Module 8: Describing Your Methodology

You have prepared your readers for your review in the Introduction by telling them what you are reviewing, why it is important and how you have constrained your research to limit it to a manageable size. You have identified your research questions to tantalize your readers.

NOW it is time to get down to writing the bulk of your paper which includes the Methodology and Analysis and Discussion. The Methodology tells you how you found the research and the following section actually presents the review. Writing your Analysis and Discussion will be discussed in the next module.

While the Methodology that you will write for this review is not always included in the typical published journal reviews that you have been reading in your research, it is something that you will use to validate your research. The importance of the methodology is that it allows you to demonstrate your search's thoroughness to your readers so that they can personally decide how comprehensive your searches might be. If your readers feel that you have approached your research properly, then they will continue to read your Analysis and Discussion of the literature collection. You might say that your Methodology section provides the credibility which is the foundation of your whole review.

You will need to explain the search methods you used to find your resources. That isn't too difficult, but then you need to describe how you decided what to include. Once your search yielded a huge list of possible resources, you need to specify the orderly process you used to make the best selection of your bountiful harvest.

You will also have to explain how you ultimately selected your resources. Your criteria for selection might include indicators like date (5 years or less if possible), reputable journal, frequently-cited author, quality of research, large enough sample size, methodology, quality of the research, etc.

So what are the topics that need to be covered in the Methodology? It's simply a matter of explaining the process:
  1. You begin by explaining how you gathered your resources. Which specific search engines did you use and what terms/phrases did you use for your search?
  2. You were presented with hundreds or thousands of resources. You didn't have time to review all of the abstracts and resources. You had to decide which abstracts to review. You needed to make decisions about which sources to analyze. Explain your strategy for deciding which sources "made the first cut."
  3. Once you decided which sources to trust, what procedures did you use to analyze the sources to identify if they are reliable enough to consider them for your review.
  4. When you have winnowed your collection of reliable resources, explain the criteria that you used to decide which resources will be relevant to your review.

Examples of Methodologies

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