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Methodology is the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study. It comprises the theoretical analysis of the body of methods and principles associated with a branch of knowledge. Typically, it encompasses concepts such as paradigm, theoretical model, phases and quantitative or qualitative techniques. [1]

In science and philosophy, a paradigm is a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitutes legitimate contributions to a field.


A methodology does not set out to provide solutions—it is therefore, not the same as a method. Instead, a methodology offers the theoretical underpinning for understanding which method, set of methods, or best practices can be applied to a specific case, for example, to calculate a specific result.

A best practice is a method or technique that has been generally accepted as superior to any alternatives because it produces results that are superior to those achieved by other means or because it has become a standard way of doing things, e.g., a standard way of complying with legal or ethical requirements.

It has been defined also as follows:

  1. "the analysis of the principles of methods, rules, and postulates employed by a discipline"; [2]
  2. "the systematic study of methods that are, can be, or have been applied within a discipline"; [2]
  3. "the study or description of methods". [3]

Methodology, theory, paradigm, algorithm, and method

The methodology is the general research strategy that outlines the way in which research is to be undertaken and, among other things, identifies the methods to be used in it. These methods, described in the methodology, define the means or modes of data collection or, sometimes, how a specific result is to be calculated. [4] Methodology does not define specific methods, even though much attention is given to the nature and kinds of processes to be followed in a particular procedure or to attain an objective.

When proper to a study of methodology, such processes constitute a constructive generic framework, and may therefore be broken down into sub-processes, combined, or their sequence changed. [5]

A paradigm is similar to a methodology in that it is also a constructive framework. In theoretical work, the development of paradigms satisfies most or all of the criteria for methodology. [6] An algorithm , like a paradigm, is also a type of constructive framework, meaning that the construction is a logical, rather than a physical, array of connected elements.

Algorithm An unambiguous specification of how to solve a class of problems

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is a set of instructions, typically to solve a class of problems or perform a computation. Algorithms are unambiguous specifications for performing calculation, data processing, automated reasoning, and other tasks.

Any description of a means of calculation of a specific result is always a description of a method and never a description of a methodology. It is thus important to avoid using methodology as 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, or 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, or method, or procedure for doing things.

Epistemology A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

Methodology and method are not interchangeable. In recent years, however, there has been a tendency to use methodology as a "pretentious substitute for the word method". [7] Using methodology as a synonym for method or set of methods leads to confusion and misinterpretation and undermines the proper analysis that should go into designing research. [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

Research systematic study undertaken to increase knowledge

Research is "creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications." It is used to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support theorems, or develop new theories. A research project may also be an expansion on past work in the field. Research projects can be used to develop further knowledge on a topic, or in the example of a school research project, they can be used to further a student's research prowess to prepare them for future jobs or reports. To test the validity of instruments, procedures, or experiments, research may replicate elements of prior projects or the project as a whole. The primary purposes of basic research are documentation, discovery, interpretation, or the research and development (R&D) of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge. Approaches to research depend on epistemologies, which vary considerably both within and between humanities and sciences. There are several forms of research: scientific, humanities, artistic, economic, social, business, marketing, practitioner research, life, technological, etc. The scientific study of research practices is known as meta-research.

In the social sciences and life sciences, a case study is a research method involving an up-close, in-depth, and detailed examination of a subject of study, as well as its related contextual conditions.

In psychology, qualitative research has come to be defined as research whose findings are not arrived at by statistical or other quantitative procedures. Qualitative research is often said to be naturalistic. Its goal is to understand behaviour in the natural setting. Two other goals attributed to qualitative research are understanding a phenomenon from the perspective of the research participant and understanding the meanings people give to their experience. It attempts to do this by using so-called naturalistic methods—interviewing, observation, ethnography, participant observation and focus groups. Each of these methods seeks to understand the perspective of the research participant within the context of their everyday life. This means that the researcher is concerned with asking broad questions that allow the respondent to answer in their own words. These methods allow the researcher to try to qualify their understanding during the research process through further probing questions. In addition, a method such as observation allows the researcher to observe people within natural settings—particularly those in public places.

Multimethodology or multimethod research includes the use of more than one method of data collection or research in a research study or set of related studies. Mixed methods research is more specific in that it includes the mixing of qualitative and quantitative data, methods, methodologies, and/or paradigms in a research study or set of related studies. One could argue that mixed methods research is a special case of multimethod research. Another applicable, but less often used label, for multi or mixed research is methodological pluralism. All of these approaches to professional and academic research emphasize that monomethod research can be improved through the use of multiple data, methods, Research,methodologies, perspectives, standpoints, and paradigms.

