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How to Write a Dissertation Methodology
Date published September 16 2020 by Stella Carter
Dissertation, a nightmare, or a walk through a park?
Well, that park could be on fire and a horde of zombies might be chasing you. Although fighting zombies could be exciting if you have the right strategy and equipment. Similarly, writing a dissertation is not easy or simple but with the right guidance and strategy, you can do it easily.
So let’s see what level are you.
If you are starting up on the methodology chapter it means that you have already been through two chapters. It means you are already through the Introduction chapter (prologue level) and the literature review (which we can call the mid-level boss).
Now as we are comparing the dissertation methodology chapter to the other dissertation chapters. We can say that it is easier but it doesn’t mean that it has less importance or is not needed. It is as important and necessary as all the other chapters.
It is recommended that you work your way through a dissertation but if you want to hack your way to the top, there’s a tip. Simply find a reliable and cheap dissertation writing service and you’ll be done with your dissertation without any hassle.
So before you learn how to make your way through the Methodology chapter, you have to understand it first.
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Table of Contents
What is the Dissertation Methodology?
The methodology chapter is the third and shortest chapter in a dissertation. It weighs only 10% (considering the word count/physical weight) in a dissertation.
In a dissertation methodology, you have to explain what kind of approaches and methods you have applied for the research. It has to include multiple things such as:
- Limitation of the study.
- Scope of the study.
- Significance of the study.
As well as the methods you have used for the research.
Why Dissertation Methodology Chapter is Important?
The dissertation methodology chapter is very important. This chapter is to walk the readers through your research easily. It helps the readers to evaluate the validity and reliability of your research.
Here’s What You Should Include in a Perfect Methodology Chapter:
Everything has a recipe. Once you master the recipe, you’ll just need to get the most suitable ingredients. The recipe for a flawless dissertation methodology chapter will be yours in a bit. If you follow it up, no one can stop you from achieving greatness. A perfect methodology should state and answer the following:
- Explain what kind of research you conducted
- Discuss what method(s) did you use for data collection
- State what were the data analysis methods you used
- What tools or materials used in your research
- Rationalize, explain, and justify why you chose the certain method(s), tool(s), material(s) or equipment for your research.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the ingredients for the perfect dissertation methodology chapter besides the aspects we mentioned above.
What to Include in a Literature Review?
There is always a confusion among students about what they should include in their dissertation’s literature review chapter.
The content of your literature review is going to be different but here are a few things you must include in the literature review.
View different varieties of dissertation topics and samples on multiple subjects for every educational level
A Revision of Your Research Question(s)
You have to start your methodology by mentioning your research question(s). It will help you justify that your methodology is suitable for answering your research question(s). But it doesn’t mean that you have to copy-paste your research question. You have to explain your research question in a way it links your methodology and the literature review.
Explanation of Your Methods
Explaining the methods is the core concept of writing a methodology but it doesn’t make it the whole point of writing the methodology. Explaining the methods is a part of methodology where you state the process of data collection and analysis and the approaches for the answer(s) of your research question(s).
The explanation of your method should be clear and valid enough that other scholars and future researchers can read it and apply it as well. You reader should also be able to read and apply your theories in other scenarios (i.e. their researches or texts) if you are proposing a new theory for the subject.
The Background and Logical Reasoning of the Selected Method
You also have to mention why you chose a certain method for your research. It is a crucial part of methodology as you have to justify the selected method as to why you thought it will give you the best insightful analyses, conclusions, and results.
You will have to draw the relation of your chosen method with the literature review giving proof of the background of the method and its successful application. It will support your dissertation and your research methods as it will explain to your reader that whatever method(s) you chose is/are most compatible to answer your questions.
Let’s be honest here. Everything has its pros and cons. So chances are that you faced some certain limitations during your research while applying the method.
You have to further evaluate your chosen method and take the limitations into consideration as well. It’s not necessary that the limitations of your research are to be called flaws. You have to be unapologetically honest about the limitations you faced and what kind of possible outcomes it may have made impossible.
While stating that, you can discuss how this method has been successful regardless of the many limitations that you faced during the research period.
Step-by-Step Guide for the Best Dissertation Methodology Structure:
Now that you know what is a methodology and what you should include in it. It’s time we learn about the dissertation methodology structure.
Here is the blueprint that can get you to the top (not literal). If you follow this research methodology example, you will be able to create an interesting and engaging methodology chapter for your dissertation.
So without any further ado, here is the formula for a successful dissertation methodology chapter:
- Explaining the methodological approach
- Describing the data collection methods
- Stating the analysis methods
- Evaluation and justification of your methodological choices
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1. Explaining Your Methodological Approach
You have to start with an introduction. You know it very well that a good introduction is a key to capture attention.
