Methodology is the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study, or the theoretical analysis of the body of methods and principles associated with a branch of knowledge. It, typically, encompasses concepts such as paradigm, theoretical model, phases and quantitative or qualitative techniques.
A methodology does not set out to provide solutions but offers the theoretical underpinning for understanding which method, set of methods or so called “best practices” can be applied to a specific case.
It has been defined also as follows:
- "the analysis of the principles of methods, rules, and postulates employed by a discipline";
- "the systematic study of methods that are, can be, or have been applied within a discipline";
- "the study or description of methods".
Relation to methods and theories
Generally speaking, methodology does not describe specific methods, even though much attention is given to the nature and kinds of processes to be followed in a particular procedure or in attaining an objective. When proper to a study of methodology, such processes constitute a constructive generic framework; thus they may be broken down in sub-processes, combined, or their sequence changed.
Methodology as a buzzword
In recent years, the word methodology has become a "pretentious substitute for the word method". There are distinctions between methodology and methods; methodology is the research strategy that outlines the way one goes about undertaking a research project, whereas methods identify means or modes of data collection. Many recent uses of the word methodology mistakenly treat it a synonym for method or body of methods. Doing this shifts it away from its true epistemological meaning and reduces it to being the procedure itself, the set of tools or the instruments that should have been its outcome. A methodology is the design process for carrying out research or the development of a procedure and is not in itself an instrument for doing those things. Using it as a synonym for method or set of methods, leads to misinterpretation and undermines the proper analysis that should go into designing research. Generally for any research study both primary and secondary research are done which facilitates in the better understanding of the entire study. Primary research helps garner relevant and adequate data of the current state of affairs pertaining to any subject and provides an insight into the exact nature of the problem. Owing to the broad and complex nature of this research topic which would require delving into many aspects of the study including an ethnographic study which would in turn include a longitudinal time horizon which cannot be possibly encompassed within this research as it goes ".
Relation to paradigm and algorithm
In theoretical work, the development of paradigms satisfies most or all of the criteria for methodology. A paradigm, like an algorithm, is a constructive framework, meaning that the so-called construction is a logical, rather than a physical, array of connected elements.
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- Methodology Usage Notes, entry at Merriam–Webster
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- misuse of the word Methodology in technical contexts
- Howell, K. E. (2013) Introduction to the Philosophy of Methodology. London: Sage Publications
- See, for example, Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago, 1970, 2nd ed.)
- Berg, Bruce L., 2009, Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. Seventh Edition. Boston MA: Pearson Education Inc.
- Creswell, J. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
- Creswell, J. (2003). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
- Franklin, M.I. (2012). Understanding Research: Coping with the Quantitative-Qualitative Divide. London and New York: Routledge.
- Guba, E. and Lincoln, Y. (1989). Fourth Generation Evaluation. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications.
- Herrman, C. S. (2009). “Fundamentals of Methodology”, a series of papers On the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN), online.
- Howell, K. E. (2013) Introduction to the Philosophy of Methodology. London: Sage Publications.
- James, E. Alana, Slater, T. and Bucknam, A. (2011). Action Research for Business, Nonprofit, and Public Administration - A Tool for Complex Times . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Joubish, Farooq Dr. (2009). Educational Research Department of Education, Federal Urdu University, Karachi, Pakistan
- Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd edition). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
- Silverman, David (Ed). (2011). Qualitative Research: Issues of Theory, Method and Practice, Third Edition. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage Publications
- Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged, W. A. Neilson, T. A. Knott, P. W. Carhart (eds.), G. & C. Merriam Company, Springfield, MA, 1950.
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