According to the Oxford dictionary, method is "a particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one", for example, a method for software development/maintenance. The origin of the word is Latin through Greek (methodos, μέθοδος) meaning pursuit of knowledge and derives from -meta (expressing development) and -hodos (meaning way).

Method in terms of scientific research follows different approaches, with the main dichotomy between qualitative and quantitative research methods. At its most basic level, scientific method consists of 3 main steps: Observing, Explaining, and Testing (Carey, 2011).

The data collection methods involved in the observation step of the method include surveys, opinion polls and experiments. These data are analysed using statistical methods. These methods are used for the study of scientific phenomena, and they are not always appropriate when studying social/cultural phenomena such as those related to the social/political aspects of e-participation and people's attitude towards technologically-driven social interaction through digital media. The use of qualitative methods (Silverman, 2013) is more appropriate when we want to:

  • understand peoples views, opinions and emotions from their own rather than the researchers perspective
  • understand process involving peoples lives
  • understand social interactions among people
  • identify the social political and cultural context where people operate


The data collection methods typically used in qualitative research are interviews, observations, focus group discussions. These data are analysed using interpretive methods.

The words method and methodology (see relevant entry in the glossary) sound similar but there is a fundamental difference between them: A method is a series of steps to achieve something; Methodology is the study of the design of the different methods used towards a goal (referred to also as research design).

Related term: Methodology


Carey S.S. (2011). A Beginners guide to scientific method. Wadsworth Publishing, Boston, MA.

Silverman (2013). Doing qualitative research. Sage, London, UK.

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