Research Methods: Developing your research design

Eira Patterson | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Deciding on the type of data you will need to collect

Your beliefs in relation to the methodology on which your research is based should ultimately inform the logic behind the decision-making process in your choice of research methods. Mason (2002: 32) advocates that ‘the process of identifying a methodological strategy should not be about finding a philosophical label for your approach, so much as finding a coherent and consistent approach to answering your research questions.’ At this early stage in your research it is beneficial to explore the range of methods that could be used and to think creatively about the possibilities (Mason, 2002). An effective way of identifying which approaches used is by reading journal articles of research studies that have explored related areas to your own research focus. This will also give you insights into the advantages and limitations of the use of different methods and of the different possible data sources within a context similar to the one you want to study. Your aim at this stage is therefore to make a list of all of the possible methods and data sources that could be used, before deciding on which of these to include in your research design.

To help you to decide on the most appropriate research methods to use for your project consider creating a table to facilitate critical reflection on the types of data that would be generated if different methods were used in your study. This approach helps you to think about the types of data you could collect and to decide on which would be the most useful. Also it will help you to think about the factors which might impact on your ability to implement each of these methods in practice.

Research questions

Possible research methods

Why choose these research methods?







What are the benefits of each method in relation to providing useful data to answer the research question?


Why have you chosen that particular sample to focus on?


Questions to consider:

  • Do you have the necessary resources and skills needed to successfully implement these research methods and analyse the data produced?
  • Can you gain sufficient access to the data sources you will need?
  • What are the ethical implications of your study?

(Adapted from Mason, 2002)

The following completed example of this chart based on questions from a dissertation at MAEd level which explores the way in which technology can support pupils’ creativity when composing music in Key Stage 4.

Case Study: Deciding on appropriate research methods – KS4 Music Example

Reference: Cole, T.D. and Patterson, E.W. (2014) ‘How does technology support pupils' creativity when composing music in Key Stage 4?’ British Educational Research Association Conference: Institute of Education, University of London, September 2014