How To Write The Methodology Chapter
The what, why & how explained simply (with examples).
By: Jenna Crossley (PhD). Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | September 2021
So, you’ve pinned down your research topic and undertaken a review of the literature – now it’s time to write up the methodology section of your dissertation, thesis or research paper. But what exactly is the methodology chapter all about – and how do you go about writing one? In this post, we’ll unpack the topic, step by step .
Overview: The Methodology Chapter
- The purpose and function of the methodology chapter
- The importance of the chapter/section
- How to write and structure the methodology chapter
- General advice for writing a great methodology section
What (exactly) is the methodology chapter?
Your methodology chapter is where you highlight the philosophical underpinnings of your research and outline the specific research design choices you’ve made. The point of the methodology chapter is to tell the reader exactly how you designed your research and to justify your design choices .
The methodology chapter should comprehensively describe and justify all the research design choices you made. For example, the type of research you conducted (e.g. qualitative or quantitative ), how you collected your data, how you analysed your data and who or where you collected data from (sampling). We’ll explain all the key design choices later in this post .
Why is the methodology chapter important?
The methodology chapter is important for two reasons:
Firstly, it demonstrates your understanding of research design theory, which is what earns you marks. A flawed research design or methodology would mean flawed results, so this chapter is vital as it allows you to show the marker that you know what you’re doing and that your results are credible .
Secondly, the methodology chapter is what helps to make your study replicable – in other words, it allows other researchers to undertake your study using the same design, and compare their findings to yours. This is very important within academic research, as each study builds on previous studies.
The methodology chapter is also important because it allows you to identify and discuss any methodological issues or problems you encountered (i.e. limitations), and to explain how you mitigated the impacts of these. Every research project has its limitations and shortcomings , so it’s important to acknowledge these openly and highlight your study’s value despite its limitations. Again, this demonstrates your understanding of research design, which will earn you marks. We’ll discuss limitations in more detail later in this post.
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How to write up the methodology chapter
First off, it’s worth noting that the exact structure and contents of the methodology chapter will vary depending on the field of research (for example, humanities vs chemistry vs engineering) as well as the university . So, it’s always a good idea to check the guidelines provided by your institution for clarity and, if possible, review past dissertations and theses from your university. Here we’re going to discuss a generic structure for a methodology chapter typically found in the sciences, especially the social sciences (e.g. psychology).
Before you start writing, we always recommend that you draw up a rough outline , so that you have a clear direction to head in. Don’t just start writing without knowing what will go where. If you do, you’ll most likely end up with a disjointed, poorly flowing narrative . As a result, you’ll waste a lot of time rewriting in an attempt to try to stitch all the pieces together. Start with the end in mind.
Section 1 – Introduction
As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the methodology chapter should have a brief introduction. In this introduction, you should remind your readers what the focus of your study is, especially the research aims . As we’ve discussed many times on this blog, your research design needs to align with your research aims, objectives and research questions , so it’s useful to frontload this to remind the reader (and yourself!) what you’re trying to achieve with your design and methodology.
In this section, you can also briefly mention how you’ll structure the chapter. This will help orient the reader and provide a bit of a roadmap so that they know what to expect.
Section 2 – The Research Design
The next section of your methodology chapter should present your research design to the reader. In this section, you need to detail and justify all the key design choices in a logical, intuitive fashion. This is the heart of your methodology chapter, so you need to get specific – don’t hold back on the details here. This is not one of those “less is more” situations.
Let’s have a look at the most common design choices you’ll need to cover.
Design Choice #1 – Research Philosophy
Research philosophy refers to the underlying beliefs (i.e. world view) regarding how data about a phenomenon should be gathered , analysed and used . Your research philosophy will serve as the core of your study and underpin all of the other research design choices, so it’s critically important that you understand which philosophy you’ll adopt and why you made that choice. If you’re not clear on this, take the time to get clarity before you make any research design choices.
While several research philosophies exist, two commonly adopted ones are positivism and interpretivism .
Positivism is commonly the underlying research philosophy in quantitative studies. It states that the researcher can observe reality objectively and that there is only one reality, which exists independent of the observer.
Contrasted with this, interpretivism , which is often the underlying research philosophy in qualitative studies, assumes that the researcher performs a role in observing the world around them and that reality is unique to each observer . In other words, reality is observed subjectively .
These are just two philosophies (there are many) , but they demonstrate significantly different approaches to research and have a significant impact on all the research design choices. Therefore, it’s vital that you clearly outline and justify your research philosophy at the beginning of your methodology chapter, as it sets the scene for everything that follows.
Design Choice #2 – Research Type
The next thing you would typically discuss in your methodology section is the research type. The starting point for this is to indicate whether the research you conducted is inductive or deductive . With inductive research, theory is generated from the ground up (i.e. from the collected data), and therefore these studies tend to be exploratory in terms of approach. Deductive research, on the other hand, starts with established theory and builds onto it with collected data, and therefore these studies tend to be confirmatory in approach.
