There are many types of research methods. Different methods are used depending on the type of research being pursued. Research methods in science are based on what is known as the scientific method. The scientific method is the basic process that all researchers follow when exploring a specific topic. These methods are important since an individual's beliefs can influence how she interprets certain phenomena. By using these specific methods, researchers can reduce mistakes based on their own biases or prejudices.
The Scientific Method
All research methods are based on the scientific method. The scientific method has four primary components. The process begins with a basic observation and description of a phenomenon. Observations lead researchers to have questions about why certain phenomena occur. Researchers then put forth a hypothesis, or prediction, of what will happen or what the outcome of certain phenomena will be. Researchers then conduct specific types of experiments meant to prove or disprove this prediction.
Quantitative research methods vary; however, they follow the scientific method closely. Quantitative methods are concerned with conducting experiments in the interest of investigating a specific hypothesis. A hypothesis is a prediction about a phenomenon, which states how two things are related. These are referred to as the independent and dependent variables. Experiments look at the relationships between these variables with the goal of discovering what the cause of the phenomena is.
Unlike quantitative methods, qualitative methods are not based on a prediction between two variables. Rather, qualitative methods are used to openly explore a specific topic. These methods are particularly useful for looking at topics about which not much is known and for understanding subjective information, for instance, the experiences of individuals. Case studies, participant observation, survey research and interviews are all methods of qualitative research.
Although many studies use just one method of investigation, there are many ways to combine methods. For example, a mixed methods design is a way to combine qualitative and quantitative research methods to understand a phenomenon more thoroughly. These types of designs use both a traditional scientific methodology, such as running an experiment with more exploratory methods, such as a case study. Although these designs can be costly and burdensome to the researcher, they also can create a solid study by incorporating the strengths in both methods.