## How To Write The Methodology Chapter

## Overview: The Methodology Chapter

- The purpose of the methodology chapter
- Why you need to craft this chapter (really) well
- How to write and structure the chapter
- Methodology chapter example
- Essential takeaways

## What (exactly) is the methodology chapter?

## Why is the methodology chapter important?

Firstly, it demonstrates your understanding of research theory, which is what earns you marks. A flawed research design or methodology would mean flawed results. So, this chapter is vital as it allows you to show the marker that you know what you’re doing and that your results are credible .

Secondly, the methodology chapter is what helps to make your study replicable. In other words, it allows other researchers to undertake your study using the same methodological approach, and compare their findings to yours. This is very important within academic research, as each study builds on previous studies.

## Need a helping hand?

## How to write up the methodology chapter

Before you start writing, it’s always a good idea to draw up a rough outline to guide your writing. Don’t just start writing without knowing what you’ll discuss where. If you do, you’ll likely end up with a disjointed, ill-flowing narrative . You’ll then waste a lot of time rewriting in an attempt to try to stitch all the pieces together. Do yourself a favour and start with the end in mind .

Section 1 – Introduction

As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the methodology chapter should have a brief introduction. In this section, you should remind your readers what the focus of your study is, especially the research aims . As we’ve discussed many times on the blog, your methodology needs to align with your research aims, objectives and research questions. Therefore, it’s useful to frontload this component to remind the reader (and yourself!) what you’re trying to achieve.

Section 2 – The Methodology

The next section of your chapter is where you’ll present the actual methodology. In this section, you need to detail and justify the key methodological choices you’ve made in a logical, intuitive fashion. Importantly, this is the heart of your methodology chapter, so you need to get specific – don’t hold back on the details here. This is not one of those “less is more” situations.

Let’s take a look at the most common components you’ll likely need to cover.

Methodological Choice #1 – Research Philosophy

Research philosophy refers to the underlying beliefs (i.e., the worldview) regarding how data about a phenomenon should be gathered , analysed and used . The research philosophy will serve as the core of your study and underpin all of the other research design choices, so it’s critically important that you understand which philosophy you’ll adopt and why you made that choice. If you’re not clear on this, take the time to get clarity before you make any further methodological choices.

While several research philosophies exist, two commonly adopted ones are positivism and interpretivism . These two sit roughly on opposite sides of the research philosophy spectrum.

Positivism states that the researcher can observe reality objectively and that there is only one reality, which exists independently of the observer. As a consequence, it is quite commonly the underlying research philosophy in quantitative studies and is oftentimes the assumed philosophy in the physical sciences.

Contrasted with this, interpretivism , which is often the underlying research philosophy in qualitative studies, assumes that the researcher performs a role in observing the world around them and that reality is unique to each observer . In other words, reality is observed subjectively .

These are just two philosophies (there are many more), but they demonstrate significantly different approaches to research and have a significant impact on all the methodological choices. Therefore, it’s vital that you clearly outline and justify your research philosophy at the beginning of your methodology chapter, as it sets the scene for everything that follows.

The next thing you would typically discuss in your methodology section is the research type. The starting point for this is to indicate whether the research you conducted is inductive or deductive .

Inductive research takes a bottom-up approach , where the researcher begins with specific observations or data and then draws general conclusions or theories from those observations. Therefore these studies tend to be exploratory in terms of approach.

Conversely , d eductive research takes a top-down approach , where the researcher starts with a theory or hypothesis and then tests it using specific observations or data. Therefore these studies tend to be confirmatory in approach.

Related to this, you’ll need to indicate whether your study adopts a qualitative, quantitative or mixed approach. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a strong link between this choice and your research philosophy, so make sure that your choices are tightly aligned . When you write this section up, remember to clearly justify your choices, as they form the foundation of your study.

Methodological Choice #3 – Research Strategy

Next, you’ll need to discuss your research strategy (also referred to as a research design ). This methodological choice refers to the broader strategy in terms of how you’ll conduct your research, based on the aims of your study.

Several research strategies exist, including experimental , case studies , ethnography , grounded theory, action research , and phenomenology . Let’s take a look at two of these, experimental and ethnographic, to see how they contrast.

Experimental research makes use of the scientific method , where one group is the control group (in which no variables are manipulated ) and another is the experimental group (in which a specific variable is manipulated). This type of research is undertaken under strict conditions in a controlled, artificial environment (e.g., a laboratory). By having firm control over the environment, experimental research typically allows the researcher to establish causation between variables. Therefore, it can be a good choice if you have research aims that involve identifying causal relationships.

Ethnographic research , on the other hand, involves observing and capturing the experiences and perceptions of participants in their natural environment (for example, at home or in the office). In other words, in an uncontrolled environment. Naturally, this means that this research strategy would be far less suitable if your research aims involve identifying causation, but it would be very valuable if you’re looking to explore and examine a group culture, for example.

The next thing you’ll need to detail in your methodology chapter is the time horizon. There are two options here: cross-sectional and longitudinal . In other words, whether the data for your study were all collected at one point in time (cross-sectional) or at multiple points in time (longitudinal).

The choice you make here depends again on your research aims, objectives and research questions. If, for example, you aim to assess how a specific group of people’s perspectives regarding a topic change over time , you’d likely adopt a longitudinal time horizon.

Another important factor to consider is simply whether you have the time necessary to adopt a longitudinal approach (which could involve collecting data over multiple months or even years). Oftentimes, the time pressures of your degree program will force your hand into adopting a cross-sectional time horizon, so keep this in mind.

Methodological Choice #5 – Sampling Strategy

Next, you’ll need to discuss your sampling strategy . There are two main categories of sampling, probability and non-probability sampling.

Probability sampling involves a random (and therefore representative) selection of participants from a population, whereas non-probability sampling entails selecting participants in a non-random (and therefore non-representative) manner. For example, selecting participants based on ease of access (this is called a convenience sample).

The right sampling approach depends largely on what you’re trying to achieve in your study. Specifically, whether you trying to develop findings that are generalisable to a population or not. Practicalities and resource constraints also play a large role here, as it can oftentimes be challenging to gain access to a truly random sample. In the video below, we explore some of the most common sampling strategies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSmedyVv-Us Video can't be loaded because JavaScript is disabled: Sampling Methods 101: Probability & Non-Probability Sampling Explained Simply (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSmedyVv-Us) Methodological Choice #6 – Data Collection Method

Next up, you’ll need to explain how you’ll go about collecting the necessary data for your study. Your data collection method (or methods) will depend on the type of data that you plan to collect – in other words, qualitative or quantitative data.

Typically, quantitative research relies on surveys , data generated by lab equipment, analytics software or existing datasets. Qualitative research, on the other hand, often makes use of collection methods such as interviews , focus groups , participant observations, and ethnography.

So, as you can see, there is a tight link between this section and the design choices you outlined in earlier sections. Strong alignment between these sections, as well as your research aims and questions is therefore very important.

Methodological Choice #7 – Data Analysis Methods/Techniques

The final major methodological choice that you need to address is that of analysis techniques . In other words, how you’ll go about analysing your date once you’ve collected it. Here it’s important to be very specific about your analysis methods and/or techniques – don’t leave any room for interpretation. Also, as with all choices in this chapter, you need to justify each choice you make.

With the key methodological choices outlined and justified, the next step is to discuss the limitations of your design. No research methodology is perfect – there will always be trade-offs between the “ideal” methodology and what’s practical and viable, given your constraints. Therefore, this section of your methodology chapter is where you’ll discuss the trade-offs you had to make, and why these were justified given the context.

Methodological limitations can vary greatly from study to study, ranging from common issues such as time and budget constraints to issues of sample or selection bias . For example, you may find that you didn’t manage to draw in enough respondents to achieve the desired sample size (and therefore, statistically significant results), or your sample may be skewed heavily towards a certain demographic, thereby negatively impacting representativeness .

In this section, it’s important to be critical of the shortcomings of your study. There’s no use trying to hide them (your marker will be aware of them regardless). By being critical, you’ll demonstrate to your marker that you have a strong understanding of research theory, so don’t be shy here. At the same time, don’t beat your study to death . State the limitations, why these were justified, how you mitigated their impacts to the best degree possible, and how your study still provides value despite these limitations .

Section 4 – Concluding Summary

Finally, it’s time to wrap up the methodology chapter with a brief concluding summary. In this section, you’ll want to concisely summarise what you’ve presented in the chapter. Here, it can be a good idea to use a figure to summarise the key decisions, especially if your university recommends using a specific model (for example, Saunders’ Research Onion ).

## Methodology Chapter Example

Wrapping up.

Also, remember the golden rule of the methodology chapter – justify every choice ! Make sure that you clearly explain the “why” for every “what”, and reference credible methodology textbooks or academic sources to back up your justifications.

## Learn More About Methodology

## Triangulation: The Ultimate Credibility Enhancer

Triangulation is one of the best ways to enhance the credibility of your research. Learn about the different options here.

## Research Limitations 101: What You Need To Know

Learn everything you need to know about research limitations (AKA limitations of the study). Includes practical examples from real studies.

## In Vivo Coding 101: Full Explainer With Examples

Learn about in vivo coding, a popular qualitative coding technique ideal for studies where the nuances of language are central to the aims.

## Process Coding 101: Full Explainer With Examples

Learn about process coding, a popular qualitative coding technique ideal for studies exploring processes, actions and changes over time.

## Qualitative Coding 101: Inductive, Deductive & Hybrid Coding

Inductive, Deductive & Abductive Coding Qualitative Coding Approaches Explained...

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While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.

## Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.

## Arguable thesis with analytical claim

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.

## Arguable thesis with normative claim

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.

## Questions to ask about your thesis

- Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?
- Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?
- Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?
- Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?
- Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
- picture_as_pdf Thesis

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Home » Research Methodology – Types, Examples and writing Guide

## Research Methodology – Types, Examples and writing Guide

Table of Contents

## Research Methodology

Definition:

Research Methodology refers to the systematic and scientific approach used to conduct research, investigate problems, and gather data and information for a specific purpose. It involves the techniques and procedures used to identify, collect , analyze , and interpret data to answer research questions or solve research problems . Moreover, They are philosophical and theoretical frameworks that guide the research process.

