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- What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips
What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips
Published on August 25, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on June 22, 2023.
Your research methodology discusses and explains the data collection and analysis methods you used in your research. A key part of your thesis, dissertation , or research paper , the methodology chapter explains what you did and how you did it, allowing readers to evaluate the reliability and validity of your research and your dissertation topic .
It should include:
- The type of research you conducted
- How you collected and analyzed your data
- Any tools or materials you used in the research
- How you mitigated or avoided research biases
- Why you chose these methods
- Your methodology section should generally be written in the past tense .
- Academic style guides in your field may provide detailed guidelines on what to include for different types of studies.
- Your citation style might provide guidelines for your methodology section (e.g., an APA Style methods section ).
Table of contents
How to write a research methodology, why is a methods section important, step 1: explain your methodological approach, step 2: describe your data collection methods, step 3: describe your analysis method, step 4: evaluate and justify the methodological choices you made, tips for writing a strong methodology chapter, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about methodology.
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Your methods section is your opportunity to share how you conducted your research and why you chose the methods you chose. It’s also the place to show that your research was rigorously conducted and can be replicated .
It gives your research legitimacy and situates it within your field, and also gives your readers a place to refer to if they have any questions or critiques in other sections.
You can start by introducing your overall approach to your research. You have two options here.
Option 1: Start with your “what”
What research problem or question did you investigate?
- Aim to describe the characteristics of something?
- Explore an under-researched topic?
- Establish a causal relationship?
And what type of data did you need to achieve this aim?
- Quantitative data , qualitative data , or a mix of both?
- Primary data collected yourself, or secondary data collected by someone else?
- Experimental data gathered by controlling and manipulating variables, or descriptive data gathered via observations?
Option 2: Start with your “why”
Depending on your discipline, you can also start with a discussion of the rationale and assumptions underpinning your methodology. In other words, why did you choose these methods for your study?
- Why is this the best way to answer your research question?
- Is this a standard methodology in your field, or does it require justification?
- Were there any ethical considerations involved in your choices?
- What are the criteria for validity and reliability in this type of research ? How did you prevent bias from affecting your data?
Once you have introduced your reader to your methodological approach, you should share full details about your data collection methods .
In order to be considered generalizable, you should describe quantitative research methods in enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study.
Here, explain how you operationalized your concepts and measured your variables. Discuss your sampling method or inclusion and exclusion criteria , as well as any tools, procedures, and materials you used to gather your data.
Surveys Describe where, when, and how the survey was conducted.
- How did you design the questionnaire?
- What form did your questions take (e.g., multiple choice, Likert scale )?
- Were your surveys conducted in-person or virtually?
- What sampling method did you use to select participants?
- What was your sample size and response rate?
Experiments Share full details of the tools, techniques, and procedures you used to conduct your experiment.
- How did you design the experiment ?
- How did you recruit participants?
- How did you manipulate and measure the variables ?
- What tools did you use?
Existing data Explain how you gathered and selected the material (such as datasets or archival data) that you used in your analysis.
- Where did you source the material?
- How was the data originally produced?
- What criteria did you use to select material (e.g., date range)?
The survey consisted of 5 multiple-choice questions and 10 questions measured on a 7-point Likert scale.
The goal was to collect survey responses from 350 customers visiting the fitness apparel company’s brick-and-mortar location in Boston on July 4–8, 2022, between 11:00 and 15:00.
Here, a customer was defined as a person who had purchased a product from the company on the day they took the survey. Participants were given 5 minutes to fill in the survey anonymously. In total, 408 customers responded, but not all surveys were fully completed. Due to this, 371 survey results were included in the analysis.
- Information bias
- Omitted variable bias
- Regression to the mean
- Survivorship bias
- Undercoverage bias
- Sampling bias
In qualitative research , methods are often more flexible and subjective. For this reason, it’s crucial to robustly explain the methodology choices you made.
Be sure to discuss the criteria you used to select your data, the context in which your research was conducted, and the role you played in collecting your data (e.g., were you an active participant, or a passive observer?)
Interviews or focus groups Describe where, when, and how the interviews were conducted.
- How did you find and select participants?
- How many participants took part?
- What form did the interviews take ( structured , semi-structured , or unstructured )?
- How long were the interviews?
- How were they recorded?
Participant observation Describe where, when, and how you conducted the observation or ethnography .
- What group or community did you observe? How long did you spend there?
- How did you gain access to this group? What role did you play in the community?
- How long did you spend conducting the research? Where was it located?
- How did you record your data (e.g., audiovisual recordings, note-taking)?
Existing data Explain how you selected case study materials for your analysis.
- What type of materials did you analyze?
- How did you select them?
In order to gain better insight into possibilities for future improvement of the fitness store’s product range, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 8 returning customers.
Here, a returning customer was defined as someone who usually bought products at least twice a week from the store.
Surveys were used to select participants. Interviews were conducted in a small office next to the cash register and lasted approximately 20 minutes each. Answers were recorded by note-taking, and seven interviews were also filmed with consent. One interviewee preferred not to be filmed.
- The Hawthorne effect
- Observer bias
- The placebo effect
- Response bias and Nonresponse bias
- The Pygmalion effect
- Recall bias
- Social desirability bias
- Self-selection bias
Mixed methods research combines quantitative and qualitative approaches. If a standalone quantitative or qualitative study is insufficient to answer your research question, mixed methods may be a good fit for you.
Mixed methods are less common than standalone analyses, largely because they require a great deal of effort to pull off successfully. If you choose to pursue mixed methods, it’s especially important to robustly justify your methods.
Next, you should indicate how you processed and analyzed your data. Avoid going into too much detail: you should not start introducing or discussing any of your results at this stage.
In quantitative research , your analysis will be based on numbers. In your methods section, you can include:
- How you prepared the data before analyzing it (e.g., checking for missing data , removing outliers , transforming variables)
- Which software you used (e.g., SPSS, Stata or R)
- Which statistical tests you used (e.g., two-tailed t test , simple linear regression )
In qualitative research, your analysis will be based on language, images, and observations (often involving some form of textual analysis ).
Specific methods might include:
- Content analysis : Categorizing and discussing the meaning of words, phrases and sentences
- Thematic analysis : Coding and closely examining the data to identify broad themes and patterns
- Discourse analysis : Studying communication and meaning in relation to their social context
Mixed methods combine the above two research methods, integrating both qualitative and quantitative approaches into one coherent analytical process.
Above all, your methodology section should clearly make the case for why you chose the methods you did. This is especially true if you did not take the most standard approach to your topic. In this case, discuss why other methods were not suitable for your objectives, and show how this approach contributes new knowledge or understanding.
In any case, it should be overwhelmingly clear to your reader that you set yourself up for success in terms of your methodology’s design. Show how your methods should lead to results that are valid and reliable, while leaving the analysis of the meaning, importance, and relevance of your results for your discussion section .
- Quantitative: Lab-based experiments cannot always accurately simulate real-life situations and behaviors, but they are effective for testing causal relationships between variables .
- Qualitative: Unstructured interviews usually produce results that cannot be generalized beyond the sample group , but they provide a more in-depth understanding of participants’ perceptions, motivations, and emotions.
- Mixed methods: Despite issues systematically comparing differing types of data, a solely quantitative study would not sufficiently incorporate the lived experience of each participant, while a solely qualitative study would be insufficiently generalizable.
Remember that your aim is not just to describe your methods, but to show how and why you applied them. Again, it’s critical to demonstrate that your research was rigorously conducted and can be replicated.
1. Focus on your objectives and research questions
The methodology section should clearly show why your methods suit your objectives and convince the reader that you chose the best possible approach to answering your problem statement and research questions .
2. Cite relevant sources
Your methodology can be strengthened by referencing existing research in your field. This can help you to:
- Show that you followed established practice for your type of research
- Discuss how you decided on your approach by evaluating existing research
- Present a novel methodological approach to address a gap in the literature
3. Write for your audience
Consider how much information you need to give, and avoid getting too lengthy. If you are using methods that are standard for your discipline, you probably don’t need to give a lot of background or justification.
