The Methodology Section

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					From Objectives to Methods

     (d) Research methods

       A/Prof Rob Cavanagh
           April 22, 2009
              Methodology and Ontology

 Researchers often ground their study on an ontological
  stance – their view of their world

 There is a nexus between their ontology and the
  methodology they choose to apply

 Their view of their world – their ontology - is ideally
  explained in the Methodology section of the research
             Methodology and Methods

A ‘methodology’ is a combination of research techniques
  or ‘methods’

For example: Ethnography

  The methodology of ethnographic research:
  A variety of approaches are applied to in an attempt to
  gain an holistic as possible ‘picture’ of a particular
  society, group, institution, setting or situation

  The methods of ethnographic research:
    In-depth interviewing
    Participant observation
    Keeping field notes (field jottings, diary & log)
                 Methods are Actions

 Methods propel one toward something or to do a thing

 A method is like a cooking recipe

 A method is something that is simply ‘followed’

 A method is a series of directions that pre-suppose we
  already know what we want
            Methodological Assumptions

 Initial precision in research design is essential
 The initial ambiguity that occurs in a study is desirable

 Precise hypotheses should be stated at the outset
 Hypotheses emerge as data/information is gathered

 Precise unequivocal definitions should be stated at the
 Definitions should emerge as data/information is
        Methodological Assumptions cont’d

 Assessment of validity requires statistical examination of
  numerical data
 Validity is best evidenced by cross-checking of
  information from different sources or obtained by
  different methods – triangulation

 Precise explication of the procedures applied in the
  research must precede data collection
 A narrative/ literary description of procedures should be
  compiled as the research proceeds
          Writing the Methodology Section

The readers of your research proposal will have different
  backgrounds and come from different traditions of

These readers will be greatly assisted by the Methodology
  situating the research methods within:

 A particular research approach – a ‘tradition’ of research

 An acknowledged ‘research methodology’

 A particular ‘research design’
  Organising Presenting the Research Procedures

This will depend on the overall approach being employed

For example:

 If the research is to proceed through a series of sequential
  stages or phases, the temporal sequence of stages can
  provide an overall structure (Phase One, Phase Two etc)

 When the empirical investigation is more holistic or
  integrated, an alternative structure is required (no
  distinct phases)
                  A Common Template

There are usually aspects of the research methods which are
    common to all approaches and these can provide a
    template for the writing after the ontological
    foundation of the methodology is explained

    Either within each phase if the research is to proceed
     through separate stages


    For the entire empirical investigation if it is holistic
            Four Elements in the Template

1.   The setting and participants

2.   How information or data is to be collected

3.   How information or data will be interpreted or

4.   Quality control procedures
            1. The Setting and Participants

The setting:
 Geographical location
 The culture
 Why the setting was chosen

The participants:
 Attributes of the participants
 How many, why they were chosen, and how they were

In positivistic research
 The nature of the population, the sample, and sample
   selection techniques
                    2. Data collection

Describe the methods, perhaps instrumentation, used to
   obtain information. For example:

   Observing – checklist, participant/non-participant,
    videotaping etc

   Interviewing – structured, semi-structured,
    unstructured, face-to-face, email, telephone etc

   Surveying – open-ended, rating scales, self-reported etc

   Archival retrieval – diaries, newspaper articles etc
                     3. Data analysis

Describe how information or data that is to be collected
  will be interpreted or analysed

For example:

 Discourse analysis

 Textual analysis – classification, coding, emergent

 Statistical analyses – descriptive stats, exploratory
  techniques, testing hypotheses etc
           4. Quality Control Procedures

Describe the procedures or techniques that will be applied
   to make sure the findings of the study are a truthful or
   accurate representation of the phenomenon studied

For example, by:

   Triangulation of data and/or methods

   Ensuring content validity, internal validity, or internal
       Methodology and Research Questions

 The Methodology describes the ‘means’ through which
  the ‘end’ of achieving the research objectives is to be

 There needs to be an overt connection between the
  Research Objectives/Research Questions and the

 There may well be issues that arise in writing the
  Methodology that require reconsidering the feasibility of
  the original research questions and then modifying these
         Focus on Research Methods only

A well-written Methodology will not include material that
  more properly should be presented in other sections of
  the research proposal


 Stating what the research seeks to achieve (Research

 Overtly connecting with the prevailing knowledge

 Identifying why the research will be important for others
       Proposal Writing versus Thesis Writing

 In a proposal the Methodology is written in the future
  tense – it explains what will be done and why it should
  be done

 In a project report or thesis, the Methodology is written in
  the past tense – it explains what was done why it was
                     Final reminder

The choice of research methods needs to be justified in
  terms of the expectation of providing data/information to
  enable the research objectives to be attained

So, overall, make sure you don’t:

 Pose research questions that can’t be answered by the
  results of applying the Methodology

 Propose collection and analysis of data that are not
  directly related to the Research Questions
Scientific                          Eidos
Human                              Guiding
Research                           principle
                                 Abstract ideal

               Design check                       Conception
                Rationality                       Boundaries
                 Cohesion                         Components
    Tools                                                        Operational
 Instruments                                                      definition
   Analyses                                                      Dimensions
               Methodology                         Questions
               Data collection                    Associations
               Data analysis                       Influences

                                    View of
                                   the world
                                    View of

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