Research Methodology for Dissertations

The scientific method—i.e., the method used in dissertations—is based, in part, on the ability of others to replicate your study.  Specifically, in order to faithfully replicate your study, other researchers must know the Who, What, Where, When, and How of your study.  While there are nuanced differences in the details between qualitative and quantitative studies, the methodologies to both are similar.  In short, a methodology provides a blueprint for other researchers to follow, allowing them to conduct their own study while using your method to arrive at similar findings.  The following excerpts provide a brief overview of how the two approaches to methodology formation differ.

Quantitative Research Methodology

While the design and rationale of a quantitative study requires a written section, the nuts and bolts of the quantitative method consists of describing the participants in the study, the instruments used, the procedure used to administer the instruments to the participants, and the data analysis plan.  In the sampling procedure, the researcher must describe the process used to select participants from the population.   In the instrument section, the researcher must cite the reliability and validity of the instrument used. This is typically done using information from previous studies that used the same instrument.  Of course, the researcher must also base their sample size—typically much larger than in qualitative studies—on the statistical tests selected in the data analysis plan.  Furthermore, the researcher details in the data analysis plan any pre-analysis data screening, reliability of the scales, and the assumptions that will be tested for based upon the specific statistical analyses chosen.  Lastly, ethical procedures include informed consent, data storage, and other safeguards.

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Qualitative Research Methodology

Research design and rationale is the how and why of data collection and analysis in qualitative approaches (Yin, 2009).   Typically students use a phenomenological, grounded theory, or case study, for their research.  As such, the researcher plays an integral part when it comes to qualitative research methodology design.  Specifically, how the samples are selected, including final selection of sample sizes used, and how the data are collected are all parts of the methodology.  On a related note, the data plan needs to explain everything in a step-by-step process— from defining units of meaning to the extracting of themes and summarizing of interviews.  Issues of trustworthiness (i.e., credibility, dependability, and transferability) are also described and can be facilitated by looking at Creswell (2014) or Merriam (2009).  Ethical procedures, ramifications for choices that are made, the well-being of participants, and any risks to participants are described here, too.

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