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My PhD supervisor asked me what the difference between methods and methodology was several months ago and I did not know the answer.  All I could muster in a pathetic response was a look of bewilderment. Thankfully, I was referred to a book by Peter Clough and Cathy Nutbrown called A Student’s Guide to MethodologyShow Flower Platform Sapphire Sexy Pumps Story Ankle Strap LF30404 Stiletto Stripe Shoes , which I would recommend to all PhD students and candidates.Strap Pumps LF30404 Platform Sexy Stiletto Show Shoes Ankle Sapphire Flower Stripe Story

My problem, as I have since discovered is that I was too busy thinking about my literature review and undertaking all my reading under the misguided notion that methodology was something to be looked at later on. How wrong I was!

Having read Clough and Nutbrown I now acknowledge that methods and methodology should be right up there in terms of priority as a starting point for any PhD research project. Understanding the difference between methods and methodology is of paramount importance.

Method is simply a research tool, a component of research – say for example, a qualitative method such as interviews. Methodology is the justification for using a particular research method.

So if for example, like me, you want to understand the motivations and perceptions of a group of bloggers then you would most likely choose a qualitative, method as opposed to a quantitative one.

But as Clough and Nutbrown explain their book, decisions such as whether to interview, how many participants to interview and so on, “are often based on values and assumptions which influence the study, and as such therefore need to be fully interrogated in order to clarify the research decisions which are made.”

Having a clear idea on the methods and methodology for a PhD thesis can make the job of reviewing literature much more straightforward as you can more precisely target studies in your chosen topic area and critique the whole approach to similar studies, including the methods used.

In short: “A good methodology is more a critical design attitude to be found always at work throughout a study, rather than confined within a brief chapter called ‘Methodology.’”

Has this post helped you? If so then please leave a comment!

SEE ALSO: Inductive and Deductive Approaches to Research & Using Conceptual Frameworks in Qualitative Research

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77 thoughts on “Methods and methodology

February 15, 2018 at 9:19 am
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Hi Arsim, I’m happy to offer general guidance on conducting research but cannot provide responses to detailed questions about individual research projects due to time constraints. These are best directed towards your supervisor or tutor.

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  • July 13, 2018 at 11:42 am
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    Thank you very much Deborah, I really gained a lot from your explanation of the different between methods and methodology research. I would like to know what system approach theory is all about and its focus, merits/contributions, critics and relevance to modern day public administration.

    Reply
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  • August 19, 2018 at 11:52 pm
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    Thank you very much Deborah. Your article and your replies to comments have been helpful. Can I just make sure I got it right? So before I decide on the methodology, I need to think of the purpose/aim of my study and to be able to choose a method, I should go back to my methodology. I did a study about the contribution of private universities to graduates’ employability (aim/purpose) and I explored the perceptions of graduates of these universities of the role of their institutions (methodology), and therefore, I used interviews to get in-depth information about various educational services (method). I could have used surveys (method). Is this example correct? Thanks again.

    Reply
  • September 7, 2018 at 5:24 pm
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    HI Deborah,
    I am planning to conduct research. It’s about finding out students’ perceptions and responses toward the effectiveness of a product (a translation tool) and the effectiveness of that product to improve their translation ability. Can you suggest what methods I could apply?

    Thanks for your help

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    • September 14, 2018 at 1:30 pm
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      Hi Muhyas, This could be done in a number of ways. To give you one suggestion, you could do a mixed methods study involving quantitative and qualitative methods. You could begin with a quantitative method such as a questionnaire, finding out from the respondents what type of translation tools they use, how often etc. You could then interview some of the respondents (qualitative method) to ask in-depth, probing questions on their experience of using the translation tool and how effective it was for them. The overall approach is inductive as you are looking for new understandings to emerge, as opposed to testing a hypothesis that presumes to know what responses participants will give.

      Reply
  • September 18, 2018 at 11:09 pm
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    I am preparing for my senior project and I am struggling with all the methodology content. I previously focused on the literature review and finding information that are relevant to my topic and did not give my research methodology a second though. The article helped a lot in clearing things out for me. Thank you and God bless.

    My research is about the effect of a marketing strategy on the attitude of volunteers joining an NGO and how this could increase the organizational effectiveness. My empirical study will handle an international NGO and I will be reaching out to volunteers in this NGO, however I am very confused as to what research method I should use. I am mainly thinking about a questionnaire but afraid if it is enough to study attitude. Would appreciate it if you provide me with your help.

    Reply
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