcher’s role is to interpret the data accordingly; qualitative data is less structured than quantitative and requires a strong analytical approach. Sometimes the answers are less obvious when in words rather than in numbers.

Examples of qualitative data include opinions and views collected from interviews or focus groups.

Research Approaches

Once you have decided whether to take an inductive or deductive approach to your research, you must then explore the research paradigms. A research paradigm may sound like something extra-terrestrial, but it simply refers to underlying general assumptions of research philosophies.

Generally speaking, there are two overarching reasons for conducting research, aside from the fact you are required to do it at a higher academic level.

Research is undertaken either to:

  • Fill a knowledge gap, or
  • Solve a problem

Most cases for research fall somewhere on a continuum between the two.

Now, we will highlight two of the most common research approaches.


A positivist research perspective sees things for the single reality they are in. It takes two things and finds the relationship between them. If there is no clear relationship, then it can be researched to see what the correlation is.

Positivist researchers will propose a hypothesis and then test the hypothesis to see how x impacts y. This is based on statistics and applies an objectivist approach.


An interpretivist – or constructivist – approach will look at reality from different perspectives.

In this approach, everyone experiences reality differently, and so the collection of different opinions matters. Things like culture, demographic and upbringing can affect people’s sense of reality in various ways.

Words are much more valuable than numbers here. Researchers should aim to get participants to delve deep into discussions and share their personal opinions on the particular topic being researched. This can identify perceptions or ideas which have not yet been discovered, and perhaps even change the scope or depth of the research project.

Other research approaches include Pragmatism, Subjectivism and Critical, should you wish to read up on them.

Methodology & Methods

Next, you must decide how you will go about your data collection. Think broadly about the values and assumptions which influence the research and justify which methods are best suited.

A positivist research project may employ experimental research or surveys.

Some types of method used for quantitative research include:

  • Sampling
  • Measurement and Scaling
  • Statistical analysis
  • Questionnaires

Constructivist research may use ethnography, discourse analysis or grounded theory.

Methods of qualitative data collection include:

  • Qualitative interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Observation
  • Case studies

It is also possible that the research could be a combination of both in a mixed-methods approach.

Research Methods and Your Research Project

We have given you an introduction to research methods and what you need to think about. If you need further clarification, please speak to your tutors and peers. You should be given lessons which cover these features, but we hope this has helped bring some clarity.

Most importantly, refer to the assessment criteria and make sure you have covered everything for this section.

Research methods and constructing your methodology may seem like a small part of your project at first glance. On the contrary, it is the foundation for your entire research project. The ways in which you plan and conduct your research, through to analysis, are all decided at this point.

It can take a little while to get accustomed to the academic language, but once you have the understanding behind the words, it can be easier to interpret them.

The Value of Proofreading

You may be required to submit details regarding how you plan to undertake your research in a research proposal. If this is assessed, you will want to make sure it is of the best quality possible.

Proofreading your research proposal, or this whole section once it is complete, will help to eradicate any minor errors or spelling mistakes you have made. Particularly with these new and complex words, it can be easy to spell something incorrectly without noticing.

Proofreading Techniques

Take time to make sure you have not only included correct spelling, but that you have used the correct words themselves. Refer back to your notes to make sure that you have selected the right research approach and paradigms.

With language as complex as this, it needs to read as easily as possible. Spend time polishing this before you submit your proposal. This means that when you get it back, you can make any small amendments required but it is almost ready to go straight into your dissertation.

Make sure you proofread it again when checking the final version of your dissertation too, though!

Our Services

If you would like a professional to proofread your final version of the finished dissertation, you can get in touch for an instant quote. Our qualified team will check your work for spelling and grammar issues as well as syntax and grammar inconsistencies and errors. You can then be confident that you are submitting the best possible version of your work.