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Methodology chapter template.
If you’re struggling to get moving with the research methodology chapter for your dissertation or thesis, this template is just what you need. Fully editable, the template includes a recommended structure , detailed explanations and examples .
This template covers all the core components required in the research methodology chapter/section of a typical dissertation or thesis, including:
- The opening section
- Research philosophy
- Research type
- Research strategy
- Time horizon
- Sampling strategy
- Data collection methods
- Data analysis methods
- Conclusion & summary
The purpose of each section is explained in plain language, followed by an overview of the key elements that you need to cover. The template also includes practical examples to help you understand exactly what’s required, along with links to additional free resources (articles, videos, etc.) to help you along your research journey.
The cleanly-formatted Word document is fully editable , so you can use it as-is for your dissertation or thesis, copy over the contents to a fresh document, or convert it to LaTeX.
PS – if you’d like a high-level template for the entire thesis, you can grab that here .
Frequently Asked Questions
What format is the template (DOC, PDF, PPT, etc.)?
The methodology chapter template is provided in a fully editable MS Word document (.DOCX). You’re welcome to convert it to whatever format works best for you, such as LaTeX or PDF.
What types of dissertations/theses can this template be used for?
The methodology template follows the standard format for academic research projects, which means it will be suitable for the vast majority of dissertations and theses (especially those within the sciences), whether they adopt a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods approach. The template is loosely based on Saunders’ research onion , which is recommended as a methodological framework by many universities.
Keep in mind that the exact requirements for the methodology chapter/section will vary between universities and degree programs. These are typically minor, but it’s always a good idea to double-check your university’s requirements before you finalize your structure.
Is this template for an undergrad, Master or PhD-level thesis?
This template can be used for a dissertation, thesis or research project at any level of study. Doctoral-level projects typically require the methodology chapter to be more extensive/comprehensive, but the structure will typically remain the same.
How long should the methodology chapter be?
This can vary a fair deal, depending on the level of study (undergrad, Master or Doctoral), the field of research, as well as your university’s specific requirements. Therefore, it’s best to check with your university or review past dissertations from your program to get an accurate estimate.
Can I share this template with my friends/colleagues?
Yes, you’re welcome to share this template in its original format (no editing allowed). If you want to post about it on your blog or social media, we kindly request that you reference this page as your source.
Do you have templates for the other chapters?
Yes, we do. We are constantly developing our collection of free resources to help students complete their dissertations and theses. You can view all of our template resources here .
Can Grad Coach help me with my methodology?
Yes, we can assist with your methodology chapter (or any other chapter) on a coaching basis. If you’re interested, feel free to get in touch to discuss our private coaching services .
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- What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips
What Is a Research Methodology? | Steps & Tips
Published on August 25, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 20, 2023.
Your research methodology discusses and explains the data collection and analysis methods you used in your research. A key part of your thesis, dissertation , or research paper , the methodology chapter explains what you did and how you did it, allowing readers to evaluate the reliability and validity of your research and your dissertation topic .
It should include:
- The type of research you conducted
- How you collected and analyzed your data
- Any tools or materials you used in the research
- How you mitigated or avoided research biases
- Why you chose these methods
- Your methodology section should generally be written in the past tense .
- Academic style guides in your field may provide detailed guidelines on what to include for different types of studies.
- Your citation style might provide guidelines for your methodology section (e.g., an APA Style methods section ).
Table of contents
How to write a research methodology, why is a methods section important, step 1: explain your methodological approach, step 2: describe your data collection methods, step 3: describe your analysis method, step 4: evaluate and justify the methodological choices you made, tips for writing a strong methodology chapter, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about methodology.
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Your methods section is your opportunity to share how you conducted your research and why you chose the methods you chose. It’s also the place to show that your research was rigorously conducted and can be replicated .
It gives your research legitimacy and situates it within your field, and also gives your readers a place to refer to if they have any questions or critiques in other sections.
You can start by introducing your overall approach to your research. You have two options here.
Option 1: Start with your “what”
What research problem or question did you investigate?
- Aim to describe the characteristics of something?
- Explore an under-researched topic?
- Establish a causal relationship?
And what type of data did you need to achieve this aim?
- Quantitative data , qualitative data , or a mix of both?
- Primary data collected yourself, or secondary data collected by someone else?
- Experimental data gathered by controlling and manipulating variables, or descriptive data gathered via observations?
Option 2: Start with your “why”
Depending on your discipline, you can also start with a discussion of the rationale and assumptions underpinning your methodology. In other words, why did you choose these methods for your study?
- Why is this the best way to answer your research question?
- Is this a standard methodology in your field, or does it require justification?
