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Guide to writing dissertation methodology

Guide to writing dissertation methodology certain concepts or theories are

A vital a part of your dissertation or thesis may be the methodology. This isn’t quite just like ‘methods’.

The methodology describes the broad philosophical underpinning for your selected research methods, including regardless if you are using qualitative or quantitative methods, or a combination of both, and why.

You ought to be obvious concerning the academic basis for the selections of research methods you have made. ‘I was interested ‘ or ‘I thought. ‘ isn’t enough there has to be good academic causes of your decision.

What to incorporate in your Methodology

If you’re submitting your dissertation in sections, using the methodology posted before you decide to really undertake the study, you need to use this to create out precisely what you expect to do.

The methodology ought to be linked to the literature to describe your reason for using certain methods, and also the academic basis of your liking.

If you’re submitting like a single thesis, then your Methodology should explain that which you did, with any refinements that you simply made as the work progressed. Again, it ought to possess a obvious academic justification of all of the choices that you simply made and become linked to the literature.

Common Research Means of the Social Sciences

There are many research methods you can use when searching for scientific subjects, you need to discuss what are most suitable for the research together with your supervisor.

The next research methods are generally utilized in social science, involving human subjects:


Probably the most flexible and broadly used means of gaining qualitative details about people’s encounters, views and feelings may be the interview.

A job interview could be regarded as a led conversation from a investigator (you) and somebody from whom you want to understand something (frequently known as the ‘informant’).

The amount of structure within an interview can differ, but many generally interviewers consume a semi-structured format. Which means that the interviewer will build up helpful tips for the themes that she or he desires to cover within the conversation, and might create numerous questions you should ask.

However, the interviewer is free of charge to follow along with different pathways of conversation that emerge during the period of the job interview, in order to prompt the informant to explain and expand on certain points. Therefore, interviews are particularly good tools for gaining more information in which the research real question is open-ended with regards to the selection of possible solutions.

Interviews aren’t particularly perfect for gaining information from large figures of individuals. Interviews are time-consuming, and thus attention must be provided to selecting informants who’ll possess the understanding or encounters essential to answer the study question.

See our page: Interviews for Research to learn more.


If your investigator wants to be aware what people do under certain conditions, probably the most straightforward method of getting this post is sometimes only to watch them under individuals conditions.

Observations can build part of either quantitative or qualitative research. For example, if your investigator really wants to see whether the development of a traffic sign makes any impact on the amount of cars slowing lower in a harmful curve, they could sit close to the curve and count the amount of cars which do and don’t slow lower.

Since the data is going to be figures of cars, it is really an illustration of quantitative observation.

A investigator wondering how people respond to a commercial advertisement might spend some time watching and describing the reactions of those. Within this situation, the information could be descriptive. and would therefore be qualitative.

There are a variety of potential ethical concerns that may arise by having an observation study. Perform the people being studied know that they’re under observation? Would they give their consent? If many people are unhappy with being observed, can you really ‘remove’ them in the study while still transporting out observations from the others around them?


In case your intended research question requires you to definitely collect standardised (and for that reason comparable) information from numerous people, then questionnaires could be the most practical way to make use of.

Questionnaires may be used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, although you won’t be capable of getting the amount of detail in qualitative responses to some questionnaire you could within an interview.

Questionnaires require a lot of care within their design and delivery, however a well-developed questionnaire could be given to a significantly bigger number of individuals than it might be easy to interview.

Questionnaires are particularly perfect for research trying to measure some parameters for someone (e.g. average age, percentage saying yes having a proposition, degree of understanding of a problem), in order to make comparisons between categories of people (e.g. to find out whether people of various generations held exactly the same or different thoughts about immigration).

See our page: Surveys and Survey Design to learn more.

Documentary Analysis

Documentary analysis involves acquiring data from existing documents without getting to question people through interview, questionnaires or observe their conduct. Documentary analysis may be the primary method in which historians obtain data regarding their research subjects, but it is also an invaluable tool for contemporary social scientists.

