Need extreme help with methodology (or method ?!)/what options do I have?!


Hi all,
I’m at the beginning of my second year of PhD and am still struggling with what I really wanna do. My focus is on carbon taxation and I want to look at it from equity and acceptability aspects. I have a rough idea about the acceptability part. However, this “equity” part is killing me! At first, I was planning to do some complex economic modelling (general equilibrium models). With no background in economics, I was naïve to think that I can do it. But eventually I was all overwhelmed by the subject and gave up on it (Also, the method uses intensive secondary data collected by governments which are absent in my home country). This method is the main one used in the literature for assessing the equity of simulated carbon tax scenarios. Now, I wonder what other approaches I can take. I came across a theoretical paper developing an equity framework and I thought maybe I can develop and adjust that framework for carbon taxation based on for example literature about carbon taxation and some justice theories and argue why each part of the framework is relevant in my country’s context. However, I don’t know what kind of a research that would be. Is it reasonable and plausible at all? One of my supervisors is always all approving and the other one skeptical about whatever I say. So, I really don’t know what options I have. Any advice or suggestion will be really really appreciated…

Best, Bahareh


Hello Bahareh,
I am sorry you have been struggling to narrow down on the methodology you wanna use. But first I'd need you to elaborate the topic of your study, the problem you're trying to investigate and the dependent and independent variable. This way, we can go back to literature and see how your variables have been tested in the past.

Hope that helps.

Avatar for rewt

Hi Bahareh,

I am in engineering but i can sympathise your predicament. My supervisors also gave no feed back on my methods and simply agreed with whatever I said. So I can understand that it is incredibly frustrating to have no guidance and feel lost.

So my advice is to first find a simple methodology that you can do. As it is easier to incrementally improve a methodology than build an amazing one from scratch. If try a new methodology and can get a trivial result, it is still a result

Focus on what you can do and don't think about what you can't do. If you are having trouble with data sets in your country, what datasets do you have and what is unique about them? At least in my field, if you have unique starting position (dataset, material, process etc.) anything you do with it, however simple, will be novel research. So use the resources you already have available to make everything easier.

Clarify you thesis argument and objectives. You are a year into your PhD so you probably have a better understanding of what you need to write a thesis than when you started. If you break down your original research question you might find that there is one clear question or objective that is crucial to your thesis. If you can focus on answering the most important issue and you can then fill in the gaps with other "fluff". You also might find if you limit your scope slightly you have different options to explore.

You will also fail at some point but you shouldn't try to avoid failing. Instead to aim fail fast and move on. I found that I wasted a huge amount of time worrying about making the right choice when instead I should be doing something. Being proactive will give you a better understanding of your abilities.

I have tried to be as broad as possible above but it might not all apply to non-engineering subjects. However, this all part of the PhD process and if you can overcome this, you deserve a PhD. As research is not easy and learning how to overcome methodology issues is crucial.

I hope that helped