## Structure of Research Methodology

Research methodology formats can vary depending on the specific requirements of the research project, but the following is a basic example of a structure for a research methodology section:

I. Introduction

- Provide an overview of the research problem and the need for a research methodology section
- Outline the main research questions and objectives

II. Research Design

- Explain the research design chosen and why it is appropriate for the research question(s) and objectives
- Discuss any alternative research designs considered and why they were not chosen
- Describe the research setting and participants (if applicable)

III. Data Collection Methods

- Describe the methods used to collect data (e.g., surveys, interviews, observations)
- Explain how the data collection methods were chosen and why they are appropriate for the research question(s) and objectives
- Detail any procedures or instruments used for data collection

IV. Data Analysis Methods

- Describe the methods used to analyze the data (e.g., statistical analysis, content analysis )
- Explain how the data analysis methods were chosen and why they are appropriate for the research question(s) and objectives
- Detail any procedures or software used for data analysis

V. Ethical Considerations

- Discuss any ethical issues that may arise from the research and how they were addressed
- Explain how informed consent was obtained (if applicable)
- Detail any measures taken to ensure confidentiality and anonymity

VI. Limitations

- Identify any potential limitations of the research methodology and how they may impact the results and conclusions

VII. Conclusion

- Summarize the key aspects of the research methodology section
- Explain how the research methodology addresses the research question(s) and objectives

## Research Methodology Types

Types of Research Methodology are as follows:

## Quantitative Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the collection and analysis of numerical data using statistical methods. This type of research is often used to study cause-and-effect relationships and to make predictions.

## Qualitative Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the collection and analysis of non-numerical data such as words, images, and observations. This type of research is often used to explore complex phenomena, to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular topic, and to generate hypotheses.

## Mixed-Methods Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that combines elements of both quantitative and qualitative research. This approach can be particularly useful for studies that aim to explore complex phenomena and to provide a more comprehensive understanding of a particular topic.

## Case Study Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves in-depth examination of a single case or a small number of cases. Case studies are often used in psychology, sociology, and anthropology to gain a detailed understanding of a particular individual or group.

## Action Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves a collaborative process between researchers and practitioners to identify and solve real-world problems. Action research is often used in education, healthcare, and social work.

## Experimental Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the manipulation of one or more independent variables to observe their effects on a dependent variable. Experimental research is often used to study cause-and-effect relationships and to make predictions.

## Survey Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the collection of data from a sample of individuals using questionnaires or interviews. Survey research is often used to study attitudes, opinions, and behaviors.

## Grounded Theory Research Methodology

This is a research methodology that involves the development of theories based on the data collected during the research process. Grounded theory is often used in sociology and anthropology to generate theories about social phenomena.

## Research Methodology Example

An Example of Research Methodology could be the following:

Research Methodology for Investigating the Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Reducing Symptoms of Depression in Adults

Introduction:

The aim of this research is to investigate the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in reducing symptoms of depression in adults. To achieve this objective, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) will be conducted using a mixed-methods approach.

Research Design:

The study will follow a pre-test and post-test design with two groups: an experimental group receiving CBT and a control group receiving no intervention. The study will also include a qualitative component, in which semi-structured interviews will be conducted with a subset of participants to explore their experiences of receiving CBT.

Participants:

Participants will be recruited from community mental health clinics in the local area. The sample will consist of 100 adults aged 18-65 years old who meet the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder. Participants will be randomly assigned to either the experimental group or the control group.

Intervention :

The experimental group will receive 12 weekly sessions of CBT, each lasting 60 minutes. The intervention will be delivered by licensed mental health professionals who have been trained in CBT. The control group will receive no intervention during the study period.

Data Collection:

Quantitative data will be collected through the use of standardized measures such as the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7). Data will be collected at baseline, immediately after the intervention, and at a 3-month follow-up. Qualitative data will be collected through semi-structured interviews with a subset of participants from the experimental group. The interviews will be conducted at the end of the intervention period, and will explore participants’ experiences of receiving CBT.

Data Analysis:

Quantitative data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics, t-tests, and mixed-model analyses of variance (ANOVA) to assess the effectiveness of the intervention. Qualitative data will be analyzed using thematic analysis to identify common themes and patterns in participants’ experiences of receiving CBT.

Ethical Considerations:

This study will comply with ethical guidelines for research involving human subjects. Participants will provide informed consent before participating in the study, and their privacy and confidentiality will be protected throughout the study. Any adverse events or reactions will be reported and managed appropriately.

Data Management:

All data collected will be kept confidential and stored securely using password-protected databases. Identifying information will be removed from qualitative data transcripts to ensure participants’ anonymity.

Limitations:

One potential limitation of this study is that it only focuses on one type of psychotherapy, CBT, and may not generalize to other types of therapy or interventions. Another limitation is that the study will only include participants from community mental health clinics, which may not be representative of the general population.

Conclusion:

This research aims to investigate the effectiveness of CBT in reducing symptoms of depression in adults. By using a randomized controlled trial and a mixed-methods approach, the study will provide valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying the relationship between CBT and depression. The results of this study will have important implications for the development of effective treatments for depression in clinical settings.

## How to Write Research Methodology

Writing a research methodology involves explaining the methods and techniques you used to conduct research, collect data, and analyze results. It’s an essential section of any research paper or thesis, as it helps readers understand the validity and reliability of your findings. Here are the steps to write a research methodology:

- Start by explaining your research question: Begin the methodology section by restating your research question and explaining why it’s important. This helps readers understand the purpose of your research and the rationale behind your methods.
- Describe your research design: Explain the overall approach you used to conduct research. This could be a qualitative or quantitative research design, experimental or non-experimental, case study or survey, etc. Discuss the advantages and limitations of the chosen design.
- Discuss your sample: Describe the participants or subjects you included in your study. Include details such as their demographics, sampling method, sample size, and any exclusion criteria used.
- Describe your data collection methods : Explain how you collected data from your participants. This could include surveys, interviews, observations, questionnaires, or experiments. Include details on how you obtained informed consent, how you administered the tools, and how you minimized the risk of bias.
- Explain your data analysis techniques: Describe the methods you used to analyze the data you collected. This could include statistical analysis, content analysis, thematic analysis, or discourse analysis. Explain how you dealt with missing data, outliers, and any other issues that arose during the analysis.
- Discuss the validity and reliability of your research : Explain how you ensured the validity and reliability of your study. This could include measures such as triangulation, member checking, peer review, or inter-coder reliability.
- Acknowledge any limitations of your research: Discuss any limitations of your study, including any potential threats to validity or generalizability. This helps readers understand the scope of your findings and how they might apply to other contexts.
- Provide a summary: End the methodology section by summarizing the methods and techniques you used to conduct your research. This provides a clear overview of your research methodology and helps readers understand the process you followed to arrive at your findings.

## When to Write Research Methodology

Research methodology is typically written after the research proposal has been approved and before the actual research is conducted. It should be written prior to data collection and analysis, as it provides a clear roadmap for the research project.

The research methodology is an important section of any research paper or thesis, as it describes the methods and procedures that will be used to conduct the research. It should include details about the research design, data collection methods, data analysis techniques, and any ethical considerations.

The methodology should be written in a clear and concise manner, and it should be based on established research practices and standards. It is important to provide enough detail so that the reader can understand how the research was conducted and evaluate the validity of the results.

## Applications of Research Methodology

Here are some of the applications of research methodology:

- To identify the research problem: Research methodology is used to identify the research problem, which is the first step in conducting any research.
- To design the research: Research methodology helps in designing the research by selecting the appropriate research method, research design, and sampling technique.
- To collect data: Research methodology provides a systematic approach to collect data from primary and secondary sources.
- To analyze data: Research methodology helps in analyzing the collected data using various statistical and non-statistical techniques.
- To test hypotheses: Research methodology provides a framework for testing hypotheses and drawing conclusions based on the analysis of data.
- To generalize findings: Research methodology helps in generalizing the findings of the research to the target population.
- To develop theories : Research methodology is used to develop new theories and modify existing theories based on the findings of the research.
- To evaluate programs and policies : Research methodology is used to evaluate the effectiveness of programs and policies by collecting data and analyzing it.
- To improve decision-making: Research methodology helps in making informed decisions by providing reliable and valid data.

## Purpose of Research Methodology

Research methodology serves several important purposes, including:

- To guide the research process: Research methodology provides a systematic framework for conducting research. It helps researchers to plan their research, define their research questions, and select appropriate methods and techniques for collecting and analyzing data.
- To ensure research quality: Research methodology helps researchers to ensure that their research is rigorous, reliable, and valid. It provides guidelines for minimizing bias and error in data collection and analysis, and for ensuring that research findings are accurate and trustworthy.
- To replicate research: Research methodology provides a clear and detailed account of the research process, making it possible for other researchers to replicate the study and verify its findings.
- To advance knowledge: Research methodology enables researchers to generate new knowledge and to contribute to the body of knowledge in their field. It provides a means for testing hypotheses, exploring new ideas, and discovering new insights.
- To inform decision-making: Research methodology provides evidence-based information that can inform policy and decision-making in a variety of fields, including medicine, public health, education, and business.

## Advantages of Research Methodology

Research methodology has several advantages that make it a valuable tool for conducting research in various fields. Here are some of the key advantages of research methodology:

- Systematic and structured approach : Research methodology provides a systematic and structured approach to conducting research, which ensures that the research is conducted in a rigorous and comprehensive manner.
- Objectivity : Research methodology aims to ensure objectivity in the research process, which means that the research findings are based on evidence and not influenced by personal bias or subjective opinions.
- Replicability : Research methodology ensures that research can be replicated by other researchers, which is essential for validating research findings and ensuring their accuracy.
- Reliability : Research methodology aims to ensure that the research findings are reliable, which means that they are consistent and can be depended upon.
- Validity : Research methodology ensures that the research findings are valid, which means that they accurately reflect the research question or hypothesis being tested.
- Efficiency : Research methodology provides a structured and efficient way of conducting research, which helps to save time and resources.
- Flexibility : Research methodology allows researchers to choose the most appropriate research methods and techniques based on the research question, data availability, and other relevant factors.
- Scope for innovation: Research methodology provides scope for innovation and creativity in designing research studies and developing new research techniques.

