How to Write Methodologies for Dissertations and Theses: Top Tips and Best Practices

This guide to how to write methodologies will tell you everything you need to know to nail the methodology section of your dissertation or thesis and set you on the right path to impress the review panel.

Before we dive into the specifics of what information should be included in methodologies, let’s have a quick recap on the overall structure of a thesis or dissertation. If you’re unsure of the difference between the two, read our guide to what is a dissertation.

Sections in a Thesis or Dissertation

In our guide to the thesis structure, we described how dissertations and theses are typically divided into six sections:

Six sections in a thesis or dissertation

  • Introduction: Introduces the topic of the research and contextualizes your study within the broader field of research. You may explain why your dissertation or thesis is valuable to your area of interest.
  • Literature Review: Presents an in-depth examination of the existing literature related to your research topic, highlighting key findings and any gap in the literature that your study aims to address.
  • Methodology: Outlines the research methods employed in your study and the associated data collection and analysis processes.
  • Results: Presents the research findings.
  • Discussion: Explores how the research findings relate to your research question and plug any existing gaps in understanding.
  • Conclusion: Summarizes your dissertation or thesis findings and how it answers the main research question. Shares reflections on the overall research process together with recommendations for future research.

In this article, we are going to focus specifically on one of these sections: The methodology.

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What are Methodologies?

The methodology is the process you’ll use to collect and analyze data for your research. It’s like a roadmap for your dissertation or thesis research, guiding you from start to finish.

This is where it gets complicated. You can choose from several different methodologies to guide your research. However, we can broadly divide methodologies into three types: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods.

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative methodologies focus on collecting non-numerical data; for instance, opinions, processes, experiences, perspectives, and attitudes. They can involve a range of methods, including interviews, focus groups, and observations.

Quantitative Research Methods

Quantitative methodologies involve collecting numerical data through questionnaires, surveys, experiments, and other forms of data collection. If you have engaged in research that involves statistical analyses and hypotheses testing, this is the approach for you.

Mixed Methods Research

As the name suggests, mixed methods research combines quantitative and qualitative approaches. This methodology can provide a more comprehensive understanding of a research topic, as it combines the depth of qualitative data with the statistical power of quantitative data.

When choosing a methodology for your dissertation or thesis, it’s important to consider your research question and the type of data you’ll need to collect to answer that question. You should also keep in mind the resources that are available to you, such as time, budget, and access to participants.

Why are Methodologies Important?

The methodology section of your dissertation or thesis gives you the chance to discuss your research methods and how they helped you respond to the research question. Methodologies are also great for demonstrating that your research was carefully executed and can be replicated.

The methodology establishes the credibility of your study, places it within the context of your field, and gives your readers a good insight into the process you followed.

How to Write Methodologies for Dissertations and Theses

You can write your dissertation or thesis methodology in four simple steps.

An infographic showing the process for writing methodologies

Step 1: Explain your research question

The first step in writing a methodology section is to share the research question your dissertation or thesis aimed to answer. This question should have guided your entire research project; as such, you should already be very clear as to what your research question is. Make sure you present it in a way that is specific, measurable, and achievable within the time and resources available to you.

See our guide to how to write a research question for more assistance.

Step 2: Describe your methods of data collection and/or selection

Having outlined the research question, explain the data collection process you engaged in to generate information that could help you answer it. What research approach did you adopt? Qualitative? Quantitative? Mixed? Explain why you chose that methodology and rejected the alternatives.

How did the approach you took make the most sense for your research?

Include important details such as the sample size, data collection tools, and analysis procedures. Be as specific as possible and make sure your methods were aligned with your research question.

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Step 3: Describe your methods of analysis

Next, you should clearly outline how you analyzed the data after you had collected it. Take note! This section of your methodology is not concerned with presenting or discussing your data or findings.

The aim here is to explain the processes you followed to gather, process, and analyze the data. Avoid going into too much detail—you should not start presenting or discussing any of your results at this stage.

Step 4: Evaluate and justify your methodological choices

The final step in writing methodologies is to justify your choices.

Why did you choose the methodology you did? What made that particular approach the most suitable for your research question?

Answering these questions will help you build a compelling argument for your methodology and demonstrate the validity of your research. This puts you in a great position from which you can progress to present your research findings.

What Tense Should Research Methodologies be Written In?

