Research methodology and writing skills

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Fundamental writing skills for researchers, part 1 introduction and snapshot of writing (6:31).

Everyone is capable of being a good writer, even without any innate skill. A snapshot of research writing is given, from presenting a research question in context of current knowledge to interpreting your findings. In other words, moving from general to specific, then specific to general. It's important to be a careful and intentional writer. It's not about writing, it's about readability. Focusing on your readers and their needs helps make your message clear.

Part 2 Making Meaning Clear (6:31)

"Going-to-the-Caribbean writing" is boring, dense, and generally not reader-friendly because it lacks transitions, logic, and concern for reader understanding. An example of "Caribbean writing," along with a more reader-friendly revision, is provided. Good writing clearly communicates meaning to readers by always keeping their needs in mind.

Part 3 Writing Myths (4:20)

The impulse to impress readers with complex sentences and pretentious words is regrettably common in research writing. Writing to impress seeks validation for the writer rather than comprehension for the reader. Revision is always needed because ideas don’t flow logically from the writer's mind to the page.

Part 4 How Readers Read and Respond (7:19)

There are several levels of a reader's response to a piece of writing. The writer is responsible for the reader’s experience in everything from visual appeal and organization to readability and tone. The purpose of research writing is to convey your data and interpretations of that data while convincing your reader that your perspective is valid. Critique your writing by continually keeping your reader in mind.

Part 5 Helping Your Audience Interpret Your Meaning (11:58)

Your role as writer is to make sense—to make your meaning clear to the reader. Use punctuation, grammar, and other language conventions as road signs to help your reader interpret your writing. Basic vocabulary and simple sentence construction is sufficient, even for winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. But your audience may vary, and that takes very careful planning on your part.

Part 6 Giving Structure to Your Writing (6:24)

Paragraphs, topic sentences, and transitions provide the structure of your writing. Mastering these building blocks is the key to being able to clearly communicate your thinking to your reader. The topic sentence is the king or queen of the sentence and each line of the paragraph should support or elaborate upon that main thought. Transitions are used to help the reader move from one thought to the next, whether within a sentence, from sentence to sentence, or from paragraph to paragraph.

Part 7 Writing as a Logical Process (10:07)

Writing is a logical process, and a sentence is like a mathematical formula. Using levels of generality allows you to move from general to specific levels of detail. Sometimes you'll need to use more words to make your meaning clear to the reader. A piece of writing is not clear simply because it is brief.

Download the Logical Puzzles Handout

Part 8 Making Meaning Clear (9:13)

Logic doesn't flow naturally from mind to paper. You are responsible for writing a clear topic sentence and supporting it in a logical way. Transitions point out to the reader the logical connections between ideas, and order is important. Outlining will help you write effectively and more efficiently.

Part 9 Outlining (8:12)

Planning your writing will save you a great deal of time. Again, levels of generality come into play here, as does the structure of a paragraph. But don't focus on the skeleton of an outline, emphasize the content as you coordinate and subordinate your ideas. When you create an outline, step back and analyze it critically. You need to impose logic on your writing, then crystallize your logic by making specific connections.

Part 10 Headings, Figures, Rhythm, and Length (4:15)

Headings and subheadings used consistently help your reader see the structure of your writing. Tables, figures, and charts are powerful aids to making your meaning clear. But don't just present them to your reader; interpret their significance. Finally, you’ll also improve readability by varying the length and construction of your sentences.

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Redefining Scientific Thinking for Higher Education pp 203–232 Cite as

Developing Scientific Thinking and Research Skills Through the Research Thesis or Dissertation

  • Gina Wisker 3 , 4  
  • First Online: 22 September 2019

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This chapter explores higher level scientific thinking skills that research students need to develop during their research learning journeys towards their dissertation/thesis at postgraduate levels, and also final year undergraduate (Australian honours year) dissertation. A model of four quadrants is introduced. Practice and experience-informed examples are presented to show how higher order skills can be realised and embedded so that they become established ways of thinking, researching, creating, and expressing knowledge and understanding.

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Wisker, G. (2019). Developing Scientific Thinking and Research Skills Through the Research Thesis or Dissertation. In: Murtonen, M., Balloo, K. (eds) Redefining Scientific Thinking for Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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  • J Microbiol Biol Educ
  • v.12(2); 2011

Improving Scientific Research and Writing Skills through Peer Review and Empirical Group Learning †

Emilee senkevitch.

1 Department of Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742

Ann C. Smith

Gili marbach-ad.

2 Department of Teaching & Learning Center, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742

Wenxia Song

Associated data.

Appendix 2: Guide and Questions: Introduction section

Appendix 3: Guide and Questions: Methods and Results (MR) section

Appendix 4: Guide and Questions: Discussion section

Appendix 5: Guide for Analysis and Presentation of Research Results

Appendix 6: Guide for Group Research Paper

Appendix 7: Introduction Rubric

Appendix 8: MR Rubric

Appendix 9: Discussion Rubric

Appendix 10: Lab Report Rubric

Appendix 11: Analysis and Presentation of Research Results Rubric

Appendix 12: Peer Review Rubric of Group Research Paper

Appendix 13: Peer Review of individual contribution in a group

Appendix 14: Group Research Paper Rubric

Appendix 15: ROLA pre-assessment survey

Appendix 16: ROLA post-assessment survey

Appendix 17: Examples of Group Research Papers

Appendix 18: Examples of Peer Review Assignments

Appendix 19: Instructor Version of Procedure: Three Stages of Implementation

Appendix 20: Analysis of students’ perceptions

Here we describe a semester-long, multipart activity called “Read and wRite to reveal the Research process” (R 3 ) that was designed to teach students the elements of a scientific research paper. We implemented R 3 in an advanced immunology course. In R 3 , we paralleled the activities of reading, discussion, and presentation of relevant immunology work from primary research papers with student writing, discussion, and presentation of their own lab findings. We used reading, discussing, and writing activities to introduce students to the rationale for basic components of a scientific research paper, the method of composing a scientific paper, and the applications of course content to scientific research. As a final part of R 3 , students worked collaboratively to construct a Group Research Paper that reported on a hypothesis-driven research project, followed by a peer review activity that mimicked the last stage of the scientific publishing process. Assessment of student learning revealed a statistically significant gain in student performance on writing in the style of a research paper from the start of the semester to the end of the semester.


It is important for students majoring in science to develop basic skills in reading and writing scientific literature and to have a meaningful understanding of the research process as practiced by scientists. The aim of this semester-long, multipart activity, “Read and wRite to reveal the Research process” (R 3 ), was to engage students in reading primary scientific literature, writing scientific reports, and conducting research with the goal of increased understanding of the scientific research process in an authentic context. We linked the reading of primary research articles with scientific writing, data reporting, and the research conducting process, and then connected the students’ course experience to the scientific research process that addresses authentic research questions. R 3 was delivered in three sequential stages: Stage 1: Understanding research paper components, Stage 2: Learning to write a research paper, and Stage 3: Practicing scientific research and writing ( Fig. 1 ). The activities inherent in the design allowed students to develop and practice combined skills in scientific literature reading, research conducting, data processing and presenting, scientific writing, peer review, and working in groups.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is jmbe-12-2-157f1.jpg

A flow chart for the three stages of R 3 .

The R 3 could be applied to any science course where the goal is to increase student understanding of the research process and improve students’ writing skills through reading and discussion of primary literature. Here we present the application of R 3 to an immunology lab course.

Intended audience

R 3 is appropriate for application in an advanced undergraduate science course. Here we describe the application to an upper-level immunology laboratory course that was designed for microbiology and biology majors.

Learning and preparation time

In the immunology course, R 3 was implemented over a semester (14 weeks). Lab sessions met twice each week for two hours. R 3 was implemented in three stages ( Fig. 1 ):

  • Stage 1 (Week 1-3): Understanding research paper components
  • Stage 2 (Week 4-9): Learning to write a research paper
  • Stage 3 (Week 9-14): Practicing scientific research and writing

During Stage 1 and Stage 2, approximately twenty minutes was allowed in each class period for discussion of research papers and student presentations (Instructor Version). In Stage 3, all in-class time was devoted to practicing scientific research and writing; students planned, implemented group research projects, and wrote their final Group Research Paper. The last full class meeting was devoted to peer review.

Students also were required to complete work out of class for each stage. In Stage 1, students read Paper#1 in stages, composed responses to questions and wrote individual “Introduction,” “Methods/Results,” and “Discussion” sections (“Guide and Questions” for “Introduction” section, “Methods and Results” section, and “Discussion” Section in Appendix 2, 3, and 4 ). In Stage 2, students read Paper #2, prepared for discussion of “Introduction” section, analysis and oral presentation of selected data from Research Paper #2 ( Appendix 5 ), discussion of “Discussion” section, and wrote four complete lab reports. In Stage 3, students worked individually to prepare for the Group Research Project and then with their groups to complete the Group Research Paper ( Appendix 6 ).

Instructor preparation

We have provided research papers, student materials, lab project scenarios, and grading rubrics used in the implementation of R 3 in an immunology course. Project scenarios for Stage 3 were derived from primary research papers and were written based on the “Introduction” sections of these research articles ( 12 ). To apply R 3 to another course, it will be necessary for an instructor to choose research papers, compose discussion questions, and develop lab project scenarios, based on the course subject. Using our work as a guide, we expect this will take about one week of effort.

Assigning students to groups

Allow approximately one hour to assign students into groups using information from student-completed Group Building Questionnaires.

One graduate student teaching assistant (TA) was responsible for grading of all assignments for one lab section of students (18–20 students). Using specifically designed rubrics (Materials), grading of student assignments required 1–4 hours, depending on the length of the assignment. For courses with an enrollment of 20 students or less, it is expected that the course instructor should be able to manage the grading.

Prerequisite student knowledge

For our application to an immunology lab course, students were expected to have general knowledge of microbiology, cell biology, and genetics, and required to have an immunology lecture course as a pre- or corequisite.

Learning objectives

R 3 was part of a larger project involving the development of research-oriented learning activities (ROLA) in Host-Pathogen Interaction undergraduate courses (NSF DUE 0837515). ROLA development involved collaboration between faculty members of the Host Pathogen Interactions (HPI) teaching community ( 7 , 8 ) and selected research-active graduate students serving as HPI teaching fellows. For each ROLA, the faculty research was used as the inspiration or model system for the design. Development was approached using the Backward Design method ( 4 , 13 ), where learning goals and assessments were first established and then activities developed to meet the goals. The design of these activities was meant to help students develop higher-order thinking ( 1 , 9 ), a meaningful understanding of the process and the relevance of science ( 14 ), and cultivate skills in research and communication. In order to accomplish these goals, R 3 established the following learning goals. At the completion of the R 3 course students will:

  • Understand scientific research as illustrated in scientific research papers.
  • Understand the steps for writing and publishing research results.
  • Be able to process and present scientific data in an appropriate scientific fashion.
  • Be able to articulate the role of collaboration in the research process.
  • Understand how scientific techniques are employed in scientific research.
  • Be able to present scientific information in oral and written fashion using appropriate terminology.

We have set forth learning outcomes ( Table 1 ) to measure the progress that student make toward these goals.

Use of Backward Design to develop R 3 . Learning outcomes were established to meet the overall goals of the course design, followed by the development of assessment measures and student activities. Activities engaged students in reading and writing to reveal the scientific research process.

R 3 used primary scientific literature to engage students in learning scientific writing and research skills. Students completed reading, discussion (within a group of 4–5 and within a lab section of 20 students), and individual and collaborative writing activities connected to the primary research articles while learning immunology concepts from lectures and lab exercises. The student activities were completed in three stages where the scope and depth of the student work increased incrementally over the semester: Stage 1: Understanding research paper components; Stage 2: Learning to write a research paper; and Stage 3: Practicing scientific research and writing ( Table 2 ).

The organization of R 3 . R 3 consists of three stages with paired reading and writing assignments, which are coordinated with in-class and in-group discussion and lab activities. See text in “Three Stages of Implementation” (Appendix 19) for description of Stages and Parts.

Sources of primary literature

All open access immunology research journals, particularly Infection & Immunity and Journal of Experimental Medicine .

Instruction documents

  • Group Building Questionnaire ( Appendix 1 )
  • Guide and Questions: Introduction section ( Appendix 2 )
  • Guide and Questions: Methods and results (MR) section ( Appendix 3 )
  • Guide and Questions: Discussion section ( Appendix 4 )
  • Guide for Analysis and Presentation of Research Results ( Appendix 5 )
  • Guide for Group Research Paper ( Appendix 6 )

Assessment measures

  • Introduction Rubric ( Appendix 7 )
  • MR Rubric ( Appendix 8 )
  • Discussion Rubric ( Appendix 9 )
  • Lab Report Rubric ( Appendix 10 )
  • Analysis and Presentation of Research Results Rubric ( Appendix 11 )
  • Peer Review Rubric of Group Research Paper ( Appendix 12 )
  • Peer Review of individual contribution in a group ( Appendix 13 )
  • Group Research Paper Rubric ( Appendix 14 )
  • Assessments of student perceptions on the course:
  • ROLA pre-assessment ( Appendix 15 )
  • ROLA post-assessment ( Appendix 16 )

Student instructions

R 3 was carried out in three stages of learning in the immunology lab course as depicted in Table 2 . Written instructions are found in Appendix 2–6 .

Instructor version

Distribution of materials.

For distributing course materials, we used the Online University Learning Management System. Alternatively, materials could be emailed to students or distributed in class.

Group design

R 3 incorporated group work into student activities. We divided students into groups of 4–5 individuals. This size was selected as it falls in the range of effective group size for collaborative learning ( 2 , 5 ) and was related to the total number of students in each section of the class. To maximize diversity, students were asked to complete the Group Building Questionnaire ( Appendix 1 ), and were divided into groups with diversity in their majors, previously completed courses, previous research experience, and career goals. A participation grade was built into the overall semester grade. Students were reminded throughout the semester about this grade and that poor participation would negatively impact their grade. Throughout the semester, TAs monitored student participation during class discussions and observed groups during lab activities. TAs documented evidence of students not participating in discussions or not contributing to the lab activities; they tracked students who consistently did not pay attention or were disruptive during discussions. At the end of the semester, TAs ranked each student’s participation as “Exceptional,” “Acceptable,” or “Poor.” Also at the end of the semester, students anonymously rated fellow group members on contributions to the group research paper and to lab activities ( Appendix 13 ) on a scale of 1–10, with 10 indicating a significant contribution and 1 indicating little to no contribution to the group. When determining the final participation grade, we decided that students receiving a combination score of less than 5 from their group members and a TA participation grade of “Poor” received a 20% reduction in their overall participation grade (See Table 3 ).

