Research methods and research methodology are the two terms that are often confused as the same. Strictly speaking, they are not so, and they show differences between them.
If we zone in on the etymology of the word ‘methodology,’ it refers to ‘method’+’ology.’ ‘Ology’ typically means a discipline of study or a branch of knowledge. Thus technically speaking, the methodology is the study of methods.
By research method, we simply mean the research techniques or tools to be used for conducting research irrespective of whether the research belongs to physical or social sciences or any other disciplines.
The methods include three broad groups.
- The first group includes methods dealing with collection and description of data;
- The second group consists of techniques used for establishing a statistical relationship between variables;
- The third group deals with methods used to evaluate the reliability, validity, and accuracy of the results discerned by the data.
A physical scientist may employ, for example, such tools as an electron microscope or a radio telescope to obtain his data.
In contrast, a social scientist or a manager may use, as a technique, an opinion poll or sample survey with a mail questionnaire or conduct a personal interview to obtain his data.
He might conduct a telephonic interview, group discussion, case study approach to gather data. Still, in essence, they are employing the same technique ‘observation’ of some kind, that generates data for research.
Nevertheless, the scientists in their disciplines employ tools and techniques that may differ widely in nature and complexity.
The research methodology is a way to study the various steps that are generally adopted by a researcher in studying his research problems systematically, along with the logic, assumptions, justification, and rationale behind them.
Whenever we choose a research method, we must justify why we prefer this particular method over others. The methodology seeks to answer this question.
Thus, when we speak of research methodology, we not only talk of research methods but also keep in view the logic and justification behind the method we use in the context of our research undertaking.
A researcher’s methodology aims at answering such questions as:
- Why was this particular group of people interviewed and not the other groups?
- How has been the research problem defined?
- How many individuals provided the answers on which the researcher’s conclusions were based?
- Why were these particular techniques used to analyze data?
- In what way and why has been the research hypothesis formulated?
- What level of evidence was used to determine whether or not to reject the stated hypothesis?
Difference between Research Method and Research Methodology
If the subject into which you conduct research is a scientific subject or topic, then the research methods include experiments, tests, the study of many other results of different experiments performed earlier about the topic or the subject and the like.
On the other hand, research methodology about the scientific topic involves the techniques regarding how to go about conducting the research, the justification of the use of particular tools of research, advanced techniques that can be used in performing the experiments, and the like.
A method is what you did. It is a simple description. You selected, for example, 100 rats and measured their weights. You fed some rats and some not.
A week later, you measured their weights again.
The methodology is why that should give you a meaningful result and why you used some specified method and not some other one.
This would, in particular, include the way you have controlled for errors, e.g., why you fed the rats for a week rather than a month and why 100 rats you thought were enough.
The table below summarizes the primary differences between the research methods and research methodology.
|Research Method||Research Methodology|
|Research method seeks to answer: what did the researcher use to complete his research.||Research methodology seeks to answer: how did the researcher complete his study.|
|Research methods are the techniques and tools by which you research a subject or a topic.||Methodology explains and justifies the techniques and tools by which you may proceed with your research.|
|Research methods involve the tasks of conducting experiments, tests, surveys, and the like utilizing the knowledge and skills learned through research methodology.||Research methodology involves the learning of various techniques to conduct research and acquiring knowledge to perform tests, experiments, surveys, and critical analysis.|
|The research method aims at finding solutions to research problems.||Research methodology ensures the employment of the correct procedures to solve the problems.|
|Research methods are the end of any scientific or non-scientific research.||Research methodology paves the way to choose appropriate research methods and thus is the beginning of any research.|