Dissertation Methodology Chapter

Methodology Writing EBook for Writing a Methodology Chapter Depending on the Type of the Study

 

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The Significance of Dissertation Methodology Chapter

When you are writing a dissertation or thesis, then the methodology chapter needs to be given a special consideration. The methodology chapter should be concise as well as flowing smoothly into the next section because it is so crucial to make sure appropriate execution and presentation of your entire research, you can thus understand why it is particularly so important. Succinctly, your dissertation or thesis should present a detailed summary that describes how you use the methods you decided to use in conducting your study.  However, it is always the aim of every dissertation methodology to be very methodical, no matter the types of methods you actually use.   This is essential in ensuring that anyone reading your dissertation methodology chapter will be in a position to read the information you provide, follow the detailed steps, and be able to conduct your study using the same methodology and end up coming up with similar or almost similar results and conclusions.  Typically, the methodology chapter is written after the introduction and literature review chapters meaning that it is usually the third chapter of your thesis or dissertation. The methodology chapter in your thesis or dissertation is basically supposed to be analytical.  In addition, it is required to contain a detailed analysis of the methods you intend to use in your study, why you chose them, and what conclusions the process has made to come up with. This means that the methodology chapter is a key part of the entire process of thesis or dissertation writing.  It may sound to be extremely difficult, but it does not have to be that way.  However, this is only achievable if you take good notes as well as taking the time to make sure that you effectively manage your time required to execute all the methods you use in your study.

A dissertation methodology chapter is the most essential chapter in the preparation of a thesis or dissertation and its main purpose is to give you as a researcher a guideline of all the activities you intent to carry out. Writing an exceptional dissertation methodology chapter is important because it gives an experienced researcher adequate information necessary for allowing replication of the study.  The most crucial part of the dissertation methodology chapter is the research design since it is usually used in structuring the research as well as showing how the entire components of the research project, such as the sample, methods, and measures collaborate together to succinctly address the questions that are central research in the study.

A methodology structure for a quantitative study

The dissertation methodology chapter in experimental studies is supposed to begin with a paragraph that reiterates the purpose of the study. In general, when you are writing your dissertation methodology chapter you will be supposed to cover all the subjects below, but some institutions may require mild modifications but all of these parts that follow should be covered;

Research Design

This part of a dissertation methodology chapter outlines how the study will be designed. Scientific studies have variables while qualitative studies do not have; this part clearly outlines the dependent and independent variables. Sometimes the research hypotheses are stated in null form to set the stage for statistical inferences that will be carried out later. However, in a quantitative study, you will be required to ensure the level of significance to be used in the acceptance or rejection the hypotheses are appropriately stated.

Pilot Study

The dissertation methodology chapter should also include a pilot study part. For example, in a quantitative study, the designed survey instrument effectiveness needs to be validated through the pilot study as well as evaluating whether the questions will elicit the desired information in answering the research’s primary questions. Also in both scientific and qualitative studies, the main study is mostly preceded by a pilot study in order to correct any problems arising from the instrumentation or other data collection technique elements. In this part you should describe how the pilot study relates to other aspects of the dissertation methodology chapter such as the research design, instrument development, data collection procedures, or the sample characteristics.

Setting and Participants

In this section you are supposed to describe the environment in which the study will be conducted. If it is a field study, the geographical location must be described while for laboratory studies the conditions must also be described. The sample size should also be stated after determination through a power analysis. However, inclusion and exclusion criteria for participants should also be outlined. In addition, the method to be used to reach for the participants is supposed to be outlined.

Instrumentation

In this part you should succinctly and clearly describe how the data was collect on the basis of an existing instrument.  You should also provide a justification of the method selected to collect data for the study. If there is use of an existing instrument, the instrument background is described including its origin and measures taken for its validation. In case of the use of a Likert scale, the description of the scale should be done.

Procedure

In this section you are supposed to fully describe how the data were collected. In case of a qualitative study, in this section you should outline how the questionnaires were administered. Moreover, in case of a quantitative study, in this section you are supposed to provide details of when as well as how the data were collected.

