How to Write a Dissertation Methodology
As a student, you know that some dissertations must include a separate methodology section. In fact, you should first check with your instruction if such section is required in your project. If your dissertation requirements specify the need for such section, you will need to spend some time writing it. Generally, between 10-15 percent of the dissertation contents must be devoted to the discussion of your methods. If you are an undergraduate student in linguistics, law, history or politics, you may not need to specify the rules and principles behind your methods. Most likely, you will simply need to gather and analyze some secondary data. As long as you do not do any original research, you will not need to include any methodology section in your paper. In contrast, if you are doing original research, conducting interviews, using statistical software to process quantitative data, or conducting an experiment, you will certainly need to describe and justify your methods.
Every masters dissertation methodology must include:
- A brief discussion of the methodologies used by previous researchers
- A full discussion of the methodologies you will use. Point on similarities and differences between those of previous researchers and yours.
- A justification for the methodologies you have selected
- A discussion of the instruments used by previous researches and a complete discussion of the instruments and samples you shall use. This discussion must include a justification for your sampling and for the instruments you will be using to collect the data.
This chapter must obviously include a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the methodologies and instruments used by other researchers on the same problem. This requires a current and completely relevant review of the literature, so make sure to conduct a scholarly study of previous research. Thus your design and methodology chapter will be produced in an academically sound manner.
The difference between quantitative and qualitative research in methodology chapter
You will first need to differentiate between quantitative and qualitative research. Then you will also need to make a difference between primary and secondary research. Once you are done with that, you can start designing your methods section.
- Primary research implies that you do original research and collect primary data from your respondents. For example, you conduct interviews or organize an experiment. You retrieve original data and use these data to arrive to your original research conclusions.
- Secondary research implies that dissertation is written based on the data taken from other studies and sources. If that is the case, the purpose of a dissertation project is to reconsider the importance of the data, their strengths and weaknesses.
- In quantitative studies, the results obtained from primary and secondary sources will be primarily quantitative. In these studies, statistical and computational software products are used to process and analyze data. For example, it is not uncommon for a quantitative researcher to distribute quantitative surveys and analyze their results using SPSS. This way, a dissertation methodology will include a thorough description of the survey instrument, the SPSS package used, and the statistical procedures and instruments applied to analyze and interpret the original data.
- In qualitative research, the data used are primarily qualitative. These studies are very popular in social and humanitarian studies. They provide more valuable answers to the “how” and “why” questions. Qualitative researchers do not use any mathematical or computational models to reach and explain their results. Instead, they explore qualitative responses, using interviews, open-ended questionnaires, themes and coding as strategies for managing their data. Qualitative analyses may take much more time than quantitative studies, but their results can be equally, if not more, valuable in future research and practice.
- Mixed methods studies incorporate the elements of both quantitative and qualitative results. For example, if the subject of a dissertation project is the effect of broken windows policing on underserved communities, it will be useful to approach the problem from two different angles. Quantitatively, it will be easy to see how such policing impacts crime rates.
Why you should provide rationale in your methodology chapter
Qualitatively, it will be important to explore citizen perceptions of the problem. Mixed methods studies can also use primary and secondary data to produce more credible results.
You will have to be very thorough trying to choose the most optimal methodology or design for your dissertation. Of course, if you do not plan to conduct an original research and want to limit yourself to secondary data, then your study will also be of secondary nature. In contrast, if you want to distribute questionnaires, conduct a series of interviews, or organize a social experiment, your primary methods will also justify your results.
While working on the methodology section of your dissertation, you will have to provide a rationale for your methods. In this section, you will explain what was guiding you when you were choosing your methods, what benefits and limitations were associated with your methods, how other researchers used the same methods before you, and what you expected to see as a result of your chosen method. Try to explain what you did to minimize the limitations and inconsistencies associated with your method.
No matter what method or design you choose to use in your dissertation, you will have to rely heavily on other academic works and prior findings. Make sure that you use rich evidence to justify your choice of methods and research designs. Offer recommendations to improve your chosen methodology in future research.
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