Documents are tangible materials by which details or ideas happen to be recorded. Typically, we consider products written or created in writing, for example newspaper articles, Government policy records, leaflets and minutes of conferences. Products in other media may also be the topic of documentary analysis, including films, songs, websites photos.

Documents can reveal a good deal concerning the people or organisation that created them and also the social context that they emerged.

Some documents are members of the general public domain and therefore are freely accessible, whereas other documents might be classified, private or else unavailable to public access. If such documents are utilized as data for research, the investigator must arrived at a contract using the holder from the documents about how exactly the contents may and may not be utilized and just how confidentiality is going to be preserved.

How to pick your Methodology and Precise Research Methods

Your methodology ought to be linked to your quest questions and former research.

Go to your college or college library and get the librarians for help they will be able to enable you to find out the standard research method textbooks inside your field. See also our section on Research Methods for many further ideas.

Such books will help you identify your broad research philosophy, after which choose methods which connect with that. This of the dissertation or thesis should set your quest poor its theoretical underpinnings.

The methodology also needs to explain the weaknesses of the selected approach and just how you intend to prevent the worst pitfalls, possibly by triangulating your computer data along with other methods, or why you don’t think the weakness is pertinent.

For each philosophical underpinning, you will likely manage to find researchers who support it and individuals who don’t.

Make use of the arguments for and against expressed within the literature to describe how you get selected to make use of this system or why the weaknesses don’t matter here.

Structuring your Methodology

It is almost always useful to begin your section on methodology by aiming the conceptual framework that you intend to operate with regards to the important thing texts with that approach.

You ought to be obvious throughout concerning the weaknesses and strengths of the selected approach and just how you intend to deal with them. It’s also wise to note any problems with which to keep yourself informed, for instance in sample selection in order to help make your findings more relevant.

Next proceed to discuss your quest questions, and just how you intend to deal with all of them.

This really is the point where to create your selected research methods, including their theoretical basis, and also the literature supporting them. You need to make obvious regardless of whether you think the technique is ‘attempted and tested’ or a lot more experimental, and what sort of reliance you can put on the outcomes. You must also discuss it can within the discussion section.

Your quest might even try to test the study methods, to find out if they operate in certain conditions.

You need to conclude by summarising your quest methods, the underpinning approach, and a specific item because the key challenges that you’ll face inside your research. Again, fundamental essentials areas that you will have to revisit inside your discussion.


Your methodology, and also the precise methods you ought to use within your quest, are very important to the success.

It’s worth spending sufficient time about this section to actually understand it properly. Of course, use the sources open to you, for instance by discussing your plans at length together with your supervisor who might be able to suggest whether your approach has significant flaws for you to address in some manner.



How you approach your question have a profound effect upon how you make your dissertation, which means this section discusses the kinds of research you may undertake for the dissertation. Using literature and situation studies is recognized as and also the merits of primary research are debated and advice is offered on using existing research data. You might not be keen on statistics, however the potential relevance of the quantitative approach should be thought about together with, the thought of qualitative analysis and performing your personal research may yield valuable data. The options of utilizing quantitative and qualitative data will also be discussed.

What approach must i take – qualitative or quantitative?
This online video contains comments in the following academics:

  • Dr Iain Garner – Psychology
  • Alan McGauley – Social Policy
  • Shawna McCoy – Criminology
  • Kevin Bonnett – Sociology

What approach must i take – qualitative or quantitative?

Your approach, research design, and research question are connected. ‘Approach’ means some thing than the kind of data you utilize – it describes your general orientation to analyze and the kind of claims you’ll make for the study. Dissertations could be according to either quantitative or qualitative data, or on a mix of both. The way you choose this might rely on your requirements and talents, and also the appropriateness of particular methods to your subject. You have to be in a position to justify how you get selected to make use of such data. Quantitative information is particularly helpful when you want to uncover how common particular types of conduct for example illegal drug abuse are for the age bracket. Qualitative information is particularly helpful when you want to discover why people participate in such conduct.
Consider the study Methods modules you’ll have taken to date. Consider the different types of studies you’ve read for other modules. There’s lots of scope to make use of the approaches and techniques that you’re preferred with. You have to justify your approach and techniques and also to cite appropriate literature that will help you do that.

