Research Methods

Understand, critique, and use the methods Communities of Practitioners use to generate, debate, vet, and report knowledge claims, including empirical research, textual research, and usability research.


Research Methods are tools and techniques that investigators use to gather and interpret information in ethical ways.

Researchers are trained in workplace and school settings to use tools

learn about specific tools used in scientific and academic research.

Research Methods are a powerful way of learning and thinking about the world. Researchers

Most generally, there are three major kinds of research methods:

  1. Textual Methods,
  2. Empirical Methods, and
  3. Mixed Methods.

Research Methods must

Research Methods are constantly changing and evolving in response to new cultural mores and technologies.

[Read Research; Research Methodology; Information Literacy]

instruments, and tools that Communities of Practice use to collect, organize, analyze, and present information (data)

Research Methods

Research, most generally, is a powerful way of learning and thinking about the world. Researchers

Researchers are curious about the world, and they undertake research projects in order to review existing knowledge and generate new knowledge about the part of the world they are investigating. Research results—knowledge claims-—are important. But, how researchers claim to know what they know—their research methodology—is equally important.

The importance of methodology is not all that surprising. You consider methodology when you make judgments about knowledge claims every day. You would, for example, probably take your doctor’s diagnosis of a life-threatening disease more seriously than a fortune teller’s prediction of an early death. What distinguishes a physician’s prognosis from a fortune teller’s prophecy is their research methods: the doctor may be looking at the results of your physical, your blood work, your family history, whereas the fortune teller may be gazing into a crystal ball or studying astrological charts.

Discourse Communities/Communities of Practice—e.g., mathematics, psychology, physics, engineering, or business—have different methods of conducting and evaluating research. An anthropologist’s account of kinship patterns in a tribe of Native Americans bears almost no resemblance to a cognitive psychologist’s investigation of sensory responses to light stimuli. 

Textual MethodsResearch studies in which investigators base knowledge claims on texts
Empirical MethodssResearch studies in which investigators base knowledge claims on empirical evidence–i.e., qualitative and quantitative data
Mixed MethodsResearch studies in which investigators base knowledge claims on empirical and textual methods.

Research Methods are Rhetorical

Researchers engage in Rhetorical Analysis to select Research Methods and develop a Research Plan, Research Protocol

develop the based on

select research methods based on a variety of factors

Whether research results, truth claims, are understood and appreciated will depend to a great extent on whether the researcher followed the expectations for a Community of Practitioners regarding shared practices for gathering information and conducting analysis.

Research methods have particular advantages and disadvantages, constraints and affordances.

Research methods are developed by Discourse Communities/Communities of Practice to address research questions of interest to their community.

To decide on the methods most appropriate for your research question, consider your audience. Conduct a rhetorical analysis.

What Discourse Community/Community of Practice are you writing for?
What standardized practices does your audience prescribe for gather and analyzing data?
What epistemological assumptions guide the methods of your audience?

What kind of knowledge are you hoping to produce?

Research Methods Evolve

Research Methods evolve as Communities of Practice tackle new problems, reconsider ethical principles, use new tools, engage in dialectics regarding best practices, and forage/explore the practices of other discourse communities.

Research Methods evolve when researchers forage–i.e, when they use methods from other Community of Practice. Researchers forage into other academic and professional fields to learn and adapt new methods. Conceptions about knowledge, available technologies, and research practices influence each other and change constantly. For example, capturing gorillas and studying them in cages might have been considered good research in the 1920s. The work of later researchers like Dian Fossey, however, demonstrated how animals might be better understood in their natural environment. Today, research based on observations of wild animals in captivity would gain little support or interest.

Research Methods evolve in communal ways.

Research Methods as Competencies

Research Methods are competencies, literacies–ways of reading and writing in the world.

Additional articles on Research-methods:

  1. Corpus Linguistic Analysis, A Bird’s Eye View of Writing

    How we (usually) read and write If you are like most people in the United States, you read and write...