## Research Methodology Vs Research Methods

Research Methodology | Research Methods |
---|---|

Research methodology refers to the philosophical and theoretical frameworks that guide the research process. | refer to the techniques and procedures used to collect and analyze data. |

It is concerned with the underlying principles and assumptions of research. | It is concerned with the practical aspects of research. |

It provides a rationale for why certain research methods are used. | It determines the specific steps that will be taken to conduct research. |

It is broader in scope and involves understanding the overall approach to research. | It is narrower in scope and focuses on specific techniques and tools used in research. |

It is concerned with identifying research questions, defining the research problem, and formulating hypotheses. | It is concerned with collecting data, analyzing data, and interpreting results. |

It is concerned with the validity and reliability of research. | It is concerned with the accuracy and precision of data. |

It is concerned with the ethical considerations of research. | It is concerned with the practical considerations of research. |

## About the author

## Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer

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## 5 Tips for Handling your Thesis Data Analysis

- 3-minute read
- 23rd June 2015

When writing your thesis, the process of analyzing data and working with statistics can be pretty hard at first. This is true whether you’re using specialized data analysis software, like SPSS, or a more descriptive approach. But there are a few guidelines you can follow to make things simpler.

## 1. Choose the Best Analytical Method for Your Project

The sheer variety of techniques available for data analysis can be confusing! If you are writing a thesis on internet marketing, for instance, your approach to analysis will be very different to someone writing about biochemistry. As such it is important to adopt an approach appropriate to your research.

## 2. Double Check Your Methodology

If you are working with quantitative data, it is important to make sure that your analytical techniques are compatible with the methods used to gather your data. Having a clear understanding of what you have done so far will ensure that you achieve accurate results.

For instance, when performing statistical analysis, you may have to choose between parametric and non-parametric testing. If your data is sampled from a population with a broadly Gaussian (i.e., normal) distribution, you will almost always want to use some form of non-parametric testing.

But if you can’t remember or aren’t sure how you selected your sample, you won’t necessarily know the best test to use!

## 3. Familiarize Yourself with Statistical Analysis and Analytical Software

Thanks to various clever computer programs, you no longer have to be a math genius to conduct top-grade statistical analysis. Nevertheless, learning the basics will help you make informed choices when designing your research and prevent you from making basic mistakes.

## Find this useful?

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Likewise, trying out different software packages will allow you to pick the one best suited to your needs on your current project.

## 4. Present Your Data Clearly and Consistently

This is possibly one of the most important parts of writing up your results. Even if your data and statistics are perfect, failure to present your analysis clearly will make it difficult for your reader to follow.

Ask yourself how your analysis would look to someone unfamiliar with your project. If they would be able to understand your analysis, you’re on the right track!

## 5. Make It Relevant!

Finally, remember that data analysis is about more than just presenting your data. You should also relate your analysis back to your research objectives, discussing its relevance and justifying your interpretations.

This will ensure that your work is easy to follow and demonstrate your understanding of the methods used. So no matter what you are writing about, the analysis is a great time to show off how clever you are!

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## Module 8: Analysis and Synthesis

Analytical thesis statements, learning objective.

- Describe strategies for writing analytical thesis statements
- Identify analytical thesis statements

In order to write an analysis, you want to first have a solid understanding of the thing you are analyzing. Remember, when you are analyzing as a writer, you are:

- Breaking down information or artifacts into component parts
- Uncovering relationships among those parts
- Determining motives, causes, and underlying assumptions
- Making inferences and finding evidence to support generalizations

You may be asked to analyze a book, an essay, a poem, a movie, or even a song. For example, let’s suppose you want to analyze the lyrics to a popular song. Pretend that a rapper called Escalade has the biggest hit of the summer with a song titled “Missing You.” You listen to the song and determine that it is about the pain people feel when a loved one dies. You have already done analysis at a surface level and you want to begin writing your analysis. You start with the following thesis statement:

Escalade’s hit song “Missing You” is about grieving after a loved one dies.

There isn’t much depth or complexity to such a claim because the thesis doesn’t give much information. In order to write a better thesis statement, we need to dig deeper into the song. What is the importance of the lyrics? What are they really about? Why is the song about grieving? Why did he present it this way? Why is it a powerful song? Ask questions to lead you to further investigation. Doing so will help you better understand the work, but also help you develop a better thesis statement and stronger analytical essay.

## Formulating an Analytical Thesis Statement

When formulating an analytical thesis statement in college, here are some helpful words and phrases to remember:

- What? What is the claim?
- How? How is this claim supported?
- So what? In other words, “What does this mean, what are the implications, or why is this important?”

Telling readers what the lyrics are might be a useful way to let them see what you are analyzing and/or to isolate specific parts where you are focusing your analysis. However, you need to move far beyond “what.” Instructors at the college level want to see your ability to break down material and demonstrate deep thinking. The claim in the thesis statement above said that Escalade’s song was about loss, but what evidence do we have for that, and why does that matter?

Effective analytical thesis statements require digging deeper and perhaps examining the larger context. Let’s say you do some research and learn that the rapper’s mother died not long ago, and when you examine the lyrics more closely, you see that a few of the lines seem to be specifically about a mother rather than a loved one in general.

Then you also read a recent interview with Escalade in which he mentions that he’s staying away from hardcore rap lyrics on his new album in an effort to be more mainstream and reach more potential fans. Finally, you notice that some of the lyrics in the song focus on not taking full advantage of the time we have with our loved ones. All of these pieces give you material to write a more complex thesis statement, maybe something like this:

In the hit song “Missing You,” Escalade draws on his experience of losing his mother and raps about the importance of not taking time with family for granted in order to connect with his audience.

Such a thesis statement is focused while still allowing plenty of room for support in the body of your paper. It addresses the questions posed above:

- The claim is that Escalade connects with a broader audience by rapping about the importance of not taking time with family for granted in his hit song, “Missing You.”
- This claim is supported in the lyrics of the song and through the “experience of losing his mother.”
- The implications are that we should not take the time we have with people for granted.

Certainly, there may be many ways for you to address “what,” “how,” and “so what,” and you may want to explore other ideas, but the above example is just one way to more fully analyze the material. Note that the example above is not formulaic, but if you need help getting started, you could use this template format to help develop your thesis statement.

Through ________________(how?), we can see that __________________(what?), which is important because ___________________(so what?). [1]

Just remember to think about these questions (what? how? and so what?) as you try to determine why something is what it is or why something means what it means. Asking these questions can help you analyze a song, story, or work of art, and can also help you construct meaningful thesis sentences when you write an analytical paper.

## Key Takeaways for analytical theses

Don’t be afraid to let your claim evolve organically . If you find that your thinking and writing don’t stick exactly to the thesis statement you have constructed, your options are to scrap the writing and start again to make it fit your claim (which might not always be possible) or to modify your thesis statement. The latter option can be much easier if you are okay with the changes. As with many projects in life, writing doesn’t always go in the direction we plan, and strong analysis may mean thinking about and making changes as you look more closely at your topic. Be flexible.

Use analysis to get you to the main claim. You may have heard the simile that analysis is like peeling an onion because you have to go through layers to complete your work. You can start the process of breaking down an idea or an artifact without knowing where it will lead you or without a main claim or idea to guide you. Often, careful assessment of the pieces will bring you to an interesting interpretation of the whole. In their text Writing Analytically , authors David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen posit that being analytical doesn’t mean just breaking something down. It also means constructing understandings. Don’t assume you need to have deeper interpretations all figured out as you start your work.

When you decide upon the main claim, make sure it is reasoned . In other words, if it is very unlikely anyone else would reach the same interpretation you are making, it might be off base. Not everyone needs to see an idea the same way you do, but a reasonable person should be able to understand, if not agree, with your analysis.

Look for analytical thesis statements in the following activity.

## Using Evidence

An effective analytical thesis statement (or claim) may sound smart or slick, but it requires evidence to be fully realized. Consider movie trailers and the actual full-length movies they advertise as an analogy. If you see an exciting one-minute movie trailer online and then go see the film only to leave disappointed because all the good parts were in the trailer, you feel cheated, right? You think you were promised something that didn’t deliver in its execution. A paper with a strong thesis statement but lackluster evidence feels the same way to readers.

So what does strong analytical evidence look like? Think again about “what,” “how,” and “so what.” A claim introduces these interpretations, and evidence lets you show them. Keep in mind that evidence used in writing analytically will build on itself as the piece progresses, much like a good movie builds to an interesting climax.

## Key Takeaways about evidence

Be selective about evidence. Having a narrow thesis statement will help you be selective with evidence, but even then, you don’t need to include any and every piece of information related to your main claim. Consider the best points to back up your analytic thesis statement and go deeply into them. (Also, remember that you may modify your thesis statement as you think and write, so being selective about what evidence you use in an analysis may actually help you narrow down what was a broad main claim as you work.) Refer back to our movie theme in this section: You have probably seen plenty of films that would have been better with some parts cut out and more attention paid to intriguing but underdeveloped characters and/or ideas.

Be clear and explicit with your evidence. Don’t assume that readers know exactly what you are thinking. Make your points and explain them in detail, providing information and context for readers, where necessary. Remember that analysis is critical examination and interpretation, but you can’t just assume that others always share or intuit your line of thinking. Need a movie analogy? Think back on all the times you or someone you know has said something like “I’m not sure what is going on in this movie.”

Move past obvious interpretations. Analyzing requires brainpower. Writing analytically is even more difficult. Don’t, however, try to take the easy way out by using obvious evidence (or working from an obvious claim). Many times writers have a couple of great pieces of evidence to support an interesting interpretation, but they feel the need to tack on an obvious idea—often more of an observation than analysis—somewhere in their work. This tendency may stem from the conventions of the five-paragraph essay, which features three points of support. Writing analytically, though, does not mean writing a five-paragraph essay (not much writing in college does). Develop your other evidence further or modify your main idea to allow room for additional strong evidence, but avoid obvious observations as support for your main claim. One last movie comparison? Go take a look at some of the debate on predictable Hollywood scripts. Have you ever watched a movie and felt like you have seen it before? You have, in one way or another. A sharp reader will be about as interested in obvious evidence as he or she will be in seeing a tired script reworked for the thousandth time.