You’ll most likely desire to use large datasets and undertake quantitative data analysis, and you’ll be adopting a realist method of the subject studied. Quantitative dissertations could be closer to the low finish of the plethora of approved lengths for that dissertation (e.g. when the length will be 5,000-8,000 words, dissertations according to quantitative analysis could be nearer to 5,000 words long). They’ll likewise incorporate tables and figures giving your important findings. Keep in mind that all tables should be carefully entitled and labelled which causes of your computer data should be acknowledged.

You’ll most likely desire to use in-depth qualitative data, and you’ll desire to adopt a realist, a phenomenologist, or perhaps a constructionist method of the subject. Qualitative dissertations includes descriptive material, usually extracts from interviews, conversations, documents or field notes, and therefore are therefore apt to be closer to top of the limit of the word range (e.g. 8,000 words). The kinds of method appropriate for any dissertation could include content analysis, a little scale ethnographic study, small-scale in-depth qualitative interviewing.

  • Your chosen philosophical approach (realist, phenomenologist or constructionist).
  • Your abilities and skills with ways of data collection (as needed) and analysis.
  • The subject or issue you are looking at.
  • The way you frame your quest question.

There are lots of ways that qualitative and quantitative data and analysis could be combined. Listed here are two examples.

  • You might be thinking about doing an analysis that’s mainly quantitative, searching at social trends, or policy implications. However you should also introduce a ‘human touch’ by performing one or more interviews asking what these trends mean to individuals or how particular individuals experience occasions. After doing all of your quantitative analysis, you need to incorporate a chapter or section around the qualitative data you’ve collected. Inside your discussion of findings you should use the qualitative data that will help you comprehend the patterns within the quantitative analysis.
  • You might be thinking about doing an evaluative situation study of the process or policy. You’ll have a particular focus – a ‘case’ that you’re searching at. You’ll triangulate methods – i.e. collect data in a number of various ways, and a few of these data might be quantitative. You’ll analyse each kind of information and describe this, after which write attorney at law that shows how each bit of research plays a role in the general picture of what’s going on.

Your supervisor or research methods tutor might be able to provide you with detailed types of these or any other methods to combine methods.

Can my dissertation be entirely literature-based?

Yes. If you choose to perform a mainly theoretical dissertation, it’s almost to dissertation is going to be entirely literature-based. This will probably be the methodology of theoretical analysis: selection and discussion of theoretical material and descriptive material, in context, and detailed comparison of theories when it comes to their applicability. You may ask how helpful certain concepts or theories are suitable for understanding particular patterns of conduct. How helpful is the idea of institutional racism? Is objectivity in media possible? How helpful is subcultural theory for understanding virtual communities? Here, the main focus of attention is less to uncover something concerning the social world, for instance virtual communities, regarding achieve a judgement about the need for key concepts or theories to understand that world. The way the study is contacted and just how contrasting approaches are attracted upon must be mentioned clearly.
A library-based or theoretical study isn’t always ‘easier’ than an empirical study, indeed, this could be harder. Keep in mind that theoretical studies, like data-based studies, must have their research design typed out of the start.
But even when your dissertation is much more empirically focused, it might be entirely literature-based. You could conduct overview of an area of labor. Exactly what does the study literature in this subject inform us about x? While all dissertations have a literature review, you’ll be able to create a dissertation that’s entirely with different overview of the literature. Should you choose this, you should evaluate the literature from an explicit position and identify some styles to help make the review distinctive. You may, for instance, explore empirical debates inside your selected field across different countries or periods of time.