Related to this, you’ll need to indicate whether your study adopts a qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods methodology. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a strong link between this choice and your research philosophy, so make sure that your choices are tightly aligned . Again, when you write this section up, remember to clearly justify your choices, as they form the foundation of your study.
Design Choice #3 – Research Strategy
Next, you’ll need to discuss your research strategy (i.e., your research “action plan”). This research design choice refers to how you conduct your research based on the aims of your study.
Several research strategies exist, including experiments , case studies , ethnography , grounded theory, action research , and phenomenology . Let’s look at two these, experimental and ethnographic, to see how they contrast.
Experimental research makes use of the scientific method , where one group is the control group (in which no variables are manipulated ) and another is the experimental group (in which a variable is manipulated). This type of research is undertaken under strict conditions in controlled, artificial environments – for example, within a laboratory. By having firm control over the environment, experimental research often allows the researcher to establish causation between variables. Therefore, it can be a good choice if you have research aims that involve identifying or measuring cause and effect.
Ethnographic research , on the other hand, involves observing and capturing the experiences and perceptions of participants in their natural environment (for example, at home or in the office). In other words, in an uncontrolled environment. Naturally this means that this research strategy would be far less suitable if your research aims involve identifying causation, but it would be very valuable if you’re looking to explore and examine a group culture, for example.
As you can see, the right research strategy will depend largely on your research aims and research questions – in other words, what you’re trying to figure out. Therefore, as with every other design choice, it’s essential to justify why you chose the research strategy you did.
Design Choice #4 – Time Horizon
The next thing you need to cover in your methodology chapter is the time horizon. There are two options here – cross-sectional and longitudinal . In other words, whether the data for your study were all collected at one point in time (i.e. cross-sectional) or at multiple points in time (i.e. longitudinal).
The choice you make here depends again on your research aims, objectives and research questions. If, for example, you aim to assess how a specific group of people’s perspectives regarding a topic change over time , you’d likely adopt a longitudinal time horizon.
Another important factor is simply the practical constraints – in other words, whether you have the time necessary to adopt a longitudinal approach (which could involve collecting data over multiple years). Oftentimes, the time pressures of your degree program will force your hand into adopting a cross-sectional time horizon, so keep this in mind.
Design Choice #5 – Sampling Strategy
Next, you’ll need to discuss your chosen sampling strategy . There are two main categories of sampling, probability and non-probability sampling. Probability sampling involves a random (and therefore representative) selection of participants from a population, whereas non-probability sampling entails selecting participants in a non-randomized (and therefore non-representative) manner. For example, selecting participants based on ease of access (this is called a convenience sample).
The right sampling approach depends largely on what you’re trying to achieve in your study. Specifically, whether you trying to develop findings that are generalisable to a population or not. Practicalities and resource constraints also play a large role here, as it can oftentimes be challenging to gain access to a truly random sample.
Design Choice #6 – Data Collection Method
Next up, you need to explain how exactly you’ll go about collecting the necessary data for your study. Your data collection method (or methods) will depend on the type of data that you plan to collect – in other words, qualitative or quantitative data.
Typically, quantitative research relies on surveys , data generated by lab equipment, analytics software or existing datasets. Qualitative research, on the other hand, often makes use of collection methods such as interviews , focus groups , participant observations, and ethnography.
So, as you can see, there is a tight link between this section and the design choices you outlined in earlier sections. Strong alignment between these sections is therefore very important.
Design Choice #7 – Data Analysis Methods/Techniques
The final major design choice that you need to address is that of analysis techniques . In other words, once you’ve collected your data, how will you go about analysing it. Here it’s important to be specific about your analysis methods and/or techniques – don’t leave any room for interpretation. Also, as with all choices in this chapter, you need to justify each choice you make.
What exactly you discuss here will depend largely on the type of study you’re conducting (i.e., qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods). For qualitative studies, common analysis methods include content analysis , thematic analysis and discourse analysis . For quantitative studies, you’ll almost always make use of descriptive statistics, and in many cases, you’ll also use inferential statistical techniques (e.g. correlation and regression analysis).
In this section, it’s also important to discuss how you prepared your data for analysis, and what software you used (if any). For example, quantitative data will often require some initial preparation such as removing duplicates or incomplete responses . As always, remember to state both what you did and why you did it.
Section 3 – The Methodological Limitations
With the key research design choices outlined and justified, the next step is to discuss the limitations of your design. No research design or methodology is perfect – there will always be trade-offs between the “ideal” design and what’s practical and viable, given your constraints. Therefore, this section of your methodology chapter is where you’ll discuss the trade-offs you had to make, and why these were justified given the context.
