Writing your Dissertation: Methodology

The methodology is key to your thesis or dissertation. This is different from’methods’.

The methodology provides a broad dissertationmethodology.com philosophical foundation for your chosen research methods. You can choose to use qualitative or quantitative methods.

It is essential that you are clear about the academic reasoning behind all of your research methods. You can’t just say that you were interested or that you don’t think …’ has enough academic merit.
What to Include in Your Methodology

If you submit your dissertation sections, and you have the methodology submitted before you actually conduct the research, then this section is for you to describe what you plan to accomplish.

The methodology should be linked back into the literature to justify the use of certain methods.

If you are submitting one thesis, then the Methodology should provide an explanation of what you did. This should include any refinements or additions that you made to your work. Again, the Methodology should clearly justify your decisions and be linked to the literature.
Common Research Methods for the Social Sciences

There are many research methods you can use to research scientific subjects. You should discuss these options with your supervisor.

The following research methods are often used in social sciences, which involve human subjects.
Interviews

Interviews are a flexible and popular way to get qualitative information on people’s thoughts, feelings and experiences.

An interview can be viewed as a guided conversation between yourself (the researcher) or someone with whom you wish to learn (often called “informant”).

There are many levels of structure that interviewers may use, but most often they follow a semi structured format. This means the interviewer will make a guide of the topics to be covered in the conversation.

Interviewers can follow any conversation that arises during the interview. They may also be able to prompt the informant for clarifications or additional information. Interviews are excellent tools to gain detailed information where there is no limit to the possible answers.

Interviews can be difficult to obtain information from large numbers. Interviews take time and are therefore important for selecting the most qualified informants to answer the research questions.
Observations

If a researcher is interested in knowing what people do under certain circumstances, sometimes the best way to get that information is to just observe them.

The observation can be part of qualitative or quantitative research. For example, a researcher could observe how cars move around dangerous curves and determine if there is a difference. This is an example for quantitative observation.

One researcher who is interested in understanding how people reacts to a billboard ad might spend time looking at the reactions of people. This case, data would be descriptive.

An observational study can lead to ethical problems. Do they know that they will be observed? Do they have to give their consent? Is it possible for some people to refuse to be observed and still observe the rest of their surroundings?
Questionnaires

The best way to gather standardised, comparable data from a large number of people is to use questionnaires.

A questionnaire can be used to collect qualitative and quantitative data. However, it will not give you the level of detail that an interview would.

Questions require great care in design and delivery. But, well-designed questionnaires can be distributed to many more people than it would take to interview.

Questionnaires can be used to collect data about a group, such as the average age, percentage that agrees with a proposition, level in awareness, or to make comparisons among groups of people (e.g. to see if people from different generations have different views on immigration).
Documentary Analysis

Documentary analytics is the ability to collect data from existing documents. This allows for people to be interviewed, questioned or observed without having their behaviour recorded. Documentary analyses is the primary way historians collect data about their subjects. However it can also be a valuable tool to contemporary social scientists.

Documents are tangible items in which facts or ideas are recorded. Items written or produced on papers are typically newspaper articles, Government policies records, leaflets, minutes and minutes of meetings. The analysis of documents can also include other media like films, songs or websites.

Documents can reveal so much about the people involved in their production and the social context from which they were born.

Some documents are openly available and part of the public domain. However, other documents can be classified, confidential or unavailable for public viewing. Researchers must make an agreement with the document owner about what information can and cannot be used, and how confidentiality will be protected.
How to choose your methodology and the most precise research methods

Your methodology should be tied back to your research questions, and any previous research.

Ask the librarians of your college library for assistance. They may be able assist you in finding the appropriate textbooks for your research field. Additional ideas are available in the Research Methods section.

These books will help you determine your research philosophy. Then, choose methods that are compatible with it. This section of your dissertation/thesis must place your research in context of its theoretical underpinnings.

The methodology should also outline the weaknesses of your chosen approach. It could include how you plan to avoid them, such as triangulating your data using other methods. Or why you don’t believe the weakness is relevant.
Structuring your Methodology

It is common to start your section regarding methodology by setting out the conceptual framework and referring to the key texts.

Be clear about the strengths of your approach and how to improve them. You should also identify any problems, such as in sample selection or to make the findings more relevant.

You will then need to discuss the research questions you have and how you plan on addressing them.

This is the place to present your research methods, their theoretical bases, and the literature supporting these methods. The discussion section should be used to clarify whether the method was ‘tried & tested’ or experimental. And what degree of reliance you are willing to place on the results. This will need to be discussed in the discussion.

You may even plan to test certain research methods as part of your research.

In conclusion, summarize your research methods, the foundation approach and the key issues you are facing in your research. These are the areas you want to revisit during your discussion.
Conclusion

Your research success is dependent on your method and the specific methods you use.

It’s worthwhile to spend a lot time on this section. As usual, use the resources that are available to you. Discuss your plans in detail with your supervisor, who might be able to point out any major flaws or suggestions for improvements.

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