A Guide to Dissertation Writing: the Research Methodology

The content and structure of your doctoral paper depends much on the methodology you take to research your dissertation question. As a rule, you may approach your project in two possible ways: you may compare existing materials to explore your question or you may conduct your own independent research. In academic writing, these approaches are treated in different ways. Namely, you may apply quantitative or qualitative analysis, conduct deductive or inductive research, or undertake empirical or theoretical study. The methodology you choose depends on your area of studies and on your particular topic. Make use of the following guidelines to get an idea what methods will be the most appropriate for your dissertation.

  • Quantitative or qualitative analysis?
    • Rely on the existing datasets if you choose a quantitative approach for your paper. The statistical data you use should be represented in figures and tables. Be sure to format and name them properly. You should also use a wide variety of sources and acknowledge them in your paper. Dissertations that are purely quantitative are usually aimed at exploring how common some issues are or what measurable effects of some policies are.
    • Get the answers from the people on your own if you choose a qualitative approach. Find out the people‚Äôs views through conducting interviews, doing ethnographic work, and observing behavior. These types of dissertations are usually focused on the case studies of some processes or policies.
    • Combine both quantitative and qualitative approaches to get in-depth understanding of the problem. Remember though that one of these approaches should be primary one, while another will serve as an additional source of information.
  • Deductive or inductive research?
    • Use a theory-testing deductive analysis to assess quantitative data (statistics and surveys.)
    • Use a theory-generating inductive analysis to process qualitative materials (interviews and ethnographic work.)
  • Empirical or theoretical study?
    • In an empirical study, you should analyze both qualitative and quantitative materials you have.
    • In a theoretical study, only theories and their applicability are analyzed.

These types of dissertations are only literature-based. You are not supposed to discover something new about the world, but rather understand what particular concepts or theories add to understanding of the issue.

Remember that your methodology choice should be justified. It is seldom that your paper should be strictly quantitative, inductive, or theoretical. Decide what kinds of data are needed, what the length of your project is expected to be, and combine the most appropriate research methods in order to fulfill the task in the best possible way.