Writing your Dissertation: Methodology

The methodology is an essential part of your thesis. It’s not the same as a’methodology’.

The methodology describes the philosophical underpinnings of your chosen research methods. These dissertationmethodology.com include whether you are using quantitative, qualitative, or a combination of both.

Make sure you understand the academic basis of all your research choices. It does not matter if you are interested in a topic or whether you think …’ is too vague. You should have strong academic reasons to choose your research method.
What to include in your Methodology

If your dissertation will be submitted in sections with the methodology before the actual research begins, this section should be used. This section should outline exactly what you intend to do.

You should link the methodology to the literature, explaining why you chose certain methods, as well as the academic basis.

If you submit one thesis, the Methodology should outline what you did. You can also add any refinements as you work on it. It should also be supported by the literature and provide an academic rationale for all your choices.
Common Research Methods for the Social Sciences

Research can use many methods. Discuss which ones are most suitable with your supervisor.

These are the most common research methods used in social science.
Interviews

Interviews are one of most popular and flexible methods of gathering qualitative information about people’s opinions, experiences, and feelings.

An interview can be described as a guided conversation between an investigator (you) with someone you want to learn from (often referred as the informant’).

While there is no set format for interviewing, the most common structure used by interviewers is semi-structured. This means that the interviewer will prepare a guideline of the topics that he/she wants to cover during the conversation. He/she may also create a list with questions to ask.

Interviewers have the freedom to choose different conversation routes or prompt the informant clarifying and expanding on certain points. Interviews are an excellent tool to gather detailed information when the research questions is open-ended.

Interviews don’t lend themselves to gathering information from large numbers. Interviews can take a lot of time, so you need to make sure that the interviewees have the necessary knowledge and experience to answer your research questions.
Observations

Researcher who wants to understand what people do when they are in certain circumstances can often simply watch the person under these circumstances.

Either quantitative or qualitative research may include observations. If a researcher wants the ability to measure the effect of traffic signs on the number cars moving at dangerous curves, for example, she could stand near the curve to count the cars that slow down and those that don’t. This is an example quantitative observation since the data will include numbers of cars.

Researcher who wants to learn how people react when they see a billboard advertisement could spend time viewing and describing their reactions. The data in this instance would be descriptive and qualitative.

A number of ethical concerns can arise from an observation study. Are they aware that they are being observed? Can they give their permission? Are there ways to remove people who are uncomfortable with being observed from the study?
Questionnaires

You may choose to use questionnaires if your research question requires that you collect standardised and comparable information from multiple people.

While questionnaires can collect both quantitative as well as qualitative data, they will not allow you to obtain the same level detail in qualitative responses that you would with an interview.

While questionnaires are difficult to design and deliver, it’s possible to distribute well-constructed questionnaires to far more people than is possible to interview.

Particularly useful in research to measure parameters for a group of individuals (e.g. percentage agreeing or disagreeing with a proposition, level awareness of an topic) or to compare groups of people (e.g. determine if different generations have the same views or differ on immigration).
Documentary Analysis

Documentary analysis can be used to obtain data from existing documents. It does not require the use of questionnaires or interviews with people. Documentary analysis can be used by historians to gather data on their subjects. It can also serve as a useful tool for modern social scientists.

Documents can be described as tangible materials that have facts or ideas recorded. We typically think of items that are written or produced on paper. These include newspaper articles, Government policy documents, leaflets, and minutes of meetings. You can also analyze items in other media such as videos, songs, websites, photographs, and even films.

Documents can reveal a lot about the people, organisations, and social context in which they emerged.

Some documents belong to the public domain and can be found freely. Other documents, however, may be classified or private or not available for public access. The researcher must reach an agreement between the document holder and the researcher about the use of such documents for research. This includes how confidential the information will be kept and what can be done with them.
How to choose the best methodology and research methods

Your research questions should be related to your method.

Ask your college librarians for assistance. They should help you find the most common research method textbooks within your field. Further ideas can be found in our section Research Methods.

These books will help to define your research philosophy and to choose the best methods to support it. This section of your dissertation/thesis should put your research into the context of its theoretical foundations.

The methodology should also include explanations of the weaknesses and how to avoid them. This could be done by triangulating data with other methods or explaining why the weakness is not relevant.
How to structure your methodology

It is often helpful to start the section on methodology by defining the conceptual framework that you want to use with reference to the key texts.

It is important that you are clear about the strengths, weaknesses, and ways in which your chosen approach will be addressed. You should also be aware of any issues, such as sampling selection and how to make your findings more pertinent.

You can then discuss your research questions with others and plan to address them.

This is where your chosen research methods should be described, along with their theoretical base and supporting literature. Make it clear whether you believe the method is ‘tried, tested’ or more experimental. You also need to say how much faith you place in the results. You should also discuss this in the discussion section.

It is possible to even test these methods during your research to find out if they work in specific circumstances.

Your research methods, underpinning approach, as well as key challenges, should be summarized in the final part of your discussion. These are areas that you will need to discuss again.
Conclusion

You are key to your research’s success.

It’s worth spending a lot of time on this section in order to make sure you do it correctly. Make sure you use all the resources at your disposal. For example, discuss your plans with your supervisor. This may help to determine if your approach has any significant flaws that you can address.

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