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COMM/JOURN/PBRL 360: Research Methods - Marshall: Searching by Methodology

Searching by Methodology

There are a variety of ways to get started on research.  One popular way is to just start inputting keywords until you find some articles that look good, but this may not be the best way to go.  Other ways include searching by subject, scrutinizing the bibliographies of other articles and books that you may have found, or searching for authors who you have seen popping up.

One way to narrow down your results is to search by research method.  If you already know the type (or types) of research you want to use, finding books and articles to suit your own research can be a boon.

What Sorts of Research Methods?

This is a (non-exhaustive) list of research methods that you can look to if you just aren't sure where to start.

  • Focus Groups: interviews or discussions with (typically small) groups of people
  • Case Studies: follows a situation (or person/group) over a period of time
  • Surveys: can be carried out via paper, phone, or in-person
  • Interviews: the researcher asks questions and carries on an in-depth conversation with a subject

For more information on research methods, please see this Mind Map from Sage or the relevant Wikipedia page.

Which One Should I Use?

This can be a tricky decision to make: depending on what is being researched, one method may not work as well as others do.  Here's how some research methods work:

  • Focus Groups split larger groups into smaller ones to get a limited set of opinions or concerns on a topic.  They are held in-person, so for research that wants anonymity, this method may not work the best.
  • Case Studies work well for research that is looking at one specific event or one person.  Following the path that leads to the event's conclusion or keeping up with the person as they change over time can provide invaluable information.  This is a pretty flexible research style, but it can be time-consuming.
  • A survey is the ultimate customizable research method: everything from the length of the survey to the depth of information sought can be changed, and it can be done at varying levels of anonymity.  Even the method of delivering the survey can be changed according to a situation.

When it comes time to decide which research method you want to look into, think about what types of information you want.  Do you want detailed information, or just a few questions answered?  Do you want demographics for the research subjects, or is it okay for total anonymity?  Do you want to look at just one person or a large group?  Once you figure out what you want out of your research, choosing a method should be a breeze.

Where Can I Search by Methodology?

You can search by methodology almost anywhere.  Some databases (linked below) have specific search parameters for research method, but if your database does not provide these parameters (or if your research method of choice isn't an option) you can simply use the research method as a keyword.

For example, if you were searching for research done on recovering heroin addicts via focus groups, your search would look like "heroin AND addicts AND recovery AND focus groups".