There is great concern that scholars are unsure of the differences between research methodology and research methods. This blog post will help you differentiate between the two and offer easy-to-use sources, so your research paper, thesis, or dissertation stands out from the crowd as one that has both a well-written research methodology section and a well-written research methods section.

What is Research Methodology?

Research methodology is a broad view of the different strategies of inquiry available (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods). The scholar will define each with textbook descriptions and narrow down the optimal choice with a rationale of why they chose a particular research methodology. 

A good research methodology section in your paper will document each possible option, define them from various textbooks, and explain why one was selected and why the others were not selected for your particular study. 

The Creswell book includes great content about various methodologies and methods. If your school does not use the Creswell book, keep reading. I will have more recommendations here in this blog post. Cozby and Bates is also another recommendation.

Research Methodology: What is Quantitative Research?

The quantitative inquiry will include a discussion of experimental and non-experimental designs. When talking about these different types of designs, also include a look at comparative, quasi-experimental, exploratory, explanatory, causal, descriptive, and correlational studies. As with the previous paragraph, define these different designs and explain why you selected the one you did for your study.

Research Methodology: What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative Research will include a discussion of broad qualitative research methodologies such as ethnography, phenomenological, grounded theory, narrative, and case study. Please keep in mind that some will say phenomenological is a methodology and case study is a method. 

It will depend on how you are using this in your own study. See the Yin book on Case Study Research and the Moustakas book on Phenomenological Research Methods for more information if you are considering case study and/or phenomenological.

Research Methodology: What are Mixed Methods?

Mixed methods will include content about concurrent, sequential, or transformative. Some use phrases such as combined, convergence, integrated, and multi-method. In short, the mixed methods study includes both qualitative and quantitative. Therefore, review the above two paragraphs and include information for both in your paper.

When talking about research methodology, I also usually include conversations about cross-sectional versus longitudinal. Field-based versus lab-based is also a good discussion to have in the methodology section. Again, use a textbook definition of each and explain why you are doing the type of study you are doing.

What are Research Methods?

Research methods, techniques, or procedures include questions, data collection, data analysis, interpretation, write-up, validation, and more. I call this the recipe for the study. While the methodology is broad, the methods section is at the micro-level, explaining how you will do the study you plan to do.

Research Methods: What are Quantitative Methods?

Quantitative methods are predetermined. They will need to be discussed in the research proposal. They may include instrument-based (survey, questionnaire, index, etc.) questions. They can also include performance data such as key performance indicators (KPIs). 

Quantitative data can be primary or secondary data. Primary is where the researcher collects the data themselves. Secondary (also called archival) is where the researcher collects data from an established secondary source. Using a quantitative book such as Hair et al., Pallant, or Tabachnick and Fidell will offer guidance in the step-by-step approach for the quantitative methods section.

Research Methods: What is Qualitative Data?

Qualitative data includes a variety of options such as interviews, observations, documents, and audio-visual files. Mooh et al. (2016) conducted a study to see what methods and methodology were included in 146 projects. The top qualitative methods were semi-structured interviews, focus groups, open interviews, participant observations, questionnaires, workshops, structured interviews, document analysis, ethnographic interviews, group interviews, life history, meetings, narrative elicitation, surveys, field studies, and open interviews, and scoping. 

Once the data collection method is described, the methods section should also include a discussion about reliability and validity. Using a qualitative book such as Patton, Yin, or Saldana will help with the step-by-step approach needed for qualitative inquiry. If you are doing a hermeneutical or exegetical study, please see Henson, Robbins, or Osborne for more details.

In summary, this blog helps you to know the difference between research methodology and research methods. They should both be included in your paper. The Methods section, or Chapter 3, as many refer to this should be textbook-heavy. It should include a well-written definition for each keyword and then an explanation of why you chose what you chose. Your manuscript will stand out from the crowd because you are including accurate language in both sections. This is also a good chance for you to use these two sections as teachable moments. Writing them in such a way that you are learning enough to teach other people is the way you become the expert. Keep up the good work!


The Dissertation Success Handbook