- Were there any ethical considerations involved in your choices?
- What are the criteria for validity and reliability in this type of research ? How did you prevent bias from affecting your data?
Once you have introduced your reader to your methodological approach, you should share full details about your data collection methods .
In order to be considered generalizable, you should describe quantitative research methods in enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study.
Here, explain how you operationalized your concepts and measured your variables. Discuss your sampling method or inclusion and exclusion criteria , as well as any tools, procedures, and materials you used to gather your data.
Surveys Describe where, when, and how the survey was conducted.
- How did you design the questionnaire?
- What form did your questions take (e.g., multiple choice, Likert scale )?
- Were your surveys conducted in-person or virtually?
- What sampling method did you use to select participants?
- What was your sample size and response rate?
Experiments Share full details of the tools, techniques, and procedures you used to conduct your experiment.
- How did you design the experiment ?
- How did you recruit participants?
- How did you manipulate and measure the variables ?
- What tools did you use?
Existing data Explain how you gathered and selected the material (such as datasets or archival data) that you used in your analysis.
- Where did you source the material?
- How was the data originally produced?
- What criteria did you use to select material (e.g., date range)?
The survey consisted of 5 multiple-choice questions and 10 questions measured on a 7-point Likert scale.
The goal was to collect survey responses from 350 customers visiting the fitness apparel company’s brick-and-mortar location in Boston on July 4–8, 2022, between 11:00 and 15:00.
Here, a customer was defined as a person who had purchased a product from the company on the day they took the survey. Participants were given 5 minutes to fill in the survey anonymously. In total, 408 customers responded, but not all surveys were fully completed. Due to this, 371 survey results were included in the analysis.
- Information bias
- Omitted variable bias
- Regression to the mean
- Survivorship bias
- Undercoverage bias
- Sampling bias
In qualitative research , methods are often more flexible and subjective. For this reason, it’s crucial to robustly explain the methodology choices you made.
Be sure to discuss the criteria you used to select your data, the context in which your research was conducted, and the role you played in collecting your data (e.g., were you an active participant, or a passive observer?)
Interviews or focus groups Describe where, when, and how the interviews were conducted.
- How did you find and select participants?
- How many participants took part?
- What form did the interviews take ( structured , semi-structured , or unstructured )?
- How long were the interviews?
- How were they recorded?
Participant observation Describe where, when, and how you conducted the observation or ethnography .
- What group or community did you observe? How long did you spend there?
- How did you gain access to this group? What role did you play in the community?
- How long did you spend conducting the research? Where was it located?
- How did you record your data (e.g., audiovisual recordings, note-taking)?
Existing data Explain how you selected case study materials for your analysis.
- What type of materials did you analyze?
- How did you select them?
In order to gain better insight into possibilities for future improvement of the fitness store’s product range, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 8 returning customers.
Here, a returning customer was defined as someone who usually bought products at least twice a week from the store.
Surveys were used to select participants. Interviews were conducted in a small office next to the cash register and lasted approximately 20 minutes each. Answers were recorded by note-taking, and seven interviews were also filmed with consent. One interviewee preferred not to be filmed.
- The Hawthorne effect
- Observer bias
- The placebo effect
- Response bias and Nonresponse bias
- The Pygmalion effect
- Recall bias
- Social desirability bias
- Self-selection bias
Mixed methods research combines quantitative and qualitative approaches. If a standalone quantitative or qualitative study is insufficient to answer your research question, mixed methods may be a good fit for you.
Mixed methods are less common than standalone analyses, largely because they require a great deal of effort to pull off successfully. If you choose to pursue mixed methods, it’s especially important to robustly justify your methods.
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Next, you should indicate how you processed and analyzed your data. Avoid going into too much detail: you should not start introducing or discussing any of your results at this stage.
In quantitative research , your analysis will be based on numbers. In your methods section, you can include:
- How you prepared the data before analyzing it (e.g., checking for missing data , removing outliers , transforming variables)
- Which software you used (e.g., SPSS, Stata or R)
- Which statistical tests you used (e.g., two-tailed t test , simple linear regression )
In qualitative research, your analysis will be based on language, images, and observations (often involving some form of textual analysis ).
Specific methods might include:
- Content analysis : Categorizing and discussing the meaning of words, phrases and sentences
- Thematic analysis : Coding and closely examining the data to identify broad themes and patterns
- Discourse analysis : Studying communication and meaning in relation to their social context
Mixed methods combine the above two research methods, integrating both qualitative and quantitative approaches into one coherent analytical process.
