Research Methodology Help for
Jeffrey W. Braunstein, Ph.D.
students routinely experience frustration when writing the method section of
their dissertation proposal. When providing doctoral students with
dissertation assistance, I help students to understand that the methodology
of a dissertation can be constructed very simply, just like a "template."
Method sections are easy to write because they tend to be very similar in
structure and format. For example, go ahead and read the methodologies of
several studies by the same author. You will probably discover that the
method sections by this author are very similar in structure and content.
Below, please find an overview of how to construct a research methodology
The method section consists of the following parts:
4. Data Analysis
Here's a review of what should go into each section:
1. Participants: Review the targeted population and participants in your
dissertation. Most studies review targeted demographics (e.g. gender, age,
ethnicity, marital status, socioeconomic status) and other important issues
that describe your population (medical history, medication use, legal
history). Remember to include the mean, standard deviation, median,
frequency and range when reporting your demographic variables.
2. Instruments: Provide an overview and description of each instrument or
measure. When describing your instruments, remember to review issues such as
the number of questions, length of administration, readability and scoring.
You can rely on the instrument's manual and early normative articles to
obtain a lot of this information. After you describe the instrument, you
will then need to review the reliability (e.g. alpha coefficients,
inter-rater reliability, test retest reliability, split half reliability)
and validity of the instrument (content validity, external validity and
discriminant validity). Remember to clearly label and review all of these
components in the text for all your instruments or measures.
3. Procedure: Describe how you will collect the data. You will want to
review issues such as the agencies or organizations you will approach for
participant recruitment, the order of the instrument administration, testing
procedures and informed consent. If you are conducting a dissertation based
upon archival research, you will need to review how the data was collected
and how you received permission to utilize another agency's database.
4. Data Analysis: Provide an overview of how each hypothesis will be
analyzed. Specifically, review which statistical procedures will be used to
analyze the data. When you write your data analysis section, you need to
clearly state how the independent variables (IVs) and dependent variables (DVs)
will be manipulated in the analyses. For example, "An analysis of variance
(ANOVA) will be conducted to examine the differences between the fixed
factors (IVs) of Group A and Group B on the dependent variable or measure
X." In this section, you can also discuss potential post-hoc analyses issues
that will be conducted to provide information for future research.
Remember, when writing your methodology, the main focus should be on the
organization of the subsections. Think of your dissertation methodology
section as a puzzle and work towards "dropping the pieces" into the puzzle
one by one until you are finished.