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How to Write Methodology for Dissertation

How to structure dissertation methodology chapter

Introduction

Methodology is perhaps the most challenging and laborious part of research work. Essentially, the methodology helps to understand the broad philosophical approach behind methods of research you chose to employ for your  study. This means that your methodology chapter should clearly state whether you chose to use quantitative or qualitative data collection techniques or a mixture of both. 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 how to structure methodology of research or dissertation then this article will point you in the right direction.

It is imperative for students to make sure that deep down they know the academic basis for choosing certain methods of research. “I figured out or In my opinion” will not be an acceptable justification, and so you will need to come up with concrete academic reasons for your selection of research methods.

What Are the Typical Contents of Methodology

The methodology generally acts as a guideline or plan to exactly how you intend to carry out your research. This is especially true for students who are required to submit their methodology chapter before carrying out the research. Your methodology should link back to the literature and clearly state why you chose certain data collection and analysis methods for your research/dissertation project. The most common contents of methodology are research design, philosophical approach, data collection methods, research limitations, ethical considerations, and data analysis methods.

For those who are submitting their dissertation as a single paper, then their methodology should also touch on any modifications that they had to make as their work progressed. However, it is vitally important to provide academic justifications to all choices made by the researcher.

Choosing your Methodology and Research Design

As indicated previously, the theme of your methodology chapter should be related to your literature research and research questions.

You can visit your college or university library to find text books and articles that provide information about the most commonly employed methods of research. An intensive read of such books can help you to 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 methods to overcome them.

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 this research design and why the research limitations are irrelevant in your research.

How to Structure Methodology Chapter of your Dissertation

The typical structure of the methodology chapter is as follows:

  • Research Design & Strategy
  • Philosophical Approach
  • Methods of Data Collection & Data Analysis
  • Ethical Considerations, Reliability, Limitations & Generalizability

Research Design and Strategy

According to USC-Research Guides (2017), the primary function of a research design is to enable the researcher to effectively and flawlessly answer the research questions through evidence. 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 literature research, interviews, phone surveys, online surveys and so on. Moreover, choice of data sampling should also be clearly explained with focus on how you made the choice of ethnicity, group, profession and age of the participants. What type of questions you intend to ask to the respondents and how will they help to answer your research questions or how will they help to test the hypothesis of research? It is recommended to prepare these questions at the very start of your research; when you develop your research aim and questions. This approach can allow for you the room to change or modify research questions if your methods of data collection are not giving the desired results.

It’s a good practice to keep referring back to your research questions whilst planning or writing the research design section because this tactic will allow you to determine whether what you are planning to do would actually address the research questions you have set. 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 research design section will vary depending on your academic subject and the scope of your research but any well written research design will have the following characteristics:

  • Throw light on alternative research design options and provide justification as to why your chosen research design is the best to address the research problem.
  • Include review of the existing literature as an integral part of the complete research strategy.
  • Clearly specify the research questions that the research aims to address (hypotheses).
  • Explain how the collected data will help to address the research problem and discuss the methods your research will employ to collect the data.
  • Talk over the chosen methods of data analysis for testing of the hypotheses.

Philosophical Approach

This will discuss your chosen philosophy to strengthen your research and the research model. The three most commonly employed research philosophies in the world of academia are interpretivism, positivism, pragmatism, constructivism and post-positivism although there several other research philosophies that you could adopt. The choice of the philosophy will depend on many factors including your academic subjective, and the type and complexity of research study. Regardless of what philosophy is employed, you will be required to make different assumptions about the world.

Once you have chosen your research philosophy, the next step will be to describe the context of your research in order to answer all the W questions including When, Where, Why, How and What. Essentially, as a researcher you will be required to make the decision whether you will be using qualitative method, quantitative method or a mix of both. The process of data gathering is different for each method. Typically, you would want to decide whether you are going to adopt the positivist approach; defining your hypothesis and testing it against reality. If this is the case then 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.

The other option for you would be to base your research on 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 both qualitative and quantitative methods (which is becoming increasingly popular among the researchers these days). This method is particularly useful if you are interested in putting quantitative data into a real world context or reflect different perspectives on a subject.

How to Write Methodology

 

Research philosophy in the ‘research onion’

Source: Saunders et. al (2012)

Methods of Data Collection & Data Analysis

This section will require you to clearly specify how you gathered the data and also 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 a software such as Excel or SPSS to process the data then you will have to justify your choice of software. In this section of your methodology chapter, you will also have to explain how you arrived at your findings and how they are reliable. It is important to note that your readers or supervisor would want to see a correlation between your findings and the hypothesis/research questions on which you based your study at the very beginning. Your supervisor or a dissertation research assist can play a key role to help you write the Methodology chapter to a First Class standard. So keep your supervisor in the loop to get their contributions and recommendations throughout the process.

Ethical Considerations, Reliability & Limitations

Other important sections of your methodology are:

Ethical Considerations:

Always take into account how your research will influence other individuals who are beyond the scope of 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 the data protection, data handling and data confidentiality will also be included in this brief segment.

Reliability:

Is your research study and findings reliable for other researchers in your field of work? In order to establish yourself as a reliable researcher, your study should be both authentic and reliable.

Limitations:

Good dissertation writers will always acknowledge the limitations of their research study. Limitations in data sampling (did your research study used data that was collected from only one country?) can decrease the reliability of your results. 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.

Conclusion

The conclusion chapter can either make or break the grade of your research/dissertation paper. So you should take your time when it comes to choosing the design and philosophical approach of your research. Always make use of 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 dissertation methodology and how to structure dissertation methodology? Let us know in your comments.

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