Regardless, your methodology should be a clear, well-structured text that makes an argument for your approach, not just a list of technical details and procedures.
If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Normal distribution
- Measures of central tendency
- Chi square tests
- Confidence interval
- Quartiles & Quantiles
- Cluster sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Thematic analysis
- Cohort study
- Peer review
- Implicit bias
- Cognitive bias
- Conformity bias
- Hawthorne effect
- Availability heuristic
- Attrition bias
Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research project . It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your objectives.
Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyze data (for example, experiments, surveys , and statistical tests ).
In shorter scientific papers, where the aim is to report the findings of a specific study, you might simply describe what you did in a methods section .
In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation , you will probably include a methodology section , where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.
In a scientific paper, the methodology always comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion . The same basic structure also applies to a thesis, dissertation , or research proposal .
Depending on the length and type of document, you might also include a literature review or theoretical framework before the methodology.
Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.
Quantitative methods allow you to systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.
Reliability and validity are both about how well a method measures something:
- Reliability refers to the consistency of a measure (whether the results can be reproduced under the same conditions).
- Validity refers to the accuracy of a measure (whether the results really do represent what they are supposed to measure).
If you are doing experimental research, you also have to consider the internal and external validity of your experiment.
A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population . Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research. For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.
In statistics, sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population.
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How To Write The Methodology Chapter
The what, why & how explained simply (with examples).
By: Jenna Crossley (PhD) | Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | September 2021 (Updated April 2023)
So, you’ve pinned down your research topic and undertaken a review of the literature – now it’s time to write up the methodology section of your dissertation, thesis or research paper. But what exactly is the methodology chapter all about – and how do you go about writing one? In this post, we’ll unpack the topic, step by step .
Overview: The Methodology Chapter
- The purpose of the methodology chapter
- Why you need to craft this chapter (really) well
- How to write and structure the chapter
- Methodology chapter example
- Essential takeaways
What (exactly) is the methodology chapter?
The methodology chapter is where you outline the philosophical underpinnings of your research and outline the specific methodological choices you’ve made. The point of the methodology chapter is to tell the reader exactly how you designed your study and, just as importantly, why you did it this way.
Importantly, this chapter should comprehensively describe and justify all the methodological choices you made in your study. For example, the approach you took to your research (i.e., qualitative, quantitative or mixed), who you collected data from (i.e., your sampling strategy), how you collected your data and, of course, how you analysed it. If that sounds a little intimidating, don’t worry – we’ll explain all these methodological choices in this post .
Why is the methodology chapter important?
The methodology chapter plays two important roles in your dissertation or thesis:
Firstly, it demonstrates your understanding of research theory, which is what earns you marks. A flawed research design or methodology would mean flawed results. So, this chapter is vital as it allows you to show the marker that you know what you’re doing and that your results are credible .
Secondly, the methodology chapter is what helps to make your study replicable. In other words, it allows other researchers to undertake your study using the same methodological approach, and compare their findings to yours. This is very important within academic research, as each study builds on previous studies.
The methodology chapter is also important in that it allows you to identify and discuss any methodological issues or problems you encountered (i.e., research limitations ), and to explain how you mitigated the impacts of these. Every research project has its limitations , so it’s important to acknowledge these openly and highlight your study’s value despite its limitations . Doing so demonstrates your understanding of research design, which will earn you marks. We’ll discuss limitations in a bit more detail later in this post, so stay tuned!
Need a helping hand?
How to write up the methodology chapter
First off, it’s worth noting that the exact structure and contents of the methodology chapter will vary depending on the field of research (e.g., humanities, chemistry or engineering) as well as the university . So, be sure to always check the guidelines provided by your institution for clarity and, if possible, review past dissertations from your university. Here we’re going to discuss a generic structure for a methodology chapter typically found in the sciences.
Before you start writing, it’s always a good idea to draw up a rough outline to guide your writing. Don’t just start writing without knowing what you’ll discuss where. If you do, you’ll likely end up with a disjointed, ill-flowing narrative . You’ll then waste a lot of time rewriting in an attempt to try to stitch all the pieces together. Do yourself a favour and start with the end in mind .
Section 1 – Introduction
As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the methodology chapter should have a brief introduction. In this section, you should remind your readers what the focus of your study is, especially the research aims . As we’ve discussed many times on the blog, your methodology needs to align with your research aims, objectives and research questions. Therefore, it’s useful to frontload this component to remind the reader (and yourself!) what you’re trying to achieve.
In this section, you can also briefly mention how you’ll structure the chapter. This will help orient the reader and provide a bit of a roadmap so that they know what to expect. You don’t need a lot of detail here – just a brief outline will do.
Section 2 – The Methodology
The next section of your chapter is where you’ll present the actual methodology. In this section, you need to detail and justify the key methodological choices you’ve made in a logical, intuitive fashion. Importantly, this is the heart of your methodology chapter, so you need to get specific – don’t hold back on the details here. This is not one of those “less is more” situations.
Let’s take a look at the most common components you’ll likely need to cover.
Methodological Choice #1 – Research Philosophy
Research philosophy refers to the underlying beliefs (i.e., the worldview) regarding how data about a phenomenon should be gathered , analysed and used . The research philosophy will serve as the core of your study and underpin all of the other research design choices, so it’s critically important that you understand which philosophy you’ll adopt and why you made that choice. If you’re not clear on this, take the time to get clarity before you make any further methodological choices.
While several research philosophies exist, two commonly adopted ones are positivism and interpretivism . These two sit roughly on opposite sides of the research philosophy spectrum.
Positivism states that the researcher can observe reality objectively and that there is only one reality, which exists independently of the observer. As a consequence, it is quite commonly the underlying research philosophy in quantitative studies and is oftentimes the assumed philosophy in the physical sciences.
Contrasted with this, interpretivism , which is often the underlying research philosophy in qualitative studies, assumes that the researcher performs a role in observing the world around them and that reality is unique to each observer . In other words, reality is observed subjectively .
These are just two philosophies (there are many more), but they demonstrate significantly different approaches to research and have a significant impact on all the methodological choices. Therefore, it’s vital that you clearly outline and justify your research philosophy at the beginning of your methodology chapter, as it sets the scene for everything that follows.
Methodological Choice #2 – Research Type
The next thing you would typically discuss in your methodology section is the research type. The starting point for this is to indicate whether the research you conducted is inductive or deductive .
Inductive research takes a bottom-up approach , where the researcher begins with specific observations or data and then draws general conclusions or theories from those observations. Therefore these studies tend to be exploratory in terms of approach.
Conversely , d eductive research takes a top-down approach , where the researcher starts with a theory or hypothesis and then tests it using specific observations or data. Therefore these studies tend to be confirmatory in approach.
Related to this, you’ll need to indicate whether your study adopts a qualitative, quantitative or mixed approach. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a strong link between this choice and your research philosophy, so make sure that your choices are tightly aligned . When you write this section up, remember to clearly justify your choices, as they form the foundation of your study.
Methodological Choice #3 – Research Strategy
Next, you’ll need to discuss your research strategy (also referred to as a research design ). This methodological choice refers to the broader strategy in terms of how you’ll conduct your research, based on the aims of your study.
Several research strategies exist, including experimental , case studies , ethnography , grounded theory, action research , and phenomenology . Let’s take a look at two of these, experimental and ethnographic, to see how they contrast.
Experimental research makes use of the scientific method , where one group is the control group (in which no variables are manipulated ) and another is the experimental group (in which a specific variable is manipulated). This type of research is undertaken under strict conditions in a controlled, artificial environment (e.g., a laboratory). By having firm control over the environment, experimental research typically allows the researcher to establish causation between variables. Therefore, it can be a good choice if you have research aims that involve identifying causal relationships.
