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Guide to undergraduate dissertations in the social sciences

Experimental Research Methods

❶Now that you have got so far, try to write up your research proposal as far as you can.

Qualitative research

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Choosing qualitative or quantitative research methodologies
This article is a part of the guide:

Instead of exploring or describing a phenomena, quantitative methods deal with facts and statistics. This type of research is often used in science or medicine.

Mixed methods combine qualitative and quantitative research. This type of methodology uses several different measures that include both contextual understanding like interviews or observations along with facts or statistics. Using mixed methods can help the researcher investigate a topic on multiple levels, gaining different views and a comprehensive look at the subject.

A mixed methodology meshes more than one philosophical perspective, allowing for the integration of different theories and ideas. Within each major methodology are various designs. These provide a framework or philosophy for the study, and are different than the actual methods used. For example, a case study design focuses on exploring and describing a specific instance, person or group. A researcher may use observations, interviews or self-reports from the subject to create a complete picture.

This picture, or case, provides a detailed example of a phenomenon that can then be generalized to a similar population.

But it is very difficult to quantify these results. You will find that you will need to read all the comments through and to categorise them after you have received them, or merely report them in their diversity and make general statements, or pick out particular comments if they seem to fit your purpose. If you decide to use interviews:. Questionnaires often seem a logical and easy option as a way of collecting information from people. They are actually rather difficult to design and because of the frequency of their use in all contexts in the modern world, the response rate is nearly always going to be a problem low unless you have ways of making people complete them and hand them in on the spot and this of course limits your sample, how long the questionnaire can be and the kinds of questions asked.

As with interviews, you can decide to use closed or open questions, and can also offer respondents multiple choice questions from which to choose the statement which most nearly describes their response to a statement or item. Their layout is an art form in itself because in poorly laid out questionnaires respondents tend, for example, to repeat their ticking of boxes in the same pattern. If given a choice of response on a scale , they will usually opt for the middle point, and often tend to miss out subsections to questions.

You need to take expert advice in setting up a questionnaire, ensure that all the information about the respondents which you need is included and filled in, and ensure that you actually get them returned. Expecting people to pay to return postal questionnaires is sheer folly, and drawing up a really lengthy questionnaire will also inhibit response rates.

You will need to ensure that questions are clear, and that you have reliable ways of collecting and managing the data. Setting up a questionnaire that can be read by an optical mark reader is an excellent idea if you wish to collect large numbers of responses and analyse them statistically rather than reading each questionnaire and entering data manually.

You would find it useful to consult the range of full and excellent research books available. These will deal in much greater depth with the reasons for, processes of holding, and processes of analysing data from the variety of research methods available to you.

Home Research methods Choosing appropriate research methodologies Choosing appropriate research methodologies Choosing qualitative or quantitative research methodologies Your research will dictate the kinds of research methodologies you use to underpin your work and methods you use in order to collect data.

Interviews Interviews enable face to face discussion with human subjects. If you decide to use interviews: The same questions are read out in the same way to all respondents. There will typically be a fixed choice of answers for the respondents. Watching people and recording systematically their behaviour. Prior to the observation, an observation schedule will be produced which details what exactly the researcher should look for and how those observations should be recorded.

If you are conducting a qualitative analysis you are likely to wish to use at least some original material. This may be collected through in-depth interviews, participant observation recordings and fieldnotes, non-participant observation, or some combination of these. Below are some data collection methods that you might want to use for your dissertation:. A way of asking questions which allows the interviewee to have more control of the interview.

A form of interviewing where there are several participants; there is an emphasis in the questioning on a tightly defined topic; the accent is on interaction within the group and the joint construction of meaning. The moderator tries to provide a relatively free rein to the discussion.

This involves studying people in naturally occurring settings. The researcher participates directly in the setting and collects data in a systematic manner. The researcher will observe behaviour, listen to conversations, and ask questions.

Spend some time looking at general books about research - they will give you an overview of the data collection methods available and help you to make the best choice for your project. Bryman would be a useful starting point. For any piece of research you conduct, be it empirically based quantitative or qualitative or library based, its methods must be justified. You need to show in the final dissertation how you have given consideration to different methods, and why you have chosen and eliminated these.

