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Sociology Dissertation Methodology Example

When learning how to write the methodology chapter of a dissertation or thesis, you'll need to study the four basic parts.  The first part of the methodology chapter is a simple review of the problems that need to be considered when tackling the subject at hand.  In other words, you need to determine the question(s) that you're attempting to answer and the problems that you might face in finding answers.

The methodology chapter of a dissertation or thesis is an important component that essentially maps out the methods that you'll utilize when researching and writing this lengthy chapter.  Therefore, your methodology chapter must include a general definition or some type of overview of the approach that you'll use in conducting your research.  You will also need to provide a thorough description of how you'll go about collecting the necessary data, as well as the analytical procedure that you'll use to draw conclusions based on this information.

The methodology chapter of your dissertation or thesis isn't necessarily meant to provide so much detail that the reader can completely recreate the process that you used to conduct your research.  At the same time, it should be thorough enough that the reader can plainly see that you were thorough in your methods and that the methodology you utilized was sound.  In other words, it should demonstrate that you took various variables into account and that you can be reasonably assured that the results are accurate.

As with any type of writing, your methodology chapter should include an introductory paragraph that describes the problem that you'll be addressing through your methodology.  The subsequent paragraphs shouldn't go on to further address the issue, however.  Rather, the paragraphs that follow should provide an explanation of the methods you'll utilize to gather the data necessary to address the problem.  In addition to describing these methods, you might also provide justification for selecting this method of data collection.

When providing justification for the method of research you're using, you might also provide an explanation for deciding not to utilize certain commonly accepted research methods.  Or, you might provide an explanation for purposely including or excluding certain groups from your research.  If writing a dissertation about the effects of feminism on American society, for example, you might choose to exclude a certain ethnic group or you may choose to focus solely on one group.  In either case, you should provide a brief explanation for this decision and the impact this decision is expected to have on the outcome of the research.

When discussing the methods you'll utilize to conduct your research, you should also discuss certain variables that may have an impact on the outcome of your research.  If conducting research on women with diabetes that are over the age of 50, for example, you might acknowledge that certain lifestyle choices may have an impact on your results.  As such, you should develop a dissertation methodology or thesis methodology that will account for these variables in order to still conduct useful research that will have a true impact upon the field.

Dissertation Methodology Writing

A dissertation methodology is a distinct chapter that describes the methods by which the researcher approaches a problem and collects data through research.  The purpose of the report methodology is to define a problem, outline procedures that the researcher plans to use in order to learn more about the problem, and identify possible variables that the researcher may face during his/her research.  

The methodology dissertation describes the means by which a researcher shares his/her perception of a problem that has lead to his/her desire to research a particular subject.  The methodology outlines the general methods that the researcher plans to use to draw conclusions about the problem as well as his/her philosophical reasons for using the stated methods.  The methodology should provide a description of methods that will be used to collect and analyze data, but the methodology doesn't describe specific steps that will be used.  Thus, dissertation methodologies aren't step-by-step explanations of how a researcher arrives at a conclusion.  The dissertation methodology isn't a set of scientific methods or a recipe.

Dissertation methodologies should follow a unique format.  An introductory paragraph should describe the problem that the researcher is attempting to address through his/her research.  The researcher should then outline his/her general methodology in paragraph form, using a separate paragraph to describe the manner in which each separate method will be carried out.  The method paragraphs should also include possible variables that may impact the effectiveness or accuracy of the method.  Many researchers also choose to justify their methods either at the conclusion of the report methodology chapter or within the method paragraphs themselves.

A dissertation methodology is often confused with scientific method, especially in science fields where research is common.  However, there's a distinct difference between scientific methods and dissertation methodologies.  A scientific method is an important part of science research, as it describes the step-by-step process used during a scientific experiment.  

Yet, even though a university report is an extensive research paper, dissertation methodologies don't outline tactical steps in an experiment, as is the case with scientific methods.  Instead, a dissertation methodology describes a problem and the general techniques that a researcher will use to learn more about the problem.  

Dissertation methodologies are used to establish the credibility of the author, order of the research, and thoughtfulness of possible variables that could influence the research.  Therefore, the report methodology shouldn't only help to establish that the researcher has a well-developed plan of approach for tackling his/her research, but also that the researcher is aware of inherent problems within his/her own methodology that could impact the final results.  As such, the report methodology is the first step towards establishing the credibility and authority of the researcher.

Help Writing a Methodology Chapter

A methodology chapter is the third section of an academic composition, large research paper, or journal article.  The methodology chapter explains the procedure of a researcher's academic study.  Methodology chapters are intended to be complete, detailed reports of studies with the objective that any other researcher could replicate the study exactly to determine if the same results would be obtained.  

It is sometimes tempting for writers to insert commentary into the methodology chapter.  This should be avoided, as methodology chapters are intended to be the objective presentation of the research procedure.  All discussion of the procedure should occur after the methodology chapter in a separate section or chapter called "Results" or "Discussion."

