Research Methodology or Method━ How to Tell the Difference

A keen ear for topics related to research may often hear examples of a research method being described as a research methodology; or of a research methodology described as a research method.

In this post we hope to help the mind to believe what the eyes see and what the ears hear by presenting what I will call classic or strict definitions and examples for accurately distinguishing between the two terms.

Thanks to Google I will not have to re-invent the wheel; instead I will refer to the article “Research dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodology”, by Noella Mackenzie and Sally Knipe of Charles Sturt University.   In the article Mackenzie and Knipe cited the definition of research methods offered by McMillan & Schumacher in Research in Education, it reads as follows ━   Research methods – how data are collected and analysed – and the types of generalizations and representations derived from the data (McMillan & Schumacher, 2006, p. 12)”.

By explaining that method consists of “systematic modes, procedures or tools used for collection and analysis of data”, the authors make it easier for readers to understand what may be described as research method.  Among the variety of data collection tools which make up methods are: survey questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and photographs.

Methods Magate Wildhorse

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Framework for researchmethodology

James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA Professor Emeritus, University of Sourth Florida (Management and Accounting Web)

With our memories refreshed as it relates to methods, let us now turn our attention to the term methodology which covers much more than methods do. Mackenzie and Knipe describe research methodology as “the overall approach to research linked to the paradigm or theoretical framework”.  In other words methodology explains how the researcher will solve the problem that is being addressed by the research and include among other components, the methods, frameworks, and indicators of success that will be applied to the study.

Now that we have focused our eyes on what is covered by the term research method, namely: tools, modes and procedures for data collection and analysis; versus methodology which addresses theoretical frameworks, methods and other components described above we hope it will be easier for the mind to distinguish between often heard misuse of the terms and their more accurate, accepted, and formal meaning.

You might find it useful to visit the article and to take a quick review of the two tables listed below, which were used by the authors to illustrate the differences in meaning between research method and research methodology.

  • Table 1: Paradigms: Language commonly associated with major research paradigms
  •  Table 2: Paradigms, methods and tools  

“Research dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodology”, (Issues in Educational Research, Volume, 16, 2006), is available [Online] at:

Scott, M. E., Copyright © 2015 Magate Wildhorse. All rights reserved.

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