How to write / perfect the methodology ? This section often follows the state of the art, so it is the third section of your scientific paper. Sometimes this section is called Materials & Methods but we will not talk here about experimental protocols in biology, mechanics, etc.

parfaire la méthodologie

Perfect the methodology, define the objectives

Your methods section is your opportunity to share how you conducted your research and why you chose the methods you did. This is also the place to show that your research has been rigorously conducted and can be reproduced.

This gives your research legitimacy and situates it within your field, and also gives your readers somewhere to refer if they have any questions. questions or reviews in other sections.

Methodology refers to the overall strategy and rationale for your research project. It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your goals.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyze data (for example, experiments, surveys, and statistical tests).

In shorter scientific articles, where the aim is to report the results of a specific study, you can simply describe what you did in a methods section.

In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation, you will likely include a methods section, where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.

Say the why and how

You can start by presenting your overall approach to your research. You have two options here.

Option 1: Start with your “what”

What problem or research question have you studied?

  • Want to describe the characteristics of something?
  • Explore an under-researched topic?
  • Establish a causal relationship?

And what type of data did you need to achieve this goal?

  • Quantitative data, qualitative data or a mixture of the two?
  • Primary data collected by yourself or secondary data collected by someone else?
  • Experimental data collected by controlling and manipulating variables, or descriptive data collected through observations?

Option 2: Start with your “why”

Depending on your discipline, you may also begin with a discussion of the rationale and assumptions underlying your methodology. In other words, why did you choose these methods for your study?

  • Why is this the best way to answer your research question?
  • Is this a standard methodology in your field or does it require justification?
  • Were there ethical considerations in your choices?
  • What are the criteria for validity and reliability in this type of research?

Describe data collection (if necessary)

Once you have presented your methodological approach to your reader, you should share all the details about your data collection methods.

Quantitative methods

To be considered generalizable, you must describe quantitative research methods in enough detail that another researcher can replicate your study.

Here, explain how you operationalized your concepts and measured your variables. Discuss your sampling method or inclusion and exclusion criteria, as well as the tools, procedures, and materials you used to collect your data.


Describe where, when and how the investigation was conducted.

  • How did you design the questionnaire?
  • What form did your questions take (e.g., multiple choice, Likert scale)?
  • Were your surveys conducted in person or virtually?
  • What sampling method did you use to select participants?
  • What was your sample size and response rate?


Share full details of the tools, techniques, and procedures you used to conduct your experiment.

  • How did you design the experience?
  • How did you recruit participants?
  • How did you manipulate and measure the variables?
  • What tools did you use?

Existing data

Explain how you gathered and selected the material (such as datasets or archival data) that you used in your analysis.

  • Where did you find the material?
  • How was the data originally produced?
  • What criteria did you use to select the material (e.g. date range)?

Qualitative methods

In qualitative research, methods are often more flexible and subjective. For this reason, it is crucial to robustly explain the methodological choices you have made.

Be sure to discuss the criteria you used to select your data, the context in which your research was conducted, and the role you played in collecting your data (for example, were you an active participant or a passive observer?)

Interviews or focus groups

Describe where, when and how the interviews were conducted.

  • How did you find and select the participants?
  • How many participants participated?
  • What form did the interviews take (structured, semi-structured or unstructured)?
  • How long did the interviews last?
  • How were they recorded?

Participant observation

Describe where, when, and how you conducted the observation or ethnography.

  • What group or community did you observe? How long did you spend there?
  • How did you get into this group? What role have you played in the community?
  • How much time did you spend conducting the research? Where was it located?
  • How did you record your data (e.g. audiovisual recordings, note taking)?

Existing data

Explain how you selected the case study materials for your analysis.

  • What type of materials did you analyze?
  • How did you select them?

Mixed methods

Mixed methods research combines quantitative and qualitative approaches. If a stand-alone quantitative or qualitative study is insufficient to answer your research question, mixed methods may be right for you.

Keep in mind that mixed methods research doesn't just mean collecting both types of data. Rather, it encompasses careful consideration and integration of both types of data into robust conclusions.

Describe the method/analysis used

Next, you need to indicate how you processed and analyzed your data. Avoid going into too much detail: you should not start presenting or discussing your results at this stage.

Quantitative methods

In quantitative research, your analysis will be based on numbers. In your methods section, you can include:

  • How you prepared the data before analyzing it (e.g. checking for missing data, removing outliers, transforming variables)
  • What software you used (for example, SPSS, Stata or R)
  • What statistical tests you used (e.g. two-tailed t-test, regression simple linear)

Qualitative methods

In qualitative research, your analysis will be based on language, images and observations (often involving some form of textual analysis).

Specific methods may include:

  • Content analysis: categorize and discuss the meaning of words, phrases and sentences
  • Thematic analysis: Coding and in-depth examination of data to identify major themes and patterns
  • Discourse analysis: studying communication and meaning in relation to their social context

Mixed methods

Mixed methods combine the two research methods above, integrating both qualitative and quantitative approaches into a cohesive analytical process.

Then justify your choices

Above all, your methodology section should clearly explain why you chose the methods you did. This is especially true if you haven't taken the most standard approach to your topic.

If so, explain why other methods were not suitable for your goals and show how this approach provides new knowledge or understanding.

Either way, it should be abundantly clear to your reader that you are setting yourself up for success in terms of your methodology design.

Show how your methods should lead to valid and reliable results, while leaving the analysis of the meaning, importance and relevance of your results for your discussion section.

You can acknowledge the limitations or weaknesses of your chosen approach, but justify why they were outweighed by the strengths. Here are some examples:

Quantitative: Laboratory experiments cannot always accurately simulate real-world situations and behaviors, but they are effective at testing causal relationships between variables.

Qualitative: Unstructured interviews typically produce results that cannot be generalized beyond the sample group, but they provide a deeper understanding of participants' perceptions, motivations, and emotions.

Mixed methods: Despite the problems of systematically comparing different types of data, a purely quantitative study would not sufficiently integrate the lived experience of each participant, while a purely qualitative study would be insufficiently generalizable.

Some writing tips

Remember, your goal is not just to describe your methods, but to show how and why you applied them. Again, it is essential to demonstrate that your research has been conducted with rigor and can be replicated.

The methodology section should clearly show why your methods are suitable for your objectives and convince the reader that you have chosen the best possible approach to answer your problem statement and research questions.

Your methodology can be strengthened by referencing existing research in your field. This can help you:

  • Show that you followed established practice for your type of research
  • Discuss how you decided on your approach by evaluating existing research
  • Present a new methodological approach to fill a gap in the literature

Consider the amount of information you need to give and avoid being too long. If you use standard methods for your discipline, you probably don't need to give much information or justification.

Either way, your methodology should be a clear, well-structured text that makes the case for your approach, not just a list of technical details and procedures.