Though institutions will likely dictate their requirements for the exact format and execution of the methodology chapter, there are several primary components included in nearly all methodology chapters.  First, the chapter should begin with a brief paragraph summarizing the general approach to and construction of the study.  Following this, there should be a clear description of the research participants.  This should include details about the demographics of the participants, particularly focusing on demographics that may be relevant to the study.  For instance, if the study were attempting to determine elementary school educators' perceptions of students who don't speak English as a first language, it would be important to note in what areas of the country those educators are teaching, as some areas have high populations of non-native speakers, and some have only a few students.  

Next, the chapter should discuss how the study sample was obtained.  Clearly, the researcher will not survey all elementary school educators, but will select a random few to participate in the study.  The determination of the sample selection should be clearly disclosed so that researchers could replicate this selection process and also so that outside readers can determine if the sample was fairly selected.

Next, the methodology chapter should explain exactly how the study was conducted, including a detailed description of all steps the researchers took.  This will likely be the longest section because it requires a comprehensive explanation of each component of the study.  

Finally, the chapter should report on the data collected from the study and how the researcher analyzed the data.  This will almost always involve some type of statistical analysis, and if so, the tools used for this analysis should be described.  The results shouldn't be reported here, as these will be discussed in the following section.

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By Janis Prince Inniss

I got some great advice when I was writing my dissertation. The first: The only good dissertation is a complete dissertation! The point here is that you do not have to spend forever in trying to write the world’s best dissertation; just get it finished. After all, you might spend decades conducting research and writing on the same topic, so you’ll have many other opportunities to write the definitive work on your topic. Do that masterpiece as a Ph.D.! (And don’t take this literally; your committee is unlikely to reward you for being sloppy.)

How should you choose your dissertation topic? Be pragmatic: you’re going to spend a lot of time working on this topic, becoming an expert on it, so make it something that really holds your interest. Sure, your plan is to crank out your dissertation in two months. And maybe you will do just that, but just in case you’re mortal like the rest of us and need a few more months (or years) to do so, you’ll want to make sure you can stand to think about your topic during that whole time.

A good dissertation topic is one that excites you, is doable, and has not been already done. Your dissertation committee members should be helpful in letting you know how feasible your proposed dissertation topic is and whether it is one you can get your hands around. Remember, you can add to this area of research as a Ph.D.; you will not answer every question in this one study.

If early on in your graduate schooling, you have a dissertation topic, you can use assignments in some of your classes to begin work on the topic. Methods courses are great for this, but you can address you topic in many other classes well. In many graduate methods courses, you have to conduct independent research. If you are learning the methodology that you think you will use for your dissertation research—but not only if this is the case—you can do what may become a pilot study for your dissertation.

Or maybe you will simply conduct additional interviews for your dissertation, to add to those you completed in your methods course. Of course, this only works if you already know enough about the topic to ask the kinds of research questions in your methods or other courses so that data you collect can fit seamlessly into the dissertation. Regardless, you have many opportunities in your classes to begin putting together bits of the entire dissertation puzzle.

Another example: a literature review on your topic of interest for a class should at least provide foundation material for your dissertation. Warning: this can be tricky in terms of timing. For example, in my qualitative methods course, I worked really hard on an area of interest regarding race/ethnicity construction and produced a solid piece of research in an area that had not been studied. This is exactly what I am recommending. But I did not do this myself because by the time I was finished producing the paper for that class, I was fed-up with the topic and could not bear further study of it. Race/ethnicity construction remained—and still remains—an interest of mine, and although my dissertation explored this subject, I changed the specific example because I was tired of the initial one. So don’t peak too early!

Another bit of great advice I got regarding my dissertation was to write every day! I tried to write for at least an hour every day. What’s an hour, right? If you are in dissertation writing mode, an hour is peanuts! But at times, even writing for that one hour was a challenge and I did not do it. This advice is important because writing a dissertation or any other large work requires you to be focused. And if you are not actively engaged in the work, then you lose focus. If a few days go by—I found even one—when you open the document, it is easy to feel lost. I would found myself spending valuable time trying to figure out  where I left off. (You can bookmark the place of your cursor in your word processing program, but finding that mental place is another matter.)

That daily writing time can be spent doing anything that moves the process forward so that you remain connected to the work. I kept a list of things to do when I really did not want to do the most complex tasks, such as analyzing data and writing. On this list of “they’re simple chores, but they must get done anyway” were tasks like these: create a table of contents and automate it, work on bibliography, and write acknowledgements.

With a project as big as a dissertation, it is important to celebrate milestones. They help to keep you going. Celebrate the completion of any one chapter, for example—or a hard to write paragraph. That celebration does not have to be elaborate; once I celebrated by buying a pretty—but inexpensive—journal in which I chronicled some of the dissertation experience. Last, but perhaps most important, having people who can cheer you on and help you through any dissertation jitters is priceless!

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