Ethnographic research , on the other hand, involves observing and capturing the experiences and perceptions of participants in their natural environment (for example, at home or in the office). In other words, in an uncontrolled environment. Naturally, this means that this research strategy would be far less suitable if your research aims involve identifying causation, but it would be very valuable if you’re looking to explore and examine a group culture, for example.
As you can see, the right research strategy will depend largely on your research aims and research questions – in other words, what you’re trying to figure out. Therefore, as with every other methodological choice, it’s essential to justify why you chose the research strategy you did.
Methodological Choice #4 – Time Horizon
The next thing you’ll need to detail in your methodology chapter is the time horizon. There are two options here: cross-sectional and longitudinal . In other words, whether the data for your study were all collected at one point in time (cross-sectional) or at multiple points in time (longitudinal).
The choice you make here depends again on your research aims, objectives and research questions. If, for example, you aim to assess how a specific group of people’s perspectives regarding a topic change over time , you’d likely adopt a longitudinal time horizon.
Another important factor to consider is simply whether you have the time necessary to adopt a longitudinal approach (which could involve collecting data over multiple months or even years). Oftentimes, the time pressures of your degree program will force your hand into adopting a cross-sectional time horizon, so keep this in mind.
Methodological Choice #5 – Sampling Strategy
Next, you’ll need to discuss your sampling strategy . There are two main categories of sampling, probability and non-probability sampling.
Probability sampling involves a random (and therefore representative) selection of participants from a population, whereas non-probability sampling entails selecting participants in a non-random (and therefore non-representative) manner. For example, selecting participants based on ease of access (this is called a convenience sample).
The right sampling approach depends largely on what you’re trying to achieve in your study. Specifically, whether you trying to develop findings that are generalisable to a population or not. Practicalities and resource constraints also play a large role here, as it can oftentimes be challenging to gain access to a truly random sample. In the video below, we explore some of the most common sampling strategies.
Methodological Choice #6 – Data Collection Method
Next up, you’ll need to explain how you’ll go about collecting the necessary data for your study. Your data collection method (or methods) will depend on the type of data that you plan to collect – in other words, qualitative or quantitative data.
Typically, quantitative research relies on surveys , data generated by lab equipment, analytics software or existing datasets. Qualitative research, on the other hand, often makes use of collection methods such as interviews , focus groups , participant observations, and ethnography.
So, as you can see, there is a tight link between this section and the design choices you outlined in earlier sections. Strong alignment between these sections, as well as your research aims and questions is therefore very important.
Methodological Choice #7 – Data Analysis Methods/Techniques
The final major methodological choice that you need to address is that of analysis techniques . In other words, how you’ll go about analysing your date once you’ve collected it. Here it’s important to be very specific about your analysis methods and/or techniques – don’t leave any room for interpretation. Also, as with all choices in this chapter, you need to justify each choice you make.
What exactly you discuss here will depend largely on the type of study you’re conducting (i.e., qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods). For qualitative studies, common analysis methods include content analysis , thematic analysis and discourse analysis . In the video below, we explain each of these in plain language.
For quantitative studies, you’ll almost always make use of descriptive statistics , and in many cases, you’ll also use inferential statistical techniques (e.g., correlation and regression analysis). In the video below, we unpack some of the core concepts involved in descriptive and inferential statistics.
In this section of your methodology chapter, it’s also important to discuss how you prepared your data for analysis, and what software you used (if any). For example, quantitative data will often require some initial preparation such as removing duplicates or incomplete responses . Similarly, qualitative data will often require transcription and perhaps even translation. As always, remember to state both what you did and why you did it.
Section 3 – The Methodological Limitations
With the key methodological choices outlined and justified, the next step is to discuss the limitations of your design. No research methodology is perfect – there will always be trade-offs between the “ideal” methodology and what’s practical and viable, given your constraints. Therefore, this section of your methodology chapter is where you’ll discuss the trade-offs you had to make, and why these were justified given the context.
Methodological limitations can vary greatly from study to study, ranging from common issues such as time and budget constraints to issues of sample or selection bias . For example, you may find that you didn’t manage to draw in enough respondents to achieve the desired sample size (and therefore, statistically significant results), or your sample may be skewed heavily towards a certain demographic, thereby negatively impacting representativeness .
In this section, it’s important to be critical of the shortcomings of your study. There’s no use trying to hide them (your marker will be aware of them regardless). By being critical, you’ll demonstrate to your marker that you have a strong understanding of research theory, so don’t be shy here. At the same time, don’t beat your study to death . State the limitations, why these were justified, how you mitigated their impacts to the best degree possible, and how your study still provides value despite these limitations .
Section 4 – Concluding Summary
Finally, it’s time to wrap up the methodology chapter with a brief concluding summary. In this section, you’ll want to concisely summarise what you’ve presented in the chapter. Here, it can be a good idea to use a figure to summarise the key decisions, especially if your university recommends using a specific model (for example, Saunders’ Research Onion ).
Importantly, this section needs to be brief – a paragraph or two maximum (it’s a summary, after all). Also, make sure that when you write up your concluding summary, you include only what you’ve already discussed in your chapter; don’t add any new information.
Methodology Chapter Example
In the video below, we walk you through an example of a high-quality research methodology chapter from a dissertation. We also unpack our free methodology chapter template so that you can see how best to structure your chapter.
And there you have it – the methodology chapter in a nutshell. As we’ve mentioned, the exact contents and structure of this chapter can vary between universities , so be sure to check in with your institution before you start writing. If possible, try to find dissertations or theses from former students of your specific degree program – this will give you a strong indication of the expectations and norms when it comes to the methodology chapter (and all the other chapters!).
Also, remember the golden rule of the methodology chapter – justify every choice ! Make sure that you clearly explain the “why” for every “what”, and reference credible methodology textbooks or academic sources to back up your justifications.
If you need a helping hand with your research methodology (or any other component of your research), be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through every step of the research journey. Until next time, good luck!
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This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
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How to Write a Dissertation Methodology in 7 Steps
A methodology section explains the entire process of data collection and analysis based on logic and philosophy. This section is an unavoidable part of a dissertation or a research paper. Considering errors in the methodology section enervates the entire dissertation. Here, we bring you a general guide on the steps to compose a flawless methodology section for a dissertation.
This brief guide shows you how to write a methodology section for a dissertation. To give you an opportunity to practice proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount.
The term ‘‘methodology’’ itself invokes its definition. However, it is not just describing the methods. A perfect research methodology for a dissertation carries out the solid philosophical ground along with explaining the methods used. In simple words, a methodology section explains the entire process of data collection and analysis based on logic and philosophy. Initially, a methodology is written to provide enough information on how the entire research is completed.
The methodology is an unavoidable part of a dissertation or a research paper. Considering errors in the methodology section enervates the entire dissertation. Here, we bring you a general guide on the steps to compose a flawless methodology for a dissertation.
Steps to writing a perfect methodology for a dissertation
1. Give an outline of the research design
On the Internet, you may find various guides that completely overlook this integral part. Before writing a methodology for a dissertation, you need to clarify which research design you are utilizing. There are multiple aspects of research designs . The following three designs are considered the most common research designs used in academic studies and dissertations.
Experimental design discusses the process in which the participants are divided into two or more groups to execute the same topics.
Descriptive designs explore the idea and connection between two inventions. Simply, its purpose is to state any topic precisely and systematically.
The review discusses the insights gained in secondary research. It also carries out how these insights influence research policies.
2. Don’t forget to define the philosophy behind the research
Research philosophy is the essence of any research. We often notice that some researchers knowingly or unknowingly avoid this part. They just put force on the collection and scrutiny of data. If your dissertation cannot connect to the philosophy of the reader, it is hard for readers to get the essence of the research. It not only makes the paper easier to understand but engaging enough to communicate with the readers. According to a study , there are mainly four types of research philosophies.
However, apart from these four, postmodernism is also a very popular philosophical idea that rejects the concept of gaining objective knowledge.