Often in early supervision meetings they ask students to justify their reasons for choosing a library-based or an empirical study.

Todd, Smith and Bannister , p This was particularly useful for one of our respondents:. With other essays you can rush them if you have to Todd, Bannister and Clegg, , p ….

My reasons for data collection is literature based as my research question involved sensitive subjects which would have been unsuitable for primary data collection. Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam University I chose primary data because it would enable me to build skills that would be useful for postgraduate study.

Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam University It will involve primary data, secondary data, quantitative and qualitative research methods, lit reviews, theory and policy studies and an exploration of alternatives. My dissertation is to be based around the experience of 'poverty', as poverty is the experience. Theories and policies are not. However, to do justice to the subject, theories and policies will be included so Iam able to demonstrate where failures in the system may exist.

Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam University. Research must be conducted in a sensible and ethical manner; data must be analysed and presented in a rational manner. It is important that students do not expose themselves or others to dangers or risks when conducting research. Students need the approval of their dissertation supervisor before embarking on any type of fieldwork see the section on Research Ethics for more information.

In general, deductive research is theory-testing and inductive research is theory-generating. Often people link deductive research with quantitative experiments or surveys, and inductive research with qualitative interviews or ethnographic work.

These links are not hard and fast — for instance, experimental research, designed to test a particular theory through developing a hypothesis and creating an experimental design, may use quantitative or qualitative data or a combination. If your research starts with a theory and is driven by hypotheses that you are testing e. However much research combines deductive and inductive elements. Research design is vital to conducting a good piece of work.

At the start of your research you need to set down clearly:. You and your supervisor will discuss your design and decide whether the research is 'do-able'. Your university may require you to produce a report e. Other people may have to look at the design to ascertain whether there are ethical issues that affect your research. Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches.

Researching society and culture. London, Sage Here are some references for specific methods: Interviewing for social scientists: Questionnaire Design, Interviewing and Attitude Measurement.

Identifying a research topic: A template for structured observation: Guide to undergraduate dissertations in the social sciences. Content About this site What is a Dissertation? How to start your dissertation Help with finding literature and research Formulating the research question Methodologies. Introduction What approach should I take - qualitative or quantitative? Can my dissertation be entirely literature-based? What is case study research? What's an empirical study? What is secondary analysis?

Where do I find existing research data? Collecting you own data - primary research Will my research be inductive or deductive? What about research design? Resources Further reading Research papers. Methodologies 1 Introduction The way you approach your question will have a profound effect upon the way you construct your dissertation, so this section discusses the types of research you might undertake for your dissertation.

This video clip contains comments from the following academics: What if I want to find out about social trends, or the measurable effects of particular policies? What if I want to record people's views on an issue, and give them a 'voice'? Whether you choose qualitative or quantitative analysis will depend on several things: Your preferred philosophical approach realist, phenomenologist or constructionist. Your skills and abilities with methods of data collection if needed and analysis.

The topic or issue you are interested in. How you frame your research question. Can I combine qualitative and quantitative methods? You may be interested in doing an analysis that is primarily quantitative, looking at social trends, or policy implications.

However you also want to introduce a 'human touch' by conducting one or several interviews asking what these trends mean to people or how particular individuals experience events.


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Before beginning any research project, you must decide which methodology to use. This will guide your study, help you to choose a way to collect data and aid in your analysis. Researchers use three primary methodology types: qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods. Within these broad categories.

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Business research methods can be defined as “a systematic ad scientific procedure of data collection, compilation, analysis, interpretation, and implication pertaining to any business problem”[1]. Types of research methods can be classified into several categories according to the nature and.

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In an ideal world, experimental research methods would be used for every type of research, fulfilling all of the requirements of falsifiability and generalization. However, ethics, time and budget are major factors, so any experimental design must make compromises. Your research methods tutor can give you further information on these types of data, but here are some common quantitative data collection methods and their definitions: Self-completion questionnaires.

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Types of Research Methods Adapted from Edvantia SBR Rating for Technical Assistance Programs and Services form () and Carter McNamara Overview of Methods to Collect Information handout. Research can be classified in many different ways on the basis of the methodology of research, the knowledge it creates, the user group, the research problem it investigates etc. This research is conducted largely for the enhancement of knowledge, and is research which does not have immediate.