Deciding Upon the Research Design & Methodology

Determination of the research design to be employed in your study, and of the methods you will use to collect data, goes hand-in-hand with formulation of your research questions.

If you have written a master's thesis, you will be familiar with various terms and techniques. Whether or not you have had such experience, the research methods courses in your doctoral program will be of great value to you, and can serve as a basis for helping you to come to terms with the design and methods most applicable to your study.

Your doctoral dissertation committee chair will also play a central role in that process. This website section is not intended to substitute for the knowledge gleaned from those sources. With the consent of your dissertation chair, you may also wish to examine the data collection and analysis resources available at the EMU Faculty Development Center located in the Halle Library.

Some of the research design terms with which you will want to become familiar are:

  • Experimental design
  • Quasi-experimental design
  • Case study
  • Developmental (e.g., longitudinal, cross-sectional)
  • Program evaluation study

Just as research designs vary in popularity by discipline, so also do data collection methods. Still, a general familiarity with research methods will give you a good foundation for structuring your own research. Below are listed some of the research methods terms you will likely encounter in your courses and reading; this list is not intended to be all-inclusive:

  • Quantitative methods (e.g., surveys/questionnaires, statistical secondary data analysis—including of historical data)
  • Qualitative methods (e.g., participant observation, in-depth interviews, focus groups, inductive grounded theory)
  • Mixed methods—using both quantitative and qualitative methods (e.g., surveys and in-depth interviews)

Regardless of the method used, there will be additional issues to address—specifically, the representativeness of the sample, measurement validity and reliability, minimizing researcher bias and the generalizability of your research, to name some of the most common ones. Moreover, you will need to select or develop a method for coding the data you have collected.

The University of Leicester provides an excellent resource on online research methods.

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