Composing A Dissertation Methodology Section: Tips For Dummies

A key component of your dissertation paper is the methodology section. This isn’t quite the same as methods, as you may think when you think back on lab reports you’ve written in the past. Instead, the methodology section describes the broad philosophical base you used in selecting your specific research methods. It also includes whether you are using quantitative or qualitative methods, or a mixture of these two, and why you think your choice applies to your research.

Be clear about the reasons for your choices and the academic basis for your decisions. It’s insufficient to just say “I was interested in…” or “I thought…” You must provide solid academic reasoning.

What should be included in the methodology section?

  • It should be linked back to the literature so you can fully explain why you are using specific methods you chose.
  • You should include the academic foundation of your choices.
  • Consider if someone else could replicate your research easily based on what you have written in this section as well as additional information included in the appendices.
  • Explain how you arrived at your results and findings.
  • Give a clear explanation as to why your findings are reliable.
  • Outline how your findings answer your thesis question.
  • Explain how your findings may test the hypotheses you based your analysis on.

How to structure the methodology chapter

The sections you may choose to use within this chapter could include the following:

  1. Philosophy – positivism, interpretivism or post-positivism
  2. Approach – qualitative or quantitative
  3. Strategy and design – how the data was collected
  4. Data collection and analysis methods – tools you used for analysis
  5. Ethics, reliability, validity, generalizability and limitations – give an explanation for how each of these values applies to your study.

Included in the methodology should be the limitations of your project as well as answering the how, why, what, where and when questions. Qualitative and quantitative approaches are a little different when it comes to measuring and gathering and interpreting data. Qualitative is basically based on quality, or looking for specific information that can’t be measured. Quantitative is based more on quantity, or something that can be physically measured. Many fields of study are adapted to using either of these methods or combining them.

The choices you make for this section and how to answer each part of it can be guided by your supervisor.

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