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Research Methods Section

 

In a research proposal, the methods section refers to the segment describing how you will conduct your research. In general, the research method section of a proposal and the research method section of an article (report) are similar. The only difference is that the research method section of a proposal is written in future tenses, while the research method section of an article is written in past tenses. For instance, if the research method section of a proposal states, “This study will involve 30 students consisting of 10 tenth graders, 10 eleventh graders, and 10 twelfth graders of Global High School”, the research method section of its article will state, “This study will involve 30 students consisting of 10 tenth graders, …” Additionally, if the proposal states, “Data will be collected using a set of questionnaire …”, the article (report) will state, “Data was collected using a set of questionnaire …”

This research method section is written to is to convince the research committee or board of examiners that the methods you plan to use are sound and this is the most suitable approach to tackle the problem you have chosen. In a research article, the research methods section demonstrates the integrity of your study’s research methods so that the results will be seen as reliable, valid, and trustworthy. The section should also be able to facilitate another researcher to replicate your research.

In general, the methods section of your research proposal includes (1) your study design; population and sample (or participants); materials; data collection methods, procedures, and instruments; and data analysis techniques that you plan to use; (2) your work plan (the activities that you plan to undertake to complete your project) and potential ethical issues.  A comprehensive research methods section should:

  1. Introduce the overall design/approach (qualitative or quantitative or mixed-method);
  2. Indicate how the approach suits to address the problem;
  3. Provide a rationale for subject (participants) selection and sampling procedure;
  4. Describe the specific methods of data collection to use (e.g., surveys, interviews, questionnaires, observation, archival research)
  5. Explain how you intend to analyze your results. Will statistical analysis be involved? Will you use specific theoretical perspectives to help you analyze a text or explain observed behaviors?
  6. Describe the ethical considerations (the principles} that guide your research designs and practices. especially the code of conduct you adhere to when collecting data from people.
  7. In detail, the methods section of quantitative, qualitative, and action research should answer the following questions.

Quantitative Study

  1. Design—Is it an experimental, correlational, or survey study? Why do you choose it?
  2. Subjects or participants—Who will take part in your study? How many? What kind of sampling procedure will you use?
  3. Data and Instruments—What types of data will be collected? What instruments will you use? Why do you choose them? Are they measured for validity and reliability?
  4. Materials and Procedure—What materials (in an experimental study) will you use? How do you plan to carry out the study? What activities are involved? How long will it take place?
  5. Data Analysis—What technique will you use to analyze the collected data? What statistical programs will be employed?
  6. Ethical Issues—What ethical considerations (voluntary participation, informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, do no harm, and results communication) you will involve in the study? How each issue will be considered?
Qualitative Study
  1. Design—Is it an ethnographic, phenomenological, case study, content analysis, or descriptive qualitative survey study? Why do you choose it?
  2. Participants—Who will get involved in your study? How many? What kind of sampling procedure will you use? Why is that sampling technique used?
  3. Data and Instruments—What types of data will be collected? What data collecting procedures will be used? What instruments will be employed? Why do you choose them? Are they measured for validity and reliability?
  4. Procedure—How do you plan to carry out the study? What activities will be involved? How long will it take place?
  5. Researcher's Role—Will you play the role of emic (an insider who is a full participant of the activity, program, or phenomenon under study) or ethic (an outsider who views the activity, program, or phenomenon under study more objectively)?
  6. Data Analysis--What data analysis will be used? What data analysis approach and procedures will be employed?
  7. Data Triangulation--What data triangulation techniques will be used to guarantee the data validity? If, for instance, theoretical and time triangulation will be used, provide the rationale for employing them.

