Explaining your choice of methods


Hi all,

I wondered if you could tell me: how far into your thesis is it ok to wait before you explain your choice of methods?

I wrote this long lit review a while back, and started to explain my choice of methods at the end of this. Feedback from my sup was that this was fine. Now I am writing another chapter and she got back to me saying that a lot of this new material should be in my lit review. I agree, but then it means that my choice of method is not justified before page 20+, and after I have done some (very basic) text analysis.

Is that acceptable? Is this an issue I should raise at the next meeting with my sup? I'm a little concerned because my Director of Research has said he would like me to bring the issue of methods earlier than I have, not later - just to be sure I don't get into trouble with a fussy external. Also, my lit review directly informs my choice of method, so I don't see how I can solve this one!

Any advice? At which point exactly do/did you bring that point up in your own work?


My completed (and passed) PhD thesis has a combined lit review / introductory chapter. It starts on page 8 of my final hard-bound thesis. The methodology discussion starts at page 21. Oh and my pages are double-spaced.

I had a similar problem to you, but I teased out the methodology debate from the literature, and I discussed that before I had finished discussing the wider literature.


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Several of my colleagues have been chewed out badly for writing a thesis that was too journal-like, jumbled up and for not keeping the choice of method separate from the literature review of the subject. The choice of methodology is/can be complex, particularly social research. Although one aspect of a literature review could to identify and discuss how the subject has been researched previously, more typically such analysis is included in the methodology chapter to substantiate the choice.

I would try to establish what they are expecting the objectives of the literature review to be, why the methodology is discussed there but not in the methodology chapter, and how they expect it to be implemented.


Thanks Bilbo! And congratulations by the way :)

It reassures me that your methodology section comes a bit "late" too, but I couldn't do things the way you did though - I don't see how it could work for my topic. However, I just thought of another comment from my DoR - he said that because my topic is highly unusual it would be good to announce the plan of the chapter at the very start.
So I'm now thinking I could do two with one stone, with one simple short paragraph. It would explain:
- that method A fails
- that I will first look into how method A has been used (the core of my lit review) to understand the reasons why it fails
- that for those reasons I will explore the potential of method B

I guess it bothers me because this is far too simplistic - my topic is interdisciplinary and I will in fact draw from more methods, which I identify through the failures of methods A and B, the obvious ones. But perhaps I should just refrain from giving any more information in the first few pages - no matter how frustrating. If I understand my DoR's feedback correctly, this would solve the potential problem of an external "panicking" because methodology is not tackled early enough...

I'm meeting with my supervisor tomorrow - I think she's in for a headache ;-)


Hi Patrick!

Thanks for your post.

I guess part of the problem comes from the interdisciplinary nature of my topic.

I am in an English department and I don't think that a thesis in English literature necessarily requires a whole, separate methodology chapter. I was certainly not told to write one. In fact, I wasn't even told to write a literature review! I just did it because it made sense to me, and my own research calls for it. (I know it might sound shocking, but on the other hand, maybe they said nothing because they saw I was doing it anyway - I couldn't tell!).

Because I use "tools" borrowed from social and cultural studies amongst others, I suppose I need to justify my choices a lot more than others in my department. This might explain why I'm struggling a bit, actually.


Ah you're an English literature student Nadia. I was history, so fellow humanities, which is a bit different structure-wise from other subjects, especially the more scientific ones. It's very unusual in my field to have a separate methodology chapter, and it's far more normal for it to be dealt with in a combined lit review / methodology first chapter.

I was having to tease out the methodology other people had used before, and that was a big part of my literature review. I had a huge gap that I was researching, but applying techniques from other countries. So I couldn't separate out the two too much, though I tried a bit in my chapter.

Good luck!


i did this in ch.1 and do not have a separate methodology chapter. i also explained it as i went along whenever it came up.


Thanks BilboBaggins!

I've just met with my supervisor, who confirmed everything you've told me.
She finds that the short paragraph early in the text is a good idea and would be sufficient to prevent any criticism on that point.
She also said it looks like I have been well and very hard... that kind of feedback never ceases to amaze me - I tend to think of myself as a born-procastinator :p

Anyway, problem solved for now! Now I have to get back to it if I want to take those elusive Christmas holidays (tree)


Quote From jojo:

i did this in ch.1 and do not have a separate methodology chapter. i also explained it as i went along whenever it came up.

Thanks Jojo! All of this does reassure me indeed :-)


reporting late to work today. have a day off from work and i've been sitting on my bed since morning doing everything else but viva prep. i think its because its been a while since i just stayed home and did nothing.

so to start me off and get me in the mood i'll watch the viva video. hope i can find it.. :-) and then get on with same strategy as yesterday for ch.2. good things is its bound to be exciting once i get into it.

am i the only one who only discovered academia.edu yesterday? what other useful websites are there for networking with academics. i should probably google my examiner on there.