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Step 6a: Overview on Types of Methodologies

To learn more about the specifics of research methodologies, we encourage students to take one of the many research methods courses offered at Tufts. Several departments offer methods courses or methodologically-focused courses that can help you with your research. (See Step 1: Planning Your Coursework).

Also, begin with Chapter 2 of Louise White's book, Political Analysis: Technique and Practice to learn more about choosing appropriate methodologies for your research questions. (This book is a required reading for INTR 91: International Research Colloquium. Tisch library has a copy of the book. You can also order it online.)

Below is a brief overview of different types of research methodologies. Though by no means comprehensive, the list is designed to give students a sense of some of the options open to them when developing their research design.

Quantitative Methodologies 1
Quantitative methodologies allow you to assign numbers to the data that you gather.

Examples Include:

  1. Statistical/Correlational Analysis: A research design to see whether there is a relationship between two or more variables.

  2. Surveys: Surveys collect information, typically from an individual, to measure relationships or correlations among variables such as background, behavior, attitudes/beliefs, opinions, and knowledge of events or policies. (If surveys include open-ended questions, they could represent a qualitative methodology.)

  3. Experimental: A strategy that tests the effect of an independent variable by applying it to one group of cases but not to a second group.

Qualitative Methodologies:
Qualitative methodologies allow you to gather data that reflect the content and meaning of an event or the perspective of an individual.

Examples Include:

  1. Interviews (Structured and Unstructured): A type of survey method in which the interviewers works with the respondent, often by asking follow-up and probing questions, to collect information. Interviews require a great deal of preparation, as well as personal adaptability and the ability to stay within the bounds of a designed protocol.2

  2. Participant observation: A method of qualitative data collection, it requires that the researcher become a participant in the culture or context being observed.3

  3. Ethnographic strategies: Coming largely from the field of anthropology, ethnographic strategies focus on the study of a culture, particularly what "socio-cultural knowledge participants bring to and generate in the social setting being studied." 4 The most common ethnographic approach is participant observation as a part of field research. An ethnographer becomes immersed in a culture as an active participant and records extensive notes to later analyze.

  4. Questionnaires: A type of survey method, questionnaires are typically paper-and-pencil instruments that the respondent completes.

  5. Field research: Researchers talk to people within their own setting, "in the field." Field researchers observe the phenomenon in its natural state and typically take extensive field notes that are then coded and analyzed.5

Some research strategies can use either quantitative or qualitative methodologies, or both:

  1. Comparative: The systematic comparison of different units to understand their similarities and differences. Comparative methodologies could be either qualitative or quantitative.

  2. Textual Analysis.

  3. Case Study: A study of a single unit, example or model, usually in some depth.

  4. Historical/Narrative: Descriptions of events that draw on multiple sources of information to understand more fully what happened. By using a narrative approach, the research tries to understand how "people think and act in the situated contexts in which they live through their stories. Narratives are frameworks through which people view, understand, and make sense of their experience."6


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