The Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Research Methods

Hopefully this overview will help you to think about the possible benefits and drawbacks of using a particular method, and also help you think about which type of project will help you to really get what you want out of the project and of the year abroad.

Obviously these are not comprehensive, and you need to think about what method will be best for you and your project, but take this as a starting point for reflection on what you want to get out of your project, and realities of doing that.

Linguistic Research


• It can allow you to study a phenomenon you learned about in a linguistics content module ‘in the field’.

• Linguistic research lends itself to quantitative research, which helps you to develop skills such as excel and data analysis which are very transferrable to the world of work.

• It is a fairly ‘scientific’ way of conducting research and suits students who prefer concrete findings and clear processes.


• Because it is often based on a hypothesis, the research can be quite dependent on the results you get, and it can be disappointing when you look for a phenomenon that is just not there.

• Because you are using human participants, the ethics procedure can be longer and more complicated.

Text-Based Research


• Because a text can encompass just about anything, you have a lot of freedom.

• It is not dependent on finding participants, so you have slightly more control over when the research can happen.


• The distinction needs to be made between ‘text based research’ and an extended essay.

• Due to nature of text based research, you may end up not connecting with your local community as much as in other projects. This is why is crucial to pick topics which are linked to the place you are staying.

Ethnographic Research


• It really forces you to ‘get out there’ and get immersed in your local culture, developing language skills and confidence.

• You learn how to apply qualitative research methods, which develop transferrable interpersonal skills for the world of work.

• It means you can study more unconventional topics such as food, dance and music, or study an underrepresented group whose members appreciate being able to have their voices heard

• It allows you to reflect on your own experience as a researcher during the process, as a part of the process.


• Factors such as lack of participant interest mean that you might not collect as much data as you had hoped

• The research process itself is more complicated in terms of confidentiality and ethical issues to consider.

• The distinction between ‘fun’ and ‘academic research’ needs to be made clear. Why exactly do you want to study beer drinking in Hamburg’s Red Light District, for example?