Writing an undergraduate research project or an accounting research project starts with discovering a problem that you want to investigate more into and proffer probable solution. Your academic research methodology is critical to finishing your research project well. A sound understanding of research methodology is indispensable to embarking and executing a valid research study. In this article, we are going to provide a concise compendium guide for beginners on writing an academic research methodology, with definable steps for each stage. Hang on, and have a nice time!

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When we talk about an academic research methodology, this does not just refer to the usual chapter 3 of an undergraduate research project but the whole process involved in starting and finishing a research project effectively. As explained by Ranjit Kumar, a notable authority in research writing and coaching, the academic research methodology refers to the research process and involves an eight-step model that is categorized in four phases. Any research project can be likened to embarking on a journey by driving. Before any journey commences, two things must be decided on: firstly, your destination – where are you going? Secondly, your navigation – how are you getting to where you are going? Also in your research project, you need to first identify your destination which is likened to your research objectives or research questions or problems – what are you out to answer, what do you intend to add to the body of knowledge, what problem do you intend to solve, and so on; thereafter, you decide on your navigation which is likened to your research methodology – how do you go about answering your research questions or obtaining your research objectives such that you come up with valid and reliable conclusions to the body of knowledge.

We’ll try to “KISS” this article (i.e. Keep It Simple and Short)! Let’s establish the guiding steps for beginners in research with the following acronym: IDISPCAR

I: Identify and Define a research problem

D: Determine a suitable research design

I: Instrument Development for data collection

S: Sample Determination and Selection

P: Proposal writing

C: Collecting data

A: Analysing and presenting your data

R: Report Writing


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Step One: Identifying & Defining a Research Problem

This is determining ab initio WHAT the research out to achieve. Every research starts here. What question do you want to answer? What assumption do you want to challenge? What study gap do you desire to fill in your desired field? This can give you a head way towards identifying your research problems. Every other academic research methodology is hinged on the way one defines the research problem. Ranjit Kumar provided four Ps which comprises the source of research problems to included: people, problems, programmes and phenomena. Taking an accounting research for instance, you might want to research about people like, accountants, tax consultants, auditors, management accountants etc. and an associated problem like how they execute their role, their attitudes towards certain issues etc. which leads to establishing a pattern or existence of a regularity called phenomenon like creative accounting, window dressing, earnings management etc. as well as considering the influence of programmes like professional bodies – ICAN, CFA etc. So while the people constitutes your population of study, the problems, phenomenon and programme constitutes your subject area for collecting information from the people.

For example, I want to study why financial accountants are people of integrity or otherwise, I can choose a topic like: “the impact of professional bodies on the behaviour of financial accountants”, this topic can be dissected within the four Ps as follows:

The Impact of Professional bodies (Programmes)

on the behaviour (problem and phenomenon)

of Financial Accountants (People)

That is simple enough! You can apply this to any other field or discipline.

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Step Two: Determining a Suitable Research Design

The next step in an academic research methodology is your research design. This involves HOW you intend to study what you have defined to study. It involves determining ahead which research method will suit your intended research project. A research design is a mapped out plan or strategy that is considered best fit to answer the research questions or problems. This ensures one develop an effective strategy to undertake the different activities required to finish a research project and it also ensures that these procedures are adequate to obtain the research objective as well as answer the research questions. This would usually involve specifying in details the following:

  • What type of research design is most appropriate for the research project;
  • What group of people will be most suitable respondents and how they are to be selected;
  • What number of people is your proposed research target;
    What information collection method is best;
  • What model to use in analyzing the collected data.
  • A justification for all of the above. etc.

Determining a research design that is most suitable for your identified research is very crucial to getting valid findings and conclusions for your research project and therefore three things to bear in mind is that the chosen research design is valid, workable and manageable (Ranjit 2005). Your research design would be a function of your research type – whether quantitative or qualitative research. My previous article discussed extensively on these two methods, you can refer to it. However, below are the different types of research design that will suit your research classified under both quantitative and qualitative research:

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Quantitative Research

Based on Number of contacts:
1. Cross-sectional studies
2. Before-and-after studies
3. Longitudinal studies

Based on Reference period:
4. Retrospective
5. Prospective
6. Retrospective-prospective

Based on Nature of investigation:
7. Experimental
8. Non-experimental
9. Semi-experimental

Other Basis:
10. Cross-over comparative experimental design
11. Complicated cross-sectional design
12. Trend studies
13. Cohort studies
14. Panel studies
15. Blind studies
16. Double-blind studies

Qualitative Research

1. Case study
2. Oral history
3. Focus groups/group interviews
4. Participant observation
5. Holistic research
6. Community discussion forums
7. Reflective journal log

For instance, referring to our previous research topic: “the impact of professional bodies on the behaviour of financial accountants”, this is a quantitative research and is investigative in nature, so I could choose to use the non-experimental or semi-experimental research design. Your research topic will determine your choice of research design.

I’ll continue with this, just look out for the second part.

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Ranjit K. (2011), Research Methodology, a Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners. Sage Publications, Asia-Pacific Pte Ltd.

Please read the part 2 of this insightful article:  RESEARCH METHODOLOGY: A STEP BY STEP GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS BEGINNERS Part 2