According to the majority of style guides–for example, the APA rules–the research methodology section of your dissertation or thesis should be written in the past tense because it describes judgements and work you have already completed.

However, you should always check the specifics of the academic style guide you are following; for example, the MLA style guide.

Things to Avoid When Writing Methodologies

Including Irrelevant Information

The methodology of your thesis or dissertation should be in-depth but concise. Don’t include any background material when writing methodologies unless it clearly helps the reader to understand the rationale behind the approach you have chosen, the methods used to collect or obtain the data, and the process and tools you used to analyze it.

Going Into Too Much Detail About Simple Procedures

Keep in mind that you are not creating a how-to manual for the methodology you have chosen. You shouldn’t go into great detail about specific methodological approaches. Rather, assume that the readers have a fundamental understanding of academic research processes. Highlight how you applied the method rather than the nitty-gritty of how you executed it.

An exception though: If you choose an unconventional approach to the procedure, this guideline may not apply. You may need to explain why this method was chosen and how it improves the overall research process.

Problem Blindness

You almost certainly will run into issues while gathering or manipulating your data. Do not dismiss or deny these issues ever happened. An intriguing component of the process is detailing how you overcame the challenges you inevitably encountered. It shows the reader that you can offer a convincing justification for the choices you made to reduce the negative impacts of any issues you came across.

Failing to Include Citations

Make sure you cite any sources that influenced the development of your methodology. Yes, this section of the paper is not a literature review. However, you should be open about how your decisions to pursue certain methodologies were guided by the work of others. For instance, you may have developed a survey that built upon an existing instrument or a prominent theory may have informed your questionnaire. When writing your methodology, make sure you clearly inform the reader about your sources of inspiration.

Top 100 US Universities for 2023: Official Vappingo Guide

If you’ve completed college and set your sights on pursuing further education, the next tough decision you’ll face is which universities you will apply for admission to.

Like many students, you may aspire to study in the US. But which are the top US universities?

The United States has produced many world-renowned colleges; after all, it is home to the venerable Ivy League! Their universities and colleges enjoy a solid reputation around the globe, luring students from all around the world to study under some of the top experts in their field.

Universities in the United States consistently dominate the top-ranking list, making them the world’s most esteemed and respected business, medical, and legal schools. There are a wealth of options for places in the United States where you can pursue a bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD at a highly regarded and distinguished organization.

If you’re dwelling on your 2023 US university application, now’s the time to do some research into what you can expect and what’s on offer. In some cases, the schools that are labelled the “best” may not be right for your needs. However, having insight into how the respective universities are ranked can help you ensure that the school you are interested in is respected before you engage in the gruelling process of writing a statement of purpose.


Top 100 US Universities for 2023: Rankings Explained

Vappingo’s list of the best universities in the US highlights institutions that provide a high-quality education at an affordable price, produce high earners after graduation, and help students become successful business owners and significant figures in their industries.

Topping the charts for 2023 is Harvard University because it achieves all of the above and more. In more recent years, the Massachusetts Institution of Technology has been gradually rising in prominent university rankings tables; as such, it is certainly one to watch.

To develop our rankings, we consulted three notable university ranking sources. The Times Higher Education Ranking, the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking, and the US News & World Report Ranking. These three sources each have a slightly different focus; as such, in combination, they give you a reliable holistic overview of what you can expect.

The Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings consider the standing of the research conducted by universities as well as the frequency with which their articles and academic papers have been cited internationally in established journals. These rankings give you a good insight into the quality of research being performed by the university.

The Shanghai Jiao Tong University-created Academic Ranking of World Universities places an emphasis on the number of prize-winning scientists, the most often cited researchers from the universities, and their contributions to the scientific community. These rankings give you a good insight into the calibre of the faculty on offer at the university.

U.S. News & World Report’s Best Global Universities Rankings examines student retention rates in second years of study as well as university graduation rates. The effectiveness of universities is also surveyed through research involving university representatives. These rankings give you a good insight into the levels of student satisfaction.

