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An Introduction to Methods and a few tips on writing Annie Pezalla, Ph.D. Dissertation Editor. Methods 101. For those writing a dissertation, this will be chapter 3. For those writing a project study or doctoral study, this will be section 2.

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An introduction to methods and a few tips on writing annie pezalla ph d dissertation editor l.jpg

An Introduction to Methodsand a few tips on writingAnnie Pezalla, Ph.D.Dissertation Editor


Methods 101 l.jpg
Methods 101

  • For those writing a dissertation, this will be chapter 3.

  • For those writing a project study or doctoral study, this will be section 2.

  • Typical sequence for writing a capstone study proposal:

    • Drafting the literature review.

    • Honing in on the problem statement (i.e., the gap in the literature).

    • Brainstorming the methods section.


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Methods 101

The most important thing to remember:

The research problem dictates the method,

not the other way around.


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Methods 101

  • Broad Approaches:

    • Qualitative

    • Quantitative

    • Mixed Method

    • Special notes on Grounded Theory


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Qualitative

  • Purpose: To explore a phenomenon in great detail.

  • Approach: Inductive.

  • Language: Question should always be open-ended (e.g., “explore the lived experiences…” or “examine the narratives…”). Qualitative dissertations should typically have 2 or 3 questions.


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Qualitative

  • Components:

    • Introduction

    • Justification of paradigm

    • Role of the researcher

    • Questions and subquestions

    • Researcher-participant relationship

    • Criteria for selecting participants

    • Data collection

    • Data analysis

    • Data quality

    • Ethical considerations

    • Conclusion


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Quantitative

  • Purpose: To examine the relationship between two or more quantifiable variables.

  • Approach: Deductive.

  • Language: Question should ideally be open-ended (“what is the relationship between X and Y?”). Independent and dependent variables should be identified. The IV should be conceptualized as a variable that impacts the DV.


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Quantitative

  • Components:

    • Introduction

    • Justification of paradigm

    • Research questions and hypotheses

    • Setting and sample

    • Treatment (if applicable)

    • Instrumentation and materials

    • Data collection

    • Data analysis

    • Ethical considerations

    • Conclusion


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Mixed Method

  • Purpose: To explore a multifaceted phenomenon. The phenomenon should have components that should be quantified, and components that should be kept in narrative form.

  • Approach: Both inductive and deductive.

  • Language: Research questions should be presented in two sections. One section should contain qualitative, open-ended questions. Another section should contain quantitative questions with accompanying null and alternative hypotheses.


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Special Notes on Grounded Theory

  • GTs are typically based on qualitative methods, but they may use quantitative approaches, too. The common underlying thread of any grounded theory study is that it results in a theory. This important outcome is often missing in student work.

  • GTs employ an abductive approach, which employs an alternative sequence of inductive and deductive reasoning.


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Methods and Introduction

  • Relationship of the Methods to the Introduction

    • Problem Statement: guides the choice of method.

    • Limitations: determines the generalizability of final results.

    • Delimitations: clarifies the focus of the study.


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Problem Statement

  • Identifies a gap in the literature.

    • Quant: Gap is best addressed by examining the relationship between two or more variables.

    • Qual: Gap is best addressed by increasing our understanding about an issue (this is a little fuzzy, but the thing to remember is that the “issue” cannot or should not logically be quantified).

    • Mixed method: Gap is best addressed through multiple methodological approaches. Employing only one method will not adequately address the gap.


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Limitations

  • Characteristics of the design or methodology that set parameters on the application or interpretation of the results of the study.

    • Sample size: Small samples lessen the ability to draw descriptive or inferential conclusions from sample data about a larger group.

    • Instruments used for data collection: Instruments may limit the ecological validity of participant responses.

    • Time frame for data collection: A short time frame may prohibit causal claims between the variables.


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Delimitations

  • The boundaries of the inquiry, usually determined in the development of the proposal.

  • Delimitations should explain what a study does not intend to cover, with justification for not doing so. These decisions should be based on criteria as "not directly relevant," or “not feasible" and the like.


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Tips on Writing

  • For the proposal, write in the future tense.

    • “I will run a regression analysis…”

  • Once the proposal has been approved, and data have been collected and analyzed, write in the past tense.

    • “I ran a regression analysis…”

  • Be specific.

    • Recipe card analogy.


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Take-home points

  • Writing is a process; allow yourself multiple revisions of each section and take advantage of the Writing Center’s services.

  • The research problem dictates the method; repeat this mantra to avoid imposing a “pet” method to address an ill-fitting research problem.

  • The description of the method should be detailed enough so that others could replicate the study.



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