From Objectives to Methods
(d) Research methods
A/Prof Rob Cavanagh
April 7, 2010
Methodology and Ontology
 Researchers often ground their study on an ontological
stance – their view of their world
 There is a nexus between their ontology and the
methodology they choose to apply
 Their view of their world – their ontology - is ideally
explained in the Methodology section of the research
proposal
Methodology and Methods
A ‘methodology’ is a combination of research techniques
or ‘methods’
For example: Ethnography
The methodology of ethnographic research:
A variety of approaches are applied to in an attempt to
gain an holistic as possible ‘picture’ of a particular
society, group, institution, setting or situation
The methods of ethnographic research:

In-depth interviewing

Participant observation

Keeping field notes (field jottings, diary & log)
Methods are Actions
 Methods propel one toward something or to do a thing
 A method is like a cooking recipe
 A method is something that is simply ‘followed’
 A method is a series of directions that pre-suppose we
already know what we want
Methodological Assumptions
 Initial precision in research design is essential
OR
 The initial ambiguity that occurs in a study is desirable
 Precise hypotheses should be stated at the outset
OR
 Hypotheses emerge as data/information is gathered
 Precise unequivocal definitions should be stated at the
outset
OR
 Definitions should emerge as data/information is
gathered
Methodological Assumptions cont’d
 Assessment of validity requires statistical examination of
numerical data
OR
 Validity is best evidenced by cross-checking of
information from different sources or obtained by
different methods – triangulation
 Precise explication of the procedures applied in the
research must precede data collection
OR
 A narrative/ literary description of procedures should be
compiled as the research proceeds
Writing the Methodology Section
The readers of your research proposal will have different
backgrounds and come from different traditions of
research
These readers will be greatly assisted by the Methodology
situating the research methods within:
 A particular research approach – a ‘tradition’ of research
 An acknowledged ‘research methodology’
 A particular ‘research design’
Organising Presenting the Research Procedures
This will depend on the overall approach being employed
For example:
 If the research is to proceed through a series of sequential
stages or phases, the temporal sequence of stages can
provide an overall structure (Phase One, Phase Two etc)
 When the empirical investigation is more holistic or
integrated, an alternative structure is required (no
distinct phases)
A Common Template
There are usually aspects of the research methods which are
common to all approaches and these can provide a
template for the writing after the ontological
foundation of the methodology is explained

Either within each phase if the research is to proceed
through separate stages
OR

For the entire empirical investigation if it is holistic
Four Elements in the Template
1.
The setting and participants
2.
How information or data is to be collected
3.
How information or data will be interpreted or
analysed
4.
Quality control procedures
1. The Setting and Participants
The setting:
 Geographical location
 The culture
 Why the setting was chosen
The participants:
 Attributes of the participants
 How many, why they were chosen, and how they were
chosen
In positivistic research
 The nature of the population, the sample, and sample
selection techniques
2. Data collection
Describe the methods, perhaps instrumentation, used to
obtain information. For example:

Observing – checklist, participant/non-participant,
videotaping etc

Interviewing – structured, semi-structured,
unstructured, face-to-face, email, telephone etc

Surveying – open-ended, rating scales, self-reported etc

Archival retrieval – diaries, newspaper articles etc
3. Data analysis
Describe how information or data that is to be collected
will be interpreted or analysed
For example:
 Discourse analysis
 Textual analysis – classification, coding, emergent
themes
 Statistical analyses – descriptive stats, exploratory
techniques, testing hypotheses etc
4. Quality Control Procedures
Describe the procedures or techniques that will be applied
to make sure the findings of the study are a truthful or
accurate representation of the phenomenon studied
For example, by:

Triangulation of data and/or methods

Ensuring content validity, internal validity, or internal
reliability
Methodology and Research Questions
 The Methodology describes the ‘means’ through which
the ‘end’ of achieving the research objectives is to be
facilitated
 There needs to be an overt connection between the
Research Objectives/Research Questions and the
Methodology
 There may well be issues that arise in writing the
Methodology that require reconsidering the feasibility of
the original research questions and then modifying these
Focus on Research Methods only
A well-written Methodology will not include material that
more properly should be presented in other sections of
the research proposal
Particularly:
 Stating what the research seeks to achieve (Research
Objectives)
 Overtly connecting with the prevailing knowledge
(Background)
 Identifying why the research will be important for others
(Significance)
Proposal Writing versus Thesis Writing
 In a proposal the Methodology is written in the future
tense – it explains what will be done and why it should
be done
 In a project report or thesis, the Methodology is written in
the past tense – it explains what was done why it was
done
Final reminder
The choice of research methods needs to be justified in
terms of the expectation of providing data/information to
enable the research objectives to be attained
So, overall, make sure you don’t:
 Pose research questions that can’t be answered by the
results of applying the Methodology
 Propose collection and analysis of data that are not
directly related to the Research Questions
Scientific
Human
Research
Eidos
Guiding
principle
Abstract ideal
Design check
Rationality
Cohesion
Fidelity
Conception
Boundaries
Components
Tools
Instruments
Analyses
Operational
definition
Dimensions
Constructs
Methodology
Data collection
Data analysis
Questions
Associations
Influences
Approach
View of
the world
View of
knowledge
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The Methodology Section - Humanities Office of Research and