How to Write Research Methodology

A research methodology is the path researchers take to conduct their research. It is the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods that are applied to a particular field of study. Also, it is the body of methods and principles associated with a particular branch of knowledge. Typically, it encompasses concepts such as paradigms, theoretical models, phases, and quantitative or qualitative techniques.

It is also known as the specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information about a topic. When conducted within a research paper, the methodology section allows the reader to critically evaluate a study’s overall validity and reliability which convinces readers that your research is useful and will contribute more knowledge to your field of study.

The methodology section answers two main questions:

  • How was the data collected or generated?
  • How was it analyzed?

In your thesis or dissertation, you will have to discuss the methods you used to do your research. The methodology chapter explains what you did and how you did it, allowing readers to evaluate the reliability and validity of the research. It should include:

  • The type of research you conducted
  • How you got the data you used
  • How you analyzed your data
  • Tools or materials you used in the research
  • Why you decided to choose these methods

Note: The methodology section should be written in the past tense.

Do you need quantitative data or qualitative data?

In a quantitative (expressed in numbers) experimental study, you might aim to produce generalizable knowledge about the causes of a phenomenon. When conducting standard research it requires a carefully designed study under controlled conditions so other researchers can easily refer to it if need be.

In a qualitative (expressed in words) ethnography methodology, your aim might be to produce a discourse of real-world knowledge about the behaviors, social structures, and shared beliefs of a particular group of people. As this methodology is less controlled and more interpretive, you will need to reflect on your position as a researcher, taking into account how your participation and perception might have influenced the results. 

Primary and Secondary Research Methods

  1. Observation/Participant Observation

2. Surveys

3. Interviews

4. Focus Groups

5. Experiments

6. Secondary Data Analysis/Archival Study

7. Mixed Methods (a combination of some of the above)

Point out your research problem

When starting your research methodology section, this is where you should list the problems or questions you intend to study and research on. This is where you include your hypotheses, if applicable, stating what you are setting out to prove through your research. What do you intend to achieve, what area are you researching on? Is it an under-researched area or an area that has much work done already but have missed out some important facts that could be beneficial?

Establish the approach you have decided to use; this can be either qualitative or quantitative. There is a possibility that you may use both approaches at some point, make it known why you have decided on this particular approach.

How did you conduct or gather your data? Where, when, the amount of time spent etc. So it shows the relative objectivity of your results?

When using primary research methods, the surveys, interviews, observation methods should be aptly described.

While for secondary research methods, the originality of how the data was created and collected should be emphasized, especially which institutions created and published it because these are data that have been curated by another body or research institution. 

Explain your choice of methods used

  1. Depending on your method of data collection, you will need to explain why you selected that particular method; especially the reasons that made it a likely fit for you to use conveniently.

2. There was possibly some difficulty when researching, you could state how you overcame and was able to minimize such difficulties. Your problem-solving abilities can enhance your readers’ confidence in the results of your study.

3. In a situation where you have used a particular method that is not too familiar or commonly used in your field, it will be appropriate to briefly explain why you did so to better buttress your entire point. You could also state the methods that could have been used or that others have used in similar issues that have been researched on. It could be that they didn’t use more personal opinions of people on the street but rather took a generalized view of the public but you decided to do a personal interview of a certain number of people from that same locality.

Before you choose a particular methodology or approach, there are some factors you should consider so you can determine which is best to work with.

  • How much time do you have or can spare for data collection and analysis is something you want to consider. While observation or interview methods, the so-called qualitative approach, helps you gather richer information, this method tends to take more time.
  • Using a survey may help you collect more data quickly, but this option can lack details. It is your decision to consider the time you have for research and the balance between strengths and weaknesses associated with each method (e.g., qualitative vs. quantitative).

Extra tips that can be considered before starting out

Your methodology section should be written in chronological order using the example below.

  1. How did you prepare to conduct your research methods?
  2. How did you collect the data used?
  3. Lastly, how did you analyze that data to get your results?

It is advisable that before committing to a particular research methodology approach you should discuss your plans in detail with your advisor or supervisor so they can help identify possible flaws in your study.

Write your methodology in passive voice in order to place your focus on the action being taken, rather than on the person taking the action. Lastly, you should aim to fully explain and make the reader or your audience understand what your research is about.