Method to the madness: the art of writing methodology chapters

Rosie Harrison, Business & Management, Lancaster University (2019 Cohort)

Although your methodology chapter is seen as the easiest chapter to write, I have found it really hard to balance what I need to say for my thesis to pass, and what I want /like /find easier to write about. After rewriting this chapter about 20 times and still not being happy with it, I decided to seek out some professional help. The NCRM website is a great source of training sessions, and with the RTSG covering most training costs, they are a good way of benefiting from expertise outside your institution. Especially now when provision is mostly online, I have found it a really good way of accessing courses which would otherwise have proved impossible due to the time and travel requirements when needing to travel around the country.

Of course, online learning has its own challenges, but it is nice to be able to participate from the comfort of your own living room – even if the unexpected delivery person will always arrive when your microphone or camera is on! So armed with coffee and biscuits and high hopes that I would finally be able to submit a draft of this chapter to my supervisors, I joined the zoom meeting on Friday 7th May for a course entitled ‘How to write your PhD methodology chapter’.

I was not disappointed. Dr Patrick Brindle does a great job of gently holding your hand through the dark methodology chapter forest where terminology choices of method /methodology/ research design lurk, and the fearsome mountain of epistemology and ontology looms large. His extensive experience as a methodological textbook publisher, is distilled in his 24 top tips on writing around which the course is organised. This knowledge means he is well-versed in both quantitative and qualitive methodological approaches, resulting in him being able to answer all questions without breaking a sweat. His teaching style is refreshingly clear and adaptive to the mood in the room – no death by powerpoint here, although his powerpoints concisely capture the content so are a great reference point after the course has finished.  

However, the most useful part of the course is the workbook. This workbook is your key to writing your methodology chapter with 15 exercises designed to be both thought-provoking and content creating so by methodically (pun intended) working through them you are left with the bones of your chapter. These exercises range from thinking about your examiners and what they need you to tell them, to drilling down into the basics of your use of methods to discern what is vital information and what is superfluous detail. As such they are a brilliant way of really analysing your purposes of writing and how to shape your writing to fit those purposes.

It was so productive that I would encourage every PhD student, even those without the teeniest tiniest smidgen of a doubt about their methodology writing, to attend the next course – you will not regret it!

Twitter : @PrimaryRosie

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