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Joshie Juice

This is a great question. I would say a methods chapter is important for a number of reasons: it forces you to think about the way that you work, or to bring out the (typically fiendishly) inductive was in which one works; writing one is a process of self-identity. Second, it's helpful for the committee for evaluating your process, and most especially for an outside person who has no clue about the ways in which rhetoricians "riff." Third, you can easily cut it out for the book and perhaps turn it into an article on method or approach (that's what I did, although I had three methods chapters and one of them just got cut out and thrown in the garbage because no one likes Fredric Jameson, which is a shame).

A methods chapter can also be good if one envisions a wider audience for the dissertation/book than one's immediate field. This way you can sort of address it for the newcomer. I remember Ralph Cintron has a nice riff on method in one of his books.

Admittedly, methods chapters look odd in books these days, but I still think they are more than a vestige. I don't disagree with your points, however; certainly some kinds of projects need not go through it if its unnecessary.


JJ: *I* like Jameson!

re: methods, i have been caught off guard a few times when people ask me my methodology. i felt like i was supposed to say one instantly recognizable word, like, "reductionism" or "ethnography." method descriptions make a lot more sense to me when freed from such, er, rhetorical demands, and instead spell out how concepts were produced, their process, ideology and scope, for example. it does seem like people use the word "method" to refer to one of these things, but not always the same one.


I teach the intro to grad study "methods"-like course and grapple with this issue pretty much every year. While "method" certainly retains a stronghold in the social sciences, I would agree that notions of critical perspective or process suit folks leaning in the rheotric and performance direction. What I have been finding in the practice of advising is that the traditional functions of the "lit review" and "method section" occasionally merge. Particularly when the critical process and perspective are initmately interwoven with the conceptual and theoretical stakes of the project.


oops, forgive the typo on "rhetoric"...perhaps I should avoid commenting before coffee...


I wonder if we're conflating two terms that are slightly different - "methodology" and "method". I was always drilled that "methodology" is the broader set of assumptions that inform your work, your rationale for your methods, while method itself is literally the concrete procedure you follow in your work. It's the latter that is hardest to do with absolute clarity, I think, when you aren't in a discipline where you poke people or survey them or conduct statistical tests. I'm often tempted simply to say, "I stare at pictures and write about them."

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