Okay, you may find yourself stuck at home, without the face-to-face interaction with your instructor that you’d been hoping to get. You may have an academic essay to finish as part of your degree program, but no TA help. Or you might have an article that you’ve promised to write, and now you won’t be able to ask your supervisor any of those questions that you’re too shy to put in an email. Or you could be a mom with a student at home who you are trying hard to support. This blog speaks to all of you about how to think about METHODOLOGY when it comes to academic writing.
First things, first, what the heck is methodology?
In its most simplistic form, “methodology” refers to the way that you will compile the research that goes into the bulk of your essay.
What are some common types of research methodologies in the social sciences and humanities?
Good question! Here are a few of the most common:
1. Close Reading
A close reading analysis involves interpreting text in detail. This could be a theoretical treatise, a primary historical text, or perhaps a piece of literature. In each case, the methodology required involves the ability to speak about sentence length and structure, speaker and voice, tone, diction (or word choice), punctuation, and point of view. Each of these elements of the text will allow you to say something about HOW the material does what you say it does.
2. Case Study
Often a case study allows the writer to use a small sampling to then make insights about a larger context. So, for instance, your case study may involve looking at one business case or one set of interviews or one focus group or even one set of novels, but then you may take the insights from that particular case study to see whether or not they apply more broadly. The important thing to remember in offering a case study, is that you need to lay out all the specific details of your example (or your case) for analysis.
3. Document Analysis or Archival Work
Analysing primary texts or specific documents involves an additional layer to close reading. This type of work may involve book history or technical production insights. For example, if you are doing a document analysis of a historical figure’s diary, not only would you offer the kinds of close reading analysis as above, but you may also analyse things such a handwriting or paper quality.
4. Literature Review
A literature review is one of the most common elements of most higher-level scholarly writing. It does not matter if the rest of your research may follow one of the other methodologies, for a thesis, article or dissertation, you will likely provide a literature review as part of a larger project. A literature review offers a survey of the scholarship in the field. In this section, you will not only group and summarise the main research that is relevant to yours, but you will meticulously cite and demonstrate your ability to pay attention to the details of the main people working in your field.
Ethnographic studies can take a number of different forms. Generally speaking, ethnography involves describing, in a scientific manner, the customs of a particular group. So you may do an embedded ethnographic study, where you live and work in a culture or area different from your own in order to record day-to-day activities. Interviews and observations may also be part of ethnographic research. Because ethnography often involves living subjects ethical permissions are key before starting any ethnographic study.
6. Theoretical Positioning
Theoretical methodologies differ slightly from field to field. Jurisprudence (legal theory), for example, will be slightly different from the philosophy of science. That said, developing a theoretical position involves building an argument from first principles logically from one premise to the next.
There are different ways of approaching narrative methodologies, and they are quite commonly used in educational studies, but in most cases a narrative study is one that tells the research story as a story in context, where the participants of the research study are described and situated within their larger contexts, such a social and familial.
8. Oral Histories
Collecting oral histories is a subset of ethnographic or narrative work and involves rigorously collecting and recording people telling their own accounts of events or details. The methodology here involves letting the subject(s) of history speak to and about historical events from their own personal experiences.
There are other ways of doing scholarly research, but it is important to articulate your methodology up front.
For more advanced writers, the EssayJack platform has a section where you can add your methodological statement and it includes tips and guidance on what needs to go in this section of your essay.