What Is a Dissertation Methodology Chapter?

Methodology Chapter

Now that you’ve chosen your research subject and conducted a review of the literature, it’s time to write your review. How do you go about writing a methodology chapter, and what exactly is it about? In this post, we’ll unpack the topic step by step.

Overview: The Chapter on Methodology

  • The chapter on methodology’s objective and role
  • Relevance of the chapter or section
  • How to format the chapter in writing
  • Tips for writing a great methodology section, in general

What Precisely Does The Methodology Chapter Cover?

Your methodology chapter is where you highlight the philosophical underpinnings of your research and outline the specific research design choices you’ve made. The reader will learn exactly how your research was designed in the chapter, and your design choices will be supported.

All the decisions you made regarding the research design should be completely explained and supported in the methodology chapter. For instance, the kind of research you conducted (qualitative or quantitative), the methods you used to gather and analyze your data, and the sources from which you obtained your data (sampling). We’ll explain all the key design choices later in this post.

What Makes The Methodology Chapter Crucial?

There are two reasons why it is crucial:

In the first place, it proves that you comprehend research design theory, which is what gives you points. This chapter is crucial because it enables you to demonstrate to the marker that you understand what you’re doing and that your results are credible. A flawed research design or methodology would lead to flawed results.

On the other hand, this is what makes your study replicable, allowing other researchers to conduct it using the same design and compare their results to yours. This is very important within academic research, as each study builds on previous studies.

The methodology chapter is crucial because it gives you the chance to identify and discuss any methodological problems or issues you ran into (i.e., limitations), as well as to explain how you mitigated their effects. Every research project must be transparent about its shortcomings and limitations while highlighting the significance of the research.

The Writing Process!

The methodology chapter’s precise structure and contents will depend on the research field (for example, humanities vs. chemistry vs. engineering) and the university, it is important to note at the outset. Here, we’ll go over a general format for the chapter of methodology that is frequently used in the sciences, particularly the social sciences (such as psychology).

We always advise creating a rough outline before you begin writing so that you know where you’re going. Don’t just start writing without considering where each section will go. If you do, your story will probably end up being fragmented and poorly written. You’ll spend a lot of time rewriting as a result in an effort to put everything together.

Section 1 – Introduction

The methodology chapter in your dissertation or thesis needs to have an introduction, just like the other chapters do. You should remind your readers of the main points of your study, particularly the goals of the research, in this introduction. It’s helpful to frontload this to remind the reader (and yourself!) what you’re trying to accomplish with your design and methodology because, as we’ve discussed frequently on this blog, your research design needs to align with your research aims, objectives, and research questions.

You can also briefly describe how you’ll organize the chapter in this section. This will give the reader some direction and a rough outline of what to expect. 

Section 2 – The Research Design

The reader should be introduced to your research design in the following section of your chapter. You must explain and rationalize all of the major design decisions in this section in a logical and intuitive way. Since this is the main section, you must be thorough; don’t hold back. This is not one of those “less is more” situations.

Let’s look at the most popular design decisions you’ll need to make.

Design Choice #1 – Research Philosophy

The term “research philosophy” refers to the underlying assumptions (i.e., world view) guiding the collection, analysis, and use of data about a phenomenon. Understanding which research philosophy you’ll adopt and why you made that choice is crucial because it will form the basis of your study and guide all other decisions regarding research design. If you aren’t sure, take the time to clarify this if you choose any research design options.

Although there are many different research philosophies, positivism and interpretivism are two that are frequently used.

In quantitative studies, positivism is frequently the guiding theoretical framework. According to this theory, there is only one reality that exists independently of the observer, and the researcher is able to observe reality objectively.

Design Choice #2 – Research Type

The research type is the next topic you would typically cover in your methodology section. Indicate whether the research you conducted was inductive or deductive as a starting point for this. Inductive research tends to take an exploratory approach because the theory is built from the ground up (i.e., from the data gathered) in this type of study. Contrarily, deductive research begins with a pre-existing theory and adds to it with gathered data; as a result, these studies typically take a confirmatory approach.

Design Choice #3 – Research Strategy

Discussing your research strategy, also known as your research “action plan,” is the next step. This decision about research design refers to how you carry out your investigation in light of your study’s objectives.

Therefore, if your research goals include determining or quantifying cause and effect, it might be a good option.

The process of conducting ethnographic research, on the other hand, entails observing and documenting participants’ experiences and perspectives in their natural settings (such as at home or at work). Or, to put it another way, in an uncontrolled setting. This naturally means that if your research goals involve determining causation, this research strategy would be much less appropriate, but it would be very helpful if you’re looking to explore and examine a group culture, 

Design Choice #4 – Time Horizon

The time horizon is the following topic you must address in your methodology chapter. The two options available are longitudinal and cross-sectional. In other words, whether your study’s data were all gathered at once (i.e., cross-sectional) or over the course of several time points (i.e., longitudinal).

Your decision will be based on your research’s goals, objectives, and questions once more. A longitudinal time horizon would likely be used, for instance, if your goal is to evaluate how a particular group of people’s perspectives on a subject change over time.

Design Choice #5 – Sampling Strategy

Next, you’ll need to discuss your chosen sampling strategy. Probability and non-probability sampling are the two main types of sampling. Probability and non-probability sampling are the two main types of sampling. In contrast to non-probability sampling, which involves the non-random (and, therefore, unrepresentative) selection of participants from a population, probability sampling entails the random (and, therefore, representative) selection of participants from a population. For example, selecting participants based on ease of access (this is called a convenience sample).

Design Choice #6 – Data Collection Method

Next up, you need to explain how exactly you’ll go about collecting the necessary data. Whether you plan to collect qualitative or quantitative data will determine the data collection method (or methods) you use. It depends on the type of data that you plan to collect—in other words, qualitative or quantitative data.

Design Choice #7 – Data Analysis Methods/Techniques

Analysis methods are the last important design decision that you must make. In other words, how will you approach data analysis after you have gathered your data? Don’t leave any room for interpretation when describing your analysis methods and/or techniques in this situation. Also, as with all choices in this chapter, you need to justify each choice you make.

Section 3 – The Methodological Limitations

The next step is to discuss the limitations of your design after the key research design decisions have been outlined and supported. There will always be trade-offs between the “ideal” design and what is feasible and practical given your constraints. No research design or methodology is perfect. Therefore, you will discuss the trade-offs you had to make and why they were appropriate given the context in this section of your methodology chapter.

Methodological restrictions can differ significantly between studies, from common problems like time and money restrictions to problems with sample or selection bias. For instance, you might discover that you weren’t able to elicit enough respondents to reach the desired sample size (and, consequently, statistically significant results), or your sample might be significantly biased toward a particular demographic, which would have a detrimental effect on representativeness.

Section 4 – Concluding Summary

It’s now time to conclude the methodology chapter with a succinct summary. You’ll want to briefly summarize your chapter’s content in this section. When summarizing the important design choices, it can be helpful to use a figure, especially if your university suggests using a particular model (like Saunders’ Research Onion).

This section is crucially important, and it should only be a paragraph or two long (after all, it is a summary). Make sure to only include the information you covered in your chapter in your concluding summary and avoid adding any new information.

Wrapping up

Keep in mind the methodology chapter’s cardinal rule: Justify every decision! Be sure to provide a solid justification for each “what” and to cite reliable methodology manuals or academic sources to support your arguments.

If you need assistance with your research methodology (or any other section of your dissertation or thesis), check out our private coaching service, Premium Dissertation Help, where we will hold your hand through every step of the research process. Until next time, good luck!


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