How to write a good dissertation: the methodology

(Part III)

Now that we have given some suggestions on how to provide good introduction and literature review chapter, it is important to discuss some techniques related to what many students describe as the most difficult chapter in their dissertation – the methodology. Not all dissertations will necessarily have methodology chapters – some theoretical dissertations might simply rely on theoretical framework within which the argument needs to be developed. Most undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations however, need to have specifically designed methodology chapter, which would help understand the research methods implemented for the research, and their ability to produce valid results. Methodology chapters usually refer to primary research which you will be conducting specifically for the purposes of your dissertation.

Choose the right research strategy

Most dissertation writing service websites agree that a methodology chapter should begin with an explanation of your research strategy. Whether you will choose to go for a quantitative, or qualitative type of research strategy, depends entirely on your research question, and the aims of the dissertation. Qualitative strategy usually involves methods such as discourse analysis, observation, ethnography, and the usual tools are interviews or focus groups. The quantitative strategy on the other hand will be related to numerical data and quantitative reasoning. The usual tools for a quantitative strategy are questionnaires, or case studies.

When you prepare your methodology chapter, it is very important to make the difference between research strategy and tool. The tools or instruments of your research are the actual elements of your research design. These can be as mentioned survey questionnaires, interviews, or case studies. The strategy however, is the broader arrangement of your methods. It can be qualitative, quantitative, or mixed (which involves both qualitative and quantitative techniques).

Assess your methods properly

What gives value to your methodology chapter is the assessment of the methods and techniques you have chosen. When you write the dissertation, you have to think along the following lines: are the chosen methods able to produce valid results; what are their strengths, weaknesses; how do they exactly meet the research aims and objectives of my dissertation? Were they appropriate for the research aims and objectives, set in the beginning? You have to make sure that you answer all these questions when writing the methodology chapter, and mention any limitations or problems which occurred throughout the research as a result of the choice of your methods.

Make sure you select an appropriate sample

Sample size is crucial for conducting good research. If you are writing a dissertation in the field of humanities or business-related disciplines, the sample size can be determined manually – meaning it does not have to be calculated. Make sure you choose a sample, which will allow for a doable research. Do not set to interview 120 people or distribute 200 questionnaires, if you will not have the ability to do so within the timeframe allowed for the project. If you are conducting clinical research, make sure that you chose the appropriate statistical formula to calculate your sample. You might want to consult with a statistician before calculating the actual sample. In addition, always think about how you are going to recruit the participants, and make sure the sample is representative in relation to what you are observing in the dissertation. For example, if you are writing a research on a country where the population is ethnically mixed, make sure you include representatives of all ethnic groups in the sample; if you are writing about issues which you are observing in relation to gender, then make sure that you have equal participation of both men and women in your study. For dissertations which will require access to organisations or government institutions, make sure that you allocate enough time to obtain permission for the research and that you comply with data protection policies.

Arrange your chapter clearly

Arrangement is another crucial element for the methodology chapter. Methodology chapters are usually very technical, and they require clear and very succinct presentation of information. Although this may vary, most methodology chapters have the following elements: research strategy, research methods, sampling and design, data collection, data analysis, limitations of the study, and ethical consideration. Make sure that all of these elements are present in your chapter, and they are clearly connected to your research aims and objectives.

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