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What Thesis methodology am I (should I be?) using?


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Okay guys, forgive me for this one- but even my thesis chair is not really able to answer this question for me so here it goes. My chair doesn't give a rats ass about formal methodology, but the school is really pushing it this year b/c its trying to raise its academic profile.

I'm writing a thesis on the effect of regional political interests on US and Chinese activities in Afghanistan. The purpose of my thesis is to figure out why the two countries can't seem to work together to contain extremism, even though they have so many interests in Afghanistan. My hunch is that yes, they do have  many shared interests in Afghanistan but their regional interests are more important and those regional interests preclude real cooperation in Afghanistan.

I'm going to write my thesis by reading a ton, including books and academic journals as well as relevant respectable newspapers and magazines in English as well as some of the regional languages (I'm a military linguist, this is a military funded course). Then I'm going to synthesize what I have read with my own (well supported) ideas so it'll qualify as a graduate level master's degree thesis. I'm using qualitative analysis based on review of the extant literature.

The problem is, I don't know how to handle the methodology section. We were forced to take a "how to write a thesis" class but the professor was really into grounded theory using quantitative  data so it was basically worthless to me. For the most part, I'm not writing using "data" (he spent hours upon hours counting tank officer graduation statistics from the 1920s... fun). I'm taking the existing secondary literature as my "data" and mixing it with my own ideas and coming up with something. I'm not using alternate futures or case studies. 

Any ideas how I can describe or otherwise handle this methodology issue? 

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2 hours ago, badmajon said:

 Any ideas how I can describe or otherwise handle this methodology issue? 

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Were I in your situation I would look for existing master's theses and doctoral dissertations in PA, IR, and political science that use a similar methodology. Pie in the sky, some theses address your topic/area as well, but you may have to settle for apples to bananas.

If I may, I would recommend that you revisit the conclusion that the "how to write a thesis" class was "basically worthless" because the instructor's interests and approach differ from yours. If you look through your notes and your memories of the class, was there any discussion of skills like time management, maintaining confidence, proofreading, and so forth?

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Hello, thanks for the suggestion. That sounds like its probably the only way I'm going to make headway in this. Regarding that class, well perhaps worthless is a bit harsh, but pretty much every student complained about it for the same reason... except the one who ended up asking that professor to be his chair. 

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