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Research approaches and questions

While you are at College, you may be asked to carry out a research project where you may need to gather your own qualitative or quantitative data.

Qualitative research refers to data that comprises of descriptions, feelings, perceptions and experiences.

Quantitative research is data that is made up of objective measurements such as numerical data or multiple choice answers.

All research, whether quantitative or qualitative requires the interpretation of the researcher in order for it to make sense. The evidence does not speak for itself; you must explain to the reader why your results answer (or fail to answer) your research question. Without your interpretation, your results are meaningless data; it is your take on the data that makes it information.

For example, the data 20% on its own means nothing. To make it information, we need to know what it is 20% of to understand what it means.

As such, it is important that you choose the right type of research method for your project in order to get the right type of data out of it. You don’t have to stick to one method, it often adds to the data to use more than one strategy. But, this also means that your research needs to be planned carefully. Don’t forget, regardless of which method you choose, you must have an approved ethical clearance form before contacting participants and gathering data, especially if you are planning to work with children or vulnerable people.

Below is a list of possible research methods that you can use in your research project. For more detail, please see the long pdf guide to research approaches.

  • Focus group
  • Structured interviews
  • Semi-structured interviews
  • Survey
  • Case Study
  • Narrative enquiry
  • Appreciative Enquiring
  • Ethnographic
  • Netnography
  • Soft Systems Methodology

Before choosing a research approach, you should ask yourself the following questions to decide if the approach is suitable for your research:

    1. 1. Will we learn more about this topic using quantitative or qualitative approaches?
    1. 2. Which approach will produce more useful knowledge?
    1. 3. Which will do more good?

Remember, no results is still a result, but if you are unsure which method is most appropriate for your research, you should discuss this with your tutor or the Librarian, Anysia.