Grading. The assignments in R 3 are worth a total of 300 points. The assignments in Stage 1 were designed to be “low stakes” assignments while the assignments in Stage 2 and 3 are considered more “high stakes” assignments. “Type of assignment” refers to individual or group work. In the case of group work, all members of the group received the same grade.

Pre- and postassessment

In the first and last class periods, students completed ROLA pre- and ROLA postassessments ( Appendix 15 and 16 ).

Three stages of implementation

For a more detailed description of each stage of R 3 , see Appendix 19 and Table 2 .

Stage 1: Understanding research paper components. Research Paper #1 sections of “Introduction,” “Methods and Results,” and “Discussion” were introduced separately and sequentially using the same three-step teaching strategy: guided reading, guided discussion, and guided writing.

  • Part a: Guided Reading of Research Paper #1 “Introduction”
  • Part b: Guided Discussion of Research Paper #1 “Introduction”
  • Part c: Guided Writing of Introduction Section

Stage 2: Learning to write a research paper. In Stage 2 students read Research Paper #2 and applied insights from Stage 1. The “Results” section of Research Paper #2 was analyzed and discussed in detail. Furthermore, students worked directly on data processing and presenting techniques using their lab generated data and then reported their work by writing four lab reports.

  • Part a: Guided Discussion of Research Paper #2 “Introduction”
  • Part b: Guided Analysis and Presentation of Research Results
  • Part c: Guided Discussion of Research Paper #2 “Discussion”
  • Part d: Guided Data Processing and Presentation
  • Part e: Writing a Full Lab Report

Stage 3: Practicing scientific research and writing. In the third stage of R 3 , student groups performed a Group Research Project that culminated in writing the Group Research Paper using the skills developed in Stage 1 and Stage 2.

  • Part a: Performing Hypothesis-based Group Research Project
  • Part b: Writing the Group Research Paper
  • Part c: Guided Peer Review of Group Research Papers

Instructors and TAs graded written assignments using rubrics ( Appendix 7–10 and 14 ). When a major deficiency was discovered during grading, it was discussed during a TA meeting, and an instructional strategy was proposed and carried out to address the deficiency in the following week. All of the assignments in the R 3 application discussed here were worth a total of 300 points. The breakdown of points awarded for each assignment is described in Table 3 .

Suggestions for determining student learning

Students’ improvements in writing were assessed during each of the three stages using the “Introduction Rubric” ( Appendix 7 ), “MR Rubric” ( Appendix 8 ), “Discussion Rubric” ( Appendix 9 ), “Lab Report Rubric” ( Appendix 10 ), and “Group Research Paper Rubric” ( Appendix 14 ). Student learning can be further assessed by the analysis and presentation of research results ( Appendix 11 ) and the ROLA pre- and postassessments ( Appendix 15 and 16 ).

Sample data

An example of one “Group Research Paper” has been included, with instructor comments ( Appendix 17 ). Peer reviews of the first draft of this “Group Research Paper” are also included ( Appendix 18 ).

Safety issues

Safety issues relate to the specific lab protocols are not relevant to the course design as we describe here.

Field testing

We implemented R 3 in an immunology lab course, which was a 400-level, two-credit course that required junior or senior standing. The immunology lab course was comprised of 35 seniors (18 females, 17 males) and split between two lab sections. The average GPA was 3.2, and all students were science majors.

A faculty member who was active in the immunological research was the instructor of the course. Graduate students who worked in immunology and immunology-related fields served as Teaching Assistants for the lab sessions. TAs met with the faculty instructor each week to review and discuss upcoming goals, assignments, grading, and lab activities for the week.

Evidence of student learning

Student learning was assessed at each stage of the project via a set of rubrics ( Appendix 7–11, 14 ) and ROLA pre- and postassessments ( Appendix 15, 16 ).

Goals 1-6 all related to students’ gains in understanding of the research process. The analysis of student work on the “Group Research Paper” and the peer review of that paper revealed student gains in all six learning goals. Assessment using the “Group Research Paper Rubric” revealed student’s understanding of the content and context of each section of a research paper indicating an understanding of scientific research as illustrated in scientific research papers (Goal 1). The success in completion of the Group Research Project and Report demonstrates enhanced ability of students to collaborate (Goal 4), to write scientifically (Goal 6), to apply scientific techniques to the scientific research process (Goal 5), and to process and present data (Goal 3). Students gained an understanding of the steps for writing and publishing research results as they constructed their own paper, peer reviewed other student’s papers, and then used the insight from the peer review process and comments from other students to rewrite their own final paper (Goal 6). Student’s success in completing the final group research paper was revealed in student scores as assessed by the Lab Report Rubric ( Table 4 ). The average grade on the Group Research Paper was 37.96/40, or 96%. An example of a “Group Research Paper” is included ( Appendix 17 ). The grade breakdown for this paper is “Group 1” in Table 4 . Instructor’s comments during the grading of this paper are included in the document.

Assessment of Group Research Reports. Each group of 4-5 students wrote a Group Research Report based the hypothesis-driven research project. The reports were graded using the rubric (Appendix 14). All the major sections of the report and total points that can be earned in each section are listed in the top row. The total points and the points of individual sections for each group are listed.

Student learning related to Goals 1–6 was attributed to R 3 . We compared student’s scores on Stage 1 writing assignments (that is, assignments prior to writing full lab reports) to scores on the final “Group Research Paper.” We compared student performance on the “Introduction,” “Methods/Results,” and “Discussion” writing activities with parallel sections of the “Group Research Paper.” All writing activities were assessed using the same rubric ( Appendix 7–9 and 14 ). We found that student grades in the “Introduction” ( p < 0.001) and “Discussion” ( p < 0.05) sections in Stage 3 of the “Group Research Papers” were significantly higher than grades on Stage 1 writing activities ( Fig. 2 ). This suggests that students made significant improvements in the writing of the “Introduction” (average grade increased from 87% to 96%), and the “Discussion” section (average grade increased from 85% to 94%), while maintaining a consistent grade on the “Methods/Results” section (average grade increased from 92% to 93%). The “Group Research Project” was more challenging than Stage 1 or Stage 2 activities, as students worked without instructor guidance to perform a set of experiments necessary to address real-world research questions. This was in contrast to Stage 1 and Stage 2 lab assignments where students completed projects that involved one experiment with instructor guidance. Furthermore, the “Group Research Project” required students to work collaboratively in their groups to analyze and interpret information from multiple sets of data, and to synthesize the information into one whole for presentation in a group authored report. The analysis of student learning portrayed in Fig. 2 does not account for the increase in the rigor of learning activities from Stage 1 to Stage 3 and, as such, we suggest this may reflect a minimal level of student development from the R 3 experience.

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Comparison of student writing during Stage 1 to student writing in Stage 3. Student performance (based upon Rubrics Appendix 7-9) on Stage 1 writing assignments: “Introduction,” “Methods/Results,” and “Discussion” were compared with student performance on the similar sections of the Stage 3 Group Research Report graded according to the same rubric (Appendix 14). Shown are average values and standard deviation (n = 27). The increase in student performance from Stage 1 activity to Stage 3 activity was statistically significant for the Introduction section ( p < 0.001) and Discussion section ( p < 0.05).

One of the major goals for R 3 was to engage students in higher-order thinking. Higher-order thinking, defined as the use of cognitive skills, was evaluated using Bloom’s Taxonomy ( 1 ). Writing assignments as assessed by the “Lab Report Rubric” required students to collect and organize information into appropriate sections, summarize and appropriately present data in tables and charts, interpret and evaluate data, assess significance of findings, and synthesize information into a readable text meeting the format of a research publication. The “Analysis and Presentation of Research Results” activity as assessed by the “Analysis and Presentation of Research Results Rubric” required students to formulate a presentation using PowerPoint presentation software that illustrated their assessment of the “results” section of a research article. In the peer review process, students evaluated the clarity, presentation, and appropriateness of work presented in students’ group research papers. Each of these activities falls within Bloom’s levels 4–6 that are considered higher-order thinking ( 3 ). As indicated by the scores on the end of semester “Group Research Paper,” students were successfully engaged in higher-level thinking.

Student perceptions

At the end of the semester, students completed a postassessment survey ( Appendix 16 ), which allowed them to report by using written prompts on their experience in the course. Our analysis of student perceptions is included in Appendix 20 ( 10 ).

Possible modifications

Based on our application of R 3 in the context of an immunology lab, we suggest that R 3 can be applied to any science course (lab or lecture). Research articles in any scientific field may be used in similar ways to introduce the scientific research process, scientific research paper writing, data analysis, and applications of course content to real-world questions. For a lecture course, we suggest that literature-based research reports may be used to substitute experiment-based lab reports and research reports. Current scientific scenarios and questions could be used as the topics of student writing assignments. Published scientific articles could be modeled for these writing assignments. We recommend that considerable time should be given to the process of choosing appropriate primary research papers prior to instituting this course design. We selected articles that were well-written, described a clear experimental design, and addressed specific immunology content and methods.

We suggest that based on the level and learning goals of a course, any one of the three stages of R 3 could be incorporated into a course as an individual module. It is our belief that using research articles to teach scientific reading and writing gives a course an authenticity that allows students to link the classroom experience with research science.


Appendix 1: Group Building Questionnaire


This project was supported by a National Science Foundation CCLI grant (DUE0837515) titled, “Activities to support deep and research oriented learning of host pathogen interactions”, a project of the Host Pathogen Interactions Teaching Team. We thank Ms. Heather Cohen, Heather Miller, and Trinity Perry to help teach the course as teaching assistants. The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

† Supplemental material available at

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Book Description: These modules are for academic and higher degree researchers who want to develop and extend the skills required in the contemporary research environment. (This set of modules is under development - check back regularly to find additional content.)

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Research and Writing Skills for Academic and Graduate Researchers is for higher degree students and academics who want to develop skills to assist them on their research journey, from the beginning stages of searching the literature and developing a research proposal, to writing and presentation skills, and on to managing their researcher profile and finding evidence of their research impact.

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This set of modules is under development – check back regularly to find additional content.

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The Ultimate Guide To Research Methodology

Research methodology is a crucial aspect of any investigative process, serving as the blueprint for the entire research journey. If you are stuck in the methodology section of your research paper , then this blog will guide you on what is a research methodology, its types and how to successfully conduct one. 

Table of Contents

What Is Research Methodology?

Research methodology can be defined as the systematic framework that guides researchers in designing, conducting, and analyzing their investigations. It encompasses a structured set of processes, techniques, and tools employed to gather and interpret data, ensuring the reliability and validity of the research findings. 

Research methodology is not confined to a singular approach; rather, it encapsulates a diverse range of methods tailored to the specific requirements of the research objectives.

Here is why Research methodology is important in academic and professional settings.

Facilitating Rigorous Inquiry

Research methodology forms the backbone of rigorous inquiry. It provides a structured approach that aids researchers in formulating precise thesis statements , selecting appropriate methodologies, and executing systematic investigations. This, in turn, enhances the quality and credibility of the research outcomes.

Ensuring Reproducibility And Reliability

In both academic and professional contexts, the ability to reproduce research outcomes is paramount. A well-defined research methodology establishes clear procedures, making it possible for others to replicate the study. This not only validates the findings but also contributes to the cumulative nature of knowledge.

Guiding Decision-Making Processes

In professional settings, decisions often hinge on reliable data and insights. Research methodology equips professionals with the tools to gather pertinent information, analyze it rigorously, and derive meaningful conclusions.

This informed decision-making is instrumental in achieving organizational goals and staying ahead in competitive environments.

Contributing To Academic Excellence

For academic researchers, adherence to robust research methodology is a hallmark of excellence. Institutions value research that adheres to high standards of methodology, fostering a culture of academic rigour and intellectual integrity. Furthermore, it prepares students with critical skills applicable beyond academia.

Enhancing Problem-Solving Abilities

Research methodology instills a problem-solving mindset by encouraging researchers to approach challenges systematically. It equips individuals with the skills to dissect complex issues, formulate hypotheses , and devise effective strategies for investigation.

Understanding Research Methodology

In the pursuit of knowledge and discovery, understanding the fundamentals of research methodology is paramount. 

Basics Of Research

Research, in its essence, is a systematic and organized process of inquiry aimed at expanding our understanding of a particular subject or phenomenon. It involves the exploration of existing knowledge, the formulation of hypotheses, and the collection and analysis of data to draw meaningful conclusions. 

Research is a dynamic and iterative process that contributes to the continuous evolution of knowledge in various disciplines.

Types of Research

Research takes on various forms, each tailored to the nature of the inquiry. Broadly classified, research can be categorized into two main types:

  • Quantitative Research: This type involves the collection and analysis of numerical data to identify patterns, relationships, and statistical significance. It is particularly useful for testing hypotheses and making predictions.
  • Qualitative Research: Qualitative research focuses on understanding the depth and details of a phenomenon through non-numerical data. It often involves methods such as interviews, focus groups, and content analysis, providing rich insights into complex issues.

Components Of Research Methodology

To conduct effective research, one must go through the different components of research methodology. These components form the scaffolding that supports the entire research process, ensuring its coherence and validity.

Research Design

Research design serves as the blueprint for the entire research project. It outlines the overall structure and strategy for conducting the study. The three primary types of research design are:

  • Exploratory Research: Aimed at gaining insights and familiarity with the topic, often used in the early stages of research.
  • Descriptive Research: Involves portraying an accurate profile of a situation or phenomenon, answering the ‘what,’ ‘who,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when’ questions.
  • Explanatory Research: Seeks to identify the causes and effects of a phenomenon, explaining the ‘why’ and ‘how.’

Data Collection Methods

Choosing the right data collection methods is crucial for obtaining reliable and relevant information. Common methods include:

  • Surveys and Questionnaires: Employed to gather information from a large number of respondents through standardized questions.
  • Interviews: In-depth conversations with participants, offering qualitative insights.
  • Observation: Systematic watching and recording of behaviour, events, or processes in their natural setting.

Data Analysis Techniques

Once data is collected, analysis becomes imperative to derive meaningful conclusions. Different methodologies exist for quantitative and qualitative data:

  • Quantitative Data Analysis: Involves statistical techniques such as descriptive statistics, inferential statistics, and regression analysis to interpret numerical data.
  • Qualitative Data Analysis: Methods like content analysis, thematic analysis, and grounded theory are employed to extract patterns, themes, and meanings from non-numerical data.

The research paper we write have:

  • Precision and Clarity
  • Zero Plagiarism
  • High-level Encryption
  • Authentic Sources

Choosing a Research Method

Selecting an appropriate research method is a critical decision in the research process. It determines the approach, tools, and techniques that will be used to answer the research questions. 