Above all, your methodology section should clearly make the case for why you chose the methods you did. This is especially true if you did not take the most standard approach to your topic. In this case, discuss why other methods were not suitable for your objectives, and show how this approach contributes new knowledge or understanding.
In any case, it should be overwhelmingly clear to your reader that you set yourself up for success in terms of your methodology’s design. Show how your methods should lead to results that are valid and reliable, while leaving the analysis of the meaning, importance, and relevance of your results for your discussion section .
- Quantitative: Lab-based experiments cannot always accurately simulate real-life situations and behaviors, but they are effective for testing causal relationships between variables .
- Qualitative: Unstructured interviews usually produce results that cannot be generalized beyond the sample group , but they provide a more in-depth understanding of participants’ perceptions, motivations, and emotions.
- Mixed methods: Despite issues systematically comparing differing types of data, a solely quantitative study would not sufficiently incorporate the lived experience of each participant, while a solely qualitative study would be insufficiently generalizable.
Remember that your aim is not just to describe your methods, but to show how and why you applied them. Again, it’s critical to demonstrate that your research was rigorously conducted and can be replicated.
1. Focus on your objectives and research questions
The methodology section should clearly show why your methods suit your objectives and convince the reader that you chose the best possible approach to answering your problem statement and research questions .
2. Cite relevant sources
Your methodology can be strengthened by referencing existing research in your field. This can help you to:
- Show that you followed established practice for your type of research
- Discuss how you decided on your approach by evaluating existing research
- Present a novel methodological approach to address a gap in the literature
3. Write for your audience
Consider how much information you need to give, and avoid getting too lengthy. If you are using methods that are standard for your discipline, you probably don’t need to give a lot of background or justification.
Regardless, your methodology should be a clear, well-structured text that makes an argument for your approach, not just a list of technical details and procedures.
If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Normal distribution
- Measures of central tendency
- Chi square tests
- Confidence interval
- Quartiles & Quantiles
- Cluster sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Thematic analysis
- Cohort study
- Peer review
- Implicit bias
- Cognitive bias
- Conformity bias
- Hawthorne effect
- Availability heuristic
- Attrition bias
Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research project . It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your objectives.
Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyze data (for example, experiments, surveys , and statistical tests ).
In shorter scientific papers, where the aim is to report the findings of a specific study, you might simply describe what you did in a methods section .
In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation , you will probably include a methodology section , where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.
In a scientific paper, the methodology always comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion . The same basic structure also applies to a thesis, dissertation , or research proposal .
Depending on the length and type of document, you might also include a literature review or theoretical framework before the methodology.
Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.
Quantitative methods allow you to systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.
Reliability and validity are both about how well a method measures something:
- Reliability refers to the consistency of a measure (whether the results can be reproduced under the same conditions).
- Validity refers to the accuracy of a measure (whether the results really do represent what they are supposed to measure).
If you are doing experimental research, you also have to consider the internal and external validity of your experiment.
A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population . Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research. For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.
In statistics, sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population.
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Writing the Research Methodology Section of Your Thesis
This article explains the meaning of research methodology and the purpose and importance of writing a research methodology section or chapter for your thesis paper. It discusses what to include and not include in a research methodology section, the different approaches to research methodology that can be used, and the steps involved in writing a robust research methodology section.
What is a thesis research methodology?
A thesis research methodology explains the type of research performed, justifies the methods that you chose by linking back to the literature review , and describes the data collection and analysis procedures. It is included in your thesis after the Introduction section . Most importantly, this is the section where the readers of your study evaluate its validity and reliability.
What should the research methodology section in your thesis include?
- The aim of your thesis
- An outline of the research methods chosen (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods)
- Background and rationale for the methods chosen, explaining why one method was chosen over another
- Methods used for data collection and data analysis
- Materials and equipment used—keep this brief
- Difficulties encountered during data collection and analysis. It is expected that problems will occur during your research process. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving abilities by explaining how you overcame all obstacles. This builds your readers’ confidence in your study findings.
- A brief evaluation of your research explaining whether your results were conclusive and whether your choice of methodology was effective in practice
What should not be included in the research methodology section of your thesis?
- Irrelevant details, for example, an extensive review of methodologies (this belongs in the literature review section) or information that does not contribute to the readers’ understanding of your chosen methods
- A description of basic procedures
- Excessive details about materials and equipment used. If an extremely long and detailed list is necessary, add it as an appendix
Types of methodological approaches
The choice of which methodological approach to use depends on your field of research and your thesis question. Your methodology should establish a clear relationship with your thesis question and must also be supported by your literature review . Types of methodological approaches include quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods.
