4.3  Methods

This section describes the data you will use to test your hypotheses, the sources of the data, the variables that you plan to extract from the data, and the operational definitions of the variables.

If you are planning a secondary analysis of someone else’s data, you must describe their study in enough detail so that the readers need not return and look it up to understand the data you present.

If you are planning an original collection of data, you must describe how you are going to go about it and must establish that doing what you plan to do is feasible. Specific techniques such as surveys, interviews, or observations should be described in some detail. If you are using someone else’s measurements, including specific questions used in that person’s study is helpful.

If you are planning to construct new items (for example, an original survey), you must include enough items so that you can use them to construct valid scales and give an indication of how these items will be formatted into an instrument.

A clear description of the variables is essential. The variables should have been introduced in the Introduction, so more conceptual definition is unnecessary in the Methodology section. Rather, what you need to do here is provide a clear operational definition—that is, the specific measures in your data that will represent each concept in your analysis. Presenting such information in the form of a table generally makes it easier for the readers to digest:

Concept Variable How measured

volunteer affection (VA)

number of volunteers joining an NPO
in a given year as a percentage of total volunteers
volunteer disaffection (VD) volunteer
number of volunteers leaving an NPO
in a given year as a percentage of total volunteers
volunteer disparity volunteer

The readers need to understand just what specific data items you are planning to put into your analysis.

The explanation of the research should be presented in a manner suitable for the field of study.

4.3.1 Coherence

Have a coherent structure that flows logically and smoothly,  and include sufficient information to allow the reader to assess the believability of your results

4.3.2 Description

Provide a description of methods used in sufficient detail to enable the reader to understand how the data were gathered and how to apply similar methods in another study

4.3.3 Overview

Provide a complete account of the research presented in a systematic manner typical of the field of study.

*Do not include descriptions of results. That is for the Results section.

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