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Guide to undergraduate dissertations in the social sciences

What are Research Methods?

❶The American Historical Review. The Society for Artistic Research SAR publishes the triannual Journal for Artistic Research JAR , [22] [23] an international, online, open access , and peer-reviewed journal for the identification, publication, and dissemination of artistic research and its methodologies, from all arts disciplines and it runs the Research Catalogue RC , [24] [25] [26] a searchable, documentary database of artistic research, to which anyone can contribute.

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What is Research Methodology?

You may not be fond of statistics, but the potential relevance of a quantitative approach should be considered and similarly, the idea of qualitative analysis and conducting your own research may yield valuable data. The possibilities of using quantitative and qualitative data are also discussed. Watch video on approaching methodologies. What approach should I take - qualitative or quantitative?

This video clip contains comments from the following academics:. Your approach, research design, and research question are all connected. Dissertations can be based on either quantitative or qualitative data, or on a combination of both.

How you choose this may depend on your preferences and abilities, and the suitability of particular approaches to your topic. You need to be able to justify why you have chosen to use such data. Quantitative data is particularly useful when you wish to discover how common particular forms of behaviour such as illegal drug use are for a particular age group. Qualitative data is particularly useful when you wish to find out why people engage in such behaviour. Think about the Research Methods modules you have taken so far.

Think about the different kinds of studies you have read for other modules. There is plenty of scope to use the approaches and methods that you are most comfortable with. You need to justify your approach and methods and to cite appropriate literature to help you do this. You will probably want to use large datasets and undertake quantitative data analysis, and you will be adopting a realist approach to the topic studied.

Quantitative dissertations are likely to be nearer to the lower end of the range of approved lengths for the dissertation e. They will also include tables and figures giving your important findings. Remember that all tables must be carefully titled and labelled and that sources of your data must be acknowledged. You will probably want to use in-depth qualitative data, and you may wish to adopt a realist, a phenomenologist, or a constructionist approach to the topic.

Qualitative dissertations will include descriptive material, usually extracts from interviews, conversations, documents or field notes, and are therefore likely to be nearer to the upper limit of your word range e. The types of method suitable for a dissertation could include content analysis, a small scale ethnographic study, small scale in-depth qualitative interviewing. There are many ways in which qualitative and quantitative data and analysis can be combined. Here are two examples. Your supervisor or research methods tutor may be able to give you detailed examples of these or other ways to combine methods.

If you decide to do a primarily theoretical dissertation, it is almost certain that your dissertation will be entirely literature-based. This is likely to be the methodology of theoretical analysis: You might ask how useful certain concepts or theories are for understanding particular patterns of behaviour. How useful is the concept of institutional racism? Is objectivity in the media possible? How useful is subcultural theory for understanding virtual communities?

Here, the focus of attention is not so much to discover something about the social world, for example virtual communities, as to reach a judgement about the value of key concepts or theories in understanding that world. How the study is approached and how contrasting approaches are drawn upon needs to be stated very clearly. A library-based or theoretical study is not necessarily 'easier' than an empirical study, indeed, it may well be harder. Remember that theoretical studies, like data-based studies, need to have their research design spelled out from the start.

But even if your dissertation is more empirically focused, it could still be entirely literature-based. You might choose to conduct a review of a field of work.

What does the research literature in this field tell us about x? While all dissertations will include a literature review, it is possible to produce a dissertation that is entirely based on a review of the literature.

If you do this, it is important to review the literature from an explicit angle and identify some themes to make the review distinctive. You might, for example, explore empirical debates in your chosen field across different countries or time periods. Whilst it is possible for dissertations to be entirely literature-based, the most common form of dissertation takes the form of a case study.

Here the focus of attention is on a particular community, organisation or set of documents. The attraction of this kind of dissertation is that it stems from empirical curiosity but is at the same time practical.

You may be interested in a wider question but a case study enables you to focus on a specific example. A major challenge in case study dissertations is connecting your own primary research or re-analysis with the broader theoretical themes and empirical concerns of the existing literature.

