As a final year student looking to complete your undergraduate studies soon and move into the next phase of your career, you’re probably about to begin writing your final year project. You may even already have your project topic approved by your supervisor, and are wondering how to write a great research methodology for your project.
Writing a research methodology can be a daunting task for a final year student. However, this article will provide clarity on what a research methodology is all about, give useful tips to help you write yours with ease, and answer some frequently asked questions you may also have.
What is a research methodology?
Your research methodology is a critical part of your final year project. It gives comprehensive information on how you were able to achieve your research objectives, obtain your findings, and draw your conclusions. A properly written research methodology should describe the research methods/techniques you used, your reasons for choosing the methods, and how the research methods effectively answer your research questions.
Your research methodology is essentially the blueprint of your study, giving details on the collection, measurement, and analysis of your data. It’s your project plan and should ideally be written before you begin research. An effective methodology should be repeatable, such that when another researcher follows your methods, he/she gets the same results and conclusions you got.
Useful tips on writing a strong research methodology
Here are 7 useful tips/steps to help you write a strong research methodology:
- Restate your research problems and give an overview of your methodology
Begin your research methodology by restating the problem that your research is addressing, and your research objectives. Then provide an overview that summarises the approach you took to investigate the research problem. This should at a glance give your reader a summary of your research methods, design, study population, data collection, etc. With this your reader is able to easily understand your methodology from start to finish.
- Describe your methodological approach
You’ll state the approach you used to achieve your research objectives, and explain why this approach is the best fit for your research. Your methodological approach can either be qualitative, quantitative, or a mixture of both. The research objectives should guide your choice. You should also confirm with your project supervisor.
- State your area and population of study
Your area of study is where you’ll carry out your research. For instance, if you’re studying the impact of load-shedding on restaurants in the Centurion area in Gauteng Province, South Africa, then your area of study is the Centurion area, Gauteng Province, SA. Also, you need to state the people (or things) that make up your study population. Your study population should be well-defined and have similar characteristics or traits. For instance, you could be using the employees of restaurants in the Centurion area as your study population.
- Explain how you selected your sample (sampling techniques)
To get data for your research, you’ll need to select a sample size from your study population. State the techniques you used to choose this sample. This could be a probability or non-probability sampling technique. A common technique is the simple random sampling technique. It’s a reliable method of choosing your sample size, randomly and solely by chance.
- State the method you used to collect your data
Which method did you use to get your data? Did you use a primary source like questionnaires, interviews, observations, etc.? Or, did you extract your data from a secondary source like the World Bank or stock exchange? You should use a method that’s convenient, and will give the most reliable information about your research questions.
- Describe how you analysed the data you obtained
Explain your method of data analysis. This could be statistical testing methods like ANOVA, Factor Analysis, etc. You should also state whether you made use of a software for your survey analysis like the Survey Monkey.
- Explain how you maintained research ethics when collecting data from participants.
There are certain ethical concerns that researchers have to deal with when collecting data from participants such as ensuring voluntary participation and anonymity. Explain ethical considerations as they pertain to your research.
Frequently asking questions about research methodology
Having looked at some useful tips to help you write a strong research methodology, let’s answer some frequently asked questions you may also have.
- Methodology vs. Methods, what’s the difference?
This is a common confusion, as both terms are occasionally used interchangeably. However, while methods refers to the practical procedures you used to generate and analyse your data like surveys and experiments. Methodology shows the underlying theory and analysis of how your research should go. Methodology gives reasons for why you chose particular methods; it’s the overall blueprint of your study.
- In what section of your final year project report should research methodology be placed?
Your research methodology should come after your literature review and before your results, discussion, and conclusion.
- Qualitative research vs. Quantitative research, what’s the difference?
In quantitative research, you test theories and hypotheses by producing numerical data or numbers which are analysed using statistical and mathematical techniques. Qualitative research focuses on exploring ideas by using words which are analysed by summarising and interpreting. Qualitative research provides new hypotheses that can be tested with quantitative research.
- Validity vs. Reliability, what’s the difference?
Validity and reliability both refer to how well a research method measures something. However, while validity focuses on the accuracy of a measure, reliability focuses on its consistency. So, reliability is about whether your results can be consistently reproduced, given the same conditions. Validity is about how accurately your method measures what it was designed to measure.
- What is sampling?
Sampling is the process by which a predetermined number of observations is selected from a larger population. It’s the technique you used to choose a subset from your study population, from which you’ll collect your data. Your sample must be a true representative of your population of study.
Having read this article, you’re now better informed to write your research methodology. Remember that your methodology isn’t just about stating the methods you used in your research, but thoroughly explaining how and why you used them.
Do you have any questions? Feel free to write them below. Remember to share this article with other final year students. All the best!!