Not to be confused with the more overarching term methodology, research methods are those investigative methods or techniques whereby data are generated and analysed, whether this be in controlled experiments relating to human performance, observational studies of sport fan behaviour, or the operations of sport bureaucracies. Research methods will be selected within a research design, on the principle of the proven effectiveness of the method or technique in relation to the stated research question or problem. In scientific studies of performance and exercise, researchers must demonstrate that their methods can be reliably replicated by other researchers. In sociocultural studies of sport and leisure, as in sociology and the social sciences more generally, there is extensive debate on the relative merits of quantitative research and qualitative research. Each approach has its proven strengths and it would be unwise, indeed erroneous, to champion the alleged superiority of the quantitative over the qualitative or vice versa. If there is the need to know trends in sport participation, there is no substitute for survey methods; to understand the meanings of that participation requires more qualitative approaches such as the interview, observation of various kinds, or ethnography. Messianic commitment to just one framework with its established and rigidly applied research methods can produce rigorous findings, but of sometimes limited application. The sport researcher needs a rounded awareness of the research methods available, in order to make an informed choice of the application of methods in relation to the specific research question or problem. Sometimes several methods are used, in seeking to strengthen findings, a process sometimes claimed as triangulation.
Subjects: Sport and Leisure.