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Methodology Dissertation Topics

Methodology Dissertation Topics

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Example methodology dissertation topic 1:

An assessment of the relative strengths of different interviewing techniques within qualitative research.

Furthering the hypothesis that choosing the correct interviewing technique (or techniques) is a vital pre-requisite to the attainment of quality primary research data, this dissertation offers a comparative critique of four interviewing techniques and scenarios. They are; face-to-face interviews versus email interviews, structured versus semi-structured interviews, individual interviews versus group interviews, and open versus closed questioning techniques. Having used secondary data to assess the relative strengths and merits of each, the second part of the dissertation will then conduct a 'fictitious' study upon 'perceptions of Norwich as a romantic weekend holiday destination' and will conduct interviews using each of the aforementioned techniques. Through so doing, the study will be able to offer a series of reasoned comments as to which interviewing technique was most useful for the given study area.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Jennings, J. (2005). 'Interviewing: A focus on qualitative techniques'. In, Ritchie, B.W., Burns, P. and Palmer, C. (eds), Tourism research methods: Integrating theory with practice. Wallingford: CABI, pp. 99-118.
  • Opdenakker, R. (2006). 'Advantages and disadvantages of four interview techniques in qualitative research'. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum, vol. 7(4), Art. 11.
  • Wengraf, T. (2001). Qualitative research interviewing: Biographic narrative and semi-structured methods. London: SAGE.

Example methodology dissertation topic 2:

Adapting the Likert scale for a more sophisticated audience: an opinion.

As a mechanism through which to quantify primary data, especially within the social sciences, the Likert scale is an oft-used tool. Whilst this dissertation advances the view that quantitative data is superior to qualitative (a contention discussed within the study), it nevertheless posits, that improves could be made to the Likert scale. In so doing, it suggests that a fundamental weakness exists within the scale as a consequence of its usage of terms such 'agree strongly' for such phrases are nebulous concepts. The result is that, whilst 80% of respondents may 'strongly agree', there may be substantial variations amongst the respondents as to what 'strongly agree' specifically means.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chimi, C.J. and Russell, D.L. (2009). 'The Likert scale: A proposal for improvement using quasi-continuous variables'. In Proceedings of the Information Systems Education Conference (Vol. 26).
  • Cummins, R.A. and Gullone, E. (2000). 'Why we should not use 5-point Likert scales: The case for subjective quality of life measurement'. In, Proceedings, Second International Conference on Quality of Life in Cities (pp. 74-93).
  • Dawes, J. (2008). 'Do data characteristics change according to the number of scale points used? An experiment using 5 point, 7 point and 10 point scales'. International Journal of Market Research, vol. 50(1), pp. 61-104.

Example methodology dissertation topic 3:

A critique of Bryman.

To many, the work of Alan Bryman has been pivotal to their own studies. Offering a range of key texts on issues relating to methodology and ethics within research, Bryman is an acknowledged guru of research techniques within the social sciences, particularly within the United Kingdom. However, not all agree that, without Bryman, a research methodology bibliography is 'not complete'. This dissertation addresses some of the questions raised by authors such as Leahey and Tashakkori, who contend that mixed methods research can be anomalous as it attempts to cross the qualitative/quantitative divide.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bryman, A. (2008). 'Of methods and methodology'. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. 3(2), pp. 159-168.
  • Leahey, E. (2007). 'Convergence and confidentiality? Limits to the implementation of mixed methodology'. Social Science Research, vol. 36(1), pp. 149-158.
  • Sandelowski, M. (2003). 'Tables or tableaux? The challenges of writing and reading mixed methods studies'. In, Tashakkori, A. and Teddlie, C. (eds), Handbook of mixed methods in social & behavioral research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 321-350.

Example methodology dissertation topic 4:

Theoretical perspectives within the social sciences: are they always needed?

Amongst the social sciences, there appears to exist an almost institutional doctrinal expectation that all primary research must be underpinned by reference to either the work of Michel Foucault or Karl Marx, both 'sacred cows' in theoretical studies. This dissertation takes issue with this assumption and in so doing reviews the doctoral theses of Geography PhD students from the years 1950-1960 and those of 1999-2009 as held within the libraries of the universities of York, Durham, Newcastle, and Leeds. In so doing it notes the theories within them and suggests that the present-day preoccupation with 'shoehorning' Foucauldian or Marxian theory into the methodology of each dissertation detracts from a wider academic ground.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Baudrillard, J. (2007). Forget Foucault. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.
  • Cladis, M.S. (1999). Durkheim and Foucault: Perspectives on education and punishment. Oxford: Durkheim Press.

Example methodology dissertation topic 5:

A discussion of the importance of ontological research within the pedagogy of education.

As 'a theory of existence concerning the status of the world and what populates it' (Ernest, 1994, 20), ontological research is advanced with reference to pedagogy by educationalists who posit that 'reality' is evaluated in accordance with two broad assumptions: 'interpretivism' and 'realism'. Combining these theoretical assumptions and philosophical definitions, this dissertation evaluates the methods currently being applied to assessing pedagogy, and determines which approach is best suited to this area. Accordingly, it also examines the value of epistemological research methods and considers the merits of both approaches. Finally, it investigates how much 'learning' is actually 'knowing', and how much the methodology in pedagogy has affected the understanding of 'learning'.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cohen, L. (2000). Research methods in education. Abingdon: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Dall'Alba, G. and Barnacle, R. (2007). 'An ontological turn for higher education'. Studies in Higher Education, vol. 32(6), pp. 679-691.
  • Ernest, P. (1994). Educational research: Its philosophy and purpose: An introduction to research methodology and paradigms. Exeter: University of Exeter.