Quantitative studies generate data in the form of numbers to count, classify, measure, or identify relationships or patterns. Information may be collected by performing experiments and tests, conducting surveys, or using existing data. The data are analyzed using statistical tests and presented as charts or graphs. Quantitative data are typically used in the Sciences domain.
For example, analyzing the effect of a change, such as alterations in electricity consumption by municipalities after installing LED streetlights.
The raw data will need to be prepared for statistical analysis by identifying variables and checking for missing data and outliers. Details of the statistical software program used (name of the package, version number, and supplier name and location) must also be mentioned.
Qualitative studies gather non-numerical data using, for example, observations, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. Open-ended questions are often posed. This yields rich, detailed, and descriptive results. Qualitative studies are usually subjective and are helpful for investigating social and cultural phenomena, which are difficult to quantify. Qualitative studies are typically used in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) domain.
For example, determining customer perceptions on the extension of a range of baking utensils to include silicone muffin trays.
The raw data will need to be prepared for analysis by coding and categorizing ideas and themes to interpret the meaning behind the responses given.
Mixed methods use a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches to present multiple findings about a single phenomenon. T his enables triangulation: verification of the data from two or more sources.
Explain the rationale behind the sampling procedure you have chosen. This could involve probability sampling (a random sample from the study population) or non-probability sampling (does not use a random sample).
For quantitative studies, describe the sampling procedure and whether statistical tests were used to determine the sample size .
Following our example of analyzing the changes in electricity consumption by municipalities after installing LED streetlights, you will need to determine which municipal areas will be sampled and how the information will be gathered (e.g., a physical survey of the streetlights or reviewing purchase orders).
For qualitative research, describe how the participants were chosen and how the data is going to be collected.
Following our example about determining customer perceptions on the extension of a range of baking utensils to include silicone muffin trays, you will need to decide the criteria for inclusion as a study participant (e.g., women aged 20–70 years, bakeries, and bakery supply shops) and how the information will be collected (e.g., interviews, focus groups, online or in-person questionnaires, or video recordings) .
For quantitative research, describe what tests you plan to perform and why you have chosen them. Popular data analysis methods in quantitative research include:
- Descriptive statistics (e.g., means, medians, modes)
- Inferential statistics (e.g., correlation, regression, structural equation modeling)
For qualitative research, describe how the data is going to be analyzed and justify your choice. Popular data analysis methods in qualitative research include:
- Qualitative content analysis
- Thematic analysis
- Discourse analysis
- Narrative analysis
- Grounded theory
- Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA)
Evaluate and justify your methodological choices
You need to convince the reader that you have made the correct methodological choices. Once again, this ties back to your thesis question and literature review . Write using a persuasive tone, and use rhetoric to convince the reader of the quality, reliability, and validity of your research.
- The young researcher should maintain objectivity at all times
- All participants have the right to privacy and anonymity
- Research participation must be voluntary
- All subjects have the right to withdraw from the research at any time
- Consent must be obtained from all participants before starting the research
- Confidentiality of data provided by individuals must be maintained
- Consider how the interpretation and reporting of the data will affect the participants
Tips for writing a robust thesis research methodology
- Determine what kind of knowledge you are trying to uncover. For example, subjective or objective, experimental or interpretive.
- A thorough literature review is the best starting point for choosing your methods.
- Ensure that there is continuity throughout the research process. The authenticity of your research depends upon the validity of the research data, the reliability of your data measurements, and the time taken to conduct the analysis.
- Choose a research method that is achievable. Consider the time and funds available, feasibility, ethics, and access and availability of equipment to measure the phenomenon or answer your thesis question correctly.
- If you are struggling with a concept, ask for help from your supervisor, academic staff members, or fellow students.
A thesis methodology justifies why you have chosen a specific approach to address your thesis question. It explains how you will collect the data and analyze it. Above all, it allows the readers of your study to evaluate its validity and reliability.
A thesis is the most crucial document that you will write during your academic studies. For professional thesis editing and thesis proofreading services, visit Enago Thesis Editing for more information.
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Introduce your methodological approach , for example, quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods.
Explain why your chosen approach is relevant to the overall research design and how it links with your thesis question.
Justify your chosen method and why it is more appropriate than others.
Provide background information on methods that may be unfamiliar to readers of your thesis.
Introduce the tools that you will use for data collection , and explain how you plan to use them (e.g., surveys, interviews, experiments, or existing data).
Explain how you will analyze your results. The type of analysis used depends on the methods you chose. For example, exploring theoretical perspectives to support your explanation of observed behaviors in a qualitative study or using statistical analyses in a quantitative study.
