Methodology giant must come down

Tomi Ola | This post was originally published on 8 April, 2013

methodologyWhen I was swimming in literature, theories and counter-theories, I longed for the day I would get my head above board and into much calmer waters like the methodology chapter. I was mistaken. Every phase of the PhD is ridden with its own bucket of challenges – make that a truckload.

I underestimated writing the methodology chapter… I am still working on it.

My first step was to look through published theses, and scrutinise how they wrote theirs. That was really helpful to me.

Also, I dug into the cache of numerous blogging academics who were willing to share nuggets on how to tackle this aspect of the research.

Here are what I found:

13 Reasons Researchers Get Asked to Write Their Methods Chapter Again – by Pat Thompson

Both Pat Thompson and the Thesis Whisperer are very dear to my research-heart – you have no idea how much. They have this uncanny way of blogging about the exact issues I am facing, as though they were in my head.

In this piece, Pat explains the Achilles heel of most theses, when it comes to writing the methodology chapter.

Top on the list is this: not knowing the difference between methodology and methods. Did you know there was a difference? Well, she certainly had to explain it in a separate post.

Another weakness in methodology chapter writing is, where the methods don’t fit with the theoretical framework. This is one reason why my research objectives are ever before me. No matter has grand a method seems, if it doesn’t tackle your research question(s) in a manner that helps you meet your objectives, it is not likely to be a great method for your thesis.

There are eleven more common faults that Pat pinpoints about the methodology chapter. I do suggest you click that link and familiarise yourself with them. Let’s spare one another the pain of re-writing.

This is a bit general, but you may find How Not to Write a PhD Thesis a useful read also…it tackles many failures of a thesis beyond the methodology chapter.

There are some brilliant (26) slides right here on writing a methodology chapter. According to this author, methods are the “means by which information and data are gathered”, while “methodology combines methods with the philosophy underlying the methods. It has to do with the epistemological/ideological basis of the study…”. Does that make sense? It kind of does to me… kind of.

I dug into the archive of this PhD Life blog to find other posts other PhD-ers have written on methodology, here are some I enjoyed reading:

PhD TimeLine Fun – by Bernie (March 2012)…She is a great contributor on the PhD Life blog.

I am glad Bernie also refers to methodology as “issues” in this February 2012 post.

You would almost always need to justify and defend your chosen methodology – It is in our favour to build strong rationale backed up with evidence from other (published) research (this is what I am learning). Bernie mentions this briefly in her post on Completion Reviews & a Happy Conclusion (December 2011).

This other post is literally two-sentences, but it contains Ana’s frustration with writing the methodology (err i’m not mad after all) – A new Gadget… (June 2011).

Writing the methodology chapter is no mean fit, as I still battle with it. IF you’ve written yours or you’re writing yours at the moment – please drop a comment, let’s learn from and support one another.

How are you with the methodology? Please share.

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