What’s situation study research?

Although it’s possible for dissertations to become entirely literature-based, the most typical type of dissertation takes the type of a situation study. Here the main focus of attention is on the particular community, organisation or group of documents. The attraction of this sort of dissertation is it comes from empirical curiosity but is simultaneously practical. You might be thinking about a broader question however a situation study allows you to concentrate on a particular example. A significant challenge in situation study dissertations is connecting your personal primary research or re-analysis using the broader theoretical styles and empirical concerns from the existing literature.

What’s an empirical study?

Most dissertations demand either primary or secondary research. Quite simply, you typically need to analyse data you have either collected yourself or data that’s already available. The reason behind this would be that the questions dissertations usually address go ahead and take following form: Is x happening? Is x altering? Exactly why is x happening? Exactly why is x altering? These questions demand primary or secondary analysis of information.
Situation Study 9Think carefully prior to deciding to undertake empirical research: a student’s view

What’s secondary analysis?

Secondary analysis happens when you analyse data that was collected by another investigator. It enables the investigator to understand more about regions of interest without getting to undergo the entire process of collecting data themselves within the field. The issue with using fieldwork methods within an undergraduate dissertation, however, is they are pricey when it comes to time (that is relatively scarce inside your final year!) and perhaps your personal financial sources too. You may decide, therefore, to attempt secondary research, analysing existing data.

Where will i find existing research data?

There are a number of documents that already contain research data that you could analyse. You might, for instance, want to consider exploring whether gender stereotypes in media are altering. This may entail content analysis of newspapers, magazines, video or any other media over different periods of time. Here you wouldn’t be picking up your own data but rather could be analysing existing documents.

If you’re interested, for instance, in performing historic research, you may want to visit archives. Government reports and autobiographies could also be used as data.
Other documents include official statistics, datasets (record data), and banks of interview transcripts all of which are freely open to the educational community. More and more, documents, databases and archives are readily accessible online. Research Methods tutors in your course can recommend the supply and ease of access of these data sets.
There are several benefits of doing secondary analysis, specifically if you do a quantitative study. You’ll be able to utilize much bigger datasets than you might have collected yourself. It has the next advantages:

  • They permit you to discuss trends and social changes.
  • The information are frequently collected via a random sample, which enables you to definitely generalise towards the population in mind.
  • They might also permit you to make comparisons with time, as some datasets are products of longitudinal studies. Types of large datasets range from the British Crime Survey, and also the Youth Cohort Study. Smaller sized, more targeted datasets can also be available.
  • Secondary analysis has disadvantages also: the information were collected for any purpose not the same as yours.
  • Are looking for out something about this purpose, along with the ways of collection, to be able to justify your utilization of another dataset.

Collecting you have data – primary research

Quantitative data might also derive from non-participant observations or any other measurements (e.g. within an experimental design). Also, sometimes data which are collected through qualitative processes (participant observation, interviews) are coded and quantified. Your quest methods tutor can provide you with more information on these kinds of data, but here are a few common quantitative data collection methods as well as their definitions:

A number of questions the respondent solutions by themselves. Self-completion questionnaires are great for collecting data on easy topics, as well as for gaining an over-all summary of a problem. Questionnaires must have obvious questions, an simple to follow design, and never be too lengthy.

Much like a self-completion questionnaire, with the exception that the questions which are requested by an interviewer towards the interviewee. Exactly the same questions are read out in the same manner to any or all respondents. There’ll typically be considered a fixed selection of solutions for that respondents.

Sightseeing and recording systematically their conduct. Before the observation, an observation schedule is going to be created which details just what the investigator need to look for and just how individuals observations ought to be recorded.

