Research methodology is the backbone of all scientific research projects. A solid methodological approach is a prerequisite for high quality science, whatever the theoretical orientation or the practical aim may be and irrespective whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods strategies are used. Sooner or later, every student, every researcher, has to be confident in choosing and adequately applying research methodology. The Arbeitsbereich Forschungsmethoden offers consultancy to researchers and PhD students at the Humanwissenchaftliche Fakultät. We provide tailor-made advice and support on each phase of the research process, concerning both quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods approaches.
Research methodology is very broad. It starts from the conceptualization of research questions, to the data collection and analysis, presentation of the research results, conclusion and formulation of future research needs. We propose that the research question should always be leading to choose the specific methodological design of the research. This corresponds with the process approach (Kumar 1999), in which the research question or hypothesis is leading for all decisions in the various stages of research. Some questions are best addressed with qualitative methods like unstructured interviews and observations, while other research questions may require for example controlled experiments and the associated methods and analyses; and again other research questions are best answered with a mixed-methods approach. Each approach has its value depending on the research question, the research objective and other issues such as the practical circumstances.
We support a flexible attitude towards the different paradigms or epistemologies in the sciences (critical rationalism - quantitave; social constructivism - qualitative, pragmatism - mixed methods; see e.g., Onwuegbuzie and Leech 2005, Döring & Bortz 2016). The important questions are whether the research has achieved the research goals and whether the gained knowledge is valid. A mix of different research methods as well as modes of analysis may be used while being guided primarily by the aim of producing valid and socially useful knowledge. This approach can be used as a guide for both grounded inductive or abductive research and top-down deductive research.
A very useful tool to facilitate the design and execution of scientific research is the framework for Methodology for Interdisciplinary Research (MIR). This framework has been constructed to facilitate the design of interdisciplinary research, but is also a useful and appropriate tool for the design of research that is not interdiscplinary, as it can be used both for qualitative, quantivative and mixed-methods research as it allows for a range of methods´ combinations, and it works well with the process approach towards research. The MIR can be applied in an educational program, but also as a reference for monitoring the phases of research and as a tool to design such research in a process approach (Tobi & Kampen, 2018).
Kumar, R. (1999), Research Methodology: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners, 1st edn. Sage, Los Angeles
Onwuegbuzie, A.J., Leech, N.L. (2005), Taking the ‘‘Q’’ out of research: teaching Research methodology courses without the divide between quantitative and qualitative paradigms, Qual. Quant. 39(3), 267–296
Tobi, H. & Kampen, J.K. (2018), Research design: the methodology for interdisciplinary Research Framework, Qual. Quant. 52, 1209. DOI:10.1007/s11135-017-0513-8