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Research Methodology
   
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Research Strategy

Once you have an idea of the research approach that you are going to take, you next need to think about a research strategy that will lead you to find answers to your research question. That is, you need to think about your methodology and methods. You should get going on this near the start of your project and certainly before you do any data collection. It is at this stage that you would consider, for instance, whether your research is going to involve a survey, one or more case studies, some action research, participant observation, or some other methodology. Whatever choice you make, you must be able to justify it in terms of your learning objectives, your research question, and your research approach.

Your thinking at this stage should involve quite a high level of detail. For example, if your project were to involve in-depth interviewing, you would need to justify:

who is to be interviewed, and why

what questions are to be asked, and why

how open ended you would like the responses to be, and why how will the responses be recorded, and why

how will these responses be analysed and why

how will conclusions be drawn from the analysis, and why.

You are expected to be methodologically aware; – this means not only that you know what you are doing but also that you are able to provide the rationale for why you are doing it. For example, the design of interview questions should (normally) be based upon appropriate theory. Therefore, you will be expected to read and refer to appropriate textbooks on research methodology. Your reading might begin with the recommended text book (see section 3.1 in these guidelines) and move on from there as your needs become more specific.

Issues that you are likely to encounter in the course of your thinking and discussion about methodology include:

what your learning objectives might mean in terms of practical implementation

how to ensure ethical conduct in your research

how to derive research questions, hypotheses or a project brief what reading you should focus on and when

how to identify, contact and talk to clients or to staff in study organisations

the design of your data-gathering approach or instrument pilot-testing your data-gathering approach or instrument
 
what tools you will use to record and organise your data what methods you will use to analyse your data

the synthesis of data and how to derive theory (or learning) from it review and redesign of objectives, methodology, and reading project management (timetable, resources, review dates etc.) critical engagement with your methodology and results

learning review

alternative (creative) ways of writing up.

As with objective setting, your methodology should be the subject of continuous review and revision in the light of progress so far.

Remember

You need to be methodologically aware to get the best learning from your project.

You need a methodology that is consistent with your research approach, and is designed to both answer your research question and fulfil your learning objectives.

Your methodology should describe not only how you will undertake the research, what data you will use and how you will analyse it, but also, why this is an appropriate design for your particular project.

Once you have begun an investigation, you have invested time in it. It is generally not rewarding to have to repeat work simply because you did not spend the time, in advance, planning how you were going to use (or analyse) the results of your investigation.

There is never time to do the planning perfectly! You do need a record of actions though.

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