If you’re performing a qualitative analysis you’ll probably require to use a minimum of some original material. This can be collected through in-depth interviews, participant observation tracks and fieldnotes, non-participant observation, or some mixture of these. Listed below are some data collection methods that you desire for your dissertation:

A means of asking them questions which enables the interviewee to possess additional control from the interview. The job interview might be semi-structured, which utilizes a job interview schedule to help keep control button from the interview, but additionally enables for many versatility with regards to the interviewee’s responses. The job interview might be unstructured, here the goal is look around the interviewee’s feelings concerning the issue being explored and design for questioning is extremely informal. Or even the interview might be a existence history in which the interviewer tries to discover more on the entire existence, or part of the person’s existence.

A kind of interviewing where you can find several participants there’s a focus within the questioning on the tightly defined subject the accent is on interaction inside the group and also the joint construction of meaning. The moderator tries to supply a relatively free rein towards the discussion.

This requires studying individuals naturally sourced settings. The investigator participates directly within the setting and collects data inside a systematic manner. The investigator will observe conduct, pay attention to conversations, and get questions.

Spend time searching at general books about research – they provides you with an introduction to the information collection methods available and enable you to get the best option for any project. Bryman (2004) will be a helpful beginning point.
For just about any bit of research you conduct, whether it is empirically based (quantitative or qualitative) or library based, its methods should be justified. You have to show within the final dissertation the way you have provided shown to different ways, and how you get selected and eliminated these.

STUDENT VOICE: Findings from your research

Within our study, supervisors saw a part of their role as somebody who draws out students’ causes of selecting a specific research approach. Frequently at the begining of supervision conferences they ask students to warrant their causes of selecting a library-based or perhaps an empirical study. (Todd, Cruz and Bannister 2006, p167).

Your supervisor will need you to definitely offer convincing reasons why you’ve selected the approach you’ve – so prepare yourself!

If you’re getting difficulty making that choice, don’t hesitate to inquire about your supervisor for his or her advice. It was particularly helpful for our respondents:

It has been an invaluable experience for me personally it is so not the same as other things. Along with other essays you are able to hurry them if you need to. however this is really much work, you cannot hurry it. It relates to more. (Todd, Bannister and Clegg, 2004, p340)

….My causes of data collection is literature based as my research question involved sensitive subjects which could have been unacceptable for primary data collection. (Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam College)

I selected primary data since it would enable me to construct skills that might be helpful for postgraduate study. (Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam College)

It’ll involve primary data, secondary data, quantitative and qualitative research methods, lit reviews, theory and policy studies as well as an search for alternatives. My dissertation will be based on the expertise of ‘poverty’, as poverty may be the experience. Theories and plans are not. However, to complete justice towards the subject, theories and policies is going to be incorporated so Iam in a position to demonstrate where failures within the system may exist. (Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam College)

Note: Research should be conducted inside a sensible and ethical manner data should be analysed and presented inside a rational manner. It is crucial that students don’t expose themselves varieties to dangers or risks when performing research. Students require the approval of the dissertation supervisor before starting any kind of fieldwork (begin to see the section on Research Ethics to learn more).

Will my research be inductive or deductive?

Generally, deductive scientific studies are theory-testing and inductive scientific studies are theory-generating. Frequently people link deductive research with quantitative experiments or surveys, and inductive research with qualitative interviews or ethnographic work. These links aren’t solid – for example, experimental research, made to test a specific theory through creating a hypothesis and creating an experimental design, could use quantitative or qualitative data or perhaps a combination. In case your research begins with a theory and it is driven by ideas that you’re testing (e.g. that social class background social deprivation or privilege will probably affect educational attainment), it’s, generally speaking, deductive. However much research combines deductive and inductive elements.

What’s all of this about research design?

Research design is essential to performing a great good article. At the beginning of your quest you have to set lower clearly:

  • Your quest focus and research question .
  • The way you offer check out the subject:
    • approach
    • ways of data collection
    • ways of data analysis
  • The kinds and resources you’ll need.
  • How to access these resources (whether people, existing datasets, biographical accounts, media articles or websites, official records).
  • The suggested results of these studies (inside your situation, a dissertation) and also the form it will require.
  • A period-frame for those this.