Top 100 US Universities for 2023



Times Higher Education Ranking (2023)  Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking (2022)  U.S. News & World Report Ranking (2023) 
Harvard University 2 1 1
Stanford University 3 2 3
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 5 3 2
California Institute of Technology – Caltech 6 9 9
Princeton University 7 6 16
University of California, Berkeley 8 5 4
Yale University 9 11 11
Columbia University 11 8 7
University of Chicago 13 10 22
University of Pennsylvania 14 15 15
Johns Hopkins University 15 14 10
Cornell University 20 12 21
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) 21 13 14
University of Michigan 23 28 19
New York University 24 25 31
Duke University 25 31 25
Northwestern University 26 30 24
University of Washington 26 17 6
Carnegie Mellon University 28 101 118
University of California, San Diego 32 21 20
Georgia Institute of Technology 38 151 51
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign 48 49 74
University of Texas at Austin 50 37 43
Washington University in St. Louis 57 27 32
Brown University 61 99 129
University of California, Davis 63 101 73
University of California, Santa Barbara 64 57 67
University of Southern California 65 53 80
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill 69 29 41
Boston University 71 101 70
University of Wisconsin Madison 81 33 63
Emory University 82 101 72
University of California, Irvine (UCI) 95 61 84
Vanderbilt University 98 64 78
University of Minnesota 101 44
University of Maryland 104 50 57
Michigan State University 106 151 116
The Ohio State University 112 101 55
Dartmouth College 123 301 261
Purdue University 127 83 140
Purdue University – Online 127 83 140
Case Western Reserve University 134 101 152
Georgetown University 136 401 324
University of Pittsburgh 144 82 45
Rice University 147 101 180
University of Colorado at Boulder 148 51 70
Pennsylvania State University 151 101 84
Tufts University 151 151 239
University of Florida 151 94 98
University of Rochester 154 151 170
Arizona State University 156 101 156
University of Virginia 156 201 119
Northeastern University 168 201 194
Indiana University – IUx 170
Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis 170 301 500
Indiana University Bloomington 170 101 152
Indiana University East 170
Indiana University Kokomo 170
Indiana University Northwest 170
Indiana University of Pennsylvania 170
Indiana University South Bend 170
Indiana University Southeast 170
The University of Arizona 180 101 108
Texas A&M University 181 151 148
University of Massachusetts Amherst 191 151 160
University of Massachusetts Boston 191 901 487
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth 191
University of Massachusetts Lowell 191 901
University of Massachusetts Medical School – Worcester 191 201 441
University of California, Santa Cruz 192 151 105
University of Miami 194 201 253
George Washington University 201 201 271
Rutgers University 201 101 143
University of Notre Dame 201 301 322
University of South Florida 201 201 317
Boston College 251 401 618
Oregon Health & Science University 251 201 165
University of California, Riverside 251 201 186
University of Hawaii at Manoa 251 301 394
University of Illinois at Chicago 251 301 250
University of Utah 251 101 167
Virginia Tech 251 201 265
Anschutz Medical Campus 301 174
Brandeis University 301 301 409
Drexel University 301 301 352
Florida State University 301 201 241
George Mason University 301 201 478
Saint Louis University 301 601 649
Stony Brook University 301 301 206
Temple University 301 401 309
The University of Iowa 301 201 180
University at Buffalo 301 301 286
University at Buffalo SUNY – School of Engineering and Applied Sciences 301 301 286
University of California, Merced 301 401 673
University of Tennessee Knoxville 301 201 225
Howard University 351 767
North Carolina State University 351 201 230
Rush University 351 501 486
The University of New Mexico 351 501 311
Tulane University 351 601 450


How to Rewrite Your Thesis as a Journal Article with Minimum Effort

So, you’ve finished your thesis, passed your viva, and now want to share your amazing research findings far and wide. To do so, you will need to figure out how to rewrite your thesis as a journal article.

How to rewrite your thesis as a dissertation

As we’ve already established, it is acceptable to rewrite your thesis or dissertation; it’s extremely common among scholars and professors.

However, remember that a thesis is a different beast from a journal article. Journal articles and theses are intended for different audiences and serve different purposes. What’s more, if you want your work to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, you’ll need to ensure you present your research methodology and findings in the correct style and adhere to the expectations of your target journal. Oh, and you’ll most certainly want to make sure it is free of error. That’s where dissertation proofreading services can come in handy ?

In this post, you’ll learn the difference between a thesis and a journal article, why you need to tone down your introduction, how you can get a bigger bang for your buck by rewriting one dissertation or thesis into multiple articles, and why you need to skip the lengthy definitions.

So let’s dive straight in.