Methodological limitations can vary greatly from study to study, ranging from common issues such as time and budget constraints to issues of sample or selection bias . For example, you may find that you didn’t manage to draw in enough respondents to achieve the desired sample size (and therefore, statistically significant results), or your sample may be skewed heavily towards a certain demographic, thereby negatively impacting representativeness .
In this section, it’s important to be critical of the shortcomings of your study. There’s no use trying to hide them (your marker will be aware of them regardless). By being critical, you’ll demonstrate to your marker that you have a strong understanding of research design, so don’t be shy here. At the same time, don’t beat your study to death . State the limitations, why these were justified, how you mitigated their impacts to the best degree possible, and how your study still provides value despite these limitations.
Section 4 – Concluding Summary
Finally, it’s time to wrap up the methodology chapter with a brief concluding summary. In this section, you’ll want to concisely summarise what you’ve presented in the chapter. Here, it can be useful to use a figure to summarise the key design decisions, especially if your university recommends using a specific model (for example, Saunders’ Research Onion ).
Importantly, this section needs to be brief – a paragraph or two maximum (it’s a summary, after all). Also, make sure that when you write up your concluding summary, you include only what you’ve already discussed in your chapter; don’t add any new information.
And there you have it – the methodology chapter in a nutshell. As we’ve mentioned, the exact contents and structure of this chapter can vary between universities , so be sure to check in with your institution before you start writing. If possible, try to find dissertations or theses from former students of your specific degree program – this will give you a strong indication of the expectations and norms when it comes to the methodology chapter (and all the other chapters!).
Also, remember the golden rule of the methodology chapter – justify every choice ! Make sure that you clearly explain the “why” for every “what”, and reference credible methodology textbooks or academic sources to back up your justifications.
If you need a helping hand with your research methodology (or any other section of your dissertation or thesis), be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through every step of the research journey. Until next time, good luck!
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This post is part of our research writing mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
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How to Write an APA Methods Section | With Examples
Published on February 5, 2021 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on October 17, 2022.
The methods section of an APA style paper is where you report in detail how you performed your study. Research papers in the social and natural sciences often follow APA style. This article focuses on reporting quantitative research methods .
In your APA methods section, you should report enough information to understand and replicate your study, including detailed information on the sample , measures, and procedures used.
Table of contents
Structuring an apa methods section.
Example of an APA methods section
Frequently asked questions about writing an apa methods section.
The main heading of “Methods” should be centered, boldfaced, and capitalized. Subheadings within this section are left-aligned, boldfaced, and in title case. You can also add lower level headings within these subsections, as long as they follow APA heading styles .
To structure your methods section, you can use the subheadings of “Participants,” “Materials,” and “Procedures.” These headings are not mandatory—aim to organize your methods section using subheadings that make sense for your specific study.
Note that not all of these topics will necessarily be relevant for your study. For example, if you didn’t need to consider outlier removal or ways of assigning participants to different conditions, you don’t have to report these steps.
The APA also provides specific reporting guidelines for different types of research design. These tell you exactly what you need to report for longitudinal designs , replication studies, experimental designs , and so on. If your study uses a combination design, consult APA guidelines for mixed methods studies.
Detailed descriptions of procedures that don’t fit into your main text can be placed in supplemental materials (for example, the exact instructions and tasks given to participants, the full analytical strategy including software code, or additional figures and tables).
Begin the methods section by reporting sample characteristics, sampling procedures, and the sample size.
Participant or subject characteristics
When discussing people who participate in research, descriptive terms like “participants,” “subjects” and “respondents” can be used. For non-human animal research, “subjects” is more appropriate.
Specify all relevant demographic characteristics of your participants. This may include their age, sex, ethnic or racial group, gender identity, education level, and socioeconomic status. Depending on your study topic, other characteristics like educational or immigration status or language preference may also be relevant.
Be sure to report these characteristics as precisely as possible. This helps the reader understand how far your results may be generalized to other people.
The APA guidelines emphasize writing about participants using bias-free language , so it’s necessary to use inclusive and appropriate terms.
Outline how the participants were selected and all inclusion and exclusion criteria applied. Appropriately identify the sampling procedure used. For example, you should only label a sample as random if you had access to every member of the relevant population.
Of all the people invited to participate in your study, note the percentage that actually did (if you have this data). Additionally, report whether participants were self-selected, either by themselves or by their institutions (e.g., schools may submit student data for research purposes).
Identify any compensation (e.g., course credits or money) that was provided to participants, and mention any institutional review board approvals and ethical standards followed.
Sample size and power
Detail the sample size (per condition) and statistical power that you hoped to achieve, as well as any analyses you performed to determine these numbers.
It’s important to show that your study had enough statistical power to find effects if there were any to be found.
