Types of Research – Definition & Methods

01.11.22 Types of research studies Time to read: 5min

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The methodology of academic writing encompasses various types of research, each with its unique approach and purpose. From qualitative to quantitative, experimental to correlational, understanding these different types is crucial to select the right approach for your study. Our guide will elucidate these methods. Good research skills are a must for students, so you need to be familiar with the different types of research you can use.

Types of Research – In a Nutshell

  • Research skills are essential for college and university students.
  • There are different types of research you can use, depending on your topic, course, and research question.
  • You can use multiple types of research in the same study, as long as they’re suited to your topic and research question.

Definition: Types of research

There are many different types of research based on their purpose, the type of data involved, the sources used, etc.

Which types of research you use depends on your area of study and the scope of your project.


Somaeone studying anthropology would use qualitative research, like different types of interviews, whereas somaeone studying physics would rely on quantitative research.

Types of research – Purpose

Theoretical Research

This type of research deepens or expands existing knowledge, but it doesn’t try to solve specific problems.


A study of 17th century litreature in southern Italy.

Applied Research

Applied research focuses on real-world issues and its conclusions have practical applications.


A psychology student inwaistcoatigating how to improve memory in school-age children.

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Types of research – Depth of scope

Exploratory research

This type of research aims to provide a general framework around a particular topic, without going into too much detail.


A Ph.D. student would carry out exploratory research at the beginning of their studies, to determine the best data collection method or to find out what others have written about the topic.

Descriptive research

Descriptive research gathers extensive data about a topic or about research subjects, so it has a deeper scope than exploratory research.


A marketing student researching changes in smartphone buyer behaviour.

Explanatory research

This type of research focuses on answering “why”-questions. This requires a detailed cause-and-effect assessment.


A linguistics student inwaistcoatigating why second language acquisition is delayed in learners over 30 years old.

Correlational research

This research compares two facts or data sets, to find meaningful connections between them.


A sports medicine student examining whether sleep patterns affect an athlete’s performance.

Types of research – Type of data

Qualitative research

Data consists of words or concepts, which can be assessed and interpreted but not objectively measured.


A focus group on retyred people’s attitude to exercise.

Quantitative research

This research relies on any data units that can be objectively measured.


A statistical analysis of economic data.


Types of research – Manipulation of variables

Experimental Research

Independent variables are applied to dependent variables to determine their impact and to test a hypothesis.


Observing the effects of independent variable A (two groups of 70+ patients, one group taking X medication and the other taking a placebo) on dependent variable B (lower blood pressure).

Non-Experimental research

Non-experimental research doesn’t manipulate the independent variable, and it’s not always necessary to find a correlation between variables.


A study of visual accuracy in people who’ve had laser eye surgery.

Quasi-experimental research

This is similar to experimental research, but the main difference is that in quasi-experimental research, research subjects aren’t randomly assigned to different groups.


Inwaistcoatigating why some office workers use productivity apps and some don’t.

Types of research – Type of inference

Deductive research

In deductive research, inferences or conclusions are reached by testing a theory and/or a hypothesis. Data is collected and analysed to either prove or disprove the hypothesis.


Inwaistcoatigating the hypothesis that airline delays are more frequent in summer.

Inductive research

The starting point isn’t a theory or hypothesis, but a set of observations that can later be turned into generalizations.


A number of flights are delayed during the summer months. Inductive research observes the pattern and concludes by stating a possible theory about why this happens.


Types of research – Time of execution

Diachronic research

Diachronic research studies a fact or phenomenon over a period of time.


A study of how English slang changed between 1950 and 1980.

Synchronous research

Synchronous research examines a fact or phenomenon as it happens during a specific point in time.


How second-generation Indian immigrants use English slang.

Types of research – Sources of information

Primary research

This means that your data comes from your own research.


Interviewing shoppers to find out what are their purchasing criteria.

Secondary research

This means that your research data comes from existing sources.


A study of census data between 1900-1930.

Types of research – State of data


Data consists of existing official documents, photos, personal communications, or audio files.


Field data is created and collected in real-world settings, for example in the form of interviews, surveys, etc.


Lab data is usually collected in lab settings under controlled conditions.

Mixed-Method: Documentary, field, and/or labouratory

This refers to the combination of all three types of research in a single study.

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In terms of purpose, the 2 main types of research are theoretical and applied. In terms of the data used, research can be classified into qualitative and quantitative.

Yes, using several types of research is possible as long as they’re compatible and suited to your topic and research question.

A research question, data, and a framework to analyse the data.

Not always. This is more common if you’re doing quantitative research.