What is dissertation methodology?

Understanding dissertation methodology is a vital part of writing your dissertation. Without being able to use it properly, the basis of your dissertation will be weaker and not as comprehensive and cogent as it should be to get you the best grade possible. Put simply, your dissertation methodology is your explanation of the methods you used to find research for your dissertation; this can not be simply explained by “I was intrigued” or “I thought it might be interesting”, there has to be some academic basis in why you chose the methods that you did.


Once you fully understand methodology, it will become an important tool in supporting your argument and ensuring that it has authority behind it. This article will help break down the best ways to tackle it and how it should be addressed in your dissertation. Armed with this knowledge you will surely have no problems with making your dissertation the best that it can be. If you follow this breakdown then you will have no trouble understanding dissertation methodology in full.

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Now that you understand what methodology is, it’s time to think about it in relation to your dissertation. Think of your dissertation like a seat and your methodology is like the back of the seat that makes sure you don’t fall backwards when you sit down. You, therefore, shouldn’t see your methodology as a burden or a hinderance – it is a mean of supporting your argument and ensuring it has the backing to be convincing. You might be wondering, however, “how does this apply to me?” You may think that methodology and the methods connected to it is only useful for a science dissertation or a business dissertation. You’d be wrong.

Even if you are doing a dissertation on Hannibal’s impact on the western world via his war with the Roman Republic, then you can use methods to support that. For instance, you could conduct a survey asking how many people have heard of Hannibal today or have a focus group that discusses what they know about Hannibal and what they think his impact has been. Of course, you will do some form of methodology for a History dissertation even if you don’t conduct these suggested experiments – analysis of documents and interpretation of them is one of the methods used when writing your dissertation methodology so no matter what you decide to do, you will need to do some methodology.

As stated above, no matter what your course is, you will do some form of dissertation methodology to support your argument. This means you will need to consider what methods you need to choose to gain the data you need to support your argument. Here are some suggestions of the methods you could use to support your argument.

  • Quantitative research. Quantitative research normally involves surveys with closed questions or experiments that measure the precise nature of what is happening at a specific time. For example, you might use quantitative research if you were a science student who wanted to measure how many people bought ice tea from a stand at different times of the year and demonstrate how weather conditions can impact the sale of certain items associated with certain types of year. This may be more useful for science students, but it can also be used for history students too – you could send out a closed questionnaire asking how many people know about Hannibal or conduct research into how many people search information relating to him over a period of time. This helps give validity to your dissertation as it proves you have solid research behind it. Quantitative research does have its problems though; it is by its very nature limited and will only give you information regarding a very specific topic and may not give the why or how that are also needed to conduct valid research. This can be a hindrance if you want more expansive data on the reasons behind people’s actions, but it is very helpful if you simply want to know whether people act in a certain way or not.
  • Qualitative research. This type of research is more generalised and tends to be more about the reasons individuals do things rather than whether they do them or not. They are mainly based around focus groups or one to one interviews with participants in the data collection. This type of research is mainly used when finding out why individuals do things or why they like certain products. This type of data collection can help with science dissertations or business dissertations as it can with history. If you want to find out why people might not know about Hannibal or if they do, how much they know, then qualitative research will help. You will also be able to find out about the backgrounds and social status of those who do and those who don’t, thereby influencing and supporting your argument regarding how influential Hannibal has been on western society. Qualitative research has its weaknesses of course; it won’t give you hard evidence, merely opinions and dependent on the people you have in the focus group or who you interview, your sample may be biased.
  • Mixed methods research. Mixed methods research combines both quantitative and qualitative research to create a broad picture of data for the subject that you are researching. It is perhaps the best approach to take when considering what methods to use in conjunction with your dissertation. By combining the two approaches, you can solve the issues that each one has. The quantitative research’s failure to express why people do things can be explained by the qualitative and the qualitative research’s inability to accurately say how many people do a certain thing or know about something can be explained by the quantitative research. The combination of the two disciplines ensures that your dissertation has a greater amount of weight behind it. Mixed methods research, in the example above, would be able to not only tell you how many people know about Hannibal and his war with Rome but also what they think of him, what they think his impact on western society was and what sort of background they come from. This can help support your dissertation’s argument as to whether Hannibal did have a marked impact on western society and if that impact is still felt today.
  • Analytical research is something that will be particularly important if you do a dissertation on English Literature or History as often it is difficult to organise mixed methods research or quantitative/qualitative research when they are not directly linked to the type of research you would normally do on your course. However, analytical research is a must for any student doing their dissertation. By using evidence already provided – for English students novels, short stories or poems and for History students the historical record – and analysing it in relation to your dissertation subject you will be able to see whether they stand up to new interpretations. Both students can of course use their own critical theories as well, such as the Marxist or Feminist theories. Analytical research also allows you to compare your interpretation with that of previous writers and see whether their criticisms of the texts are valid. These can sometimes contradict your argument but don’t worry – even pieces of evidence that contradict your argument can be used as you can examine whether their evidence is lacking in someway or was not properly conducted.

As I mentioned above, it is important to ensure that the evidence you use helps support your argument and is strong enough to stand up to criticism. This shouldn’t mean that evidence that doesn’t support your argument should be ignored. You shouldn’t try to set out to make sure that every piece of evidence you find rigidly fits into the central idea you are exploring this topic for your dissertation so you are bound to find conflicting opinions which disagree with your premise. It is therefore worth time thinking about what your methodology hopes to accomplish – you aren’t pursuing these particular research methods because you think they could be interesting, there must be an academic backbone to your case. It can be whether you wish to prove that Hannibal still has a profound effect on western civilisation or that you want to prove whether social media has a greater impact on the lives of teenagers than television – if you use the techniques suggested above then you will be certain to succeed. It is also worth pointing out that when doing your research, it is prudent to be selective. A lot of the information that you will find, whether through analytical research or through other methods will be surplus information that neither supports or works against your argument. Make sure that you are selective so that your dissertation isn’t bogged down with useless information. You may be tempted to fill up your wordcount but use it wisely – it’s better to have a strong argument that takes time to write rather than simply having an easy dissertation that you’ve filled up with irrelevant information.

Once you have thought about the reason behind your dissertation, considered which type of method to use to gather information for it and analyse how it supports or disagrees with your argument, the final stage is to see how it all fits together. The big picture is vital to ensuring your dissertation has a strong and coherent series of evidence to fully support it and ensure that your argument has the necessary support to back it. Once you have been able to properly analyse all the data you’ve collected you may find that your research has demonstrated something slightly different from your argument. Don’t worry, this is why we do research – not to prove we are right but to find out if we are right or not. If it is academically sound that I’m sure you’ll have no problem writing the best dissertation you can.

Once you’ve read through this article, I hope that you’ll fully understand all that goes into dissertation methodology. It may seem complicated but once you fully comprehend it you will have an invaluable academic skill. However, if you have trouble understanding it then perhaps we can help. We provide writing services that cover a range of disciplines including dissertation work, letter writing, CV services and much more. Why not contact us to see how we can help you?

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