Methodology and Rationale Instructions
Prompt: In 150-400 words describe a hypothetical methodology for studying your research topic. In the same document, in 250-400 words, create a rationale justifying studying your topic to your audience.
1. Do not use first or second person in the rationale, but you may use first person in the methodology.
2. In addition to a specific explanation of how you will test your research question, your methodology should explain how you will analyze the data and how you would recognize a significant result.
3. In your rationale, the question you are answering is this: Why is your research proposal a good way to study this problem, and why should we fund this research? Pretend you are convincing a board of academics in this field that your research proposal is worth financial support.
4. Use APA formatting; no abstract or title page is required but do include a reference page if you use sources.
Additional Suggestions for Methodology:
1. Look up methodologies in the journal articles you have been researching and use those as models and guides.
2. Everyone’s methodology will look a little bit different. Your methodology may include an experiment with two groups getting different treatments, one group that gets tested before and after a treatment, or a large group of people filling out a survey. Or you may be suggesting a research proposal that involves reading literature and analyzing it.
3. Remember that simply reading textbooks or other journal articles is just secondary research. A good methodology does primary research and finds new information rather than just compiling old information, so do not include a methodology that proposes reading articles.
4. Whatever you do, make sure that your results cannot be brought into question. For instance, if you wanted to test the effects of a drug on humans and did not clarify what humans, I might wonder if your results would be skewed because more or fewer men or women could be in different experimental groups than in the others. Be specific about your demographics or aspects of your methodology.
5. Or if you were doing a study of postmodern literature but did not say when the postmodern era began, you would get very different results based on your cutoff date.
6. You can be creative with your methodology, but you must also be skeptical. Would you have faith in your own methods to return a reliable result?
7. It is usually a good idea to include at the end of your methodology what a significant result would look like: if your hypothesis is very correct or very incorrect, how will the researcher be able to confirm that?
8. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to get started:
A. What would I need to find to suggest that my hypothesis is correct?
B. How can I eliminate variables that might confuse my results? (i.e. If studying effects of sunlight on positivity in a work environment, make sure you are not also adding free food or opportunities to walk around.)
C. If you’re studying humans, which ones, and why does it matter? How old are they? What ethnicity? What religion? What income level? What education level? Not all of these will matter for every study (education level would be more important than religion in studying effects of education on earning potential), but identify the ones that do.
D. If you’re doing textual analysis, what texts do you plan to analyze? And what will you be looking for when you read them?
Additional Suggestions for Rationales:
1. Usually the introduction (or actual rationales) of a journal article share some similarities with a rationale—they both typically mention the problem being studied and why it’s important to learn about it. Use the journal articles you’ve researched so far as models and guides for developing your rationale.
2. Your rationale will likely be 1-3 paragraphs.
3. You can begin your first paragraph with a mini thesis statement that sounds something like “Research Topic X is important to study because a significant finding will have such-and-such an effect(s).” Use your own words, but those key elements (research topic, value judgment, effect(s) that is important to your audience, etc.) should appear in your justification.
4. The rest of your rationale can expand on these effects as you connect those to your audience and show the importance of what you are proposing studying.
5. The last sentence of your rationale should summarize your main idea and emphasize the importance again.
6. Remember to speak in terms of what your academic audience (the people you want to convince) want. Don’t make it obvious you’re talking to someone in particular (i.e. “Because my audience loves children, I want to study children.”), but consistently speak in terms of the benefits others will receive from what you find. These do not need to be big benefits either—research is often a series of small steps towards big conclusions.