How to write the research methodology chapter | A complete guide for you

Master the research methodology section. Writing guide and tips

Why is research important? Research is about generating and sharing academic insights. 

At first glance, results seem like the ultimate product of any study, but it’s the methodology section that can confirm or negate the results’ validity and implementation potential. At the same time, it’s the most feared and detested section of any research paper, capstone, or thesis.

So, what is a research methodology, and how do you describe the research methods used to satisfy your professor, academic advisor, or scientific journal editor? Read on to find out.

What is a research methodology?

Research methodology is the guiding principle of your study. Simply put, it’s a detailed description of how you plan to answer your research question or achieve your study objectives. Methodology is a plan you intend to follow, while methods are individual tools you intend to use. For instance, a survey is a research method, while quantitative research is a methodology.

In terms of structure, the research methodology follows the literature review, which is preceded by an abstract and a research paper introduction. After the methodology section, you can include the study results, discussion, conclusion, and a reference list. While you can often tweak and combine other sections (for instance, merge the introduction with the literature review), the research methodology is always a separate chapter, whether you’re working on a thesis, capstone project, or term paper.

Types of research methodology

Now that we know the answer to “What is a research methodology?” let’s go over the three major types of research methodology used across all studies, regardless of their field and subject. 

Qualitative research

Qualitative research methodology involves analyzing textual information collected through interviews, surveys, polls, and other means. These research methods are best suited for exploratory studies designed to evaluate perceptions or opinions. Qualitative research is the more time-consuming of the two basic research methodology types, as it usually involves researchers interacting with study subjects, either in person or remotely.

Qualitative research methodology is most common in social sciences, gender studies, and other humanities, as hard sciences typically require dealing with numerical data rather than text, audio, or video recordings of test subjects. 

Quantitative research methodology

Students often consider quantitative research the more complex of the research methodology types, as it deals with large volumes of numeric data, statistical processing, and visualization. However, this approach is invaluable for large sample sizes, inferential analysis, forecasting, and reducing errors.

Common research methods falling under this category include experiments, surveys, tests, structured interviews, questionnaires, database creation and analysis, etc. With this research methodology, data processing is usually faster, as you can use specialized software, assuming you have the required skills.

In addition to the humanities and social sciences, quantitative research methodology is mostly used in the hard sciences, computer science, engineering, and other STEM fields. 

Mixed-methods research

As the name suggests, mixed-methods research combines the two research methodology types above, assuming both their advantages and drawbacks. This mixture of qualitative and quantitative research methods ensures a combination of hard facts and in-depth analysis of the context and human aspects of the study. However, mixed research methodology also requires extra time and resources, which may not be readily available.

Mixed research methodology is universally applicable across most study fields, including hard and soft sciences, humanities, and more.

Types of sampling designs

Regardless of the types of research methodology you choose for your study, sampling is among the first things you need to address. Sample size and variance will affect the validity of your results. For example, you cannot make any conclusions based only on your own experience (a sample of one).

Two basic types of sampling designs include:

  • Probability sampling. Study subjects are chosen randomly to prevent bias and ensure a representative sample for the general population. Systematic, stratified, and cluster sampling methods fall under this category. 
  • Nonprobability sampling. Study subjects are chosen deliberately to satisfy the conditions of the study. For instance, if the research objective only affects the male population, researchers can eliminate all female subjects from the sample. Deliberate, purposive, judgment, and quota types of sampling designs fall under this category.

Although there are no right or wrong research methods for sampling, a small sample size is often the subject of criticism and suspicion when it comes to the potential reproducibility of study results. A large sample size reduces error and increases the strength of correlation.

Data collection methods

Research methodology informs the choice of data collection methods according to the study objective and research questions. Common data collection methods include:

  • Document review and analysis
  • Experiments
  • Structured and unstructured interviews 
  • Focus groups
  • Surveys, polls, questionnaires
  • Observation

For instance, if you want to learn how Americans are going to vote in the upcoming Presidential election, the obvious choice would be a poll, which falls under quantitative research methodology. However, if you want to get a more in-depth understanding of why people vote the way they do, you can run a series of unstructured interviews and analyze the responses, which is an example of a qualitative research methodology. 

In hard sciences, observation and experiments are the two most common data collection methods. They require additional resources, materials, and equipment to produce valid results. The main difference between the two lies in the observer’s effect on the study subject. For example, biologists prefer noninvasive observation to study wildlife behavior in natural habitats, but they can use experimentation to assess a subject’s response to specific stimuli.

Writing tip from SpeedyPaper

Writing tip from SpeedyPaper:
Using more than one data collection method is an efficient way to ensure the validity of study results. For instance, you can supplement poll data with interview analysis.

