Research methods can be categorized in different ways, but researchers generally classify their research as either quantitative or qualitative or inductive or deductive.
Let's examine quantitative and qualitative research first. Quantitative research is all about numbers. Researchers collect statistical data to support or refute a hypothesis. A psychologist, for example, might survey a group of people about whether or not they engage in a particular behavior and then calculate the responses numerically to determine a percentage of people who exhibit that behavior and a percentage who do not. Alternately, a chemist might conduct a set of experiments and map the results on a graph.
Qualitative research, on the other hand, seeks more in-depth information and insights about nature and experiences. A psychologist might conduct a series of interviews with a group of people about a particular behavior, not just asking whether or not they engage in it but digging deeply into their reasons for doing so or not. The researcher is seeking a greater understanding of the circumstances rather than merely a statistic. Further, a biologist might observe the habits of a particular group of animals over a period of time to determine the scope of their interactions and to learn more about their instincts and nature.
Research methods may also be classified as inductive or deductive. Inductive research, usually connected with qualitative research, seeks to develop a hypothesis or theory about a situation. It collects specific data and analyzes patterns to come to a generalization. The biologist studying animals uses the specific observations he or she makes to generalize about animal behavior.
Deductive research is often connected with quantitative research, and it seeks to test a hypothesis or theory the researcher has already developed. The chemist conducts experiments to see if they prove or disprove his or her hypothesis about the nature or force of a particular chemical reaction.