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How to Create a Methodology Section in a Paper

December 28, 2020| Category: Writing Tips

When writing a thesis or a dissertation, you will need to state and evaluate the methods you have used in your research. These methods should clearly explain what you did to obtain the relevant information. A well-written methodology section will convince your reader that your work is accurate and credible.

Basically, your methodology should help your reader figure out:

  • The type of research work you have carried out;
  • The way you have gathered and interpreted your data;
  • The essentials of data analysis;
  • The materials and tools that you used in research;
  • The rationale for selecting your methods.

Pay attention that the methodology section is usually written in the past tense.

Below, you will find the basic steps for writing a good-looking methodology chapter.

Step 1. Explain Your Approach

You should begin your methodology chapter by introducing the overall approach to research. When doing this, you will need to answer the following questions:

  • What research problem have you investigated?
  • Have you focused on the systematic description of something?
  • What type of data did you need to reach your goals? Did you need quantitative or qualitative data?
  • Did you need to collect primary data by yourself or you could use secondary data collected by other scholars?
  • Did you gather descriptive data by collecting observations without intervening or you gathered experimental data by manipulating and controlling variables?

Depending on the discipline, you can also begin your methodology with a discussion of the rationale and assumptions outlining your methods:

  • Explain if it is the most suitable approach for addressing your research question;
  • Tell if it is a standard methodology in your field or it needs justification;
  • State if there were any philosophical or ethical considerations;
  • Inform your target audience about the main criteria for reliability and validity of this research type.

If you are working on a quantitative experimental study, you may need to present common knowledge about the main causes of a specific phenomenon. Credible research assumes a properly designed study conducted under certain conditions that can be reproduced by other researchers. When working on a qualitative study, you may need to produce contextual knowledge about the social structures, behaviors, and beliefs of different groups of people. It should be said that this methodology is more interpretive and less controlled. This means that you will need to think about your role as the researcher, trying to figure out how your participation could affect the results.

Step 2. Describe the Main Methods of Data Collection

Once you are done with introducing the methodological approach, you will need to provide your target audience with the full data about the methods you have used for collecting information. All the methods you utilize in research work can be divided into two major groups, namely quantitative and qualitative ones.

Quantitative methods

When working on quantitative research, you have to provide as many details that are necessary for another researcher as possible to reproduce your study. Thus, you need to explain how you chose concepts and measured your variables. Besides, you will need to mention any tools and procedures that helped you obtain the necessary data.

Surveys

When describing the survey method, make sure to answer the following questions:

  • How did you design your questions and what form did they have (closed-ended, open-ended questions, etc.)?;
  • What sampling method you utilized to select the survey participants?
  • How did you conduct your survey (by e-mail, phone, etc.)? How long did it take the participants to respond?

In addition, you may need to include the entire questionnaire as an appendix to help your reader understand how the participants answered your questions.

Experiments

When describing your experiments, you need to give maximum details of the instruments, techniques, and procedures you have used when conducting your experiment.

  • How did you design your experiment?
  • How did you choose the participants?
  • How did you manipulate your variables?
  • What instruments and tools did you use in your experiment?

Keep in mind that in the experimental research, it is particularly important to provide another researcher with enough details so that they could reproduce it.

Existing Data

You need to explain how you collected materials, including archival data and relevant publications:

  • Where did you find your materials?
  • How was your data created?
  • What criteria did you use to select materials?

Quantitative method example. The questionnaire included 5 questions that our group measured on a Likert scale and 10 yes/no questions. It was necessary to make a survey with 100 clients of the company from 10-17 October 2020 between 9:00 and 12:00. A client was considered as a person who had ordered a service from the company on the day of questioning. Participants had 10 minutes to fill in the questionnaire, and 136 customers responded. Since not all questionnaires were fully completed, only 85 results were included in the analysis.

Qualitative methods

In qualitative research, methods are always subjective. Thus, it is very important to think on the approach taken.

  • Discuss the criteria you have used to choose the participants;
  • Analyze the context in which your study was conducted;
  • Discuss your role in the study (an active participant or an observer).

Interviews

If you have used interviews for obtaining data, you should explain the following:

  • How did you select your respondents?
  • How many individuals have you interviewed?
  • How long were your interviews?

Participant observation

Explain when, where, and how you made the observation.

  • What social group did you observe?
  • How long did you spend conducting the research?
  • What role did you play in the social group?
  • In what way did you record your data?

Existing data

Describe how you chose case study materials for doing your analysis:

  • How did you collect your materials?
  • What instruments did you analyze?

Qualitative methods example. In order to get a clear insight into the opportunities for improvement of the services provided, interviews were conducted with 10 returning clients from the target group. A returning client was defined as someone who usually ordered services at least once per week from the company. Interviews were conducted in an office and lasted approximately 20 minutes each. Answers were recorded by note-taking. Besides, eight clients were filmed with consent. Two respondents refused to be filmed.

Step 3. Explain the Methods of Analysis

Finally, you need to explain how you processed and analyzed the data. Pay attention that you should avoid going into too many details at this stage since your primary goal is to select the most important ones.

Quantitative Methods

In quantitative research, your analysis is usually based on numbers. In the methods section, you should tell:

  • How did you prepare the data before its analysis?
  • Which software you had when working with your data?
  • What statistical tests have you utilized?

Quantitative methods example: Data was prepared before the analysis. The dataset was checked for outliers and missing data. For this purpose, the “outlier labeling rule” was used. According to this rule, all values outside the range were outliers.

Qualitative Methods

When working on qualitative research, your analysis will be based mainly on images, language, and observations. As for the specific methods, they may include:

  • Thematic analysis. This analysis assumes a close examination of the data in order to identify broad patterns and themes;
  • Content analysis. This analysis aims to discuss and categorize the meaning of phrases, words, and sentences;
  • Discourse analysis. This analysis focuses on studying communication in relation to its social context.

Qualitative methods example: Thematic analysis was conducted and the interview was transcribed. This assumed coding all the data before stating and analyzing six key themes. Every theme was explained in order to gain an understanding of the participant’s motivations, beliefs, and perceptions.

Step 4. Explain Your Methodological Choices

Pay attention that the methodology section in your dissertation should help your readers understand the approach you have taken when collecting data for your study. If this approach is non-standard, you should provide your target audience with as many details as possible since they should be able to reproduce your study using your methods. What is more, you are free to mention any shortcomings or limitations you have noticed when collecting information. Nevertheless, they need to be overweighed with strengths.

Common Tips for Writing a Great Methodology Chapter

When working on your methodology, you should keep in mind its primary goal. Also, you should make this chapter match the other sections of your dissertation. When telling your audience about the methods you have utilized, you should also justify them.

Keep in mind that the methodology chapter should clearly explain what methods, instruments, and techniques you have used in your study, as well as convince your audience that you have taken the most efficient approach for collecting and analyzing the information. To reach your goal, you should not forget to relate your choices back to the essential purpose of your dissertation.

Your methodology section should be strengthened with the relevant studies existing in the field. As such, using the primary and secondary sources, you will need to:

  • State that you have followed the practices established in this type of research;
  • Explain how you evaluated various methodologies;
  • Indicate how your approach would fill in the gap existing in the research field.

No matter what methods you will choose, the text of your methodology chapter should be clear, detailed, and well-structured in order to meet the high standards of academic writing.

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