Research Methods

There are a number of ways to conduct research for your capstone topic, but everyone must start with the literature review in order to learn what has already been published on your topic. The literature review also helps you identify the different research methods used by scholars in the field that have already produced valid and reliable results.

Indeed, the literature review is the very first step and it is begun when you are crafting your capstone proposal. It is the only way to choose a topic and write your background and research methods section for the proposal. Of course, you'll continue to consult published work during the capstone course as well. Because this step is so important, we've created entire section on this topic (please see Literature Review, under Choosing a Topic).

Commonly used methods:

Case studies. Case studies are in-depth investigations of a single individual (noteworthy museum leader), a group (education department), or event (exhibit). Reading prior case studies is a must to inform your design. Reading case studies may also lead you to museum professionals who authored the published work. These experts could become research participants. Case study is a formal research method with a specific structure. For an introduction, visit Basics of Developing a Case Study from the Free Management Library.

Interviews. You may want to conduct interviews with experts in the field on a specific topic, such as, increasing diversity in musuem membership. Museum professionals have a wealth of information and are ordinarily happy to support beginning scholars. Your capstone reader and instructor can help make introductions through their own networks. Interviews are not simple tasks. You'll need to learn how to conduct interviews in such as way that avoids bias and elicits valid data that can be used for analysis. For an introduction, visit General Guidelines for Conducting Research Interviews from the Free Management Library.

Surveys. Conducting a survey is another way to gather research on your topic. Ordinarily, this method is chosen when you want to gather information from a large data set. Survey design is also not a straightforward task. For an introduction, visit the Harvard University Program on Survey Research.

Program evaluation. You may also consider in-depth and detailed evaluation of an aspect of a specific museum's operation, such as an exhibit or educational programs to understand if and how it met its intended goals. For an introduction, visit Evaluation Activities in Organization from the Free Management Library and Evaluations from the Institute of Museum and Library Resources.