  8. Potential Ethical Issues—What ethical considerations (voluntary participation, informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, do no harm, and results communication) you will involve in the study? How each issue will be considered?
Action Research

  1. Design—Why is action research fit to solve the problem?
  2. Participants—Who or which group of people will get involved in your study? How many? What year/class level? Are they male or female or mixed sexes? What are their social, language skills mastery, and any other background aspects relevant to the study?
  3. Data and Instruments—What types of data will be collected? What data collecting procedures will be used? What instruments will be employed? Why do you choose them? 
  4. Researcher's Role—Who will conduct the treatment? Who will act as the observer(s)? How the observation will be conducted?
  5. Data Analysis--What data analysis will be used? What data analysis approach and procedures will be employed?
  6. Potential Ethical Issues—What ethical considerations (voluntary participation, informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, do no harm, and results communicationyou will involve in the study? How each issue will be considered?
  7. Research Variables--What variables (e.g., the ‘inputs’ related to the students, teachers, teaching materials, evaluation procedure, learning environments, etc.; matter related to the teaching and learning process, such as classroom management, students learning strategies, teaching methods, etc.; or  ‘output’ variables, like students’ ability to apply skills they have studied, students’ willingness to initiate further learning, etc) are intended to solve the problems?
  8. Action Plan--What actions (interventions) will be implemented? What's the procedure for implementing the action? How the actions will be observed and reflected? This sub-section describes the actions to be implemented, including the plan, action/implementation, observation, and reflection/analysis phases. The plan description includes the preparation of pre-test, lesson plan (teaching scenario), equipment preparation, and alternative solutions to be implemented. The action/ implementation description reveals the actions to be conducted, the corrective action scenario, and the procedure for carrying out the action. The observation describes the procedure for collecting and interpreting the data. The description of reflection/analysis includes the data analysis procedure and the criteria and plan for conducting the next cycle.
  9. Data Triangulation--What data triangulation techniques will be used to guarantee the data validity? If, for instance, theoretical and time triangulation will be used, provide the rationale for employing them.
  10. Success Indicator--What success indicator is set up for the action research? Make sure that the success indicator is relevant and realistic. Thus, you should perceive as many as possible factors that affect the research. Setting up a too ambitious indicator may drive you into frustrating conditions. On the other hand, if the indicator is too low, your action research will seem trivial.

Common Problems to Avoid

The proposals written by novice researchers, especially students who will do research for writing their thesis, often include the following deficiencies. Thus you pay attention to them so that you avoid doing the same.

  1. The proposed methodology is unsuited for achieving the stated objective because the methods do not have a clear connection with the research problem. 
  2. The methods section includes irrelevant details as it includes some background information that doesn’t directly help the reader to understand why the particular method is chosen, how the data will be collected and how it will be analyzed.
  3. It includes certain unnecessary explanations of basic procedures that make the methods section like a how-to guide about a particular method. The writer seemed to forget that the readers possess a basic understanding of research. Thus, there is no need to go into great detail about the meaning of the basic terms and specific methodological procedures. You should focus on how you applied a method, not on the what or meaning of terminologies or the mechanics of doing a method. 

The following excerpts illustrate some common problems committed in writing a research methods section. Look that rather than describing why the experimental design is decided to answer the research problem, the writer unnecessarily provides definitions of research design. In the second excerpt, rather than clarifying the relevant background of the participants and why they will be selected using the snowball sampling technique, the writer provides the definition of the research subjects. The writer seems to forget the target readers. are supposed to be familiar with these terminologies and fail to describe how the methods he/she selected will be applied in his/her study.  


Research Design
Research designs constitute types of investigation quantitative, qualitative. and mixed methods approaches that afford specific direction for procedures in a research study (Creswell, 2014). It construes an approach researcher conducted in doing research, which is differentiated into quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method approaches. This study will use an experimental design. 


Research Subjects

A research subject refers to a person who participates in this research by being the target of the research. In other words, this part comprises the people involved in the research. The subjects of this research were thirty-four students of the English Language and Education Department of Global University. They will be selected using the snowball sampling technique.

 


To see a detailed outline for writing an action research proposal, see: 
https://parlindunganpardede.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/action-research-proposal-outline-2/


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