Tips for writing a PhD thesis research methodology

Tips for writing a PhD thesis research methodology


What is a PhD thesis research methodology?

In an academic piece of work, whether a PhD thesis or a journal paper, the research methodology section involves all the steps carried out to conduct the research work. This involves a series of procedures done by the researcher, with the aim of fulfilling the research objectives. Different disciplines use different approaches to carry out the methodology section, but there is a large overlap. A good methodology clearly explains all of the steps you have done, to finally obtain the results required. Each step must be explained in enough detail to allow other researchers to replicate your work, but make slightly different adjustments, e.g., in some parameters, in order to investigate the same experiment, but with focusing on some different parameters.


Where does the research methodology fit in a thesis?

The research methodology come after the literature review, and is based on the research problems and objectives formulated during the review of the literature. This section is then followed directly by the results and discussion section, where the results obtained from the methodology are achieved.


What questions should the methodology address?

The methodology should answer the following questions:

What is the procedure used to collect the data or datasets using in the methodology?

What are the methods that you have used, and what are the steps taken for each?

What are the reasons that you chose these particular methods over other methods?

How did these methods help to tackle the research problems and objectives?


Remember to write as you conduct the methodology

One important tip is to write as you are performing the methodology steps. This way,  you would have a draft of notes on each step you take, while it is still fresh in your mind. But if you start to write after you have finished the methodology, then there is a chance that you would forget to write some important ideas from the beginning of the methodology section.


Remember to justify all the steps taken in the methodology

Another tip is to justify each individual step you take, no matter how small. Chances are the your readers would wonder why you chose to take that step, or reviewers would ask this for a justification. So to save yourself the trouble, make sure to provide a detailed validation about why you chose each step. It is also helpful to cite sources when providing a justification for a certain step. This would strengthen your argument and your readers would agree with your validation if you cite work and convince them that it was a good idea to take that certain step.


Keep the right order and map out methods to outcomes

Be sure to keep the order of the methods undertaken in sync with the order of the findings for each method. This way readers would easily map each method to its findings, and would find coherency in first reading the method and then reading about the results/outcome for that particular method. Changing the order of the methods and the results would result in confused readers who have a hard time mapping out the methods to their correct outcomes.


Research framework, design and methodology structure

The beginning intro section of the methodology starts by recapping the research gaps or problems identified in the preceding section – the literature review. Next comes the overall high level research design or framework you have constructed. Then you zoom in to each step and explain how it was carried out. If your methods have been carried out before, then cite the work and mention that they have been adopted by the corresponding research works. However, if your methods have not been used before, you need to mention this, and also provide a strong justification for using them in your work.


Qualitative vs quantitative methodology

If your methodology involves qualitative analysis rather than quantitative to a certain research problem, then you need to provide an in-depth and detailed description for the methods utilized. This is because the primary instrument for data collection has a great effect on the results obtained in the work.


Editing and proofreading

Once you are done with this particular section, be sure to hire a skilled, professional academic editor and proofreader to check the writing thoroughly for any grammatical mistakes. Since this section explains the steps you have carried out, it should be as explicit and clear as possible, so that readers can easily have the methods in their head as they are reading along.



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