3. Mention the research approach
A perfect methodology is incomplete without mentioning the research approach. It is initially divided into two approaches: ‘‘deductive approach’’ and ‘‘inductive approach.’’
The deductive approach generally discusses a scientific investigation or specific theory. Though it is well-suited with the positivist philosophical theory, it is compatible with other philosophies too. The researchers need to study other researchers and also phenomenal theories on his or her topic in this approach.
Contrarily, inductive research is about exploring a specific phenomenon and utilizing the results to execute a new theory. It works with interpretivism or even with postmodernism.
In simple words, deductive research includes theory-based attempts, and inductive research consists of a findings-led approach.
4. Introduce the research methods
The methodology must introduce the research methods used in the dissertation whether it is quantitative or qualitative.
Quantitative research: Quantitative research method is mainly utilized to collect numerical data. The method is specifically used when you are counting, categorizing, or tracing any data pattern. Students or researchers find quantitative data through experiments, existing data, and surveys. Simply, quantitative data are used in the statistical calculation.
Qualitative research: Qualitative research technique is utilized to find non-statistical data. Here, the researchers require categorizing the information based on data collection rather than utilizing numeric to generate graphs or charts. While developing a hypothesis , this research paper plays a crucial role. Researchers can collect data from interviews, focus groups, and personal observation.
Take note that choosing the research methods largely depends on the requirements of your research. However, after completing the methodology, make sure to get it checked by professional proofreaders and editors.
· How to Find a Reliable Proofreading Service: A Brief Guide
· How Much Do Proofreading and Editing Cost?
· 8 Things to Consider Before Hiring Online Editing or Proofreading Services
· Guide to Editing and Proofreading Before Submitting a Manuscript
5. Note these points to highlight in the methodology
No matter what methodology you have chosen, you have to focus on the following points:
Explain sampling strategy.
Clearly state the procedure of the research paper.
Mention how you collect the data. (Data collection)
Explain how data are analyzed for your research. (Data analysis). Suppose you have written in qualitative strategy like thematic analysis, mention the researcher you have followed.
Mention the validity of the data and result.
Discuss all ethical aspects of your research paper.
6. Avail professional proofreading and editing services
As we always mention it is common for humans to make mistakes. In dissertation writing, editing and proofreading services are essential to ensure the credibility of the content. There can be several mistakes related to grammar, punctuation, syntax, sentence construction, and other minor errors. Consulting an expert for amending such errors doesn’t only save your time but also ensures consistency and error-free writing in your dissertation.
Moreover, if your dissertation is traced with some major mistakes, an editor plays an exceptional role in editing the part and rewrite it for you. Where proofreading deals with grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other minor errors, editing deals with the analysis and core amendments, including formatting, referencing, and many more. Irrespective of native or non-native speakers, it is a smart decision to seek assistance from experts.
7. Most important tips to compose an impactful methodology for a dissertation
Don’t drift from your objective and the purpose of your dissertation.
Explore scholarly research papers and their methodology sections to have a better idea.
Plan a proper writing structure.
Understand your audience and target group.
Don’t make mistakes in citing relevant sources. You may use APA and MLA citation
Refer to all the hurdles you have experienced while writing your dissertation.
Make sure to rectify grammatical and punctuation errors.
Ensure that the section is readable and doesn’t consist of long and complex sentences. Long sentences can hamper the tone of the methodology.
Take note that experts review your research paper for any mistakes in grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction, etc., and fix all the issues to ensure the highest quality. Moreover, a professional service like Best Edit & Proof ensures that this part is free from plagiarism.
If you need us to make your manuscript shine, contact us unhesitatingly!
Best Edit & Proof expert editors and proofreaders focus on offering manuscripts with proper tone, content, and style of academic writing, and also provide an upscale editing and proofreading service for you. If you consider our pieces of advice, you will witness a notable increase in the chance for your research manuscript to be accepted by the publishers. We work together as an academic writing style guide by bestowing subject-area editing and proofreading around several categorized writing styles. With the group of our expert editors, you will always find us all set to help you identify the tone and style that your manuscript needs to get a nod from the publishers.
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You can also avail of our assistance if you are looking for editors who can format your manuscript, or just check on the particular styles for the formatting task as per the guidelines provided to you, e.g., APA, MLA, or Chicago/Turabian styles. Best Edit & Proof editors and proofreaders provide all sorts of academic writing help, including editing and proofreading services, using our user-friendly website, and a streamlined ordering process.
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Dissertations 4: methodology: start.
- Introduction & Philosophy
The Methodology Chapter
The methodology chapter flows organically from the literature review. This means that at this stage you should have reviewed the literature in your field of study, analysed research that has been conducted and highlighted how it was conducted. In turn, this should reflect the foundation of your own project as you will have to link it to your chosen research method.
The methodology chapter also involves describing your method in detail and justifying the approach you are going to adopt, taking into consideration the limitations and ethical implications of your model. Your description should be detailed enough that someone reading your methodology can recreate your approach.
Therefore, the methodology requires you to:
- describe your methods
- demonstrate a clear connection between your research question (or hypothesis) and the means by which you will reach your conclusions
- present justification (strengths) and limitations (weaknesses) of your methods
What are Methods & Methodology?
In order to appreciate what methods are, let us remember what research is about. Research can be summarised into three points (Cottrell, 2014, p9):
Methods of arriving at an answer
Thus, methods are the means to research and answer the research question, or test the hypothesis. Methods include techniques and procedures used to obtain and analyse data (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2015, p4). Your methods can consist of primary and secondary sources, qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods, as illustrated in this guide.
Methodology is sometimes used interchangeably with methods, or as the set of methods used in a research. More specifically, as the name would suggest, methodo-logy is the logos, the reasoning, on the methods. It is also referred to as the theory of how research should be undertaken (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2015, p4). This is why you normally would have a methodology, rather than methods, chapter in a dissertation.
First Key Tip
We hope this guide will be helpful, but it is of fundamental importance that you also use a research methods book (or other authoritative source) for your discipline . The book will guide you on best methods for your research, give you practical guidance, and present critical insights and limitations of the methods.
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- Last Updated: Sep 14, 2022 12:58 PM
- URL: https://libguides.westminster.ac.uk/methodology-for-dissertations
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Writing your Dissertation: Methodology
A key part of your dissertation or thesis is the methodology. This is not quite the same as ‘methods’.
The methodology describes the broad philosophical underpinning to your chosen research methods, including whether you are using qualitative or quantitative methods, or a mixture of both, and why.
You should be clear about the academic basis for all the choices of research methods that you have made. ' I was interested ' or ' I thought... ' is not enough; there must be good academic reasons for your choice.
What to Include in your Methodology
If you are submitting your dissertation in sections, with the methodology submitted before you actually undertake the research, you should use this section to set out exactly what you plan to do.
The methodology should be linked back to the literature to explain why you are using certain methods, and the academic basis of your choice.
If you are submitting as a single thesis, then the Methodology should explain what you did, with any refinements that you made as your work progressed. Again, it should have a clear academic justification of all the choices that you made and be linked back to the literature.
Common Research Methods for the Social Sciences
There are numerous research methods that can be used when researching scientific subjects, you should discuss which are the most appropriate for your research with your supervisor.
The following research methods are commonly used in social science, involving human subjects:
One of the most flexible and widely used methods for gaining qualitative information about people’s experiences, views and feelings is the interview.
An interview can be thought of as a guided conversation between a researcher (you) and somebody from whom you wish to learn something (often referred to as the ‘informant’).
The level of structure in an interview can vary, but most commonly interviewers follow a semi-structured format. This means that the interviewer will develop a guide to the topics that he or she wishes to cover in the conversation, and may even write out a number of questions to ask.
However, the interviewer is free to follow different paths of conversation that emerge over the course of the interview, or to prompt the informant to clarify and expand on certain points. Therefore, interviews are particularly good tools for gaining detailed information where the research question is open-ended in terms of the range of possible answers.
