There are many different types of research. If you are carrying out your own research for your dissertation, you will need to be aware of these different types, and to decide which is most suitable for your topic and objectives. Below we briefly explain of the most common kinds of research that you might read and hear about (this is by no means an exhaustive list!). There are lots of books and e-books on research methods in the Library, which will tell you more and can help you to work out how best to conduct your own research.
Quantitative research – working with information or data in the form of numbers. A common method for this kind of research is the survey. Respondents do not necessarily give their answers in numbers, but their answers are analysed as numbers, allowing the researcher to measure or quantify things; for example, “53% of survey respondents said that they drink coffee in the morning.”
Qualitative research – working with non-numerical information or data. Common methods for this kind of research are face-to-face interviews and focus groups, although it is also possible to collect this kind of data through a survey, by asking open questions which require respondents to give their thoughts in their own words. This kind of research can allow researchers to dig deeper and discover motivations, lived experiences and the background story around their topic; for example, “The most popular reason stated by these respondents for not drinking coffee in the morning was that they did not like the taste of it.”
Primary research - working with data that you collect yourself, through (for example) surveys, focus groups, interviews, or observational techniques. This involves planning and designing your data collection tool(s) and putting them into practice to gather data to analyse.
Secondary research - working with data that has already been collected by someone else; for example, analysing existing data sets, statistics or case studies. This kind of research does not involve collecting any original data yourself.
Clinical research - research which uses people to investigate disease management, medication, treatment or other aspects of medical care. A common method of clinical research is the clinical trial, where new drugs or other treatments are tested on human participants, with the aim of assessing efficacy and risks, but clinical research could also involve the analysis of primary or secondary data such as patient records, or data collected through patient focus groups.
Systematic review - a focused research question is identified and then all of the existing research on the topic is selected, evaluated and synthesised in a systematic manner. This kind of research is most often carried out in the sciences.
There are many other types and methods of research, some of which are subject-specific; your dissertation module reading list may contain some core or additional reading on doing research.
Some things to consider when planning your research
These are just a few of the things which you will need to think about when planning what type of research you will carry out, and how you will do it.
Some suggested further reading
All of the titles below can be found through the Library Catalogue , along with many more titles
Bryman, A. (2016). Social research methods. 5th edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dawson, C. (2019) Introduction to research methods : a practical guide for anyone undertaking a research project. 5th edn. London: Robinson.
Kazdin, A. E. (ed.) (2016) Methodological issues & strategies in clinical research. 4th edn. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Fielding, N. (2016) The SAGE handbook of online research methods. 2nd. edn. London: SAGE.
Saunders, M., Lewis, P., Thornfield, A. (2018) Research methods for business students. 8th edn. Harlow: Pearson.
Walliman, N. (2018) Research methods: the basics. 2nd edn. Abingdon: Routledge.
Wisker, G. (2019) The undergraduate research handbook. 2nd edn. London: Red Globe Press.