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Research Methods: What are research methods?

A guide to research methods, and search strategies for finding research.

What are research methods

Research methods are the strategies, processes or techniques utilized in the collection of data or evidence for analysis in order to uncover new information or create better understanding of a topic.

There are different types of research methods which use different tools for data collection.

Types of research

Qualitative Research gathers data about lived experiences, emotions or behaviours, and the meanings individuals attach to them. It assists in enabling researchers to gain a better understanding of complex concepts, social interactions or cultural phenomena. This type of research is useful in the exploration of how or why things have occurred, interpreting events and describing actions.

Quantitative Research gathers numerical data which can be ranked, measured or categorised through statistical analysis. It assists with uncovering patterns or relationships, and for making generalisations. This type of research is useful for finding out how many, how much, how often, or to what extent.

Mixed Methods Research integrates both Qualitative and Quantitative Research. It provides a holistic approach combining and analysing the statistical data with deeper contextualised insights. Using Mixed Methods also enables Triangulation, or verification, of the data from two or more sources.

Finding Mixed Methods research in the Databases 

  • PubMed - there are no suitable MeSH terms for mixed methods research in Medline. Search your topic with the following suggested free text keywords using the quotation marks and truncation symbol*:

    “mixed model*” OR “mixed design*” OR “multiple method*” OR multimethod* OR triangulat*

    CINAHL - the following Subject Headings may be of use: Multimethod Studies or Triangulation. You can also include in your search the following free text keywords: mixed model*, mixed design*, multiple method*, multimethod*, or triangulat*.

Data collection tools

Techniques or tools used for gathering research data include:

Qualitative Techniques or Tools Quantitative Techniques or Tools
Interviews: these can be structured, semi-structured or unstructured in-depth sessions with the researcher and a participant. Surveys or questionnaires: which ask the same questions to large numbers of participants or use Likert scales which measure opinions as numerical data.
Focus groups: with several participants discussing a particular topic or a set of questions. Researchers can be facilitators or observers. Observation: which can either involve counting the number of times a specific phenomenon occurs, or the coding of observational data in order to translate it into numbers.
Observations: On-site, in-context or role-play options. Document screening: sourcing numerical data from financial reports or counting word occurrences.
Document analysis: Interrogation of correspondence (letters, diaries, emails etc) or reports. Experiments: testing hypotheses in laboratories, testing cause and effect relationships, through field experiments, or via quasi- or natural experiments.
Oral history or life stories: Remembrances or memories of experiences told to the researcher.  

SAGE research methods

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