1.1 WHAT IS A METHODOLOGY?

Dictionaries often provide two basic meanings for the word “methodology”. On the one hand, a methodology is an approach to doing something; on the other hand, methodology is the study of methods. According to WordNet [17], a methodology is “the system of methods followed in a particular discipline”, a method being “a way of doing something, esp. a systematic one”. Also according to WordNet, methodology means “the branch of philosophy that analyzes the principles and procedures of inquiry in a particular discipline”. Therefore, the two possible meanings of “methodology” are:

  • The collection of methods followed in a particular discipline.
  • The study of methods followed in a particular discipline.

These two accepted meanings are closely related but are clearly different. The first one refers to a piece of information that describes how things are done within a given discipline. The second one refers to the activity of studying how things are done within a given discipline. The first usage is common and widely accepted, although the second one is closer to the etymological origin of the word “methodology” since the -ology suffix means “study of”, in Greek.

It is also worth emphasizing that the first accepted meaning, denoting a thing (a piece of information), corresponds to a countable noun: it is possible to speak about one methodology or multiple methodologies, and the article is always used in the singular (e.g. “this methodology is flawed”). The second ...

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