The Difference Between a Thesis and a Journal Article

Most undergraduate and graduate programmes cumulate in students completing long discourses known as dissertations or theses. These in-depth papers serve an educational function and must be submitted to a committee that determines if the candidate deserves a degree. As a result, a thesis or dissertation aims to showcase how much you have learned. With this in mind, many students will include all they know about a topic in a dissertation.

A thesis will usually have a long introduction, an extensive literature review, a full discussion of the study strategy and methods, complex reporting, and an in-depth analysis of the outcomes.

Journal articles are very different to theses and dissertations. They target busy researchers and scientists interested in finding practical, evidence-based ideas. As a result, journal papers must be particularly concentrated in terms of presentation. These papers must follow a certain format, including a brief literature review, a controlled methodology explanation, an overview of the most important findings, and a brief discussion section.

Above all else, it’s essential that you proofread your thesis.

How to Rewrite Your Thesis

Follow the steps outlined below to rewrite your thesis or dissertation as a journal article or book.

  1. Reduce the length of your thesis or dissertation

Because a journal article is significantly shorter than a dissertation or thesis, it necessitates a more concise framework and style. A dissertation might be a few hundred pages long and contain around 20,000 words, but a journal article can be anything from 3000-6000 words long, depending on the area of specialism and the publication. As a result, each portion of the article must be significantly condensed. This may be accomplished by taking information from the thesis and reworking it. See our paraphrasing guide for more helpful hints.

  1. Reduce the length of your abstract

A journal article’s abstract is usually between 150 and 250 words long. A dissertation abstract, on the other hand, is typically 350 words long. However, requirements do vary from publication to publication. Make sure you check the style guide for your target journal. Some publications favour an unstructured abstract, while others have different expectations. In some cases, you may even be required to submit a graphical abstract.

  1. Focus on one research question for each article

This allows you to increase your chances of getting published while getting a bigger bang for your buck.

Students typically demonstrate their understanding of the current literature by including an extensive literature review in their thesis or dissertation. Therefore a thesis normally contains a lengthy introduction that introduces multiple research questions. However, the literature review presented in a journal article should be shorter and limited to a single research question and an overview of what motivated the study. If you have more than one research question in your dissertation or thesis, narrow your focus to one research topic for your journal article. The great thing about this approach is that if you have researched multiple research questions for your thesis or dissertation, you can potentially publish multiple journal articles.

  1. Describe the experiments you conducted, not the research approach

A dissertation’s materials and methods sections typically present a lengthy overview of the research technique and strategy. On the other hand, a journal paper necessitates a more limited explanation of the methods employed. Ideally, you should restrict your discussion to the details of the technique utilised in the research; i.e., the experiments you conducted. It is unnecessary to present an in-depth description of the research strategy in a journal article.

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  1. Limit the discussion of the results to your single research question

A thesis or dissertation normally includes a comprehensive discussion of every outcome in great detail, whereas a journal article merely reports the most important facts. When it comes to journal publications, however, you should observe precise reporting guidelines and only report the outcomes directly related to the research question you have chosen and the associated evidence. If necessary, you can include secondary results as supplemental material.

  1. Reduce the length of your discussion section

Are you spotting a trend here? Yes, once again, if you want to get your dissertation or thesis research findings published in a journal, you’ll need to reduce the discussion section.

The discussion presented in a thesis/discussion is more extensive than that required in a journal article. The dissertation will typically offer a full analysis of all the results to demonstrate the student’s complete comprehension of their data. Furthermore, students are required to engage in substantial conjecture to indicate their interest in future research paths. The journal article should be concise. Try to refrain from repeating your findings; it’s the insights into the findings that we’re interested in.

  1. Limit your references to those included in the journal article

Dissertations usually include an extensive list of sources and, in certain cases, a bibliography. On the other hand, journal papers contain a limited number of references and the reference section only contains works that were directly cited in the journal article. Some journals even limit the number of references you can include. Similarly, while a ‘Definitions’ section is customary in dissertations, you can leave it to one side for your journal publication.

So there we have it. The suggestions outlined should set you in the right direction for rewriting your thesis or dissertation into a journal article. The best things in life don’t just land on your lap. To achieve your dreams of being a published scholar, you will need to invest a lot of time and effort into your paper. However, it will certainly be worth it and could open the door to many new opportunities.

Did you find this post super useful? You may also want to check out the following articles:

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