Types of Research to Consider with Your Questions

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As all good research is based on discovery and begins with a state of questioning, it might be easy to say that all research is the same once this state is established, but this is simply not true.  Last week I began by isolating formal from informal research, but today I’d like to go a bit further and talk about a few other qualities and characteristics of research as it is refined further (and this is still not the entire iceberg).

The second large bilateral divide in research is quantitative from qualitative, quantitative being considered to be experimental research and qualitative being descriptive.  In experimental research, one or more hypotheses are tested by manipulating an independent variable to effect the dependent variable.  Results are compared to a control group in which the independent variable was not manipulated but the outcomes of the dependent variable are still observed.  How participants are assigned into their groups will determine which classification of experimental research design the project is, being either:

  • True: In a true experimental research design, participants are randomly assigned to their groups for independent or control independent variable manipulation;
  • Quasi aka Natural (Sommer, 2006): In a quasi-experimental research design, participants are most often naturally pre-formed into groups, such as a classroom group, to which these is no random generation to potentially “fairly” distribute the participants; or
  • Single-Subject: One participant or group is studied over time with exposure(s) to the independent variable.

The above-referenced three types of quantitative research are only a few of the many types established in the research community and while these three will test one or more hypotheses in their prescribed research, not all types of research utilize a hypothesis.  Generally, a hypothesis is used when there are two or more variables involved.  The following types of research are some of the more common methods selected based on the lists: Popular Research Designs (Bhattacherjee, 2012, pp.38-41); Nursing Resources: Types of Research within Qualitative and Quantitative (Ebling Library, 2016); and 5 Types of Qualitative Methods (Sauro, 2015) and demonstrate their primary research purpose (support a hypothesis or objective/question).

Type of Research and Their Question Statement Type

  • Action: quantitative, hypothesis (similar to Single-Subject)
  • Case Study: qualitative, questions/objective
  • Correlational: quantitative, questions/objective
  • Descriptive: quantitative, questions/objective
  • Ethnography: qualitative, questions/objective
  • Field Surveys: qualitative, hypothesis OR questions/objectives (though non-experimental in nature, most field-surveys utilize independent and dependent variables which allows for a hypothesis methodology)
  • Grounded Theory: qualitative, questions/objective
  • Historical: qualitative, hypothesis (although this is not an experimental group, often historical looks at past variables)
  • Narrative: qualitative, questions/objective
  • Phenomenology: qualitative, questions/objective (but like Historical, could potentially have a hypothesis if the phenomenon looks at variable relationships)
  • Secondary Data Analysis: qualitative, questions/objective
  • Single-Subject: quantitative, hypothesis
  • True: quantitative, hypothesis
  • Quasi: quantitative, hypothesis

When selecting a research method, the research goals must be front-of-mind at all times.  The research goals are of a broader scope that the research questions (which will be narrow to the point of the specific case study in many cases) but will be focused enough to give a research project purpose and meaning so that decisions can be made of what to include or exclude from the research.  By establishing goals before developing the design, researchers can narrow down the best research design to achieve that goal.  For example, if a goal were to modify current attitudes, Ethnography might be considered, but if the project is on a tighter schedule, Single-Subject research might be a better design model than Secondary Data Analysis to keep information current and relevant.  I found an article in the Canadian Journal of Surgery (Farrugia, Petrisor, Farrokhyar, & Bhandari, 2010) with a lot of useful insight and cognitive training methods to help new researchers better understanding writing goals and writing research objectives/questions available here.



Ebling Library (2016). Nursing resources: Types of research within qualitative and quantitative. Retrieved from http://researchguides.ebling.library.wisc.edu/c.php?g=293229&p=1953454

Farrugia, P., Petrisor, B. A., Farrokhyar, F., & Bhandari, M. (2010). Research questions, hypotheses and objectives. Canadian Journal of Surgery, 53(4), 278–281.

Sauro, J. (2015). 5 Types of qualitative methods. Retrieved from http://measuringu.com/qual-methods

0 thoughts on “Types of Research to Consider with Your Questions

  1. Alison Briel

    Wow, Lacey, I love your blog!! I love all the examples you gave. Your explanations on qualitative and quantitative research were particularly interesting.