Methods thesis chapter

Every thesis, regardless of the discipline and field of inquiry it relates to, needs to answer these questions:

  • "How did you do your research?"
  • "Why did you do it that way?"

This covers not only the methods used to collect and analyse data, but also the theoretical framework that informs both the choice of methods and the approach to interpreting the data. In some disciplines, the approach to knowledge underpinning both the type of research questions asked and the methods chosen to answer them is called “methodology”, and needs to be articulated. Both methods and theoretical approach relate explicitly to the research question(s) addressed in the thesis.

You may need to summarise available methods and theoretical approaches for your research topic; you will certainly need to justify your choice of method(s). If you apply a combination of methods you’ll need to justify why you chose such an approach. Your explanation should also indicate any reliability or validity issues concerning the data, and discuss any ethical considerations that arise from your choices.

Whilst patterns of organisation in a methods chapter may vary, there are some common elements that you’ll need to include to achieve an informative chapter. Let’s identify these features:

  • place or setting of the research
  • duration of the study and other time related factors
  • study design – e.g. an outline of the research stages including instruments and techniques
  • specifics of the participants, materials, etc.
  • sampling frameworks (e.g. criteria, size, scope, etc.)
  • any inclusions/exclusions
  • outcome measurement procedures (e.g. statistical tests, comparisons, etc.)
  • consent and ethics committee approval
  • theoretical basis of the research
  • data management

While most of these elements will be relevant to your methods chapter, you’ll find that there are discipline specific elements and requirements. The detail and emphasis of what is covered in a discussion of methods/methodology will be different in different disciplines. Let’s consider further methods chapter elements in both STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and HASS (Humanities and Social Sciences) disciplines.

Generally, a methods chapter written for a research proposal is written in the future tense to indicate what you intend to do. A methods chapter written for a thesis is written in the past tense to indicate what you have done.

There is no single correct way to structure the methodology section. The structure of your work will depend on the discipline you are working within, as well as the structure of your overall research project. If your work is built around a single study or experiment, you might have a single chapter where you discuss your research methods. Whereas if you have several different experiments or studies, you might report each in its own chapter, with a section about the methodology in each. If your study is based on literary texts, works of art, documentary sources or creative practice, it will probably include a discussion of methodology in the introductory chapter.


Completed theses in your discipline can provide a guide. Look at some theses from your discipline. The Theses Library guide can help you locate theses from Monash and other universities.

  • Where are the research approaches and methods talked about?
  • What level of detail is given? (E.g. sources, subjects, equipment, procedures for data collection, methods of analysis etc.)
  • How does the writer justify their choices?