Interviews are not particularly well suited for gaining information from large numbers of people. Interviews are time-consuming, and so careful attention needs to be given to selecting informants who will have the knowledge or experiences necessary to answer the research question.
See our page: Interviews for Research for more information.
If a researcher wants to know what people do under certain circumstances, the most straightforward way to get this information is sometimes simply to watch them under those circumstances.
Observations can form a part of either quantitative or qualitative research. For instance, if a researcher wants to determine whether the introduction of a traffic sign makes any difference to the number of cars slowing down at a dangerous curve, she or he could sit near the curve and count the number of cars that do and do not slow down. Because the data will be numbers of cars, this is an example of quantitative observation.
A researcher wanting to know how people react to a billboard advertisement might spend time watching and describing the reactions of the people. In this case, the data would be descriptive , and would therefore be qualitative.
There are a number of potential ethical concerns that can arise with an observation study. Do the people being studied know that they are under observation? Can they give their consent? If some people are unhappy with being observed, is it possible to ‘remove’ them from the study while still carrying out observations of the others around them?
See our page: Observational Research and Secondary Data for more information.
If your intended research question requires you to collect standardised (and therefore comparable) information from a number of people, then questionnaires may be the best method to use.
Questionnaires can be used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, although you will not be able to get the level of detail in qualitative responses to a questionnaire that you could in an interview.
Questionnaires require a great deal of care in their design and delivery, but a well-developed questionnaire can be distributed to a much larger number of people than it would be possible to interview.
Questionnaires are particularly well suited for research seeking to measure some parameters for a group of people (e.g., average age, percentage agreeing with a proposition, level of awareness of an issue), or to make comparisons between groups of people (e.g., to determine whether members of different generations held the same or different views on immigration).
See our page: Surveys and Survey Design for more information.
Documentary analysis involves obtaining data from existing documents without having to question people through interview, questionnaires or observe their behaviour. Documentary analysis is the main way that historians obtain data about their research subjects, but it can also be a valuable tool for contemporary social scientists.
Documents are tangible materials in which facts or ideas have been recorded. Typically, we think of items written or produced on paper, such as newspaper articles, Government policy records, leaflets and minutes of meetings. Items in other media can also be the subject of documentary analysis, including films, songs, websites and photographs.
Documents can reveal a great deal about the people or organisation that produced them and the social context in which they emerged.
Some documents are part of the public domain and are freely accessible, whereas other documents may be classified, confidential or otherwise unavailable to public access. If such documents are used as data for research, the researcher must come to an agreement with the holder of the documents about how the contents can and cannot be used and how confidentiality will be preserved.
How to Choose your Methodology and Precise Research Methods
Your methodology should be linked back to your research questions and previous research.
Visit your university or college library and ask the librarians for help; they should be able to help you to identify the standard research method textbooks in your field. See also our section on Research Methods for some further ideas.
Such books will help you to identify your broad research philosophy, and then choose methods which relate to that. This section of your dissertation or thesis should set your research in the context of its theoretical underpinnings.
The methodology should also explain the weaknesses of your chosen approach and how you plan to avoid the worst pitfalls, perhaps by triangulating your data with other methods, or why you do not think the weakness is relevant.
For every philosophical underpinning, you will almost certainly be able to find researchers who support it and those who don’t.
Use the arguments for and against expressed in the literature to explain why you have chosen to use this methodology or why the weaknesses don’t matter here.
Structuring your Methodology
It is usually helpful to start your section on methodology by setting out the conceptual framework in which you plan to operate with reference to the key texts on that approach.
You should be clear throughout about the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen approach and how you plan to address them. You should also note any issues of which to be aware, for example in sample selection or to make your findings more relevant.
You should then move on to discuss your research questions, and how you plan to address each of them.
This is the point at which to set out your chosen research methods, including their theoretical basis, and the literature supporting them. You should make clear whether you think the method is ‘tried and tested’ or much more experimental, and what kind of reliance you could place on the results. You will also need to discuss this again in the discussion section.
Your research may even aim to test the research methods, to see if they work in certain circumstances.
You should conclude by summarising your research methods, the underpinning approach, and what you see as the key challenges that you will face in your research. Again, these are the areas that you will want to revisit in your discussion.
Your methodology, and the precise methods that you choose to use in your research, are crucial to its success.
It is worth spending plenty of time on this section to ensure that you get it right. As always, draw on the resources available to you, for example by discussing your plans in detail with your supervisor who may be able to suggest whether your approach has significant flaws which you could address in some way.
Continue to: Research Methods Designing Research
See Also: Dissertation: Results and Discussion Writing a Literature Review | Writing a Research Proposal Writing a Dissertation: The Introduction
- How it works
Writing a Methodology for your Dissertation | Complete Guide & Steps
What is a methodology.
The methodology is perhaps the most challenging and laborious part of the dissertation . Essentially, the methodology helps in understanding the broad, philosophical approach behind the methods of research you chose to employ in your study. The research methodology elaborates on the ‘how’ part of your research.
This means that your methodology chapter should clearly state whether you chose to use quantitative or qualitative data collection techniques or a mix of both.
Your research methodology should explain the following:
- What was the purpose of your research?
- What type of research method was used?
- What were the data-collecting methods?
- How did you analyse the data?
- What kind of resources were used in your research?
- Why did you choose these methods?
You will be required to provide justifications as to why you preferred a certain method over the others. If you are trying to figure out exactly how to write methodology or the structure of a methodology for a dissertation, this article will point you in the right direction.
Students must be sure of why they chose a certain research method over another. “I figured out” or “In my opinion” statements will not be an acceptable justification. So, you will need to come up with concrete academic reasons for your selection of research methods.
What are the Standard Contents of a Research Methodology?
The methodology generally acts as a guideline or plan for exactly how you intend to carry out your research. This is especially true for students who must submit their methodology chapter before carrying out the research.
Your methodology should link back to the literature review and clearly state why you chose certain data collection and analysis methods for your research/dissertation project.
The methodology chapter consists of the following:
- Research Design
- Philosophical Approach
- Data Collection Methods
- Research Limitations
- Ethical Considerations (If Any)
- Data Analysis Methods
For those who are submitting their dissertation as a single paper, their methodology should also touch on any modifications they had to make as their work progressed.
However, it is essential to provide academic justifications for all choices made by the researcher.
How to Choose your Dissertation Methodology and Research Design?
The theme of your research methodology chapter should be related to your literature review and research question (s).
You can visit your college or university library to find textbooks and articles that provide information about the commonly employed research methods .
An intensive reading of such books can help you devise your research philosophy and choose the appropriate methods. Any limitations or weaknesses of your chosen research approach should also be explained, as well as the strategies to overcome them.
To research well, you should read well! Read as many research articles (from reputed journals) as you can. Seeing how other researchers use methods in their studies and why will help you justify, in the long run, your own research method(s).
Regardless of the chosen research approach, you will find researchers who either support it or don’t. Use the arguments for and against articulated in the literature to clarify why you decided to choose the selected research design and why the research limitations are irrelevant to your research.
How to Structure your Dissertation Methodology?
The typical structure of the methodology chapter is as follows:
- Research Design And Strategy
- Methods Of Data Collection And Data Analysis
- Ethical Considerations, Reliability , Limitations And Generalisability
In research jargon, generalisability is termed external validity . It means how generalisable your research findings are to other contexts, places, times, people, etc. External validity is expected to be significantly high, especially in quantitative studies.
According to USC-Research Guides (2017) , a research design’s primary function is to enable the researcher to answer the research questions through evidence effectively. Generally, this section will shed light on how you collected your data.
The researcher will have to justify their choice of data collection methods, such as the one that was reviewed, the use of data tools (interviews, phone surveys, questionnaires, observation, online surveys , etc.) and the like.
