“Method derives from the Greek hodos meaning “road”, “way” or “path”. To say Methods ist Unweg is to say that the best way to reach the goal is by detours and digressions.” (Miller, 2009: 327n)
“Coming from the Greek word ὁδός [hodos, AP], a path, [hodological space and hodological distance, AP] denotes the space opened up by paths, in the sense in which … the path opens up space, and the distances to be covered by these paths.” (Bollnow, 2011: 185)
Carole Gray and Julian Malins (1993) point out that there is a difference between method and methodology.
Method can be defined as a way of proceeding or doing something, i.e. a procedure or process, especially one that is systematic or regular. Alternatively, it may signify orderliness of thought or action. In the plural, as methods, it refers to the techniques or arrangement of work for a particular field or subject.
See, for example, the Stanford University Institute of Design’s set of methods.
Methodology, on the other hand, refers to a system of methods and principles used together or separately within the horizon of a particular discipline or profession. More precisely, it may refer to the branch of philosophy concerned with the science of method.
Gray and Malins argue that if research is to be carried out in any discipline, a suitable strategy and methodology for acquiring new knowledge must be defined.
This set of procedures should be thorough, rigorous, open, accessible, understandable, and transparent. It should also be applicable in other contexts.
The choice of methods and procedures, under the guidance of the principles of a methodological framework, is crucial. If not chosen with care, the resulting research may be flawed and its outcome irrelevant.
In short, a piece of research is only as good as its methodology and the appropriateness of the methods by means of which this methodology is realised.
The importance of grasping methodology and methods for artists and designers is so that clients, funding bodies, the wider academic community and the general public can understand and have confidence in the research produced and have a means of engaging critically with the conclusions and potential design outcomes of that research.
Bollnow, O.F. (2011). Human space, London: Hyphen.
Gray, C. and Malins, J. (1993). Research procedures / methodology for artists & designers. In Principles and definitions: five papers by the European Postgraduate Art & Design Group. Winchester, UK: Winchester School of Art, pp. 1–15. Available at: http://design.osu.edu/carlson/id785/epgad-highlighted.pdf
Miller, J. H. (2009). For Derrida. New York, NY: Fordham University Press.