Types Research Methods Dissertation Meaning

Research methods is a broad term. While methods of data collection and data analysis represent the core of research methods, you have to address a range of additional elements within the scope of your research.

The most important elements of research methodology expected to be covered in business dissertation at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD levels include research philosophy, types of reseaerch, research approach, methods of data collection, sampling and ethical considerations.

Let’s look briefly at each of them separately.


1. Research philosophy

Research philosophy is associated with clarification of assumption about the nature and the source of knowledge. All studies are based on some kind of assumptions about the world and the ways of understanding the world. There is no consensus among philosophers about the most appropriate ways of understanding the world; therefore, you are expected to clarify the philosophy you have chosen to understand your research problem.

In simple words, research phislophy refers to your beliefe about how data should be collected, analysed and used. Accordingly, clarification of reseaerch philosophy is a starting point for the choice of research methods.

Positivism and phenomenology are the two main contrasting research philosophies related to business studies. Positivism is an objective approach which relies on facts and quantitative data. Phenomenology, on the contrary, takes into account subjective human interests and focuses on meanings rather than hard data. You have to specify in your dissertation which philosophy you are following.

You can read more about research philosophy here.


2. Types of Research

Reseach methods also depend on the type of research accprding to the purpose of the study. Specifically, according to their purpose, studies can be classified either as applied research or fundamental research.

Applied research, also known as action research, aims to find solution for immediate and specific problem(s). Accordingly, findings of applised studies are valuable on practical levels and can be applied to address concrete problems.

Fundamental research, on the other hand, also known as basic research or pure research, aims to contribute to the overall scope of knowledge in the research area without immediate practical implications. Findings of fundamental studies cannot be used to solve immediate and specific business problems.

You can read more about types of researches here.


3. Research approach

Research approach is another important element of research methodology with directly effects the choice of specific research methods. Research approach can be divided into two, inductive and deductive categories. If you decide to find answer to specific research question(s) formulated in the beginning of the research process, you would be following an inductive approach. Alternatively, if you choose to achieve research objective(s) via testing hypotheses, your research approach can be specified as deductive. The choice between the two depends on a set of factors such as the area of study, research philosophy, the nature of the research problem and others.

You can read more about research approach here.

4. Research design

Research design can be exploratory or conclusive. If you want merely explore the research problem and you do not want to produce final and conclusive evidences to the research problem, your research design would be exploratory.  Conclusive research design, on the contrary, aims to provide final and conclusive answers to the research question. Conclusive research be further divided into two sub-categories.

You can read more about research design here.


5. Data collection methods

There are two types of data – primary and secondary. Primary data is a type of data which never existed before, hence it was not previously published. Primary data is collected for a specific purpose, i.e. they are critically analyzed to find answers to research question(s). Secondary data, on the other hand, refers to a type of data that has been previously published in journals, magazines, newspapers, books, online portals and other sources.

Dissertations can be based solely on the secondary data, without a need for the primary data. However, the opposite is not true i.e. no research can be completed only using primary data and secondary data collection and analysis is compulsory for all dissertations.

Primary data collection methods can be divided into two categories: qualitative and quantitative.

The main differences between qualitative and quantitative research methods can be summarized in the following points:

Firstly, the concepts in quantitative research methods are usually expressed in the forms of variables, while the concepts in qualitative research methods are expressed in motives and generalizations.

Secondly, quantitative research methods and measures are usually universal, like formulas for finding mean, median and mode for a set of data, whereas, in qualitative research each research is approached individually and individual measures are developed to interpret the primary data taking into account the unique characteristics of the research.

Thirdly, data in quantitative research appears in the forms of numbers and specific measurements and in qualitative research data can be in forms of words, images, transcripts, etc.

Fourthly, research findings in quantitative research can be illustrated in the forms of tables, graphs and pie-charts, whereas, research findings in qualitative studies is usually presented in analysis by only using words.

The following table presents the main differences between qualitative and quantitative research methods:

CharacteristicQuantitative researchQualitative research
Type of dataPhenomena are described numericallyPhenomena are described in a narrative fashion
AnalysisDescriptive and inferential statisticsIdentification of major schemes
Scope of inquirySpecific questions or hypothesesBroad, thematic concerns
Primary advantageLarge sample, statistical validity, accurately reflects the populationRich, in-depth, narrative description of sample
Primary disadvantageSuperficial understanding of participants’ thoughts and feelingsSmall sample, not generalizable to the population at large

The most popular qualitative methods of data collection and analysis in business studies are interviews, focus groups, observation, case studies, games and role playing etc.

Popular quantitative methods of data collection and analysis, on the other hand, include correlation analysis, regression analysis, mean, mode and median and others.

6. Sampling

Sampling is a principle that specifies the conditions and guides the process of selecting the members of population to participate in the study and to contribute as sources for primary data. The choice of sampling method determines the accuracy of research findings, reliability and validity of the study and has immense implications on the overall quality of the study.

