Your methodology section appears immediately after the literature review in your dissertation, and should flow organically from it. Up until the point of writing your methodology, you will have defined your research question and conducted a detailed review of what other scholars in the field have to say about your topic. You will have used these observations, along with discussions with your supervisor, to plan how you're going to tackle your research question. This could be planning how you'll gather data, or what models you'll use to process it, or what philosophical positions most inform your work.
Following this, your dissertation methodology provides a detailed account of both how you'll approach your dissertation and why you've taken the decision to approach it in the way you have. Your methodology needs to establish a clear relationship between your research question, the existing scholarship in your field that you have surveyed as part of your literature review, and the means by which you'll come to your conclusions.
Therefore, no matter what subject area you're working in, your methodology section will include the following:. Key to justifying your methodology is demonstrating that it is fit for the purpose of answering the research problem or questions you posed at the start. You should recap the key questions you want to answer when introducing your methodology, but this doesn't have to be a word-for-word restatement; you might want to reword the problem in a way that bridges your literature review and methodology.
This is the heart of the methodology but is not, by itself, a methodology.
What is dissertation chapter 3 about?
This is the part of your methodology where you clearly explain your process for gathering and analysing data, or for approaching your research question. This should be clear and detailed enough that another scholar is able to read it and apply it in some way, outside of the immediate context of your dissertation.
If you're offering a new theoretical take on a literary work or a philosophical problem, your reader should be able to understand your theory enough that they can apply it to another text or problem. If you're describing a scientific experiment, your reader should have all they need to recreate your experiment in a lab.
If you're introducing a new type of statistical model, your reader should be able to apply this model to their own data set after reading your methodology section. Your methodology doesn't just describe your method; it discusses the reasons why you've chosen it, and why you believe it will yield the best results, the most insightful set of analyses and conclusions, or the most innovative perspective.
This will draw in part from your literature review , presenting your choices as informed and rooted in sound scholarship, while ideally also displaying innovation and creativity. You should also ensure that you relate the rationale for your method explicitly to your research problem; it should be very clear to your reader that the methodology you've chosen is a thoughtful and tailored response to the questions you're trying to answer.
No research method is perfect, and it's likely that the one you've chosen comes with certain trade-offs. You might, for instance, have chosen a small-scale set of interviews because the individual perspectives of a set of interviewees on the problem you're exploring is more valuable to you than a larger set of data about responses to the same question. But that means you've nevertheless sacrificed a quantitative approach to your problem that might have yielded its own set of important insights.
Be honest and upfront — but not apologetic — about the limitations of your chosen method, and be ready to justify why it's the best approach for your purposes. While the outline of your methodology section will look much the same regardless of your discipline, the details are liable to be quite different depending on the subject area in which you're studying.
Let's take a look at some of the most common types of dissertation, and the information required in a methodology section for each of them. A scientific study The methodology section for a scientific study needs to emphasise rigour and reproducibility above all else. Your methods must appear robust to the reader, with no obvious flaws in the design or execution.
Brainstorming: The First Step to Writing Your Essay Methodology
You should not only include the necessary information about your equipment, lab setup, and procedure to allow another researcher to reproduce your method; you should also demonstrate that you've factored any variables that are likely to distort your data for example, by introducing false positives into your design , and that you have a plan to handle these either in collecting, analysing, or drawing conclusions from your data.
Your methodology should also include details of — and justifications for — the statistical models you'll use to analyse your data. Remember that a scholar might use any single part of your methodology as a departure point for their own work; they might follow your experiment design but choose a different model for analysing the results, or vice versa! A study in the social or behavioural sciences As with a scientific study, a social or behavioural sciences methodology needs to demonstrate both rigour and reproducibility, allowing another researcher to reproduce your study in whole or in part for their own ends.
However, the complexity of working with human subjects means there are a number of additional questions to consider. First of all, you'll want to answer certain broad questions about the kind of analysis you're undertaking: is it qualitative or quantitative, or a mixed approach that uses qualitative data to provide context and background to quantitative data or vice versa?
Will you be conducting recorded interviews with your subjects, asking them to complete a written questionnaire, or observing them undertaking some activity or other?
Or will you avoid doing your own research with human subjects at all, and base your research on documentary evidence or a pre-existing data set? What is the scope of your data and conclusions? Is there reason to believe it can be generalised to other contexts, or is it highly specific to the particular location or cultural context in which you conducted your research? In addition to answering all these questions, you must satisfy your reader that you have considered all the ethical questions associated with your research. Part of this, of course, entails obtaining sign-off for your design from the appropriate ethics bodies, but even then there might be aspects of your study — inviting subjects to relive episodes of grief and trauma, for instance, or broaching culturally sensitive matters within a particular target group — that some readers could consider contentious or problematic.
Make sure you address such concerns head-on, and if necessary justify your methods by emphasising the potential value of your conclusions. A critical dissertation in the arts or humanities Methodological rigour is just as valuable in the arts and humanities as in the sciences and social sciences. However, if you're writing an arts or humanities dissertation the way in which you convey this rigour — and convince your audience of it - is a little different.
