The research methodology section of any academic research gives you the opportunity to convince your readers about the usefulness of the research and its contribution to the field of study. An effective research methodology is based on a general approach, either qualitative or quantitative, and adequately describes the methods you used. Justify why you chose those methods over others, then explain how they will provide answers to the research questions.
Part 1 of 3: Describe the methods
Step 1. Reframe the research problem
Begin the research methodology section by listing the problems or questions you intend to study. Include the hypotheses, if they apply or what you propose to prove through the investigation.
- In the restatement, include underlying assumptions that you are going to make or conditions that you take for granted. These assumptions will also inform the research methods you have chosen.
- Generally, it indicates the variables that you will test and other conditions that you control or assume are the same.
Step 2. Establish the general methodological approach
The general approach can be qualitative or quantitative. Sometimes a mixture of both approaches can be used. Briefly explain why you chose the approach.
- If you want to research and document measurable social trends or evaluate the impact of a particular policy on various variables, use the quantitative approach that relies on data collection and statistical analysis.
- If you want to gauge people's opinions or understand a particular topic, choose a more qualitative approach.
- You can also combine both. For example, you can primarily observe a measurable social trend, but you can also interview people and find out their opinions about how that trend affects their lives.
Step 3. Define how to collect or generate the data
This part of the methodology section tells readers when and where the research was conducted and the basic parameters that were established to ensure the relative objectivity of the results.
- For example, if you conducted an interview, you should describe the questions included in the survey, where and how the survey was conducted (in person, online, or by phone), how many surveys you distributed, and how long respondents had to complete the survey.
- Include enough detail so that the study can be replicated by others in your field, even if they don't get the same results.
Step 4. Provide background information for unusual methods
Particularly in the social sciences, you may use methods that are rarely used or that do not seem to fit the research problem. These require additional explanation.
- Qualitative research methods generally require more detailed explanation than quantitative methods.
- Basic investigation procedures should not be explained in detail. Generally, you can assume that readers have a general understanding of common research methods that social scientists use, such as surveys or poll groups.
Step 5. Cite any sources that contributed to the choice of methodology
If you used someone else's work to help you elaborate on applying the methodology, mention these jobs and how they contributed to yours or how your work builds on theirs.
For example, imagine that you conducted a survey and used other research documents to help you ask the questions in the survey. You must mention them as contributing sources
Part 2 of 3: Justify Your Choice of Methods
Step 1. Explain the selection criteria for data collection
If you are collecting primary data, you will likely set eligibility parameters. Establish the parameters clearly and let the readers know why those parameters and the importance they have for the investigation.
- Describe specifically the study participants and list the inclusion or exclusion criteria you used when assembling your group.
- If applicable, justify the sample size and describe how it affects whether the study can be generalized to larger populations. For example, if you surveyed 30% of college students, you could possibly apply those results to all students, but perhaps not to students at other colleges.
Step 2. Differentiate the investigation of the weaknesses in the methods
Each research method has strengths and weaknesses. Briefly mention weaknesses or criticisms of the methods you chose, then explain why they are irrelevant or not applicable to the research.
Reading other research papers is a good way to identify potential problems that commonly arise with various methods. Indicate if you really found common problems during the investigation
Step 3. Describe how you overcame the obstacles
Overcoming obstacles in research can be one of the most important parts of the methodology. The ability to solve problems can improve the reader's confidence in the study results.
If you encountered any problems collecting the data, clearly explain the steps you took to minimize the effect the problem would have on the results
Step 4. Evaluate other methods you may have used
In particular, if you are using a method that seems unusual for your particular topic, include a discussion of other methods that are more commonly used for this type of research. Explain why you decided not to use them.
- In some cases, this can be as simple as stating that while there were multiple studies that used a method, there were none that will use the method you chose, causing a gap in understanding of the problem.
- For example, there may be several investigations that provide a quantitative analysis of a particular social trend. However, none of these took a close look at how this trend was affecting people's lives.
Part 3 of 3: Connecting Methods to Research Goals
Step 1. Describe how you analyzed the results
Generally, the analysis depends on whether the approach is qualitative, quantitative, or a combination of both. If you are using a quantitative approach, you may be using statistical analysis. With the qualitative approach, indicate the theoretical or philosophical perspective that you are going to use.
Depending on the research questions, it is possible to mix a quantitative and a qualitative analysis, just as you could use both approaches. For example, you can do statistical analysis and then interpret those statistics through a particular theoretical lens
Step 2. Explain how the analysis fits the research objectives
Basically, the entire methodology must be able to provide answers to the research questions. If it doesn't fit well, you will have to adjust the methodology or rephrase the research question.
For example, imagine that you are going to investigate the effect of a college education on family farms in rural America. While you could interview college-educated people who grew up on a family farm, that wouldn't give you an idea of the overall effect. A quantitative approach and statistical analysis will give you a bigger picture
Step 3. Identify how the analysis answers the research questions
Relates the methodology to the original research questions and presents a proposed result based on the analysis. Specifically describe what the results will reveal about the research questions.
- If, when answering the research questions, the conclusions raise other questions that may require further investigation, briefly state them.
- You can also include any method limitations or questions that were not answered through the research.
Step 4. Evaluate whether the conclusions can be transferred or generalized
You may be able to transfer the findings to other contexts or generalize them to broader populations. Transferability can be difficult in social science research, particularly if you used qualtivative approaches.
Typically, generalization is used more in quantitative research. If you have a well-designed sample, you can statistically apply the results to the larger population that the sample belongs to
- Organize the methodology section chronologically, starting with how you prepared to conduct your research methods, collect data, and analyze your data.
- Write the research methodology section in the past tense, unless you are submitting it before you have completed the research described.
- Mention the plans in detail with your advisor or supervisor before choosing a particular methodology. He can help you identify potential flaws in the study.
- Write the methodology in a passive voice to focus on the action being performed, rather than on the person.