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What is research methodology?

This chapter is that part of the dissertation where you have the opportunity to justify to the reader the process by which the research questions, which were derived by an analysis of the relevant literature, were answered.

The term ‘methodology’, particularly when employed in the social sciences, does not just mean method, but also the governing philosophy behind the methods employed.

The chapter on research methodology must, painstakingly argue for, and justify each, decision that is taken when arriving at the way in which the research is to be organised. Every time that you, the researcher, have to make a choice from a number of options, you must state what each of these are, why you made the choice you did, and why you rejected those not used.

The conclusion of this chapter should provide a summary of the main points that have been covered.

The conclusion should also direct the reader as to how the contents of this chapter link in with the contents of the next chapter, your findings. This chapter will be usually be between 1,000 and 2,000 words.

The ways of incorporating evidence into your research

These three ways of incorporating other writers' work into your own writing differ according to the closeness of your writing to the source writing.

Quotations must be identical to the original, using a narrow segment of the source. They must match the source document word for word and must be attributed to the original author.

Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly.

Summarizing involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.

How to use quotations, paraphrases, and summaries

Practice summarizing the essay found here, using paraphrases and quotations as you go. It might be helpful to follow these steps:

  • Read the entire text, noting the key points and main ideas.
  • Summarize in your own words what the single main idea of the essay is.
  • Paraphrase important supporting points that come up in the essay.
  • Consider any words, phrases, or brief passages that you believe should be quoted directly.

Paraphrasing is one way to use a text in your own writing without directly quoting source material. Anytime you are taking information from a source that is not your own, you need to specify where you got that information.


Developing a focus

For the purposes of your initial proposal, you need to frame your topic as clearly as you can at this stage (even though it may alter over time).

You must include a rationale: an explanation of why you are studying the topic and of why it is important. You will need to show evidence that specialists in the field do find it important. It is not good enough to say that you find it personally interesting (you shouldn't be studying it otherwise!). In justifying your study it can be useful to imagine a cynical critic who cannot imagine why anyone would waste their time on such a study!

A theoretical framework often features as an early section in a dissertation. Firstly, you must make explicit the particular academic discourse within which your study is framed. It should be clear (to the reader) from the outset that your approach is (for instance) historical, psychological, sociological, philosophical, semiotic or linguistic. Within any given discipline you also need to locate your study within a relevant sub-discipline or branch of the subject (e.g. social psychology or visual semiotics) and then within a particular tradition or 'school of thought' (e.g. social constructionism or queer theory). In a theoretical framework you would include an outline of existing theories which are closely related to your research topic. You should make clear how your research relates to such theories. Who are regarded as the key theorists in the field on the central issues involved? You should find some names coming up repeatedly (these will later appear in your literature review). Justify your choices.

Your research should be guided by a central research question (or a series of closely-connected questions). This needs to be made explicit early on (although you may refine your question(s) as your understanding deepens. Your research questions will help you to stay on target and to avoid being distracted by interesting (but irrelevant) digressions. Your markers/examiners will need to consider whether, by the end of your dissertation, you have adequately answered the question you set yourself. Consequently, it needs to be viable: possible to address in the timescale and budget available and using the proposed methodology.


Date: 2016-01-03; view: 99

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