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Types of Research in Academic Writing

Choosing the proper research type is essential when starting your research project. It is a crucial aspect to consider when you create research questions and design.

You can opt among different types of research depending on your field of study and the purpose of your paper. The most essential of them are:

  • types of knowledge you are going to accumulate or put forward;
  • types of information you will pick out for analysis;
  • sampling methods you will use depending on the location and timescale of your work.

Let’s discuss the overall characteristics of these types of research and the distinctions among them.

Aims of Research

The first thing you need to consider while starting your research work is what your project will contribute to the overall knowledge in this field. According to this, the aims of your research can be classified as follows:

  • basic;
  • applied;
  • exploratory;
  • explanatory;
  • inductive;
  • deductive.

Let’s regard the main differences between them.


Basic vs. Applied Aims

Basic aims are meant for expanding the scientific understanding of a subject. They develop theories and support or contradict predictions.

Applied aims are considered to find solutions for practical problems. They help to make a road for developing techniques, inventing products or improving procedures.

Exploratory vs. Explanatory Aims

In the beginning, think about how much you already know about the subject or problem. If you see that the issue is underexplored or it is newly detected, you utilize exploratory research aims.

In case the problem is well-defined, but you need to know about its causes and outcomes to make precise conclusions, you need to opt for explanatory aims.

Inductive vs. Deductive Aims

If there is already some theory on your subject matter which you want to use to develop your hypothesis, you need deductive aims. They are often meant when we want to test the already existing theory.

When you want to put forward a theory of your own based on the results and findings of your research, you are searching for inductive aims.

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Research Data and Their Classification

In the process of your research, you are going to collect some data. It can be of different types and greatly influence the research methods and procedures. Such types of research data include:

  • primary;
  • secondary;
  • qualitative;
  • qualitative;
  • descriptive;
  • experimental.

Let’s have a more thorough look at each of them.

Primary vs. Secondary Data

You need to consider which data is already available for your research and what you need to do about it. If you want to collect data of your own via experiments or surveys, this is called primary data.

However, if you just analyze the information that is already available, you will be utilizing secondary data. For example, you need to write a literature review or use data from some governmental institutions or scientists.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Data

If your research work is aimed at measuring something and collecting statistics, it means that you use quantitative data.

On the other hand, if you need just to analyze the words and meanings or interpret some facts, you use qualitative data.

Your research design can also combine qualitative and quantitative data. This mixed format is used quite often in certain fields of study.

Descriptive vs. Experimental Data

If you aim at identifying the main characteristics, patterns and correlations between some phenomena or gather the information without controlling variables, your data will be descriptive.

When you test the correlations and contradictions between variables to identify the cause and effect, you utilize experimental data.

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Sampling, Location and Timescale

These types of research offer the answers to the questions of how you are going to select the subjects or people for your research, where you are going to find them, and how often you need to collect this data.

Depending on the requirements of your project, you will choose different ways of conducting your research.

Sampling Based on Probability or Non-Probability

If you want to analyze a specific context or detailed knowledge in a case study, you will draw conclusions based on non-probability sampling.

When the purpose of your work is to generate the overall knowledge on the subject based on your findings and extend your ideas to a broader scale of objects of population, you use probability sampling.

Longitudinal or Cross-Sectional Research

If your research question emerges from an understanding of the current situation or you collect the data at one point in time, you use cross-sectional research.

When you need to track certain changes over time and gather information at different points in time, you utilize longitudinal research.

Field or Laboratory Research

What we call field research is usually committed in a real-world setting. You may need to explore what happens in society and come to certain conclusions based on this information.

If your work is mostly based on laboratory experiments that are carefully controlled or on the constructed settings and situations emerging in them, it will be a laboratory type of research. Such research is characterized by lower external validity. Still, laboratory experiments usually provide higher internal validity.

Flexible or Fixed Research

When you want to test your hypotheses and check the generalized facts, you use measuring, testing and making generalizations based on fixed research. Such a design is usually established before the beginning of data collection. It provides higher validity and reliability.

If you want to explore some concepts and formulate their meaning based on understanding, you use a flexible design allowing for changing the settings within the data collection process.

Final Thoughts

Of course, you are free to choose between various research types when you make up your research design. They will define the basic steps with which your research will be conducted.

However, the research types depend much on the field of study. You need to consult your supervisor about choosing them. They are only the first step in your academic work. Further on, you will choose the research methods and identify the concrete details of your study.

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