Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Survey Methodology Terminology 101: "Method and Methodology"

Over the past few years I've worked in various sectors and with people from various academic and professional backgrounds. As a survey methodologist I'm tuned in to how people talk about methodology. I've noticed a few interesting uses of the term. Let me know what you think (or if you've seen the same uses).

1) Methodology v. Methods: Adding "ology" usually means "the science of" (e.g., psychology is the science of the psyche), so shouldn't "methodology" only mean "the study of methods" (as it does in survey methodology)? If that's the case, shouldn't technical documentation and methods sections of  journal articles use the term "method", as in "the methods used for this study..." instead of "the methodology used for this study?" Of course, if you follow that rule, we misuse "psychology" all the time.

2) I've seen some researchers use the term "methods" (or methodology) to mean "everything except the statistical analysis" (e.g., survey or data collection, experimental design, sample). Yet I've also noticed that some statisticians use the term "method" to refer to the analysis method (e.g., using linear regression v. logistic regression).

Where would you draw the line between "methods" and other researchy things, and how do you think we should use the terms "methods" and "methodology"?

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