Mention any research limitations. All studies are expected to have limitations, such as the sample size, data collection method, or equipment. Discussing the limitations justifies your choice of methodology despite the risks. It also explains under which conditions the results should be interpreted and shows that you have taken a holistic approach to your study.
What is the difference between methodology and methods? +
Methodology refers to the overall rationale and strategy of your thesis project. It involves studying the theories or principles behind the methods used in your field so that you can explain why you chose a particular method for your research approach. Methods , on the other hand, refer to how the data were collected and analyzed (e.g., experiments, surveys, observations, interviews, and statistical tests).
What is the difference between reliability and validity? +
Reliability refers to whether a measurement is consistent (i.e., the results can be reproduced under the same conditions). Validity refers to whether a measurement is accurate (i.e., the results represent what was supposed to be measured). For example, when investigating linguistic and cultural guidelines for administration of the Preschool Language Scales, Fifth Edition (PLS5) in Arab-American preschool children, the normative sample curves should show the same distribution as a monolingual population, which would indicate that the test is valid. The test would be considered reliable if the results obtained were consistent across different sampling sites.
What tense is used to write the methods section? +
The methods section is written in the past tense because it describes what was done.
What software programs are recommended for statistical analysis? +
Recommended programs include Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) , Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) , JMP , R software, MATLAB , Microsoft Excel, GraphPad Prism , and Minitab .
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- Dissertation chapter: Abstract
- Dissertation chapter: Introduction
- Dissertation chapter: Hypothesis
- Dissertation chapter: Literature Review
- Dissertation chapter: Methodology
- Dissertation chapter: Results
- Dissertation chapter: Discussion
- Dissertation chapter: Conclusion
- Dissertation Proposal
- Thesis Statement
- Thesis Proposal
- Research Proposal
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3 Methodology Dissertation Examples for Use with the Effective Research Methods
- research methods;
- the theoretical rationale for selecting specific research methods.
The subsequent studies will provide you with a bit more insight into the structure of your methodology and the information that it should contain.
1. The Methodology Example of a Dissertation on Feminism
The aim of this study is to determine the effects that feminist perspectives have on influencing the leadership roles of female administrators in higher education.
This dissertation uses a qualitative method referred to as ‘phenomenology.’ The main purpose of this research method is to gain an understanding of how female leaders and feminists arrive at their collective world views. Since the study is concerned with feminism, the chosen methods of analysis are designed to evaluate the experiences of women.
Semi-structured interviews are used as a method of data collection. It is important to mention that the researcher doesn’t simply intend to gain the information from women, but from a certain type of woman who hold a specific set of beliefs. Therefore, they had to fulfil the following criteria:
- belong to feminists;
- refer themselves to the generation X (born between 1965-1982);
- employed as mid-level administrators and desire to gain a higher-level position.
The women are strategically selected from guests invited to a program designed for women with goals to become senior leaders. Prior to using these women as participants for the study, they were asked questions to determine whether they fulfilled the above criteria.
2. The Methodology Example of a Dissertation on Education
The aim of the study is to gain an understanding of how students engaged and participated in educational activity, and their personal reasons for desiring to enhance their learning capacity.
The methods utilized for this dissertation are a combination of interviews and surveys to know the motivations attached to the student’s decisions to continue with the learning for life program. An idiographic approach is used for the interview portion of the study. It focuses on the individual as opposed to using the results from a few participants to generalize about an entire group. Surveys are used as a method of quantifying and standardizing the way in which students take part in educational activities. The aim is to make a comparison between educational and non-educational activities among teenagers.
Both methods provide an in-depth analysis of the reasons why students participate in educational activities and why such activities are important for them in terms of personal development and enhancing their ability to become productive members of society.
3. The Methodology Example of a Dissertation on ESL Learners
The aim of the study is to establish the effect of form and meaning focused input on ESL writing skills, and what challenges related to instructions that learners can encounter.
Both quantitative and qualitative research methods are used to achieve the aim. Qualitative research methodology involves selecting a sample population that would represent a defined population. As a result, 20 students are selected to represent a population of students who are supposed to be ESL learners and first year medical students. The results from the quantitative research indicates mainly descriptive methods to describe behaviour of a sample population.
Both research methods allow to highlight the current issues among ESL medical students through a process of data collection about their performance and acquisition of academic writing skills.
Now that you understand the fundamental principles for the methodology chapter, it’s time to burn the midnight oil and start working on your dissertation. Be sure to allocate sufficient time to this important section of your research project. Otherwise, you risk not to achieve the desired results. But if you still have a feeling of uncertainty about this type of work, it is much better to to seek professional help and support in it. Our specialists are those who direct you quickly to academic success. Don’t hesitate to contact us – we open around the clock for you.
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