How to create a methodology

You will need to describe the research methods that you used in your thesis. The methodology section or methods describes the research you conducted and the steps you took to get there. It allows readers to judge whether your research is reliable and valid. It should include:

The type of research that you conducted
How you selected and collected your data
How you analysed your data
All tools and materials used in research
The reason you chose these methods

It is best to write the methodology section in the past tense.
Step 1: Explain your methodological approach

Your overall research strategy should be presented. What problem did you try to solve and what data were you able to provide the answer?

Quantitative methods, e.g. Surveys are great for ranking, categorising patterns, making generalisations, and ranking them.
Qualitative techniques (e.g. Interviews are great for understanding and describing concepts and phenomena.
Mixed methods combine numerical measurement with in-depth exploration

Depending upon your approach and discipline, you may also want to discuss the rationale and assumptions that underpin your methodology.

Your goal was to address a problem that is practical or theoretical?
Why is this the best approach to answering research questions?
Does this approach conform to the standard in your field, or do you need to justify it?
Did there exist any philosophical or ethical considerations?
What are the criteria to ensure that this type of research is rigorous and valid?

Step 2: Describe the data collection and/or select methods you use

After you have presented your overall methodological approach, you need to give details about the research methods that you used. You must outline the data collection tools, procedures, materials, and criteria that you used.
Quantitative methods

Describe the place, time and manner in which the survey was conducted.

How did you design these questions? What format did they take (e.g. What form did you use to design the questions (e.g. multiple choice, rating system)?
How did they find and select the participants?
What methods were used to conduct the survey? Online, by mail, in person or online? How long did it take for participants to complete the questionnaires?
How big was the sample? What was your response rate?

The complete questionnaire might be included as an appendix to allow your reader to see the exact data collected.

Give details about the equipment, techniques, and procedures used in the experiment.

How did you design the experiment (e.g. What is the difference between sub-subjects and within-subjects?
How did they find and select the participants?
Which technologies or tools did you use for the experiment?

Experimental research requires that you give sufficient detail to enable another researcher reproduce your results.

Existing data
How did you gather and select material (such archival or publications) for your analysis?

Where did the material come from?
How were the original data created?
What criteria were you able to use to select material (e.g. What criteria did you use to select material (e.g., date range)

Qualitative methods

Interviews and focus groups
Describe the interview location, times and methods.

How did they find and select the participants?
How many people participated?
What format did interviews take (structured/semi-structured, or unstructured?)
How long were the interviews, and how did they get recorded?

Participant observation
Describe the place, when, and how you carried out the observation.

What community or group did you observe, and how did they get you access?
How long were you able to conduct the research, and where was it located.
How did you record your data? Audiovisual recordings, Note-taking

Existing data
Your analysis will focus on how you selected case studies (such as images or texts) for your research.

What types of materials have you analysed?
How did they get there?

Step 3: Define your methods of analysis

Next, explain how you processed and analysed your data. Don’t go into too many details. This is not the time to present or discuss your results.
Quantitative methods

Your analysis in quantitative research will be based upon numbers. The methods section might contain:

How did you prepare the data for analysis? checking for missing data, removing outliers, transforming variables)
Which software were you using to analyse the data (e.g. SPSS or Stata
Which statistical methods were you using (e.g. Which statistical methods did you use (e.g. regression analysis)?

Qualitative methods

Qualitative research is based on language and images. Some methods include:

Content analysis: Coding and categorising themes or ideas
Narrative analysis is the study of storytelling structures and tropes, and their interpretation.
Discourse analysis is a study of communication and meaning, including language and images, in relation to their social context

Step 4 – Evaluate and justify your methodological selections

If you have chosen a different approach to your subject, your methodology should justify why. Discuss why this method is better for you and your goals.

It is possible to acknowledge the limitations and weaknesses of the approach that you have chosen, but also to explain why they were outweighed by the benefits.
Here are some tips for creating a strong method

It is important to remember that you are not just describing your methods. You also need to show how they were used and that your research was meticulously done.
Research questions and your goals are the most important.

The methodology section should demonstrate why your methods meet your objectives. This will convince the reader that you have chosen the best approach to solving your research questions. The section should link your choices to the central purpose for your dissertation.
Cite relevant sources

You can strengthen your method by referring to the existing research in this field.

Confirm that this type of research was conducted according to established guidelines
Discuss how you compared the different approaches and decided on yours.
You should show that you have used a novel methodological approach for addressing a gap found in the literature

Write for your audience

You should consider how much information is necessary and not go into too many details. It is not necessary to explain or justify why you use certain methods. You might have to explain or justify why you chose a different approach than what is common in your discipline.

In both cases, your methodology should consist of a well-structured, clear text that supports your approach and not just a list.
Discuss the obstacles

Explain how you handled any difficulties you faced in collecting or analysing data. Show how you managed to minimize the impact of unexpected obstacles. Be prepared to respond to criticisms and show that you did your research as thoroughly as possible.

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