You may be trying to work out how to write a methodology chapter for a dissertation or thesis. This page gives you some brief tips on the purpose and organisation of the chapter as well as the tenses you should use and the normal length of the chapter.
Purpose/aims of the chapter
The purpose of this chapter is to provide the rationale and methodological detail for your study (in other words what you actually did as a researcher). Think of it as a”stand alone” chapter that you could give to someone and by just reading it, they would know how to repeat your study, start to finish.
Typical organisation/ sub-headings
- Research Questions
- Research Design
- Research Methods
- Data analysis
- Ethical Considerations
Tenses used in Methodology chapter
The first point to make here is that for your proposal you will use the future tense to show what you expect will happen when you actually conduct the research. That changes when you are preparing your actual dissertation or thesis. Then here are the guidelines:
For discussion of what others have written about your methodological choices:
In their study of xxxx in xxxx Smith and Jones (2010) applied
For the most recent uses of your methodology – for example researcher/ authors still active in the field – “Jones and Smith (2015, 2016, 2016b) have used the focus group to collect data for a number of recent studies…”
For recording what you actually did
Active : “I recorded the interviews using a digital audio recorder.”
Passive: “The participants were randomly assigned between the control group and …..”
So in conclusion the past tense is the main tense used in the Methods chapter with perhaps some lesser usage of the present perfect.
Length of section/ chapter
Your markers/ examiners will need a full understanding of why you made the methodological choices you did and what actions you undertook to carry out your choices from sampling to analysing the data as well as the ethical considerations and a section where you demonstrate that you understand the limitations of your methodological choices. In a 15,000 word dissertation this means you will most likely need to devote a minimum of 3000 words to this chapter. For an 80,000 word thesis this is more likely to between 5000 and 8000 words. Always ask your supervisor for their view on this.
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