One type of analysis you may be asked to write is a literary analysis, in which you examine a piece of text by breaking it down and looking for common literary elements, such as character, symbolism, plot, setting, imagery, and tone.

The video below compares writing a literary analysis to analyzing a team’s chances of winning a game—just as you would look at various factors like the weather, coaching, players, their record, and their motivation for playing. Similarly, when analyzing a literary text you want to look at all of the literary elements that contribute to the work.

The video takes you through the story of Cinderalla as an example, following the simplest possible angle (or thesis statement), that “Dreams can come true if you don’t give up.” (Note that if you were really asked to analyze Cinderella for a college class, you would want to dig deeper to find a more nuanced and interesting theme, but it works well for this example.) To analyze the story with this theme in mind, you’d want to consider the literary elements such as imagery, characters, dialogue, symbolism, the setting, plot, and tone, and consider how each of these contribute to the message that “Dreams can come true if you don’t give up.”

You can view the transcript for “How to Analyze Literature” here (opens in new window) .

- UCLA Undergraduate Writing Center. "What, How and So What?" Approaching the Thesis as a Process. https://wp.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/UWC_handouts_What-How-So-What-Thesis-revised-5-4-15-RZ.pdf ↵
- Keys to Successful Analysis. Authored by : Guy Krueger. Provided by : University of Mississippi. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
- Thesis Statement Activity. Authored by : Excelsior OWL. Located at : https://owl.excelsior.edu/research/thesis-or-focus/thesis-or-focus-thesis-statement-activity/ . License : CC BY: Attribution
- What is Analysis?. Authored by : Karen Forgette. Provided by : University of Mississippi. License : CC BY: Attribution
- How to Analyze Literature. Provided by : HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College. Located at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr4BjZkQ5Nc . License : Other . License Terms : Standard YouTube License

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

## Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements

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## Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:

- An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
- An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
- An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.

If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.

2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.

3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.

4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.

## Thesis Statement Examples

Example of an analytical thesis statement:

The paper that follows should:

- Explain the analysis of the college admission process
- Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors

Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

- Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers

Example of an argumentative thesis statement:

- Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college

- USC Libraries
- Research Guides

## Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

- 6. The Methodology
- Purpose of Guide
- Design Flaws to Avoid
- Independent and Dependent Variables
- Glossary of Research Terms
- Reading Research Effectively
- Narrowing a Topic Idea
- Broadening a Topic Idea
- Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
- Academic Writing Style
- Applying Critical Thinking
- Choosing a Title
- Making an Outline
- Paragraph Development
- Research Process Video Series
- Executive Summary
- The C.A.R.S. Model
- Background Information
- The Research Problem/Question
- Theoretical Framework
- Citation Tracking
- Content Alert Services
- Evaluating Sources
- Primary Sources
- Secondary Sources
- Tiertiary Sources
- Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
- Qualitative Methods
- Quantitative Methods
- Insiderness
- Using Non-Textual Elements
- Limitations of the Study
- Common Grammar Mistakes
- Writing Concisely
- Avoiding Plagiarism
- Footnotes or Endnotes?
- Further Readings
- Generative AI and Writing
- USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
- Bibliography

The methods section describes actions taken to investigate a research problem and the rationale for the application of specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information applied to understanding the problem, thereby, allowing the reader to critically evaluate a study’s overall validity and reliability. The methodology section of a research paper answers two main questions: How was the data collected or generated? And, how was it analyzed? The writing should be direct and precise and always written in the past tense.

Kallet, Richard H. "How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper." Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004): 1229-1232.

## Importance of a Good Methodology Section

You must explain how you obtained and analyzed your results for the following reasons:

- Readers need to know how the data was obtained because the method you chose affects the results and, by extension, how you interpreted their significance in the discussion section of your paper.
- Methodology is crucial for any branch of scholarship because an unreliable method produces unreliable results and, as a consequence, undermines the value of your analysis of the findings.
- In most cases, there are a variety of different methods you can choose to investigate a research problem. The methodology section of your paper should clearly articulate the reasons why you have chosen a particular procedure or technique.
- The reader wants to know that the data was collected or generated in a way that is consistent with accepted practice in the field of study. For example, if you are using a multiple choice questionnaire, readers need to know that it offered your respondents a reasonable range of answers to choose from.
- The method must be appropriate to fulfilling the overall aims of the study. For example, you need to ensure that you have a large enough sample size to be able to generalize and make recommendations based upon the findings.
- The methodology should discuss the problems that were anticipated and the steps you took to prevent them from occurring. For any problems that do arise, you must describe the ways in which they were minimized or why these problems do not impact in any meaningful way your interpretation of the findings.
- In the social and behavioral sciences, it is important to always provide sufficient information to allow other researchers to adopt or replicate your methodology. This information is particularly important when a new method has been developed or an innovative use of an existing method is utilized.

Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Psychology Writing Center. University of Washington; Denscombe, Martyn. The Good Research Guide: For Small-Scale Social Research Projects . 5th edition. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 2014; Lunenburg, Frederick C. Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008.

## Structure and Writing Style

I. Groups of Research Methods

There are two main groups of research methods in the social sciences:

- The e mpirical-analytical group approaches the study of social sciences in a similar manner that researchers study the natural sciences . This type of research focuses on objective knowledge, research questions that can be answered yes or no, and operational definitions of variables to be measured. The empirical-analytical group employs deductive reasoning that uses existing theory as a foundation for formulating hypotheses that need to be tested. This approach is focused on explanation.
- The i nterpretative group of methods is focused on understanding phenomenon in a comprehensive, holistic way . Interpretive methods focus on analytically disclosing the meaning-making practices of human subjects [the why, how, or by what means people do what they do], while showing how those practices arrange so that it can be used to generate observable outcomes. Interpretive methods allow you to recognize your connection to the phenomena under investigation. However, the interpretative group requires careful examination of variables because it focuses more on subjective knowledge.

II. Content

The introduction to your methodology section should begin by restating the research problem and underlying assumptions underpinning your study. This is followed by situating the methods you used to gather, analyze, and process information within the overall “tradition” of your field of study and within the particular research design you have chosen to study the problem. If the method you choose lies outside of the tradition of your field [i.e., your review of the literature demonstrates that the method is not commonly used], provide a justification for how your choice of methods specifically addresses the research problem in ways that have not been utilized in prior studies.

The remainder of your methodology section should describe the following:

- Decisions made in selecting the data you have analyzed or, in the case of qualitative research, the subjects and research setting you have examined,
- Tools and methods used to identify and collect information, and how you identified relevant variables,
- The ways in which you processed the data and the procedures you used to analyze that data, and
- The specific research tools or strategies that you utilized to study the underlying hypothesis and research questions.

In addition, an effectively written methodology section should:

- Introduce the overall methodological approach for investigating your research problem . Is your study qualitative or quantitative or a combination of both (mixed method)? Are you going to take a special approach, such as action research, or a more neutral stance?
- Indicate how the approach fits the overall research design . Your methods for gathering data should have a clear connection to your research problem. In other words, make sure that your methods will actually address the problem. One of the most common deficiencies found in research papers is that the proposed methodology is not suitable to achieving the stated objective of your paper.
- Describe the specific methods of data collection you are going to use , such as, surveys, interviews, questionnaires, observation, archival research. If you are analyzing existing data, such as a data set or archival documents, describe how it was originally created or gathered and by whom. Also be sure to explain how older data is still relevant to investigating the current research problem.
- Explain how you intend to analyze your results . Will you use statistical analysis? Will you use specific theoretical perspectives to help you analyze a text or explain observed behaviors? Describe how you plan to obtain an accurate assessment of relationships, patterns, trends, distributions, and possible contradictions found in the data.
- Provide background and a rationale for methodologies that are unfamiliar for your readers . Very often in the social sciences, research problems and the methods for investigating them require more explanation/rationale than widely accepted rules governing the natural and physical sciences. Be clear and concise in your explanation.
- Provide a justification for subject selection and sampling procedure . For instance, if you propose to conduct interviews, how do you intend to select the sample population? If you are analyzing texts, which texts have you chosen, and why? If you are using statistics, why is this set of data being used? If other data sources exist, explain why the data you chose is most appropriate to addressing the research problem.
- Provide a justification for case study selection . A common method of analyzing research problems in the social sciences is to analyze specific cases. These can be a person, place, event, phenomenon, or other type of subject of analysis that are either examined as a singular topic of in-depth investigation or multiple topics of investigation studied for the purpose of comparing or contrasting findings. In either method, you should explain why a case or cases were chosen and how they specifically relate to the research problem.
- Describe potential limitations . Are there any practical limitations that could affect your data collection? How will you attempt to control for potential confounding variables and errors? If your methodology may lead to problems you can anticipate, state this openly and show why pursuing this methodology outweighs the risk of these problems cropping up.

NOTE: Once you have written all of the elements of the methods section, subsequent revisions should focus on how to present those elements as clearly and as logically as possibly. The description of how you prepared to study the research problem, how you gathered the data, and the protocol for analyzing the data should be organized chronologically. For clarity, when a large amount of detail must be presented, information should be presented in sub-sections according to topic. If necessary, consider using appendices for raw data.

ANOTHER NOTE: If you are conducting a qualitative analysis of a research problem , the methodology section generally requires a more elaborate description of the methods used as well as an explanation of the processes applied to gathering and analyzing of data than is generally required for studies using quantitative methods. Because you are the primary instrument for generating the data [e.g., through interviews or observations], the process for collecting that data has a significantly greater impact on producing the findings. Therefore, qualitative research requires a more detailed description of the methods used.