For the methodology chapter. You can start by directly discussing your approach to the research. Don’t waste any time, no unnecessary details or discussion. Directly hitting the main topic will make the reader stay interested in your dissertation.
After you’re done discussing the overall approach to your research. You can elevate the discussion and rhetorically explain what was the research question or problem that you investigated.
You can further explain other aspects of your method. For example, what was your aim? Did you further explore an untouched or under-researched topic? Did you establish a cause and effect relationship? What kind of approaches and dates did you need to get to your goal?
Then you have to start explaining your research methods by answering such questions such as:
- Explain whether you used/needed quantitative data (which is expressed numerically) or did you use qualitative data (which is expressed by words) for your research.
- Was the data used collected by yourself or did you use previously present data collected by someone else?
- Was the data gathered by you was experimental data as an outcome of manipulating and controlling variables or was it descriptive data collected by observations without intervening.
It depends on your methods and approach that you would have to start rationally explaining the assumptions supporting the base of your methodology. You can ask and answer such questions:
- Do you have a standard methodology or does it really need a justification for the reader to understand it?
- Were or are there any philosophical or ethical considerations regarding your method?
- Why the applied method is the most fitting approach to get the answer to your research question(s)?
- What are the criteria for the reliability and validation of your research and method(s)?
Further on you can state what kind of research method you used. Was it quantitative or qualitative?
If you don’t know what are those then don’t worry. You’ll shortly learn about both of them below.
In the simplest words, quantitative methods are statistical tests based on certain fixed questions. For example, a group of people will be given a questionnaire to fill out for research purposes. The answer will be analyzed to get an average percentage or a definitive number in the form of an answer.
Quantitative methods are usually applied to groups collectively instead of individuals. The most common quantitative methods are polls, questionnaires, surveys, or by manipulating existing statistical data using different techniques.
Qualitative methods are different than quantitative methods. In qualitative methods, there is no definite set of questions to ask the participants or the individuals in the focus group. There is a free-hand on questions.
Qualitative methods are commonly used when you’re interviewing people individually using different methods such as face to face interviews, on-call interviews, email interviews, and other similar methods. As you can already suggest, qualitative methods are used when interviewing individuals instead of groups at one time. Although the individuals have to belong to a certain focus group.
2. Describing the Data Collection Methods
You might be wondering that you already explained what kind of method you are using. Then why is there a need to describe the data collection method(s)?
Don’t worry and don’t get confused or frustrated. You will have your answers.
In the first step, you just stated what method you have used to conduct your research. Now it’s time you state and define the methods you used to collect the data for/during your research. Whether your research was qualitative or quantitative. There are multiple methods for each and you have to state all the details of your data collection method(s).
Considering the Gaps:
You have to propose and describe your applied quantitative methods in such manner and detail that future researcher(s) could consider your research/publication for their dissertations. Lacking detail can cause the reader a lot of confusion and trouble in understanding your research method.
You have to thoroughly explain how you turned the abstract of your research problem into measurable observation(s) to measure the variables of your research question. You also have to explain your sampling method and/or the exclusion or inclusion criteria of using any tools, materials, or procedures for gathering the data.
Here are some common quantitative research methods that you have to explain (if you are using any of them).
If you have done your research through a survey. You will have to state the following things in your dissertation methodology:
- You have to state when, how and where did you conduct the survey for your research
- The kind of survey design you came up with or followed. For example, questionnaires based on multiple-choice questions and Likert scale.
- Explain the sampling method you used to select the participants.
- State how you conduct the surveys. There could be multiple ways to do so, such as emails, phone calls, video calls, and in-person.
- Further, discuss how long did the participants take to respond compared to how long you have given them.
- Also, mention the size of the sample and response rate of the participants.
A tip for you. Add the whole questionnaire as an appendix in the methodology chapter to guide the reader and make the reader understand how and what data was collected exactly.
Depending on the nature of your dissertation and dissertation topic, you might need to perform some scientific or unsystematic experiments.
You have to be very meticulous while conducting experiments and explaining them in your dissertation methodology. A slight difference between your results or methods and what you explain the methodology can have a huge impact directly on the conclusion of your dissertation.
These are the things you have to mention while explaining the experiment(s) in your methodology chapter:
- Explain the design of your experiment(s)
- State how you designed the experiment and what was the inspiration, motivation, and/or intention behind it.
- State the participation or recruitment process.
- Explain the process of manipulating and measuring the variables of your research problem.
- Thoroughly and clearly explain the procedures.
- Give in-depth details about the technologies, tools, and techniques you used to conduct the experiment.
You have to think about the bigger picture while writing your dissertation. You should be clear and give as many details as you can so the researchers can learn and reproduce your results as well.
Using Already Existing/Published Data:
You know that you can include the data already existing.
