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Short description: Coherent and logical theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study

Methodology is the study of research methods,[1][2] or, more formally, "'a contextual framework for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choices researchers [or other users] make".[3][4]

It comprises the theoretical analysis of the body of methods and principles associated with a branch of knowledge such that the methodologies employed from differing disciplines vary depending on their historical development. This creates a continuum of methodologies[5] that stretch across competing understandings of how knowledge and reality are best understood. This situates methodologies within overarching philosophies and approaches.[6]

Methodology may be visualized as a spectrum from a predominantly quantitative approach towards a predominantly qualitative approach.[7] Although a methodology may conventionally sit specifically within one of these approaches, researchers may blend approaches in answering their research objectives and so have methodologies that are multimethod and/or interdisciplinary.[8][9][10]

In general, a methodology proposes to provide solutions - therefore, the same as a method.[10][11] Instead, a methodology offers a theoretical perspective for understanding which method, set of methods, or best practices can be applied to the research question(s) at hand.


Some definitions of methodology include:

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

In natural sciences

The methodology underlying a type of DNA sequencing.

The natural sciences (astronomy, biology, chemistry, geoscience, and physics) draw their study of methods through the scientific method.[12] This is a quantitative approach influenced through the philosophy of empiricism that posits knowledge (see epistemology) can only be obtained through direct, verifiable observations. The scientific method offers a defined set of best practice to observe the world through established methods such as characterizations, hypotheses, predictions, and experimentation. A key distinguishing feature of this methodology is that it sets out not to prove knowledge, or facts, "right", but rather it primarily sets out to prove something "wrong" or false (see falsifiability). A cornerstone of this is the null hypothesis that states there is no connection (see causality) between whatever is being observed. That it is the researcher's position to do all they can to disprove their own hypothesis through relevant methods or techniques, documented in a clear and replicable process, to such an extent that they can disprove the null hypothesis and therefore accept the alternative hypothesis that there is a relationship between what they have observed.[13]

In social sciences

The social sciences derive their study of methods from a broader continuum of methodologies (e.g. qualitative research) than the natural sciences do.[14]

Related concepts

Methodology has several related concepts: 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.[15] 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.[16]


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.[17] See Kuhn, Paradigm Shift.


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.

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.

The economist George M. Frankfurter has argued that the word method is not interchangeable for methodology, and in contemporary scientific discourse is a "pretentious substitute for the word method".[18] He argues that 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 test research.[18]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 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. "Methodology Usage Notes", entry at Merriam–Webster
  2. 2.0 2.1 Baskerville, R. (1991). "Risk Analysis as a Source of Professional Knowledge". Computers & Security 10 (8): 749–764. doi:10.1016/0167-4048(91)90094-T. 
  3. Kara, Helen (2015). Creative research methods in the social sciences: a practical guide. Gergen, Kenneth J., Gergen, Mary M.. Bristol: Policy Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-4473-1627-5. OCLC 908273802. 
  4. Creative arts research: narratives of methodologies and practices. Grierson, Elizabeth; Brearley, Laura; Hamm, Treahna. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers. 2009. ISBN 978-90-8790-995-6. OCLC 551433734. 
  5. Cooper, Barry (8 March 2012). Challenging the qualitative-quantitative divide: explorations in case-focused causal analysis. A&C Black. ISBN 978-1-4411-0063-4. OCLC 793207861. 
  6. Niglas, Katrin (2010), "The Multidimensional Model of Research Methodology: An Integrated Set of Continua", SAGE Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research (SAGE Publications, Inc.): pp. 215–236, doi:10.4135/9781506335193.n9, ISBN 978-1-4129-7266-6,, retrieved 2020-10-28 
  7. Newman, Isadore. (1998). Qualitative-quantitative research methodology: exploring the interactive continuum. Benz, Carolyn R.. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-585-17889-5. OCLC 44962443. 
  8. 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.
  9. Andiappan, Viknesh; Wan, Yoke Kin (2020-04-01). "Distinguishing approach, methodology, method, procedure and technique in process systems engineering". Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy 22 (3): 547–555. doi:10.1007/s10098-020-01819-w. ISSN 1618-9558. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Brookshier, Kathryn (2018-05-30). "Method vs. methodology: understanding the difference". 
  11. Campbell, Steve (2016). "Perspectives: Method and methodology in nursing research". Journal of Research in Nursing 21 (8): 656–659. doi:10.1177/1744987116679583. ISSN 1744-9871. 
  12. Lakatos, Imre, 1922-1974. (1978). Philosophical papers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-21644-3. OCLC 2896185. 
  13. Çaparlar, Ceyda Özhan; Dönmez, Aslı (2016). "What is Scientific Research and How Can it be Done?". Turkish Journal of Anaesthesiology and Reanimation 44 (4): 212–218. doi:10.5152/TJAR.2016.34711. ISSN 2149-0937. PMID 27909596. 
  14. Hollis, Martin (14 May 2014). The philosophy of social science : an introduction. Cambridge [England]. ISBN 978-1-139-07679-1. OCLC 782950418. 
  15. Howell, K. E. (2013) Introduction to the Philosophy of Methodology. London: Sage Publications
  16. Katsicas, Sokratis K. (2009). "Chapter 35". in Vacca, John. Computer and Information Security Handbook. Morgan Kaufmann Publications. Elsevier Inc. p. 605. ISBN 978-0-12-374354-1. 
  17. See, for example, Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago, 1970, 2nd ed.)
  18. 18.0 18.1 George M. Frankfurter, Theory and Reality in Financial Economics: Essays Toward a New Political Finance.

Further reading

  • 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 Science Research Network (SSRN), online.
  • Howell, K. E. (2013) Introduction to the Philosophy of Methodology. London, UK: Sage Publications.
  • Ndira, 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
  • Soeters, Joseph; Shields, Patricia and Rietjens, Sebastiaan. 2014. Handbook of Research Methods in Military Studies New York: Routledge.

External links