The main types of research compared

When you start planning a research project, developing research questions and creating a research design, you will have to make various decisions about the type of research you want to do.

There are many ways to categorize different types of research. The words you use to describe your research depend on your discipline and field. In general, though, the form your research design takes will be shaped by:

  • The type of knowledge you aim to produce
  • The type of data you will collect and analyze
  • The sampling methods, timescale and location of the research

This article takes a look at some common distinctions made between different types of research and outlines the key differences between them.

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Internal vs external validity

Validity can be split up into two types: internal and external validity.

Internal validity refers to the degree of confidence that the causal relationship being tested is trustworthy and not influenced by other factors or variables.

External validity refers to the extent to which results from a study can be applied (generalized) to other situations, groups or events.

The validity of a study is largely determined by the research design: what, how, where and when the study was executed.

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Descriptive research

Descriptive research aims to accurately and systematically describe a population, situation or phenomenon. It can answer what, when, where, when and how questions, but not why questions. To determine cause and effect, experimental research is required.

A descriptive research design can use a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate one or more variables. Unlike in experimental research, the researcher does not control or manipulate any of the variables, but only observes and measures them.

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How to do a case study

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research.

A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods, but quantitative methods are sometimes also used. Case studies are good for describing, comparing, evaluating and understanding different aspects of a research problem.

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Correlational research

A correlational research design measures a relationship between two variables without the researcher controlling either of them. It aims to find out whether there is either:

Positive correlationBoth variables change in the same directionAs height increases, weight also increases
Negative correlationThe variables change in opposite directionsAs coffee consumption increases, tiredness decreases
Zero correlationThere is no relationship between the variablesCoffee consumption is not correlated with height

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How to transcribe an interview

Transcribing is converting speech to text word for word. Transcribing is a common practice when conducting interviews because it enables you to perform analysis.

How to transcribe an interview in five steps:

  1. Choose between verbatim, intelligent verbatim, or edited transcription
  2. Transcribe the audio (use transcription software)
  3. Add speaker designation and time stamps
  4. Clarify the transcript where needed
  5. Proofread the transcript

Transcription software comparison

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Inductive vs. deductive reasoning

Inductive reasoning aims at developing a theory. It moves from specific observations to broad generalizations. Deductive reasoning aims at testing an existing theory. It moves from broad generalizations to specific observations.

Both approaches are used in various types of research, and it’s not uncommon to combine them in one large study.

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Qualitative vs. quantitative research

There are two approaches to collecting and analyzing data: qualitative research and quantitative research. Each of these types of research has different objectives and methods, and both are important for gaining different kinds of knowledge.

Quantitative research

Quantitative research is expressed in numbers and graphs. It is used to test or confirm theories and assumptions. This type of research can be used to establish generalizable facts about a topic.

  • Surveys, experimental research, observational research
Qualitative research

Qualitative research is expressed in words. It is used to understand concepts, thoughts or experiences. This type of research enables you to gather in-depth insights on topics that are not well understood.

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