Data Processing and Analysis

This part of the dissertation methodology chapter is aimed at describing the precise method of the processing and analysis of the collected data. You will also be required to describe the methods used in data analysis including the software which you might have used. This is undoubtedly very crucial since it gives the collected data its meaning.

Ethical Considerations

When developing the methods to be used in the study ethical issues must be considered. This is to ensure that you state your intended procedures for the protection of human participants. Therefore, ethical concerns are very important, especially in regards to planning, conducting, as well as evaluating the entire research. In this section you should justify that your study presents minimal risk to the study participants as a result of experimental treatment by preventing any psychological and/or physical harm.  Informed consent should also be obtained from the participants owing to the fact that they fully understand the nature of the study.

Internal and External Validity

This part is aimed at validating the effectiveness of how the research design is utilizing methods of measurement to be used in data collection to address the research questions. When writing this part you should consider the two types of validity such as the internal and external. Internal validity is aimed at confirming how correct the study design is, and it is assured through a pilot study in both qualitative and quantitative studies. External validity reflects the ability to replicate the outcomes thereby allowing for generalization to other situations or populations.

 

A methodology structure for a qualitative study

The methodology chapter of qualitative study dissertations is used to outline the methods that were used in the study such as the instruments. However, the methodology chapter of a qualitative study is aimed at addressing various questions such as the study approaches that have been used, approaches that were considered for dissertation, methodological pitfalls that were to overcome in the used approach, as well as the methodological problems that you were not able to overcome.  This evaluation is aimed at providing justification why the taken approach was adopted. This is aimed at providing the appropriateness of the chosen design.

Research design

In this section, the research design is briefly presented followed by a discussion of how as well as when the data was gathered. This section is often illustrated using a diagram. This section of the dissertation or thesis is typically very technical and it is necessary to make sure that you reference other experts’ works in attempting to justify the research methodology you have adopted in the dissertation.

Research hypotheses/questions

The research questions or hypotheses that were stated in the introduction chapter are restated again here in the research methodology context. However, the research hypotheses should be phrased in null form since they will be statistically evaluated in the null form. In addition, if research questions are utilised, they must be repeated in the form they were phrased in the introduction chapter.

Subjects

This section of the qualitative study methodology chapter contains a brief description of the individuals or animal models that participated or was used in the study. Demographic characteristics that are relevant about the subjects selected from the population are described. In this section you should also describe other specific factors identified in the subjects. This section is also aimed at outlining the number of subjects which should be included in the study. In most cases when statistical methods are used 30 subjects or more are used to facilitate conducting of most conventional parametric statistics such as (Analysis of Variance, Chi-Square analysis, etc.).

Instrumentation

In the qualitative studies, instruments used involve collection of qualitative data such as questionnaires, interviews or focus groups. Identification and description of each assessment measure must be carried out (e.g. number of items, relevant subscales, nature of items, etc.). This should be accompanied by references in order to make sure that the validity and reliability of each instrument used is substantiated, if there is existence of such data. This is achievable by citing other studies where these instruments were utilized in order to support usage of such instruments in the dissertation. A scale or questionnaire should be created if there are no existing instruments which are directly pertained to the primary area of inquiry in the study.  Therefore, you are required to provide adequate details of how you created your questionnaire. There should also be description of the pilot tests that were conducted, and if you have created your own instrument, you should offer a more detailed justification for the instrument. This necessitates the use an existing valid and reliable test.

Data collection procedures

This section provides a description of methods utilized to accumulate data for the dissertation. The exact procedure of test administration or interview must be offered. All significant instruments, tools or laboratory conditions should also be fully explained. The standard for completing this section is to make sure that after reading, another researcher should be able to replicate the study.

Data analysis procedures

This section is aimed at describing the statistics that will be utilised in the evaluation of the research hypotheses. Frequency tables or other data groupings may be more appropriate for dissertations that are nonstatistical. However, the interesting rule of thumb is that nonstatistical dissertations are often longer than statistical dissertations, making many students to feel that the former are somewhat easier to complete. However, you should remember to fully understand the statistical procedures used in order to be able to discuss them effectively in the oral defence of your dissertation.

