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Research Methods: Overview


Use the right tools when researching and planning your topic, gathering data or doing data analysis.

SAGE Research Methods (SRM) platform is one of the research methods tools you may consider using. This guide provides an overview and tips on finding resources available in the SRM database.


Research methods are the strategies, processes or techniques utilized in the collection of data or evidence for analysis in order to uncover new information or create better understanding of a topic. 

Click on the above sub-tabs to find out more about the different types of research methods which use different tools for data collection.

Types of Research Methods  

1. ​Qualitative Research
Gathers data about lived experiences, emotions or behaviors, and the individual meanings attached to them. It assists in enabling researchers to gain a better understanding of complex concepts, social interactions or cultural phenomena. This type of research is useful in the exploration of how or why things have occurred, interpreting events and describing actions.

The following video on "SAGE Qualitative Research Kit" is a set of 10 vital guides, written by leading academics, offering ‘how-to’ advice and clear explanations for students and researchers who want to take theoretical understanding out into the real world. Topics covered include: interview research; ethnography; visual data;  conversation, discourse & document analysis; grounded theory; triangulation and mixed methods; research design, and more.

2. Quantitative Research
Gathers numerical data which can be ranked, measured or categorized through statistical analysis. It assists with uncovering patterns or relationships, and for making generalizations. This type of research is useful for finding out how many, how much, how often, or to what extent.

Watch the following video on Quantitative Research: Methods in the Social Sciences, Segment 1: Questions on Quantitative Research for an introduction of key concepts and methods of quantitative research. Here, academics discuss the framework and application of experiments, surveys, and interviews-- including the strengths and shortcomings of each.

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Video: Qualitative vs Quantitative Research: Key Differences
In this video tutorial by Key Differences, you will get to learn the differences between qualitative and quantitative research, along with the methods and suitable examples.

Visit Key Differences to find the substantial differences between two topics.

Mixed Methods Research integrates both Qualitative and Quantitative Research. It provides a holistic approach combining and analyzing the statistical data with deeper contextualized insights. Using Mixed Methods also enables triangulation, or verification, of the data from two or more sources.

Video: Mixed Methods Research - the Basics 
Frances L. Chumney, from the University of  Nebraska-Lincoln, provides a quick introduction to mix methods research that attempts to answer research question through the collection and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data - two important characteristics of a mixed method study.

Video: An Introduction to Mixed Methods Research
Professor John Hitchcock, Director for the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, School of Education at Indiana University, provides an overview of randomized control trials and how they are used in research. He discusses the failings of old research methods, and explains the common threats to effective randomized controlled trial studies.
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Video: Developing MIxed Methods Research 
Explore developing your own Mixed Methods Research plan as Dr. John W. Creswell uses mixed methods research to survey participants testing a new video game.

Finding Qualitative & Quantitative Research in Databases

Qualitative Research
Quantitative Research
General Strategies
  • Search across a range of databases. Deciding on which databases to search depends largely upon your research topic. Visit our subject guides for lists of databases by specific subject.
  • Journal databases also provide search hints and tips in the help menu - start there if you aren't familiar with the database.
  • Developing a robust search strategy will help reduce irrelevant results. It is good practice to plan a strategy before you start to search.
Basic Search Tips
  • Break your research topic into keywords.
  • Use Boolean operators to connect your search terms or keywords together to either narrow or broaden the results. The three basic Boolean operators are: ANDOR, and NOT.
  • Use parentheses (  ), quotation marks "  ", and/or asterisks * with your search terms to create a search phrase.
Subject Headings
Databases categorize their records using subject terms or controlled vocabularies (Thesauri). These Subject Headings vary for each database, for example Medline uses Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) for its indexing system. 
The term 'qualitative research' is indexed as "Qualitative Research" or "Nursing Methodology Research" in Medline, and as "Qualitative Studies" in CINAHL. Related Subject Headings such as Focus Groups, Interviews, or Descriptive Research can also be useful. Combine searches with topic Subject Headings to locate qualitative research. PubMed uses Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) for its indexing system. Quantitative research is not directly indexed in PubMed but can be located by using subject terms including:  "Validation Studies as Topic", "Statistical Distributions", "Mathematical Concepts", "Evaluation Studies as Topic" "Investigative Techniques" or "Meta-Analysis as Topic". Combine searches with topic Subject Headings to locate quantitative research.
Free Text

Use selective free text or keywords to search in Titles, Abstracts or Keywords of records held in the databases to identify Qualitative Research. Selective keywords include terms like "phenomenological", "lived experience", "grounded theory", "life experiences", "focus groups" or interview.

Use selective free text or keywords to search in Titles, Abstracts or Keywords of records held in the databases to identify Quantitative Research. Selective keywords include quantitative, survey, validity, variance, correlation and statistical.

Limiting Searches
Databases enable sets of results to be limited or filtered by specific fields. Determine your search conditions, such as Publication Type, Clinical Queries or Publication Year and apply them to your search.

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