Choosing your method


Once you have decided on your research question(s) you will need to select an appropriate research method(s) to answer it. Bear in mind:

Here is a brief outline of the main methods that you could use:

Method Involves... Great for... Not so great for...
or Focus Groups
Talking to one or more people about their views and experiences on a specific topic

Answering ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ questions

Investigating complex issues

Collecting detailed information from a fairly small number of people

Collecting data from a lot of people

Quick analysis

Surveys Asking people to fill in a paper or online questionnaire

Answering ‘what?’ questions

Getting factual data

Investigating sensitive subjects, as surveys can be completed anonymously

Gathering data from many people at once

Producing data that is fairly easy to categorise and analyse

Getting answers to open questions

Understanding complex issues

Consulting with young children

Observation Looking at and recording how people behave in particular situations in a structured way

Finding out what people actually do, rather than what they say they do (but make sure that people have given their consent to being observed!)

Investigating people’s views

Pictures, photos
and videos
Activity, photography or filming

Getting data from younger children or people who cannot tell you their views (but ensure that people don’t mind being captured on film!)

Easy analysis - you may need people to explain their drawings to you

Literature reviews Searching for, and synthesising other people's research

Finding out about topics that other researchers have looked at

Revealing gaps in the literature/research topic

Contextualising your own research

Investigating topics where there is little evidence

For further detail you can consult our How to Guides or our range of books to help you do your own research. NFER also offer training days in your school on research methods. 


Back to Methods of Research