Methodological Issues in Counseling Research and Reviewing the Literature




The methodology of a study refers to the procedures that are followed in order to collect and analyze data. Qualitative and quantitative are two broad categories of research methods (Erford, 2015, p. 17). Distinguishing between them is a theme that runs throughout this course. This unit discusses several of the methodological issues, or steps, to be addressed when planning a study. Some of these issues include:


What kind of data to collect (such as participants’ perceptions).

How to best collect the data (for example, in-depth semi-structured interviews).

How to select participants.

What kinds of treatments or conditions they will experience. How to analyze the data.

These decisions determine the research design. “Research designs are types of inquiry within qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches that provide specific direction for procedures in a research design” (Creswell, 2014, p. 12).

Validity, Credibility, and Reliability

Scholar-practitioners are concerned with the overall validity and trustworthiness of the research they read. In quantitative studies, internal validity refers to the degree to which one can infer cause and effect relationships between the independent and dependent variables, while external validity relates to the generalizability of findings. Both are important issues. In qualitative studies, the term validity is less frequently used when discussing the quality or trustworthiness of the research. Rather, the critical consumer of qualitative research is concerned with credibility, dependability, confirmability, verification, and transferability. This unit provides an introduction to methodological issues in counseling research. These issues will be revisited when you study specific research designs. As you develop your pre-proposal assignment, you will consider methodological issues as they apply to the research design you have chosen.

Reviewing the Literature

In this unit, you will continue locating current empirical articles, which will be used to write the literature review section of your pre-proposal assignment. An annotated bibliography is a tool for organizing the main ideas of the sources you have read. A detailed annotated bibliography can contribute greatly to the ease of writing a literature review. A well-written literature review is a coherent narrative that provides readers with the status of the knowledge base as it relates to your topic. This works best when literature reviews are organized by main ideas. The writer should not present a laundry list of article summaries with no connections being made among them. Instead, think of the literature review as telling the story of your topic, using the studies as support. There will probably be subheadings in the literature review section to indicate the main ideas for the reader. When you write your literature review, think of the main ideas that you want to get across and organize your writing around them.


Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Erford, B. T. (2015). Research and evaluation in counseling (2nd ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage


Using the information from this unit’s introduction, the text readings, and the annotated bibliography pages from the Capella Writing Center, prepare an annotated summary for each of the empirical studies that you located in this unit. This will serve as the start of a complete annotated bibliography, if you choose to create one.  An annotated bibliography is a recommended, not required, step toward developing a high-quality literature review.

Prepare two annotated bibliography entries for this discussion. Your annotation will be similar to, but most likely briefer than, the study’s abstract.  Summarize the material in your own words, not direct quotes.  For each entry, briefly describe the following elements:


The approach used, either qualitative or quantitative.

The specific research design used.

The purpose of the study.

How the sample was selected.

The research question or the hypothesis (if it is the quantitative study).

The instrumentation used.

The cultural issues that are relevant to the study.

The data analysis procedure used (statistics if it is a quantitative study; a method for analyzing narrative if it is a qualitative study).

The general findings.

The suggested length for this post is 400–500 words

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