YET ANOTHER NOTE: If your study involves interviews, observations, or other qualitative techniques involving human subjects , you may be required to obtain approval from the university's Office for the Protection of Research Subjects before beginning your research. This is not a common procedure for most undergraduate level student research assignments. However, i f your professor states you need approval, you must include a statement in your methods section that you received official endorsement and adequate informed consent from the office and that there was a clear assessment and minimization of risks to participants and to the university. This statement informs the reader that your study was conducted in an ethical and responsible manner. In some cases, the approval notice is included as an appendix to your paper.

III. Problems to Avoid

Irrelevant Detail The methodology section of your paper should be thorough but concise. Do not provide any background information that does not directly help the reader understand why a particular method was chosen, how the data was gathered or obtained, and how the data was analyzed in relation to the research problem [note: analyzed, not interpreted! Save how you interpreted the findings for the discussion section]. With this in mind, the page length of your methods section will generally be less than any other section of your paper except the conclusion.

Unnecessary Explanation of Basic Procedures Remember that you are not writing a how-to guide about a particular method. You should make the assumption that readers possess a basic understanding of how to investigate the research problem on their own and, therefore, you do not have to go into great detail about specific methodological procedures. The focus should be on how you applied a method , not on the mechanics of doing a method. An exception to this rule is if you select an unconventional methodological approach; if this is the case, be sure to explain why this approach was chosen and how it enhances the overall process of discovery.

Problem Blindness It is almost a given that you will encounter problems when collecting or generating your data, or, gaps will exist in existing data or archival materials. Do not ignore these problems or pretend they did not occur. Often, documenting how you overcame obstacles can form an interesting part of the methodology. It demonstrates to the reader that you can provide a cogent rationale for the decisions you made to minimize the impact of any problems that arose.

Literature Review Just as the literature review section of your paper provides an overview of sources you have examined while researching a particular topic, the methodology section should cite any sources that informed your choice and application of a particular method [i.e., the choice of a survey should include any citations to the works you used to help construct the survey].

It’s More than Sources of Information! A description of a research study's method should not be confused with a description of the sources of information. Such a list of sources is useful in and of itself, especially if it is accompanied by an explanation about the selection and use of the sources. The description of the project's methodology complements a list of sources in that it sets forth the organization and interpretation of information emanating from those sources.

Azevedo, L.F. et al. "How to Write a Scientific Paper: Writing the Methods Section." Revista Portuguesa de Pneumologia 17 (2011): 232-238; Blair Lorrie. “Choosing a Methodology.” In Writing a Graduate Thesis or Dissertation , Teaching Writing Series. (Rotterdam: Sense Publishers 2016), pp. 49-72; Butin, Dan W. The Education Dissertation A Guide for Practitioner Scholars . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010; Carter, Susan. Structuring Your Research Thesis . New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012; Kallet, Richard H. “How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper.” Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004):1229-1232; Lunenburg, Frederick C. Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008. Methods Section. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Rudestam, Kjell Erik and Rae R. Newton. “The Method Chapter: Describing Your Research Plan.” In Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process . (Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications, 2015), pp. 87-115; What is Interpretive Research. Institute of Public and International Affairs, University of Utah; Writing the Experimental Report: Methods, Results, and Discussion. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Methods and Materials. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College.

## Writing Tip

Statistical Designs and Tests? Do Not Fear Them!

Don't avoid using a quantitative approach to analyzing your research problem just because you fear the idea of applying statistical designs and tests. A qualitative approach, such as conducting interviews or content analysis of archival texts, can yield exciting new insights about a research problem, but it should not be undertaken simply because you have a disdain for running a simple regression. A well designed quantitative research study can often be accomplished in very clear and direct ways, whereas, a similar study of a qualitative nature usually requires considerable time to analyze large volumes of data and a tremendous burden to create new paths for analysis where previously no path associated with your research problem had existed.

To locate data and statistics, GO HERE .

## Another Writing Tip

Knowing the Relationship Between Theories and Methods

There can be multiple meaning associated with the term "theories" and the term "methods" in social sciences research. A helpful way to delineate between them is to understand "theories" as representing different ways of characterizing the social world when you research it and "methods" as representing different ways of generating and analyzing data about that social world. Framed in this way, all empirical social sciences research involves theories and methods, whether they are stated explicitly or not. However, while theories and methods are often related, it is important that, as a researcher, you deliberately separate them in order to avoid your theories playing a disproportionate role in shaping what outcomes your chosen methods produce.

Introspectively engage in an ongoing dialectic between the application of theories and methods to help enable you to use the outcomes from your methods to interrogate and develop new theories, or ways of framing conceptually the research problem. This is how scholarship grows and branches out into new intellectual territory.

Reynolds, R. Larry. Ways of Knowing. Alternative Microeconomics . Part 1, Chapter 3. Boise State University; The Theory-Method Relationship. S-Cool Revision. United Kingdom.

## Yet Another Writing Tip

Methods and the Methodology

Do not confuse the terms "methods" and "methodology." As Schneider notes, a method refers to the technical steps taken to do research . Descriptions of methods usually include defining and stating why you have chosen specific techniques to investigate a research problem, followed by an outline of the procedures you used to systematically select, gather, and process the data [remember to always save the interpretation of data for the discussion section of your paper].

The methodology refers to a discussion of the underlying reasoning why particular methods were used . This discussion includes describing the theoretical concepts that inform the choice of methods to be applied, placing the choice of methods within the more general nature of academic work, and reviewing its relevance to examining the research problem. The methodology section also includes a thorough review of the methods other scholars have used to study the topic.

Bryman, Alan. "Of Methods and Methodology." Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal 3 (2008): 159-168; Schneider, Florian. “What's in a Methodology: The Difference between Method, Methodology, and Theory…and How to Get the Balance Right?” PoliticsEastAsia.com. Chinese Department, University of Leiden, Netherlands.

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## Data Analysis Techniques in Research – Methods, Tools & Examples

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Data analysis techniques in research are essential because they allow researchers to derive meaningful insights from data sets to support their hypotheses or research objectives.

Data Analysis Techniques in Research : While various groups, institutions, and professionals may have diverse approaches to data analysis, a universal definition captures its essence. Data analysis involves refining, transforming, and interpreting raw data to derive actionable insights that guide informed decision-making for businesses.

A straightforward illustration of data analysis emerges when we make everyday decisions, basing our choices on past experiences or predictions of potential outcomes.

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Table of Contents

## What is Data Analysis?

Data analysis is the systematic process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming, and interpreting data with the objective of discovering valuable insights and drawing meaningful conclusions. This process involves several steps:

- Inspecting : Initial examination of data to understand its structure, quality, and completeness.
- Cleaning : Removing errors, inconsistencies, or irrelevant information to ensure accurate analysis.
- Transforming : Converting data into a format suitable for analysis, such as normalization or aggregation.
- Interpreting : Analyzing the transformed data to identify patterns, trends, and relationships.

## Types of Data Analysis Techniques in Research

Data analysis techniques in research are categorized into qualitative and quantitative methods, each with its specific approaches and tools. These techniques are instrumental in extracting meaningful insights, patterns, and relationships from data to support informed decision-making, validate hypotheses, and derive actionable recommendations. Below is an in-depth exploration of the various types of data analysis techniques commonly employed in research:

## 1) Qualitative Analysis:

Definition: Qualitative analysis focuses on understanding non-numerical data, such as opinions, concepts, or experiences, to derive insights into human behavior, attitudes, and perceptions.

- Content Analysis: Examines textual data, such as interview transcripts, articles, or open-ended survey responses, to identify themes, patterns, or trends.
- Narrative Analysis: Analyzes personal stories or narratives to understand individuals’ experiences, emotions, or perspectives.
- Ethnographic Studies: Involves observing and analyzing cultural practices, behaviors, and norms within specific communities or settings.

## 2) Quantitative Analysis:

Quantitative analysis emphasizes numerical data and employs statistical methods to explore relationships, patterns, and trends. It encompasses several approaches:

Descriptive Analysis:

- Frequency Distribution: Represents the number of occurrences of distinct values within a dataset.
- Central Tendency: Measures such as mean, median, and mode provide insights into the central values of a dataset.
- Dispersion: Techniques like variance and standard deviation indicate the spread or variability of data.

Diagnostic Analysis:

- Regression Analysis: Assesses the relationship between dependent and independent variables, enabling prediction or understanding causality.
- ANOVA (Analysis of Variance): Examines differences between groups to identify significant variations or effects.

Predictive Analysis:

- Time Series Forecasting: Uses historical data points to predict future trends or outcomes.
- Machine Learning Algorithms: Techniques like decision trees, random forests, and neural networks predict outcomes based on patterns in data.

Prescriptive Analysis:

- Optimization Models: Utilizes linear programming, integer programming, or other optimization techniques to identify the best solutions or strategies.
- Simulation: Mimics real-world scenarios to evaluate various strategies or decisions and determine optimal outcomes.

Specific Techniques:

- Monte Carlo Simulation: Models probabilistic outcomes to assess risk and uncertainty.
- Factor Analysis: Reduces the dimensionality of data by identifying underlying factors or components.
- Cohort Analysis: Studies specific groups or cohorts over time to understand trends, behaviors, or patterns within these groups.
- Cluster Analysis: Classifies objects or individuals into homogeneous groups or clusters based on similarities or attributes.
- Sentiment Analysis: Uses natural language processing and machine learning techniques to determine sentiment, emotions, or opinions from textual data.

Also Read: AI and Predictive Analytics: Examples, Tools, Uses, Ai Vs Predictive Analytics

## Data Analysis Techniques in Research Examples

To provide a clearer understanding of how data analysis techniques are applied in research, let’s consider a hypothetical research study focused on evaluating the impact of online learning platforms on students’ academic performance.

## Research Objective:

Determine if students using online learning platforms achieve higher academic performance compared to those relying solely on traditional classroom instruction.

## Data Collection:

- Quantitative Data: Academic scores (grades) of students using online platforms and those using traditional classroom methods.
- Qualitative Data: Feedback from students regarding their learning experiences, challenges faced, and preferences.

## Data Analysis Techniques Applied:

1) Descriptive Analysis:

- Calculate the mean, median, and mode of academic scores for both groups.
- Create frequency distributions to represent the distribution of grades in each group.

