Research methodology and different research approaches

By Abhinash on November 19, 2013

A research plan is crucial in understanding the aims and objectives of the study as it describes the proposed research’s principal elements: how and what will be researched. It is a broader term than research methods as it is broad and not specific (Punch and Punch, 2005). This consists of the following parts:

  • Aim and objectives in clear and precise terms.
  • Background of the study and its significance.
  • Progress report.
  • Preliminary studies.
  • Research methodology.
The "Research Onion" Source: Saunders, Philip and Thornhill (2009)
The research onion. (Source: Saunders, Philip and Thornhill, 2009)

Research approaches

Research can be of any of the following approaches described:

Qualitative study

A qualitative study is also known as ethnographic research. It studies things in their natural settings, attempting to interpret them. It involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials- a case study, personal experience, introspective, life story, interviews, observational history, interaction and visual texts (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994: 2). The major factors researchers keep in mind during this type of research are inductive reasoning, development of hypotheses, attitudes, processes and beliefs of the people. However, the shortcomings of qualitative research are that it is broad, vague and inclusive (Merriam, 2009).

Descriptive study

A descriptive study, as the name suggests, describes the attitudes and behaviours observed during the investigation. This approaches in many ways converse with experimental research with respect to advantages and disadvantages. It takes place in a natural, real-life setting (Vander Steop and Johnson, 2008). The main aim of descriptive research is to discover new facts about a situation, people, activities or events, or the frequency with which certain events occur. Descriptive research can be conducted using a range of methods like surveys and correlation studies to explore the relationship between variables (Cormack, 2000, p. 213).

Correlation study

A correlation study is one where variables and parameters are related to one another and information is systematically integrated as theories begin to develop (Cohen et al, 2007; p. 16). The main interest in conducting a correlation study is to observe whether two or more variables covary and if so, to establish the directions, magnitudes and forms of the observed relationships (Border, 2006; p.99). In this type of research, there is no attempt to manipulate variables but to observe them as it is.

Causal-comparative study

The casual comparative study typically involves comparing two groups on one dependent variable (Lodico et al, 2010). It is used to explore the reasons behind existing differences between two or more groups. In this sense, it is quite similar to correlation research (Johnson, 2005). It serves as a bridge with descriptive and correlation designs on one end and the experimental designs yet to be considered on the other (Goodwin and Goodwin, 1995, p. 43). The investigation begins by noticing a difference within a set of people.

Experimental study

An experimental study is the easiest type of research. The research is distinguished by three main characteristics: calculation of an independent variable, the related variables are all held consistent and the calculation of the independent variable is observed on the dependent variable.


I am currently working as a Research Associate. My work is centered on Macroeconomics with modern econometric approach. Broadly, the methodological research focuses on Panel data and Times series data analysis for causal inference and prediction. I also served as a reviewer to Journals of Taylor & Francis Group, Emerald, Sage.


3 thoughts on “Research methodology and different research approaches”