What is Methodology?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Methodology is a set of practices. This term may be used to refer to practices which are widely used across an industry or scientific discipline, the techniques used in a particular research study, or the techniques used to accomplish a particular project. People may also use the term “methodology” to refer to the study of such methods, rather than the methods themselves.

Methodology used in scientific research is always described so that others can replicate the research themselves.
Methodology used in scientific research is always described so that others can replicate the research themselves.

Having a clear methodology is often deemed important, especially in the sciences. Clearly outlined directions and procedures tend to increase consistency, and to create work which can be repeated elsewhere, which is an important characteristic of rigorous scientific research. This is why the methodology used in scientific research is always described, so that others can replicate the research themselves or identify errors in the methods used which may have created skewed results.

Methodology includes the tools that a person used when conducting research.
Methodology includes the tools that a person used when conducting research.

In addition to being popular in the hard sciences such as chemistry, astronomy, and physics, methodology is also very important in the social sciences. Researchers who conduct studies on human populations attempt to use rigorous methods so that their results will be respected by other people in the field, and writeups of such research often include an extensive discussion of methodology along with errors and issues which the researchers themselves have identified.

When a project or study is proposed, the architects of the project usually spend a great deal of time on the development of the methodology which will be used, and they may submit their proposal to someone else in the field for independent review. This process is designed to clearly outline how the project will proceed, to identify potential problems and issues, and to discuss emergencies or variations which may arise, and how to deal with them. Methodologies are often informed by the techniques of other people in the field, with researchers learning from the mistakes of others.

Methodology can also be applied to situations beyond research. Industry-wide practices such a safety practices in chemical plants are another form of methodology. These practices are designed to create safe working environments and an established and well-known set of guidelines which allow people to work anywhere. For example, railroad personnel can easily move between employers because they are familiar with the standard industry methods for practices such as train signaling and track switching which are designed to ensure that trains operate safely and efficiently. Methodologies also increase quality control by ensuring that procedures are consistent, and they help industries comply with the law.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


While in science the use of proper methodology may be critical to getting accurate and reasonable results I find that in life sometimes one must go beyond methodology.

If we left our lives up to the same day to day boring routines then we would never be able to venture out and explore what the world has to offer. I guess you could call my methodology a means of always being random, that way I consistently won't have expected results.


As a researcher and life-long seeker of scientific knowledge I can tell you that the most important and significant part of any project is the methodology that the researchers use to complete it.

Without this description and rigorously followed methodology, others would be lost on trying to verify or debunk the data that has been expressed.

There are teams of experts that have been trained solely on the ability to analyze methods used in research. The field work is usually given to university students but mentors and senior researchers will ensure that proper methods are followed.

There is nothing worse then discovering that a method is flawed for a project especially when exuberant amounts of time and money have been poured into it.

The business side of research and development is very strict with methodology. If there is an issue with the fundamental function of any given project then it is a direct hit to the profit line of the company or research facility.


Methodology, just like in science, can be applied to many functions in life. I personally like to create methods for even the most routine tasks that happen during my day.

While it might be embarrassing to say, I even have a method for brushing my teeth. This might sound a bit obsessive but I have found that many things can be accomplished successfully and to the end when a method for the proper function is developed.

If for some reason I had a dental health issue, which I doubt because I have a solid method, then I would be able to explain to my dentist what the issue is and describe exactly how I got about brushing my teeth. The method I have developed allows for consistency and reliability.

These are the same reasons that scientists will use the scientific method to complete research and science experiments. The repetition and precise method removes variables that would otherwise skew results for a given project or experiment.

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