2) Diagnostic Analysis:

- Conduct an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) to determine if there’s a statistically significant difference in academic scores between the two groups.
- Perform Regression Analysis to assess the relationship between the time spent on online platforms and academic performance.

3) Predictive Analysis:

- Utilize Time Series Forecasting to predict future academic performance trends based on historical data.
- Implement Machine Learning algorithms to develop a predictive model that identifies factors contributing to academic success on online platforms.

4) Prescriptive Analysis:

- Apply Optimization Models to identify the optimal combination of online learning resources (e.g., video lectures, interactive quizzes) that maximize academic performance.
- Use Simulation Techniques to evaluate different scenarios, such as varying student engagement levels with online resources, to determine the most effective strategies for improving learning outcomes.

5) Specific Techniques:

- Conduct Factor Analysis on qualitative feedback to identify common themes or factors influencing students’ perceptions and experiences with online learning.
- Perform Cluster Analysis to segment students based on their engagement levels, preferences, or academic outcomes, enabling targeted interventions or personalized learning strategies.
- Apply Sentiment Analysis on textual feedback to categorize students’ sentiments as positive, negative, or neutral regarding online learning experiences.

By applying a combination of qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques, this research example aims to provide comprehensive insights into the effectiveness of online learning platforms.

Also Read: Learning Path to Become a Data Analyst in 2024

## Data Analysis Techniques in Quantitative Research

Quantitative research involves collecting numerical data to examine relationships, test hypotheses, and make predictions. Various data analysis techniques are employed to interpret and draw conclusions from quantitative data. Here are some key data analysis techniques commonly used in quantitative research:

## 1) Descriptive Statistics:

- Description: Descriptive statistics are used to summarize and describe the main aspects of a dataset, such as central tendency (mean, median, mode), variability (range, variance, standard deviation), and distribution (skewness, kurtosis).
- Applications: Summarizing data, identifying patterns, and providing initial insights into the dataset.

## 2) Inferential Statistics:

- Description: Inferential statistics involve making predictions or inferences about a population based on a sample of data. This technique includes hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, t-tests, chi-square tests, analysis of variance (ANOVA), regression analysis, and correlation analysis.
- Applications: Testing hypotheses, making predictions, and generalizing findings from a sample to a larger population.

## 3) Regression Analysis:

- Description: Regression analysis is a statistical technique used to model and examine the relationship between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables. Linear regression, multiple regression, logistic regression, and nonlinear regression are common types of regression analysis .
- Applications: Predicting outcomes, identifying relationships between variables, and understanding the impact of independent variables on the dependent variable.

## 4) Correlation Analysis:

- Description: Correlation analysis is used to measure and assess the strength and direction of the relationship between two or more variables. The Pearson correlation coefficient, Spearman rank correlation coefficient, and Kendall’s tau are commonly used measures of correlation.
- Applications: Identifying associations between variables and assessing the degree and nature of the relationship.

## 5) Factor Analysis:

- Description: Factor analysis is a multivariate statistical technique used to identify and analyze underlying relationships or factors among a set of observed variables. It helps in reducing the dimensionality of data and identifying latent variables or constructs.
- Applications: Identifying underlying factors or constructs, simplifying data structures, and understanding the underlying relationships among variables.

## 6) Time Series Analysis:

- Description: Time series analysis involves analyzing data collected or recorded over a specific period at regular intervals to identify patterns, trends, and seasonality. Techniques such as moving averages, exponential smoothing, autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA), and Fourier analysis are used.
- Applications: Forecasting future trends, analyzing seasonal patterns, and understanding time-dependent relationships in data.

## 7) ANOVA (Analysis of Variance):

- Description: Analysis of variance (ANOVA) is a statistical technique used to analyze and compare the means of two or more groups or treatments to determine if they are statistically different from each other. One-way ANOVA, two-way ANOVA, and MANOVA (Multivariate Analysis of Variance) are common types of ANOVA.
- Applications: Comparing group means, testing hypotheses, and determining the effects of categorical independent variables on a continuous dependent variable.

## 8) Chi-Square Tests:

- Description: Chi-square tests are non-parametric statistical tests used to assess the association between categorical variables in a contingency table. The Chi-square test of independence, goodness-of-fit test, and test of homogeneity are common chi-square tests.
- Applications: Testing relationships between categorical variables, assessing goodness-of-fit, and evaluating independence.

These quantitative data analysis techniques provide researchers with valuable tools and methods to analyze, interpret, and derive meaningful insights from numerical data. The selection of a specific technique often depends on the research objectives, the nature of the data, and the underlying assumptions of the statistical methods being used.

Also Read: Analysis vs. Analytics: How Are They Different?

## Data Analysis Methods

Data analysis methods refer to the techniques and procedures used to analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions from data. These methods are essential for transforming raw data into meaningful insights, facilitating decision-making processes, and driving strategies across various fields. Here are some common data analysis methods:

- Description: Descriptive statistics summarize and organize data to provide a clear and concise overview of the dataset. Measures such as mean, median, mode, range, variance, and standard deviation are commonly used.
- Description: Inferential statistics involve making predictions or inferences about a population based on a sample of data. Techniques such as hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, and regression analysis are used.

## 3) Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA):

- Description: EDA techniques involve visually exploring and analyzing data to discover patterns, relationships, anomalies, and insights. Methods such as scatter plots, histograms, box plots, and correlation matrices are utilized.
- Applications: Identifying trends, patterns, outliers, and relationships within the dataset.

## 4) Predictive Analytics:

- Description: Predictive analytics use statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to analyze historical data and make predictions about future events or outcomes. Techniques such as regression analysis, time series forecasting, and machine learning algorithms (e.g., decision trees, random forests, neural networks) are employed.
- Applications: Forecasting future trends, predicting outcomes, and identifying potential risks or opportunities.

## 5) Prescriptive Analytics:

- Description: Prescriptive analytics involve analyzing data to recommend actions or strategies that optimize specific objectives or outcomes. Optimization techniques, simulation models, and decision-making algorithms are utilized.
- Applications: Recommending optimal strategies, decision-making support, and resource allocation.

## 6) Qualitative Data Analysis:

- Description: Qualitative data analysis involves analyzing non-numerical data, such as text, images, videos, or audio, to identify themes, patterns, and insights. Methods such as content analysis, thematic analysis, and narrative analysis are used.
- Applications: Understanding human behavior, attitudes, perceptions, and experiences.

## 7) Big Data Analytics:

- Description: Big data analytics methods are designed to analyze large volumes of structured and unstructured data to extract valuable insights. Technologies such as Hadoop, Spark, and NoSQL databases are used to process and analyze big data.
- Applications: Analyzing large datasets, identifying trends, patterns, and insights from big data sources.

## 8) Text Analytics:

- Description: Text analytics methods involve analyzing textual data, such as customer reviews, social media posts, emails, and documents, to extract meaningful information and insights. Techniques such as sentiment analysis, text mining, and natural language processing (NLP) are used.
- Applications: Analyzing customer feedback, monitoring brand reputation, and extracting insights from textual data sources.

These data analysis methods are instrumental in transforming data into actionable insights, informing decision-making processes, and driving organizational success across various sectors, including business, healthcare, finance, marketing, and research. The selection of a specific method often depends on the nature of the data, the research objectives, and the analytical requirements of the project or organization.

Also Read: Quantitative Data Analysis: Types, Analysis & Examples

## Data Analysis Tools

Data analysis tools are essential instruments that facilitate the process of examining, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data to uncover useful information, make informed decisions, and drive strategies. Here are some prominent data analysis tools widely used across various industries:

## 1) Microsoft Excel:

- Description: A spreadsheet software that offers basic to advanced data analysis features, including pivot tables, data visualization tools, and statistical functions.
- Applications: Data cleaning, basic statistical analysis, visualization, and reporting.

## 2) R Programming Language :

- Description: An open-source programming language specifically designed for statistical computing and data visualization.
- Applications: Advanced statistical analysis, data manipulation, visualization, and machine learning.

## 3) Python (with Libraries like Pandas, NumPy, Matplotlib, and Seaborn):

- Description: A versatile programming language with libraries that support data manipulation, analysis, and visualization.
- Applications: Data cleaning, statistical analysis, machine learning, and data visualization.

## 4) SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences):

- Description: A comprehensive statistical software suite used for data analysis, data mining, and predictive analytics.
- Applications: Descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, regression analysis, and advanced analytics.

## 5) SAS (Statistical Analysis System):

- Description: A software suite used for advanced analytics, multivariate analysis, and predictive modeling.
- Applications: Data management, statistical analysis, predictive modeling, and business intelligence.

## 6) Tableau:

- Description: A data visualization tool that allows users to create interactive and shareable dashboards and reports.
- Applications: Data visualization , business intelligence , and interactive dashboard creation.

## 7) Power BI:

- Description: A business analytics tool developed by Microsoft that provides interactive visualizations and business intelligence capabilities.
- Applications: Data visualization, business intelligence, reporting, and dashboard creation.

## 8) SQL (Structured Query Language) Databases (e.g., MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server):

- Description: Database management systems that support data storage, retrieval, and manipulation using SQL queries.
- Applications: Data retrieval, data cleaning, data transformation, and database management.

## 9) Apache Spark:

- Description: A fast and general-purpose distributed computing system designed for big data processing and analytics.
- Applications: Big data processing, machine learning, data streaming, and real-time analytics.

## 10) IBM SPSS Modeler:

- Description: A data mining software application used for building predictive models and conducting advanced analytics.
- Applications: Predictive modeling, data mining, statistical analysis, and decision optimization.

These tools serve various purposes and cater to different data analysis needs, from basic statistical analysis and data visualization to advanced analytics, machine learning, and big data processing. The choice of a specific tool often depends on the nature of the data, the complexity of the analysis, and the specific requirements of the project or organization.