Moreover, data sampling choice should also be clearly explained with a focus on how you chose the ethnicity, group, profession and age of the participants.
- What type of questions do you intend to ask the respondents?
- How will they help to answer your research questions ?
- How will they help to test the hypothesis of the dissertation?
It is recommended to prepare these questions at the start of your research. You should develop your research problem and questions. This approach can allow the room to change or modify research questions if your data collection methods do not give the desired results.
It’s a good practice to keep referring to your research questions whilst planning or writing the research design section. This will help your reader recall what the research is about; why you have done what you did. Even though this technique is recommended to be applied at the start of every section within a dissertation, it’s especially beneficial in the methodology section.
In short, you will need to make sure that the data you are going to collect relates to the topic you are exploring. The complexity and length of the research design section will vary depending on your academic subject and the scope of your research, but a well-written research design will have the following characteristics:
- It sheds light on alternative research design options and justifies why your chosen design is the best to address the research problem.
- Clearly specifies the research questions that the research aims to address or the hypothesis to validate.
- Explain how the collected data will help address the research problem and discusses your research methodology to collect the data.
Philosophical Approach Behind Writing a Methodology
This will discuss your chosen philosophy to strengthen your research and the research model. Commonly employed philosophies in academia are
There are several other research philosophies that you could adopt.
The choice of philosophy will depend on many factors, including your academic subject and the type and complexity of the research study. Regardless of which philosophy is used, you will be required to make different assumptions about the world.
Once you have chosen your research philosophy, the next step will describe your research context to answer all the questions, including when, where, why, how and what of your research.
Essentially, as a researcher, you will be required to decide whether you will be using a qualitative method, a quantitative method or a mix of both.
Did you know?
Using both qualitative and quantitative methods leads to the use of a mixed-methods approach. This approach also goes by another seldom-used name: eclectic approach.
The process of data collection is different for each method. Typically, you would want to decide whether you will adopt the positivist approach, defining your hypothesis and testing it against reality.
If this is the case, you will be required to take the quantitative approach, collecting numerical data at a large scale (from 30 or more respondents) and testing your hypotheses with this data.
Collecting data from at least 30 respondents/participants ensures reliable statistical analysis . This is especially true for quantitative studies. If the data contains less than 30 responses, it won’t be enough to carry out reliable statistical analyses on such data.
The other option for you would be to base your research on a qualitative approach, which will point you in a direction where you will be investigating broader areas by identifying people’s emotions and perceptions of a subject.
With a qualitative approach, you will have to collect responses from respondents and look at them in all their richness to develop theories about the field you are exploring.
Finally, you can also use a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods (which is becoming increasingly popular among researchers these days). This method is beneficial if you are interested in putting quantitative data into a real-world context or reflecting different perspectives on a subject.
Research philosophy in the ‘research onion.’
Methods of Data Collection and Data Analysis
This section will require you to clearly specify how you gathered the data and briefly discuss the tools you used to analyse it. For example, you may choose to conduct surveys and/or interviews as part of the data collection process.
Similarly, if you used software such as Excel or SPSS to process the data , you will have to justify your software choice. In this section of your methodology chapter , you will also have to explain how you arrived at your findings and how reliable they are.
It is important to note that your readers or supervisor would want to see a correlation between your findings and the hypothesis/research questions you based your study on at the very beginning.
Your supervisor or dissertation research assistant can play a key role in helping you write the methodology chapter according to established research standards. So, keep your supervisor in the loop to get their contributions and recommendations throughout the process.
In this section, you should briefly describe the methods you’ve used to analyse the data you’ve collected.
The qualitative method includes analysing language, images, audio, videos, or any textual data (textual analysis). The following types of methods are used in textual analysis .
Discourse analysis is an essential aspect of studying a language and its uses in day-to-day life.
It is a method of studying and retrieving meaningful information from documents Thematic analysis:
It’s a method of identifying patterns of themes in the collected information, such as face-to-face interviews, texts, and transcripts.
Example: After collecting the data, it was checked thoroughly to find the missing information. The interviews were transcribed, and textual analysis was conducted. The repetitions of the text, types of colours displayed, and the tone of the speakers was measured.
Quantitative data analysis is used for analysing numerical data. Include the following points:
- The methods of preparing data before analysing it.
- Which statistical test you have used? (one-ended test, two-ended test)
- The type of software you’ve used.
Ethical Considerations, Reliability and Limitations of a Dissertation Methodology
Other important sections of your methodology are:
Always consider how your research will influence other individuals who are beyond the scope of the study. This is especially true for human subjects. As a researcher, you are always expected to make sure that your research and ideas do not harm anyone in any way.Discussion concerning data protection, data handling and data confidentiality will also be included in this brief segment.
- How did you ensure your participants’/respondents’ anonymity and/or confidentiality?
- Did you remove any identifiable markers after conducting the study (post-test stage) so that readers wouldn’t be able to guess the identity of the participant/respondent?
- Was personal information collected according to the purpose of the research? (For instance, asking respondents their age when it wasn’t even relevant in the study). All such ethical considerations need to be mentioned.
Even though there is no established rule to include ethical considerations and limitations within the methodology section, it’s generally recommended to include it in this section, as it makes more sense than including it, say, after the discussions section or within the conclusion.
This is mainly because limitations almost always occur in the methodology stage of research. And ethical considerations need to be taken while sampling, an important aspect of the research methodology.
Here are some examples of ethical issues that you should be mindful of
- Does your research involve participants recalling episodes of suffering and pain?
- Are you trying to find answers to questions considered culturally sensitive either by participants or the readers?
- Are your research, analysis and findings based on a specific location or a group of people?
All such issues should be categorically addressed and a justification provided for your chosen research methodology by highlighting the study’s benefits.
Is your research study and findings reliable for other researchers in your field of work? To establish yourself as a reliable researcher, your study should be both authentic and reliable.
Reliability means the extent to which your research can yield similar results if it was replicated in another setting, at a different time, or under different circumstances. If replication occurs and different findings come to light, your (original) research would be deemed unreliable.
Good dissertation writers will always acknowledge the limitations of their research study. Limitations in data sampling can decrease your results’ reliability.
A classic example of research limitation is collecting responses from people of a certain age group when you could have targeted a more representative cross-section of the population.Be humble and admit to your own study’s limitations. Doing so makes your referees, editors, supervisors, readers and anyone else involved in the research enterprise aware that you were also aware of the things that limited your study.
Limitations are NOT the same as implications. Sometimes, the two can be confused. Limitations lead to implications, that is, due to a certain factor being absent in the study (limitation) for instance, future research could be carried out in a setting where that factor is present (implication).
Dissertation Methodology Example
At this point, you might have a basic understanding of how to craft a well-written, organised, accurate methodology section for your dissertation. An example might help bring all the aforementioned points home. Here is a dissertation methodology example in pdf to better understand how to write methodology for a dissertation.
Sample Dissertation Methodology
Does your Research Methodology Have the Following?
- Great Research/Sources
- Perfect Language
- Accurate Sources
If not, we can help. Our panel of experts makes sure to keep the 3 pillars of Research Methodology strong.
Types of Methodologies
A scientific or lab-based study.
A methodology section for a scientific study will need to elaborate on reproducibility and meticulousness more than anything else. If your methods have obvious flaws, the readers are not going to be impressed. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your chosen research methodology is vigorous in nature.
Any information related to the procedure, setup and equipment should be clearly stated so other researchers in your field of study can work with the same method in the future if needed.
Variables that are likely to falsify your data must be taken into the equation to avoid ambiguities. It is recommended to present a comprehensive strategy to deal with these variables when gathering and analysing the data and drawing conclusions.
Statistical models employed as part of your scientific study will have to be justified, and so your methodology should include details of those statistical models.
Another scholar in the future might use any aspect of your methodology as the starting point for their research. For example, they might base their research on your methodology but analyse the data using other statistical models. Hence, this is something you should be mindful of.
