Writing a Dissertation Methodology: Dos and Don’ts
An important part of any dissertation, the Methodology chapter details the methods of collecting data and a consideration of the chosen concepts and theories behind the methods.
The methodology chapter must be detailed and meticulously written; after all, this is the part of your dissertation that will prove you know what you’re doing! We’ve compiled a list of the key dos and don’ts to consider when writing your methodology.
Use your supervisor. Your tutor or project supervisor will be used to advising students on each chapter of their dissertation, including the methodology. They will be able to help you identify potential flaws in your choices and point you in the right direction of key resources.
Rewrite or recycle other parts of your dissertation. Each section of the dissertation represents a new step along your path of research. Using parts from your literature review or introduction in your methodology will make your work look sloppy and suggests to the marker that you needed to meet the word count, or didn’t know what else to write. Make sure each chapter of your dissertation offers something new to the paper!
Clearly define your methods. Unreliable methods produce unreliable results, which will affect the outcome of your entire dissertation. Make sure that your methods are clearly outlined so that there can be no doubt what your dissertation will aim to discover. Imagine that the next person to read your dissertation needs to replicate your methodology exactly the same as you did yours. What would they need to know to be able to do this?
Use figures or tables. The methodology section should be used to describe your chosen research methods and the application of said methods to your research. Similarly, don’t waste words by including your questionnaire or interview transcripts in this chapter – you can include these in the dissertation’s appendices.
Research before you start writing. Problems arise when students plough straight into writing their methodology when they haven’t done enough research. Make sure before you begin writing that your sample size is adequate for your project and that your methods of data collection are accepted and put into practice in your field of study. Plan each stage and think about what you want to say before you begin putting pen to paper.
Make everything positive. A key part of the methodology is detailing the problems you anticipate and how you avoided them from happening. A good methodology will recognise both the strengths and the weaknesses of your chosen methods. A fantastic methodology will acknowledge weaknesses and provide information on how you surpassed them or minimised their effect. Remember, you are not supposed to find the work easy or error free, you will gain marks for applying skills which helped you to problem solve.