I'm currently having a hard time understanding if authors are using the word
methodology correctly, or if their papers should be classified as BS. Hence, I set out to get a better feeling for the correct use of the word, but now I'm even more confused than before:
First I had a look at wikipedia which states:
Methodology is the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study, or the theoretical analysis of the body of methods and principles associated with a branch of knowledge.
This sentence is followed by a second sentence with reference to a paper from S.I. Irny, which as far as I could see, states something very contracting:
Methodology is generally a guideline for solving a problem, with specific components such as phases, tasks, methods, techniques and tools [two sources are given]
Even though I think the wikipedia description is identical with my understanding of the term, the reference is confusion. I then asked Merriam & Webster for help. Here it says:
1: a body of methods, rules, and postulates employed by a discipline : a particular procedure or set of procedures 2: the analysis of the principles or procedures of inquiry in a particular field
Oxford says a discipline is branch of knowledge, which I would interpret as things like math, sociology, computer science and psychology, but not things like UML modeling, crossword solving, methods for solving a problem, or even sticking together methods to solve a problem. This does not match the
discipline : a particular procedure or a set of procedures part of the definition.
And then again they give a weird example:
«for solving crossword puzzles my usual methodology is to begin by filling in all of the answers I'm reasonably sure of»
» brackets indicate that they chose a poor example, or they consider crosswords a discipline (case 1). It obviously doesn't qualify for case 2, as the example does not analyse methods used in the crossword domain.
Sadly, Oxford defines the term as:
a system of methods used in a particular area of study or activity: a methodology for investigating the concept of focal points
Which again is used as a method/solution for a problem and not the theorecial study of methods in that field. Only the "Methodology as a buzzword" section on wikipedia seems to back up my understanding of the term:
Many recent uses of the word methodology mistakenly treat it a synonym for method or body of methods. Doing this shifts it away from its true epistemological meaning and reduces it to being the procedure itself, the set of tools or the instruments that should have been its outcome. A methodology is the design process for carrying out research or the development of a procedure and is not in itself an instrument for doing those things. Using it as a synonym for method or set of methods, leads to misinterpretation and undermines the proper analysis that should go into designing research.
Question 1: Is my understanding that a methodology is, as the name suggests it, a logic behind methods, and consequently must not deal with the topic per se, but address some meta level of the used methods, wrong?
Question 2: For my particular academic problem in CS: Is the combination of general priciples and rules as part of a standard for creating a particular type of operating system a methodology (e.g. as used in AUTOSAR)? Such principles and rules govern and describe communication mechanisms, memory access methods, scheduling and the like. I would call this a body of methods, hence this must be a buzzword?
Additional fact: My Sixth edition Oxford from 1976 says:
Science of method; body of methods used in a particular branch of activity;
So in the current version they dumped the actual meaning and only used that weird body of method definition.
I'm happy about any source bringing some clarity into this mess. Don't worry if you can't answer the CS specific question, a general purpose answer may well be just as good.