“Methodology” is one of those horrible words — like “strategy” — that everyone dislikes but dislikes for different reasons and so any discussion about them is bound to end badly.

My own definition of methodology is accepted by no one else: I think it means ‘the study of methods’ on the pattern of “x + logy”; e.g., ‘biology’ is the study of life (bios) or ‘geology’ is the study of the earth (geos).

More generally, it refers to the ‘the way you do things.’ It’s a fancy way of saying ‘recipe’ in this loose definition. “What’s your methodology for making apple pie?” Or, “What’s your methodology for deploying dozens of SLES servers?”

To me, those are ‘methods’ rather than ‘methodology’, but like I said, I’ve never met anyone who agrees with me on that.

If you start thinking more deeply about methodology, you end up with some kind of process, and this is the common thoughtful meaning of the word, a synonym for process. For example, a consulting company will invariably have a process for delivering their projects which they describe as their methodology.

I have a theory that all methodology in this sense has five steps. You start out with however many steps in the process and abstract it down to three: beginning, middle, and end. (You score points in the methodology drinking game by coming up with cleverer and cleverer names for these steps.) Then you add a before-the-beginning step and an after-the-end step and so you wind up with five. I know you think I’m joking, but I’m not.