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Advanced research methods: Overview

"Advanced research methods" describes the many ways researchers conduct formal scholarly research, investigate a research problem or seek to prove a hypothesis.

This guide is a general introduction to scholarly inquiry and the use of advanced research methods, scroll down for definitions, examples and helpful resources.

Understanding Formal Research

Research is defined as the systematic investigation of a subject in order to find something new.

There are many different Advanced Research Methods which are used to conduct research. These methods include:

  • Originating with a question or problem
  • Starting with a clear articulation of a goal
  • Creating a specific plan for proceeding
  • Dividing the problem into smaller more manageable sub-problems
  • Leading with the specific research problem, question, or hypothesis
  • Explaining the assumptions the researcher is starting with
  • The collection & interpretation of data
  • Results in further questions and new tangents for further research

[Adapted from: Leedy, Paul D, Jeanne E. Ormrod, and Laura R. Johnson. Practical Research: Planning and Design. Ninth edition, Pearson, 2010. ]

Qualitative versus Quantitative

Quantitative studies are best suited for answering questions that require 'count-able' data, quantities that are often easy to translate into a graph.

For example: "How many times an hour do 22 to 32 year olds check their cell-phone?"

Quantitative: think "describe" ... precise measurements - specific data variables - large sample size - randomly selected - Objective - generalisable to larger populations - Confirmatory: the researcher expects to prove or disprove a hypothesis - Output = Statistical report with clear categories of data

Quantitative Methods: surveys, questionnaires, experiments, analyzing existing data


Qualitative studies are best suited for investigating qualities of a specific issue, often human behaviours or motivations which cannot be easily transformed in to a graph. 

For example: "Why do 22 to 32 year olds prefer social media app A over social media app B." or “what motivates 22 to 32 year olds to stop using a social media platform or app?”

Qualitative: think "discover" responses - non-specific data - small sample size - not randomly selected - Subjective - situational or highly specific information - Exploratory: the researcher is looking for connections, patterns or themes Output = narrative and contextual reporting or summaries of responses. 

Qualitative Methods: Interviews, case studies, action research, historical research, participant observer, phenomenology and philosophical / intellectual analysis


Mixed Method studies are best suited for highly complex questions: for example the number of times a specific behaviour is observed, under what conditions.

The research question for a mixed methods study could be "Are people who check their phone more than average also more likely to discard social media apps?”

Sampling and Sample types

You must choose a sample that is likely to help answer your research question!

Sample types: the many diverse possible sources of data that researchers choose from.

Sampling: the process of choosing which source of data to focus on.

Example: Choosing between an online survey, or interviewing 22 to 32 year olds, to discover which social media apps they have used and then discarded, or used and kept, and what they think motivated those decisions? The researcher could also contact the App creators for any demographic or usage statistics that they are willing to provide.

Validity and Reliability

Validity means that your methods measure what you actually set out to measure and that the results you gain from your methods can be trusted.

Reliability means that a different researcher could reproduce your methods - using similar conditions/ same variables - and see the same results as you did or draw similar conclusions.


If you chose to use a question with Likert scale responses on your survey about social media apps:

“How likely are you to Keep Social media app 'A3' on your mobile device?”

Answer options: 1. “very likely” 2. “somewhat likely” 3. Neutral   4. “somewhat unlikely” 5. “very unlikely”

How can you guarantee that the people taking the survey will interpret those categories in the way you meant them? Perhaps you could change the question to something more concrete and less open to interpretation.


"How long did you use social media app 'A3' on your Mobile device before deleting it?"

A. 5 days or less.     B. 1 -2 weeks      C.  1 - 2 months       D. 3 to 6 months      E. 7 months or longer.

Definition of Likert Scale: "A method of ascribing quantitative value to qualitative data, to make it amenable to statistical analysis. A numerical value is assigned to each potential choice and a mean figure for all the responses is computed at the end of the evaluation or survey." <Definition from:Business Dictionary>

VIDEO Adv Research Methods

Advanced Research Methods

Before you get started think about the questions below, and keep them in mind as you work on your project.

  • What type of new knowledge are you seeking?
  • Will your research answer a clearly defined question or fill a specific information gap?
  • Have you considered how each method might impact your results?
  • Are you certain that the methods you have chosen are valid and reliable?


  • Your method should be directly related to the nature of the answers you are seeking.
  • Each research method requires unique measures of validity

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