Research methods each have advantages and disadvantages, and you have to consciously choose them accordingly. A selection of the research method is usually justified by the advantages and then sensibly limited by the disadvantages.

In the bachelor thesis, for example, you have to argue why you preferred an expert interview to the survey. Since your method does not, of course, reveal the entire knowledge on the topic, it should also be sensibly limited. In this article I show the advantages and disadvantages of each methodology.

Tip: Use the advantages to justify your choice and pack the disadvantages into the limitation of your work.

Literature analysis

Literature analyzes form the foundation of any research and summarize similar findings. It helps in understanding, structuring existing knowledge and finding research gaps.

Nevertheless, the following points should be limited:

  • Novelty: Often literature analyzes only summarize existing knowledge and do not generate any new knowledge.
  • Incompleteness: Depending on the procedure, you can only find part of the literature and you have to concentrate on certain papers as you cannot read all of them in full. They are always just a selection of findings.

Reading tip: Literature analysis

Expert interviews

The advantage of the method is the free and natural situation of the interviews. You can interpret results in depth with the test subjects and ask questions. They also control the interview situation and ensure that the test subject is not stressed, for example, and that statements are therefore to be interpreted differently. They also offer a high level of information through the detailed answers given by the test subjects.

Nevertheless, the following points should be limited:

  • Social undesirability: test subjects can “beautiful” answers through the presence of the researcher
  • Sampling: You only interview a small group and are therefore not very representative
  • Subjectivity: The evaluation of the answers is subjective and can be interpreted in various ways

Reading tip: Expert interviews

Group discussion

The great advantage of the group discussion is that the interaction of the participants can lead to new insights (collective intelligence). You will find new perspectives and suggestions. You can also ask questions and get different perspectives on the same topic through the group.

Nevertheless, the following points should be limited:

  • Frequent speakers: Individual frequent speakers can dominate and falsify the discussion
  • Low representativeness: You only interview a small target group
  • Evaluation: Due to the large number of opinions, it is difficult to present the group consensus.

Reading tip: Group discussion

Case study

Case studies present complex issues quickly and easily. You do not disturb processes or the natural situation. They therefore provide a detailed description of a complex individual case.

Nevertheless, the following points should be limited:

  • Limited generalization: Often findings only apply to this case study
  • Extreme cases or individual cases cannot be clearly identified: For example, did you happen to catch the only project of this type and it is otherwise not the case
  • Subjective data: They represent the case study from your point of view or the observer and are therefore subjective

Reading tip: Case study

survey

The great advantage of surveys is that a large number of people can be reached quickly. In contrast to interviews, large amounts of data can be evaluated quickly. In addition, the questionnaire can be used to exclude the influence that the interviewer has on the test person (an interview usually makes test persons nervous).

Nevertheless, the following points should be limited:

  • Insufficient control of the interview situation: You do not know whether the respondent is currently under stress or is just skimming the questions
  • Honesty of the respondents: it could happen that questions are not answered completely honestly
  • Different views on the question: each participant will interpret your questions differently
  • Answers cannot be interpreted qualitatively: the results provide facts and data that should be interpreted using qualitative methods

Reading tip: survey

Reference modeling

Reference models simply represent complex issues and generalize them. Above all, they serve for a better understanding and transferability of complex issues.

Nevertheless, the following points should be limited:

  • Transferability: The model cannot be used exactly as it is in every context. They do not give a ready-made solution scheme
  • Abstraction: Often these models are very abstract and make no contribution to the solution, only to understanding

Reading tip: Reference modeling

Grounded Theory

The advantage of the methodology is the constant restructuring of research and the high level of applicability. It is therefore suitable for unknown research areas without much literature or a strong foundation (“grounding”).

Nevertheless, the following points should be limited:

  • Depending on the researcher: As you work very freely, the evaluation depends on the researcher, as each researcher would evaluate the data differently. This methodology needs a very good researcher.
  • Complexity: Due to the often fuzzy research topic, the results are usually only guidelines and so complex that they may still be very imprecise and further iterations are necessary.
  • Binding: Due to the selected data sources, the grounded theory is bound to a certain social reality and is not transferable

Reading tip: Grounded Theory

Conclusion

It turns out that every research method has certain advantages and disadvantages. It is therefore important to select and limit this sensibly for good scientific work.

Reading tip: Build research design

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Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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