Methodology is the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study, or the theoretical analysis of the body of methods and principles associated with a branch of knowledge. It, typically, encompasses concepts such as paradigm, theoretical model, phases and quantitative or qualitative techniques.
A methodology does not set out to provide solutions but offers the theoretical underpinning for understanding which method, set of methods or so called “best practices” can be applied to a specific case.
It has been defined also as follows:
"the analysis of the principles of methods, rules, and postulates employed by a discipline";
"the systematic study of methods that are, can be, or have been applied within a discipline";
Generally speaking, methodology does not describe specific methods, even though much attention is given to the nature and kinds of processes to be followed in a particular procedure or in attaining an objective. When proper to a study of methodology, such processes constitute a constructive generic framework; thus they may be broken down in sub-processes, combined, or their sequence changed.
As a buzzword
In recent years, the word methodology has become a "pretentious substitute for the word method". There are distinctions between methodology and methods; methodology is the research strategy that outlines the way one goes about undertaking a research project, whereas methods identify means or modes of data collection. Many recent uses of the word methodology mistakenly treat it a synonym for method or body of methods. Doing this shifts it away from its true epistemological meaning and reduces it to being the procedure itself, the set of tools or the instruments that should have been its outcome. A methodology is the design process for carrying out research or the development of a procedure and is not in itself an instrument for doing those things. Using it as a synonym for method or set of methods, leads to misinterpretation and undermines the proper analysis that should go into designing research.
Relation to paradigm and algorithm
In theoretical work, the development of paradigms satisfies most or all of the criteria for methodology. A paradigm, like an algorithm, is a constructive framework, meaning that the so-called construction is a logical, rather than a physical, array of connected elements.
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