The Method of Writing the Method

Like other parts of your thesis, there are different ways to approach your Method section. Obviously, studies can be qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods. While I will focus on the qualitative side here, for all approaches, you must effectively communicate to your audience what you are aiming to discover, what you will examine for the study and how you will examine it.

Structure of this section:
I. Research Questions
II. Methodology
III. Sample
IV. How you will conduct the research (operationalization)

Research Questions
These are the big conceptual questions that guide your study (and not super detailed questions that help you in your analysis).
Good example of a conceptual question:  How is gender constructed in prime-time television programs of the 1990s? (a nice broad question)
Poor example: What does the dialogue between Chandler and Monica tell us about gender in the 1990s? 
(not broad–this is an operational question)

Which specific methodology will you use (i.e. focus groups, interviews, narrative analysis, discourse analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis, framing analysis, semiotic analysis)?  Using sources, lay out the methodology, defining key terms and applications. Make sure you clearly convey why this methodology is appropriate for your study.

The Sample
Here’s where you explain specifically what you will examine to explore your research questions. For audience studies, identify how you recruited, the demographics of your group, and other details.  With textual studies, specify exactly what text you will analyze (i.e. the pilot episodes of seven situation comedies that originally aired in prime-time in the years 1994-1997–NAMING THE SHOWS).  You should be so specific that other researchers could easily locate your sample.
In this section, give a brief overview of the text, explaining why you included it, at the same time, explaining why you didn’t go another route. Keep your synopsis of your texts somewhat brief. In your Findings section, you can add details of characters as needed. To justify your sample, you may incorporate ratings and awards to justify your choice. . . KEEP IT SHORT THOUGH.

How you will conduct the research (operationalization)
This is the place for the nuts and bolts of your research process, the map, if you will, of what you are doing. For audience research, outline how you will conduct the research (what you will specifically do for the interviews or focus groups, including incentives and the list of questions).  For text, describe all of the operationalized questions that allow you to answer your research questions.  Depending on the type of text, you might include details about aesthetics, language, dialogue, musical score, character relationships, clothing, text, images, camera shots, lighting, position, setting and other components that make up a narrative.  You may use secondary literature to set up what you will investigate for your analysis. For example, in looking at constructions of Roma (“gypsies”) in television, my co-author, Dr. Adina Schneeweis and I brought in studies on stereotypes of Roma in our operational section to explain why clothing and certain costumes were indicative of negative stereotyping.  See Schneeweis. Foss. Representations of Roma for our journal article on this study.

As I stated earlier, this section guides the reader into your analysis.

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