The methodology section in an arts or humanities dissertation is likely to be much more closely linked to the literature review than a scientific or social sciences study; even the most innovative dissertation in the arts or humanities typically involves applying X's theories in a new context, or combining X and Y's insights to yield a new theoretical framework. For this reason it can be tempting to gloss over the methodology section in an arts or humanities dissertation, and move more or less seamlessly from literature review into analysis.
But it's crucial that you provide a detailed justification of your chosen frameworks and how they relate to your research question here too; without this justification a critical reader may very well take issue with your entire analysis because you've failed to convince them of the appropriateness of your theoretical underpinnings to the material you're analysing.
In particular, it's vitally important that your dissertation methodology shows an appreciation of the historical and cultural contexts of the theoretical frameworks you use, especially where there's fundamental disagreement between theorists. If you use the work of theorists from differing or even opposing schools of thought to support your readings, your methodology section should show a clear understanding of how these schools of thought disagree and a justification of why there are nevertheless aspects of each approach that you've decided to use in your own work.
Step 1: Explain your methodological approach
A creative arts dissertation Many programmes in the arts offer the option of completing a creative rather than critical dissertation; that is, of submitting a piece of creative writing or a portfolio of artworks, rather than an extended critical project, for the dissertation component of the programme. However, in virtually all cases, your creative project must be accompanied by a substantial critical essay or introduction, or commentary that theorises your creative practice. Critically engaging with one's own work is a notoriously difficult thing to do, which makes the development and adherence to a rigorous methodology especially important in this context.
You need to not only show that you're capable of detaching yourself from your own creative work and viewing it through an objective lens, but that you are able to see your own creative practice as methodology — as a method of creating work that is grounded in theory and research and that can be evaluated against clear target goals. No part of your dissertation should be hermetically sealed off from the others, and there will undoubtedly be some overlap between your methodology and literature review section, for example.
How to write the methods section of a research paper. - PubMed - NCBI
You might even find yourself moving material back and forth between sections during edits. But you should resist the temptation to include the following in your dissertation methodology, even if they seem to belong there quite naturally:. It's likely you'll want to refer to precedents for your dissertation methodology, and to the theorists or practitioners upon whose work it is based, as you describe your own methodology.
However, this is not the place for an exhaustive review of methodologies you're not using — that work belongs in your literature review chapter , and you should refer back to that chapter for context on why you're taking or not taking a particular approach. Your methodology section should equip a reader to reproduce your research, but it should also be a readable chapter of your dissertation and should retain the interest of somebody who doesn't necessarily want to reproduce your experiment from start to finish.
If it's possible to convey all the information another scholar would need in order to recreate your work in the body of your dissertation, do so; however if your methodology section starts to look like a shopping list, you should move some very detailed content into an appendix and refer to that. The methodology section is not the place to reproduce any data, even if you're illustrating how a questionnaire or other data-gathering mechanic works.
Again, you can place such information in an appendix and refer to it. When you start your dissertation project, you may already have some broad ideas about the methodology you want to use. You'll refine these ideas in conversation with your supervisor and develop them further as you read about the previous work that has been done in your field, and other scholars' approach to your subject area. Table of contents Explain your methodological approach Describe your methods of data collection Describe your methods of analysis Evaluate and justify your methodological choices Tips for writing a strong methodology.
Begin by introducing your overall approach to the research. What research problem or question did you investigate, and what kind of data did you need to answer it? Depending on your discipline and approach, you might also begin with a discussion of the rationale and assumptions underpinning your methodology. In a quantitative experimental study, you might aim to produce generalizable knowledge about the causes of a phenomenon. Valid research requires a carefully designed study with a representative sample and controlled variables that can be replicated by other researchers.
As this methodology is less controlled and more interpretive, you will need to reflect on your position as researcher, taking into account how your participation and perception might have influenced the results.
Once you have introduced your overall methodological approach, you should give full details of the methods you used to conduct the research. Outline the tools, procedures and materials you used to gather data, and the criteria you used to select participants or sources. Surveys Describe where, when and how the survey was conducted. You might want to include the full questionnaire as an appendix so that your reader can see exactly what data was collected.
Experiments Give full details of the tools, techniques and procedures you used to conduct the experiment. In experimental research, it is especially important to give enough detail for another researcher to reproduce your results. Existing data Explain how you gathered and selected material such as publications or archival data for inclusion in your analysis.
The survey consisted of 5 multiple-choice questions and 10 questions that the respondents had to answer with a 7-point Likert scale. The aim was to conduct the survey with customers of Company X on the company premises in The Hague from July between and A customer was defined as a person who had purchased a product from Company X on the day of questioning. Participants were given 5 minutes to fill in the survey anonymously, and customers responded. Because not all surveys were fully completed, survey results were included in the analysis.
Interviews or focus groups Describe where, when and how the interviews were conducted. Participant observation Describe where, when and how you conducted the observation. Existing data Explain how you selected case study materials such as texts or images for the focus of your analysis. In order to gain a better insight into the possibilities for improvement of the product range, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 8 returning customers from the main target group of Company X.
A returning customer was defined as someone who usually bought products at least twice a week from Company X.