Quantitative Research Methods

Quantitative research involves the collection and analysis of numerical data, providing a structured and objective approach to understanding and explaining phenomena.

Experimental Research

Experimental research involves manipulating variables to observe the effect on another variable under controlled conditions. It aims to establish cause-and-effect relationships.

Key Characteristics:

  • Controlled Environment: Experiments are conducted in a controlled setting to minimize external influences.
  • Random Assignment: Participants are randomly assigned to different experimental conditions.
  • Quantitative Data: Data collected is numerical, allowing for statistical analysis.

Applications: Commonly used in scientific studies and psychology to test hypotheses and identify causal relationships.

Survey Research

Survey research gathers information from a sample of individuals through standardized questionnaires or interviews. It aims to collect data on opinions, attitudes, and behaviours.

  • Structured Instruments: Surveys use structured instruments, such as questionnaires, to collect data.
  • Large Sample Size: Surveys often target a large and diverse group of participants.
  • Quantitative Data Analysis: Responses are quantified for statistical analysis.

Applications: Widely employed in social sciences, marketing, and public opinion research to understand trends and preferences.

Descriptive Research

Descriptive research seeks to portray an accurate profile of a situation or phenomenon. It focuses on answering the ‘what,’ ‘who,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when’ questions.

  • Observation and Data Collection: This involves observing and documenting without manipulating variables.
  • Objective Description: Aim to provide an unbiased and factual account of the subject.
  • Quantitative or Qualitative Data: T his can include both types of data, depending on the research focus.

Applications: Useful in situations where researchers want to understand and describe a phenomenon without altering it, common in social sciences and education.

Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative research emphasizes exploring and understanding the depth and complexity of phenomena through non-numerical data.

A case study is an in-depth exploration of a particular person, group, event, or situation. It involves detailed, context-rich analysis.

  • Rich Data Collection: Uses various data sources, such as interviews, observations, and documents.
  • Contextual Understanding: Aims to understand the context and unique characteristics of the case.
  • Holistic Approach: Examines the case in its entirety.

Applications: Common in social sciences, psychology, and business to investigate complex and specific instances.


Ethnography involves immersing the researcher in the culture or community being studied to gain a deep understanding of their behaviours, beliefs, and practices.

  • Participant Observation: Researchers actively participate in the community or setting.
  • Holistic Perspective: Focuses on the interconnectedness of cultural elements.
  • Qualitative Data: In-depth narratives and descriptions are central to ethnographic studies.

Applications: Widely used in anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies to explore and document cultural practices.

Grounded Theory

Grounded theory aims to develop theories grounded in the data itself. It involves systematic data collection and analysis to construct theories from the ground up.

  • Constant Comparison: Data is continually compared and analyzed during the research process.
  • Inductive Reasoning: Theories emerge from the data rather than being imposed on it.
  • Iterative Process: The research design evolves as the study progresses.

Applications: Commonly applied in sociology, nursing, and management studies to generate theories from empirical data.

Research design is the structural framework that outlines the systematic process and plan for conducting a study. It serves as the blueprint, guiding researchers on how to collect, analyze, and interpret data.

Exploratory, Descriptive, And Explanatory Designs

Exploratory design.

Exploratory research design is employed when a researcher aims to explore a relatively unknown subject or gain insights into a complex phenomenon.

  • Flexibility: Allows for flexibility in data collection and analysis.
  • Open-Ended Questions: Uses open-ended questions to gather a broad range of information.
  • Preliminary Nature: Often used in the initial stages of research to formulate hypotheses.

Applications: Valuable in the early stages of investigation, especially when the researcher seeks a deeper understanding of a subject before formalizing research questions.

Descriptive Design

Descriptive research design focuses on portraying an accurate profile of a situation, group, or phenomenon.

  • Structured Data Collection: Involves systematic and structured data collection methods.
  • Objective Presentation: Aims to provide an unbiased and factual account of the subject.
  • Quantitative or Qualitative Data: Can incorporate both types of data, depending on the research objectives.

Applications: Widely used in social sciences, marketing, and educational research to provide detailed and objective descriptions.

Explanatory Design

Explanatory research design aims to identify the causes and effects of a phenomenon, explaining the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind observed relationships.

  • Causal Relationships: Seeks to establish causal relationships between variables.
  • Controlled Variables : Often involves controlling certain variables to isolate causal factors.
  • Quantitative Analysis: Primarily relies on quantitative data analysis techniques.

Applications: Commonly employed in scientific studies and social sciences to delve into the underlying reasons behind observed patterns.

Cross-Sectional Vs. Longitudinal Designs

Cross-sectional design.

Cross-sectional designs collect data from participants at a single point in time.

  • Snapshot View: Provides a snapshot of a population at a specific moment.
  • Efficiency: More efficient in terms of time and resources.
  • Limited Temporal Insights: Offers limited insights into changes over time.

Applications: Suitable for studying characteristics or behaviours that are stable or not expected to change rapidly.

Longitudinal Design

Longitudinal designs involve the collection of data from the same participants over an extended period.

  • Temporal Sequence: Allows for the examination of changes over time.
  • Causality Assessment: Facilitates the assessment of cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Resource-Intensive: Requires more time and resources compared to cross-sectional designs.

Applications: Ideal for studying developmental processes, trends, or the impact of interventions over time.

Experimental Vs Non-experimental Designs

Experimental design.

Experimental designs involve manipulating variables under controlled conditions to observe the effect on another variable.

  • Causality Inference: Enables the inference of cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Quantitative Data: Primarily involves the collection and analysis of numerical data.

Applications: Commonly used in scientific studies, psychology, and medical research to establish causal relationships.

Non-Experimental Design

Non-experimental designs observe and describe phenomena without manipulating variables.

  • Natural Settings: Data is often collected in natural settings without intervention.
  • Descriptive or Correlational: Focuses on describing relationships or correlations between variables.
  • Quantitative or Qualitative Data: This can involve either type of data, depending on the research approach.

Applications: Suitable for studying complex phenomena in real-world settings where manipulation may not be ethical or feasible.

Effective data collection is fundamental to the success of any research endeavour. 

Designing Effective Surveys

Objective Design:

  • Clearly define the research objectives to guide the survey design.
  • Craft questions that align with the study’s goals and avoid ambiguity.

Structured Format:

  • Use a structured format with standardized questions for consistency.
  • Include a mix of closed-ended and open-ended questions for detailed insights.

Pilot Testing:

  • Conduct pilot tests to identify and rectify potential issues with survey design.
  • Ensure clarity, relevance, and appropriateness of questions.

Sampling Strategy:

  • Develop a robust sampling strategy to ensure a representative participant group.
  • Consider random sampling or stratified sampling based on the research goals.

Conducting Interviews

Establishing Rapport:

  • Build rapport with participants to create a comfortable and open environment.
  • Clearly communicate the purpose of the interview and the value of participants’ input.

Open-Ended Questions:

  • Frame open-ended questions to encourage detailed responses.
  • Allow participants to express their thoughts and perspectives freely.

Active Listening:

  • Practice active listening to understand areas and gather rich data.
  • Avoid interrupting and maintain a non-judgmental stance during the interview.

Ethical Considerations:

  • Obtain informed consent and assure participants of confidentiality.
  • Be transparent about the study’s purpose and potential implications.


1. participant observation.

Immersive Participation:

  • Actively immerse yourself in the setting or group being observed.
  • Develop a deep understanding of behaviours, interactions, and context.

Field Notes:

  • Maintain detailed and reflective field notes during observations.
  • Document observed patterns, unexpected events, and participant reactions.

Ethical Awareness:

  • Be conscious of ethical considerations, ensuring respect for participants.
  • Balance the role of observer and participant to minimize bias.

2. Non-participant Observation

Objective Observation:

  • Maintain a more detached and objective stance during non-participant observation.
  • Focus on recording behaviours, events, and patterns without direct involvement.

Data Reliability:

  • Enhance the reliability of data by reducing observer bias.
  • Develop clear observation protocols and guidelines.

Contextual Understanding:

  • Strive for a thorough understanding of the observed context.
  • Consider combining non-participant observation with other methods for triangulation.

Archival Research

1. using existing data.

Identifying Relevant Archives:

  • Locate and access archives relevant to the research topic.
  • Collaborate with institutions or repositories holding valuable data.

Data Verification:

  • Verify the accuracy and reliability of archived data.
  • Cross-reference with other sources to ensure data integrity.

Ethical Use:

  • Adhere to ethical guidelines when using existing data.
  • Respect copyright and intellectual property rights.

2. Challenges and Considerations

Incomplete or Inaccurate Archives:

  • Address the possibility of incomplete or inaccurate archival records.
  • Acknowledge limitations and uncertainties in the data.

Temporal Bias:

  • Recognize potential temporal biases in archived data.
  • Consider the historical context and changes that may impact interpretation.

Access Limitations:

  • Address potential limitations in accessing certain archives.
  • Seek alternative sources or collaborate with institutions to overcome barriers.

Common Challenges in Research Methodology

Conducting research is a complex and dynamic process, often accompanied by a myriad of challenges. Addressing these challenges is crucial to ensure the reliability and validity of research findings.

Sampling Issues

Sampling bias:.

  • The presence of sampling bias can lead to an unrepresentative sample, affecting the generalizability of findings.
  • Employ random sampling methods and ensure the inclusion of diverse participants to reduce bias.

Sample Size Determination:

  • Determining an appropriate sample size is a delicate balance. Too small a sample may lack statistical power, while an excessively large sample may strain resources.
  • Conduct a power analysis to determine the optimal sample size based on the research objectives and expected effect size.

Data Quality And Validity

Measurement error:.

  • Inaccuracies in measurement tools or data collection methods can introduce measurement errors, impacting the validity of results.
  • Pilot test instruments, calibrate equipment, and use standardized measures to enhance the reliability of data.

Construct Validity:

  • Ensuring that the chosen measures accurately capture the intended constructs is a persistent challenge.
  • Use established measurement instruments and employ multiple measures to assess the same construct for triangulation.

Time And Resource Constraints

Timeline pressures:.

  • Limited timeframes can compromise the depth and thoroughness of the research process.
  • Develop a realistic timeline, prioritize tasks, and communicate expectations with stakeholders to manage time constraints effectively.

Resource Availability:

  • Inadequate resources, whether financial or human, can impede the execution of research activities.
  • Seek external funding, collaborate with other researchers, and explore alternative methods that require fewer resources.

Managing Bias in Research

Selection bias:.

  • Selecting participants in a way that systematically skews the sample can introduce selection bias.
  • Employ randomization techniques, use stratified sampling, and transparently report participant recruitment methods.

Confirmation Bias:

  • Researchers may unintentionally favour information that confirms their preconceived beliefs or hypotheses.
  • Adopt a systematic and open-minded approach, use blinded study designs, and engage in peer review to mitigate confirmation bias.

Tips On How To Write A Research Methodology

Conducting successful research relies not only on the application of sound methodologies but also on strategic planning and effective collaboration. Here are some tips to enhance the success of your research methodology:

Tip 1. Clear Research Objectives

Well-defined research objectives guide the entire research process. Clearly articulate the purpose of your study, outlining specific research questions or hypotheses.

Tip 2. Comprehensive Literature Review

A thorough literature review provides a foundation for understanding existing knowledge and identifying gaps. Invest time in reviewing relevant literature to inform your research design and methodology.

Tip 3. Detailed Research Plan

A detailed plan serves as a roadmap, ensuring all aspects of the research are systematically addressed. Develop a detailed research plan outlining timelines, milestones, and tasks.

Tip 4. Ethical Considerations

Ethical practices are fundamental to maintaining the integrity of research. Address ethical considerations early, obtain necessary approvals, and ensure participant rights are safeguarded.

Tip 5. Stay Updated On Methodologies

Research methodologies evolve, and staying updated is essential for employing the most effective techniques. Engage in continuous learning by attending workshops, conferences, and reading recent publications.

Tip 6. Adaptability In Methods

Unforeseen challenges may arise during research, necessitating adaptability in methods. Be flexible and willing to modify your approach when needed, ensuring the integrity of the study.

Tip 7. Iterative Approach

Research is often an iterative process, and refining methods based on ongoing findings enhance the study’s robustness. Regularly review and refine your research design and methods as the study progresses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the research methodology.

Research methodology is the systematic process of planning, executing, and evaluating scientific investigation. It encompasses the techniques, tools, and procedures used to collect, analyze, and interpret data, ensuring the reliability and validity of research findings.

What are the methodologies in research?

Research methodologies include qualitative and quantitative approaches. Qualitative methods involve in-depth exploration of non-numerical data, while quantitative methods use statistical analysis to examine numerical data. Mixed methods combine both approaches for a comprehensive understanding of research questions.

How to write research methodology?

To write a research methodology, clearly outline the study’s design, data collection, and analysis procedures. Specify research tools, participants, and sampling methods. Justify choices and discuss limitations. Ensure clarity, coherence, and alignment with research objectives for a robust methodology section.

How to write the methodology section of a research paper?

In the methodology section of a research paper, describe the study’s design, data collection, and analysis methods. Detail procedures, tools, participants, and sampling. Justify choices, address ethical considerations, and explain how the methodology aligns with research objectives, ensuring clarity and rigour.

What is mixed research methodology?

Mixed research methodology combines both qualitative and quantitative research approaches within a single study. This approach aims to enhance the details and depth of research findings by providing a more comprehensive understanding of the research problem or question.

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Systematic review article, research competencies to develop academic reading and writing: a systematic literature review.

research methodology and writing skills

  • Tecnologico de Monterrey, Escuela de Humanidades y Educación, Monterrey, Mexico

Rationale: The development of research skills in the higher education environment is a necessity because universities must be concerned about training professionals who use the methods of science to transform reality. Furthermore, within research competencies, consideration must be given to those that allow for the development of academic reading and writing in university students since this is a field that requires considerable attention from the educational field at the higher level.

Objective: This study aims to conduct a systematic review of the literature that allows the analysis of studies related to the topics of research competencies and the development of academic reading and writing.

Method: The search was performed by considering the following quality criteria: (1) Is the context in which the research is conducted at higher education institutions? (2) Is the development of academic reading and writing considered? (3) Are innovation processes related to the development of academic reading and writing considered? The articles analyzed were published between 2015 and 2019.

Results: Forty-two papers were considered for analysis after following the quality criterion questions. Finally, the topics addressed in the analysis were as follows: theoretical–conceptual trends in educational innovation studies, dominant trends and methodological tools, findings in research competencies for innovation in academic literacy development, types of innovations related to the development of academic reading and writing, recommendations for future studies on research competencies and for the processes of academic reading and writing and research challenges for the research competencies and academic reading and writing processes.

