Difference between Methodology and Method
Is ‘methodology’ the same as ‘method’? If not, what’s the difference?
Methodology vs. method
‘Methodology’ is not just a fancier-sounding term for ‘methods’ – it refers to the school of thought by which you conduct research. Method, on the other hand, is all about practicalities: surveys, experiments, observations and so on. Let’s explore the difference in more detail.
Methodology: Strategising your approach
Your methodology will inform the methods that you use to answer a particular research question. Deciding on a methodology before you commence your research journey will guide which types of data collection and analysis methods you will use along the way. In short, your methodology underpins the theoretical rationale for the approach you take, as well as the prism through which you consider your analysis.
Most broadly, examples of this could be quantitative research and qualitative research. Each of these includes a set of commonly used methods, yielding particular types of data, which will dictate how you analyse these data.
Method: Doing the work
Your method describes how you collect your data. When written up (aptly, in the Methods section of the paper), your methods should contain enough information to allow other researchers to reproduce your work and results. The extent to which your methods are effective in enabling the reproducibility of your research is a testimony to the robustness of your work.
Examples of methods would be interviews or specific experiments, all of which would essentially give you a guide as to how you can answer your research question. These will be underpinned by protocols, describing how you will practically carry out this work in a step-by-step fashion.
Methodology vs. Method: How to write them up
If you are publishing in a field where your methodology is not a given (for example, STEM disciplines almost exclusively deal in quantitative methodology), then reporting your methodology is something to consider – the journal may even ask for it. In this case, report the methodology you are using, and make sure that you go into the rationale for choosing this.
Your methods, on the other hand, should read almost like a step-by-step guide, and have to be detailed enough for others to recreate your process.
While methodology and method are sometimes used interchangeably, they certainly are not. Methodology shapes your methods, and will have profound impact on the types of questions you’re able to answer. A good amount of consideration should be given to which methodology to employ in order to ensure that you can answer your research question appropriately.
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