Qualitative research scientific method of observation to gather non-numerical data

Qualitative research is a scientific method of observation to gather non-numerical data. This type of research "refers to the meanings, concepts definitions, characteristics, metaphors, symbols, and description of things" and not to their "counts or measures". This research answers why and how a certain phenomenon may occur rather than how often. Qualitative research approaches are employed across many academic disciplines, focusing particularly on the human elements of the social and natural sciences; in less academic contexts, areas of application include qualitative market research, business, service demonstrations by non-profits, and journalism.

Quantitative psychological research is defined as psychological research which performs mathematical modeling and statistical estimation or statistical inference or a means for testing objective theories by examining the relationship between variables. The first definition distinguishes it from qualitative psychological research; however, there has been a long debate on the difference between quantitative and qualitative research. It has been argued that because this debated has not found an end, the differences are enough that both quantitative and qualitative research is valuable in ways that both should be used in the gathering of data.

Educational research refers to the systematic collection and analysis of data related to the field of education. Research may involve a variety of methods. Research may involve various aspects of education including student learning, teaching methods, teacher training, and classroom dynamics.

Content analysis

Content analysis is a research method for studying documents and communication artifacts, which might be texts of various formats, pictures, audio or video. Social scientists use content analysis to examine patterns in communication in a replicable and systematic manner. One of the key advantages of using content analysis to analyse social phenomena is its non-invasive nature, in contrast to simulating social experiences or collecting survey answers.

A conceptual framework is an analytical tool with several variations and contexts. It can be applied in different categories of work where an overall picture is needed. It is used to make conceptual distinctions and organize ideas. Strong conceptual frameworks capture something real and do this in a way that is easy to remember and apply.

Grounded theory (GT) is a systematic methodology in the social sciences involving the construction of theories through methodical gathering and analysis of data. Grounded theory is a research methodology which operates inductively, in contrast to the hypothetico-deductive approach. A study using grounded theory is likely to begin with a question, or even just with the collection of qualitative data. As researchers review the data collected, repeated ideas, concepts or elements become apparent, and are tagged with codes, which have been extracted from the data. As more data is collected, and re-reviewed, codes can be grouped into concepts, and then into categories. These categories may become the basis for new theory. Thus, grounded theory is quite different from the traditional model of research, where the researcher chooses an existing theoretical framework, and only then collects data to show how the theory does or does not apply to the phenomenon under study.

Narrative inquiry or narrative analysis emerged as a discipline from within the broader field of qualitative research in the early 20th century. Narrative inquiry uses field texts, such as stories, autobiography, journals, field notes, letters, conversations, interviews, family stories, photos, and life experience, as the units of analysis to research and understand the way people create meaning in their lives as narratives.

A literature review or narrative review is a type of review article. A literature review is a scholarly paper, which includes the current knowledge including substantive findings, as well as theoretical and methodological contributions to a particular topic. Literature reviews are secondary sources, and do not report new or original experimental work. Most often associated with academic-oriented literature, such reviews are found in academic journals, and are not to be confused with book reviews that may also appear in the same publication. Literature reviews are a basis for research in nearly every academic field. A narrow-scope literature review may be included as part of a peer-reviewed journal article presenting new research, serving to situate the current study within the body of the relevant literature and to provide context for the reader. In such a case, the review usually precedes the methodology and results sections of the work.

A research design is the set of methods and procedures used in collecting and analyzing measures of the variables specified in the problem research. The design of a study defines the study type and sub-type, research problem, hypotheses, independent and dependent variables, experimental design, and, if applicable, data collection methods and a statistical analysis plan. A research design is a framework that has been created to find answers to research questions.

Axial coding is the breaking down of core themes during qualitative data analysis. Axial coding in grounded theory is the process of relating codes to each other, via a combination of inductive and deductive thinking. The basic framework of generic relationships is understood, according to Strauss and Corbin who propose the use of a "coding paradigm", to include categories related to (1) the phenomenon under study, (2) the conditions related to that phenomenon, (3) the actions and interactional strategies directed at managing or handling the phenomenon and (4) the consequences of the actions/interactions related to the phenomenon. As Kelle underlines, the implicit or explicit theoretical framework necessary to identify categories in empirical data is derived, in the procedures explicated by Strauss and Corbin (1990), from a "general model of action rooted in pragmatist and interactionist social theory". This model or theoretical framework underlines the importance of "analysing and modelling action and interaction strategies of the actors". Axial coding is a cornerstone of Strauss and Corbin’s approach but is regarded by Charmaz (2006) as highly structured and optional.

