How to Write the Methodology Chapter of a Dissertation or Thesis

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How to Write the Methodology Chapter of a Dissertation or Thesis

When learning how to write the methodology chapter of a report or thesis, you will need to study the four basic parts.  The first part of the methodology chapter is a simple review of the problems that need to be considered when tackling the subject at hand.  In other words, you need to determine the question(s) that you are attempting to answer and the problems that you might face in finding answers.

The methodology chapter of a report or thesis is an important component that essentially maps out the methods that you will utilize when researching and writing this lengthy chapter.  Therefore, your methodology chapter must include a general definition or some type of overview of the approach that you will use in conducting your research.  You will also need to provide a thorough description of how you will go about collecting the necessary data, as well as the analytical procedure that you will use to draw conclusions based on this information.

The methodology chapter of your dissertation or thesis is not necessarily meant to provide so much detail that the reader can completely recreate the process that you used to conduct your research.  At the same time, it should be thorough enough that the reader can plainly see that you were thorough in your methods and that the methodology you utilized was sound.  In other words, it should demonstrate that you took various variables into account and that you can be reasonably assured that the results are accurate.

As with any type of writing, your methodology chapter should include an introductory paragraph that describes the problem that you will be addressing through your methodology.  The subsequent paragraphs should not go on to further address the issue, however.  Rather, the paragraphs that follow should provide an explanation of the methods you will utilize to gather the data necessary to address the problem.  In addition to describing these methods, you might also provide justification for selecting this method of data collection.

When providing justification for the method of research you are using, you might also provide an explanation for deciding not to utilize certain commonly accepted research methods.  Or, you might provide an explanation for purposely including or excluding certain groups from your research.  If writing a dissertation about the effects of feminism on American society, for example, you might choose to exclude a certain ethnic group or you may choose to focus solely on one group.  In either case, you should provide a brief explanation for this decision and the impact this decision is expected to have on the outcome of the research.

When discussing the methods you will utilize to conduct your research, you should also discuss certain variables that may have an impact on the outcome of your research.  If conducting research on women with diabetes that are over the age of 50, for example, you might acknowledge that certain lifestyle choices may have an impact on your results.  As such, you should develop a dissertation methodology or thesis methodology that will account for these variables in order to still conduct useful research that will have a true impact upon the field.



Viewpoint #2

A dissertation methodology is a distinct chapter in all projects that describes the methods by which the researcher approaches a problem and collects data through research.  The purpose of the report methodology is to define a problem, outline procedures that the researcher plans to use in order to learn more about the problem, and identify possible variables that the researcher may face during his or her research.  

The methodology dissertation describes the means by which a researcher shares his or her perception of a problem that has lead to his or her desire to research a particular subject.  The methodology outlines the general methods that the researcher plans to use to draw conclusions about the problem as well as his or her philosophical reasons for using the stated methods.  The methodology should provide a description of methods that will be used to collect and analyze data, but the methodology does not describe specific steps that will be used.  Thus, dissertation methodologies are not step-by-step explanations of how a researcher arrives at a conclusion.  The dissertation methodology is not a set of scientific methods or a recipe.

Dissertation methodologies should follow a unique format.  An introductory paragraph should describe the problem that the researcher is attempting to address through his or her research.  The researcher should then outline his or her general methodology in paragraph form, using a separate paragraph to describe the manner in which each separate method will be carried out.  The method paragraphs should also include possible variables that may impact the effectiveness or accuracy of the method.  Many researchers also choose to justify their methods either at the conclusion of the report methodology chapter or within the method paragraphs themselves.

A dissertation methodology is often confused with scientific method, especially in science fields where research is common.  However, there is a distinct difference between scientific methods and dissertation methodologies.  A scientific method is an important part of science research, as it describes the step-by-step process used during a scientific experiment.  

Yet, even though a university report is an extensive research paper, dissertation methodologies do not outline tactical steps in an experiment, as is the case with scientific methods.  Instead, a dissertation methodology describes a problem and the general techniques that a researcher will use to learn more about the problem.  

Dissertation methodologies are used to establish the credibility of the author, order of the research, and thoughtfulness of possible variables that could influence the research.  Therefore, the report methodology should not only help to establish that the researcher has a well-developed plan of approach for tackling his or her research, but also that the researcher is aware of inherent problems within his or her own methodology that could impact the final results.  As such, the report methodology is the first step towards establishing the credibility and authority of the researcher.



Viewpoint #3

A methodology chapter is the third section of an academic composition, large research paper, or journal article.  The methodology chapter explains the procedure of a researcher's academic study.  Methodology chapters are intended to be complete, detailed reports of studies with the objective that any other researcher could replicate the study exactly to determine if the same results would be obtained.  

It is sometimes tempting for writers to insert commentary into the methodology chapter.  This should be avoided, as methodology chapters are intended to be the objective presentation of the research procedure.  All discussion of the procedure should occur after the methodology chapter in a separate section or chapter called "Results" or "Discussion."

Though institutions will likely dictate their requirements for the exact format and execution of the methodology chapter, there are several primary components included in nearly all methodology chapters.  First, the chapter should begin with a brief paragraph summarizing the general approach to and construction of the study.  Following this, there should be a clear description of the research participants.  This should include details about the demographics of the participants, particularly focusing on demographics that may be relevant to the study.  For instance, if the study were attempting to determine elementary school educators' perceptions of students who do not speak English as a first language, it would be important to note in what areas of the country those educators are teaching, as some areas have high populations of non-native speakers, and some have only a few pupils.  

Next, the chapter should discuss how the study sample was obtained.  Clearly, the researcher will not survey all elementary school educators, but will select a random few to participate in the study.  The determination of the sample selection should be clearly disclosed so that researchers could replicate this selection process and also so that outside readers can determine if the sample was fairly selected.

Next, the methodology chapter should explain exactly how the study was conducted, including a detailed description of all steps the researchers took.  This will likely be the longest section because it requires a comprehensive explanation of each component of the study.  

Finally, the chapter should report on the data collected from the study and how the researcher analyzed the data.  This will almost always involve some type of statistical analysis, and if so, the tools used for this analysis should be described.  The results should not be reported here, as these will be discussed in the following section.

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