How To Write The Research Methodology Section Of Your Dissertation


Those who arepursuing a Masters or doctoral degree must be familiar with the term research methodology. It provides a sound rationale for your choice of research methods and analytical toolsand hence is a vital component of dissertations and theses. Having a thoroughly-thought-outresearch methodology gives researchers a strong grip on their methods, data, tools, and techniques. However, many scholars, even the ones at advanced stages of research, have little or no idea what methodology means. What's worse, many confuse research methodology with research methods, which leads to several ambiguities.

What is a research methodology?

The term research methodology evades adefinite or easy definition. However, in academia, it is typically used to refer to the methodical and theoretical analysis of the methods you employ to carry out your research within a certain discipline or field. This means research methodology is not a fixed principle, but something that changes across disciplines and fields. While writing dissertations, the methodology section serves as a broad research strategy that tells your readers how the research is undertaken, what methods and techniques are used, and why.

Difference between method and methodology

As already made mention of, many students mistake research methodsfor methodology. To put it simply, the tools, processes and techniques you use to collect data are called methods. For instance, interviews, questionnaires, surveys, observation, etc. are some of the methods commonly used for data collection. Methodology, on the other hand, determines what your methods are and how they should be used. It is centered on the principles that shape your approach and guide your research practices; it further provides a broad philosophical support to the research methods you have chosen. For instance, the methodology section of your dissertation helps justify why you have chosen the qualitative method over quantitative, or why a mixed approach is necessary to gather and analyze data.

Tips for writing a sound methodology

A research project is always as good as its methodology. Unsurprisingly,research guides and evaluators pay special attention to the methodology section of your dissertation. The more methodological rigor your thesis has, the better it will be. Here are a few things your methodology section should contain

  • Mention your methods: At the outset, make a mention of the methods you are using, such as surveys, archival research, participant observation, interviews, etc., to collect data and information. This is of extreme importance in social sciences and allied fields where different methods and approached may lead to different conclusions. Likewise, if your methodologies are uncommon to readers, you need to throw more light on them by providing additional explanation or background information.
  • Paint the larger picture:  You should provide the broad picture of your methodological approach in an unequivocal manner. For instance, you should indicate whether you are following a qualitative approach, a qualitative one, a mixed approach or any special approach to go deeper into your field of study.
  • Make the connection: Equally important it is to indicate how the methods and approach you employ correspond to the overall objectives of your research. You need to ensure that the methods used in your research are actually helpful in addressing the research questions you raised.
  • Justify your choices: Be it sampling or subject selection, justify why you chose what you have chosen. From a multitude of texts, data, sources, people, demography, and statistics, you are choosing a specific set as your sample, so it is mandatory that you explain why your choice matters.
  • Give a hint about result analysis: The methodology section of your dissertation should indicate the ways in which you intend to analyze the results obtained from collected data. How you analyze your results have a significant bearing on what your conclusions and findings will be. Those doing quantitative research may use statistical analysis while those who use the qualitative approach may resort to theoretical analysis to explain observed patterns, behaviors, trends, contradictions, etc. in the collected data.
  • Don’t hide the limitations of your methodology: Finally, a good methodology section always points out its own potential limitations, instead of hiding them from readers. No data sample is complete, nor is any method devoid of drawbacks. While some limitations stem from practical difficulties, others indicate theoretical issues; while some limitations can be anticipated, others crop up only as you proceed with your research. Any methodological limitation you can anticipate should be mentioned, and the reasons why you think the benefits of using a particular methodology will outweigh its limitations should also be given in your dissertation methodology.
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