Research methodology is defined as a systematic way to solve a research problem by collecting data using various techniques, providing an interpretation of the collected data, and drawing conclusions about the research data. A research method is fundamentally the blueprint of the research or study.
Methodology vs. Methods
“Methodology” and “methods” are mistaken for each other a lot in research, especially since the two are sometimes used interchangeably. Methods and methodology in the research context refer to two things that are related but not the same. Method is a technique that is used in collecting data. Methodology is something else, and in fact, refers to the basic theory and analysis of how research is conducted. Similarly, Bricks and Mills (2011) define methodology as a set of principles and ideas that demonstrate the design of a research study. In addition, methods are practical approaches that are used to create and analyze data (Bricks and Mills, 2011, p. 4).
If we summarize these definitions, the methods cover the technical steps taken to conduct the research, and the methodology explains the basic reasons for using specific methods in this process.
Methodological Approach or Methods Used in Research
Traditionally, academic researchers have often conducted research studies through two distinct models called the positivist and phenomenological approaches (Collis and Hussey, 2013). Phenomenological and positivist approaches, sometimes also called quantitative and qualitative approaches (Dumay, 2008), respectively, play a significant role in determining the process of data collection, and especially the methods you intend to use for your research.
Research methodology forms the basis of your research. According to Neil McInroy, executive director of the Center for Local Economic Strategies, not using the right research methods and designs creates a weak foundation for any future review, evaluation, or strategy (Macdonald et al., 2008, p. 9). In research, two basic methods are used for these approaches, namely quantitative and qualitative research methods.
This approach is often used by researchers who follow a scientific model (Haq, 2014, p. 1). This method seeks to quantify the data and generalize the results obtained from the study population (Macdonald et al., 2008, p. 9). This method uses a data collection process whose output data is in the form of numbers. Quantitative research also uses objective analysis using statistical tools (Macdonald et al., 2008, p. 9).
According to a report, quantitative research accounted for the largest share of the global research market in 2018 (ESOMAR, 2019, p. 27).
Contrary to the quantitative approach that aims to count things to explain what has been observed, the qualitative research method is designed to provide a complete and detailed explanation of the observations of the researcher (Macdonald et al., 2008, p. 9). Therefore, the qualitative method provides contextualization and interpretation of the collected data instead of providing predictions or causal explanations. This is a method of subjective research and requires fewer carefully selected respondents.
A contemporary approach has emerged from the combination of traditional quantitative and qualitative approaches. According to Brannen and Moss (2012), the existence of the combined methods approach stems from its ability to help researchers more accurately examine social relationships and their complexities. They combine quantitative and qualitative research methods while identifying the limitations of both.
Mixed methods are also known for their concept of triangulation in social research. According to Haq (2014, p. 11), triangulation provides researchers with the opportunity to present multiple findings about a phenomenon by applying different elements of quantitative and qualitative approaches in a study.
Writing Research Methodology
Saunders et al. (2007) proposed the concept of an onion-like research model to help researchers develop a methodology and construct a research design for future research. This onion research model has six main layers that act as step-by-step instructions for researchers to create and organize research methodologies.
Selection of a Research Methodology
It is now clear that the research methodology section is where a researcher outlines and explains the plans he or she must launch to achieve the research goal. However, familiarity with research methodologies does not make it easier to choose the right methodology. Walker states that choosing the type of research methodology is a difficult step in the research process. This can be confusing and difficult, especially for novice researchers.
According to Holden and Lynch (2004), research should not be merely “methodologically led” but the selection of a methodology should be consequential not only to the social science phenomenon that is going to be studied but also to the philosophical stance of the researcher. Likewise, Goulding (2002) argues that methodological choice should be based on the researcher’s inclinations, beliefs, and convictions. In addition, other significant factors, such as epistemological concerns, should be considered in choosing a research methodology (Buchanan and Bryman, 2007). On top of philosophical foundations and personal beliefs, there are practical arrangements that can influence a researcher’s decision about the used methodology, including available data or knowledge, available time, and other resources (Ahmed et al., 2016, p. 32).