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This guide will help you identify and select a methodology to help you collect the data you need to answer a research question.

research skills. research emthods. image shutterstock_400060840.When starting your research you will begin with a research question or topic that you need to find out about. You will then need to go about finding answers thrown up by the question. Research methods are the tools used to help you find, collect, analyse and interpret information in order to answer your research question. If you aren't sure which research method to use take a look at our research methods ThinkLink infographic for guidance.  

Key points to think about around your research 

  • Investigate whether you need to produce your own data to answer your question or does it already exist?

  • Set realistic targets and goals for managing your research project and be prepared to revise your plan if something goes wrong

  • Identify which research methods best suit your question or topic and the time you have to carry out the work. You might want for example to use experimental methods, meta analysis, qualitative or quantitative methods or possibly a combination. Will your methods yield the evidence base you need for your research?

  • When you have selected your methods think about ethics, privacy, and any legislation which may applied to the research

  • When writing your research proposal ensure that it is clearly planned and structured. Know when to write and when to incorporate graphics and charts to display data. Be prepared to incorporate feedback in your draft

To assist your study at the University of Southampton an Introduction to research methods self-study module has been designed for students of the University undertaking masters or postgraduate research study. It contains the following six themes:

  • getting started as a researcher

  • choosing your research topic

  • integrity and ethics

  • the literature review

  • project management

  • managing data

The module allows each of the themes to stand alone, or all six can be undertaken as an entire module. To gain the maximum benefit from this module it is recommended that students regularly discuss their progress through the module with their tutor or supervisor.

Further information on funder guidance, and good practice on working with, sharing and storing data can also be found in our Research Data Management guide. Postgraduate research students should refer to the Data Management Plans for Doctoral Students Blackboard course.


Image used: shutterstock_400060840. Image edited by Southampton University library.

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Related resources:

Academic foundations of quantitative research - a LinkedIn learning course by Rolin Moe

Data Management Plans for Doctoral students - produced by UoS this course is available to all PGRs in Blackboard. Research data management is an important skill for all to help you keep your data safe, findable and reusable. The course aims to provide a general introduction for all disciplines and how to complete the PGR Data Management Plan (DMP) template. Includes a certificate of completion to upload to PGR tracker and provide to your supervisor.

Hints on conducting a literature review  - by the University of Toronto

Interviews and methods - by the UK Data Service

National Centre for Research Methods  - based at the University of Southampton

Quantitative or qualitative? -  what are these methods and when to use them by Birmingham University

Writing a good PhD research proposal  - comprehensive guidance produced by

Writing a research proposal by Exeter University