Dissertation methodology

Dissertation Methodology

The methodology chapter of the dissertation

Not all dissertations require a dissertation methodology section and accordingly you should check with your supervisor and/or course handbook as to whether your individual department expects one to be included. Customarily, the methodology section will comprise ten to fifteen per cent of the dissertation. As a general rule, undergraduate dissertations in subjects such as law, politics and history do not require methodologies (as such dissertations tend to be focused on the reinterpretation of existing data) whereas dissertations that involve the collection of new data, interviews, or experiments, do require explicit methodology sections (for instance, in risk management, business, or chemistry). In dissertations that do not feature a methodology chapter, the word count released is divided among the other sections.

There are two main research types and three main types of research analysis. These are, respectively, primary and secondary research, and quantitative, qualitative and mixed research analysis methods.

Which approach you use depends upon the subject matter and the means by which primary data will be collected. Clearly, if your dissertation is primarily a review of existing data then your methodology will be centred upon secondary data. Conversely, if you are undertaking street interviews on issues of fashion for a BA in Fashion Marketing, you will be more involved in collecting primary data and will then need to decide whether you analyse your data through qualitative or quantitative methods, or a mixed-method approach. It is strongly recommended that you undertake further reading on methods of research.

The methodology section will explain why you have chosen to adopt the approach you are using. In so doing, you should also note (briefly) what is inappropriate about the other approaches as well as the ways in which you have overcome any negatives that are associated with your approach. Thus, for instance, you might, if conducting interviews, note that you have used some 'closed questions' so that the personal bias of the interviewer (you) is minimised.

Whichever approach you use it is important that you justify your decision and that you do so via reference to existing academic works - and writing only in the third person. As with the background section of your dissertation, your methodology section needs to be grounded in existing academic opinion. The following books provide not only an overview of methodological approaches (and the strengths and weaknesses associated with each) but are also the sorts of books that your lecturers may expect to see referenced within your methodology section, depending on the type of course you are doing.

You do not need to read them all but you should show (using appropriate and limited direct quotation for extra marks) at least some knowledge of the arguments contained within these books. For an undergraduate dissertation it would be good practice to include at least five of these books (or their equivalent - depending upon what is available within your library) in your bibliography.

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