Methodology in a nutshell

Writing the obligatory methods section is an attempt to make sure that no-one, except for the truly hopeless, actually enjoys doing or reading scholarly work. A filtering mechanism. It is, in other words, a way of equipping any piece of academic writing with a built-in mechanism for putting readers to sleep before they reach the interesting bits. The interesting bits, also referred to as ‘empirical’ or ‘analytical’ chapters, are those that differ ever so slightly from the millions of other books and articles on the very same topic using a couple of different wordings here and there. Of course, no-one actually reads a methods chapter in its entirety, but, for those who have not understood the argument or failed to read the thing in its entirety, which is the rule rather than the exception, it provides a convenient excuse for pointing out all the grave mistakes that have been committed along the way. Secondly, the vast amounts of literature available on methodology, the thrust of which can be summarised in, say, 12 sentences, provide a never-ending source of income for academics who have given up on conducting their own research or become paranoid about leaving the safe confines of their office.

Did I mention that I am working on my methodology section right now?

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  1. Very true.

    And the sad thing is – or at least that is the case with my writing at the moment – we seem to care more about “getting it right”, than getting it straight. It has to be valid, true to earlier wording or opposing other positions. In all the mess I have lost track of what I actually “did” out in the field and why I need to build elaborate frameworks to say even the most simple of things. Being stuck on methodology sucks – for everyday I spend on it, I loose some confidence that I actually have any insights worth sharing.

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