In your thesis or dissertation, you will have to discuss the methods you used to do your research. The methodology chapter explains what you did and how you did it, allowing readers to evaluate the reliability and validity of the research. It should include:
- The type of research you did
- How you collected your data
- How you analyzed your data
- Any tools or materials you used in the research
- Your rationale for choosing these methods
The following steps must be followed when writing your methodology;
Explain your methodological approach
Begin by introducing your overall approach to the research. What research problem or question did you investigate? For example, did you aim to systematically describe the characteristics of something, to explore an under-researched topic, or to establish a cause-and-effect relationship? And what type of data did you need to achieve this aim?
Did you need quantitative data (expressed in numbers) or qualitative data (expressed in words)? Did you need to collect primary data yourself, or did you use secondary data that was collected by someone else? Did you gather experimental data by controlling and manipulating variables, or descriptive data by gathering observations without intervening?
Depending on your discipline and approach, you might also begin with a discussion of the rationale and assumptions underpinning your methodology.
- Why is this the most suitable approach to answering your research questions?
- Is this a standard methodology in your field or does it require justification?
- Were there any ethical or philosophical considerations?
- What are the criteria for validity and reliability in this type of research?
Describe your methods of data collection
Once you have introduced your overall methodological approach, you should give full details of your data collection methods.
Quantitative methods Approach
In quantitative research, for valid generalizable results, you should describe your methods in enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study.
Explain how you operationalized concepts and measured your variables; your sampling method or inclusion/exclusion criteria; and any tools, procedures and materials you used to gather data. These are;
Describe where, when and how the survey was conducted.
How did you design the questions and what form did they take (e.g. multiple choice, Likert scale)?
What sampling method did you use to select participants?
Did you conduct surveys by phone, mail, online or in person, and how long did participants have to respond?
What was the sample size and response rate?
You might want to include the full questionnaire as an appendix so that your reader can see exactly what data was collected.
Give full details of the tools, techniques and procedures you used to conduct the experiment.
Explain how you designed the experiment?
Explain how you recruited participants?
Explain how you manipulated and measured the variables?
What tools or technologies did you use in the experiment?
In experimental research, it is especially important to give enough detail for another researcher to reproduce your results.
Explain how you gathered and selected material (such as publications or archival data) for inclusion 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)?
Qualitative methods Approach
In qualitative research, since methods are often more flexible and subjective, it’s important to reflect on the approach you took and explain the choices you made. Discuss the criteria you used to select participants or sources, the context in which the research was conducted, and the role you played in collecting the data. Some example are as follows’
Interviews or focus groups
Describe where, when and how the interviews were conducted.
How did you find and select participants?
How many people took part?
What form did the interviews take (structured, semi-structured, unstructured)?
How long were the interviews and how were they recorded?
Describe where, when and how you conducted the observation or ethnography.
What group or community did you observe and how did you gain access to them?
How long did you spend conducting the research and where was it located?
What role did you play in the community?
How did you record your data (e.g. audiovisual recordings, note-taking)?
Explain how you selected case study materials (such as texts or images) for the focus of your analysis.
What type of materials did you analyze?
How did you collect and select them?
3. Describe your methods of analysis
At this stage, you should indicate how you processed and analyzed the data. Avoid going into too much detail, you should not start presenting or discussing any of your results at this stage.
In quantitative research, your analysis will be based on numbers. In the methods section you might include:
How you prepared the data before analyzing it (e.g. checking for missing data, removing outliers, transforming variables)
Which software you used to analyze the data (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
4. Evaluate and justify your methodological choices
Your methodology should make the case for why you chose these particular methods, especially if you did not take the most standard approach to your topic. Discuss why other methods were not suitable for your objectives, and show how this approach contributes new knowledge or understanding. You can acknowledge limitations or weaknesses in the approach you chose, but justify why these were outweighed by the strengths.