Research methodology must be determined before actually beginning the research. You've heard the adage "Fail to Plan; Plan to Fail." The research methodology is the most crucial step of the research design process. It's the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of the data.
Once completed, always keep the blueprint, or the Methodology Brief available for easy reference.
Research methodology may vary in form from one project to another, but should always incorporate the following four elements.
- Measurement Objectives
- Data Collection Processes
- Recommended Survey
- Reporting Plan
Research Methodology: Measurement Objectives
Measurement Objectives are the reasons for the research and the expected outcomes. The objectives are the “why” of the research. They should be clear and concise. Explain each measurement objective in detail. Be precise, so as not to leave any room for erroneous interpretation of the results.
Research Methodology: Data Collection
Data Collection methodology covers the logistics of the research. Determine how data should be collected. If there will be multiple data collection sources, the methodology should describe each source and how they fit together to make the big picture. Explain the pros and cons of each data collection source, especially if you are using any sources that are new to team members or if you expect to encounter problems with "buy in."
Research Methodology: Survey
Base each question on at least one of the research objectives. Make a distinct connection between every survey question and the research objective. Don't ask questions that don't link directly to a research objective.
Research Methodology: Reporting Plan
Finally, always have a Reporting Plan. Explain how you plan to share the information gathered. Discuss the format in which you will deliver the reports (e.g., PowerPoint). Indicate how long the reports will be and what information each report will contain. Prepare a timeline with milestones and KPIs so everyone knows when to expect deliverables.
Designing the research methodology may be the most important phase of any research project because it is the blueprint for all to follow. Don't attempt to conduct viable research on a whim. The results could be extremely misleading and outright erroneous. The research methodology has everything that everyone needs to know about conducting the project, presented in a format that is referenceable throughout a project.