Research Methodology Research Writing WTUC Dec. 2006 Research Methodology Research Writing WTUC Dec. 2006
Purpose The method section answers these two main questions: 1. How was the data collected or generated? 2. How was it analyzed? In other words, it shows your reader how you obtained your results. But why do you need to explain how you obtained your results? http://www.clet.ait.ac.th/el21meth.htm
We need to know how the data was obtained because the method affects the results.
For instance, if you are investigating users' perceptions of the efficiency of public transport in Bangkok, you will obtain different results if you use a multiple choice questionnaire than if you conduct interviews.
Knowing how the data was collected helps the reader evaluate the validity and reliability of your results, and the conclusions you draw from them.
The reader wants to know that the data was collected or generated in a way that is consistent with accepted practice in the field of study.
For example, if you are using a questionnaire, readers need to know that it offered your respondents a reasonable range of answers to choose from (asking if the efficiency of public transport in Bangkok is "a. excellent, b. very good or c. good" would obviously not be acceptable as it does not allow respondents to give negative answers).
The research methods must be appropriate to the objectives of the study. If you perform a case study of one commuter in order to investigate users' perceptions of the efficiency of public transport in Bangkok, your method is obviously unsuited to your objectives.
The methodology should also discuss the problems that were anticipated and explain the steps taken to prevent them from occurring, and the problems that did occur and the ways their impact was minimized.
In some cases, it is useful for other researchers to adapt or replicate your methodology, so often sufficient information is given to allow others to use the work. This is particularly the case when a new method had been developed, or an innovative adaptation used.
Most of us encounter some problems when collecting or generating our data. Do not ignore significant problems or pretend they did not occur. Often, recording how you overcame obstacles can form an interesting part of the methodology, and means you can also give a rationale for certain decisions, plus a realistic view of using the methods you chose.
Introduction : introduction of research problem introduction of objectives introduction of how objectives will be achieved (methodology), optional introduction of main findings and conclusions, optional
Literature review : review of previous work relating to research problem (to define, explain, justify) review of previous work relating to methodology (to define, explain, justify) review of previous work relating to results (particularly reliability, etc.)
Method (how the results were achieved): explanation of how data was collected/generated ?explanation of how data was analyzed explanation of methodological problems and their solutions or effects
Results and discussion : presentation of results interpretation of results discussion of results (e.g. comparison with results in previous research, effects of methods used on the data obtained)
Conclusions : has the research problem been “solved”? to what extent have the objectives been achieved? what has been learnt from the results? how can this knowledge be used? what are the shortcomings of the research, or the research methodology? etc.
analysis : classes of data are collected and studies conducted to discern patterns and formulate principles that might guide future action
case study : the background, development, current conditions and environmental interactions of one or more individuals, groups, communities, businesses or institutions is observed, recorded and analyzed for stages of patterns in relation to internal and external influences.
comparison : two or more existing situations are studied to determine their similarities and differences.
correlation-prediction : statistically significant correlation coefficients between and among a number of factors are sought and interpreted.
evaluation : research to determine whether a program or project followed the prescribed procedures and achieved the stated outcomes.
survey-questionnaire : behaviors, beliefs and observations of specific groups are identified, reported and interpreted.
The following example is abridged (the introduction has been removed, as well as the results, discussion and conclusions).
Task: Look for the purpose of each part of the methodology. Examine each sentence and see if you can decide its function. Here is a range of possibilities to help you: rationale (reasons for doing something), description (e.g. of equipment), purpose (e.g. of the model), application (how something is used), structure of the research (the order in which information will be given), assumptions (for a model), parameters (these may be variables that are measured).
Quantitative and Qualitative Data collection methods
The Quantitative data collection methods , rely on random sampling and structured data collection instruments that fit diverse experiences into predetermined response categories. They produce results that are easy to summarize, compare, and generalize.
Qualitative research is one of the two major approaches to research methodology in social sciences. Qualitative research involves an indepth understanding of human behaviour and the reasons that govern human behaviour. Unlike quantitative research , qualitative research relies on reasons behind various aspects of behaviour. Simply put, it investigates the why and how of decision making, as compared to what , where , and when of quantitative research. Hence, the need is for smaller but focused samples rather than large and random samples.
Qualitative research studies rely on three basic data gathering techniques: participant observation , interview , and social artifact (usually, documents) content analysis .  Each of these techniques represents a continuum of from less to more structured.  Various studies or particular techniques may rely more heavily on one data gathering technique or another.
Qualitative data collection methods play an important role in impact evaluation by providing information useful to understand the processes behind observed results and assess changes in people’s perceptions of their well-being. Furthermore qualitative methods can be used to improve the quality of survey-based quantitative evaluations by helping generate evaluation hypothesis; strengthening the design of survey questionnaires and expanding or clarifying quantitative evaluation findings.
These methods are characterized by the following attributes:
they tend to be open-ended and have less structured protocols (i.e., researchers may change the data collection strategy by adding, refining, or dropping techniques or informants)
they rely more heavily on interactive interviews; respondents may be interviewed several times to follow up on a particular issue, clarify concepts or check the reliability of data
they use triangulation to increase the credibility of their findings (i.e., researchers rely on multiple data collection methods to check the authenticity of their results)
generally their findings are not generalizable to any specific population, rather each case study produces a single piece of evidence that can be used to seek general patterns among different studies of the same issue
Regardless of the kinds of data involved, data collection in a qualitative study takes a great deal of time. The researcher needs to record any potentially useful data thoroughly, accurately, and systematically, using field notes, sketches, audiotapes, photographs and other suitable means. The data collection methods must observe the ethical principles of research.
The qualitative methods most commonly used in evaluation can be classified in three broad categories: