When writing your dissertation, you’ll come across a lot of challenges. For instance, formulating a research question that matches your research topic, setting the aims and objectives of the dissertation, researching literature etc. However, the most perplexing part is to choose research strategies in a dissertation. Why? Because, the whole dissertation depends on the chosen research strategy. When choosing a research strategy, there are certain themes that you should keep in mind. You’ll have to make sure that aim and objectives of the research are achieved with the chosen strategy, the search topic is in line with the strategy, and the analysis can be carried out comprehensively in order to answer the research question.
With a number of research strategies to choose from, students often get confused about which should be chosen for their research. A lot depends on the research topic, its scope and subcategories, the research question formulated and the aims and objectives that have been set out.
As a student, you might be confused as to ‘what research strategies can I use for my dissertation’ and ‘how to do dissertation research’? To help you, here’s a complete guide on the different research strategies that you can use in your dissertation. There are three basic research strategies that are categorized as i.e. primary, secondary and mixed method research. The different types of research approaches within each of these categories are explained below in detail:
Primary research involves data collection directly from participants. This type of dissertation research strategy is often chosen when the research is based on a certain area, a specific organization or a country. Due to the fact that the dissertation requires specific results and information, primary research strategy is chosen to gather the required information and formulate results according to the research topic and question (Couhes.mit.edu, 2017). There are various methods of conducting a primary research:
Interviews are face to face meetings conducted directly with the participants. A schedule is set and the participant is asked to fill and sign a consent form prior to the meeting. The questions during the interview are related to the research only. The participant has the complete right to remain anonymous or reveal his/her name. Usually, two types of interviews take place – structured and unstructured. In structured interviews, the researcher has a set of questions and the interview is based on those questions only. On the other hand, in unstructured interviews, the researcher does not have a set of questions prepared prior to the interview (Socscidiss.bham.ac.uk, 2017). In either case, the participant is informed beforehand. In some cases, the researcher may also opt for in-depth interviews. These interviews are conducted to make sure that the information gathered is thorough and the research question is answered without any errors.
Also, with the advent of technology, and in order to save time, a lot of researchers now conduct online (skype) interviews and/or telephonic interviews. The timings and schedule are set prior to the day of the interview and the participant is informed of the details via email. This helps in saving valuable time of the researcher, as well as, the participant.
Surveys are another popular form of primary data collection method. The participants for this type of research design are chosen through a sampling method. The researcher prepares a survey that consists of questions relating to the topic of the research. The survey questions can be either open or close ended. Close ended questions require the participant to choose from the options that have been already provided. For this, the researcher may or may not meet the respondent. These surveys can be filled online or over a telephonic session (Couhes.mit.edu, 2017). On the other hand, open ended questions do not have any options and the respondent has the liberty to answer according to their own perception and understanding. For these type of surveys, meeting the participant is mandatory.
Dissertations with close ended questions are classified as quantitative research strategy dissertations. The data collected from these surveys is analyzed through a statistical tool known as SPSS or Excel. Different tests are applied to the data, depending on the research question, aim and objectives, in order to reach to a conclusion. For open ended questions, qualitative analysis is conducted by thematic analysis and coding technique.
Questionnaires are similar to close ended surveys. They contain standard questions and are distributed amongst a set of participants to collect information. A lot of researchers follow the Likhert scale when using questionnaires. This scale includes 5 options ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. The questionnaire consists of statements, to which the respondents have to respond based on the specified options. These responses are then analyzed with the help of SPSS or another analytical tool by running various tests, and can also be analyzed by entering data in MS Excel and preparing graphs and charts according to the responses to each statement. Based on the analysis, conclusion of the dissertation is prepared.
This is another common method of gathering primary data. This type of dissertation research design is usually used when the behavior of a group of people or an individual is to be studied. For this type of research, the researcher observes the participant as to how he/she behaves in certain conditions. There are two types of observations that are conducted by researchers – overt and covert. Overt observation is usually adopted when observing individuals. Under this type of observation, participants are aware of the fact that they are being observed, and a written consent form is also signed by them (Couhes.mit.edu, 2017). This validates the research as the participant is not kept in the dark and is aware that he or she is being studied by a researcher or a group of researchers. On the other hand, covert observation refers to the fact of being observed without consent. The participant is not aware that they are being studied by researchers and there is no consent form signed. This is an ethical issue of conducting research, thus it is always recommended that all such unethical practices are avoided to complete a successful dissertation.
Secondary research is the second type of research approach for dissertations and this research design in dissertations is usually chosen for its cost effectiveness. Secondary research is mostly quantitative i.e. no statistical tests or tools are included as a part of research dissertation. Secondary research refers to the study and analysis of already published data and researches (Sccollege.edu, 2017). This means that when a research topic is finalized and you start off with the research question formulation and setting the aim and objectives, you look for researches and studies that have been conducted in the past on the same topic. Reviewing and analyzing those studies helps in understanding the topic in a much better manner and also helps to relate previous results and conclusions.
Secondary research is carried out by researchers where there is limited or no access to the participants relating to the dissertation topic. In such cases, previous studies are searched for and analyzed thoroughly. However, when using previous researches, you should always be aware of the fact that they might have been carried out in a different setting, with different aim and objectives, thus they cannot exactly match your dissertation. Basing your findings solely on one study is incorrect. Do your research, understand your topic and look for different views of different authors. This will give you an idea as to how the topic has been studied in the past.
Reviewing and analyzing different perspectives on the same topic will help you understand the topic in a much better manner and you’ll be able to think critically as well. A critical analysis will help you present the previous researches and studies in a thorough manner and will also let the readers know that you’ve done a comprehensive research. Results and discussion of secondary researches are based on the findings that are mentioned in the previous studies and also on what you learned while reviewing and analyzing them.
The sources for this type of research include previous researches and already published data (usually extracted from governmental, libraries, books, journals or credible websites). You can visit different credible websites, and collect the data you’re looking for. Historical data is also available easily on all governmental websites.
Mixed method research is the most commonly employed type of research strategy in a dissertation. As the name suggests this type of research includes primary as well secondary research design. Depending on the topic and the dissertation requirements, this method is selected. Usually, when choosing a research topic for a dissertation, the researcher has in mind as to which research he or she will be adopting. Thus, for mixed method research, the researcher has a plan in mind as to how both the research methods will be integrated in the same dissertation (Anon, 2017). One of the most common ways is to conduct interviews and analyze them, as well as, conduct thematic analysis of the data gathered from previous stuides. Combining these two will help to perform an in depth analysis and better address the research questions. Furthermore, interviews and thematic analysis can be performed simultaneously or they can even be combined (Socscidiss.bham.ac.uk, 2017). Similar themes can be extracted from the previous researches and interviews, and the information can then be combined together for the purpose of analysis.
One of the biggest advantage of using this research strategy is that it offsets the drawbacks of the other two research methods. Based on the topic of the dissertation, the setting of the research, its topic and aim & objectives, you can decide the research strategy that should be used. Of the various research strategies in a dissertation, primary research is regarded as one of the most authentic and credible researches – reason being that the data is collected directly from the participants involved in the study, for instance employees of a company upon which the research is being carried out. However, on the downside, primary research involves huge costs, which is why many students conduct secondary research. The authenticity of the past data and researches used in secondary researches is questioned; however, with proper explanation and considering research ethics, this method is utilized by a lot of researchers.
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