When you use already existing data to gather information for your dissertation. You will have to include certain things in the dissertation methodology chapter such as:
- State where did you get the data from. Explicitly include books, authors, and online sites where you got the data from.
- Explain why you selected certain data from the specific source to use for your research.
- Discuss how the selected was originally produce by the author.
Here is an example that how any quantitative method should be explained:
Example for Quantitative Method
The survey consisted of 10 multiple choice questions and 20 questions that were measured on a 5-point Likert scale. The aim was to conduct a survey on 200 mid-aged women in the USA who regularly shop from “Brand A” in New Orleans that lasted from 11 to 15 March between 12:00 and 18:30. Every participant was included on the basis of purchase history from the “Brand A” on the questioning day. All the participants had 15 minutes to fill and finish the questionnaire anonymously. Out of 200, only 173 responded but due to the incomplete responses by the participants, only 147 questionnaires, which were finished by the participants, were included in the analysis.
Describing Qualitative Methods
You know what kind of quantitative methods are there and how you can explain them in your dissertation methodology.
Qualitative methods are completely different than quantitative methods. Qualitative methods are flexible and subjective which means that quantitative methods are not definite. The same methods can differ from one research to other research.
While explaining the qualitative methods, you have to discuss everything from the criteria that you used to select participants to the role you played to collect the data.
P.S while collecting and doing research using qualitative methods, you can participate in the research as well as just be an observer.
Here are the most common and used qualitative research methods:
Focus Groups or Individual Interviews:
Focus Groups are basically a group of very specific participants. All the participants belong to a certain category but are interviewed individually instead of them altogether.
When your research method is based on focus groups or interviews you have to discuss/state such things as:
- Explain the procedure you went through to find and select the participants.
- The exact number of people that participated in your research.
- What was the type of interviews did you take? Explain if they were unstructured, semi-structured, or structured.
- State the duration of interviews and the recorded method as well. If you are recording an interview in the form of a video, do mention that you asked for the consent of the participant or interviewee.
Participant Observation or Ethnography:
Observation is another common qualitative research method used for dissertations. You have to observe a community or a group of people for research purposes with consent.
Moving forward to what you have to state in your dissertation methodology if you are using an observation method or ethnography for dissertation research:
- Explain how you reached out to, got connected to, or gained access to the community or group that you observed.
- Describe the group or community that you observed for your research and why.
- State the duration you spent with the community
- State where the community or group was located
- Explain your role in the community or group while you were observing it/them
- Describe the method you applied to record the observed data. It could be an audio recording, video recording, or taking notes manually using a pen and pad or maybe your phone or tablet (the future is now).
Although this was a very short introduction for ethnography. If you are struggling, you can get help online and even get your dissertation written by a reliable dissertation help service as well.
Studying Published Data:
Depending on your dissertation topics, the data you will use in your dissertation will be different as well as the sources you will use. Although the sources and material could vary from texts to images and videos and even audiotapes.
When using already published data for your qualitative research, you will have to explain and discuss certain things such as:
- Describing the type(s) of material(s) you used for your research
- Explaining how did you analyze the selected material(s)
- State the procedure of selecting and collecting the material(s) and sources.
Now that we discussed all the different types of qualitative methods. Here is an example for you to demonstrate how explaining a qualitative method in your dissertation methodology would and should look like:
Example of Qualitative Methods
To conduct the interview, there were 80 participants who were mid-aged women in the area of New Orleans who regularly shopped from “Brand A”. The participants were selected on the basis of frequency they had for shopping from “Brand A”. They were gathered in a room and were given a question to answer without any restrictions. They were given the time until they were finished and completely answered the question. By the end, there were different kinds of answers ranging from different sizes i.e. from one line answers to full paragraphs. After all the participants meticulously finished their answers and returned them back. The answers were piled up and then carefully analyzed to take out the similarities as the outcome of the experiment/research. The outcomes later compiled into quotes.
Prove Your Point with Evidence!
Everything you state anywhere in your dissertation should be backed up with evidence. The same goes for the literature review chapter. If you are stating any point, make sure to prove it a citation or theory in the form of evidence. Saying for like 50th time, any statement without evidence is useless.
3. Stating the Analysis Methods
After you are done describing the data collection method(s) in the dissertation methodology chapter. You will have to state the method(s) you used to analyze the collected data.
A dissertation saving tip before you start stating your analysis methods. Never state or present the results while stating the research method(s) or the analysis method(s). The results have to be discussed by the end of the dissertation.
The analysis methods are different for both quantitative and qualitative methods. First, we will learn how to analyze the collected data from quantitative research methods and then qualitative research methods.
