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Research Methodology


What is Research?

Primary research

Secondary research

Quantitative research

Qualitative research

What is Research?

The word ‘Research' originates back to the old French word ‘oerchier' (meaning ‘to search'). In today's context, research is a field of study that is defined in the dictionary as…




noun: research; plural noun: researches

the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions."the group carries out research in geochemistry"

2 synonyms:

3 investigation, experimentation, testing, exploration, analysis, fact-finding, examination, scrutiny, scrutinization, probing; More

The key part of this description is “systematic investigation”. Research is a huge method into gaining an insight or knowledge into a particular area of study. Asian American cartoonist/teacher Gene Leun Yang quite profoundly puts it as “Creativity requires input, and that's what research is. You're gathering material with which to build.”

For example, businesses will use this when launching a new product for marketing benefits, and film companies will use research to determine whether an audience will enjoy the film, or if any changes need to be made. Forms of research can be conducted in a wide variety of investigations, all more suitable in their respective areas. I will be attempting to break down the different types and methods of research and applying their necessity to the study of media.

Research Methods are the ways and mediums which an investigator would carry out in order to obtain the facts/research necessary for the given topic of interest. Be it reading through publications like articles, watching interviews, performing surveys, or more. These methods are the vital way in which all of the research is gathered and translated into data that allows investigators to make progress in their fields.

Research Methodology is defined as ‘a system of methods and principles for doing something'. The methodology is the reason behind doing the research and how it works.

Methodology is why we use the certain techniques that we do in order to gather data. It's the process of taking an idea/hypothesis and completing the investigation to achieve a result.

Types of Research:

Primary Research

Primary research is a when new research is gathered, specifically carried out in order to answer certain questions or issues. The researcher will carry out the investigation first hand in order to accurately gain the results in an environment they can give more validity to and trust more. This type of research can include questionnaires, interviews, surveys, or focus groups.

Questionnaires allow the researcher to reach a wide range of people and target them with specific questions. They can do this over various forms of communication, such as emailing or in person. The drawback of this is that questionnaires often consist of closed questions, not allowing the participants to fully delve into their opinions. A researcher can also tailor the questions in a way of just getting the results they are looking for.

Interviews give a researcher a one-on-one opportunity to fully gather a participants feelings face to face, and it allows them room to ask follow up questions, allowing them to potentially thicken their results. This is likely to be the more effective way of gaining primary information as it gives the researcher and the participant room to fully linguistically express their feelings on the particular subject matter.

Focus groups are a largely common way of obtaining research as an interviewer can gather information from a large number of participants at the same time. Getting participants from different ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations gives the researchers some room to generalise the results to the rest of the public. There is a drawback though in the sense that some participants might change their opinions in order to conform to the general populous of the room. For instance, a male might say a rom-com doesn't appeal to him even if he enjoys them, just due to the social conception of having to stay “macho”.

Observational research is performed by a researcher merely watching the participants interacting in a particular setting. They record how the participant acts and who/what they might interact with. This benefits the researcher as they can develop an environment where the participant won't be distracted by external circumstances, however it is somewhat unreliable in the sense that it can't always be generalised to the general public as they are not affected by the study's controlled environment.

Primary research comes in two forms:

Exploratory: this research is more open ended, it does not focus on achieving a specific result. It is more targeted to getting a general opinion. An example of this is when a film is screened to a select group of people. The viewers then talk to a moderator about how they felt about the film. The film makers will then use this information to either re-edit the film or shoot new scenes entirely.

Specific: somewhat opposite to exploratory research, specific research is exactly how it sounds and is used to try and target a specific instance already identified by the researchers. This can be achieved through a moderator using tailored questions in an interview. Following on the example of film marketing, if a film's producer is aware of a particular scene in a film or maybe an act of violence, they may want focus groups to discuss this moment, and then make a decision on whether to keep it in the film or not.

The data is easily collected from these types of research methods and can be then displayed simply for the researchers to look back on.

Above is a mock chart I created to display the potential results from a survey researching what type of film genres male and females prefer. This is just an example of how primary research is then formulated to become a useful piece of evidence.

Secondary Research

Secondary research is also referred to as ‘desk research'. This is due to the fact that this research doesn't involve carrying out experiments but compiling and collating previously acquired data from third party sources. This can come from previous research reports, newspaper articles, journals, books, etc,. In some instances, secondary research is carried out first in order to determine what information is already known about the topic in question. In many other cases, secondary research is the only method looked in to.

The main advantage of this type of research is the time saving, cost efficient prospect. By simply looking into the evidence from other researchers, an investigator can complete a study in a comparatively brief amount of time and by not having to invest a lot of money on a large scale investigation.

A big drawback however, is the fact that the research collated might not have come from a reliable source, or even a source from a worthy researcher. A study from a student would have much less validity than an experienced researcher with an insight into the area of what the hypothesis is identifying. Another limitation is that the research that is looked in to might not be 100% applicable to the same study that is being looked in to. If a researcher is going to use a piece of research taken from the United States and apply it to a study in the United Kingdom, they have to account for how their lifestyle or upbringing can be widely different between the two countries.

Primary vs Secondary

These two methodologies are literally quite the opposite approach to gathering data but are arguably both as valid as each other. Primary research is useful in the sense that a researcher can create a controlled environment and target the exact results they are looking for. Yet this takes time to develop and more time to proceed with, let alone the cost. Secondary research will mean you have to put your faith in that the original source of the information is coming from a valid and respectable area. Also, due to how broad your search of this third-party data has to be, you need to be sure you have compiled as much as you can before you start making decisions about where that research can take you. The benefit of this though is that what might take someone a month to fully research, secondary research might find that information in a couple days. Clearly both these methods are strong in their own way, but one cannot exist without the other and when used for one investigation is when the absolute most research will be gained.

Quantitative research

This form of research comes from the benefits of numerical and statistical data to show results. It is used to transform opinions, feedback, behaviours, and other variables into a clear set of results that will be able to be generalised to another group of people. Quantitative data is gathered through structured methods of obtaining data; this includes…

Surveys (be it online or on paper)

Online polls


Longitudinal Studies

Due to the broad scope of how many participants this method can be extended to, it makes it a highly reliable source for generalisation when applying the results. Due to the numerical outcome of quantitative research, a researcher would have a hard time trying to test a specific hypothesis and rather they would use this methodology in order to just get an idea of what the general consensus is on whatever they were looking into. To apply this to media, a researcher wouldn't use this if they wanted an in-depth review on what a participant thought their favourite film was. This is because the survey group would be limited in their options and not able to leave developed feelings. For example…

To best explain my analogy, above is a mock survey I have made.

As you can see, the researcher is looking for the participants favourite movie, however, using quantitative data is seriously flawed for this as the participant is heavily limited to only four choices out of what is more realistically hundreds of thousands. The participant may not even like any of these films and just pick a random option to be done with it. More drastically, the participant might not have seen any of the films mentioned, making it redundant. This would make it impossible to generalise to a wider demographic. So in brief, using quantitative research will only be reliable if the researcher keeps the questions/options valid.

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