Additionally, state whether your final sample differed from the intended sample. Your interpretations of the study outcomes should be based only on your final sample rather than your intended sample.
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Write up the tools and techniques that you used to measure relevant variables. Be as thorough as possible for a complete picture of your techniques.
Primary and secondary measures
Define the primary and secondary outcome measures that will help you answer your primary and secondary research questions.
Specify all instruments used in gathering these measurements and the construct that they measure. These instruments may include hardware, software, or tests, scales, and inventories.
- To cite hardware, indicate the model number and manufacturer.
- To cite common software (e.g., Qualtrics), state the full name along with the version number or the website URL .
- To cite tests, scales or inventories, reference its manual or the article it was published in. It’s also helpful to state the number of items and provide one or two example items.
Make sure to report the settings of (e.g., screen resolution) any specialized apparatus used.
For each instrument used, report measures of the following:
- Reliability : how consistently the method measures something, in terms of internal consistency or test-retest reliability.
- Validity : how precisely the method measures something, in terms of construct validity or criterion validity .
Giving an example item or two for tests, questionnaires , and interviews is also helpful.
Describe any covariates—these are any additional variables that may explain or predict the outcomes.
Quality of measurements
Review all methods you used to assure the quality of your measurements.
These may include:
- training researchers to collect data reliably,
- using multiple people to assess (e.g., observe or code) the data,
- translation and back-translation of research materials,
- using pilot studies to test your materials on unrelated samples.
For data that’s subjectively coded (for example, classifying open-ended responses), report interrater reliability scores. This tells the reader how similarly each response was rated by multiple raters.
Report all of the procedures applied for administering the study, processing the data, and for planned data analyses.
Data collection methods and research design
Data collection methods refers to the general mode of the instruments: surveys, interviews, observations, focus groups, neuroimaging, cognitive tests, and so on. Summarize exactly how you collected the necessary data.
Describe all procedures you applied in administering surveys, tests, physical recordings, or imaging devices, with enough detail so that someone else can replicate your techniques. If your procedures are very complicated and require long descriptions (e.g., in neuroimaging studies), place these details in supplementary materials.
To report research design, note your overall framework for data collection and analysis. State whether you used an experimental, quasi-experimental, descriptive (observational), correlational, and/or longitudinal design. Also note whether a between-subjects or a within-subjects design was used.
For multi-group studies, report the following design and procedural details as well:
- how participants were assigned to different conditions (e.g., randomization),
- instructions given to the participants in each group,
- interventions for each group,
- the setting and length of each session(s).
Describe whether any masking was used to hide the condition assignment (e.g., placebo or medication condition) from participants or research administrators. Using masking in a multi-group study ensures internal validity by reducing research bias . Explain how this masking was applied and whether its effectiveness was assessed.
Participants were randomly assigned to a control or experimental condition. The survey was administered using Qualtrics (https://www.qualtrics.com). To begin, all participants were given the AAI and a demographics questionnaire to complete, followed by an unrelated filler task. In the control condition , participants completed a short general knowledge test immediately after the filler task. In the experimental condition, participants were asked to visualize themselves taking the test for 3 minutes before they actually did. For more details on the exact instructions and tasks given, see supplementary materials.
Outline all steps taken to scrutinize or process the data after collection.
This includes the following:
- Procedures for identifying and removing outliers
- Data transformations to normalize distributions
- Compensation strategies for overcoming missing values
To ensure high validity, you should provide enough detail for your reader to understand how and why you processed or transformed your raw data in these specific ways.
The methods section is also where you describe your statistical analysis procedures, but not their outcomes. Their outcomes are reported in the results section.
These procedures should be stated for all primary, secondary, and exploratory hypotheses. While primary and secondary hypotheses are based on a theoretical framework or past studies, exploratory hypotheses are guided by the data you’ve just collected.
This annotated example reports methods for a descriptive correlational survey on the relationship between religiosity and trust in science in the US. Hover over each part for explanation of what is included.
The sample included 879 adults aged between 18 and 28. More than half of the participants were women (56%), and all participants had completed at least 12 years of education. Ethics approval was obtained from the university board before recruitment began. Participants were recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk; www.mturk.com). We selected for a geographically diverse sample within the Midwest of the US through an initial screening survey. Participants were paid USD $5 upon completion of the study.
A sample size of at least 783 was deemed necessary for detecting a correlation coefficient of ±.1, with a power level of 80% and a significance level of .05, using a sample size calculator (www.sample-size.net/correlation-sample-size/).
The primary outcome measures were the levels of religiosity and trust in science. Religiosity refers to involvement and belief in religious traditions, while trust in science represents confidence in scientists and scientific research outcomes. The secondary outcome measures were gender and parental education levels of participants and whether these characteristics predicted religiosity levels.
