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The Differences Between Research Methods and Research Methodology

The Differences Between Research Methods and Research Methodology

Humankind constantly attempts to improve the world through research, the systematic foundation that we use to attain new knowledge, add to existing knowledge, and to develop new processes and techniques[i]. However, in order to conduct research, the researcher must implement research methods. These research methods are the strategies, tools, and techniques used by the researcher to collect the relevant evidence needed to create theories[ii]. Consequently, these research methods need to be credible, valid, and reliable. This is accomplished by writing a sound methodology, which consists of a systematic and theoretical analysis of the above research methods. A methodology allows the researcher to evaluate and validate the rigour of the study and methods used to obtain the new information.

Research methods constitute only one component of the multidimensional research methodology. It is crucial for researchers to distinguish between methods and methodology in order to implement good science. Thus, the intent of the following article is to clarify the similarities and differences of these two concepts in order to further facilitate research knowledge and practice.

Research Methods

The research process consists of the steps that need to be followed in order to carry out research effectively. The most salient aspects of the research process are listed below:

  • Develop a research problem
  • Carry out an extensive literature review
  • Develop a hypothesis or research question
  • Compose an appropriate research and sample design
  • Collect data and conduct analyses
  • Test the hypothesis
  • Interpret and Discuss
  • Make conclusions based on the data

All of the techniques, procedures, and tools used to collect and analyse information in the research process are collectively termed research methods. In other words, research methods are the ways in which researchers obtain information and find solutions to the research problem. All the methods used during a research study are referred to as the research methods. They include numerical schemes, experimental studies, theoretical procedures, statistical approaches, etc. There are three basic groups in research methods:

  • Group one, which includes all methods involved with data collection;
  • Group two, which includes all statistical techniques employed to create relationships between variables; and
  • Group three, which includes those methods used to evaluate accuracy of results.

Group two and three generally include analytical methods[iii]. The main types of research methods are

  1. Exploratory research, which assists in identifying a problem;
  2. Empirical research, which utilizes empirical evidence to examine the feasibility of a solution; and
  3. Constructive research, which tests theories.

The above research methods can be further divided into 4 categories: conceptual research, quantitative research, applied research, and descriptive research. Consequently, research methods encompass qualitative and quantitative designs, as well as the respective data collection tools, such as focus group discussions, surveys, interviews, systematic observations, sampling methods, etc. The primary purpose of research methods is to find solutions that address the research problem. Accordingly, research methods are more useful towards the later stages of the research project when it is time to draw conclusions[iv]. Summing up, research methods include all the strategies, processes, and techniques used by the investigator or researcher during their research project to successfully initiate, perform, and conclude the study. Moreover, research methods are only one facet of the multi-dimensional concept known as research methodology.

Research Methodology

The above concept is defined as the science behind the methods used to gain knowledge. In other words, methodology is the study of the methods used and the reasoning behind why those particular methods were used. It is a way in which to systematically solve the research problem (i.e., analyse the logic behind the steps taken by a researcher to answer said research question). The methodology section in any research serves the purpose of explaining the ways in which results were obtained (i.e., the research methods that were employed and the way in which results were analysed in order to allow the reader to critically evaluate the research methods). A research methodology provides an all encompassing theoretical and philosophical framework that is used at the beginning of a project to explain the functioning and reasoning behind chosen research methods, as well as to guide the research process. More importantly, the methodology for any research project is pivotal to maintaining reliable research methods and results, which adds to the value of the findings and interpretations[v]. Methodology seeks consideration of the following aspects:

  • finding the suitable research method for the chosen problem,
  • discovering the accuracy of the results of a chosen method, and
  • ensuring the efficiency of the research method.

Thus, a well-written methodology should do the following:

  • Introduce and explain reasons for the overall methodological approach (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed method) used for investigation,
  • Indicate how the research methods are applicable to the study,
  • Describe the specific data collection methods,
  • Provide sufficient explanation of data analysis methods and procedures, and
  • Provide rationale for the chosen research methods.

In order for the research to be relevant, researcher must know the research methods, as well as the methodology. Researchers should be knowledgeable about the development of certain tests, as well as possess the ability to calculate the mean, mode, median, and standard deviation, etc. Furthermore, researchers are required to know how and when to apply certain research techniques in order to ascertain which techniques are applicable to which research problems. The decisions behind the methodology design need to be clearly explained and the reasoning substantiated in order for the research to be critically analysed and evaluated by others[vi]. Therefore, research methods represent only one component of the multi-dimensional concept of research methodology.

Differences Between Research Methods and Research Methodology

Methods Methodology
Are defined as the methods or techniques that are used to gather evidence and conduct research. Provides an explanation and rationale behind the methods employed in said research.
Involves conducting surveys, interviews, experiments, etc. Involves the acquisition of knowledge surrounding various techniques used to conduct research such as surveys, interviews, experiments, etc.
The main objective is to discover solutions to research problems. The main objective is to use the correct procedures to discover solutions to research problems.
Narrow scope of practice (i.e., consists of various research strategies, methods, techniques, tools, etc.) Much wider scope of practice, which includes the research methods.
Used in later stages of research. Used in the beginning stages of research.


A methodology is required in order to systematically solve the research problem by analysing the logic behind different research methods implemented. The use of a clear methodology renders that are reliable, reproducible, and correct. In order to produce research that is systematic, logical, and replicable, researchers require an in-depth knowledge of research methodology.

Research methods are only one facet of research methodology and provide an avenue by which to find solutions to research problems. However, research methods are the primary route to conducting research, and the methodology of a research project is entrenched in the utilization of research methods. With that being said, it is safe to deduce that both phenomena are contingent upon the existence of the other.

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  1. Difference between research methods and research methodology was well articulated. Thank you.

  2. Excellent explanation. Very helpful.

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References :

[0][i] Kothari, C. R. (2004). Research methodology: Methods and techniques. New Age International

[1][ii] Azevedo, L. F., Canário-Almeida, F., Fonseca, J. A., Costa-Pereira, A., Winck, J. C., & Hespanhol, V. (2011). How to write a scientific paper—writing the methods section. Revista portuguesa de pneumologia, 17(5), 232-238.

[2][iii] Kothari, C. R. (2004). Research methodology: Methods and techniques. New Age International

[3][iv] Kumar, R. (2011). Research methodology a step-by-step guide for beginners. SAGE

[4][v] Labaree, R. V. (2009). The Methodology - Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper - Research Guides at University of Southern California

[5][vi] Pandey, P., Pandey, M. M. (2015). Research Methodology: Tools and Techniques


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