This blog will be looking at research methodology in a Master’s dissertation, but this will not be a full academic lecture on research methodologies, that would take several hours! However, it does give examples of what is required, and a structure to follow.
Here is a short video clip giving an overview of the subject.
Three Things to Include in the Research Methodology Chapter
Here are the three essential elements that must you must include in the research methodology chapter.
- Show that you understand research methodologies
- State what research methods you are using for your research
- Justify why you have chosen those methods
It is important to note that these three should all be present, but also useful to note what is not required in this chapter:-
There is no requirement to show a full academic understanding of every research method that exists. This is not a literature review on research methods! All that is required is an overall understanding of research approaches, and a justification for your chosen method.
Different Research Methodologies
There are 2 basic approaches to academic research:
- Inductive research (Bottom Up)
- Deductive research (Top Down)
Inductive research starts with observations where patterns are identified suggesting a new theory. So Inductive research is about finding new theories from existing data. Whereas deductive research starts with a theory and proposes a hypothesis and takes observations to confirm this.
These two approaches are a primary consideration at the start of the research methodology chapter.
Secondly, there are two (three) main types of research.
- Quantitative – numbers, data, and potential statistical analysis
- Qualitative – opinions, understandings, motivations
- Mixed Methods (a combination of both)
Quantitative research involves numbers, and data that can be presented in tables and graphs and possibly analysed using statistical analysis. If you go down this route you may need to understand, populations, and sample sizes in order to justify that your data is representative.
Qualitative research is about opinions, understandings, and motivations. It will provide rich and contextualised information about the subject matter.
What is your Research Method?
This chapter must tell the project supervisor the methods you are using for your research, with some additional information. The additional information will depend on the selected research method:
- Interviews – Who are you interviewing? How many interviews? What job roles? What format is the interview? What are the questions? Where did these questions come from?
- Questionnaires – How are you collecting data? What are the questions? Why are you asking these questions?
- Case studies – Why these case studies? How did you find these? Why not other case studies?
Any questions posed should arise from the literature review chapter as important questions to ask, rather than appear to be plucked out of the air.
Now we need to consider some information regarding the data collected in terms of:
- Repeatability – If you asked the same questions 3 months later would the result be the same.
- Reliability – If somebody else asked the same questions would the result be the same
- Data Validity – why should the results be believed? Are we really measuring what we intend to measure?
When you have chosen your research method you will need to investigate these terms to demonstrate that you understand them, and that your research method is sound.
Justify your Chosen Research Methods
Now is the time to justify your research method. There are several ways to approach this point:
- Why is the chosen method best for this research?
- Why are other research methods not so appropriate?
- What are the Advantages/Disadvantages of your chosen and other research methods?
- What are the Strengths/Weaknesses of your chosen method and other research methods?
Please remember that one major requirement of Master’s level research is critical evaluation. So critically evaluate your chosen research method.
Bias in Research Dissertations
Finally, you may need to be aware of bias in your research. We have already checked that the title is not biased in an earlier blog. However, there might be sub-conscious bias in your research approach:
- Because the data is easy to collect
- You stand to gain by a particular result
- Unconscious selection of questions or interview candidates to bias the results
You should state clearly how you are avoiding bias in your selected research approach.
This is not a full lecture on research methods, but an example of what the research chapter needs to contain. This will include demonstrating an understanding of research methods, and selecting and justifying the chosen research method.
Edit September 2019:
I now have a separate blog on Research Ethics, and research ethics should be mentioned in the research methodology chapter.