Analyzing Quantitative Research Methods
The quantitative research analysis is based on numbers. To make the reader clearly understand your analysis methods, make sure that:
- The preparation procedure of data before analysis. The preparation procedure can include removing outliers, manipulating or transforming variables, and/or checking for missing data.
- Explain the statistical tests that you used. For example the simple linear regression and the two-tailed t-test.
- The tools (mainly software) you used for data analysis. The most popular data analysis software include SPSS, Stata, and R.
While you state the analysis of the quantitative method you selected, you have to cite references and evidence as well. If you are using a specific rule for a process, make sure to cite it and give the credits to the author with the research name (if possible) and the year it was published.
Analyzing Qualitative Research Methods
The qualitative research analysis is based on observations, images, and language(s). The qualitative research analysis often includes some type of text-based analysis. There are a few different analysis methods for qualitative research methods such as:
- To study the communication (spoken or written language) in relation to the social context is known as discourse analysis. The focus of discourse analysis is often on the effects and purposes of different types of languages.
- The qualitative data can be converted into quantitative data using the content analysis It is a technique that can be used to make references that are valid and replicable by coding and interpreting textual material. It includes a systematic evaluation of texts that can include graphics, documents, and/or oral communication data. In simple words, you have to categorize and discuss the meaning of sentences, phrases, and words.
- When you analyze the data closely and code it to observe and examine the data to point-out the patterns and themes. The process or technique of analysis is called the thematic analysis In simple words, this analysis method focuses on identifying certain patterns based on the answers or the behavior of your participants (through the interview transcripts which could be text or audio-visual based).
Make sure to mention what analysis method you used to analyze your qualitative research method. If you refer to another analysis method that has been published in another research already, make sure to acknowledge that and give proper references and citations as well. For the 500th time, everything you write in your dissertation should have evidence and proof.
4. Evaluation and Justification of Your Methodological Choices
This is the time you discuss the reason(s) behind why you chose a certain methodological approach. You have to state both sides of choosing your method. You have state why other methods were not apt for your research topic in contrast to why the method you selected was better and suitable for your dissertation research.
While doing so, you have to discuss the limitations you faced using your selected research method as well as state the weak points. You can do it two ways, be apologetic about it and jeopardize your whole dissertation or be confident about it and use it like a pro and state how these limitations were outweighed by the strong points in your research.
How to Evaluate and Justify Your Methods Like a Boss:
You know what to do, but you don’t know how to do it. That’s the issue with a lot of things just like I don’t know how to tie a tie (simple, yet practically confusing).
Although, this is just a simple sample and the length and the context might vary in your dissertation but the core focus is the same. Here is an example to show you how the justification section would look like:
“Lab experiments are weak in terms of accurately simulating human behavior and real-life situations but are significantly strong when used to test the causal relationship between variables.”
As you can see above, the statement shows that the selected method had its weak spot(s) but had more strong points to counter the weak spot(s).
Killer Tips to Slay the Methodology Chapter!
Now that you know everything from what is a methodology, what to include, and how to write it.
Here are some amazing tips for you that I’ve been hiding up my sleeve for a long time now. It’s time I reveal them to help you write the Methodology chapter even more easily and efficiently.
Raw Data? A Big NO!
The methodology chapter is to give an insight to the reader about your research methods and how you conducted your research. It doesn’t have to include or reproduce any raw that data you collected. If you are illustrating how the data-collection method or machine or a questionnaire or a Likert scale works.
You don’t have to include any sort of data. Just mention the information about the functionality in the appendix for the reference(s).
Consider Reader’s Perspective
When you write the methodology, you have to keep in mind that you are writing it for the readers. The number of details and information you have to write should be kept limited. You don’t have to explain unnecessary details that are not going to help the reader(s) in any sense.
For instance, when you are using standard research methods, you won’t have to explain it to a depth to justify it. Just give a concise background and you’re done with it. On the other hand, if you’re using some method that you think the reader(s) might not be aware of. You will have to fully explain the choices and reasoning and everything to justify it.
Citing Most Relevant Sources is the Key
You can either cite every single source that is barely related to your methodology to jeopardize it or you can cite the most relevant sources to make your methodology stronger.
Obviously, you’d want to make it the very best methodology, and to do that, you will have to follow a few key steps.
- Always validate that you followed the certain method or instruction mentioned in the citation while doing your research.
- State the different methodologies and further discuss how you evaluated them before finalizing your method.
Present your approach and relate it to already published research methodologies addressing how you used it to fill and highlight the gap in the literature.
Now you have learned everything about the dissertation methodology chapter. From its importance to its structure. Furthermore, these tips are enough for anyone to explain how to write an outstanding dissertation methodology structure. But if you are still struggling with writing your dissertation whether it’s the methodology or the conclusion chapter. You can get some cheap dissertation writing service and relax!
Good luck but not a goodbye,
May we meet again!