Both you and your supervisor will talk about your design and choose if the scientific studies are ‘do-able’. Your college may need you to create a report (e.g. an ‘interim framework report’ or perhaps a short ‘research proposal’) that specifies your quest design. Others might have to consider the design to determine whether you will find ethical problems that affect your quest.


  • Quantitative or qualitative? A quantitative approach means you’ll need substantial datasets, along with the inclusion of tables and statistics inside your final submission. These details could originate from a number of sources – make sure to acknowledge them! A qualitative approach will most likely mean performing interviews or focus groups or observing conduct. Consider if you’re to get this done, and consider the easiest way of having the solutions you would like from people. Are you going to stop people on the street? Are you going to conduct telephone interviews? Are you going to send survey forms and hope that individuals send them back? Are you a participant or non participant observer?
  • Deductive or inductive?Deductive scientific studies are theory-testing, that is frequently associated with datasets, surveys or quantitative analysis. Inductive scientific studies are theory-generating, and it is frequently associated with qualitative interviews.
  • Empirical or theoretical? An empirical study could involve close analysis of statistics or some type of qualitative research. However, a theoretical study brings its very own challenges, and you’ll be known as upon to check theories when it comes to their applicability.
  • After you have made the decision upon your approach, you are able to create an investigation design, i.e. how you will approach the work.
  • Now look just a little in the research methods you have studied. Aside from matching your quest for your general feeling of objective/subjective reality, you should make sure that you suit your methodology towards the problem you’re going after.
  • What sort of data must you answer your question/test out your hypothesis? How does one best have the ability to collect that data?
  • Again, consider some time and practicality from the exercise. The opportunity to manage your time and effort is going to be proportional for your capability to control the limitations from the study – especially if it’s carefully linked to the office.
  • Now that you’ve got got to date, attempt to write down your quest proposal so far as you are able to. Make certain that you simply identify where your proposal needs further work and, simultaneously, where you’ll have to place your maximum effort. It might be useful to attract a vital path so you are obvious which actions you have to take as well as in what sequence. It will be useful to plot your quest questions about the chart around the next page and make sure that your plans for collecting data really answer the issue in addition to staying away from ethical problems.
  • At this time you’ve got to be really callous on your own. How viable could it be? Do you know the threats towards the study? Try some ‘what if?’ questions about yourself. It will likely be better to return to enter board now, than when the project is going ahead.
  • IMPORTANT. Whatever approach you compromise on, you MUST have the ability to justify its suitability for your subject and question.

Key Questions

  • Will the data needed to reply to your question already exist or will you need to generate your personal data?
  • Are you able to combine quantitative with qualitative methods? e.g. market research including interviews or perhaps a situation study that appears in a situation from numerous angles.
  • What factors may limit the scope of the research? (time, sources, etc.)
  • Which method(s) be perfect for the questions and time available for you to get this done study?
  • Which are the variations between kinds of data, and kinds of research?
  • Does any project have obvious links between theory and exercise?

Further Studying

BRYMAN, A. (2004).Social Research Method. second erectile dysfunction. Oxford, Oxford College Press
CRESWELL, J. (2002).Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. second erectile dysfunction. London, Sage
SEALE, C.(2006).Researching society and culture. London, Sage
Here are a few references for particular methods:
ARKSEY, H and Dark night, P. (1999).Interviewing for social scientists: an opening resource. London, Sage
DALE, A. ARBER, S. AND PROCTOR, M.(1998).Doing Secondary Analysis. London, Allen and Unwin
HAMMERSLEY, M. and ATKINSON, P. (1995).Ethnography: Concepts used. London, Routledge
OPPENHEIM, A. N. (1992).Questionnaire Design, Interviewing and Attitude Measurement. London, Pinter

Web Sources

1. Professor Chris Winch, Dr Malcolm Todd, Ian Baker, Dr Jenny Blain, Dr Karen Cruz

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