When writing a dissertation, learning which type of dissertation you would like to pursue is a part of the first stage. Choosing the type of dissertation goes hand in hand with choosing your research topic, because your variables define the methodology you need which consequently defines the type of dissertation you are doing. This should become clearer as you go along finding the topic you aim to cover because whichever research questions you decide to address, the validity of the answers to those questions will depend on the methodology you used.
The most common type of research uses the qualitative paradigm because this type of research offers rich details on a topic due to its variables being easier to control. These variables refer to the research question, the data needed, the tools needed, and the freedom for educated interpretation. Qualitative studies are further divided into categories, some of which are the following.
Phenomenology refers to the study where one seeks to present a set of data on how people perceive and experience a common event. Usually, this method gives the researcher the option to utilize interviews, questionnaires, and observations to draw out accurate findings. For example, if you want to determine the best teaching method for first grade students, you must conduct the aforementioned methods to students in first grade.
Ethnography is somehow similar to phenomenological studies, except it requires the researcher to be personally involved with his respondents or get immersed in the environment under study. Ethnography is often utilized and presented in documentaries.
Narrative is the specific version of phenomenology where the researcher follows a single respondent in the form of sequential overview related to a specific phenomenon. The researcher can then opt to focus on a specific angle that has immense significance to the research topic.
Grounded theory refers to a study where the researcher attempts to form a theory that explains a phenomenon. Do not confuse grounded theory with phenomenology, because the former aims to identify causes related to the phenomenon, while the latter aims to present the perspectives of those involved with the phenomenon.
Quantitative research depends on figures and statistical results to draw out findings for a specific research topic. Quantitative research is often used to study a larger data-set using standard equations and systematic methods.
Experimental research offers to draw out cause-and-effect relationships and, therefore, allows room for the manipulation of the variables. For instance, a researcher tries to find out the best ratio of water and fertilizer for a specific amount of soil in growing a certain plant. In this case, the researcher can adjust the volumes of water and fertilizer while locking the independent variable soil in a certain amount.
Non-experimental research, on the other hand, does not allow the manipulation of variables. This means that the research can only take actual figurative data from the set. Therefore, alternative conclusions are present. This is also why most non-experimental studies are correlational studies, and not a concrete cause-and-effect research. For instance, the researcher aims to find out which gender presents a better class performance. In this case, tests can be implemented, and scores will be quantified using the best formula, and whatever the rule of the chosen formula is, will be followed (e.g. correlation coefficient is greater or equal to 1 means the relationship is stronger and vice versa).
The key is, again, first identifying the question you would like to address, followed by figuring out the best method to get the answer to that question. Always aim to address the question, not to impress with all the fancy data you can get as you go along your research. Remember, if you want to focus on the nature and quality of your topic, it is most probably qualitative. But if you wish to study the extent of your topic, it is most probably quantitative. Do not be afraid if you feel like you need to combine methods under both types of research because that is actually possible, and it is called mixed research.
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