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Will my research be inductive or deductive? Methodologies1 Introduction The way you approach your question will have a profound effect upon the way you construct your dissertation, so this section discusses the types of research you might undertake for your dissertation. The use of literature and case studies is considered and the merits of primary research are debated and advice is given on the use of existing research data. What approach should I take — qualitative or quantitative? Your approach, research design, and research question are all connected. Dissertations can be based on either quantitative or qualitative data, or on a combination of both. Think about the Research Methods modules you have taken so far.
Think about the different kinds of studies you have read for other modules. There is plenty of scope to use the approaches and methods that you are most comfortable with. You need to justify your approach and methods and to cite appropriate literature to help you do this. What if I want to find out about social trends, or the measurable effects of particular policies? You will probably want to use large datasets and undertake quantitative data analysis, and you will be adopting a realist approach to the topic studied. What if I want to record people’s views on an issue, and give them a ‘voice’? You will probably want to use in-depth qualitative data, and you may wish to adopt a realist, a phenomenologist, or a constructionist approach to the topic.
The topic or issue you are interested in. Dissertation you frame your research question. Can I combine case and quantitative methods? There are many ways study which qualitative and quantitative data and analysis can be combined. You may be interested in doing an analysis that is primarily quantitative, looking at social trends, or policy implications.
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However you also want to introduce a ‘human touch’ by conducting one or several interviews asking what these trends mean to people or how particular individuals experience events. After doing your quantitative analysis, you should include a chapter or section on the qualitative data you have collected. You may be interested in doing an evaluative case study of a process or policy. You will analyse each type of data and describe this, and then write a discussion that shows how each piece of analysis contributes to the overall picture of what is going on. Your supervisor or research methods tutor may be able to give you detailed examples of these or other ways to combine methods.
Can my dissertation be entirely literature-based? If you decide to do a primarily theoretical dissertation, it is almost certain that your dissertation will be entirely literature-based. This is likely to be the methodology of theoretical analysis: selection and discussion of theoretical material and descriptive material, in context, and detailed comparison of theories in terms of their applicability. A library-based or theoretical study is not necessarily ‘easier’ than an empirical study, indeed, it may well be harder.
Remember that theoretical studies, like data-based studies, need to have their research design spelled out from the start. But even if your dissertation is more empirically focused, it could still be entirely literature-based. You might choose to conduct a review of a field of work. What does the research literature in this field tell us about x? While all dissertations will include a literature review, it is possible to produce a dissertation that is entirely based on a review of the literature. Whilst it is possible for dissertations to be entirely literature-based, the most common form of dissertation takes the form of a case study. Here the focus of attention is on a particular community, organisation or set of documents.
The attraction of this kind of dissertation is that it stems from empirical curiosity but is at the same time practical. Most dissertations demand either primary or secondary research. In other words, you usually have to analyse data that you have either collected yourself or data that is already available. The reason for this is that the questions dissertations usually address take the following form: Is x happening? These questions demand primary or secondary analysis of data. Secondary analysis is when you analyse data which was collected by another researcher.
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