Religiosity was measured using the Centrality of Religiosity scale (Huber, 2003). The Likert scale is made up of 15 questions with five subscales of ideology, experience, intellect, public practice, and private practice. An example item is “How often do you experience situations in which you have the feeling that God or something divine intervenes in your life?” Participants were asked to indicate frequency of occurrence by selecting a response ranging from 1 (very often) to 5 (never). The internal consistency of the instrument is .83 (Huber & Huber, 2012).
Trust in Science
Trust in science was assessed using the General Trust in Science index (McCright, Dentzman, Charters & Dietz, 2013). Four Likert scale items were assessed on a scale from 1 (completely distrust) to 5 (completely trust). An example question asks “How much do you distrust or trust scientists to create knowledge that is unbiased and accurate?” Internal consistency was .8.
Potential participants were invited to participate in the survey online using Qualtrics (www.qualtrics.com). The survey consisted of multiple choice questions regarding demographic characteristics, the Centrality of Religiosity scale, an unrelated filler anagram task, and finally the General Trust in Science index. The filler task was included to avoid priming or demand characteristics, and an attention check was embedded within the religiosity scale. For full instructions and details of tasks, see supplementary materials.
For this correlational study , we assessed our primary hypothesis of a relationship between religiosity and trust in science using Pearson moment correlation coefficient. The statistical significance of the correlation coefficient was assessed using a t test. To test our secondary hypothesis of parental education levels and gender as predictors of religiosity, multiple linear regression analysis was used.
In your APA methods section , you should report detailed information on the participants, materials, and procedures used.
- Describe all relevant participant or subject characteristics, the sampling procedures used and the sample size and power .
- Define all primary and secondary measures and discuss the quality of measurements.
- Specify the data collection methods, the research design and data analysis strategy, including any steps taken to transform the data and statistical analyses.
You should report methods using the past tense , even if you haven’t completed your study at the time of writing. That’s because the methods section is intended to describe completed actions or research.
In a scientific paper, the methodology always comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion . The same basic structure also applies to a thesis, dissertation , or research proposal .
Depending on the length and type of document, you might also include a literature review or theoretical framework before the methodology.
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Writing the Research Methodology Section of Your Thesis
This article explains the meaning of research methodology and the purpose and importance of writing a research methodology section or chapter for your thesis paper . It discusses what to include and not include in a research methodology section, the different approaches to research methodology that can be used, and the steps involved in writing a robust research methodology section .
What is a thesis research methodology?
A thesis research methodology explains the type of research performed , justifies the methods that you chose by linking back to the literature review , and describes the data collection and analysis procedures. It is included in your thesis after the Introduction section . Most importantly, this is the section where the readers of your study evaluate its validity and reliability .
What should the research methodology section in your thesis include?
- The aim of your thesis
- An outline of the research methods chosen ( qualitative , quantitative , or mixed methods )
- Background and rationale for the methods chosen, explaining why one method was chosen over another
- Methods used for data collection and data analysis
- Materials and equipment used—keep this brief
- Difficulties encountered during data collection and analysis. It is expected that problems will occur during your research process. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving abilities by explaining how you overcame all obstacles. This builds your readers’ confidence in your study findings.
- A brief evaluation of your research explaining whether your results were conclusive and whether your choice of methodology was effective in practice
What should not be included in the research methodology section of your thesis?
- Irrelevant details , for example, an extensive review of methodologies (this belongs in the literature review section) or information that does not contribute to the readers’ understanding of your chosen methods
- A description of basic procedures
- Excessive details about materials and equipment used. If an extremely long and detailed list is necessary, add it as an appendix
Types of methodological approaches
The choice of which methodological approach to use depends on your field of research and your thesis question . Your methodology should establish a clear relationship with your thesis question and must also be supported by your literature review . Types of methodological approaches include quantitative , qualitative , or mixed methods .
Quantitative studies generate data in the form of numbers to count, classify, measure, or identify relationships or patterns. Information may be collected by performing experiments and tests, conducting surveys, or using existing data. The data are analyzed using statistical tests and presented as charts or graphs. Quantitative data are typically used in the Sciences domain.
For example, analyzing the effect of a change, such as alterations in electricity consumption by municipalities after installing LED streetlights.
The raw data will need to be prepared for statistical analysis by identifying variables and checking for missing data and outliers. Details of the statistical software program used (name of the package, version number, and supplier name and location) must also be mentioned.
Qualitative studies gather non-numerical data using, for example, observations, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. Open-ended questions are often posed. This yields rich, detailed, and descriptive results. Qualitative studies are usually subjective and are helpful for investigating social and cultural phenomena, which are difficult to quantify. Qualitative studies are typically used in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) domain.
For example, determining customer perceptions on the extension of a range of baking utensils to include silicone muffin trays.
The raw data will need to be prepared for analysis by coding and categorizing ideas and themes to interpret the meaning behind the responses given.