A methodology structure for an experimental study

The organizational structure of the methodology chapter of an experimental study is slightly different from the above discussed studies. However, the differences are not that big and follow the outline given below.

Introduction

This section reintroduces the big issue on which the dissertation rests and finishes with the study questions whose introduction and justification has already been carried out in the literature review chapter(s).

Conceptual Design

This section reiterates on the fact why the issue is important as well as clearly spelling out the meaning of special terms used. In this section you should not forget your ideas and your writing should be in a coherent flow. You should also sketch out some basic model of interaction of the issues/ideas / variables/factors. However, here one model might be used or a series of mini models.

Methodological Context

In this section you should make sure that the context for your study is developed in consideration of the epistemological, ontological and methodological possibilities to be used in your study, followed by the justifications of the decisions you reach.

Methods

After you have set the big context of your study it is necessary to ensure that the detail of the study follows a set of three sub headings:

Sample

The sample describes what and/or who you collected data from as well as why. In this section you should also include how the sampling was done or how did you choose your study subjects. In addition, the broad terms of the important characteristics of the study subjects.

Instruments

The instruments describes what was used to collect the data in addition to a detailed justification of the instruments as well as how they will be capable of collecting data that is linked directly to the research questions ideas. If you are using instruments that are published, you need to provide justification of why it is appropriate compared to other instruments available. There is also the need to explain why each of the used instruments is valid, reliable, etc. You should also provide details of any pilot studies done as well as any changes done on the instruments.

 

Data collected

In this section you are required to detail the data collection plan from the study sample using techniques or instruments earlier described. You should also indicate how you dealt with any shortcomings that arose in the data collection to ensure they did not affect the collected data.

Importance and Limitations

The importance of the study should also be outlined again as well as balancing this with outlining of any limitations inherent of the study.

Analysis and processing of the data

This part of the dissertation methodology chapter is aimed at describing the precise method of the processing and analysis of the collected data. You will also be required to describe the methods used in data analysis including the software which you might have used. This is undoubtedly very crucial since it gives the collected data its meaning.

Summary

This section is aimed at briefly stating the activities that were done in this chapter, why the issue is important as well as setting the stage for the next chapter.

A methodology structure for Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) studies

In the RCT studies the methodology chapter is used to describe the methods to be used in the collection of research data. The methodology chapter should include various sections such as;

v The statement of the study objectives or questions

v The rationale of the study approach taken

v Description of the instruments used in the collection of data as well as the details of the pilot study carried out

v The rationale for the instruments used in the collection of the study data

v Sampling

v How the research instruments were administered

v Description of the study subjects and sources of data

v Triangulation

v Ethical considerations

v Limitations of the chosen methodology

v Methods used in analysis of the collected, with justifications of why they were used

 

References

Booth, W.C., Colomb, G.G. & Williams, J.M. (2008). The craft of research. New York, NY: University of Chicago Press.

Emerson, L. (2001). Writing guideline for education students. Melbourne: Thomson Cengage Learning.

Krathwohl, D.R. (1988). How to Prepare a Research Proposal: Guidelines for Funding and Dissertations in the Social and Behavioural Sciences. Syracuse University Press.

Mouton, J. & Marais, H.C. (1988). Basics concepts in the methodology of the social sciences.London: HRSC Press.

Neumann, W.L. (2000). Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approach, 3rded. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Neville, C. (2009). The complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism. New York, NY: Open University Press.

Pequegnat, W., Stover, E. & Beyonce, C.A. (2010). How to write a successful grant application: A guide for social and behavioural scientists (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

Perrin, R. (2011). Pocket guide to APA Style. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Sapsford, R. & Jupp, V. (2006). Data Collection and Analysis, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Ltd.

Szuchman, L.T. (2010). Writing with style: APA style made easy. Melbourne: Thomson Cengage Learning.

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