Empirical (Qualitative and Quantitative) Research

Postgraduate level research inquiry may involve using qualitative or quantitative methods to generate new knowledge.

In some disciplines, such as product design or architecture, you might conduct empirical experiments to establish the properties or behaviour of materials, for example the heat insulation properties of materials in a specific context.

Postgraduate student projects can also involve researching with people, using qualitative or quantitative methods. Research with people may be for the purpose of gaining insight into potential product or service users or to include the perspective of others in your practice-based research. Any research involving other people requires ethical approval, to ensure that your research and its methodology adhere to ethical codes of conduct. It is essential that participants have given their informed consent to the use of their data in a research project.

17297246342_f2bc9229ef_zQuantitative research methods involve the collection of numerical data, such as taking measurements or distributing multiple choice questionnaires. Qualitative research is concerned with more subjective data such as describing and understanding experiences, ideas, beliefs and values. Methods of gathering qualitative data include interviews, focus groups, and participant observation.

See this Palgrave Study Skills resource on choosing appropriate research methodologies.

Your programme tutors or research supervisor will direct you to the resources and training required for you to be cognisant of the research methods in your discipline, which will be necessary for you to effectively design and conduct your research.

While fascinating and valuable work, managing empirical research may be challenging. The process of designing the studies, recruiting participants and analysing the findings involves a diversity of skills. When research depends on contingent external factors, such as other people’s willingness to be recruited as participants, or a survey producing unexpected data, the researcher will need to develop strategies for managing uncertainty and adapting to change.

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