Saturday, 31 January 2015

METHODOLOGY, OR METHOD?

A common confusion

A couple of times this week I have been reminded of a word that is sometimes misused in Conductive Education: 'methodology', written when 'method' or 'methods' (or more rarely 'methodics') seems to have been the intended meaning. Such misunderstanding is not of course unique to Conductive Education.One comes across it elsewhere too.

Here is the distinction –

Methodology is the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study. It comprises the theoretical analysis of the body of methods and principles associated with a branch of knowledge. Typically, it encompasses concepts such as paradigm, theoretical model, phases and quantitative or qualitative techniques.

A methodology does not set out to provide solutions – it is, therefore, not the same thing as a method. Instead, it offers the theoretical underpinning for understanding which method, set of methods or so called 'best practices' can be applied to a specific case, for example, to calculate a specific result.


Word to the wise

How to avoid such an error? Perhaps the best method is to stop short every time you feel the word 'methodology' coming on, and double-check what meaning you really intend to convey. This as perhaps done as part of a wider methodology that subsumes activities such as absorbing yourself critically in good writing and informed discussion, trying your hardest to understand and apply the meaning of what you read and hear, both its overall sense and the specific words that contribute to it, then modelling what you write and say according to good role models to as part of the process of creating your own emerging understanding of your topic, transferable and formal A tall order! Get help if you need to and can.

We all have to do this, and there will always be times when we all have to again.

Granting all the reasonable provisos about the relativity and fluidity of language, using the right word usually does matter. In 'technical' discourse, it almost always matters. In the present instance, choosing the word 'methodology' instead of 'method' could result in your actually conveying the opposite of what you intended to. If your readers are similarly uncertain of this distinction then at worst all that you may do is help perpetuate this confusion in others. If, however, your readers are sensitive about these two words' meanings, then a wrong choice may be confusing or even actively misleading – and lessen your plausibility within just the stratum in which you might be hoping to communicate.


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