Approaching academic research, one can divide the ways of establishing a methodology for the research into two broad categories, in which there are many subcategories. These broad categories are those of qualitative and quantitative research. In qualitative research, there is more room for the researcher or academic to establish the subjectivity of their reportage, regarding the distance that is established between the researcher and the subject. For example, someone doing qualitative research may present a case study of four unemployed mothers, in order to provide research about the need for welfare reform. They have interviewed and presented these cases through their own subjective lens. Quantitative research, on the other hand, is more stringent regarding reliability and validity, and more likely to include numbers and statistics to prove or disprove an academic hypothesis. For example, someone doing quantitative research may research government unemployment records for a decade, and make a series of charts showing changes in health insurance coverage vs. changes in work status. “Flexible research designs are much more difficult to pin down than fixed designs. This is in part because it is only in recent years that researchers have given consideration to the design issues which they raise. Previously there had been a tradition in the disciplines of social anthropology of an apprenticeship model”. It is possible for an academic researcher to include elements of both qualitative and quantitative research in their methodology, which is called a mixed method.
As noted, qualitative and quantitative research categories are broad, and each contain many sub-categories and the possibility of mixed methodologies. From a perspective of ease and clarity, quantitative experiments are often more cost-effective, and seek to generally show the attitudes and beliefs of a given population, or segment of the population, regarding an established issue. Many academic researchers use survey research to find these attitudes and beliefs, because it introduces the subject of the mixed methodology when these survey results are presented in graph and chart forms. “Surveys can be classified by their method of data collection. Mail, telephone interview, and in-person interview surveys are the most common. Extracting data from samples of medical and other records is also frequently done. In newer methods of data collection, information is entered directly into computers”. In todays world, academic researchers may also conduct surveys over the internet or in instant message programs.
Conducting a mixed methodology research project, an academic researcher may also want to go the route of looking at conclusions drawn from existing research. This can be a qualitative or quantitative approach; the key is that the academic researcher uses the studies and research of others that is established, to make their own points. This type of method is sometimes called a meta-analysis, but in reality, it is more like an extended sort of literature review. The researcher supports or dissents regarding the points of other researchers, based on a past precedent.
Although there are many ways of approaching academic research, the two most common categories for research methodologies are qualitative and quantitative. Research can, however, have elements of both categories, and still be effective. Quantitative research may be higher in terms of reliability and validity for academic researchers, but may not bring across the human element of the research to the reader as well as qualitative research. This latter form of research, while presenting a more human face, may also be construed by the reader as being too subjective. In establishing a research methodology, the adept academic researcher may pick and choose from both quantitative and qualitative elements.