The Difference Between Research Methods and Research Methodologies

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    Berlin Asong

    I thought I could clearly differentiate between Research Methods and Research Methodologies until I was asked the question a month ago. My understanding is, a research methodology is the guiding doctrine of discovering knowledge whereas a research method is the tool for fulfilling the principles of the research methodology.


    It supposes that a research method must strictly adhere to an umbrella methodology. For example, [I deliberately refrain from giving examples, just to see how the discussions would unfold]. Because, that’s where my questioner wasn’t clear about whether X is a research method or research methodology.


    The use of both concepts in research articles has been largely inconsistent. In some instances, researchers treat both concepts the same. That is, they are used interchangeably.


    Granted; are both concepts similar or different? Clearly illustrate your responses with examples, please.

    Jeremy Miles

    I would say that research  methodology is the study of research methods.    But the terms can be used interchangeably – biology is the study of living things, but you can say “What’s the biology behind that?”

    Dr. Bakhtiar

    I prefer to you use Methodology as umbrella and broad term, which covers almost entire research project, whereas the method(s) are just tool (as you said) or design part of the study.

    Dr. Rakesh Pandey

    Literally the methodology means the study of methods and thus the branch of any discipline that focus on the study of various methods used in that discipline is ‘methodology’ of that particular discipline. However, it is also sometimes referred to as the system of methods followed in any discipline.


    I would say that these concepts differ. Research methodology is more closely related to ontology (see Hay, Colin (2006): Political Ontology. Goodin, Robert E. and Charles Tilly (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.) Given certain ontological premises such as phenomenalism (there are regularities in the social world), we need to consider the appropriate tools for gathering knowledge. One methodological implication is that one can infer something about regularities from observables, for example via statistical analysis. Methods are more narrowly about the tools we employ. In the realm of statistics, this means discussions about the properties of estimators.

    Dr. Rakesh Pandey

    I also agree with Ingo Rohlfing’s idea that research methodology is closely related with ontology and therefore mere collection of several methods can not be called methodology. Rather it is the hierarchical organization of well defined and linked methods/tools  that are used to organize certain knowledge domain.

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