Mixed methods use a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches to present multiple findings about a single phenomenon. T his enables triangulation: verification of the data from two or more sources.
Explain the rationale behind the sampling procedure you have chosen. This could involve probability sampling (a random sample from the study population) or non-probability sampling (does not use a random sample).
For quantitative studies , describe the sampling procedure and whether statistical tests were used to determine the sample size .
Following our example of analyzing the changes in electricity consumption by municipalities after installing LED streetlights, you will need to determine which municipal areas will be sampled and how the information will be gathered (e.g., a physical survey of the streetlights or reviewing purchase orders).
For qualitative research , describe how the participants were chosen and how the data is going to be collected.
Following our example about determining customer perceptions on the extension of a range of baking utensils to include silicone muffin trays, you will need to decide the criteria for inclusion as a study participant (e.g., women aged 20–70 years, bakeries, and bakery supply shops) and how the information will be collected (e.g., interviews, focus groups, online or in-person questionnaires, or video recordings) .
For quantitative research , describe what tests you plan to perform and why you have chosen them. Popular data analysis methods in quantitative research include:
- Descriptive statistics (e.g., means, medians, modes)
- Inferential statistics (e.g., correlation, regression, structural equation modeling)
For qualitative research , describe how the data is going to be analyzed and justify your choice. Popular data analysis methods in qualitative research include:
- Qualitative content analysis
- Thematic analysis
- Discourse analysis
- Narrative analysis
- Grounded theory
- Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA)
Evaluate and justify your methodological choices
You need to convince the reader that you have made the correct methodological choices. Once again, this ties back to your thesis question and literature review . Write using a persuasive tone, and use rhetoric to convince the reader of the quality, reliability, and validity of your research.
- The young researcher should maintain objectivity at all times
- All participants have the right to privacy and anonymity
- Research participation must be voluntary
- All subjects have the right to withdraw from the research at any time
- Consent must be obtained from all participants before starting the research
- Confidentiality of data provided by individuals must be maintained
- Consider how the interpretation and reporting of the data will affect the participants
Tips for writing a robust thesis research methodology
- Determine what kind of knowledge you are trying to uncover. For example, subjective or objective, experimental or interpretive.
- A thorough literature review is the best starting point for choosing your methods.
- Ensure that there is continuity throughout the research process. The authenticity of your research depends upon the validity of the research data, the reliability of your data measurements, and the time taken to conduct the analysis.
- Choose a research method that is achievable. Consider the time and funds available, feasibility, ethics, and access and availability of equipment to measure the phenomenon or answer your thesis question correctly.
- If you are struggling with a concept, ask for help from your supervisor, academic staff members, or fellow students.
A thesis methodology justifies why you have chosen a specific approach to address your thesis question. It explains how you will collect the data and analyze it. Above all, it allows the readers of your study to evaluate its validity and reliability.
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Introduce your methodological approach , for example, quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods.
Explain why your chosen approach is relevant to the overall research design and how it links with your thesis question.
Justify your chosen method and why it is more appropriate than others.
Provide background information on methods that may be unfamiliar to readers of your thesis.
Introduce the tools that you will use for data collection , and explain how you plan to use them (e.g., surveys, interviews, experiments, or existing data).
Explain how you will analyze your results. The type of analysis used depends on the methods you chose. For example, exploring theoretical perspectives to support your explanation of observed behaviors in a qualitative study or using statistical analyses in a quantitative study.
Mention any research limitations. All studies are expected to have limitations, such as the sample size, data collection method, or equipment. Discussing the limitations justifies your choice of methodology despite the risks. It also explains under which conditions the results should be interpreted and shows that you have taken a holistic approach to your study.
What is the difference between methodology and methods? +
Methodology refers to the overall rationale and strategy of your thesis project. It involves studying the theories or principles behind the methods used in your field so that you can explain why you chose a particular method for your research approach. Methods , on the other hand, refer to how the data were collected and analyzed (e.g., experiments, surveys, observations, interviews, and statistical tests).
What is the difference between reliability and validity? +
Reliability refers to whether a measurement is consistent (i.e., the results can be reproduced under the same conditions). Validity refers to whether a measurement is accurate (i.e., the results represent what was supposed to be measured). For example, when investigating linguistic and cultural guidelines for administration of the Preschool Language Scales, Fifth Edition (PLS5) in Arab-American preschool children, the normative sample curves should show the same distribution as a monolingual population, which would indicate that the test is valid. The test would be considered reliable if the results obtained were consistent across different sampling sites.
What tense is used to write the methods section? +
The methods section is written in the past tense because it describes what was done.
What software programs are recommended for statistical analysis? +
Recommended programs include Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) , Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) , JMP , R software, MATLAB , Microsoft Excel, GraphPad Prism , and Minitab .
