Doctoral Writing Center
What is the Methods Chapter?
This chapter provides information on what you did and how you did it over the course of your research. Essentially, this chapter will list the steps you followed to help you answer your research questions and determine the accuracy of your hypotheses. A goal to have in mind when you are writing this chapter is to be detailed enough so that a colleague reading through the steps of your study could replicate your research without needing additional information. It is important that as you write your methods section, you ensure alignment with other sections of your dissertation.
(Important note: Remember that in this chapter, you are not getting into your findings or the results from your study. This is only to explain the process you used to obtain these results)
Before you Begin
What Tense Should I Use in This Chapter?
By the time you are writing this chapter of your dissertation, you should have completed your research. Thus, you will write the methods chapter in past tense.
Consider organizing this chapter in the following manner:
1. Introductory paragraph including general research design and organization of chapter
2. Data collection methods (how did you gather your data?)
3. Data analysis methods (how did you analyze your data?)
1. What do I Include in my Introductory Paragraph?
As is the intent of any introduction paragraphs, this paragraph will provide your readers with context for the research you conducted and provide them with an understanding of what will follow it. Consider incorporating the following information:
Reference to the Aim: Consider starting this paragraph by referencing the overall aim/purpose of your research. Be careful not to go into too much detail about why this was your aim or why this purpose matters. This information will be added to other chapters. Here stick to one sentence.
Research Design Statement: In one to two sentences, describe the research design you used for this study. There are a variety of research design approaches; for additional support on this topic, see here. If you are using a specific type of quantitative or qualitative design (ex: quasi experimental, case study), consider also stating this in your introduction.
Study Information: Emailed a survey to 200 undergraduate educators who just finished teaching their first classes to determine how effective their program was at preparing them for the role itself.
Statement: This study used a cross-sectional survey design to assess how prepared first-time undergraduate educators felt after teaching their initial courses.
Study Information: Interviewed 35 students who participated in a study incorporating the wise intervention strategy to their feedback to determine perception of bias.
Statement: This study used a narrative research design to identify how the wise intervention strategy influenced the perception of bias in freshman students at the university level.
Organization of the Chapter: Add a statement or two describing what information the reader will find in this chapter and how it is organized.
2. What do I Include in the Data Collections Section?
This section will be dedicated to explaining to your readers how you collected the data that you needed in order to answer your research questions and verify the accuracy of your hypotheses (if applicable). The way you organize this information may vary, but ensure you have the following information available.
When explaining your sample, ensure you identify who the target population was, the size and demographics of your sample, the location of sample participants, and the sampling design you used to obtain your sample. Pay attention to justifying the rationale for the decisions you made in this section, and provide relevant citations to support these decisions.
In this section, you are both indicating the measures you used to answer your research questions and how they will measure the focus of your research (variables, cause-effect relationship, etc.). Data collection methods can include interviews, surveys, archival data, focus groups, ethnography, and much more. If you are using assessments or other instruments (ex: standardized interview protocols) as part of your data collection methods, information should be provided about the instruments themselves (reliability and validity in your population and in measuring your variables) and the relevancy for use in your study. For additional information on methods, please see here.
For qualitative research: Explain the appropriateness of the measure you chose (how did you ensure you were selecting the ‘best’ option?), the measurement characteristics of the instrument(s), and the administration and scoring of the measures. (See here for further information).
For qualitative research: Explain the training and practice of the observer, indicate instrument type (structured or unstructured), and include opening questions as well as examples of some sub-questions for your research. (Include the full set of questions used as an appendix). (See here for further information)
In this section, you will explain how you implemented your methods. Consider aspects such as what steps you took to contact your sample (or access your data), to gain their participation, to protect their anonymity/ensure confidentiality or any other ethical considerations you made, and how you administered the instruments.
(Note: If you provided participants with any documentation (recruitment letter, survey, etc., copies of these should be added as appendixes).
Example of a research project:
Study was conducted with undergraduate students to test the effectiveness of the wise interventional strategy approach in feedback on the perception of positive bias.
Some examples of what I would consider writing in this section include:
Note: By the time you finish writing this section, your reader should be able to know when, where, and how you collected the data.
Information Included: How I chose the educator(s) I worked with, selected the classes (and when they ran), identified the assignment to use, created a benefit for student participant (extra credit/mandatory participation/etc.), information I needed to collect from the students, if the instructor would see the feedback provided to students, if I needed the school’s approval and the instructors or just the instructor, and more
Information Included: How much information the educator provided to the students before the study (protect the validity of the results), how the students opted into the study
Information Included: How I set up the study so that the reviews of the assignments were blind reviews, how I protected student anonymity when providing feedback, how I stored the data, the timeline of providing feedback, the timeline of when students could submit revised versions for grading, the rubric used to assess grading, and how I collected revisions from the instructor.
3. What do I Include in My Data Analysis Section?
In this section, you will explain how you analyzed your data. Ensure that you are not getting into the results of what your analysis determined. You are only explaining how you analyzed the data in this section.
For quantitative research: Explain what you did prior to the analysis (did you have to sift through to remove any outliers, did you have to ensure you were not missing data, etc.), how you conducted the analysis (what software or tool did you use), what test did you use (T-test, linear regression, etc.), and what equation did you use within the test construct. Indicate what information that analysis provided you (ex: determining relationships, causal links).
For qualitative research: Explain what you did after collecting the responses from your participants. It is important that you outline the process you will use to analyze the data (ex: inductive analysis, discourse analysis), any coding methods, or tools that will be used to classify the data. Typically, people will transcribe their responses, identify a type of analysis (thematic, content, discourse), and code the information to determine patterns and relationships. It is also important to outline how the researcher will avoid bias in their analysis of the data.
Did I Include All of the Information I Need?
To double-check if you have added all of the information you need, please see this checklist as a guide. (Note: this is to help you self-assess in general but is not meant to be an exhaustive list – download to check off the boxes as you go). It is also a good idea to do one last check for alignment with your other chapters!