Dissertation Methodology

When writing your thesis, the section about the dissertation methodology, which you used, is one of the most important parts (really all the parts are important). But this section should be one of the most straight forward to write.

The dissertation methodology section is an important one.

The materials and methods section or the dissertation methodology section is where you explain everything you did and only that. This section shouldn’t have any:

  • Explanation of why you did the research work – this should be in the introduction section
  • Presentation of your results – this should be in the results section
  • Discussion of your results – this should be in the discussion section

Many students and thesis writers have difficulty limiting themselves to just explaining the methodology. But it’s important that you do this, as part of the skills you’re being examined on, when writing your dissertation, is your ability to follow the norms of academic writing.

Writing the Methodology Section

The methodology section is one of the parts of your thesis or dissertation that should be almost complete when you’ve finished the experimental work. Try to write the methods for each part of your work as you undertake them.

The write up stage is the part that most students dread. Try to make it a bit easier for yourself by having sections completed before you finish your experimental work or data collection. These sections could include the introduction, literature review and methodology.

Depending on the format of your thesis and dissertation outline, there are a couple of main ways that you could format your dissertation methodology section. The first is to have one chapter in your thesis as the materials and methods section, where all the details about your methodology are located.

The second is where each chapter of your college dissertation focuses on just one aspect or set of experiments. Within each chapter there’d be a methodology section containing information just relating to the experiments detailed in that chapter. You might have several chapters like this in your thesis.

When writing the thesis methodology chapter, there are a few differences from writing the materials and methods section of a shorter report, such as a lab report or an academic paper. In these shorter documents the materials and methods section will generally just be an explanation of what was done and how it was done. There’d be no further explanation.

What a Methodology Section Should Contain

However in a university thesis or dissertation methodology chapter you’ll be expected to add more detail. You can discuss why certain methods were chosen. There are 4 elements that a methodology chapter needs to contain or address, in addition to detailed explanations of the methods used.

1) Overview of questions you need to answer
Your college thesis methodology chapter should start with an introductory paragraph or couple of paragraphs. One of the things these should contain is an overview or summary of the questions that you need to answer using the methods you’ll explain in this section.

You should’ve stated your aims and objectives at the end of the introduction or even in their own short chapter, before the methodology chapter. You don’t need to completely rewrite them, just summarize and restate them in relation to the methods you’ll use.

2) Overview of approach
Starting in your introductory paragraph(s) and following on from them you should also include an overview of the methods you’ll use while writing your methodology chapter. This part doesn’t need to be detailed; you can add the details later when fully explaining each method. But it’ll show that you’ve thought about the complete set of methods you’re using and how they all fit together.

3) Prove your results will be sound
You need to show that you know enough about each method used to understand the reasoning behind it and how its use might impact the collection of your data and results.

If you show that the methods you’ve used are the best ones to use and that you understand how to use each method it’ll add credibility to your results. The choice and explanation of the best method to use will remove any (or significantly reduce) doubts about the results. It’ll justify that the results you’ve gathered are correct and valid.

As part of this you should also show that you’ve considered alternative methods where needed, and rejected them. Explain why they were rejected.

4) Explanation of related variables
Along with explaining why certain methods weren’t used you need to show that you’ve thought about and taken into account different variables.

Exactly what the variables are will depend on the area of study you’re wiring about. You should know what assumptions you made before starting; explain them and why they were the correct assumptions to make. They could be to do with data that you purposely excluded or simplifications you made.


Another item that your dissertation methodology chapter should contain is an explanation of the statistical tests you used to analyse your results. Again the results of the statistical tests will be reported in the results section, but in the methodology section you should explain what tests were used and why.

The statistics section is the one part of the dissertation methodology that you won’t be able to write until you’ve finished all your data collection and data analysis. So you’ll have to go back and add this into your methodology section later, if you’ve done as I recommended and written your methods while still working on data collection.

Help with Dissertation Methodology Section

When you’ve finished writing you’ll need to proofread you methodology section; as you will for the rest of your thesis. See the page about thesis proofreading for help as well as the proofreading section which contains pages with proofreading tips and techniques.

As an experienced academic researcher and teacher I can help you with your methodology section. I can read it and offer advice as well as proofread it so that your language is excellent and won’t distract from what you’re saying. I won’t write it for you but I’ll offer a second set of eyes to help improve what you’ve written yourself. See the page about my proofreading service and the free trial of my service.

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