Conclusion: It was possible to identify the absence of studies about research skills to develop academic literacy through innovative models that effectively integrate the analysis of these three elements.


Research skills today must be developed in such a way that students in higher education will be enabled to make them their own for good. This type of competencies is given fundamentally in the aspects of methodological domain, information gathering and the management of document-writing norms and technological tools. Furthermore, the usefulness of the existence of mediating didactics is recognized ( Aguirre, 2016 ). The competencies considered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in its skills strategy are the following: the development of relevant competencies, the activation of those competencies in the labor market and the use of those competencies effectively for the economy and society ( OECD, 2017 ). The research competences established by Mogonea and Remus Mogonea (2019) from the implementation of a pedagogical research project are as follows: the acquisition of new knowledge, the identification of educational problems, synthesis and argumentation, metacognition, knowledge of new research methods, the possibility of developing research tools and the interpretation and dissemination of results. Research skills work for various disciplines and can even link them. Some studies have affirmed the value of facilitating interactions between researchers from different research fields within a discipline ( Hills and Richards, 2013 ). Therefore, research competencies are approached from distinct perspectives. In this study, the focus is on those that allow for the development of academic reading and writing, because it is an area that requires a boost because it is basic for undergraduate students to be able to understand texts of different kinds and to be able to write with academic rigor.

Academic writing is one aspect that has been focussed on in the educational context. It is a multiple construction that unites such essential elements as the understanding of the scientific field and the understanding of scientific research methodology, statistical knowledge and the understanding of the culture of native and foreign languages ( Lamanauskas, 2019 ). Currently, a change in expectations has emerged around academic writing, and it has become increasingly evident that a much longer and gradual orientation in the process of research and information gathering is desirable to better meet the needs of contemporary students ( Hamilton, 2018 ). On the basis of historical emphasis on writing instruction, five approaches are illustrated, namely, skills, creative writing, process, social practice, and socio-cultural perspective ( Kwak, 2017 ). Academic writing is thus conceived as a way in which young people can construct their own according to elements that provide academic rigor through an efficient interaction with texts.

Academic reading and writing are a fundamental part of the context of higher education. Academic reading and writing also includes the learning of foreign languages as the gender-based approach to the teaching of writing has been found to be useful in promoting the development of literacy through the explicit teaching of characteristics, functions, and options of grammar and vocabulary that are available to interpret and produce various specific genres ( Trojan, 2016 ). Young university students come from a system of basic and upper secondary education in which the fundamental thing was to learn through the repetition of texts, but now their ideas, knowledge, capacity for analysis and critical thinking are a central aspect ( Bazerman, 2014 ). Understanding reading practices and needs in the context of information seeking can refine our understanding of the choices and preferences of users for information sources (such as textbooks, articles, and multimedia content) and media (such as printed and digital tools used for reading) ( Carlino, 2013 ; Lopatovska and Sessions, 2016 ). In this sense, it is useful to consider academic literacy, a name that Carlino (2013) has given to teaching process that may (or may not) be put in place to facilitate students' access to the different written cultures of the disciplines (p. 370). Currently, the many ways in which students perform the process of academic reading and writing must be addressed so that an improvement in the process can be attained.

Within the study of research competencies for the development of academic reading and writing, theoretical–conceptual trends and methodological designs play an important role. Ramírez-Montoya and Valenzuela (2019) considered psychopedagogical, socio-cultural, use and development of technology, disciplinary and educational management studies as theoretical–conceptual trends. According to Harwell (2014) , for methodological analysis, the categories of experimental design, quasi-experimental design, pre-experimental design, and within quantitative methods are used, and for qualitative methods, phenomenological, narrative and case studies, grounded theory and ethnography are contemplated. Documentary research is also added because there are studies on this type related to the subject, which are considered to be excluded.

In the research field, the findings and innovation that are increasingly present are a fundamental part. For the area of findings, the classification contemplated by Ramírez-Montoya and Lugo-Ocando (2020) must be considered. The author commented that innovation can create a new process (organization, method, strategy, development, procedure, training, and technique), a new product (technology, article, instrument, material, device, application, manufacture, result, object, and prototype), a new service (attention, provision, assistance, action, function, dependence, and benefit) or new knowledge (transformation, impact, evolution, cognition, discernment, knowledge, talent, patent, model, and system). Various types of innovation are available, such as those addressed by Valenzuela and Valencia (2017) which consider the following: (a) continuous innovation: when small deviations in educational practices accumulate, they translate into profound changes; (b) systematic: it is methodical and ordered like the innovation of continuous improvement, but the scope and novelty of its changes may vary and even lead to substantial changes; and (c) disruptive: they are new contributions to the world and generate fundamental changes in the activities, structure and functioning of organizations. Another type of innovation is open innovation, which is defined by Chesbrough (2006) as the deliberate use of knowledge inputs and outputs to accelerate internal innovation and expand it for the external use of innovation in markets. Educational purposes and divergent contexts can determine the type of innovation applied.

Many factors converge in the development of academic reading and writing. Digital skills are essential elements in enriching academic reading and writing. In the framework for the development and understanding of digital competences in Europe, five areas of digital competences exist, namely, (a) information: judging its relevance and purpose through identifying, locating, retrieving, storing, organizing, and analyzing digital information; (b) communication: taking place in digital environments or using digital tools to link to others and interacting in networked communities; (c) content creation: some elements include creating and editing new content and enforcing intellectual property rights and licenses; (d) security: personal protection, protection of digital identity, and safe and sustainable use and (e) problem solving: some aspects include making informed decisions about which digital tools are best suited for which purpose or need, creatively using technologies and updating the skills of individuals ( Ferrari, 2013 ). The changing environment of higher education offers an uncertain information ecosystem that requires greater responsibility on the part of students to create new knowledge and to select and use information appropriately ( Association of College Research Libraries, 2000 ). The Association of College and Research Libraries 2016 includes some key information literacy (IL) concepts: information creation as a process, information as value, research as inquiry and search as strategic exploration. Academic literacy can be better developed if IL and digital competencies are considered.

Research studies have presented challenges that must be considered for future research. Within the research gaps addressed in the classification of Kroll et al. (2018) for the study of research competencies, some of the categories are appropriate: Research Topic (RT) 1: Collaboration, RT2: Feasibility, RT3: Knowledge Sharing, RT4: Research Opportunities and RT6: Skill Differences. Critical thinking and academic literacy are considered amongst the challenges for developing academic writing from research skills. The first is considered as the process that involves conceptualization, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of the information collected from observation and experience as a guide for belief and action ( Sellars et al., 2018 ). Academic literacy according to Solimine and Garcia-Quismondo (2020) grows within a competency-based educational model, in which competencies are recognized as the developments in the learners of informational behaviors and attitudes that make them expert evaluators of digital and virtual web contents to obtain knowledge and know-how. Reflection and critical thinking are basic elements for an adequate interaction in digital media.

Several items were identified from mapping and systematic literature reviews related to the topics of research skills and academic literacy development. Abu and Alheet (2019) conducted a study to identify those competencies that an individual must possess to be a good researcher. A competency-based assessment throughout the research training process to more objectively evaluate the development of doctoral students and early career scientists is proposed by Verderame et al. (2018) . Moreover, Zetina et al. (2017) concluded that designing strategies for the adequate development of research competencies with the purpose of training sufficiently qualified young researchers is crucial. Walton and Cleland (2017) also presented qualitative research with the purpose of establishing whether students as part of a degree module can demonstrate through their online textual publications their IL skills as a discursive competence and social practice. Lopatovska and Sessions (2016) conducted a study examining reading strategies in relation to information-seeking stages, tasks and reading media in an academic setting.

This study aims to determine how the three elements present in the quality criteria (research skills, academic reading and writing and innovation processes) of this systematic review of the literature can be linked so that they can serve as a basis for identifying which research skills can be used to develop academic reading and writing in higher education contexts through innovative models. IL is presented as a fundamental competence because for the adequate development of academic reading and writing, university students must be able to perform efficiently in the search, selection and treatment of information.

The method followed for the present research was the systematic review of literature [based on Kitchenham and Charters (2007) ], which considers within the phases to follow the review of a protocol to specify the research question. The search started with the articles that emerged from a systematic mapping of literature that was previously carried out; subsequently, quality criteria were defined that allowed refining the selection of articles for the systematic literature review, inclusion and exclusion criteria were also determined, and six research questions were also established for the analysis of the articles.

Research Questions

The starting point was to locate themes that were of interest for investigating writing processes within the framework of research skills and educational innovation to establish research questions. Six questions were located, and possible systems for classifying answers were studied on the basis of the literature. Table 1 lists the questions that guided the study.

Table 1 . Research questions and kind of answers in the systematic literature review.

Search Strategy

In a systematic mapping of literature (SML) that was previously conducted, the search strings shown in Table 2 were used. The search criteria are explained below.

Table 2 . Search strings in Scopus and WOS.

On the basis of the 345 articles that emerged from the search process that was conducted for the previous SML, the following quality criteria were considered for the selection of the articles to be included in this SLR: (a) Is the context in which the study is conducted in higher education institutions, (b) Is the development of academic reading and writing considered?, and (c) Are innovation processes related to the development of academic reading and writing considered? It was contemplated that they would cover at least two of three points to define the articles that would remain for the analysis. In the first instance, 52 articles were left, but those whose language was different from English and Spanish were later excluded, given the poor representativeness of articles written in other languages. Therefore, only 42 papers were finally analyzed.

Inclusion, Exclusion, and Quality Criteria

The inclusion and exclusion criteria must capture and incorporate the questions that the SLR seeks to answer, and the criteria must also be practical to apply. If they are too detailed, then the selection may be excessively complicated and lengthy. For the systematic mapping, the disciplinary areas that had the highest number of articles were Education (40%) and Medicine (36%). For the systematic review of the literature, it was considered that the context for the selection of articles should be limited to higher education institutions. Table 3 shows the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the SML and the quality criteria for article selection.

Table 3 . Inclusion, exclusion, and quality criteria.

Finally, after applying the quality criteria, there were 42 articles left to be analyzed in the SLR, which are shown in Table 4 below.

Table 4 . Articles that were analyzed.

RQ1 What are the theoretical–conceptual trends in educational innovation studies observed in the research skill articles?

The 42 articles analyzed the disciplinary approaches according to the Library of Congress Classification, which made it possible to place them in the six disciplines referred to in this study and allowed their correspondence with the theoretical–conceptual trends of educational innovation (psychopedagogical, socio-cultural, disciplinary, use and development of technology and educational management), where a greater preponderance was found in articles under the heading of Psychopedagogical Studies (1, 2, 7, 8, 16–18, 20, 22, 24, 29, 30, 32, 34–36, 38), as shown in Figure 2 .

The disciplinary approach allows for the consideration of which areas the research topic has the greatest influence on and is generating the most interest for study. In carrying out systematic literature mappings, identifying the disciplinary areas that have a greater presence is highly useful because it serves as a basis for determining which area or areas can be focussed on for future systematic literature reviews.

RQ2 What are the dominant trends and methodological tools observed in the research skill articles?

The study addressed the different research methods: quantitative, qualitative and mixed method. The classification used is shown in Figure 3 and allows identifying that in the experimental design the quantitative method predominated (4, 5, 10, 14, 21, 27, 30, 31), on the other hand in the documentary research there was a predominance of the qualitative method (6–8, 18, 26, 36–38, 41, 42).

To have a more detailed idea of the trend of the methods used in the articles that deal with the analysis of research skills for academic literacy development, starting only from the three main methods is insufficient. Having a sub-classification that allows us to know the types of research designs that are performed in each method is a must. Presenting the specific research design allows for more detailed information, especially if the entire process followed in the research method is clearly explained.

RQ3 What are the findings in research skills for innovation in academic literacy development?

The findings focussed on four categories: (1) new knowledge (1, 3, 7, 9, 15, 20, 21, 24, 27, 29, 30, 32, 34–36) which were stated in this category when referring to transformation, impact, evolution, cognition, dissent, knowledge, talent, patent, model or system. For instance, Article 1 was considered because it talks about how students acquired knowledge about the choice of an appropriate research instrument and learned to articulate their identity as researchers, and Article 20 was considered in this category because the study investigated whether the teaching of communicative languages helps develop the critical thinking of students; (2) new process (2, 4–6, 8, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 22, 23, 25, 28, 37–42), the findings in this category considered an organization, a method, a strategy, a development, a procedure, a training or a technique, e.g., Article 2, were considered as the students who participated in the process of becoming good scholars by using appropriate online publications to create valid arguments by evaluating the work of others and Article 22, as this study analyses the strategies activated by a group of 36 Portuguese university students when faced with an academic writing practice in Spanish as a foreign language; (3) new product (10), findings were considered in this category when considering a technology, an article, a tool, a material, a device, an application, a manufacture, a result, an object or a prototype, e.g., Article 10 was integrated because the document illustrates the development of an online portal and a mobile application aimed at promoting student motivation and engagement; (4) new service (11, 13, 17, 26, 31, 33), the findings were stated in this category when considering elements, such as attention, provision, assistance, action, function, dependence or benefit, e.g., Article 17 that presents the Summer Science Program in México, which aims to provide university students with research competence and Article 33, as it states that online academic networks have been established as spaces for academics from all countries and as outlets for their insight and literacy. Below are the key words that appeared most often in each category in Figure 4 .

Innovation is present in the findings found in the articles through the idea that it starts from something existing to generate something new, gives a new meaning and a new idea through elements, such as those considered in the classification used in this systematic review of literature. Innovative elements do not necessarily have to contemplate technology, innovating can consist of providing new solutions that respond to specific needs, which can be useful not only in economic and social scenarios but also in the educational context.

RQ4 What types of innovations related to the development of academic reading and writing emerge from the studies consulted?

The categories on which the classification of the types of innovation focussed were the following: continuous, systematic, disruptive and open. In continuous innovation, the keywords change, competency, improve, solution and training were placed. In systematic innovation, the keywords were competency, development, explore, needs, self-perception, skills, and solution. In disruptive innovation, the keywords were online courses and organizational support. In open innovation, the keywords global, links and ICTS were located. In the systematic category, more articles were about development (2, 5–7, 11, 13, 14, 16, 21–23, 27, 28, 32, 35, 42), as shown in Figure 5 .

The distinct types of innovation allow us to know at what level an innovation is being conducted to know how much emphasis is given to the part of generating innovation within research if it is considered something that occurs gradually or if, on the contrary, it is considered that it requires drastic changes that can be generated even immediately. Moreover, nowadays, open innovation has become increasingly important, especially in the field of higher education where knowledge repositories are now considered open spaces.