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Writing your thesis’ method section
Many students have trouble writing a proper method section for their thesis. What bits of information should be included in this section, and what bits shouldn’t? It obviously matters whether you’re pursuing a vocational or academic degree (and in what direction), but the following practical tips should get you well on the way to properly describing your research methods. We wish you good luck on writing your thesis’ method section!
The purpose of your thesis’ method section is to describe what you’ve investigated and how you’ve conducted your investigation. The section often consists of several specific sub-sections and is intended to allow a reader to repeat (replicate) your study, so don’t forget to include all relevant details.
Firstly, it is a good idea to describe what specific research methods were used in your study, and what the (dis)advantages of those methods are. For the qualitative research method of interviews, there are multiple types, such as in-depth interviews, structured interviews and semi-structured interviews. Eventually, your supervisors will not only determine your grade based on whether you’ve made the right choices or not, but more so on whether you’ve correctly justified making these choices (so, it’s important to keep the purpose of your study in the back of your mind).
A solid textbook that covers research methods can really help write the section properly, especially if the book focuses on a method of research that you’ve used in your study. However, a common error is to paraphrase general descriptions from the textbook instead of applying them to your own study. These days, your supervisors will also grade you based on the reasoning behind decisions you’ve made about what to focus your study on, and not just on the decisions themselves. So, convince your audience by providing arguments in favor of the choices you’ve made.
Use past tense when writing your method section, as your study has already finished.
A handy checklist for your method section
- As an expert of your own study, you are obviously aware of all the details and know what was done and what not. However, you should realize that your audience knows nothing at all. So, it is important to be complete in your descriptions and clearly state what was done, and for what reason. To help you along the way, we’ve created a checklist that should allow you to make sure you’ve included the essentials in your method section:
- First, describe the type of research you’ve conducted. Some relevant jargon is: quantitative / qualitative, and explorative (descriptive) / experimental. Expand on your choices.
- Next, write about the respondents (sample / participants) of your study. Address who participated, and where you got your respondents from (e.g., via social media or a school board advertisement). Do not just provide the number of respondents and your arguments for settling on this number (which can be calculated), but also describe what inclusion and exclusion criteria you applied to select your respondents. It is especially important to also list your sample’s demographic characteristics (such as age, native country, profession, and so forth). You can include the final number of respondents in this section, but you can also include this in the results section’s first paragraph.
- Then, write about when your study took place: how long was your survey running? And during which months?
- Provide a description about the reliability and validity of the study, in which you explain what steps you took to keep these aspects of research as high as possible. Do not forget to include some bits about the generalizability of the study.
- Also describe how many respondents there actually were (i.e., how many people actually finished the survey) and what methods you used to increase this. Several methods for increasing response rates are described in the literature; these mainly center on sending reminders, applying a personal approach to study recruitment and giving away monetary rewards or gifts.
- It is also important to describe the instruments that were used in the study. For the instruments section, you should, for example, discuss the survey you’ve used and provide sufficient detail to your description. Ask these questions: How many questions did the survey consist of? What do the questions measure? What sources did you use to formulate your questions? Here, you can provide a reliability analysis (cronbach’s alpha) of your survey if you’d like.
- Next, describe the procedure , which includes all steps that were undertaken to get your data and respondents. So, you should write something along the lines of:
- “Firstly, an online survey was created, next e-mail addresses of candidate respondents were gathered using ….. Also, an e-mail with a hyperlink to the survey was sent. Reminder e-mails were sent”, and so forth.
- You should not forget to, lastly, describe the data analysis (quantitative / qualitative) methods you’ve applied in your study. In this paragraph, you should explain what you’ve done with your data: usage of SPSS, steps undertaken for data cleaning, calculations of sum scores (for surveys), usage of specific statistical tests such as t -tests, correlations and regressions, and so forth. For qualitative studies, you should include that you’ve transcribed and coded the data (and how you’ve done this).
- For academic theses, you should also include the design of your study: what were the dependent and independent variables? Were there certain conditions? It is common to summarize your hypotheses in a conceptual model.
This page was written for all students who are writing their thesis, and it is therefore general and does not account for the specific details of your study and research. We’d love to help you write a great research method section. Do you need help writing your method section?
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Learn how to compose a strong dissertation. Chose between different formatting styles and find out the basic structure of your paper.
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How To Write a Methodology Section For a Master’s Thesis
When writing master’s thesis, it is important to note that every university has their own requirements. Requirements can also vary from department to department. Below are some tips on how to create your methodology section. The methodology section will explain and justify the methodologies used in your research.
Explaining the Philosophy
There are three research philosophies you can employ here, interpretivism, positivism and post-positivism.
- Positivism uses a perspective that will see the writer uses deductive reasoning and hypothesis testing.
- Post-positivism, like positivism, is a perspective that employs deductive reasoning as we all empirical evidence and hypothesis testing, but from a realistic viewpoint.
