How to choose the most appropriate methods for your study

Conducting research is a type of springboard for writing a thesis, abstract, or report. Choosing the correct research methodology can affect the outcome and overall quality of the research paper. Therefore, making the proper steps at the initial stage is critical. In this material, we will discuss the research methodology in detail and help the authors determine which method to choose for their work.


Understanding different research methods

Two basic approaches to data collection exist – quantitative and qualitative research. Let us look at them in detail.


Quantitative research

The distinctive feature of this type of research is that the data collected – factual information on the topic, are usually expressed in numbers and graphs to support theories and assumptions. This method uses various methods to obtain this information:

Surveys. Surveys consist of a list of multiple-choice questions or ratings that the Author can ask face-to-face, on the phone, or via the Internet. In the report, before presenting the findings, the Author may introduce the following information to readers:

– The time and place of the survey;

– How long it took participants to answer the questions;

– The number of respondents and others.

Additionally, the Author can include the questionnaire form in an appendix to the work so readers can know with certainty about the collected data.

Experiments. Here, testing to obtain data is performed in a controlled environment. This type of data is applicable when variables are controlled and managed to establish causal relations. It is appropriate to include full details of the experiment conducted (e.g., between subjects or within them) and what tools, methods, and procedures for the test.

Existing data. The data source for the research is existing sources such as publications or archival data. After reporting the data, it is necessary to provide information on how the Author obtained the data initially and what criteria the Author used for selecting the date range.

See also  How to write the perfect Materials and Methods section

Observation. It involves observing people in their natural environment with uncontrolled variables.

Content analysis. It involves the systematic recording of the presence of certain words or texts to analyze patterns of communication.


Quantitative research can include information about the following:

– The way of data preparation;

– The software used for data analysis (e.g., Stata or SPSS);

– Statistical methods used (e.g., regression analysis).


Example of a quantitative research approach

Let us consider this scenario. The author interviews about 300 students at the university and asks them questions like, “How would you rate your teacher’s professional skills on a scale from 1 to 5?”

The researcher can perform the statistical data analysis and conclude, “On average, students rated the professional skills of their professors as a 4.4.”

Qualitative research

This method explores people’s thoughts, ideas, or experiences through interviews, focus groups, case studies, discourse analysis, and literature review. This is a survey was conducted to collect data on thoughts and experiences.

The distinctive feature of this type of research is the use of the following methods:

Interview. This method involves using open-ended questions to interview respondents verbally. Describe the time, place, and way of the interview was conducting. Also, include the following information:

  • The way of selecting participants;
  • How many people participated;
  • The form of communication (structured, semi-structured, unstructured);
  • How long the interviews lasted;
  • The way of recording (audio, video, or written notes);
  • What group or community was the author researching;
  • How the Author accessed the participants.

Working with a focus group.
Data collection during a discussion on a specific topic by a group.

The case study. Detailed research of an event, organization, person, or group. Explain how the Author selected the material for the case study (texts, images), and give examples of materials and methods of their selection.

Literature Review. A review of publications on the topic.

Qualitative research includes the analysis based on images, language, and observations (usually in the form of textual analysis).

See also  How to write the Results and Discussion sections in a research paper

Specific methods include:

– Content analysis: discussion and categorization of the meanings of sentences, words, and phrases;

– Thematic analysis: classifying and careful examining data to identify broad themes and patterns;

– Discourse analysis: examining communication and tasks related to the social context.


Example of a qualitative research approach

Let us consider the situation where the Author conducts an in-depth interview with, for example, 20 students and asks them the following questions: “How satisfied are you with the curriculum?”, “What are the positive aspects of the curriculum?”, “What is possible, in your opinion, to change in the curriculum?”. Based on the answers received, the Author transcribes all the interviews using software and identifies commonalities and patterns in the answers.


Mixed methods

Mixed methods combine a detailed study with numerical measurements.

Suppose the Author interviews to determine how students are satisfied with their studies, and their answers contribute to new thinking on the issue. Later, the Author will use the survey to test ideas on a larger scale.

Another approach is a survey to explore trends, opinions, or beliefs. Then, it would be appropriate to conduct interviews to better understand the reasons behind these trends.


Understanding the differences between quantitative and qualitative research

Quantitative and qualitative research methods allow the Author to collect data in different ways that make it possible to solve various research problems.


Quantitative research Qualitative research
The focus is on testing theories and hypotheses The focus is on exploring ideas and developing a theory or hypothesis
Analysis through mathematical and statistical analyzes Analysis through generalization, categorization, and interpretation
Mainly presented in the form of figures, graphs, and tables Mostly expressed in words
Requires many respondents Requires few respondents
Closed-ended questions (multiple-choice questions) Open-ended questions
Keywords: testing, measurement, objectivity, replicability Keywords: understanding, context, complexity, subjectivity


When to use qualitative or quantitative research

Basic rules for deciding when to use qualitative or quantitative research methods:

  • Quantitative analysis should be used when you must confirm or test something (a theory or hypothesis);
  • Qualitative analysis should be used when you must understand something (concepts, ideas, and experiences).
See also  Features of the Researcher Service to Assist Scientists in Scientific Research

For most research topics, the Author may choose a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-method approach. The usefulness of one or another method depends on whether the Author uses an inductive or deductive research approach, on the research objectives, whether the Author conducts experimental, correlational, or descriptive research, and on factors such as finances, time, and data availability.


Qualitative and quantitative data analyses 

After obtaining data using the quantitative method, the Author can analyze the combined data using statistical analysis to reveal data patterns or similarities. The Author can present the results in the form of graphs and tables and use applications such as SPSS, SAS, or Excel to calculate the following parameters:

  • Average score;
  • The number of particular answers;
  • Correlation between two or more variables;
  • Reliability of results.

Qualitative data are more complicated to analyze than quantitative data because they use images, texts, or videos rather than numbers.


Here are examples of some traditional approaches to analyzing qualitative data:

Qualitative content analysis: analyzes the position, occurrence, and meaning of words or phrases.

Thematic analysis: examines data in detail to identify key themes and patterns.

Discourse analysis: examines how communication works in a social context.



Keep in mind that the purpose of the study is not just to describe the methods used but to show how and why the Author used them and to demonstrate the thoroughness of the Author’s research. It is necessary to argue the choice of a particular method and prove that it corresponds to the set tasks. The method used should help answer the research question and solve the problem posed. The choice of method should always be related to the main goal of the research work.