RQ5 What are the recommendations that the authors give for future studies on research skills and for the processes of academic reading and writing?

The study first identified the recommendations that the authors made for future studies in the framework of research skills and academic literacy processes. Subsequently, the categories presented in Figure 6 were established. The item that had the most presence around the category of Information was the digital element because it was considered in some studies that learning had a positive effect through the use of digital resources (6, 11, 13, 15, 29, 31, 41, 42).

Today, in the digital economy, the role of knowledge production in information systems is increasing dramatically. The same is true in the field of education; therefore, making appropriate use of these digital resources in accordance with the stated research purposes is necessary. The digital era is complex and requires flexible education that enhances new skills, and higher education students must be trained to efficiently use the wide diversity of digital resources now available to them and to perform well in virtual environments.

RQ6 What are the research challenges for the research skills and academic reading and writing processes?

The challenges were analyzed, and the following were located: collaboration (support), feasibility (contexts, technological, training, and support), knowledge sharing (literacy, thinking, creativity and adapted), research opportunities (reflection, scientific, method, sample, formative process, and skills) and differences (literacy and linguistic). Amongst the challenges shown in the studies that were addressed in this study, those related to research opportunities (1, 4–6, 9, 11–14, 16, 17, 19, 30, 33, 34, 36, 39) stand out, followed by learning sharing (2, 8, 18, 20, 26, 27, 31, 42) and viability (7, 10, 15, 25, 29, 32, 38, 40, 41), as can be seen in Figure 7 .

The challenges in research allow us to identify on which topics the researcher should concentrate to be able to give solutions to problems posed around a research topic because knowing which obstacles have been presented in a specific research process is interesting so that they can serve as a basis for further studies. The challenges presented in research can be of various kinds, from questions such as the financial support required according to the type and time of research to the viability related to aspects such as the necessary skills or the mastery of the use of technology to make research feasible.

Amongst the theoretical–conceptual trends, the one corresponding to Psychopedagogical Studies has turned out to be the one that has focussed more on the analysis of research skills for the development of academic writing. Figure 1 depicts that there was a greater trend of articles in psychopedagogical matters and that they were distributed in various disciplinary areas. Psychopedagogical studies focus on cognitive elements and on social–emotional elements and improvements in academic achievement ( Ramírez-Montoya and Valenzuela, 2019 ). In this review, the psychopedagogical approach is framed mainly in the application of didactic techniques, educational programmes, forms of evaluation and training and capacity building.

Figure 1 . Quality criteria for papers selection for SLR.

Experimental studies are a frequently used method in the topic of research skills. Figure 2 shows that the most commonly used research design in the articles consulted is the experimental design. However, methodological designs are available in the studies analyzed. The older categorisations of experimental designs tend to use the language of the analysis of variance to describe these arrangements ( Harwell, 2014 ). In this study, the approach of that type of design was considered because randomization was sought for the selection of the sample to be investigated. Nonetheless, various methodological designs were used in the review, and it was even decided to consider research of a documentary nature to guide the present study.

Figure 2 . Theoretical–conceptual trends in educational innovation studies.

New processes are identified with greater emphasis on the analysis of research toward the development of academic reading and writing within the framework of research competencies. Figure 3 illustrates that according to the classification addressed, the category of new processes is the one that received the most mention in the analysis. Ramírez-Montoya and Lugo-Ocando (2020) validated that a new process is characterized amongst its elements by an organization, a method, a technique, and a procedure. In this analysis, it was possible to observe that to a great extent, the findings are based on processes that imply a follow-up to determine how the evolution to reach the proposed objectives occurs.

Figure 3 . Trends and methodological tools.

Systematic and continuous innovations have a strong presence in the area of innovation in research skill studies. Figure 4 shows the trend in these types of innovation. In terms of systematic innovation, there was a greater presence of the development aspect, whilst continuous innovation had a greater presence of the competence aspect. Continuous innovation is something that has to do with small changes that can make a difference, and systematic innovation is methodical and orderly like continuous improvement innovation. However, the scope and novelty of its changes can vary and even lead to substantial changes ( Valenzuela and Valencia, 2017 ). The innovations must be based on the objectives to be achieved and always with a view to achieving substantial improvement.

Figure 4 . Findings in research skills for academic literacy development.

Digital resources and skills present a valuable opportunity to enhance academic literacy development through research skills. Figure 5 shows that the digital aspect had a greater presence in the area of Information that was presented for the categorization of Recommendations for Future Studies. The digital competencies according to Ferrari (2013) are focussed on Information, Communication, Content Creation, Problem Solving and Security, but the latter was not present in the studies analyzed. Interacting through digital tools or in digital environments is a reality we are currently facing; therefore, students must be prepared to have digital competences, which allow them to have a better performance in general and enrich the framework in which they develop their academic reading and writing.

Figure 5 . Types of innovations related to the development of academic reading and writing.

Challenges in research skill studies show various themes, such as collaboration, sharing of learning, difference in skills or feasibility, and no single line is to be addressed. The categories corresponding to the challenges that have the greatest presence according to Figure 6 are the following: research opportunities and knowledge sharing. However, there is variety in the keywords that are derived from these. However, critical thinking and literacy (academic and information) are considered relevant by the subject matter. IL has important advantages for the proper selection and use of information ( Association of College Research Libraries, 2016 ), and academic literacy is now closely linked to the competencies for evaluating digital content and producing knowledge ( Solimine and Garcia-Quismondo, 2020 ). What is important is the acquisition of skills so that students in higher education can be effective in research and can adequately develop the process of academic reading and writing.

Figure 6 . Recommendations for future studies on research skills and processes of academic reading and writing.

Figure 7 . Research challenges for the research skills and academic reading and writing processes.


Only the Web of Science and Scopus databases were used for the selection of articles for analysis in this systematic literature review. Although they are amongst the most important, other articles that could be relevant to the topic addressed in this study were left out. By including only studies that had higher education institutions as their context, we excluded studies conducted in extra-school contexts that could be significant. The three quality criteria that were used reduced the selection to 42 articles, which may be a small number, but they are the articles that are related to the specific objective of the research, which is to identify research skills that allow for the development of academic reading and writing.


Research competencies can work for several disciplines. In this systematic review of literature, the articles analyzed correspond to the disciplinary areas of Education; Language and Literature; Medicine; Library Science; Philosophy, Psychology and religion and Science, which implies that there is a multidisciplinary character to address the issues of research competencies and the development of academic literacy. Nevertheless, the discipline with the greatest presence is education, which allows us to identify that there is an increasing concern to promote the culture of research in this area, as well as to seek that students acquire the skills necessary for the better development of academic literacy.

Academic literacy is indeed a fundamental part of the higher education environment. The types of innovation to develop academic literacy that have the greatest presence are systematic and continuous innovation, the aspect that stands out from the first is development, and from the second are competition and change. Competencies are thus identified as a key element to be considered to achieve the development of academic literacy.

Research competencies for the development of academic reading and writing imply not only taking care of methodological aspects. It is not enough to take care of elements such as the formulation of the research question, the selection of the research method and design, the selection of instruments and the evaluation system. Crucial competencies, such as academic and information literacy (IL), must be considered because in this information society, which is not necessarily a knowledge society, one must be literate to be able to use information for the proposed purposes and to develop quality academic texts that can subsequently disseminate and support the expansion of knowledge in the various areas of higher education.

The aim of this research is to identify studies that address research competencies and those that address academic literacy through innovative elements, so that it can be determined how these three elements can be linked to each other to benefit university students in the sense of serving as a basis for generating initiatives to promote research competencies that can be used to develop academic literacy in higher education contexts through innovative models. It is intended that with the development of these competencies, university students can develop research skills, search for information efficiently in different environments and platforms, understand specialized texts in their area of study, and finally generate quality writing that can be published.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Author Contributions

IC-M carried out the systematic review of literature, carried out the analysis of the articles considered to be integrated in the present study, investigated and integrated the theoretical part, made the graphs and tables, wrote the article, and took care of form and content. MR-M reviewed in detail the form and content of the article, suggested authors for theoretical support, checked that the paragraphs had an adequate structure, and that the references were current, consistent, and correctly cited. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


The study was conducted within the framework of the doctoral studies corresponding to the Ph.D. programme in Educational Innovation. Special thanks are due to the scholarships granted by CONACYT and Tecnologico de Monterrey. The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of Writing Lab, TecLabs, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico, in the production of this work.

Supplementary Material

The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at:

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Keywords: educational innovation, higher education, research competencies, academic reading and writing, systematic literature review, research skills

Citation: Castillo-Martínez IM and Ramírez-Montoya MS (2021) Research Competencies to Develop Academic Reading and Writing: A Systematic Literature Review. Front. Educ. 5:576961. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2020.576961

Received: 27 June 2020; Accepted: 14 December 2020; Published: 18 January 2021.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2021 Castillo-Martínez and Ramírez-Montoya. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Isolda Margarita Castillo-Martínez,


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Writing your Dissertation: Methodology

A key part of your dissertation or thesis is the methodology. This is not quite the same as ‘methods’.

The methodology describes the broad philosophical underpinning to your chosen research methods, including whether you are using qualitative or quantitative methods, or a mixture of both, and why.

You should be clear about the academic basis for all the choices of research methods that you have made. ' I was interested ' or ' I thought... ' is not enough; there must be good academic reasons for your choice.

What to Include in your Methodology

If you are submitting your dissertation in sections, with the methodology submitted before you actually undertake the research, you should use this section to set out exactly what you plan to do.

The methodology should be linked back to the literature to explain why you are using certain methods, and the academic basis of your choice.

If you are submitting as a single thesis, then the Methodology should explain what you did, with any refinements that you made as your work progressed. Again, it should have a clear academic justification of all the choices that you made and be linked back to the literature.

Common Research Methods for the Social Sciences

There are numerous research methods that can be used when researching scientific subjects, you should discuss which are the most appropriate for your research with your supervisor.

The following research methods are commonly used in social science, involving human subjects:

One of the most flexible and widely used methods for gaining qualitative information about people’s experiences, views and feelings is the interview.

An interview can be thought of as a guided conversation between a researcher (you) and somebody from whom you wish to learn something (often referred to as the ‘informant’).

The level of structure in an interview can vary, but most commonly interviewers follow a semi-structured format.  This means that the interviewer will develop a guide to the topics that he or she wishes to cover in the conversation, and may even write out a number of questions to ask.

However, the interviewer is free to follow different paths of conversation that emerge over the course of the interview, or to prompt the informant to clarify and expand on certain points. Therefore, interviews are particularly good tools for gaining detailed information where the research question is open-ended in terms of the range of possible answers.

Interviews are not particularly well suited for gaining information from large numbers of people. Interviews are time-consuming, and so careful attention needs to be given to selecting informants who will have the knowledge or experiences necessary to answer the research question.  

See our page: Interviews for Research for more information.


If a researcher wants to know what people do under certain circumstances, the most straightforward way to get this information is sometimes simply to watch them under those circumstances.

Observations can form a part of either quantitative or qualitative research.  For instance, if a researcher wants to determine whether the introduction of a traffic sign makes any difference to the number of cars slowing down at a dangerous curve, she or he could sit near the curve and count the number of cars that do and do not slow down.  Because the data will be numbers of cars, this is an example of quantitative observation.

A researcher wanting to know how people react to a billboard advertisement might spend time watching and describing the reactions of the people.  In this case, the data would be descriptive , and would therefore be qualitative.

There are a number of potential ethical concerns that can arise with an observation study. Do the people being studied know that they are under observation?  Can they give their consent?  If some people are unhappy with being observed, is it possible to ‘remove’ them from the study while still carrying out observations of the others around them?

See our page: Observational Research and Secondary Data for more information.


If your intended research question requires you to collect standardised (and therefore comparable) information from a number of people, then questionnaires may be the best method to use.

Questionnaires can be used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, although you will not be able to get the level of detail in qualitative responses to a questionnaire that you could in an interview.

Questionnaires require a great deal of care in their design and delivery, but a well-developed questionnaire can be distributed to a much larger number of people than it would be possible to interview. 

Questionnaires are particularly well suited for research seeking to measure some parameters for a group of people (e.g., average age, percentage agreeing with a proposition, level of awareness of an issue), or to make comparisons between groups of people (e.g., to determine whether members of different generations held the same or different views on immigration).

See our page: Surveys and Survey Design for more information.

Documentary Analysis

Documentary analysis involves obtaining data from existing documents without having to question people through interview, questionnaires or observe their behaviour. Documentary analysis is the main way that historians obtain data about their research subjects, but it can also be a valuable tool for contemporary social scientists.

Documents are tangible materials in which facts or ideas have been recorded.  Typically, we think of items written or produced on paper, such as newspaper articles, Government policy records, leaflets and minutes of meetings.  Items in other media can also be the subject of documentary analysis, including films, songs, websites and photographs.

Documents can reveal a great deal about the people or organisation that produced them and the social context in which they emerged. 

Some documents are part of the public domain and are freely accessible, whereas other documents may be classified, confidential or otherwise unavailable to public access.  If such documents are used as data for research, the researcher must come to an agreement with the holder of the documents about how the contents can and cannot be used and how confidentiality will be preserved.

How to Choose your Methodology and Precise Research Methods

Your methodology should be linked back to your research questions and previous research.

Visit your university or college library and ask the librarians for help; they should be able to help you to identify the standard research method textbooks in your field. See also our section on Research Methods for some further ideas.

Such books will help you to identify your broad research philosophy, and then choose methods which relate to that. This section of your dissertation or thesis should set your research in the context of its theoretical underpinnings.

The methodology should also explain the weaknesses of your chosen approach and how you plan to avoid the worst pitfalls, perhaps by triangulating your data with other methods, or why you do not think the weakness is relevant.

For every philosophical underpinning, you will almost certainly be able to find researchers who support it and those who don’t.

Use the arguments for and against expressed in the literature to explain why you have chosen to use this methodology or why the weaknesses don’t matter here.

Structuring your Methodology

It is usually helpful to start your section on methodology by setting out the conceptual framework in which you plan to operate with reference to the key texts on that approach.

You should be clear throughout about the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen approach and how you plan to address them. You should also note any issues of which to be aware, for example in sample selection or to make your findings more relevant.

You should then move on to discuss your research questions, and how you plan to address each of them.

This is the point at which to set out your chosen research methods, including their theoretical basis, and the literature supporting them. You should make clear whether you think the method is ‘tried and tested’ or much more experimental, and what kind of reliance you could place on the results. You will also need to discuss this again in the discussion section.

Your research may even aim to test the research methods, to see if they work in certain circumstances.

