One example of methodology is the strategy a teacher uses to decide which games or teaching tools he should use to practice subtraction skills with a large group of students. Methodology often refers to the section in a dissertation where a scholar outlines her plan for collecting and organizing information.
A methodology is more than a justification for a chosen plan. It is the result of analysis and exploration. A physical therapist might have dozens of strengthening exercises to choose from, but his methodology is the system he employs to match the exercises with the patient's injury, abilities, goals and other medical considerations.
Prior to conducting an experiment, a research scientist determines which research methods should return valid results. She must have a system to determine which options are best. Her actual procedures or methodology might be influenced by principles, budget considerations, available test subjects or equipment limitations.
The methodology of a research paper can be very simple or quite elaborate. Within a field of study, such as psychiatry or sociology, the researcher must decide if a qualitative or quantitative approach to data collection is more appropriate. The data is analyzed using inductive or deductive reasoning. Additionally, the methodology is influenced by previous or parallel research projects and published works. The final part of a methodology is the plan for recording and communicating the research results.