Students often struggle with shaping their methodology section in their paper. The problem is often that students do not see the connection between the different sections of a research paper. This inability to connect the dots leads to isolated thinking on the topic and inability to move forward.
The methodology section of a research paper plays a critical role. In brief, the purpose of a methodology is to explain to your readers how you will answer your research questions. In the strictest sense, this is important for reproducing a study. Therefore, what is really important when writing a methodology is the research questions of the study. The research questions determine the following of a methodology.
- Research design
- Data collection
- Data analysis
What this means is that a student must know what they want to know in order to explain how they will find the answers. Below is a description of these sections along with one section that is not often influenced by the research questions.
Sample & Setting
In the sample section of the methodology, it is common or the student to explain the setting of the study, provide some demographics, and explain the sampling method. In this section of the methodology, the goal is to describe what the reader needs to know about the participants in order to understand the context from which the results were derived.
Research Design & Scales
The research design explains specifically how the data was collected. There are several standard ways to do this in the social sciences such.
- Survey design
- experimental design
- correlational design
Within this section, some academic disciplines also explain the scales or the tool used to measure the variable(s) of the study. Again, it is impossible to develop this section of the research questions are unclear or unknown.
The data analysis section provides an explanation of how the answers were calculated in a study. Success in this section requires a knowledge of the various statistical tools that are available. However, understanding the research questions is key to articulating this section clearly.
A final section in many methodologies is ethics. The ethical section is a place where the student can explain how the protected participant’s anonymity, made sure to get the permission and other aspects of morals. This section is required by most universities in order to gain permission to do research. However, it is often missing from journals.
The methodology is part of the larger picture of communicating one’s research. It is important that a research paper is not seen as isolated parts but rather as a whole. The reason for this position is that a paper cannot make sense on its own if any of these aspects are missing.