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Method vs Methodology
In research parlance, the term methodology is more often used than method. It is very much possible that the word may have been coined by researchers who are always in search for the most appropriate method to solve unique research problems. Methodology implies deliberation upon the choice of methods which refers to the means and techniques applied for achieving a particular objective. Hence in one set the researcher has all the tools and methods that are available and in another set the researcher has the characteristics of the situation. In order to make best fit selection the researcher needs to juxtapose and compare both these sets. This is more easily said than done as research is a complex process consisting of sub processes involving diverse approaches and methods, techniques and technology which progress and expand with time. Identifying the best fit methodology is sometimes an art, especially for topics on which there is little data available, requiring both knowledge and creativity, the latter invol
ving a personal touch of the ability to see nuances which others have missed and the consideration of which can make all the difference in the research quality.
In research parlance we also talk about the best fit methodology instead of the best methodology as each research problem has similar and unique aspects to past researches conducted in the same sphere and often there may be a unique element in the logic of method selection taking into consideration the entire situation; what is best for one situation may not be the most ideal for another.
Many people may associate tools and methods with only the statistical or quantitative analysis phase of the research process, while this may be largely true, yet researchers who see the importance of methodology in each and every research activity, stand out. Hence methodology approach permeates the entire research process and is present in each and every research phase. There is methodology in gleaning from the literatures, in identifying and defining the scope of the topic, in designing data collection instruments, in administering those instruments, in recording the data and in the analysis and interpretation of the data.
Several aspects of the research problem may define the research situation, the most common ones are:
Monetary: monetary aspects affect the availability of means to conduct research. In the world there can be many advanced means and technology but these may be beyond the reach of the researcher; the researcher must choose from the means within his/her reach.
Time: all research projects are time bound and need to be planned within the stipulated time period allotted by the institute or organization.
Level of Accuracy: this would influence the choice of sample design, data instruments and statistical tools.
Facilities and resources: in order to implement a research idea, researcher should ascertain whether it can be practically validated given the present facilities and resources, and if not whether these could be arranged.
Dimensions of methodology include:
Knowledge: the researcher should be aware of not only the methods and techniques but also the limitations, advantages and assumptions of each technique so as to apply them appropriately with the requirements of the research situation. The researcher should also have knowledge of adjusted methods for modifications as per the situation. Research knowledge is a complex whole and is fed by various diverse areas, a single person may find himself/herself very deficient in the knowledge dimension due to this reason and may resign to try out only methodology which have been tried out time and again, yet what is research if it does not challenge the researcher to try out the untrodden path? Researchers who seek to excel look for collaborative ways of strengthening the knowledge dimension and application of the same. Also techniques, methods and technologies keep getting updated and improve with time, the researcher should keep himself/herself abreast of the advancements and avoid using outdated methods.
An Eye for Detail: researcher should take into consideration the similar and discrete aspects of the present research situation with past researches conducted in the same domain and apply specific means wherever called for.
Holistic and discrete approach: though each research activity within the different research phases will be governed by separate methodology, yet at the same time each methodology should be thought out keeping in mind the overall situation and research objective.
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