Most dissertations demand either primary or secondary research. In other words, you usually have to analyse data that you have either collected yourself or data that is already available. The reason for this is that the questions dissertations usually address take the following form: Why is x happening?

Why is x changing? These questions demand primary or secondary analysis of data. Case Study 9 Think hard before you decide to undertake empirical research: Secondary analysis is when you analyse data which was collected by another researcher.

It allows the researcher to explore areas of interest without having to go through the process of collecting data themselves in the field.

The problem with using fieldwork methods in an undergraduate dissertation, however, is that they are costly in terms of time which is relatively scarce in your final year! You may choose, therefore, to undertake secondary research, analysing existing data. There are a range of documents that already contain research data that you can analyse. You may, for example, be interested in exploring whether gender stereotypes in the media are changing.

This might entail content analysis of newspapers, magazines, video or other media over different time periods. Here you would not be collecting your own data but instead would be analysing existing documents.

Download Case Study 6 Media research. If you are interested, for example, in doing historical research, you may need to visit archives. Government reports and autobiographies may also be used as data.

Other documents include official statistics, datasets statistical data , and banks of interview transcripts which are all freely available to the academic community. Increasingly, documents, databases and archives are readily accessible online. Research Methods tutors on your course will be able to advise on the availability and accessibility of such data sets.

There are some advantages of doing secondary analysis, particularly if you are doing a quantitative study. You will be able to work with much larger datasets than you could have collected yourself. This has the following advantages:. Quantitative data may also result from non-participant observations or other measurements e. Also, sometimes data that are collected through qualitative processes participant observation, interviews are coded and quantified.

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:. Observational research methods, such as the case study , are probably the furthest removed from the established scientific method. Observational research tends to use nominal or ordinal scales of measurement. Observational research often has no clearly defined research problem , and questions may arise during the course of the study.

Observation is heavily used in social sciences, behavioral studies and anthropology, as a way of studying a group without affecting their behavior.

Whilst the experiment cannot be replicated or falsified , it still offers unique insights, and will advance human knowledge. Case studies are often used as a pre-cursor to more rigorous methods, and avoid the problem of the experiment environment affecting the behavior of an organism.

Observational research methods are useful when ethics are a problem. 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. As long as a researcher recognizes and evaluates flaws in the design when choosing from different research methods, any of the scientific research methods are valid contributors to scientific knowledge.

Check out our quiz-page with tests about:. Martyn Shuttleworth Jun 19, Retrieved Sep 13, from Explorable. The text in this article is licensed under the Creative Commons-License Attribution 4. You can use it freely with some kind of link , and we're also okay with people reprinting in publications like books, blogs, newsletters, course-material, papers, wikipedia and presentations with clear attribution.

Share this page on your website: The nature of this type of research is exploratory and open ended. Small number of people are interviewed in depth and or a relatively small number of focus groups are conducted.

Qualitative research can be further classified in the following type. A culture is the shared attributes, values, norms, practices, language, and material things of a group of people.

In addition to the above, we also have the descriptive research. Fundamental research, of which this is based on establishing various theories. From Wikibooks, open books for an open world. Research Questions and Hypothesis. Probability and Significance Test. Comparing Multiple Levels of IV: Retrieved from " https: Views Read Edit View history. Policies and guidelines Contact us. In other languages Add links.

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Types of research methods can be classified into several categories according to the nature and purpose of the study and other attributes. In methodology chapter of your dissertation, you are expected to specify and discuss the type of your research according to the following classifications.

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Observational research methods, such as the case study, are probably the furthest removed from the established scientific method. This type is looked down upon, by many scientists, as ‘quasi-experimental’ research, although this is usually an unfair criticism. Observational research tends to use nominal or ordinal scales of measurement.

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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 . 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.

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Research Methods To understand the use of statistics, one needs to know a little bit about experimental design or how a researcher conducts investigations. A little knowledge about methodology will provide us with a place to hang our statistics. Research methodology in a number of areas like social sciences depends heavily on significance tests. A significance test may even drive the research process in a whole new direction, based on the findings.