In the social sciences, coding is an analytical process in which data, in both quantitative form or qualitative form are categorized to facilitate analysis.

A research question is the objective of a study or a problem to be solved through research. Choosing a research question is an essential element of both quantitative and qualitative research. The research question can take different forms depending on the type of research, such as a thesis statement for academic research or a hypothesis to test a scientific query. To form a research question, one must determine what type of study will be conducted such as a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed study. Additional factors, such as project funding, may not only affect the research question itself but also when and how it is formed during the research process. Literature suggests several variations on criteria selection for constructing a research question, such as the FINER or PICOT methods. Answering the research question may involve observation, experimentation, literature review, and/or consulting relevant resources, including primary and secondary sources, as well as other forms of investigation.

Sally Elizabeth Thorne PhD, FAAN, FCAHS, RN is a Canadian academic nursing teacher, researcher and author. She researched the human experience of chronic illness and cancer, and qualitative research methodologies including metasynthesis and interpretive description.

Thematic analysis is one of the most common forms of analysis within qualitative research. It emphasizes pinpointing, examining, and recording patterns of meaning within data. There is no one definition of a theme. For some thematic analysis proponents, themes are patterns of shared meaning across data items, underpinned by a central concept, that are important to the understanding of a phenomenon and are associated with a specific research question. For others, themes are simply summaries of information related to a particular topic or data domain, there is no requirement for shared meaning organised around a central concept. Although these two conceptualisations are often associated with particular approaches to thematic analysis they are often confused and conflated. Thematic analysis is best thought of as an umbrella term for a variety of different approaches, rather than a singular method. Different versions of thematic analysis are underpinned by different philosophical and conceptual assumptions and are divergent in terms of procedure. Leading thematic analysis proponents, psychologists Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke, distinguish between three main types of thematic analysis - coding reliability, code book and reflexive. They describe their own widely used approach as reflexive thematic analysis.

Norman K. Denzin American sociologist

Norman Kent Denzin is an American professor of sociology. He is an emeritus professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where he was research professor of communications, College of Communications scholar, professor of sociology, professor of cinema studies, professor in the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory. Denzin's academic interests include interpretive theory, performance studies, qualitative research methodology, and the study of media, culture and society.

Biographical research is a qualitative research approach aligned to the social interpretive paradigm of research. The biographical research is concerned with the reconstruction of life histories and the constitution of meaning based on biographical narratives and documents. The material for analysis consists of interview protocols (memorandums), video recordings, photographs, and a diversity of sources. These documents are evaluated and interpreted according to specific rules and criteria. The starting point for this approach is the understanding of an individual biography in terms of its social constitution. The biographical approach was influenced by the symbolic interactionism, the phenomenological sociology of knowledge, and ethnomethodology. Therefore, biography is understood in terms of a social construct and the reconstruction of biographies can give insight on social processes and figurations, thus helping to bridge the gap between micro-, meso-, and macro- levels of analysis. The biographical approach is particularly important in German sociology. This approach is used in the Social Sciences as well as in Pedagogy and other disciplines. The Research Committee 38 "Biography and Society" of the International Sociological Association (ISA) was created in 1984 and is dedicated "to help develop a better understanding of the relations between individual lives, the social structures and historical processes within which they take shape and which they contribute to shape, and the individual accounts of biographical experience ".


  1. Irny, S.I. and Rose, A.A. (2005) “Designing a Strategic Information Systems Planning Methodology for Malaysian Institutes of Higher Learning (isp- ipta), Issues in Information System, Volume VI, No. 1, 2005.
  2. 1 2 Methodology Usage Notes, entry at Merriam–Webster
  3. Baskerville, R. (1991). "Risk Analysis as a Source of Professional Knowledge". Computers & Security. 10 (8): 749–764.
  4. Howell, K. E. (2013) Introduction to the Philosophy of Methodology. London: Sage Publications
  5. Katsicas, Sokratis K. (2009). "Chapter 35". In Vacca, John (ed.). Computer and Information Security Handbook. Morgan Kaufmann Publications. Elsevier Inc. p. 605. ISBN   978-0-12-374354-1.
  6. See, for example, Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago, 1970, 2nd ed.)
  7. 1 2 George M. Frankfurter, Theory and Reality in Financial Economics: Essays Toward a New Political Finance

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