You should conclude by summarising your research methods, the underpinning approach, and what you see as the key challenges that you will face in your research. Again, these are the areas that you will want to revisit in your discussion.

Your methodology, and the precise methods that you choose to use in your research, are crucial to its success.

It is worth spending plenty of time on this section to ensure that you get it right. As always, draw on the resources available to you, for example by discussing your plans in detail with your supervisor who may be able to suggest whether your approach has significant flaws which you could address in some way.

Continue to: Research Methods Designing Research

See Also: Dissertation: Results and Discussion Writing a Literature Review | Writing a Research Proposal Writing a Dissertation: The Introduction

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What is Research Methodology? Definition, Types, and Examples

research methodology and writing skills

Research methodology 1,2 is a structured and scientific approach used to collect, analyze, and interpret quantitative or qualitative data to answer research questions or test hypotheses. A research methodology is like a plan for carrying out research and helps keep researchers on track by limiting the scope of the research. Several aspects must be considered before selecting an appropriate research methodology, such as research limitations and ethical concerns that may affect your research.

The research methodology section in a scientific paper describes the different methodological choices made, such as the data collection and analysis methods, and why these choices were selected. The reasons should explain why the methods chosen are the most appropriate to answer the research question. A good research methodology also helps ensure the reliability and validity of the research findings. There are three types of research methodology—quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method, which can be chosen based on the research objectives.

What is research methodology ?

A research methodology describes the techniques and procedures used to identify and analyze information regarding a specific research topic. It is a process by which researchers design their study so that they can achieve their objectives using the selected research instruments. It includes all the important aspects of research, including research design, data collection methods, data analysis methods, and the overall framework within which the research is conducted. While these points can help you understand what is research methodology, you also need to know why it is important to pick the right methodology.

Why is research methodology important?

Having a good research methodology in place has the following advantages: 3

  • Helps other researchers who may want to replicate your research; the explanations will be of benefit to them.
  • You can easily answer any questions about your research if they arise at a later stage.
  • A research methodology provides a framework and guidelines for researchers to clearly define research questions, hypotheses, and objectives.
  • It helps researchers identify the most appropriate research design, sampling technique, and data collection and analysis methods.
  • A sound research methodology helps researchers ensure that their findings are valid and reliable and free from biases and errors.
  • It also helps ensure that ethical guidelines are followed while conducting research.
  • A good research methodology helps researchers in planning their research efficiently, by ensuring optimum usage of their time and resources.

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Types of research methodology.

There are three types of research methodology based on the type of research and the data required. 1

  • Quantitative research methodology focuses on measuring and testing numerical data. This approach is good for reaching a large number of people in a short amount of time. This type of research helps in testing the causal relationships between variables, making predictions, and generalizing results to wider populations.
  • Qualitative research methodology examines the opinions, behaviors, and experiences of people. It collects and analyzes words and textual data. This research methodology requires fewer participants but is still more time consuming because the time spent per participant is quite large. This method is used in exploratory research where the research problem being investigated is not clearly defined.
  • Mixed-method research methodology uses the characteristics of both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies in the same study. This method allows researchers to validate their findings, verify if the results observed using both methods are complementary, and explain any unexpected results obtained from one method by using the other method.

What are the types of sampling designs in research methodology?

Sampling 4 is an important part of a research methodology and involves selecting a representative sample of the population to conduct the study, making statistical inferences about them, and estimating the characteristics of the whole population based on these inferences. There are two types of sampling designs in research methodology—probability and nonprobability.

  • Probability sampling

In this type of sampling design, a sample is chosen from a larger population using some form of random selection, that is, every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. The different types of probability sampling are:

  • Systematic —sample members are chosen at regular intervals. It requires selecting a starting point for the sample and sample size determination that can be repeated at regular intervals. This type of sampling method has a predefined range; hence, it is the least time consuming.
  • Stratified —researchers divide the population into smaller groups that don’t overlap but represent the entire population. While sampling, these groups can be organized, and then a sample can be drawn from each group separately.
  • Cluster —the population is divided into clusters based on demographic parameters like age, sex, location, etc.
  • Convenience —selects participants who are most easily accessible to researchers due to geographical proximity, availability at a particular time, etc.
  • Purposive —participants are selected at the researcher’s discretion. Researchers consider the purpose of the study and the understanding of the target audience.
  • Snowball —already selected participants use their social networks to refer the researcher to other potential participants.
  • Quota —while designing the study, the researchers decide how many people with which characteristics to include as participants. The characteristics help in choosing people most likely to provide insights into the subject.

What are data collection methods?

During research, data are collected using various methods depending on the research methodology being followed and the research methods being undertaken. Both qualitative and quantitative research have different data collection methods, as listed below.

Qualitative research 5

  • One-on-one interviews: Helps the interviewers understand a respondent’s subjective opinion and experience pertaining to a specific topic or event
  • Document study/literature review/record keeping: Researchers’ review of already existing written materials such as archives, annual reports, research articles, guidelines, policy documents, etc.
  • Focus groups: Constructive discussions that usually include a small sample of about 6-10 people and a moderator, to understand the participants’ opinion on a given topic.
  • Qualitative observation : Researchers collect data using their five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing).

Quantitative research 6

  • Sampling: The most common type is probability sampling.
  • Interviews: Commonly telephonic or done in-person.
  • Observations: Structured observations are most commonly used in quantitative research. In this method, researchers make observations about specific behaviors of individuals in a structured setting.
  • Document review: Reviewing existing research or documents to collect evidence for supporting the research.
  • Surveys and questionnaires. Surveys can be administered both online and offline depending on the requirement and sample size.

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What are data analysis methods.

The data collected using the various methods for qualitative and quantitative research need to be analyzed to generate meaningful conclusions. These data analysis methods 7 also differ between quantitative and qualitative research.

Quantitative research involves a deductive method for data analysis where hypotheses are developed at the beginning of the research and precise measurement is required. The methods include statistical analysis applications to analyze numerical data and are grouped into two categories—descriptive and inferential.

Descriptive analysis is used to describe the basic features of different types of data to present it in a way that ensures the patterns become meaningful. The different types of descriptive analysis methods are:

  • Measures of frequency (count, percent, frequency)
  • Measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode)
  • Measures of dispersion or variation (range, variance, standard deviation)
  • Measure of position (percentile ranks, quartile ranks)

Inferential analysis is used to make predictions about a larger population based on the analysis of the data collected from a smaller population. This analysis is used to study the relationships between different variables. Some commonly used inferential data analysis methods are:

  • Correlation: To understand the relationship between two or more variables.
  • Cross-tabulation: Analyze the relationship between multiple variables.
  • Regression analysis: Study the impact of independent variables on the dependent variable.
  • Frequency tables: To understand the frequency of data.
  • Analysis of variance: To test the degree to which two or more variables differ in an experiment.

Qualitative research involves an inductive method for data analysis where hypotheses are developed after data collection. The methods include:

  • Content analysis: For analyzing documented information from text and images by determining the presence of certain words or concepts in texts.
  • Narrative analysis: For analyzing content obtained from sources such as interviews, field observations, and surveys. The stories and opinions shared by people are used to answer research questions.
  • Discourse analysis: For analyzing interactions with people considering the social context, that is, the lifestyle and environment, under which the interaction occurs.
  • Grounded theory: Involves hypothesis creation by data collection and analysis to explain why a phenomenon occurred.
  • Thematic analysis: To identify important themes or patterns in data and use these to address an issue.

How to choose a research methodology?

Here are some important factors to consider when choosing a research methodology: 8

  • Research objectives, aims, and questions —these would help structure the research design.
  • Review existing literature to identify any gaps in knowledge.
  • Check the statistical requirements —if data-driven or statistical results are needed then quantitative research is the best. If the research questions can be answered based on people’s opinions and perceptions, then qualitative research is most suitable.
  • Sample size —sample size can often determine the feasibility of a research methodology. For a large sample, less effort- and time-intensive methods are appropriate.
  • Constraints —constraints of time, geography, and resources can help define the appropriate methodology.

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How to write a research methodology .

A research methodology should include the following components: 3,9

  • Research design —should be selected based on the research question and the data required. Common research designs include experimental, quasi-experimental, correlational, descriptive, and exploratory.
  • Research method —this can be quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method.
  • Reason for selecting a specific methodology —explain why this methodology is the most suitable to answer your research problem.
  • Research instruments —explain the research instruments you plan to use, mainly referring to the data collection methods such as interviews, surveys, etc. Here as well, a reason should be mentioned for selecting the particular instrument.
  • Sampling —this involves selecting a representative subset of the population being studied.
  • Data collection —involves gathering data using several data collection methods, such as surveys, interviews, etc.
  • Data analysis —describe the data analysis methods you will use once you’ve collected the data.
  • Research limitations —mention any limitations you foresee while conducting your research.
  • Validity and reliability —validity helps identify the accuracy and truthfulness of the findings; reliability refers to the consistency and stability of the results over time and across different conditions.
  • Ethical considerations —research should be conducted ethically. The considerations include obtaining consent from participants, maintaining confidentiality, and addressing conflicts of interest.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the key components of research methodology?

A1. A good research methodology has the following key components:

  • Research design
  • Data collection procedures
  • Data analysis methods
  • Ethical considerations

Q2. Why is ethical consideration important in research methodology?

A2. Ethical consideration is important in research methodology to ensure the readers of the reliability and validity of the study. Researchers must clearly mention the ethical norms and standards followed during the conduct of the research and also mention if the research has been cleared by any institutional board. The following 10 points are the important principles related to ethical considerations: 10

  • Participants should not be subjected to harm.
  • Respect for the dignity of participants should be prioritized.
  • Full consent should be obtained from participants before the study.
  • Participants’ privacy should be ensured.
  • Confidentiality of the research data should be ensured.
  • Anonymity of individuals and organizations participating in the research should be maintained.
  • The aims and objectives of the research should not be exaggerated.
  • Affiliations, sources of funding, and any possible conflicts of interest should be declared.
  • Communication in relation to the research should be honest and transparent.
  • Misleading information and biased representation of primary data findings should be avoided.

Q3. What is the difference between methodology and method?

A3. Research methodology is different from a research method, although both terms are often confused. Research methods are the tools used to gather data, while the research methodology provides a framework for how research is planned, conducted, and analyzed. The latter guides researchers in making decisions about the most appropriate methods for their research. Research methods refer to the specific techniques, procedures, and tools used by researchers to collect, analyze, and interpret data, for instance surveys, questionnaires, interviews, etc.

Research methodology is, thus, an integral part of a research study. It helps ensure that you stay on track to meet your research objectives and answer your research questions using the most appropriate data collection and analysis tools based on your research design.

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  • Research methodologies. Pfeiffer Library website. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  • Types of research methodology. Eduvoice website. Accessed August 16, 2023.
  • The basics of research methodology: A key to quality research. Voxco. Accessed August 16, 2023.
  • Sampling methods: Types with examples. QuestionPro website. Accessed August 16, 2023.
  • What is qualitative research? Methods, types, approaches, examples. Researcher.Life blog. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  • What is quantitative research? Definition, methods, types, and examples. Researcher.Life blog. Accessed August 15, 2023.
  • Data analysis in research: Types & methods. QuestionPro website. Accessed August 16, 2023.
  • Factors to consider while choosing the right research methodology. PhD Monster website. Accessed August 17, 2023.
  • What is research methodology? Research and writing guides. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  • Ethical considerations. Business research methodology website. Accessed August 17, 2023.

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  • Open access
  • Published: 10 April 2024

Development of an index system for the scientific literacy of medical staff: a modified Delphi study in China

  • Shuyu Liang 2   na1 ,
  • Ziyan Zhai 2   na1 ,
  • Xingmiao Feng 2 ,
  • Xiaozhi Sun 1 ,
  • Jingxuan Jiao 1 ,
  • Yuan Gao 1   na2 &
  • Kai Meng   ORCID: 2 , 3   na2  

BMC Medical Education volume  24 , Article number:  397 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

219 Accesses

Metrics details

Scientific research activity in hospitals is important for promoting the development of clinical medicine, and the scientific literacy of medical staff plays an important role in improving the quality and competitiveness of hospital research. To date, no index system applicable to the scientific literacy of medical staff in China has been developed that can effectively evaluate and guide scientific literacy. This study aimed to establish an index system for the scientific literacy of medical staff in China and provide a reference for improving the evaluation of this system.

In this study, a preliminary indicator pool for the scientific literacy of medical staff was constructed through the nominal group technique ( n  = 16) with medical staff. Then, two rounds of Delphi expert consultation surveys ( n  = 20) were conducted with clinicians, and the indicators were screened, revised and supplemented using the boundary value method and expert opinions. Next, the hierarchical analysis method was utilized to determine the weights of the indicators and ultimately establish a scientific literacy indicator system for medical staff.

Following expert opinion, the index system for the scientific literacy of medical staff featuring 2 first-level indicators, 9 second-level indicators, and 38 third-level indicators was ultimately established, and the weights of the indicators were calculated. The two first-level indicators were research literacy and research ability, and the second-level indicators were research attitude (0.375), ability to identify problems (0.2038), basic literacy (0.1250), ability to implement projects (0.0843), research output capacity (0.0747), professional capacity (0.0735), data-processing capacity (0.0239), thesis-writing skills (0.0217), and ability to use literature (0.0181).


This study constructed a comprehensive scientific literacy index system that can assess medical staff's scientific literacy and serve as a reference for evaluating and improving their scientific literacy.

Peer Review reports

Due to the accelerated aging of the population and the growing global demand for healthcare in the wake of epidemics, there is an urgent need for medicine to provide greater support and protection. Medical scientific research is a critical element in promoting medical science and technological innovation, as well as improving clinical diagnosis and treatment techniques. It is the main driving force for the development of healthcare [ 1 ].

Medical personnel are highly compatible with clinical research. Due to their close interaction with patients, medical staff are better equipped to identify pertinent clinical research issues and actually implement clinical research projects [ 2 ]. Countries have created favorable conditions for the research and development of medical personnel by providing financial support, developing policies, and offering training courses [ 3 , 4 ]. However, some clinical studies have shown that the ability of most medical staff does not match current health needs and cannot meet the challenges posed by the twenty-first century [ 5 ]. It is clear that highly skilled professionals with scientific literacy are essential for national and social development [ 6 ]. Given the importance of scientific research in countries and hospitals, it is crucial to determine the level of scientific research literacy that medical personnel should possess and how to train them to acquire the necessary scientific research skills. These issues have significant practical implications.