- Interpretivism takes the approach of studying people and states how people are different to non-human subjects.
Explain the Approach
A general definition will be required to give the reader an overview of the approach you took when researching the topic for your thesis.
- The methodology section doesn’t have to go into great detail to educate the reader on every method you employed to research the topic.
- At the same time it has to read clearly enough for the reader to establish that you were thorough in your methods and the methodology used to take variables into account.
Include an Introductory Paragraph
Although not exclusive to a methodology section as such, it is still important it is included.
- Writers should explain within the paragraph the problem they will be addressing or the argument being made using the methodology.
- Further paragraphs should not go into any further detail, instead they should give an explanation of how the information used to address the problem was collected.
- It can also be advisable to include your justification for using such data, so an explanation of how the information affected your research and why you decided to opt for this particular piece of information.
Discuss The Methods Utilized During The Course of Your Research
It is advised that writers include variables that may affect the outcome of the research, so for people with a particular kind of illness, one of the variables may be the lifestyle of a person and how it affects them in relation to the illness.
Compare Your Research to Other Works Within Your Subject Area
Writers should consider as to whether there are other works that contain comparable information that can be used for comparative endeavors. The use of such works can help strengthen the arguments being made within your thesis, and give the argument even more backbone.
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How to write a methodology chapter in a masters thesis
Is there a standard way to set up a methodology chapter, other than just listing equipment and explaining the execution of method and analysis?
I find this type of set up to look childish and too simple, in a way. Maybe I only need a good example of a preferable layout.
- 5 A simple methodology section is a good thing, because it helps other researchers to reproduce your work. This is not the part in the thesis where you show that you're an imaginative writer. – lighthouse keeper Jan 17, 2017 at 14:59
- Unless you're doing completely novel research, I'd expect most methodologies to be simple and "relatively unoriginal." There are only so many ways to do PCR or chemical synthesis or derivatives, and you should not be reinventing the wheel for a procedure that has likely just been adapted to your project. – Compass Jan 17, 2017 at 15:35
- The point of the methodology section is to describe what you did so that if your study was replicated, the same results would be obtained. It also allows others to determine if something in your methods resulted in an unexpected finding, or suggest something that could be changed that might lead to a novel finding. At the very least, it demonstrates you understand and follow the scientific method. – Inde Jan 17, 2017 at 20:30
How you have described the methodology section is in general, precisely what you should do. One source for assistance with writing this section is from the University itself - they will often have a suggested outline.
For example, Monash University has a webpage Discuss your methodology page, have a general outline for a scientific-based thesis methodology, such as:
rationale for choosing materials, methods and procedures details of materials, equipment and procedures that will allow others to replicate experiments understand and implement technical solutions
They also have examples for other disciplines, but a strong suggestion is to read and learn from other dissertations from your field - also, ask your advisor if they have examples.
A good methodology should be clear and concise and written in a way that someone else could replicate your experiments and get about the same results (or at least, similar results) and have an understanding of why the equipment and method was chosen.
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Tips for writing a strong methodology chapter. 1. Focus on your objectives and research questions. The methodology section should clearly show why your methods suit your objectives and convince the ... 2. Cite relevant sources. 3. Write for your audience.
Section 1 – Introduction. As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the methodology chapter should have a brief introduction. In this introduction, you should remind your readers what the focus of your study is, especially the research aims.
The methods section is also where you describe your statistical analysis procedures, but not their outcomes. Their outcomes are reported in the results section. These procedures should be stated for all primary, secondary, and exploratory hypotheses.
What should the research methodology section in your thesis include? The aim of your thesis. An outline of the research methods chosen ( qualitative , quantitative, or mixed methods) Background and rationale for the methods chosen, explaining why one method was chosen over another. Methods used for ...
The purpose of your thesis’ method section is to describe what you’ve investigated and how you’ve conducted your investigation. The section often consists of several specific sub-sections and is intended to allow a reader to repeat (replicate) your study, so don’t forget to include all relevant details.
The Method Chapter in a Quantitative Dissertation The Method chapter is the place in which the exact steps you will be following to test your questions are enumerated. The Method chapter typically contains the following three subsections: Subjects or Participants, Instrumentation or Measures, and Procedures. In addition, the Method
The methodology section will explain and justify the methodologies used in your research. Explaining the Philosophy There are three research philosophies you can employ here, interpretivism, positivism and post-positivism. Positivism uses a perspective that will see the writer uses deductive reasoning and hypothesis testing.
A good methodology should be clear and concise and written in a way that someone else could replicate your experiments and get about the same results (or at least, similar results) and have an understanding of why the equipment and method was chosen. Share Improve this answer Follow edited Apr 16, 2017 at 0:49 answered Apr 15, 2017 at 16:16