Writing the methods section of a research paper - How to Guide


Writing the methods section of a research paper - How to Guide

Any research paper requires a methods section. So it is of the utmost importance to know how to write it right for every student or any other scholar who wishes to receive good results from the paper. But before we proceed on how to write it, we must clarify what is the methods section of a research paper.

Let’s deal with it step-by-step. To define methods section of a research paper, you first must realize that the methods section is basically that part of your writing where you explain to the reader how you did your research and what assets you used in order to finish it.

That is why there are no clear demands concerning how long should a methods section be since every kind of study in any area of study will always be different. So, it kind of depends on the situation and discipline.

What is a Method Section of a Study?

  • It is the part of the proposal or research paper that describes the methods used to collect the data.
  • It follows the introduction.
  • It allows the reader to understand how data were collected, and to judge for herself if she thinks the methods were good.
  • It should be detailed enough for a good researcher to be able to replicate a study from reading a method section.

What is the purpose of the Methods section?

  • To describe research goals, questions to be answered or the hypotheses, what was done to answer the research question, describe how it was done, justify the experimental design, and explain how the results were analyzed.
  • To make sure that readers have a very clear idea of how you collected your data. In fact, your description should be clear enough for the interested reader to reproduce your experiment and find examples of similar results. This is called replicability. If other people can reproduce (or replicate) your results, then they are more likely to believe your conclusions.
  • To convince readers that you were careful and systematic in thinking through your methods, so that they can believe your results and conclude that you are a clear-thinking, competent professional who does reliable work. And used the scientific method.

What are the parts of a Methods section?

  1. A description of the materials and equipment used in the study. In some disciplines materials may be humans or animals. Equipment may include devices and other treatments used to test materials for various properties.
  2. An explanation of how the materials were prepared for experimental procedures.
  3. An overview of the research protocol. The research protocol is the sequence of manipulations and measurement procedures that make up the experiment. Its description should follow the exact sequence of how the procedures were executed and the data collected.
  4. An explanation of how measurements were made. Also included are details about what variables were measured and what protocols were used for those measurements. The description of measurement instruments can include the manufacturer and model, calibration procedures, and other specifications. It also may be necessary to justify why and how certain variables were measured.
  5. The last step in the methods section is to describe how the data will be presented in the results section. It should include an accounting of the statistical tests used (descriptive and/or inferential) to analyze the data. 

Writing a Methods Section: Step-by-Step Strategy

Before clarifying the process of writing a methods section, first, let’s talk about the possible examples of pitfalls you must avoid. This way, you will prevent making your paper hard to read. That is essential to know how to write a proper methods section.

First and foremost – any background information which is neither useful nor helpful should be avoided at all costs. Same goes for lots of details. Don’t overfill the article. 

Secondly, you should focus more on how the method was used to achieve your writing goal and not writing down all the mechanics. Basically, it’s another reminder not to overfill your research paper with non-essential describing details.

Last but not least – tell about all the obstacles you’ve encountered and overcame. Here the rule “Fewer details” does not apply. It will help you a lot to get a positive reaction to your paper from anyone since people always love and admire those who are capable of overcoming obstacles in their way.

What to Include in a Methods Section of a Research Paper: Must-Have Elements

Now let’s find out what to include in a methods section of a research paper so that you didn’t miss anything.

What is essential for every methods part of a research paper is the way you have chosen participants or subject (if yours required any), data on what literature you’ve used, your outline, your inclusion and exclusion criteria, procedures you have done and of course – statistical analyses.

Now let’s clarify the methods in a research paper highly mentioned.

  1. Participants and subjects. Participants or subjects are those who are involved in the research experiment. Give information about them: who they are and how they got chosen. It could be an excellent bonus to mention some special features which distinguish them from most of the ordinary people. General information like sex and age, social and ethnic group or religious beliefs also must be mentioned.
  2. Explain the method that has been used in their selection or tell that they got selected randomly. That data really helps to understand how the study was done.
  3. Materials. Mention and describe all the materials and equipment or measures you’ve had in the experiment. It includes everything – technical equipment, books, images and literally anything else which can be used.
  4. If it was something that everybody knows, like computer screens or keyboards – then you should only mention its name. Should it be some rare and specialized equipment, then you should explain its purpose in general. Also, you could attach an illustration in the appendix.
  5. Design. Tell what design you used in the course of your experiment. Give info about variables and their levels. Mention all the variables there are ( independent, dependent, control, etc.). Tell if the experiment was with the groups or if there was a competition.
  6. Procedure. Describe every procedure you used. What participants did, the way you gathered data and in which order everything was going on.