Writing About Methods in
Doctoral Capstone Studies
Kelly Chermack, PhD, Dissertation Editor
Walden University Writing Center Staff
Session overview & objectives
In this presentation, we will cover:
The contents of the Methods Section/Chapter
General writing tips for writing about methods
Writing about reliability, validity, and researcher
Examples of well-written sections
Links to methods writing resources
Questions and Recording
• Type in the Questions box
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Wait a
Where do I
even begin?
How do I
get from
there to
Beginning to write…
• Step 1: Download the correct template and
the appropriate rubric or checklist for your
• Step 2: Review the headings create an outline.
Be sure to insert the necessary headings into
your template.
• Step 3: Begin writing each the content for
each heading.
Beginning to write…
• Remember, your research question determines
your method.
• When beginning writing this chapter or section,
you should already have determined your
• In this chapter/section, you should describe your
research design and how you conducted your
study, describe your sample, and your measures.
• See pages 29-32 in the APA Manual (6th Edition)
Commonalities among dissertations and
Clear introduction
Identification of the methodology and research design
The purpose of the study and the research questions
Description of population and sample, sampling method,
data collection processes
– The role of the researcher and informed consent (where
• Please see your specific rubric or checklist for more details on
methods content (more on where to download these
documents at the end of the presentation)
General APA writing tips
Writing in APA style requires clear, concise,
and detailed writing
• When writing about your methods, remember to
reflect on the following:
– Is it clear to the reader what method I am using and
– Is it clear to the reader who was involved in my study?
• Population
• Sample
• Other personnel (from Walden or from your research site)
General APA writing tips
• Is it clear to the reader what my process was
– Obtaining access to my research site and sample
– Determining my sampling procedures and inviting
respondents to participate
• For students at the final capstone stage:
– Did I include my Walden IRB approval number (in
this chapter or section, or in an appendix)?
Verb tense
Use the correct verb tense to describe your
project and data collection methods.
– In the proposal, use the future tense to describe methods
and processes which you have not yet conducted
• Example: “Using a phenomenological approach, I will explore the
effects of childhood obesity on self-esteem in young adults.”
– In the final capstone, use the past tense to describe
research that has been completed
• Example: “Using a cross-sectional survey, I analyzed the effects of
exposure to violence as a child on divorce rates in mid-life.”
APA stresses that writers use the active voice.
– This means that the writer clearly indicates the
actor or agent who is doing or taking the action in
the sentence
• This is especially important while describing
data collection processes
– Example: “In this study, data were collected using
intensive interviews.”
– Instead: “In this study, I conducted intensive
Yes! It is acceptable to use the first person (“I”).
• In the methods chapter/section, however, a lot
of I’s can be a bit much:
– Example: “In this study, I administered a survey. I
created a convenience sample of 68 teachers. I
invited them to participate in the survey by emailing
them an invitation. I obtained email addresses from
the principal of the school…”
To the reader, it is redundant when each sentence
begins with “I.”
• In order to avoid this, use “I” in the first sentence
of the paragraph. Then, as long as it is clear that
you are the actor in the remaining sentences, the
passive voice is allowed:
– Instead: “In this study, I administered a survey. Using
a convenience, sample of 68 teachers were invited to
participate in the survey by emailing them an
invitation. The principal of the school provided email
Also, avoid writing in the third person.
– Example: “The researcher introduced the study to
participants and explained to them that they
could refuse to answer any questions or stop the
interview at any time.”
– Instead: “I introduced the study to participants
and explained to them that they could refuse to
answer any questions or stop the interview at any
Anthropomorphism occurs when writers
attribute human-like qualities to inanimate
– Example: “This study explored the link between
leadership coaching and manager approval
– Instead: “In this study, I explored the link between
leadership coaching and manager approval
Knowing what to cite, and when, is tricky.
• Balance between:
– demonstrating an understanding of the method
– keeping the writing streamlined and thoughtful
• Although citing Creswell is helpful, also
reference other authors outside of standard
or textbook methods pieces
• Reference specific, exemplary articles on your
Remember, we cite authors when we want to credit
something that they wrote.
• What if you want to cite an author or piece
because it is a good example of the type of
methodology you are using?
– In this case, you are not citing them because you want
to give credit to a finding, but to give credit to their
research as an example of the method
– Give credit to the author by using an “e.g.” in the
parenthetical citation
Example: “Since 1975, two longitudinal surveys
have measured binge drinking (e.g., Johnston
et al., 2010; Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration, 2010).”
– In this case, these authors did not write that that
two surveys had measured binge drinking, they
are the two surveys that measured this construct
Another example: “My methods follow previous
studies (e.g., Archer, 1991; Epstein, 2008;
Oransky & Marecek, 2009; Witt, 1997), that
determined that gender-role development
influences behavior and self-perception.”
