Methodology in thesis writing

What parts should you discuss?

In the method chapter, also known as your 'methodology', you describe how you arrived at your results. Here, you give a detailed description of your chosen method, data collection, data analysis and other important aspects of your research design. In this article, we will help you build the methodology section of your thesis properly.

What is the purpose of this chapter?

To be able to form an opinion on, for example, the reliability and validity of your results, the reader needs to understand how you conducted your research. Therefore, in the methodology section, you must describe in detail which methods you used to answer your research question. The underlying idea is that someone who re-conducts the research according to your description will arrive at more or less the same results. This way, readers can (in theory) check the results that you found.


What is the methodology of your thesis?

You can get a lot of information about the methodology of your thesis from the research design you made earlier. In general, in the methodology, you describe as extensively and concretely as possible how you set up the research. Therefore, you can finish writing this chapter only after you have conducted the actual research.

However, you must already have thought out the research method before conducting the research. You do this when you develop a research plan.

In the methodology of your thesis, you will address these issues:

  • the type of research (qualitative or quantitative research or mixed methods);
  • the method of data collection (e.g. literature review or an experiment);
  • characteristics of the chosen sample;
  • sample selection criteria;
  • a step-by-step explanation of the procedure of your research;
  • the method of data analysis (e.g. the statistical test or coding method used);
  • validity and reliability.

How detailed should the chapter be?

While describing your research method, always keep in mind that someone else should be able to replicate the research based on your description. It is therefore important that you describe what you did as concretely as possible.

Have you conducted a literature review? Then, discuss in the methodology for the literature review where you found the literature, how you selected literature, and what the saturation point was (the point at which you had sufficient literature).

You can also briefly mention factors that may have had a negative influence on the survey process in the method section. For example if several people dropped out while completing the survey, you can mention that here.

Note: do stick to the facts. For example, you only name suggestions for follow-up research during the discussion. Did you personally find it difficult to manage when certain processes went less smoothly? You can say something about that instead in the reflection, provided your thesis contains a reflection chapter.

Where should the methodology be in your thesis?

In the thesis structure, the methodology chapter usually follows the theoretical framework. Some studies follow a different order, and have the methodology chapter come before the theoretical framework. Ask your thesis supervisor which structure you should follow.

The length of the methodology in your thesis depends on your type of research. In experimental research, for instance, you will often see a longer description of the methodology than for a literature review. In general, assume a length of between 800 and 2,000 words for the methodology in a thesis of around 15,000-20,000 words. Please note that this is a general guideline, not a strict rule.

Verb tenses in methodology

While writing the methodology in your thesis, make sure you use the correct verb tenses. Most of the time, you will use the present perfect or the simple past tense. You will then get sentences like:

  • The sample consisted of 102 people. (simple past tense)
  • Participants were instructed to... (simple past tense)
  • The surveys were conducted at the library. (present perfect)
  • This method was chosen because... (present perfect)

Need someone to proofread your thesis?

Are you unsure whether you have properly applied the verb tenses and other rules of academic writing? Not sure if the methodology of your thesis is complete? No worries: AthenaCheck's editors can check your thesis for language, structure and/or common thread. This way, you will soon be able to submit the best version of your thesis.