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Step 6: Choosing Appropriate Methodologies

What is the best way to answer your question? For example, if you have a descriptive question, use a descriptive method such as historical analysis or a case study. If that method is not possible or practical, how would you change your question so that it is possible to answer?

Professor Eichenberg researches public opinion. For his research question he needs to conduct surveys.

If you have a similar research question, can you feasibly conduct surveys? What are the practical constraints to get permission to do surveys? Money? People hours? Political blockages? (For example, it is virtually impossible to do surveys in China.) Perhaps you will need to consider another methodology. Would interviews be a good way to get information? Would they be representative for the target group you have in mind? You might find that after considering the plausible methodologies, you might need to reshape your question so that you can use the available tools to answer it.

International Relations is an interdisciplinary field, drawing upon the theoretical and methodological toolboxes of its contributing disciplines, including Political Science, Economics, Sociology, History, Psychology, Anthropology, Languages & Literature, the Arts, among others. If you are working on a capstone research project in International Relations, most likely you will need to negotiate between the methodological strategies employed by the numerous disciplines that comprise IR. Therefore, how you ask your question will often determine the types of methodologies you will need to use.

For example:
Some political scientists think systematically about the political arena to understand political events and increase their skills to formulate policy alternatives.

Some historians hope that their analyses of past events may have policy implications, but few venture into prediction of the future.

Tips on Deciding What Methodology to Use (pdf)

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