Also Read: How to Analyze Survey Data: Methods & Examples

## Importance of Data Analysis in Research

The importance of data analysis in research cannot be overstated; it serves as the backbone of any scientific investigation or study. Here are several key reasons why data analysis is crucial in the research process:

- Data analysis helps ensure that the results obtained are valid and reliable. By systematically examining the data, researchers can identify any inconsistencies or anomalies that may affect the credibility of the findings.
- Effective data analysis provides researchers with the necessary information to make informed decisions. By interpreting the collected data, researchers can draw conclusions, make predictions, or formulate recommendations based on evidence rather than intuition or guesswork.
- Data analysis allows researchers to identify patterns, trends, and relationships within the data. This can lead to a deeper understanding of the research topic, enabling researchers to uncover insights that may not be immediately apparent.
- In empirical research, data analysis plays a critical role in testing hypotheses. Researchers collect data to either support or refute their hypotheses, and data analysis provides the tools and techniques to evaluate these hypotheses rigorously.
- Transparent and well-executed data analysis enhances the credibility of research findings. By clearly documenting the data analysis methods and procedures, researchers allow others to replicate the study, thereby contributing to the reproducibility of research findings.
- In fields such as business or healthcare, data analysis helps organizations allocate resources more efficiently. By analyzing data on consumer behavior, market trends, or patient outcomes, organizations can make strategic decisions about resource allocation, budgeting, and planning.
- In public policy and social sciences, data analysis is instrumental in developing and evaluating policies and interventions. By analyzing data on social, economic, or environmental factors, policymakers can assess the effectiveness of existing policies and inform the development of new ones.
- Data analysis allows for continuous improvement in research methods and practices. By analyzing past research projects, identifying areas for improvement, and implementing changes based on data-driven insights, researchers can refine their approaches and enhance the quality of future research endeavors.

However, it is important to remember that mastering these techniques requires practice and continuous learning. That’s why we highly recommend the Data Analytics Course by Physics Wallah . Not only does it cover all the fundamentals of data analysis, but it also provides hands-on experience with various tools such as Excel, Python, and Tableau. Plus, if you use the “ READER ” coupon code at checkout, you can get a special discount on the course.

For Latest Tech Related Information, Join Our Official Free Telegram Group : PW Skills Telegram Group

## Data Analysis Techniques in Research FAQs

What are the 5 techniques for data analysis.

The five techniques for data analysis include: Descriptive Analysis Diagnostic Analysis Predictive Analysis Prescriptive Analysis Qualitative Analysis

## What are techniques of data analysis in research?

Techniques of data analysis in research encompass both qualitative and quantitative methods. These techniques involve processes like summarizing raw data, investigating causes of events, forecasting future outcomes, offering recommendations based on predictions, and examining non-numerical data to understand concepts or experiences.

## What are the 3 methods of data analysis?

The three primary methods of data analysis are: Qualitative Analysis Quantitative Analysis Mixed-Methods Analysis

## What are the four types of data analysis techniques?

The four types of data analysis techniques are: Descriptive Analysis Diagnostic Analysis Predictive Analysis Prescriptive Analysis

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## The Beginner's Guide to Statistical Analysis | 5 Steps & Examples

Statistical analysis means investigating trends, patterns, and relationships using quantitative data . It is an important research tool used by scientists, governments, businesses, and other organizations.

To draw valid conclusions, statistical analysis requires careful planning from the very start of the research process . You need to specify your hypotheses and make decisions about your research design, sample size, and sampling procedure.

After collecting data from your sample, you can organize and summarize the data using descriptive statistics . Then, you can use inferential statistics to formally test hypotheses and make estimates about the population. Finally, you can interpret and generalize your findings.

This article is a practical introduction to statistical analysis for students and researchers. We’ll walk you through the steps using two research examples. The first investigates a potential cause-and-effect relationship, while the second investigates a potential correlation between variables.

## Table of contents

Step 1: write your hypotheses and plan your research design, step 2: collect data from a sample, step 3: summarize your data with descriptive statistics, step 4: test hypotheses or make estimates with inferential statistics, step 5: interpret your results, other interesting articles.

To collect valid data for statistical analysis, you first need to specify your hypotheses and plan out your research design.

## Writing statistical hypotheses

The goal of research is often to investigate a relationship between variables within a population . You start with a prediction, and use statistical analysis to test that prediction.

A statistical hypothesis is a formal way of writing a prediction about a population. Every research prediction is rephrased into null and alternative hypotheses that can be tested using sample data.

While the null hypothesis always predicts no effect or no relationship between variables, the alternative hypothesis states your research prediction of an effect or relationship.

- Null hypothesis: A 5-minute meditation exercise will have no effect on math test scores in teenagers.
- Alternative hypothesis: A 5-minute meditation exercise will improve math test scores in teenagers.
- Null hypothesis: Parental income and GPA have no relationship with each other in college students.
- Alternative hypothesis: Parental income and GPA are positively correlated in college students.

## Planning your research design

A research design is your overall strategy for data collection and analysis. It determines the statistical tests you can use to test your hypothesis later on.

First, decide whether your research will use a descriptive, correlational, or experimental design. Experiments directly influence variables, whereas descriptive and correlational studies only measure variables.

- In an experimental design , you can assess a cause-and-effect relationship (e.g., the effect of meditation on test scores) using statistical tests of comparison or regression.
- In a correlational design , you can explore relationships between variables (e.g., parental income and GPA) without any assumption of causality using correlation coefficients and significance tests.
- In a descriptive design , you can study the characteristics of a population or phenomenon (e.g., the prevalence of anxiety in U.S. college students) using statistical tests to draw inferences from sample data.

Your research design also concerns whether you’ll compare participants at the group level or individual level, or both.

- In a between-subjects design , you compare the group-level outcomes of participants who have been exposed to different treatments (e.g., those who performed a meditation exercise vs those who didn’t).
- In a within-subjects design , you compare repeated measures from participants who have participated in all treatments of a study (e.g., scores from before and after performing a meditation exercise).
- In a mixed (factorial) design , one variable is altered between subjects and another is altered within subjects (e.g., pretest and posttest scores from participants who either did or didn’t do a meditation exercise).
- Experimental
- Correlational

First, you’ll take baseline test scores from participants. Then, your participants will undergo a 5-minute meditation exercise. Finally, you’ll record participants’ scores from a second math test.

In this experiment, the independent variable is the 5-minute meditation exercise, and the dependent variable is the math test score from before and after the intervention. Example: Correlational research design In a correlational study, you test whether there is a relationship between parental income and GPA in graduating college students. To collect your data, you will ask participants to fill in a survey and self-report their parents’ incomes and their own GPA.

## Measuring variables

When planning a research design, you should operationalize your variables and decide exactly how you will measure them.

For statistical analysis, it’s important to consider the level of measurement of your variables, which tells you what kind of data they contain:

- Categorical data represents groupings. These may be nominal (e.g., gender) or ordinal (e.g. level of language ability).
- Quantitative data represents amounts. These may be on an interval scale (e.g. test score) or a ratio scale (e.g. age).

Many variables can be measured at different levels of precision. For example, age data can be quantitative (8 years old) or categorical (young). If a variable is coded numerically (e.g., level of agreement from 1–5), it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s quantitative instead of categorical.

Identifying the measurement level is important for choosing appropriate statistics and hypothesis tests. For example, you can calculate a mean score with quantitative data, but not with categorical data.

In a research study, along with measures of your variables of interest, you’ll often collect data on relevant participant characteristics.

Variable | Type of data |
---|---|

Age | Quantitative (ratio) |

Gender | Categorical (nominal) |

Race or ethnicity | Categorical (nominal) |

Baseline test scores | Quantitative (interval) |

Final test scores | Quantitative (interval) |

Parental income | Quantitative (ratio) |
---|---|

GPA | Quantitative (interval) |

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In most cases, it’s too difficult or expensive to collect data from every member of the population you’re interested in studying. Instead, you’ll collect data from a sample.

Statistical analysis allows you to apply your findings beyond your own sample as long as you use appropriate sampling procedures . You should aim for a sample that is representative of the population.

## Sampling for statistical analysis

There are two main approaches to selecting a sample.

- Probability sampling: every member of the population has a chance of being selected for the study through random selection.
- Non-probability sampling: some members of the population are more likely than others to be selected for the study because of criteria such as convenience or voluntary self-selection.

In theory, for highly generalizable findings, you should use a probability sampling method. Random selection reduces several types of research bias , like sampling bias , and ensures that data from your sample is actually typical of the population. Parametric tests can be used to make strong statistical inferences when data are collected using probability sampling.

But in practice, it’s rarely possible to gather the ideal sample. While non-probability samples are more likely to at risk for biases like self-selection bias , they are much easier to recruit and collect data from. Non-parametric tests are more appropriate for non-probability samples, but they result in weaker inferences about the population.

If you want to use parametric tests for non-probability samples, you have to make the case that:

- your sample is representative of the population you’re generalizing your findings to.
- your sample lacks systematic bias.

Keep in mind that external validity means that you can only generalize your conclusions to others who share the characteristics of your sample. For instance, results from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic samples (e.g., college students in the US) aren’t automatically applicable to all non-WEIRD populations.

If you apply parametric tests to data from non-probability samples, be sure to elaborate on the limitations of how far your results can be generalized in your discussion section .

## Create an appropriate sampling procedure

Based on the resources available for your research, decide on how you’ll recruit participants.

- Will you have resources to advertise your study widely, including outside of your university setting?
- Will you have the means to recruit a diverse sample that represents a broad population?
- Do you have time to contact and follow up with members of hard-to-reach groups?

Your participants are self-selected by their schools. Although you’re using a non-probability sample, you aim for a diverse and representative sample. Example: Sampling (correlational study) Your main population of interest is male college students in the US. Using social media advertising, you recruit senior-year male college students from a smaller subpopulation: seven universities in the Boston area.

## Calculate sufficient sample size

Before recruiting participants, decide on your sample size either by looking at other studies in your field or using statistics. A sample that’s too small may be unrepresentative of the sample, while a sample that’s too large will be more costly than necessary.

There are many sample size calculators online. Different formulas are used depending on whether you have subgroups or how rigorous your study should be (e.g., in clinical research). As a rule of thumb, a minimum of 30 units or more per subgroup is necessary.

