A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

The Fundamentals

If you are doing more than writing an essay that relies on sources, then you can benefit from understanding why there are different research methods.  Learn more about how academic and professional researchers employ diverse research methods.  Understand the philosophical assumptions that inform researchers in different disciplines.

Academic disciplines—for example, mathematics, psychology, physics, engineering, or business—have different ways of conducting and evaluating research.

Critique research myths that may be impairing your ability to locate, evaluate, and use information.

If you are like most people, you have some definite ideas about what research is. You may envision a pale figure in a white lab coat bent over a microscope or a beaker of bubbling liquid. Perhaps you imagine this isolated and humorless figure engaged in tedious procedures, carefully recorded on graph paper or reduced to inscrutable formulas scrawled in notebooks.

Analyze research practices from a community perspective, and learn about the methodological assumptions of scholars, surveyors, scientists, formalists, clinicians, and ethnographers.

Researchers in workplace and academic settings have diverse and sometimes opposing ways of researching and making knowledge claims. In general, researchers in the natural sciences tend to prefer positivistic methodologies and researchers in social and behavioral sciences have increasingly used postpositivistic methods.

Learn about three opposing assumptions about knowledge that underlie contemporary methodologies: Positivism, Postpositivism, and Scholarship.

Different ideologies underlie research methodologies. In other words, different research communities have opposing ideas about what knowledge is and how it is produced. Scholars produce scholarly knowledge by participating in the never-ending debate. Surveyors, scientists, formalists and most clinicians hope to produce positivistic knowledge. Ethnographers and some clinicians focus on producing postpositivistic knowledge.