We have compiled a list of the top 10 tips to help you write your dissertation methodology below. Think of this like a check-list for you to utilise throughout writing your methodology.
If you want further guidance on writing a dissertation methodology, our article Writing your dissertation methodology answers the most common questions asked by students and is packed full of helpful advice.
The methodology typically follows your literature review, so for the purposes of clarity and regaining focus it is useful briefly to recap the central research questions of your dissertation. Define and explain the problems which you seek to address.
Give an overview of your approach to primary research in order to guide the reader and contextualise your methodology. By identifying all methodological aspects to which to will attend – rationale, justification, sampling issues, etc. – you can signal unambiguously to the reader that you fully understand the implications of thorough, astute methodology.
The ability to reproduce the results of an experiment is a hallmark of proper scientific method; in the humanities also, reproducibility indicates greater credibility and usefulness. Provide a detailed description of your techniques, such that those wishing to challenge your position could, if they wished, reproduce the same research.
Consider whether your research methodology is typical of comparable research projects within your particular subject area. A review of the relevant literature will doubtless find some comparable endeavours, in which case the adoption of those methodologies may lend authority to your approach.
It is absolutely essential that you provide sound reasons for the methods your have chosen to conduct your research. This aspect is particularly important when adopting a novel or non-standard methodology. Approaches at odds with comparable endeavours require considerable rigorous justification.
No matter what type of research, there are almost always a number of methodological approaches available. In your rationale, critically evaluate alternate approaches in order to defend the methods you have finally chosen. Weigh up the pros and cons of all relevant alternatives, including your own choice.
7. Reliability and validity
Essential considerations in all types of research, issues of reliability and validity must be explicitly discussed. Many matters fall under this area, including accuracy, precision, sources of error and statistical significance.
Questions concerning sampling techniques and sample size can be considered under reliability and validity, but are often important enough to be given special attention. The impact of sample size upon statistical significance of your results is an issue of such importance that you should be mindful of this when designing and writing up your methodology.
Keep your methodology chapter focussed and lucidly written by appending indirectly relevant material to the end of your dissertation writing. Copies of questionnaires and other methodological material should usually be placed in the appendix.
Include a section in your methodology which directly addresses the question of how far data obtained through your approach can be generalised. Bear this issue in mind when designing your methodology too, as results with general significance outside of your direct data set will tend to increase the persuasiveness of your eventual findings.
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Remember to do the following when writing your Methodology:
- explain what methods you intend to use when researching and developing your report.
- use a descriptive writing approach. It is important to explain what research methods you used to collect your info.
- Do not include your questionnaires, interview transcripts, etc. -these go in the dissertation’s appendices.
- Discuss with your project supervisor the extent and level of detail required; original research will obviously require a more detailed description than a project based solely on secondary research.
Example of a methodology statement
The following sample statements are intended to give a flavour of the approach one could take but they are not to be assumed to represent a complete methodology.
Secondary data will be reviewed initially through the university library using a range of information sources such as the OPAC system, academic and commercial abstracts, bibliographic databases, and Internet search engines.
To aid the search, a table of key terms will be constructed and the sources located will be correlated with this. A secondary cross-reference table will be developed so that data can be viewed from different perspectives.
Data collection and sampling
To test current practice against the historical record an on-line survey will be conducted to gather primary source data from companies currently engaged in the export of goods related to heavy engineering projects.
The survey will collect quantitative data on the range of goods requiring an end-user licence. A systematic yet random sample of companies will be drawn from members of the British Business Register.
As the number of companies, engaged in the defined activity, has yet to be established the data analysis method has not yet been decided. However, it is anticipated that a commercial spreadsheet package such as MS Excel would be suitable, although more sophisticated analysis software such as SPSS is available within the university’s IT centre should this be required.
If someone else chooses to carry out the same or a very similar type of study, they should be able to understand and copy your methods from your descriptions.