Scientific literacy refers to an individual's ability to engage in science-related activities [ 7 ]. Some scholars suggest that the scientific literacy of medical personnel encompasses the fundamental qualities required for scientific research work, encompassing three facets: academic moral accomplishment, scientific research theory accomplishment, and scientific research ability accomplishment [ 8 ]. The existing research has focused primarily on the research capabilities of medical staff. According to Rillero, problem-solving skills, critical thinking, communication skills, and the ability to interpret data are the four core components of scientific literacy [ 9 ]. The ability to perform scientific research in nursing encompasses a range of abilities, including identifying problems, conducting literature reviews, designing and conducting scientific research, practicing scientific research, processing data, and writing papers [ 10 ]. Moule and Goodman proposed a framework of skills that research-literate nurses should possess, such as critical thinking capacity, analytical skills, searching skills, research critique skills, the ability to read and critically appraise research, and an awareness of ethical issues [ 11 ]. Several researchers have developed self-evaluation questionnaires to assess young researchers' scientific research and innovative abilities in the context of university-affiliated hospitals (UHAs) [ 12 ]. The relevant indicators include sensitivity to problems, sensitivity to cutting-edge knowledge, critical thinking, and other aspects. While these indicators cover many factors, they do not consider the issue of scientific research integrity in the medical field. The lack of detailed and targeted indicators, such as clinical resource collection ability and interdisciplinary cooperation ability, hinders the effective measurement of the current status of scientific literacy among medical staff [ 12 ]. In conclusion, the current research on the evaluation indicators of scientific literacy among medical personnel is incomplete, overlooking crucial humanistic characteristics, attitudes, and other moral literacy factors. Therefore, there is an urgent need to establish a comprehensive and systematic evaluation index to effectively assess the scientific literacy of medical staff.

Therefore, this study utilized a literature search and nominal group technique to screen the initial evaluation index and subsequently constructed an evaluation index system for medical staff's scientific research literacy utilizing the Delphi method. This index system would serve as a valuable tool for hospital managers, aiding them in the selection, evaluation, and training of scientific research talent. Additionally, this approach would enable medical personnel to identify their own areas of weakness and implement targeted improvement strategies.

Patient and public involvement

Patients and the public were not involved in this research.

Study design and participants

In this study, an initial evaluation index system was developed through a literature review and nominal group technique. Subsequently, a more comprehensive and scientific index system was constructed by combining qualitative and quantitative analysis utilizing the Delphi method to consult with experts. Finally, the hierarchical analysis method and the percentage weight method were employed to empower the index system.

The program used for this study is shown in Fig.  1 .

figure 1

Study design. AHP, analytic hierarchy process

Establishing the preliminary indicator pool

Search process.

A literature search was performed in the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), WanFang, PubMed, Web of Science and Scopus databases to collect the initial evaluation indicators. The time span ranged from the establishment of the database to July 2022. We used a combination of several MeSH terms in our searches:(("Medical Staff"[Mesh] OR "Nurses"[Mesh] OR "Physicians"[Mesh])) AND (("Literacy"[Mesh]) OR "Aptitude"[Mesh]). We also used several Title/Abstract searches, including keywords such as: Evaluation, scientific literacy, research ability.

The inclusion criteria were as follows: (1)The subjects were nurses, medicial staff and other personnel engaged in the medical industry; (2) Explore topics related to scientific literacy, such as research ability, and literature that can clarify the structure or dependency between indicators of scientific literacy; (3) Select articles published in countries such as China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada; (4) Research published in English or Chinese is considered to be eligible. The exclusion criteria are as follows: (1) indicators not applicable to medical staff; (2) Conference abstracts, case reports or review papers; (3) Articles with repeated descriptions; (4) There are no full-text articles or grey literature. A total of 78 articles were retrieved and 60 were retained after screening according to inclusion and exclusion criteria.

The research was conducted by two graduate students and two undergraduate students who participated in the literature search and screening. The entire research process was supervised and guided by one professor. All five members were from the fields of social medicine and health management. The professor was engaged in hospital management and health policy research for many years.

Nominal group technique

The nominal group technique was introduced at Hospital H in Beijing in July 2022. This hospital, with over 2,500 beds and 3,000 doctors, is a leading comprehensive medical center also known for its educational and research achievements, including numerous national research projects and awards.

The interview questions were based on the research question: What research literacy should medical staff have? 16 clinicians and nurses from Hospital H were divided into 2 equal groups and asked to provide their opinions on important aspects of research literacy based on their positions and experiences. Once all participants had shared their thoughts, similar responses were merged and polished. If anyone had further inputs after this, a second round of interviews was held until no new inputs were given. The entire meeting, including both rounds, was documented by researchers with audio recordings on a tape recorder.

Scientific literacy dimensions

Based on the search process, the research group extracted 58 tertiary indicators. To ensure the practicality and comprehensiveness of the indicators, the Nominal group technique was used on the basis of the literature search. Panelists summarized the entries shown in the interviews and merged similar content to obtain 32 third-level indicators. The indicators obtained from the literature search were compared. Several indicators with similar meanings, such as capture information ability, language expression ability, communication ability, and scientific research integrity, were merged. Additionally, the indicators obtained from the literature search, such as scientific research ethics, database use ability, feasibility and analysis ability, were added to the 15 indicators. A total of 47 third-level indicators were identified.

Fengling Dai and colleagues developed an innovation ability index system with six dimensions covering problem discovery, information retrieval, research design, practice, data analysis, and report writing, which represents the whole of innovative activity. Additionally, the system includes an innovation spirit index focusing on motivation, thinking, emotion, and will, reflecting the core of the innovation process in terms of competence [ 13 ]. Liao et al. evaluated the following five dimensions in their study on scientific research competence: literature processing, experimental manipulation, statistical analysis, manuscript production, and innovative project design [ 14 ]. Mohan claimed that scientific literacy consists of four core components: problem solving, critical thinking, communication skills, and the ability to interpret data [ 15 ].

This study structured scientific literacy into 2 primary indicators (research literacy and research competence) and 9 secondary indicators (basic qualifications, research ethics, research attitude, problem identification, literature use, professional capacity, subject implementation, data processing, thesis writing, and research output).

Using the Delphi method to develop an index system

Expert selection.

This study used the Delphi method to distribute expert consultation questionnaires online, allowing experts to exchange opinions anonymously to ensure that the findings were more desirable and scientific. No fixed number of experts is required for a Delphi study, but the more experts involved, the more stable the results will be [ 16 ]; this method generally includes 15 to 50 experts [ 17 ]. We selected clinicians from several tertiary hospitals in the Beijing area to serve as Delphi study consultants based on the following inclusion criteria: (1) they had a title of senior associate or above; (2) they had more than 10 years of work experience in the field of clinical scientific research, and (3) they were presiding over national scientific research projects. The exclusion criteria were as follows: (1) full-time scientific researchers, and (2) personnel in hospitals who were engaged only in management. To ensure that the selected experts were representative, this study selected 20 experts from 14 tertiary hospitals affiliated with Capital Medical University, Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine according to the inclusion criteria; the hospitals featured an average of 1,231 beds each, and 9 hospitals were included among the 77 hospitals in the domestic comprehensive hospital ranking (Fudan Hospital Management Institute ranking). The experts represented various specialties and roles from different hospitals, including cardiology, neurosurgery, neurology, ear and throat surgery, head and neck surgery, radiology, imaging, infection, vascular interventional oncology, pediatrics, general practice, hematology, stomatology, nephrology, urology, and other related fields. This diverse group included physicians, nurses, managers, and vice presidents. The selected experts had extensive clinical experience, achieved numerous scientific research accomplishments and possessed profound knowledge and experience in clinical scientific research. This ensured the reliability of the consultation outcomes.

Design of the expert consultation questionnaire

The Delphi survey for experts included sections on their background, familiarity with the indicator system, system evaluation, and opinions. Experts rated indicators on importance, feasibility, and sensitivity using a 1–10 scale and their own familiarity with the indicators on a 1–5 scale. They also scored their judgment basis and impact on a 1–3 scale, considering theoretical analysis, work experience, peer understanding, and intuition. Two rounds of Delphi surveys were carried out via email with 20 experts to evaluate and suggest changes to the indicators. Statistical coefficients were calculated to validate the Delphi process. Feedback from the first round led to modifications and the inclusion of an AHP questionnaire for the second round. After the second round, indicators deemed less important were removed, and expert discussion finalized the indicator weights based on their relative importance scores. This resulted in the development of an index system for medical staff scientific literacy. The questionnaire is included in Additional file 1 (first round) and Additional file 2 (second round).

Using the boundary value method to screen the indicators

In this study, the boundary value method was utilized to screen the indicators of medical staff's scientific literacy, and the importance, feasibility, and sensitivity of each indicator were measured using the frequency of perfect scores, the arithmetic mean, and the coefficient of variation, respectively. When calculating the frequency of perfect scores and arithmetic means, the boundary value was set as "mean-SD," and indicators with scores higher than this value were retained. When calculating the coefficient of variation, the cutoff value was set to "mean + SD," and indicators with values below this threshold were retained.

The principles of indicator screening are as follows:

To evaluate the importance of the indicators, if none of the boundary values of the three statistics met the requirements, the indicators were deleted.

If an indicator has two aspects, importance, feasibility, or sensitivity, and each aspect has two or more boundary values that do not meet the requirements, then the indicator is deleted.

If all three boundary values for an indicator meet the requirements, the research group discusses the modification feedback from the experts and determines whether the indicator should be used.

The results of the two rounds of boundary values are shown in Table  1 .

Using the AHP to assign weights

After the second round of Delphi expert consultations, the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) was used to determine the weights of the two first-level indicators and the nine second-level indicators. The weights of the 37 third-level indicators were subsequently calculated via the percentage weight method. The AHP, developed by Saaty in the 1980s, is used to determine the priority and importance of elements constituting the decision-making hierarchy. It is based on multicriteria decision-making (MCDM) and determines the importance of decision-makers' judgments based on weights derived from pairwise comparisons between elements. In the AHP, pairwise comparisons are based on a comparative evaluation in which each element's weight in the lower tier is compared with that of other lower elements based on the element in the upper tier [ 18 ].

AHP analysis involves the following steps:

Step 1: Establish a final goal and list related elements to construct a hierarchy based on interrelated criteria.

Step 2: Perform a pairwise comparison for each layer to compare the weights of each element. Using a score from 1 to 9, which is the basic scale of the AHP, each pair is compared according to the expert’s judgment, and the importance is judged [ 19 , 20 ].

Yaahp software was employed to analyze data by creating a judgment matrix based on the experts' scores and hierarchical model. The index system weights were obtained by combining the experts' scores. The percentage weight method used experts' importance ratings from the second round to calculate weights, ranking indicators by importance, calculating their scores based on frequency of ranking, and determining weighting coefficients by dividing these scores by the total of all third-level indicators' scores. The third-level indicator weighting coefficients were then calculated by multiplying the coefficients [ 21 ].

Data analysis

Expert positivity coefficient.

The expert positivity coefficient is indicated by the effective recovery rate of the expert consultation questionnaire, which represents the level of expert positivity toward this consultation and determines the credibility and scientific validity of the questionnaire results. Generally, a questionnaire with an effective recovery rate of 70% is considered very good [ 22 ].

In this study, 20 questionnaires were distributed in both rounds of Delphi expert counseling, and all 20 were effectively recovered, resulting in a 100% effective recovery rate. Consequently, the experts provided positive feedback on the Delphi counseling.

Expert authority coefficient (CR)

The expert authority coefficient (Cr) is the arithmetic mean of the judgment coefficient (Ca) and the familiarity coefficient (Cs), namely, Cr =  \(\frac{({\text{Ca}}+{\text{Cs}})}{2}\) . The higher the degree of expert authority is, the greater the predictive accuracy of the indicator. A Cr ≥ 0.70 was considered to indicate an acceptable level of confidence [ 23 ]. Ca represents the basis on which the expert makes a judgment about the scenario in question, while Cs represents the expert's familiarity with the relevant problem [ 24 ].

Ca is calculated on the basis of experts' judgments of each indicator and the magnitude of its influence. In this study, experts used "practical experience (0.4), "theoretical analysis (0.3), "domestic and foreign peers (0.2)" and "intuition (0.1)" as the basis for judgment and assigned points according to the influence of each basis for judgment on the experts' judgment. Ca = 1 when the basis for judgment has a large influence on the experts, and Ca = 0.5 when the influence of the experts' judgment is at a medium level. When no influence on expert judgment was evident, Ca = 0 [ 25 ] (Table  2 ).

Cs refers to the degree to which the expert was familiar with the question. This study used the Likert scale method to score experts’ familiarity with the question on a scale ranging from 0 to 1 (1 = very familiar, 0.75 = more familiar, 0.5 = moderately familiar, 0.25 = less familiar, 0 = unfamiliar). The familiarity coefficient for each expert (the average familiarity for each indicator) was calculated. The average familiarity coefficient was subsequently computed [ 26 ].

The Cr value of the primary indicator in this study was 0.83, and the Cr value of the secondary indicator was 0.82 (> 0.7); hence, the results of the expert consultation were credible and accurate, as shown in Table  3 .

The degree of expert coordination is an important indicator used to judge the consistency among various experts regarding indicator scores. This study used the Kendall W coordination coefficient test to determine the degree of expert coordination. A higher Kendall W coefficient indicates a greater degree of expert coordination and greater consistency in expert opinion, and P  <  0.05 indicates that the difference is significant [ 26 ]. The results of the three-dimensional harmonization coefficient test for each indicator in the two rounds of the expert consultation questionnaire were valid ( p  <  0.01 ), emphasizing the consistency of the experts' scores. The values of the Kendall W coordination coefficients for both rounds are shown in Table  4 .

Basic information regarding the participants

The 20 Delphi experts who participated in this study were predominantly male (80.0%) rather than female (20.0%). In addition, the participants’ ages were mainly concentrated in the range of 41–50 years old (60.0%). The majority of the experts were doctors by profession (85.0%), and their education and titles were mainly doctoral degree (90.0%) and full senior level (17.0%). The experts also exhibited high academic achievement in their respective fields and had many years of working experience, with the majority having between 21 and 25 years of experience (40.0%) (Table  5 ).

Index screening

The boundary value method was applied to eliminate indicators, leading to the removal of 6 third-level indicators in the first round. One of these, the ability to use statistical software, was associated with a more significant second-level indicator involving data processing, which was kept after expert review. Six indicators were merged into three indicators due to duplication, and 5 third-level indicators were added, resulting in 2 primary indicators, 10 secondary indicators, and 43 third-level indicators.

