The Study Dude—The Zombie Methodology for Grad School Success

The Study Dude—The Zombie Methodology for Grad School Success

What’s methodology?  Surely a zombie can’t teach that!  Zombies have no brains.  But if it’s simplified enough, well, you’ve got Dr. Zombie.

Dr. Zombie is going to simplify one of three key parts of most any graduate level thesis: methodologies.  That way, you’ll perform like a rock star come grad school time.

But first, be warned: my grad program required a 3.65 GPA for entry into the master’s program; 3.8 GPA for entry into the PhD.  No-one told me that.  My jaw gripped the floor and tore out the tiles when I discovered that I fell short of the entry requirement for the PhD.  I joined the enraged ranks of befuddled zombies.  If only I had been warned,

But now you’ve been warned, so you can hyper focus on your goal while the day is young.  You’ve got grad school success streaming through your blood.  And you’re destined for a PhD.

First, let’s dive into the big three for your high-achiever grad degree:

When you write your thesis, you’ll likely need at least three chapters: (1) methodology, (2) literature review, and (3) theory.  If you can start reading books on methodologies, the literature, and theories right now, you’ll get a head start by grad school.  I’ve never clued in on how master students are supposed to read ten or more seminal texts within two years, but we pull it off.  And that’s while we collect our data, pick a topic, choose a theory, craft a question—and write the darn thing.  Ah, pressed for time!

But, for now, let’s get you a head start on methodologies.

Wisely choose your methodology

And cozy up to a zombie who mastered that methodology.  “Many disciplines have established methodologies which prescribe the selection, combination and sequencing of the methods and techniques to be employed” (19%).

Zombies just don’t “get” that quote.  So, please give the doctor the honors:

To grasp “methodology,” you should know the difference between a method and a methodology.  I see methods as tools for collecting your data, such as focus groups, interviews, or surveys.  Methodologies, on the other hand, often use those tools but in a strategic way.  Think of it like a zombie chef would at a baked brains bake-off.  Methodologies are the recipes, tools, ingredients for baking brains—the shebang.  Methods are merely the tools: oven, bowls, baking dish, whisking spoon.  Your data are your ingredients.  And the baked brain is your final result.

Let’s look at this baked brains bake-off metaphor more closely:

The method (the baking tool) might be observation.  Observation is a key tool used in a methodology called ethnography.  Ethnography can be used to analyze, say, zombies confined to libraries.  After careful observation of the zombies, the results (baked brains) might include a list of the zombies’ survival strategies such as theft, carnage—and brain cloning for the more educated.  That’s one tear-jerking bake-off!

The arts degrees often take up qualitative methodologies such as ethnography, grounded theory, case studies, phenomenological research, and narrative research.  If you don’t know what those mean, don’t worry—just look at Dr. Khamzina’s presentation (page 33 of 64) for quick, simple descriptions.  The simpler your understanding of grad studies, the safer you’ll be.

The Open University says, “All disciplines require an appropriate application of methods, in order to ensure rigour.  Hence, one key skill is the demonstration of an appropriate knowledge and competence in choosing and using research methods.  This skill includes: knowledge of the main research methods used in your discipline, including data collection, record keeping, and data analysis” (19%).

Translation: you’ve got to dig your jaws in every methodology and method your department uses.  At least, nibble from each until you satisfy Dr. Zombie.  (Hint: buy the methodology text in your department’s graduate level methodology course.  Devour upon arrival.)

The Open University says, another required skill is the “detailed knowledge, and competent application, of at least one method critical analysis of a standard method in your discipline that you have chosen to use in your study, showing that you understand both its strengths and its limitations” (19%).

Translation: pick a methodology that makes sense for what you’re studying.  There exists instrumental methods in  chemistry, mathematical methods in theoretical physics, research methods in biology, research methods in computer science, and research methods everywhere else.

If that didn’t get the brains scrambling, then check out these thesis topics in computer science, mathematics, communications studies, psychology, physics, and music/dance.

Don’t let those thesis titles scare you.  Grad students try their best to make their papers inaccessible to zombies.  But now we’ve got methodology.  Argh!

Start studying methodology now.  Dr. Zombie guarantees you’ll have all the brains you’ve ever dreamed of come grad school time!

Open Learn: Free Learning from The Open University.  (2016).  Postgraduate study skills in science, technology or mathematics.  The Open University.  E-book excerpt.
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