You can read more about sampling here.

7. Ethical Considerations

Regardless of your choice of research methods, you are obliged to address ethical aspects of writing a dissertation in a proactive manner. Here you have to state that you have avoided misconducts during that research process and your dissertation is free from contradictions on ethical grounds and this statement must be true.

You can read more about ethical considerations here.


My e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: a step by step assistance offers practical assistance to complete a dissertation with minimum or no stress. The e-book covers all stages of writing a dissertation starting from the selection to the research area to submitting the completed version of the work within the deadline. John Dudovskiy


Business research methods can be defined as “a systematic ad scientific procedure of data collection, compilation, analysis, interpretation, and implication pertaining to any business problem”[1]. Types of research methods can be classified into several categories according to the nature and purpose of the study and other attributes. In methodology chapter of your dissertation, you are expected to specify and discuss the type of your research according to the following classifications.



General Classification of Types of Research Methods

Types of research methods can be broadly divided into two quantitative and qualitative categories.

Quantitative research “describes, infers, and resolves problems using numbers. Emphasis is placed on the collection of numerical data, the summary of those data and the drawing of inferences from the data”[2].

Qualitative research, on the other hand, is based on words, feelings, emotions, sounds and other non-numerical and unquantifiable elements. It has been noted that “information is considered qualitative in nature if it cannot be analysed by means of mathematical techniques. This characteristic may also mean that an incident does not take place often enough to allow reliable data to be collected”[3]


Types of Research Methods According to Nature of the Study

Types of the research methods according to the nature of research can be divided into two groups: descriptive and analytical. Descriptive research usually involves surveys and studies that aim to identify the facts. In other words, descriptive research mainly deals with the “description of the state of affairs as it is at present”[4], and there is no control over variables in descriptive research.

Analytical research, on the other hand, is fundamentally different in a way that “the researcher has to use facts or information already available and analyse these in order to make a critical evaluation of the material”.[5]

Types of Research Methods According to the Purpose of the Study

According to the purpose of the study, types of research methods can be divided into two categories: applied research and fundamental research. Applied research is also referred to as an action research, and the fundamental research is sometimes called basic or pure research. The table below summarizes the main differences between applied research and fundamental research.[6] Similarities between applied and fundamental (basic) research relate to the adoption of a systematic and scientific procedure to conduct the study.[7]

Applied   ResearchFundamental Research
§   Tries to eliminate the theory by adding to the basics of a discipline

§   Problems are analysed from the point of one discipline

§   Generalisations are preferred

§   Forecasting approach is implemented

§   Assumes that other variables do not change

§   Reports are compiled in a language of technical language of discipline

§   Aims to solve a problem by adding to the field of application of a discipline

§   Often several disciplines work together for solving the problem

§   Often researches individual cases without the aim to generalise

§   Aims to say how things can be changed

§   Acknowledges that other variables are constant by changing

§   Reports are compiled in a common language

Differences between applied and fundamental research

Types of Research Methods according to Research Design

On the basis of research design the types of research methods can be divided into two groups – exploratory and conclusive. Exploratory studies only aim to explore the research area and they do not attempt to offer final and conclusive answers to research questions. Conclusive studies, on the contrary, aim to provide final and conclusive answers to research questions.

Table below illustrates the main differences between exploratory and conclusive research designs:

Exploratory research Conclusive research
StructureLoosely structured in desingWell structured and systematic in design
MethodologyAre flexible and investigative in methodologyHave a formal and definitive methodology that needs to be followed and tested
HypothesesDo not involve testing of hypothesesMost conclusive researches are carried out to test the formulated hypotheses
FindingsFindings might be topic specific and might not have much relevance outside of researcher’s domainFindings are significant as they have a theoretical or applied implication

Main differences between exploratory and conclusive research[8]


My e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: a step by step assistancecontains discussions of research types and application of research methods in practice. The e-book also explains all stages of the research process starting from the selection of the research area to writing personal reflection. Important elements of dissertations such as research philosophyresearch approachresearch designmethods of data collection and data analysis, sampling and others are explained in this e-book in simple words.

John Dudovskiy

[1] Bajpai, N. (2011) “Business Research Methods” Pearson Education India

[2] Herbst, F. & Coldwell, D. (2004) Business Research, Juta and Co Ltd, p.15

[3] Herbst, F. & Coldwell, D. (2004) Business Research, Juta and Co Ltd, p.13

[4] Kumar, R. (2008) “Research Methodology” APH Publishing Corporation

[5] Kumar, R. (2008) “Research Methodology” APH Publishing Corporation

[6] Table adapted from Kumar, R. (2008) “Research Methodology” APH Publishing Corporation

[7] Bajpai, N. (2011) “Business Research Methods” Pearson Education India

[8] Chawla, D. & Sodhi, N. (2011) “Research Methodology: Concepts and Cases” Vikas Publishing House PVT Ltd

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