Different Research Strategies you can use in your Dissertation

| March 15, 2013

 

One of the key problems you need to address early on when writing your dissertation is that of the best strategy to use to conduct your research? That is, how will you go about answering the research questions you want to investigate?  Defining your research strategy means deciding whether you want to do primary research or confine yourself to the existing literature.  You can get help deciding whether a primary or secondary study is best for you from another of our helpful guides. Research strategy for secondary studies is fairly straightforward, although you do have to look at your search methods and define key words and so on.  However, defining your research strategy for primary studies is slightly more involved.  This guide will help you understand the basics by looking at some of the most common research strategies.
Strategies Dissertation

Case Studies

  • Case studies are a type of descriptive research looking at individuals, a small group of people or a unit (an organisation for example).
  • Data is collected by observation, participation and a range of other methods including examining existing records, interviews and tests
  • Case studies may include participants own accounts
  • Conclusions are relevant primarily to the people or unit studied, they are not as appropriate if you want to generalise to a much wider population
  • Case studies tend not to look at cause and effect, rather they focus upon exploring and describing
  • A typical case study looks at the way a number of variables interact in order to fully understand a given situation
  • Case studies are usually used for qualitative research
  • Case studies are useful for ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions, where context is important, and where the researcher has little control over events.

Surveys

  • Survey research is frequently used in social science research. Surveys are also used in commercial settings, primarily market research.
  • Surveys often gather quantitative data, but can also gather qualitative information through open-ended questions
  • Surveys are carried out on a sample of respondents from a selected population through the administration of a questionnaire.
  • The questionnaire can be done online, face-to-face or over the telephone.
  • Surveys are very flexible and can be used to collect different types of data from small or large numbers of people
  • Surveys can also be useful across a wide range of disciplines from business to anthropology
  • The data collected in surveys needs to be analysed to produce useful results. Quantitative data (numbers) is typically analysed using statistical software like SPSS. Qualitative data can be analysed by a number of techniques including coding and thematic analysis.

Interviews

  • An interview is a discussion with one or more people. The matters raised are recorded (video-taped, audio-recorded or written down) and subsequently analysed
  • Interviews are very flexible. They can be highly structured and formalised, with all the possible options determined in advance (a quantitative survey administered face-to-face would be an interview of this type) or unstructured and relaxed.
  • Interviews are usually divided into three groups, depending upon the degree to which they are structured: structured, semi-structured and unstructured interviews. Structured interviews are based on a pre-determined set of questions and allow little-to-no scope for deviation from the structure. Unstructured interviews start with a few broad questions or areas for discussion, and the interviewer uses techniques like prompting and probing to elicit responses from the participants.
  • Interviews can involve one subject, or a group of subjects, but typically no more than 5 or 6 people in a group. The dynamics of a one-to-one interview and a group interview are different and are suitable for different purposes: one-to-one interviews are useful where you want people to open up about personal or private matters, while group interviews allow people to interact and create group dynamics.

Other Strategies

  • Action research, also known as participatory research and collaborative inquiry can be seen as a process of research through doing something. It involves the ability to usefully reflect upon process in order to improve understanding of practices and situations
  • Ethnomethodology as an approach tries to understand the way people interact with each other, and therefore studies social realities, often of the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. Its concern is with how people make sense of their world.
  • Grounded theory research does not have a set of assumptions or research objectives which are tested against reality. Rather it generates theory by first examining a social situation and seeing what explanations could account for the phenomena.

Bibliography

Badke, W (2012) Research Strategies: Finding your way through the information fog (4th edn), iUniverse, USA

Colorado State University (2013) ‘Case Study’ [online] (cited 6th March 2013) available from

http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=60

Marsden, P V and Wright, J D (2010) Handbook of Survey Research (2nd edn.), Emerald Group Publishing, London.

Punch, K (2003) Survey Research: The Basics, SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA.

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Category: Dissertation Writing Guide