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How to Write a Methodology Section for Your Dissertation

Any research work requires a methodology section, which becomes a headache even for the most experienced students. Even professional writers often struggle with this section, so it is not surprising that so many scholars are looking for manuals and guidelines on completing a methodology section. By teaching you how to write a methodology we already provide a great help with research paper and dissertation writing.

Basically, it helps with understanding a philosophical background behind the research methods you have chosen for your study.  This chapter aims to show what qualitative and quantitative techniques of collecting data you have used throughout your research and why.

If you are visiting this page to get a better understanding of this chapter and need guidelines on writing a methodology section, you are in a right place! Remember that a dissertation is not a right place to say ‘I have chosen this instrument, because I thought it was good enough’. Every tool or method should be backed with reasoning and concrete arguments.

Contents of the methodology chapter

Methodology usually acts as a sort of a plan or a guideline on how you are going to conduct your future research. This is especially important for those scholars, who need to submit the chapter before conducting a research to prove that it may be useful for the field.

Chosen methodology should interlink with the sources and state why a particular analysis instrument and collection of data was used in your project.

It is impossible to learn how to write a methodology without knowing its components. They include: philosophical background, research design, limitations, methods of data collection, ethical considerations and methods of analysis.

If you need to submit dissertation at once, your methodology section should also contain data on modifications you have made throughout the paper. This means that every choice you have made should be backed with academic reasoning.

Choosing research and methodology design

As we have written before, the theme of methodology must be related to the research and its questions.

Start with attending the library of your college or university to search for various articles or books, which have comprehensive information on widely used research methods in your particular case. When you prepare for writing a methodology it is important to devote much time to reading various books, because they will help you to create your own philosophy and choose the most relevant methods. Don’t forget to express any limitations that your method has and how you are planning to overcome them.

Be prepared that every research method has its followers and critics. You can use available arguments in your favor, discussing why you have chosen such methods and why they are the best for your work.

Research methodology dissertation structure

A common structure of your methodology should be the following:

  • Research strategy and design;
  • Philosophical background;
  • Data collection and data analysis;
  • Reliability, ethical concerns and limitations.

Research strategy and design

Many students are puzzled, as they don’t know how to write a research design section. Research and design sound like two completely unrelated terms, and often confuse scholars.

According to the latest research guide, the first and the most important function of such design is to help the student (or any other researcher) to answer all of the research questions by using evidence in an effective manner.

Basically, in this section you need to tell how you have gathered data.  For example, if we’re talking about an ethnography research, in this chapter you should justify the chosen methods, including literature examination, phone and online surveys, interviews, etc. In addition, you need to explain why you have chosen people of a certain group, ethnicity, age, occupation and so on.

In this dissertation methodology chapter you need to get back to the initial questions. They will help you to continue planning the future work and set its general tone. Make sure the collected data is relevant to the examined topic.

Characteristics of a good research design section

  1. Give a brief description of other research design solutions and justify why the chosen design suites the chosen problem better than the rest;
  2. Include literature review and make it an essential part of your Methodology in thesis;
  3. State your research questions in a clear way. These are hypotheses, which will be addressed during the whole work;
  4. Explain in what way collected information will answer the key research problem;
  5. Discuss selected data analysis methods for hypotheses testing.

Philosophical background

This part is very important for a proper methodology structure and aims to discuss the chosen philosophical background and approach to make your research model stronger. The most common philosophies, employed in researches around the globe are:

  • Positivism;
  • Interpretivism;
  • Pragmatism;
  • Constructivism;
  • Post-positivism.

To choose a proper philosophy you will need to account multiple factors, including the type of your research, academic goals and many others. However, it doesn’t matter what philosophy you will choose: it will always be necessary to name assumptions about the surrounding world.

When you have selected your philosophy, you need to describe research context to answer the main questions: What, Where, When, Why and How. Research design dissertation is all about questions and answering them, so you need to be very attentive.

A method to choose

Being a researcher you will need to choose whether you will use a quantitative, a qualitative method or a mixture of both. Data collection process greatly differs depending on the method you choose.

For example, if you are willing to choose a positivism approach, you will need to define hypotheses and test them in real-life conditions. In such a case a quantitative approach is required and you will have to collect numerical information, starting with at least 30 respondents.

When you choose writing a methodology with the help of a qualitative method, you will need to research the topic, identifying perceptions and emotions on a given subject. In such a case, you will have to collect answers and look at them from all the angles in order to create theories in a chosen field.

You can always mix two of the given methods, which is probably the most popular approach nowadays. It is very useful if you are planning to get numerical data and test it in real life or reflect common perceptions on a quantitative matter.

Data collection and data analysis

So how to write a methodology section in the most efficient way? The best choice is to justify all of the sources you have processed and all of the data you have collected. In this section you need to give a clear explanation how you have collected information and include a brief discussion on the instruments you have used to analyze that data.

For example, for collecting data you decided to use interviews and online surveys. In the process you will need to use various programs and software, like Word or Excel. In this case the best dissertation methodology example will be justifying why the chosen software is the best in your particular case.

In this chapter you will need to explain how you found new results and what the best way to write up all of them is. Don’t forget that the reader or the supervisor will be looking for a correlation between the findings and the questions you have indicated at the beginning of your work.

Remember that assistant or a supervisor of your dissertation research plays a crucial part in writing a methodology section of a research paper according to all of the standards and requirements. That is why it is very important to consult him or her and ask for recommendations in the process.

Reliability, ethical concerns and limitations

These sections are also important for your methodology chapter and have their own peculiarities and requirements to keep in mind.


Make sure that your findings and study are reliable for researchers in the chosen field or matter. If you want to build a strong reputation and become a reliable and trustworthy researcher, your paper should be unique, reliable and authentic. This is the answer to a common question: ‘How to write a good methodology section’.

Ethical concerns

You should always think about individuals, who may be directly or indirectly involved into your study. It is especially true for social subjects. As a reliable researcher, you need to make sure that your ideas and results are not harmful and don’t have a negative impact on others.

This part of the chapter also includes information on protection, handling and confidentiality of the collected and processed data.


A good researcher and writer is always aware of the limitations of the study. You need to understand that dissertation research methods may be limited by the sampling of data. This means that a limited location, group or any other factor may greatly influence results of your research.

A good example of such limitation is collecting survey results from people of a certain occupation, which may give a blurred picture and not reflect the whole situation in the field.


The final part of your methodology is very important and can either improve it or ruin the whole work. That is why the methodology section of thesis or its final paragraph should be concentrated on choosing a proper design and philosophical background, as well as on analysis of gathered results.

Always choose reliable sources and discuss all of your ideas with the supervisor in order to get valuable tips and save lots of your time. Remember, methodology chapter is all about facts and a clear understanding of the structure, so you should devote all of your time and attention to it.

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