Behavioural or Social Sciences-Based Dissertation
Like scientific or lab-based research, a behavioural and social sciences methodology needs to be built along the same lines. The chosen methodology should demonstrate reproducibility and firmness so other scholars can use your whole dissertation methodology or a part of it based on their research needs.
But there are additional issues that the researcher must take into consideration when working with human subjects. As a starting point, you will need to decide whether your analysis will be based on qualitative data, quantitative data or mixed-method of research, where qualitative data is used to provide contextual background to quantitative data or the other way around.
Here are some questions for you to consider:
- Will you observe the participants undertaking some activity, ask them to fill out a questionnaire, or record their responses during the interviews ?
- Will you base your research on existing evidence and datasets and avoid working with human subjects?
- What are the length, width, and reach of your data? Define its scope.
- Is the data highly explicit to the location or cultural setting you carried your study in, or can it be generalised to other situations and frameworks (reliability)? What are your reasons and justifications?
While you will be required to demonstrate that you have taken care of the above questions, it is equally important to make sure that you address your research study’s ethical issues side-by-side.
Of course, the first step in that regard will be to obtain formal approval for your research design from the ethics bodies (such as IRBs – institutional review boards), but still, there will be many more issues that could trigger a sense of grief and discomfort among some of the readers.
Humanities and Arts Dissertation Project
The rigour and dependability of the methods of research employed remain undisputed and unquestionable for humanities and arts-based dissertations as well. However, the way you convince your readers of your dissertation’s thoroughness is slightly different.
Unlike social science dissertation or a scientific study, the methodology of dissertations in arts and humanities subjects needs to be directly linked to the literature review regardless of how innovative your dissertation’s topic might be.
For example, you could demonstrate the relationship between A and B to discover a new theoretical background or use existing theories in a new framework.
The methodology section of humanities and arts-based dissertations is less complex, so there might be no need to justify it in detail. Students can achieve a seamless transition from the literature review to the analysis section.
However, like with every other type of research methodology, it is important to provide a detailed justification of your chosen methodology and relate it to the research problem.
Failing to do so could leave some readers unconvinced of your theoretical foundations’ suitability, which could potentially jeopardise your whole research.
Make sure that you are paying attention to and giving enough information about the social and historical background of the theoretical frameworks your research methodology is based on. This is especially important if there is an essential difference of opinion between your research and the research done on the subject in the past.
A justification of why opposing schools of thought disagree and why you still went ahead to use aspects of these schools of thought in your methodology should be clearly presented for the readers to understand how they would support your readings.
A Dissertation in Creative Arts
Some degree programs in the arts allow students to undertake a portfolio of artworks or creative writing rather than produce an extended dissertation research project.However, in practice, your creative research will be required to be submitted along with a comprehensive evaluative paper, including background information and an explanation that hypothesises your innovative exercise.
While this might seem like an easy thing to do, critical evaluation of someone’s work is highly complex and notorious in nature. This further reinforces the argument of developing a rigorous methodology and adhering to it.
As a scholar, you will be expected to showcase the ability to critically analyse your methodology and show that you are capable of critically evaluating your own creative work.Such an approach will help you justify your method of creating the work, which will give the readers the impression that your research is grounded in theory.
What to Avoid in Methodology?
All chapters of a dissertation paper are interconnected. This means that there will undoubtedly be some information that would overlap between the different chapters of the dissertation .
For example, some of the text material may seem appropriate to both the literature review and methodology sections; you might even end up moving information from pillar to post between different chapters as you edit and improve your dissertation .
However, make sure that you are not making the following a part of your dissertation methodology, even though it may seem appropriate to fit them in there:
A Long Review of Methods Employed by Previous Researchers
It might seem relevant to include details of the models your dissertation methodology is based on. However, a detailed review of models and precedents used by other scholars and theorists will better fit in the literature review chapter, which you can link back to. This will help the readers understand why you decided to go in favour of or against a certain tactic.
Unnecessary Details Readers Might Not be Interested In
There is absolutely no need to provide extensive details of things like lab equipment and experiment procedures. Having such information in the methodology chapter would discourage some readers who might not be interested in your equipment, setup, lab environment, etc.
Your aim as the author of the document will be to retain the readers’ interest and make the methodology chapter as readable as possible.
While it is important to get all the information relating to how others can reproduce your experiment, it is equally important to ensure your methodology section isn’t unnecessarily long. Again, additional information is better to be placed within the appendices chapter.
The methodology is not the section to provide raw data, even if you are only discussing the data collection process. All such information should be moved to the appendices section.
Even if you feel some finding or numerical data is crucial to be presented within the methodology section, you can, at most, make brief comments about such data. Its discussion, however, is only allowed in the discussions section .
What Makes your Methodology Stand Out?
The factors which can determine if your dissertation methodology is ‘great’ depend on many factors, including the level of study you are currently enrolled in.
Undergraduate dissertations are, of course, less complex and less demanding. At most universities in the UK, undergraduate students are required to exhibit the ability to conduct thorough research as they engage for the first time with theoretical and conceptual frameworks in their chosen research area.
As an undergraduate student, you will be expected to showcase the capacity to reproduce what you have learnt from theorists in your academic subject, transform your leanings into a methodology that would help you address the research problem, and test the research hypothesis, as mentioned in the introduction chapter.
A great undergraduate-level dissertation will incorporate different schools of thought and make a valuable contribution to existing knowledge. However, in general, undergraduate-level dissertations’ focus should be to show thorough desk-based and independent research skills.
Postgraduate dissertation papers are much more compound and challenging because they are expected to make a substantial contribution to existing knowledge.
Depending on the academic institute, some postgraduate students are even required to develop a project published by leading academic journals as an approval of their research skills.
It is important to recognise the importance of a postgraduate dissertation towards building your professional career, especially if your work is considered impactful in your area of study and receives citations from multiple scholars, enhancing your reputation in academic communities.
Even if some academics cite your literature review and conclusion in their own work, it is a well-known fact that your methodology framework will result in many more citations regardless of your academic subject.
Other scholars and researchers in your area of study are likely to give much more value to a well-crafted methodology, especially one they can use as the starting point for their own research.
Of course, they can alter, refine and enhance your methodology in one way or another. They can even apply your methodological framework to a new data set or apply it in a completely new situation that is irrelevant to your work.
Finally, postgraduate dissertations are expected to be highly convincing and demonstrate in-depth engagement. They should be reproducible and show rigour, so the findings and conclusions can be regarded as authentic and reliable among scientific and academic communities.
The methodology is the door to success when it comes to dissertation projects. An original methodology that takes into consideration all aspects of research is likely to have an impact on the field of study.
As a postgraduate student, you should ask yourself, Is my dissertation methodology reproducible and transferable? Producing a methodology that others can reproduce in the future is as important as answering research questions .
The methodology chapter can either make or break the grade of your research/dissertation paper. It’s one of the research elements that leave a memorable impression on your readers. So, it would help if you took your time when it comes to choosing the right design and philosophical approach for your research.
Always use authentic academic sources and discuss your plans in detail with your supervisor if you believe your research design or approach has flaws in it.
Did this article help you learn how to write a dissertation methodology and how to structure a dissertation methodology? Let us know in your comments.
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What Is a Dissertation Methodology?
How to choose your methodology, final thoughts, how to write your dissertation methodology.
Updated September 30, 2021
Due to the complexities of the different research methods, writing your dissertation methodology can often be the most challenging and time-consuming part of your postgraduate dissertation .
This article focuses on the importance of writing a good PhD or master's dissertation methodology – and how to achieve this.
A postgraduate dissertation (or thesis) is usually formed of several detailed sections, including:
Abstract – A summary of your research topic.
Introduction – Provides background information on your topic, putting it into context. You will also confirm the main focus of your study, explain why it will add value to your area of interest and specify your key objectives.
Literature Review – A critical review of literature that relates to your chosen research topic. You will also need to identify which gap in the literature your study aims to address.