Example methodology dissertation topic 6:

Epistemological research within the classroom: a rejoinder.

Hamlyn posits that epistemology is concerned with 'the nature of knowledge, its possibility, scope and general basis' (1995, p. 242). In applying such concepts to pedagogical issues and wider educational research, Pring (2002) furthers that epistemology is, resultantly, a concept upon which individual researchers can adopt different (but logical) positions. This dissertation debates the theoretical research viewpoints of epistemology with interpretivism and non-interpretivism and in so doing furthers existing academic debate such as that advanced by Crotty (1998, p. 8) that reality 'comes into existence in and out of our engagement with the realities of our world', rather than existing independently of peoples' own thinking.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Crotty, M. (1998) Foundations of social research. London: SAGE.
  • Hamlyn, D.W. (1995). 'History of epistemology', in, Honderich, T, Oxford companion to philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 242.
  • Pring, R. (2002). 'The 'false dualism' of educational research', Journal of Philosophy of Education, vol. 34(2), pp. 247-260.

Example methodology dissertation topic 7:

The literature of qualitative data: a secondary source based commentary.

Qualitative research evolves out of a pursuit of phenomenological data that provides evidence of particular behaviours, occurrences, and perspectives. Traditionally employing a greater emphasis on sociological techniques for its investigative process, a qualitative approach can therefore generate relevant findings retrieved from fundamentally complex scenarios. This dissertation reviews existing literature on the merits and weaknesses of qualitative data and in so doing seeks to make its contribution to research within the social sciences more accessible to the general reader. Thus this is a dissertation that involves close textual referencing and will require the writer to explain complex methodological issues in a clear and concise manner.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Dixon-Woods, M., Shaw, R.L., Agarwal, S. and Smith, J.A. (2004). 'The problem of appraising qualitative research'. Quality and Safety in Health Care, vol. 13(3), pp. 223-225.
  • Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Maxwell, J.A. (2004). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Example methodology dissertation topic 8:

A critique of the complications involved in using interviews within primary research.

Walliman (2001) asserts that interviews are a useful method of obtaining both information and opinions from experts during the early stages of a research project. However, Sarantakos (2005) warns that the process of interviewing can be affected by many diverse problems, leading to errors. These problems generally tend to be associated with the nature of the method used, which includes data recording, evaluation, and instruction errors. This dissertation accordingly, therefore, also discusses the proactive steps that researchers can take in order to recognise potential errors and to mitigate against them. This is a dissertation that would be ideal for a researcher who has previously conducted research using interviews.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Gubrium, J.F. and Holstein, J.A. (eds) (2001). Handbook of interview research: Context and method. London: SAGE.
  • Sarantakos, S. (2005). Social research (3rd edn.). Basingstoke: Macmillan.
  • Walliman, N. (2001). Your research project. London: SAGE.

Example methodology dissertation topic 9:

Ethical considerations within primary research: an overview of its development and existing best practice.

This dissertation notes that a number of ethical issues can arise during the course of conducting primary social research, particularly 'to prevent harming or wronging others' (Sieber, 1993, p. 14). Accordingly, it further notes that the best advice for the researcher is to be constantly ethically aware (Gilbert, 1999) and to ensure that the 'meaning and justification of moral consideration which underlie research' are always apparent (Pring, 2002, p. 142). Working with specific reference to the ethical considerations that arise when interviewing vulnerable members of society, this dissertation charts the development of ethical research codes within higher education over the past twenty years and thereafter presents a commentary on existing best practice. In so doing, it hopes also to proffer reasoned suggestions as to how existing codes could be further improved.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Gilbert, N. (ed.) (1999). Researching social life. London: SAGE.
  • Pring, R. (2002). 'The 'false dualism' of educational research', Journal of Philosophy of Education, vol. 34(2), pp. 247-260.
  • Sieber, J. (1993). 'The ethics and politics of sensitive research', in, Renzetti, C. and Lee, R.M. (eds), Researching sensitive topics. London: SAGE, pp. 14-26.

Example methodology dissertation topic 10:

The importance of Boyatzis (1998) and Glaser and Strauss (1967) to contemporary approaches to methodology.

From a methodological viewpoint 'grounded theory' is often taken to refer to the theoretical explanations about the social world that emerge from empirical data. This approach was developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967), in order to conduct research that generates inductive and qualitative theories. In addition, it is widely acknowledged that a more formal definition of thematic analysis was developed by Boyatzis in 1998. Moreover, his technique recognises that in order to analyse appropriately unrelated or dissimilar information, a theme or pattern must be discerned that describes and organises the possible observations (Boyatzis, 1998). This dissertation reviews the importance of the work of these authors to prevailing attitudes to the collation of research.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Boyatzis, R.E. (1998). Transforming qualitative information: Thematic analysis and code development. London: SAGE.
  • Glaser, B.G. and Strauss, A.L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine Publishing.
  • Sandberg, J. (2005). 'How do we justify knowledge produced with interpretive approaches?' Organizational Research Methods, vol. 8(1), pp. 41-68.

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