I spent three years working at one of the worlds largest marketing consultancies; in that time the one word I grew to loathe above all others was “Methodology”.

For example:

  • “Our unique and proprietary marketing methodology puts us way ahead of the other marketing consultancies.”
  • Viral Marketing sounds like a great idea… can you go away and develop a methodology for selling it?”

In business, ‘Methodology’ used as a pretentious substitute for the word ‘Method’. Most marketing consultants think that the addition of an ‘-ology’ makes their half thought out processes sound a little more scientific. This gives them the ability to charge twice as much for it. It’s the worst kind of corporate bullshit.

Actually, "Methodology" and "Method" refer to quite different concepts;

Methodology should mean the theoretical analysis of the methods and principles that underlie a particular field of knowledge. A methodology is not so much the tools of business and investigation (methods), but the principles that govern their application.

Personally, given that I found myself working in a business that would happily use the word "philosophy" to describe attitude, disposition or at a real stretch, beliefs I had just sort of given up on the idea that linguistic precision (reflecting disciplined and rigourous thinking) would find any sympathy or a place of value.

Methodology is also a term used in the sciences and humanities: natural science, sociology, psychology, economics, mathematics, computer science and even philosophy.

Most commonly, it is meant to refer to the axioms (or assumed beliefs) that act as the foundation of our inquiry, as well as the form that the inquiry should take. In a wide sense, it refers to the form that an inquiry might take. A methodology, in most cases, does not include the theoretical results of an inquiry, though certain results might be the aim. If a methodology gives rise to certain results by methodologically assuming them, the methodology will probably be considered flawed. A methodology and an application generally aim to produce some sort of result, some answer to our inquiry.

Of course, this form will not always be formally-analyzable. In many cases, an explication of a methodology might be more confusing and difficult than an implementation of it (most methodologies are constructed ad hoc, i.e., as we go).

Meth`od*ol"o*gy (?), n. [Gr. method + -logy.]

The science of method or arrangement; a treatise on method.



© Webster 1913.

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