To use these calculators, you have to understand and input these key components:

- Significance level (alpha): the risk of rejecting a true null hypothesis that you are willing to take, usually set at 5%.
- Statistical power : the probability of your study detecting an effect of a certain size if there is one, usually 80% or higher.
- Expected effect size : a standardized indication of how large the expected result of your study will be, usually based on other similar studies.
- Population standard deviation: an estimate of the population parameter based on a previous study or a pilot study of your own.

Once you’ve collected all of your data, you can inspect them and calculate descriptive statistics that summarize them.

## Inspect your data

There are various ways to inspect your data, including the following:

- Organizing data from each variable in frequency distribution tables .
- Displaying data from a key variable in a bar chart to view the distribution of responses.
- Visualizing the relationship between two variables using a scatter plot .

By visualizing your data in tables and graphs, you can assess whether your data follow a skewed or normal distribution and whether there are any outliers or missing data.

A normal distribution means that your data are symmetrically distributed around a center where most values lie, with the values tapering off at the tail ends.

In contrast, a skewed distribution is asymmetric and has more values on one end than the other. The shape of the distribution is important to keep in mind because only some descriptive statistics should be used with skewed distributions.

Extreme outliers can also produce misleading statistics, so you may need a systematic approach to dealing with these values.

## Calculate measures of central tendency

Measures of central tendency describe where most of the values in a data set lie. Three main measures of central tendency are often reported:

- Mode : the most popular response or value in the data set.
- Median : the value in the exact middle of the data set when ordered from low to high.
- Mean : the sum of all values divided by the number of values.

However, depending on the shape of the distribution and level of measurement, only one or two of these measures may be appropriate. For example, many demographic characteristics can only be described using the mode or proportions, while a variable like reaction time may not have a mode at all.

## Calculate measures of variability

Measures of variability tell you how spread out the values in a data set are. Four main measures of variability are often reported:

- Range : the highest value minus the lowest value of the data set.
- Interquartile range : the range of the middle half of the data set.
- Standard deviation : the average distance between each value in your data set and the mean.
- Variance : the square of the standard deviation.

Once again, the shape of the distribution and level of measurement should guide your choice of variability statistics. The interquartile range is the best measure for skewed distributions, while standard deviation and variance provide the best information for normal distributions.

Using your table, you should check whether the units of the descriptive statistics are comparable for pretest and posttest scores. For example, are the variance levels similar across the groups? Are there any extreme values? If there are, you may need to identify and remove extreme outliers in your data set or transform your data before performing a statistical test.

Pretest scores | Posttest scores | |
---|---|---|

Mean | 68.44 | 75.25 |

Standard deviation | 9.43 | 9.88 |

Variance | 88.96 | 97.96 |

Range | 36.25 | 45.12 |

30 |

From this table, we can see that the mean score increased after the meditation exercise, and the variances of the two scores are comparable. Next, we can perform a statistical test to find out if this improvement in test scores is statistically significant in the population. Example: Descriptive statistics (correlational study) After collecting data from 653 students, you tabulate descriptive statistics for annual parental income and GPA.

It’s important to check whether you have a broad range of data points. If you don’t, your data may be skewed towards some groups more than others (e.g., high academic achievers), and only limited inferences can be made about a relationship.

Parental income (USD) | GPA | |
---|---|---|

Mean | 62,100 | 3.12 |

Standard deviation | 15,000 | 0.45 |

Variance | 225,000,000 | 0.16 |

Range | 8,000–378,000 | 2.64–4.00 |

653 |

A number that describes a sample is called a statistic , while a number describing a population is called a parameter . Using inferential statistics , you can make conclusions about population parameters based on sample statistics.

Researchers often use two main methods (simultaneously) to make inferences in statistics.

- Estimation: calculating population parameters based on sample statistics.
- Hypothesis testing: a formal process for testing research predictions about the population using samples.

You can make two types of estimates of population parameters from sample statistics:

- A point estimate : a value that represents your best guess of the exact parameter.
- An interval estimate : a range of values that represent your best guess of where the parameter lies.

If your aim is to infer and report population characteristics from sample data, it’s best to use both point and interval estimates in your paper.

You can consider a sample statistic a point estimate for the population parameter when you have a representative sample (e.g., in a wide public opinion poll, the proportion of a sample that supports the current government is taken as the population proportion of government supporters).

There’s always error involved in estimation, so you should also provide a confidence interval as an interval estimate to show the variability around a point estimate.

A confidence interval uses the standard error and the z score from the standard normal distribution to convey where you’d generally expect to find the population parameter most of the time.

## Hypothesis testing

Using data from a sample, you can test hypotheses about relationships between variables in the population. Hypothesis testing starts with the assumption that the null hypothesis is true in the population, and you use statistical tests to assess whether the null hypothesis can be rejected or not.

Statistical tests determine where your sample data would lie on an expected distribution of sample data if the null hypothesis were true. These tests give two main outputs:

- A test statistic tells you how much your data differs from the null hypothesis of the test.
- A p value tells you the likelihood of obtaining your results if the null hypothesis is actually true in the population.

Statistical tests come in three main varieties:

- Comparison tests assess group differences in outcomes.
- Regression tests assess cause-and-effect relationships between variables.
- Correlation tests assess relationships between variables without assuming causation.

Your choice of statistical test depends on your research questions, research design, sampling method, and data characteristics.

## Parametric tests

Parametric tests make powerful inferences about the population based on sample data. But to use them, some assumptions must be met, and only some types of variables can be used. If your data violate these assumptions, you can perform appropriate data transformations or use alternative non-parametric tests instead.

A regression models the extent to which changes in a predictor variable results in changes in outcome variable(s).

- A simple linear regression includes one predictor variable and one outcome variable.
- A multiple linear regression includes two or more predictor variables and one outcome variable.

Comparison tests usually compare the means of groups. These may be the means of different groups within a sample (e.g., a treatment and control group), the means of one sample group taken at different times (e.g., pretest and posttest scores), or a sample mean and a population mean.

- A t test is for exactly 1 or 2 groups when the sample is small (30 or less).
- A z test is for exactly 1 or 2 groups when the sample is large.
- An ANOVA is for 3 or more groups.

The z and t tests have subtypes based on the number and types of samples and the hypotheses:

- If you have only one sample that you want to compare to a population mean, use a one-sample test .
- If you have paired measurements (within-subjects design), use a dependent (paired) samples test .
- If you have completely separate measurements from two unmatched groups (between-subjects design), use an independent (unpaired) samples test .
- If you expect a difference between groups in a specific direction, use a one-tailed test .
- If you don’t have any expectations for the direction of a difference between groups, use a two-tailed test .

The only parametric correlation test is Pearson’s r . The correlation coefficient ( r ) tells you the strength of a linear relationship between two quantitative variables.

However, to test whether the correlation in the sample is strong enough to be important in the population, you also need to perform a significance test of the correlation coefficient, usually a t test, to obtain a p value. This test uses your sample size to calculate how much the correlation coefficient differs from zero in the population.

You use a dependent-samples, one-tailed t test to assess whether the meditation exercise significantly improved math test scores. The test gives you:

- a t value (test statistic) of 3.00
- a p value of 0.0028

Although Pearson’s r is a test statistic, it doesn’t tell you anything about how significant the correlation is in the population. You also need to test whether this sample correlation coefficient is large enough to demonstrate a correlation in the population.

A t test can also determine how significantly a correlation coefficient differs from zero based on sample size. Since you expect a positive correlation between parental income and GPA, you use a one-sample, one-tailed t test. The t test gives you:

- a t value of 3.08
- a p value of 0.001

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The final step of statistical analysis is interpreting your results.

## Statistical significance

In hypothesis testing, statistical significance is the main criterion for forming conclusions. You compare your p value to a set significance level (usually 0.05) to decide whether your results are statistically significant or non-significant.

Statistically significant results are considered unlikely to have arisen solely due to chance. There is only a very low chance of such a result occurring if the null hypothesis is true in the population.

This means that you believe the meditation intervention, rather than random factors, directly caused the increase in test scores. Example: Interpret your results (correlational study) You compare your p value of 0.001 to your significance threshold of 0.05. With a p value under this threshold, you can reject the null hypothesis. This indicates a statistically significant correlation between parental income and GPA in male college students.

Note that correlation doesn’t always mean causation, because there are often many underlying factors contributing to a complex variable like GPA. Even if one variable is related to another, this may be because of a third variable influencing both of them, or indirect links between the two variables.

## Effect size

A statistically significant result doesn’t necessarily mean that there are important real life applications or clinical outcomes for a finding.

In contrast, the effect size indicates the practical significance of your results. It’s important to report effect sizes along with your inferential statistics for a complete picture of your results. You should also report interval estimates of effect sizes if you’re writing an APA style paper .

With a Cohen’s d of 0.72, there’s medium to high practical significance to your finding that the meditation exercise improved test scores. Example: Effect size (correlational study) To determine the effect size of the correlation coefficient, you compare your Pearson’s r value to Cohen’s effect size criteria.

## Decision errors

Type I and Type II errors are mistakes made in research conclusions. A Type I error means rejecting the null hypothesis when it’s actually true, while a Type II error means failing to reject the null hypothesis when it’s false.

You can aim to minimize the risk of these errors by selecting an optimal significance level and ensuring high power . However, there’s a trade-off between the two errors, so a fine balance is necessary.

## Frequentist versus Bayesian statistics

Traditionally, frequentist statistics emphasizes null hypothesis significance testing and always starts with the assumption of a true null hypothesis.

However, Bayesian statistics has grown in popularity as an alternative approach in the last few decades. In this approach, you use previous research to continually update your hypotheses based on your expectations and observations.

Bayes factor compares the relative strength of evidence for the null versus the alternative hypothesis rather than making a conclusion about rejecting the null hypothesis or not.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

- Student’s t -distribution
- Normal distribution
- Null and Alternative Hypotheses
- Chi square tests
- Confidence interval

Methodology

- Cluster sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Data cleansing
- Reproducibility vs Replicability
- Peer review
- Likert scale

Research bias

- Implicit bias
- Framing effect
- Cognitive bias
- Placebo effect
- Hawthorne effect
- Hostile attribution bias
- Affect heuristic

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