Research paper methodology typically involves qualitative research or quantitative research, or a mixture of both. A quantitative research paper methodology involves the analysis of data collected from a large number of surveys or interviews. On the other hand, methodologies for qualitative research often involve using surveys or interviews to collect information about people — their attitudes, experiences and behaviors. In general, determining whether to use quantitative versus qualitative methodology depends on the topic and area of study. One way to get an idea of the type of research paper methodologies in your area of study is to look at previous research papers on your topic to find a pattern. For example, most research in the field of psychology involves qualitative or mixed research methodologies, whereas most research in the area of computer science involves quantitative methodologies.
Another good way to choose the best research paper methodology is to look at your research questions and what you are studying. If your research questions are more exploratory and investigative — asking how or what — they are usually best answered with qualitative or mixed methods. If your research question makes a hypothesis or a statement that needs to be proven right or wrong, then you would generally use a quantitative methodology.
You can also narrow down your research paper methodology by considering the type of information needed to answer your research question. For example, if your paper asks how breast cancer patients search for health information on online health websites, your answer will typically require behavioral information; in this case, a qualitative method may be more appropriate to get at that information.
On the other hand, if your research question is more of a hypothesis, such as "adult college students who take online courses perform better than those who take courses in traditional classroom settings," you will need to prove this. To test this hypothesis, you may want to look at performance measures, such as test scores and course grades, of the online versus classroom group and compare them during a set time period, such as one semester. The data in this case — test scores and course grades — typically needs to be collected through quantitative methods. If you wanted to also study the opinions that the online students and classroom students had about the quality of the classes they had taken, you may need to use qualitative methods along with the quantitative methods. This would be an example of using a mixed methodology in that you would have both the quantitative research and the qualitative research in the same study.
Once you've chosen an appropriate research paper methodology, you would then normally determine what research study instruments will be used to collect the data needed. Typically, qualitative research makes use of surveys and interviews to collect data from a small group of participants. Quantitative research commonly uses large numbers of surveys or interviews to collect data to be analyzed. In some cases, the data may already exist and just needs to be analyzed.