Posted in Research

Methodology vs. methods, Philosophy vs. Paradigm, Tradition vs. approach


boy confused with lots of homework

Methodology and Methods

They might be used interchangeably, however, they each refer to different concepts. Although some PhD student might be immersed in the literature review in the beginning of their PhD to the point that they might postpone looking at methodology and methods to a later stage, however, it is crucial to define what methodology and methods to adopt in the research project as it could guide what literature to look at.

Methodology refers to the overall research design, which is the theoretical concepts that inform the choice of methods, or the general principles we adopt to guide using particular methods to inform our research. It is the roadmap for going about doing the research and it consists mainly of four component: assumptions, postulates, rules and methods.

It answers the question ( how and why to use these techniques) in order to ensure the appropriate employment of the chosen methods.Thus, the methodology should be developed before deciding on the methods.Also, this should present a thorough review of the literature about methods other scholars have used to study the topic.


Examples include; grounded theory, action research, cross-sectional studies.

Whereas methods refer to the practical techniques or technical steps (practices, processes and tools) when conducting a study (collecting or analyzing data). It answers the question: (what techniques to use) in order to collect and analyze the right data (solutions) for answering the research question/problem. They should be defined and justified in terms of the reason of using them, followed by the procedures taken to systematically collect the data.

Examples for data collection: interviews (e.g. individuals and focus groups), observations (e.g. ethnography and participants observation), and elicitation techniques (e.g. photo-elicitation)

Philosophy and paradigms

Research philosophy is part of the methodology as mentioned before. Philosophy entails the theories and beliefs adopted on which the research is developed. These usually revolve around the reality and multiple reality theories, such as prescientific revolution, scientific revolution, and postmodern.

Paradigms refer to the theoretical/epistemological positions or orientations which guide and inform the analysis process . The four broad categories are; positivism, interpretivism,  participatory orientation and critical orientation. A couple of sub-categories fall under interpretivism are; phenomenological, interactionist, constructivist, and hermeneutic.

(also: essentialism/ realism, and contextualism, postpositivism).

Approaches vs Traditions 

Approaches are the modes of reasoning, which are: deduction (theoretical/top down/analyst driven), induction (bottom up/data driven), and abduction which is the least familiar mode

Traditions could be  semantic (explicit meanings) or latent (underlying ideology)


Useful resources:

methodology isn’t methods.. or… what goes in a methods chapter

Methods and methodology



I am Tag. A global citizen, lifelong learner and a free thinker. As a PhD student in HCI , my main interests fall in the intersection of cross cultural design and social change. Thus, my blog is focused on -but not limited to- this area. I have been writing in blogs, social media and newspapers for a while but that was in Arabic (my native language). However, being in the UK now and doing my PhD in English, made me consider starting to write and blog in English.

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