Data analysis

Just like data collection methods, data analysis depends on the chosen research methodology. Here’s a brief overview of common analysis methods:

  • Quantitative data analysis
    • Descriptive: mean, median, variance, standard deviation, quartile ranks, etc. 
    • Inferential: correlation, regression analysis, interpolation, extrapolation, etc. 
  • Qualitative data analysis
    • Content analysis: basic analysis of surveys, interviews, and other means of data collection.
    • Discourse analysis: analysis of language use and its relationship to the research subject.
    • Grounded theory: comparative data analysis to unearth the causes of individual issues.
    • Narrative analysis: using storylines from different data collection avenues to answer research questions. 

Unlike qualitative data analysis,  a quantitative research methodology requires a basic understanding of statistics and data processing competencies. You will need to brush up on table processor use or programming skills for data analysis (Python, R, SQL, Scala, etc.). Visualization will also be necessary to ensure the audience can perceive the research methodology results with ease.

Choosing the right research methodology

There is no universally applicable research methodology, as different approaches can produce similar results as long as you vigorously apply the scientific method. But there are methods better suited to certain circumstances, and you can avoid wasting time and resources if you account for:

  • Study constraints. Time, resources, equipment, and other constraints can affect research methodology. For example, you may not have enough time to conduct a qualitative study via unstructured interviews, so a questionnaire for a quantitative study can be more suitable.
  • Research requirements. Sample size requirements, statistical processing, and other requirements will influence your decision. For instance, if you need to ensure a low enough error through a large sample size, a quantitative methodology will suit your needs.
  • Nature of the study. Your research objectives (or questions) will inform the research methodology. If you want to explore a certain issue in depth and have enough resources to do so, qualitative methods will win over quantitative.

Writing tip from SpeedyPaper

Writing tip from SpeedyPaper:
Check out methodology sections in similar studies to help guide your decision. You do not have to copy the methodology verbatim, but implementing best practices is easier for undergraduate students and new researchers.

How to write the research methodology section

Before we dive deeper into how to write research methodology for your study, check that you have your research questions and objectives or your hypotheses ready. Without them, you won’t be able to choose an appropriate research methodology.

Once you have your research questions ready, you should cover the following in the methodology section of your paper:

  • Research methodology (quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method). Explain the reasoning behind choosing a specific methodology and how this particular approach can help you achieve the research objectives.
  • Sampling techniques should correlate with your chosen data collection methods and research methodology. Describe which sampling approach you intend to use and why it’s the right one for your study.
  • Data collection and analysis specifics must include the methods you will use, as well as a description of any tools, instruments, materials, or equipment necessary. You can include a summary of the survey or add the full list of questions in the appendix.
  • Validation methods should cover your approach to assessing the errors and other ways to check the reliability of your results. This section can also include a list of research limitations that will affect the potential usability of your findings. 
  • Ethical considerations are essential for studies with human subjects. Your research methodology section should explain how you plan to ensure the subjects’ privacy and confidentiality, receive their consent, and address potential conflicts of interest.

Writing tip from SpeedyPaper

Writing tip from SpeedyPaper:
You do not need to go into detail about using standard research methods. If they are common within the field, you can provide a short summary and cite the appropriate reference depicting the complete methodology. It will save you time and leave more room for results and discussion chapters of your project.

Crafting a quality methodology section on the first try is daunting, especially without a solid sample to follow. If you’re out of your depth, consider hiring an experienced paper writer to help with this chapter of your research project.

Final word of advice

By now, you know the answer to “What is a research methodology?” and “Why does it matter?”. Based on our tips, you also know how to write a research methodology section in your project. But it’s easier said than done, and no amount of reading helpful advice will accomplish the task for you. If the time is short and you need urgent help, don’t hesitate to reach out for help writing a research paper. Our academic experts have years of experience working in different sections of research papers, including methodology. They can deliver the finished piece in under 24 hours if you need to meet an urgent deadline.


What are the main types of research methodology?

Quantitative and qualitative studies are two major types of research methodology, but there’s also a mixed methodology that combines the benefits (and drawbacks) of both. 

How do I determine which research methodology to use for my study?

Study your research objective or questions and find keywords. If you see phrases like “how many”, “estimate”, etc., you’ll need to use a quantitative research methodology. If your goal is to observe or explore, qualitative methodology should suffice.

What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative research methods?

Quantitative research methodology produces hard facts: numbers, correlations, forecasts, etc. Qualitative methodology provides a broad picture of the issue without delivering concrete numbers of prognoses.

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