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There is No Madness in this Method: the Role of the Methodology Chapter

A crucial feature of any research, regardless of the discipline, is that it should be sufficiently well designed to give the researcher the greatest chance of success. New knowledge can be discovered entirely by random, and some famous discoveries, such as penicillin, have certainly involved a significant element of luck. But, chance discoveries notwithstanding, confirming the existence of this new knowledge, its relevance and its reliability, requires a systematic and rational approach. In other words, research needs a method and not just any method, but one that is accepted as appropriate and reliable by the research community.

For the PhD student, of course, the first concern is whether the research methodology will satisfy the examiners, who must be convinced that the results of the research are at least reliable. The potential importance of your work is irrelevant if your research method is non-existent, or insufficiently robust to instil confidence in your results. The only way for this to be judged is if you explain how you went about your research, and why you chose that particular method. This is the purpose of the doctoral methodology chapter.

If the methodology chapter is important in order to convince the examiners that your research is reliable then you would be forgiven for thinking that it is an essential part of the PhD. Indeed, for PhD projects that are based around a central empirical study such as a laboratory study or a research survey, a methodology chapter is a prerequisite. However, there are some PhD dissertations that do not require a specific methodology chapter, such as those focused on research by text-based analysis. These dissertations still require an explanation of the methodology used, but these explanations are often incorporated as part of the introductory chapter as it is often unnecessary to devote a complete chapter to the methodology.

Whether or not your PhD dissertation needs a methodology chapter depends largely on the nature of your research. However, you will always need to provide at least some explanation of your methodology and the process that you went through to answer your research questions. The PhD Consultancy can help you with all aspects of developing your dissertation’s methodology to ensure that you dissertation has an excellent account of your research method.

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