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Literature reviews

Information providing guidance on starting a literature review, including resources, techniques and approaches to searching the literature and writing the review.

Research methods overview

What are research methods?

Research methodology is the specific strategies, processes, or techniques utilised in the collection of information that is created and analysed.

The methodology section of a research paper, or thesis, enables the reader to critically evaluate the study’s validity and reliability by addressing how the data was collected or generated, and how it was analysed.

Types of research methods

There are three main types of research methods which use different designs for data collection.

(1) Qualitative research

Qualitative research gathers data about lived experiences, emotions or behaviours, and the meanings individuals attach to them. It assists in enabling researchers to gain a better understanding of complex concepts, social interactions or cultural phenomena. This type of research is useful in the exploration of how or why things have occurred, interpreting events and describing actions.

Examples of qualitative research designs include:

  • interviews
  • focus groups
  • observations
  • document analysis
  • oral history or life stories

(2) Quantitative research

Quantitative research gathers numerical data which can be ranked, measured or categorised through statistical analysis. It assists with uncovering patterns or relationships, and for making generalisations. This type of research is useful for finding out how many, how much, how often, or to what extent.

Examples of quantitative research designs include:

  • surveys or questionnaires
  • observation
  • document screening
  • experiments

(3) Mixed method research

Mixed Methods research integrates both Qualitative research and Quantitative research. It provides a holistic approach combining and analysing the statistical data with deeper contextualised insights. Using Mixed Methods also enables triangulation, or verification, of the data from two or more sources.

Finding literature on research methodologies

Sometimes in your literature review, you might need to discuss and evaluate relevant research methodologies in order to justify your own choice of research methodology.

When searching for literature on research methodologies it is important to search across a range of sources. No single information source will supply all that you need. Selecting appropriate sources will depend upon your research topic.

Developing a robust search strategy will help reduce irrelevant results. It is good practice to plan a strategy before you start to search.

Search tips

(1) Free text keywords

Free text searching is the use of natural language words to conduct your search. Use selective free text keywords such as: phenomenological, "lived experience", "grounded theory", "life experiences", "focus groups", interview, quantitative, survey, validity, variance, correlation and statistical.

To locate books on your desired methodology, try LibrarySearch. Remember to use refine options such as books, ebooks, subject, and publication date.

(2) Subject headings in Databases

Databases categorise their records using subject terms, or a controlled vocabulary (thesaurus). These subject headings may be useful to use, in addition to utilising free text keywords in a database search.

Subject headings will differ across databases, for example, the PubMed database uses 'Qualitative Research' whilst the CINHAL database uses 'Qualitative Studies.'

(3) Limiting search results

Databases enable sets of results to be limited or filtered by specific fields, look for options such as Publication Type, Article Type, etc. and apply them to your search.

(4) Browse the Library shelves

To find books on research methods browse the Library shelves at call number 001.42

SAGE Research Methods Online

SAGE Research Methods Overview (2:07 min) by SAGE Publishing  (YouTube