– In this example, the writer is citing previous studies
with similar findings, not authors who claimed that
their research supported previous findings
The next few slides will help you write about
reliability, validity, and your role as a researcher
Writing about reliability
Distinguish between whether you are reporting on the alreadycalculated reliability of a standardized instrument or on the
reliability of an instrument that you have created or
somehow modified.
• Include:
• The name of the scale and the number of items of the
• The type of reliability test you ran
• The reliability coefficient (e.g., Cronbach’s alpha or Pearson’s
• Optional, but recommended: Comment on the quality of that
reliability coefficient, based on the standards within your
discipline (e.g., < .65 Poor; .65 ≤ Modest ≤ 80; > .80 Very
• Internal consistency reliability tests were run on a subset of items
from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment. The extraversion
subscale consisted of 10 items (alpha = .77), the introversion
subscale consisted of 6 items (alpha = .70), and the agreeableness
subscale consisted of 8 items (alpha = .66).
• Cronbach’s alphas for the 15 items on writing self-efficacy and the
10 items of critical reading were very good at .84 and .88,
• Two sets of scores from the 20-item stress inventory were positively
correlated (r = .91), demonstrating a strong test-retest reliability.
Writing about validity
Establish what kind of validity you have assessed in the
instruments you’re using:
• Common types of validity:
– Construct validity = extent to which an instrument
actually measures what it claims to measure
– Convergent validity = degree to which a measure is
correlated with other theoretically correlated
– Content validity = "the systematic examination of the
test content to determine whether it covers a
representative sample of the behavior domain to be
measured" (Anastasi & Urbina, 1997 p. 114)
Once you’ve figured out what kind of validity to report, here
are some other things to keep in mind:
– Specify the inferential statistics you used to demonstrate
validity (e.g., factor analysis, ANOVA, correlation)
– Provide an interpretation of those results for your
current study
• Construct validity on the IQ test was demonstrated through a confirmatory
factor analysis from a sample of individuals at an online school. A fourfactor model was developed based on fit indices; this model suggested
that the instrument measured a verbal, numerical, spatial, and logical
intelligence type.
• Convergent validity on the newly created IQ test was demonstrated
through a Pearson product moment correlation test the Wechsler Adult
Intelligence Scale (WAIS) IQ instrument (r = .81), illustrating the soundness
of the newly created instrument in assessing IQs in the current study
• Content validity was established by recruiting widely known subject
matter experts on intelligence testing (N = 13); these experts evaluated a
subset of test items on the proposed IQ test against the test specifications.
Overall, their ratings of test items conformed to the dimensions
delineated in the test specifications, suggesting a strong content validity in
this instrument.
Writing about researcher backgrounds and
• The level of detail you provide about your background
as a researcher depends on the general design you’re
using in your research.
• If you’re using a quantitative design, there should be
little, if any, disclosure of your background, as the
expectation is that your role in the interpretation of
your data is kept to a minimum.
• If you’re using a qualitative design, on the other hand,
you should provide enough detail about your
background so that your readers can interpret your
findings with a full understanding of the lens you used
to gather and analyze your data.
Researcher bias
Here are some tips for describing your background:
• Keep this free from emotion.
• If you have (or had) any preconceived notions of
what you might find—or what you hope to find—in
your results, disclose those perceptions.
• There will be readers who will dismiss these
disclosures because they admit to “biases.” However,
these situate the researcher and inform readers as to
where the researcher is speaking.
Researcher bias
I feel a connection with adolescents in these groups that
stems from my own experience of being labeled an outsider
as a high school student. This experience may have
contributed to some bias and reactivity in my work. Yet this
effect may not have been negative. Indeed, my label as an
outsider may have been more of an asset than a liability,
drawing out detailed narratives from participants who
seemed to view me as a compassionate listener, and
conveying a sense of “emotional credibility, vulnerability, and
honesty” that has been valued in creative social science work
(Ellingson, 2009, p. 154).
