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Postgraduate Research Process: Welcome

Research Methods, Research Process, & Search Strategies

This guide was created by library staff in collaboration with faculty to help you find resources for your classes, projects, and assignments. We hope it inspires you to further explore the world of research design and methodologies.

Guide that introduces the basic information about the research processes, library skills, and types of information = "Get Started With Research Methodology."

To learn about getting started with a project, including topic and research question development, and evaluating sources = "The Research Process." 


If you are planning to do research - whether you are doing a student research project, thesis, or dissertation, you need to use valid approaches and tools to set up your study, gather your data, and make sense of your findings. 

Data collection and data analysis are research methods that can be applied to many disciplines.

Where to Begin

1. Defining a Topic & Developing a Research Question

  • Pick a topic that interests you (if you don't have a topic yet).
  • Carefully review your assignment to make sure your topic is appropriate and fits the scope of the assignment (if your topic was assigned to you).
  • Identify what you know about your topic and the questions you still have.
  • Read more tips from one of your librarians for narrowing a topic.

2. Finding Information Sources & Reviewing the Literature

  • Start with general background information: e.g. Google search, newspaper and magazine articles.
  • Look for more specialized information: e.g. Scholarly articles and books via library databases.
  • If needed, look for Library Guides or talk to your librarian (subject specialist). 
  • Read more tips from one of your librarians for searching library resources, selecting and evaluating sources. 

Research Design & Method

What is the difference between Research Design and Research Method?

Research design is a plan to answer your research question.  A research method is a strategy used to implement that plan.  Research design and methods are different but closely related, because good research design ensures that the data you obtain will help you answer your research question more effectively.

Which research method should I choose?

It depends on your research goal.  It depends on what subjects (and who) you want to study.  Let's say you are interested in studying what makes people happy, or why some students are more conscious about recycling on campus.  To answer these questions, you need to make a decision about how to collect your data.  Most frequently used methods include:

  1. Observation / Participant Observation
  2. Surveys
  3. Interviews
  4. Focus Groups
  5. Experiments
  6. Secondary Data Analysis / Archival Study
  7. Mixed Methods (combination of some of the above)

One particular method could be better suited to your research goal than others, because the data you collect from different methods will be different in quality and quantity.   For instance, surveys are usually designed to produce relatively short answers, rather than the extensive responses expected in qualitative interviews.

What other factors should I consider when choosing one method over another?

Time for data collection and analysis is something you want to consider.  An observation or interview method, so-called qualitative approach, helps you collect richer information, but it takes time.  Using a survey helps you collect more data quickly, yet it may lack details.  So, you will need to consider the time you have for research and the balance between strengths and weaknesses associated with each method (e.g., qualitative vs. quantitative).


A short book chapter by O'Leary is available online within SAGE Research Methods Online database (NSU Libraries login required). The chapter jumps you into practical definitions and recommended readings focused on qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research.

O'Leary, Z. (2007). Qualitative/Quantitative. In The social science jargon buster. doi:10.4135/9780857020147.n107

Tutorial Videos: General

Research Information Online Tutorial 

 View this short video (5:52), courtesy of OnDemand Instruction providing an overview of the research process

Research Methods