In the second round of Delphi expert consultation, 5 third-level indicators were deleted, as shown in Additional file 3 , and only one third-level indicator, "Scientific spirit", remained under the secondary indicator "research attitude". The secondary indicator "Research attitude" was combined with "Research ethics" and the third-level indicator "Scientific spirit" was also considered part of "Research ethics". After expert discussion, these were merged into a new secondary indicator "Research attitude" with three third-level indicators: "Research ethics", "Research integrity", and "Scientific spirit". The final index system included two primary indicators, nine secondary indicators, and thirty-eight third-level indicators, as shown in Additional File 3 .

Final index system with weights

The weights of the two primary indexes, research literacy and research ability, were equal. This was determined using the hierarchical analysis method and the percentage weight method based on the results of the second round of Delphi expert consultation (Table  6 ). The primary indicator of research literacy encompasses the fundamental qualities and attitudes medical staff develop over time, including basic qualifications and approach to research. The primary indicator of research ability refers to medical professionals' capacity to conduct scientific research in new areas using suitable methods, as well as their skills needed for successful research using scientific methods.

In this study, the Delphi method was employed, and after two rounds of expert consultation, in accordance with the characteristics and scientific research requirements of medical staff in China, an index system for the scientific literacy of medical staff in China was constructed. The index system for medical staff's scientific literacy in this study consists of 2 first-level indicators, 9 second-level indicators, and 38 third-level indicators. Medical institutions at all levels can use this index system to scientifically assess medical staff's scientific literacy.

In 2014, the Joint Task Force for Clinical Trial Competency (JTF) published its Core Competency Framework [ 27 ]. The Framework focuses more on the capacity to conduct clinical research. These include principles such as clinical research and quality practices for drug clinical trials. However, this framework does not apply to the current evaluation of scientific literacy in hospitals. Because these indicators do not apply to all staff members, there is a lack of practical scientific research, such as information about the final paper output. Therefore, the experts who constructed the index system in this study came from different specialties, and the indicators can be better applied to scientific researchers in all fields. This approach not only addresses clinical researchers but also addresses the concerns of hospital managers, and the indicators are more applicable.

The weighted analysis showed that the primary indicators "research literacy" and "research ability" had the same weight (0.50) and were two important components of scientific literacy. Research ability is a direct reflection of scientific literacy and includes the ability to identify problems, the ability to use literature, professional capacity, subject implementation capacity, data-processing capacity, thesis-writing skills, and research output capacity. Only by mastering these skills can medical staff carry out scientific research activities more efficiently and smoothly. The ability to identify problems refers to the ability of medical staff to obtain insights into the frontiers of their discipline and to identify and ask insightful questions. Ratten claimed that only with keen insight and sufficient sensitivity to major scientific issues can we exploit the opportunities for innovation that may lead to breakthroughs [ 28 ]. Therefore, it is suggested that in the process of cultivating the scientific literacy of medical staff, the ability to identify problems, including divergent thinking, innovative sensitivity, and the ability to produce various solutions, should be improved. Furthermore, this study included three subentries of the secondary indicator "research attitude", namely, research ethics, research integrity, and scientific spirit. This is likely because improper scientific research behavior is still prevalent. A study conducted in the United States and Europe showed that the rate of scientific research misconduct was 2% [ 13 ]. A small survey conducted in Indian medical schools and hospitals revealed that 57% of the respondents knew that someone had modified or fabricated data for publication [ 28 ]. The weight of this index ranked first in the secondary indicators, indicating that scientific attitude is an important condition for improving research quality, relevance, and reliability. Countries and hospitals should develop, implement, and optimize policies and disciplinary measures to combat academic misconduct.

In addition, the third-level indicator "scheduling ability" under the second-level indicator "basic qualification" has a high weight, indicating that medical staff attach importance to management and distribution ability in the context of scientific research. Currently, hospitals face several problems, such as a shortage of medical personnel, excessive workload, and an increase in the number of management-related documents [ 29 , 30 ]. These factors result in time conflicts between daily responsibilities and scientific research tasks, thereby presenting significant obstacles to the allocation of sufficient time for scientific inquiry [ 31 ]. Effectively arranging clinical work and scientific research time is crucial to improving the overall efficiency of scientific research. In the earlier expert interviews, most medical staff believed that scientific research work must be combined with clinical work rather than focused only on scientific research. Having the ability to make overall arrangements is essential to solving these problems. The high weight given to the second-level index of 'subject implementation capacity', along with its associated third-level indicators, highlights the challenges faced by young medical staff in obtaining research subjects. Before implementing a project, researchers must thoroughly investigate, analyze, and compare various aspects of the research project, including its technical, economic, and engineering aspects. Moreover, potential financial and economic benefits, as well as social impacts, need to be predicted to determine the feasibility of the project and develop a research plan [ 32 ]. However, for most young medical staff in medical institutions, executing such a project can be challenging due to their limited scientific research experience [ 33 ]. A researcher who possesses these skills can truly carry out independent scientific research.

The weights of the second-level index "research output capacity" cannot be ignored. In Chinese hospitals, the ability to produce scientific research output plays a certain role in employees’ ability to obtain rewards such as high pay, and this ability is also used as a reference for performance appraisals [ 34 ]. The general scientific research performance evaluation includes the number of projects, scientific papers and monographs, scientific and technological achievements, and patents. In particular, the publication of papers is viewed as an indispensable aspect of performance appraisal by Chinese hospitals [ 35 ]. Specifically, scientific research papers are the carriers of scientific research achievements and academic research and thus constitute an important symbol of the level of medical development exhibited by medical research institutions; they are thus used as recognized and important indicators of scientific research output [ 36 ]. This situation is consistent with the weight evaluation results revealed by this study.

The results of this study are important for the training and management of the scientific research ability of medical personnel. First, the index system focuses not only on external characteristics such as scientific knowledge and skills but also on internal characteristics such as individual traits, motivation, and attitudes. Therefore, when building a research team and selecting and employing researchers, hospital managers can use the index system to comprehensively and systematically evaluate the situation of researchers, which is helpful for optimizing the allocation of a research team, learning from each other's strengths, and strengthening the strength of the research team. Second, this study integrates the content of existing research to obtain useful information through in-depth interviews with medical staff and constructs an evaluation index system based on Delphi expert consultation science, which comprehensively includes the evaluation of the whole process of scientific research activities. These findings can provide a basis for medical institutions to formulate scientific research training programs, help medical personnel master and improve scientific research knowledge and skills, and improve their working ability and quality. Moreover, the effectiveness of the training can also be evaluated according to the system.

In China, with the emergence of STEM rankings, hospitals pay more and more attention to the scientific research performance of medical personnel. Scientific literacy not only covers the abilities of medical personnel engaged in scientific research, but also reflects their professional quality in this field. Having high quality medical personnel often means that they have excellent scientific research ability, and their scientific research performance will naturally rise. In view of this,,medical institutions can define the meaning of third-level indicators and create Likert scales to survey medical staff. Based on the weights assigned to each indicator, comprehensive scores can be calculated to evaluate the level of scientific literacy among medical staff. Through detailed data analysis, they can not only reveal their shortcomings in scientific research ability and quality, but also provide a strong basis for subsequent training and promotion. Through targeted inspection, we can not only promote the comprehensive improvement of the ability of medical staff, but also promote the steady improvement of their scientific research performance, and inject new vitality into the scientific research cause of hospitals.


This study has several limitations that need to be considered. First, the participants were only recruited from Beijing (a city in China), potentially lacking geographical diversity. We plan to select more outstanding experts from across the country to participate. Second, the index system may be more suitable for countries with medical systems similar to those of China. When applying this system in other countries, some modifications may be necessary based on the local context. Last, While this study has employed scientific methods to establish the indicator system, the index system has yet to be implemented on a large sample of medical staff. Therefore, the reliability and validity of the index system must be confirmed through further research. In conclusion, it is crucial to conduct further detailed exploration of the effectiveness and practical application of the index system in the future.

This study developed an evaluation index system using the Delphi method to assess the scientific literacy of medical staff in China. The system comprises two primary indicators, nine secondary indicators, and thirty-eight third-level indicators, with each index assigned a specific weight. The index system emphasizes the importance of both attitudes and abilities in the scientific research process for medical staff and incorporates more comprehensive evaluation indicators. In the current era of medical innovation, enhancing the scientific literacy of medical staff is crucial for enhancing the competitiveness of individuals, hospitals, and overall medical services in society. This evaluation index system is universally applicable and beneficial for countries with healthcare systems similar to those of China. This study can serve as a valuable reference for cultivating highly qualified and capable research personnel and enhancing the competitiveness of medical research.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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The authors thank all who participated in the nominal group technique and two rounds of the Delphi study.

This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (72074160) and the Natural Science Foundation Project of Beijing (9222004).

Author information

Shuyu Liang and Ziyan Zhai contributed equally to this work and joint first authors.

Kai Meng and Yuan Gao contributed equally to this work and share corresponding author.

Authors and Affiliations

Aerospace Center Hospital, No. 15 Yuquan Road, Haidian District, Beijing, 100049, China

Xiaozhi Sun, Jingxuan Jiao & Yuan Gao

School of Public Health, Capital Medical University, No.10 Xitoutiao, Youanmenwai Street, Fengtai District, Beijing, 100069, China

Shuyu Liang, Ziyan Zhai, Xingmiao Feng & Kai Meng

Beijing Tiantan Hospital, Capital Medical University, No. 119 South Fourth Ring West Road, Fengtai District, Beijing, 100070, China

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S.L. and Z.Z. contributed equally to this paper. S.L. took charge of the nominal group technique, data analysis, writing the first draft and revising the manuscript; Z.Z. was responsible for the Delphi survey, data analysis, and writing of the first draft of the manuscript; XF was responsible for the rigorous revision of Delphi methods; X.S. and J.J. were responsible for the questionnaire survey and data collection; Y.G. contributed to the questionnaire survey, organization of the nominal group interview, supervision, project administration and resources; and K.M. contributed to conceptualization, methodology, writing—review; editing, supervision, and project administration. All the authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Yuan Gao or Kai Meng .

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This study involved human participants and was approved by the Ethical Review Committee of the Capital Medical University (No. Z2022SY089). Participation in the survey was completely voluntary, and written informed consent was obtained from the participants.

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About 1 in 5 U.S. teens who’ve heard of ChatGPT have used it for schoolwork

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Roughly one-in-five teenagers who have heard of ChatGPT say they have used it to help them do their schoolwork, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17. With a majority of teens having heard of ChatGPT, that amounts to 13% of all U.S. teens who have used the generative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot in their schoolwork.

A bar chart showing that, among teens who know of ChatGPT, 19% say they’ve used it for schoolwork.

Teens in higher grade levels are particularly likely to have used the chatbot to help them with schoolwork. About one-quarter of 11th and 12th graders who have heard of ChatGPT say they have done this. This share drops to 17% among 9th and 10th graders and 12% among 7th and 8th graders.

There is no significant difference between teen boys and girls who have used ChatGPT in this way.

The introduction of ChatGPT last year has led to much discussion about its role in schools , especially whether schools should integrate the new technology into the classroom or ban it .

Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to understand American teens’ use and understanding of ChatGPT in the school setting.

The Center conducted an online survey of 1,453 U.S. teens from Sept. 26 to Oct. 23, 2023, via Ipsos. Ipsos recruited the teens via their parents, who were part of its KnowledgePanel . The KnowledgePanel is a probability-based web panel recruited primarily through national, random sampling of residential addresses. The survey was weighted to be representative of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 who live with their parents by age, gender, race and ethnicity, household income, and other categories.

This research was reviewed and approved by an external institutional review board (IRB), Advarra, an independent committee of experts specializing in helping to protect the rights of research participants.

Here are the  questions used for this analysis , along with responses, and its  methodology .

Teens’ awareness of ChatGPT

Overall, two-thirds of U.S. teens say they have heard of ChatGPT, including 23% who have heard a lot about it. But awareness varies by race and ethnicity, as well as by household income:

A horizontal stacked bar chart showing that most teens have heard of ChatGPT, but awareness varies by race and ethnicity, household income.

  • 72% of White teens say they’ve heard at least a little about ChatGPT, compared with 63% of Hispanic teens and 56% of Black teens.
  • 75% of teens living in households that make $75,000 or more annually have heard of ChatGPT. Much smaller shares in households with incomes between $30,000 and $74,999 (58%) and less than $30,000 (41%) say the same.

Teens who are more aware of ChatGPT are more likely to use it for schoolwork. Roughly a third of teens who have heard a lot about ChatGPT (36%) have used it for schoolwork, far higher than the 10% among those who have heard a little about it.

When do teens think it’s OK for students to use ChatGPT?

For teens, whether it is – or is not – acceptable for students to use ChatGPT depends on what it is being used for.

There is a fair amount of support for using the chatbot to explore a topic. Roughly seven-in-ten teens who have heard of ChatGPT say it’s acceptable to use when they are researching something new, while 13% say it is not acceptable.

A diverging bar chart showing that many teens say it’s acceptable to use ChatGPT for research; few say it’s OK to use it for writing essays.

However, there is much less support for using ChatGPT to do the work itself. Just one-in-five teens who have heard of ChatGPT say it’s acceptable to use it to write essays, while 57% say it is not acceptable. And 39% say it’s acceptable to use ChatGPT to solve math problems, while a similar share of teens (36%) say it’s not acceptable.

Some teens are uncertain about whether it’s acceptable to use ChatGPT for these tasks. Between 18% and 24% say they aren’t sure whether these are acceptable use cases for ChatGPT.

Those who have heard a lot about ChatGPT are more likely than those who have only heard a little about it to say it’s acceptable to use the chatbot to research topics, solve math problems and write essays. For instance, 54% of teens who have heard a lot about ChatGPT say it’s acceptable to use it to solve math problems, compared with 32% among those who have heard a little about it.

Note: Here are the  questions used for this analysis , along with responses, and its  methodology .

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Being a great leader means recognizing that different circumstances call for different approaches.

Research suggests that the most effective leaders adapt their style to different circumstances — be it a change in setting, a shift in organizational dynamics, or a turn in the business cycle. But what if you feel like you’re not equipped to take on a new and different leadership style — let alone more than one? In this article, the author outlines the six leadership styles Daniel Goleman first introduced in his 2000 HBR article, “Leadership That Gets Results,” and explains when to use each one. The good news is that personality is not destiny. Even if you’re naturally introverted or you tend to be driven by data and analysis rather than emotion, you can still learn how to adapt different leadership styles to organize, motivate, and direct your team.

Much has been written about common leadership styles and how to identify the right style for you, whether it’s transactional or transformational, bureaucratic or laissez-faire. But according to Daniel Goleman, a psychologist best known for his work on emotional intelligence, “Being a great leader means recognizing that different circumstances may call for different approaches.”

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