How to Write the Methodology Chapter of a Dissertation
- Recall the research question or problem: A methodology chapter usually follows the format of a literature review. Therefore, to retain focus and provide clarity, it can help to recap briefly on the main research problem(s) or question(s). Define the problem you are addressing and explain it.
- Outline your approach: Describe the approach you have taken to conducting primary research. This will put your methodology into context and guide your readers. If you outline all the methodology-related aspects you will attend to – e.g., justifications, sampling, rationale, and so on – you will show clearly that you understand the importance of using well-chosen and thorough methodologies.
- The matter of precedence should be discussed: Think about and discuss whether the methodology you have chosen is similar to others in your field of study. It is likely a literature review will find similar efforts, so your project may benefit from a greater sense of authority if you have used a comparable method.
- How reproducible is your work? A trademark of a credible methodology is reproducibility, particularly in the field of humanities. It also implies greater usefulness and reliability. Describe the techniques you used so that anyone who opposes you could easily replicate your work and results.
- It is imperative to justify your methods: Being able to give good reasons for choosing particular methods is especially important in the case of new or non-standard methods. This is even more essential if your approach deviates from similar efforts in your field.
- Describe your rationale: Irrespective of the research type, there are usually multiple methods to choose from. Therefore, it is essential that your rationale shows you critically evaluated alternative options as a way of defending and justifying the methodology you eventually selected. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of every option, not leaving out your own choice.
- Talk about sampling – size and techniques: It is essential to consider questions related to the techniques used in sampling and the size of samples. While this area can often be covered in the section on validity and reliability, sampling is often sufficiently important to be addressed in its own right. Sample size can impact statistics so it is important that you keep this in mind when designing your methodology and writing about it.
- You will need to cover validity and reliability: In every research project, issues concerning how valid and reliable the methods are should be discussed quite explicitly. A number of different issues come into this bracket such as how accurate, precise and statistically significant the methods are and what the possibility of error is.
- What is included in appendices: A methodology section should be highly focused and written in a lucid manner, with any material that is not directly related appended at the end. It is usual to put copies of survey results, questionnaires, interview notes and other methodology-type materials in an appendix.
- Talk about generalizations: Your methodology chapter should contain a section where you directly address the extent to which any data you obtained can be classified as “general.” This should also be kept in mind during the design stage because results of general importance over and above direct data tend to have a bearing on how convincing the final results are.