How to write a method

Your methods used in your research will be discussed in your thesis or dissertation. Methodology or the methods section describes what you did and how it was done. This allows readers to assess the validity and reliability of your research. It should contain:

What type of research were you doing?
How did you collect and/or select your data?
How did you analyze your data?
Anything you used for research
These are the reasons you choose these methods

In general, the methodology section should be written in past tense.
Step 1: Describe your methodological approach

Start by explaining your overall research approach. Which problem/question did you research and what data were required to answer it?

Quantitative methods (e.g. Surveys are the best method for ranking, categorising and identifying patterns, as well as making generalisations.
Qualitative methods (e.g. Interviews are the best method for describing, understanding, contextualizing, and gaining deep insight into particular concepts or phenomena.
Mixed methods permit for both numerical measurement and in-depth exploration.

Depending on the discipline or approach you choose, it might be helpful to start with a discussion about the assumptions and rationale behind your method.

Did you set out to solve a real or theoretical problem?
This is the best way to answer your research questions.
Do you think this is a common practice in your field?
Are there philosophical or ethical considerations?
What criteria are used to determine if this type of research is valid and reliable?

Step 2: Explain your data collection and/or choice methods

After describing your overall methodology, it is time to detail the research methods used. You should outline the methods, tools and materials used to collect data and the criteria used to select sources or participants.
Quantitative methods

Please describe the location, time and method of the survey.

What form (e.g. multiple choice, rating scale) did you use to design the questions? Multiple choice, rating scale
How did you select and find participants?
How did you conduct the surveys? Did you use phone, mail, online, or in-person methods? And how long did respondents have to respond?
How large was your sample and what was the response rate?

It might be a good idea to attach the complete questionnaire as an appendix, so your reader can see what data was collected.

Please describe in detail the methods, tools and techniques you used to perform the experiment.

What was the design of your experiment? Are there any differences between the subjects or within the subjects?
How did you select and find participants?
Which tools and technologies were used in your experiment?

It is important that you provide enough information to allow another researcher to replicate your results in experimental research.

Existing data
Please explain how you collected and selected the material (such as publications, archival data, etc.) that will be included in your analysis.

From where did you get the material?
What was the original production process?
Which criteria were you using to choose material (e.g. Date range

Qualitative methods

Focus groups or interviews
Please describe the location, time and method of interviewing.

How did you select and find participants?
What was the participation rate?
Which format were the interviews (structured or semi-structured? Unstructured?)?
What length were the interviews? How were they recorded?

Participant observation
Please describe the location, time and method of your observation.

Which group or community were you able to observe? How did you get access to them?
What time did it take to do the research? Where was it located?
What methods did you use to record your data (e.g. How did you record your data (e.g. audiovisual recordings, note taking)?

Existing data
Describe how you chose case study materials (texts or images) to focus your analysis.

What kind of materials were you able to analyse?
How did you choose and collect them?

Step 3: Explain your analysis methods

Next, describe how you processed the data. Do not go into detail. You should not present or discuss any of your results at the stage.
Quantitative methods

Quantitative research will be based on data. You might add:

What you did to prepare the data for analysis (e.g. checking for missing data, removing outliers, transforming variables)
What software did you use to analyse the data? (e.g. SPSS or Stata
What statistical methods did you use (e.g. Regression analysis

Qualitative methods

Qualitative research will focus on language, images, and observations. These methods could include:

Content analysis: Coding and categorising ideas and themes
Narrative analysis: Analyzing storytelling structures and tropes to interpret their meaning
Discourse analysis: Examining communication and meaning (including images and nonverbal interactions), in relation to their social context

Step 4: Analyze and justify your methodological decisions

You should explain why you used these methods, particularly if they are not the most common approach to your topic. Discuss the reasons why you chose this method over other options, and how it contributes to new knowledge and understanding.

While you can recognize the weaknesses and limitations of the approach you choose, it is important to justify these by pointing out the advantages.
Writing a strong methodology: Tips

Your goal is to not only describe your methods but also to show how and why they were applied and to prove that your research was thorough.
Concentrate on your goals and research questions

The methodology section should explain why your methods are appropriate for your objectives. It should also convince the reader that your chosen approach is the best to answer your research questions and problem statement. Your choices should be related to the main purpose of your dissertation throughout the section.
Cite relevant sources

Referring to research in the field can help strengthen your methodology.

Verify that you have followed the established procedures for this type research
Talk about how you compared different methods and chose your approach.
Demonstrate that you used a new methodological approach in addressing a gap in literature

Write for your audience

Be realistic about how much information you have to share and limit the amount of detail that you give. You don’t have to provide much background information or justification if you are following the established procedures in your field. If you choose a method that is not common in your field, however, you may need to justify and explain your choice.

Your methodology should be clear and well-structured. It should not only list technical details but also make an argument for your approach.
Talk about obstacles

Describe how you handled difficulties encountered in data collection or analysis. It is important to show how you minimized any unexpected obstacles. Show that your research was as thorough as possible to avoid major criticisms.

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