Methodology – Focuses on the research methods used within your research.
Results – Used to report on your main findings and how these relate to your research question.
Conclusion – Used to confirm the answer to your main research question, reflect on the research process and offer recommendations on future research.
The dissertation methodology forms the skeleton of any research project. It provides the reader with a clear outline of the methods you decided to use when carrying out your research.
By studying your dissertation methodology, the reader will be able to assess your research in terms of its validity and reliability.
In line with the outline given above, the methodology chapter usually appears after the literature review . Your methodology should be closely linked to the research that you conducted as part of this review, as well as the questions you aim to answer through your research and analysis.
Taking the time to find out about the different types of research available to you will allow you to identify any potential drawbacks to the method you have chosen to use. You should then be able to make allowances or adjustments to address these when it comes to carrying out your research.
Choosing your methodology will largely depend on the discipline of the qualification you are studying for and the question your dissertation will seek to answer. In most cases, you will use quantitative or qualitative research methods, although some projects will benefit from using a combination of both.
Quantitative research methods are used to gather numerical information. This research method is particularly useful if you are seeking to count, categorise, measure or identify patterns in data. To collect quantitative data, you might choose to conduct experiments, tests or surveys.
Qualitative research methods are used to gather non-statistical data. Instead of using numbers to create charts or graphs, you will need to categorise the information according to identifiers. This research method is most useful if you are seeking to develop a hypothesis. To collect qualitative data, you might choose to conduct focus groups, interviews or observations.
What to Include in Your Dissertation Methodology
Below is a dissertation methodology example to show you what information to include:
You will need to reiterate your research topic or question and give an overview of how you plan to investigate this. If there were any ethical or philosophical considerations to be made, give details.
For example, you may have sought informed consent from the people taking part in interviews or surveys.
Outline of the Methods Chosen
Confirm whether you have chosen to use quantitative research, qualitative research or a combination of both.
When choosing between qualitative and quantitative research methods, you will need to carry out initial literature and textbook research to establish the standard research methods that are normally used within your chosen area of research.
If you are not sure where to start, you could visit the library at your college or university and ask one of the librarians to help you to identify the most relevant texts.
Explanation of the Methods Chosen
Explain your rationale for selecting your chosen research methods. You should also give an overview of why these were more appropriate than using another research method.
Think about where and when the research took place and who was involved. For example, this might include information on the venue used for interviews or focus groups, dates and timescales, and whether participants were part of a particular demographic group.
Here are some examples of the type of information you may wish to include:
Qualitative Research Methods
Personal observations – Where and when did you conduct the observations? Who did you observe? Were they part of a particular community or group? How long did each observation take? How did you record your findings – did you collect audio recordings, video footage or written observations?
Focus groups – Where and when did the focus group take place? Who was involved? How were they selected? How many people took part? Were the questions asked structured, unstructured or semi-structured? Remember to include a copy of the questions that were used as an appendix.
Interviews – Where and when did the interviews take place? Who took part? How did you select the participants? What type of questions did you ask? How did you record your findings? Remember to include a copy of the questions that were used as an appendix.
The researcher’s objective was to find out customer perceptions on improving the product range currently offered by Company Y. Semi-structured interviews were held with 15 returning customers from the key target demographic for Company Y (18- to 35-year-olds). For research purposes, a returning customer was defined as somebody who purchased products from Company Y at least two times per week during the past three months. The interviews were held in an office in the staff area of the retail premises. Each interview lasted approximately 25 minutes. Responses were recorded through note-taking as none of the respondents wished to give their consent to be filmed.
Quantitative Research Methods
Existing information or data – What were the sources of the material used? How did you select material? Did you only use data published within a particular time frame?
Experiments – What tools or equipment did you use? What techniques were required? Note that when conducting experiments, it is particularly important to provide enough information to allow another researcher to conduct the experiment and obtain the same results.
Surveys – Were respondents asked to answer multiple-choice questions or complete free-text fields? How many questions were used? How long were people given to answer all of the questions? What were the demographics of the participants? Remember to include a copy of the survey in the appendices.
The survey was made up of 10 multiple-choice questions and 5 questions to be rated using a 5-point Lickert scale. The objective was to have 250 customers of Company Z complete the survey at the Company Z HQ between 1st and 5th February 2019, between the hours of 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. For research purposes, a customer was defined as any person who had purchased a product from Company Z during 2018. Customers completing the survey were allowed a maximum of 10 minutes to answer all of the questions. 200 customers responded, however not all of the surveys were completed in full, so only 150 survey results were able to be used in the data analysis.
How Was the Data Analysed?
If you have chosen to use quantitative research methods, you will need to prepare the data before analysing it – for example, you will need to check for variables, missing data and outliers. If you have used computer software to aid with analysis, information on this should also be included.
For qualitative data, you will need to categorise and code the ideas and themes that are identified from the raw data. You may also need to use techniques such as narrative analysis or discourse analysis to interpret the meaning behind responses given.
What Materials and Equipment Were Used During the Research?
This could include anything from laboratory equipment used in a scientific experiment to computer software used to analyse the results.
Were There Any Hurdles or Difficulties Faced During the Research?
If so, what were they and how did you manage to overcome them? This could be anything from difficulties in finding participants, problems obtaining consent or a shortage of the required resources needed to conduct a scientific experiment.
This paragraph should be used to evaluate the research you have conducted and justify your reasons for choosing this approach.
You do not need to go into great detail, as you will present and discuss your results in-depth within your dissertation’s ‘Results’ section.
You will need to briefly explain whether your results were conclusive, whether there were any variables and whether your choice of methodology was effective in practice.
Tips for Writing Your Dissertation Methodology
The objective for the methodology is not only to describe the methods that you used for your research. You will also need to demonstrate why you chose to use them and how you applied them.
The key point is to show that your research was conducted meticulously.
Try to keep your writing style concise and clear; this will ensure that it is easy for the reader to understand and digest.
Here are five top tips to consider when writing your dissertation methodology:
1. Look at Other Methodology Sections
Ask your supervisor to provide you with a few different examples of previously written dissertations. Reading through methodologies that have been written by past students will give you a good idea of what your finished methodology section should look like.
2. Plan Your Structure
Whichever research methods you have chosen to use, your dissertation methodology should be a clearly structured, well written section that gives a strong and justified argument for your chosen research methods.
You may wish to use headings such as:
- Research methods
- Explanation of research methods chosen
- Data analysis and references
Once you have drafted an outline, ask your supervisor for advice on whether there is anything you have missed and whether your structure looks logical.
3. Consider Your Audience
When writing your methodology, have regard for the people who are likely to be reading it. For example, if you have chosen to use research methods that are commonly chosen within your area of research or discipline, there is no need to give a great deal of justification or background information.
If you decide to use a less popular approach, it is advisable to give much more detailed information on how and why you chose to use this method.
4. Remain Focused on Your Aims and Research Questions
Your dissertation methodology should give a clear indication as to why the research methods you have chosen are suitable for the aims of your research.
When writing your dissertation methodology, ensure that you link your research choices back to the overall aims and objectives of your dissertation. To help you to remain focused, it can be helpful to include a clear definition of the question you are aiming to answer at the start of your methodology section.
5. Refer to Any Obstacles or Difficulties That You Dealt With
If you faced any problems during the data collection or analysis phases, use the methodology section to talk about what you did to address these issues and minimise the impact.
Whether you are completing a PhD or master's degree, writing your thesis or dissertation methodology is often considered to be the most difficult and time-consuming part of completing your major research project.
The key to success when writing a methodology section is to have a clear structure. Remember, the purpose of the methodology section of your research project is to ensure that the reader has a full understanding of the methods you have chosen.
You should use your methodology section to provide clear justification as to why you have chosen a particular research method instead of other potential methods. Avoid referring to your personal opinions, thoughts or interests within your methodology; keep the information that you include factual and ensure that everything is backed up by appropriate academic references.
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