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How to Critique a Research Methodology


A research method is the specific procedure used to answer a set of research questions. Popular methods vary by field, but include qualitative as well as quantitative approaches. Qualitative approaches rely more on observation and interpretation, while quantitative methods focus on data collection and analysis. Research methods should not be confused with research methodology, which is the study of research methods.

Identifying and Critiquing a Research Method

Find the research method in a research paper by looking for a section by this title, which will typically be toward the beginning of the paper, after the abstract and introduction. The description of the research method should include a rationale for why it was chosen.

Ask yourself whether the method used makes sense in answering the research questions. Most basically, research questions which seek to understand a phenomenon may be best answered with qualitative methods such as case studies or narrative approaches. Research questions which seek to describe a phenomenon may be better suited to quantitative methods, such as experiments or surveys.

Match the research questions with the author’s conclusions. Make sure the research questions were answered specifically. Incomplete answers often indicate improper choice of research method.

Be aware of the most common methodological errors. First, even when a specific method answers specific research questions, data disparities and questions that arise during research often cause scientists to redesign their studies. Thus, a completed study should proceed logically from question to method to discussion and conclusions. If there are obvious questions left unanswered, a methodological error may be the cause.

Examine the researcher’s conclusions from a broad perspective. Ask yourself if they make significant contributions to existing knowledge about the topic. For example, if a study of apples reveals that they have seeds, this would not be a significant finding. Studies that merely support existing knowledge can be helpful, but an overly basic study can be the result of an improper method.

Tips
  • Before critiquing any study, become familiar with the most common research methods in your specific field.
  • Critique a researcher's work based on what the work claims to be. It's unfair to critique any research based on what it isn't.
References
  • "Mass Communication Research and Theory"; Guido H. Stempel, III et al.; 2003
About the Author

Robin Donovan has been a freelance health writer specializing in chronic illness and women's health since 2008. Her work has appeared in "Cincinnati Magazine," "Southeast Ohio" magazine, "Perspectives" magazine, the "Athens News" and other publications. She has a master's degree in journalism from Ohio University.

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