Dissertation examiners always check the methods chapter or methodological writings carefully. And the more the doctorate is seen as research training, the more important it will be for examiners to make sure that the relevant writings in the thesis really do indicate that the researcher can do the technical stuff properly. So here’s my list of what I look for in methods chapters and/or methodological writings, and what I’ve seen other examiners look for. To know the worst is to be better prepared. Well, that’s the goal.
1. The researcher does not know the difference between methodology and methods.
2. The researcher has written a long essay about epistemology and ontology. They have named their own stance but have failed to develop what it means for their subsequent choices of methodology and research design.
3. The methodology does not fit with the theoretical framework and/or the research tradition of the proposed study.
4. The researcher has failed to discuss debates within the research tradition in which they are working.
5. There is very little or no explanation of why this methodology has been chosen. The fit with the research questions is not made clear. Or…
6. The methodological approach and the research design do not fit at all.
7. The methodology is inadequately justified through reference to the relevant literatures.
8. The blank and blind spots, that, is the limits of the methodology, and/or the research design, are not considered.
9. The researcher has not considered their own positioning and the way that it might influence both the conduct and the results of the research.
10. The researcher has not adequately discussed the research design – the sample, the choice of methods, and the analytic approach – the relevant literatures have barely been canvassed.
11. There is no fit between the data that will be produced through the use of these methods and the data that is needed to answer the research questions.
12. There is a cursory treatment of ethics. This is especially difficult if the epistemological and methodological choices suggest this is a crucial issue.
13. There is no audit trail. There is a lack of information about what was actually done, with whom, when, where and the corpus of data that was produced.