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What is it?

A methodology describes in detail how a study was completed.

Why do I need it?

Including a methodology in your dissertation allows for the study to be replicated. Your ethical considerations are usually also considered around your dissertation section to show that you have thought carefully about the impact your research might have on others.

How do I do it?

Literature Review

Even if you are writing a literature review you will be expected to include a methodology section to explain how you conducted your searches. To the right of this box there is a PDF available that poses questions to help you think about what you might need to include in your methodology.

Primary Research

There are many methods of primary research, as it is a broad term used to describe any research collected from a primary source. Primary research is usually split into qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods.


Qualitative research is usually chosen when conducting research which is related to the social sciences (Wisker, 2009). It includes methods such as interviews, focus groups and observations. These may come under terms such as ethnography, phenomenology or grounded theory. The data gathered is usually in-depth and it is likely, when conducting qualitative research, that the theory will emerge or adapt, as data is being collected (Rudestam and Newton, 2014). The resources to the right of this box provide more information on qualitative methods and the PDF poses questions to assist you in writing your methodology.


Quantitative research is analysed objectively, it assumes there are facts which can be gathered (Whisker, 2009), usually using numbers or statistics. Don't be put off by the word statistics, this can simply mean in percentages or pie charts (and we've all used them at some point). Using a quantitative method allows a researcher to gather a large amount of data. It includes methods such as questionnaires, surveys, and observations.  

Mixed Methods

A mixed methods study may include both a qualitative and quantitative approach. For example, someone might want to collect quantitative data from a questionnaire, whilst also conducting interviews to gain the depth of understanding from qualitative results.

Rudestam and Newton (2014) describe the differences between qualitative and quantitative data:



  1. Data expressed in numbers
  2. Hypothetico-deducative
  3. Controlled research situations
  4. Isolation of operationally defined variables
  5. Seeks objectivity
  6. Emphasis on prediction and explanation
  7. Researcher directs, manipulates and controls
  8. Statistical analysis
  1. Data expressed in words
  2. Inductive
  3. Naturally occurring and contextual
  4. Holistic view of phenomena
  5. Interested in subjectivity
  6. Emphasis on description, exploration and a search for meaning
  7. Researcher participates and collaborates
  8. Text analysis