Composing A Proper PhD Thesis Methodology Section

When it comes to writing your PhD thesis or dissertation the whole process can be very overwhelming: not only is it a large project that will take several years, but it requires conducting original research. With this kind of research the methodology section is very important, because it explains not only how you conducted your research, but why you conducted it the way that you did. In the case of scientific research, a condition of valid research is that the results can be duplicated. A comprehensive methodology section is essential in allowing other researchers to duplicate your results, or at least to understand how it was done in order to have confidence in it.

There are a few easy tips that will help you to compose a proper methodology section:

  • Make it more detailed than you think it needs to be
  • The most common mistake in writing a methodology section is to make it less detailed than it needs to be. This isn’t because the author is lazy, but rather because they are usually so engrossed in their research, and know the topic in such detail, that they leave out parts that they may think are common sense or obvious. However, to someone not as familiar, these aspects of the research may be less than obvious, which can lead to confusion. So, a good rule of thumb is to make your methodology section much more detailed than you think it needs to be. Even if you think something may be obvious or straight forward, be sure to include it anyway.

  • Identify any assumptions you’ve made
  • In any research there are assumptions that are made. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you must be sure to identify any assumptions you’ve made and explain why you felt that they are justified. Whether it is in your methodology sections or in interpreting your results, it is better to be up front about these assumptions and to explain the thought process behind them to help convince readers who may be skeptical about them.

  • Have someone unfamiliar with your research read it
  • The best way to find flaws or weaknesses in your methodology section is to have someone who is unfamiliar with your research read over it. Your advisor, significant other, or best friend has probably heard you talk about it plenty, so find someone who you haven’t told much about it but who’s opinion you trust.

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