Most academics have their own approaches to examining PhDs, some will start from the conclusion and work their way back, while others will spend a huge amount of time reading your aims and then comparing them to your findings. However, what each of these academics has in common is their somewhat religious adherence to the structure and content of the methodology chapter. You must get this right.
One of the most intriguing and probably most difficult elements of any PhD is developing a comprehensive, well structured methodology section. Many students I have met over the years have come unstuck at this section of the Viva, struggling to articulate what they have done and most importantly why.
In a nutshell the methodology chapter is the “nuts and bolts’ of your PhD, like an engine on your car keeping everything ticking along nicely. In this section typically a student would describe and explain the procedures they utilised to explore and predict the topic of study. It is a plan which outlines, what is to be done and within which framework and format. This chapter can mean the difference between an Mphil or a Doctorate degree, so not to be taken lightly.
In saying all of this it still amazes, and to some measure depresses me at the amount of students who do not give this particular section the respect and time it deserves. Hence, in order to support students with this critical section here are my five top tips in writing your methodology section:
- Use a recognised framework to help you structure this chapter. Check out Creswell (2012) or Crotty (1998) as good starting points.
- Clearly highlight the problem you are intending to investigate and discuss succinctly how you intend to resolve this problem
- Be clear on all the decisions you have made and how this relates to your aims and objectives
- Keep it simple stupid (KISS). Don’t overcomplicate this section, make clear decisions structure them via tables/figures so they are easy to follow and digest.
- Give this section the time and respect it deserves. Do not be tempted to leave this until the end, make copious notes about every decision you made and why.
I think five tips is enough for the moment. I will update this page in the near future. If you have any tips please do let me know in the comments section below.
Remember your research project will live or die by the quality of your methodology.
Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Educational Research (Fourth, Vol. 4). Pearson. http://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004
Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research. meaning and perspective in the research process. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications. Retrieved from http://library.hud.ac.uk/catlink/bib/314610