The next few slides provide examples of
how to write about methods
In this chapter, I describe the qualitative research
paradigm and life history design for this study of
adult readers and will discuss the rationale for
choosing each in this context. In addition, in this
chapter, I describe the methodology for this study,
including a description of the participants, how
participants were selected, the researcher’s role,
and ethical issues. This chapter also includes
explanations of the data collection tools, how data
was collected and analyzed, and threats to data
Paradigm and Tradition
According to Creswell (2006), the qualitative research
paradigm should be undertaken based on the following
rationales: (a) research questions begin with how and
what, (b) the topic requires exploration because of
multiple variables and/or a lack of theory, (c) a natural
setting is required…Thus, a qualitative research design
was chosen because words are more indicative of the
experience of learning in reference to the cultural
invention of reading than the numerical data of
quantitative research…
According to Champion (2002), purposive
sampling is used when there are “clear criteria for
selecting the participants for the sample group to
be studied” (p. 62). Rather than gathering a
random sample of the accessible population from
all of the 2-year institutions in Ohio, I employed a
purposive sampling of students from the 16
schools that used the COMPASS test for
I chose participants for this qualitative life history
because they had the shared experience of struggling to
learn to read… The participants for this qualitative life story
were selected by from a rural central Florida community. A
convenience sample of 18 men and women who selfidentified as having learned to read as adults was located
through (a) referrals from teachers in public school adult
education programs, (b) notices sent to community
volunteer adult tutoring programs, (c) referrals from the
researcher’s professional contacts…
Over the past several decades, researchers have
attempted to determine the conditions under which
successful training transfer occurs. In doing so, they found
that training transfer is influenced by a number of individual,
training design, and environmental factors (Burke & Hutchins,
2007; Blume et al., 2010; Cheng & Hampson, 2008; Cheng &
Ho, 2001). Despite the wealth of research that has been
conducted, the influence of supervisor support and specific
dimensions of support, on training transfer are still unknown
(Chiaburu, 2010; Cromwell & Kolb, 2004; Sookhai &
Budworth, 2010). The goal of this mixed methods study was
to examine the influence of specific dimensions of support
(coaching, mentoring, task support, and social support) on
training transfer. In order to address this gap, I employed a
mixed-methods design in which quantitative data were
collected and analyzed. In Chapter 4, the quantitative and
qualitative results are presented.
Example of too much information
Research Design
Phenomenology was not suitable for this study because it would
have involved …
Ethnography is another form of qualitative research methods. This
is a scientific research strategy (Creswell, 2003) often used…
Historical research is another type of qualitative research design. It
is a systematic collection…
Grounded theory is another form of qualitative research design.
Grounded theory is a systematic generation of theory…
In summary, qualitative research, as an inquiry, is aimed at…
There are some factors to consider when a researcher is deciding to
adopt a qualitative research methodology. Strauss and Corbin (1990)
claimed …
Example of not enough information
Research Design
I chose a quantitative research design to
demonstrate a correlation between two
variables. I did not choose a qualitative study
because it would not allow me to do this.
Just right
Research Design
In this study, I employed mixed methods research. Mixed methods research is “a type of research in
which a researcher or team of researchers combines elements of qualitative and quantitative research
approaches (e.g., use of qualitative and quantitative viewpoints, data collection, analysis, inference
techniques) for the broad purposes of breadth and depth of understanding and corroboration” (Johnson,
Onwuegbuzie, & Turner, 2007, p. 123).
Conducting mixed methods research has several advantages compared to conducting quantitative
or qualitative research alone, many of which are particularly significant to this study. First, mixed methods
research allows for a more complete understanding of complex phenomena. Second, it allows the
researcher to compensate for the weaknesses of one method with the strengths of another. For instance,
qualitative data can help explain, clarify, and provide meaning to quantitative data. Similarly, quantitative
data can limit the influence of confounding variables and increase the generalizability of results. Third,
mixed methods research can add to the credibility and validity of findings through the corroboration of
qualitative and quantitative findings and by reducing bias related to using one type of methodology
(Bryman, 2006; Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004; Kelle, 2006).
• Begin writing by finding the appropriate template and
rubric or checklist.
• Go through each required heading and begin writing
about the information needed in these areas.
• Consider your verb tense and voice, and be aware of
• Reflect on your writing as you go
– Is it clear to the reader what method I used and how I
arrived at this choice?
– Is it clear what actions I took and procedures were
involved in my data collection and measurement?
– Am I adequately citing methods sources?
Writing about the methods is like creating a
butter sculpture at the Minnesota State Fair…
• Writing is a process
–Allow yourself multiple
revisions of each section and
take advantage of the Writing
Center’s resources.
• The method components
should be clear
–The description of the
method should be detailed
enough so that others could
replicate the study.
Resources: Walden CRQ and Writing Center
Center for Research Quality
• Research resources
o See Research Planning and Writing
o See Research Design and Analysis
o Including templates and rubrics
o arranged by program: DBA, DNP, EdD, PhD
Writing Center
• Webinars
– See Scholarly Writing Webinars
– See Graduate Level Webinars
– See Capstone Webinars
Writing Center: Writing instruction services
To schedule an appointment with a writing
instructor to have your proposal
chapter/section reviewed:
1. In your myWalden portal, click the Academics tab.
2. On the next page, click Schedule an Appointment.
3. Then click Writing Center and Tutor.
4. Upload your draft.
5. Search for available appointments in the writing
instructors’ schedule.
For questions about research analyses consult
your chair or email the Center for Research
Email specific writing or APA questions to the
Writing Center:
Photos courtesy CreativeCommons.org

Writing about Methods in Dissertations and Doctoral