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Research Methods for Writers

Misty103 is a pen name for a psychology graduate who enjoys writing about and sharing psychology knowledge.

Fiction writers need at least a basic understanding of psychology in order to write realistic content, dialogues, characters, and relationships. One such psychological concept that many writers struggle with is research methods/designs. Research studies must have a research design in order to ensure the study follows a plan; however, there is not one universal research design that is suitable for all topics. There are three basic types of research methods: case method, experimental method, and correlational method. Having a basic understanding of these different methods and designs is needed for writers who plan to have a main character be a researcher or have a research based setting.

Case Study Research Method

The case method is a form of research that offers a generalized study of a person or an event with the intent of finding out as much as possible about the person or the event (Funder, 2016). An example of a case study would be if researchers decided to study a volcanic eruption, a single case of mental illness, and/or engine failure in a specific type of car.

The major advantages of the case study method are:

1. It does justice to the topic as a well written case study can read like a novel or a short story;

2. A case study can offer inspiration and insight of new and different ideas that can lead to all sorts of new research;

3. Its ability to focus on just one person or event in order to answer questions like why did that person get sick or why did the plane’s engine fail (Funder, 2016).

The biggest downside to the case study method is that it is hard to determine the degree in which the results of the research can be generalized is unknown as each case can contain different fact and variables. This means that the results of one case study could be vastly different from the results of a similar study conducted on a different individual.

Experimental Research Method

The experimental research method relies upon an experiment being conducted; this typically involves research participants being randomly assigned to an experiment and control group. The researcher would compare the results of the two groups to determine the findings of the research.

The major advantages of the experimental research method are:

1. The ability to influence variables

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2. The ability to control the environment

3. The ability to select participants

The major disadvantages of the experimental research method are:

1. The financial costs

2. Recruiting participants who are able to participate in the research

3. The need to keep the participants from knowing the purpose of the research in order to avoid the falsification of results

Correlational: Longitudinal Studies

The correlational way is different as no experimental or control groups are used; instead all participants are treated the same and variables are measured naturally instead of being artificially influenced (Funder, 2016). Correlational longitudinal take place over an extended period to make comparisons over a certain period of time. Correlational longitudinal studies make use of continuous and/or repeated measures to monitor participants over sustained periods of time (sometimes years or decades); these studies are observational studies which collect quantitative and/or qualitative data on variables that are not impacted by any external influence (Caruana, Roman, Hernández-Sánchez, & Solli, 2015).

The biggest strength of the correlational longitudinal research method is its ability to be used for long-term studies. Additionally, these studies have the advantage of being well suited for identifying and relating events to exposures, establishing a chronological sequence of events, following changes over time, avoiding recall bias by collecting data without knowledge of future events, and the ability to account for the cohort effect (Caruana, Roman, Hernández-Sánchez, & Solli, 2015).

The biggest weakness of this method is that the study is observational in nature, which does not allow researchers to alter or influence the variables of the study. The observational nature of this research method, the lack of ability to influence variables, and the long periods of time that these studies are conducted means that it can take a considerable amount of time to collect all required data and additional time to compile, compare, and evaluate it. This means that it would be a considerable period of time before the results of the study would be known and could be published.


Caruana, E. J., Roman, M., Hernández-Sánchez, J., & Solli, P. (2015). Longitudinal

studies. Journal of thoracic disease, 7(11), E537–E540.

Funder, D. (2016). The personality puzzle (7th ed.). W. W. NORTON & COMPANY.

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