When writing a research paper, a section details the work conducted and how it was done. The Methods section is one of the most important parts of any publication because it carries the core information of the study and what is addressed.
To start, you need a clear outline to build an insightful base for the Methods module and the research paper. Guide your reader through your experiment using these helpful tips.
What Is the Methods Section of a Research Paper?
The Methods section is a descriptive and technical map that guides readers through the path a researcher journeyed to arrive at their conclusions. It is the essence of every paper as it answers all unasked questions, telling the what, how, why, and when of the research or experiment.
Also referred to as Materials and Methods, this section of any research paper comes after the introduction and provides enough data and evidence to confirm the research’s validity and results.
In The American Psychological Association (APA) format, this section details the methods and procedures the research or experiment was carried out, with minimal additions that may distract the reader. The research paper format must follow set standards if it is published. This includes detailed steps, tests, and surveys, if applicable.
It is crucial for every research paper because it provides clear findings to other researchers who may want to replicate the experiment. It also informs them of what alternate procedures they may carry out and how they influence their results.
Structure of the Methods Section In A Research Paper
Every research study is designed to meet the outlined objectives. The methods section of a research article should also follow this path, describing the participants in the experiment or research, the tools and apparatus used to run the experiment, and the steps and procedures involved. You need to pass on information on the success and setbacks you may have encountered.
According to APA style, there are three major subsections to report here; participants, apparatus, and procedure. No rule says these subtitles must be followed to the letter; writers should use headings related to their research topics. They must report only the steps they carried out, omitting whatever headings that were not a part of the experiment.
This segment reports the characteristics of the participants involved in the experiment, the method of sampling, and the sample size.
This details the demography of the respondents that may be relevant to the experiment. This includes but is not limited to age, gender, ethnicity or race, religion, level of education, socioeconomic status, the population they were taken from, and any restrictions.
Fifty female undergraduate students between the ages of 19 and 23 participated in the experiment. All were sophomores in the Faculty of Engineering and native English speakers who lived on the university campus. The participants were separated into two groups of 25 students, each without any determining criteria. This study was conducted at the University of Alabama, USA.
- Sampling Strategy
Identify the selection criteria and whether the sample was random or not. Include it if you have access to data informing the percentage of people invited to participate and how many agreed. You should also report the selection mode; was it voluntary, or were the participants assigned to the study? Additionally, identify any compensation that may have been offered to participants.
The ethics board was petitioned, and approval was granted before the recruitment of participants commenced. All the female sophomores from the faculty of Engineering at the University of Alabama, USA, were invited to participate, and those who did were self-selected. In liaison with department heads, the students were offered additional credits in a faculty-wide course as compensation for their time.
- Sample Size
Identify the sample size per group, the statistical power you aimed to attain, whether you were able to attain it, and the analyses you used in determining the figures you arrived at. You should also include whether the final sample you got was what you initially required.
The required power for this experiment to detect a 15% effect at a significance level of .08 was 75%. To achieve this, we needed 25 participants in each group. The final sample met these conditions.
This subsection describes the materials and apparatus used in the experiment. It calls for detailed information on all devices and techniques used to collate data, measure suitable variables, and reach analysis, including tests and surveys. You must include a proper count of the number of apparatus used, their names, model number, manufacturer, reliability, and validity. For surveys, including the meaning of the formats used and the number of questions asked.
A survey that consisted of 15 multiple choice questions was carried out to determine the safety of female students on the school campus. The participants were asked to answer the questions using a 5-point grading system (1 = Extremely True and 5 = Extremely False).
This includes the conditions in which data was collated, instructions given to the participants, and data analysis methods.
The two groups of participants were placed in two different classrooms at individual desks and given 10 minutes to answer the questions. They were instructed to give the first answers they thought of without thinking too deeply. Each group had a supervisor attached to it.
Advice On How to Write the Methods Section
You already know the relevance of the Methods to your research paper. It is scrutinised by journal editors, and when it is well written, the possibilities of publication increase.
You must follow the APA format and guidelines specified for your field. If you cannot write according to standards, you can use a research paper writing service to get good results. Go for one with good reviews and a super online reputation.
Here are some more tips for a concise and meticulously written methodology:
- Follow the standard writing standards that are accepted in your field. This includes the “Instructions for Authors” and specific guidelines for your study.
- Notation and terminology should be consistent throughout the methodology section and identify any unique terms you use.
- Indicate all materials, procedures, apparatus, and other information that may influence the results.
- Specify any challenges you faced during the experiment and how you tackled them.
- There is usually so much information to add to the methodology. To avoid exceeding the journal’s word count, you can reduce the bulk by citing resources or articles that describe some part of your method instead of giving lengthy explanations.
Methods and Results Should Match
In the Methods section, the results obtained should be discussed based on the experimental procedures used. Explain the methodology behind the techniques used to acquire all the observations and results of the experiment in the right order. You can create a detailed flowchart or block flow diagram (BFD) to easily describe the complexities of the study and its procedures to the reader.
Preparing the Statistical Methods Subsection
The statistical analysis subsection comes at the end of the Methods section. It includes a thorough description of the analysed data to arrive at the results and conclusion. Due to its technicality, it might be a little difficult and daunting to write. If this is the case, you can get the statistician who participated in the study to write it.
Here, you must indicate all the data variables, including the control variables, dependent and independent variables, and any potential irrelevant variables that could affect your results and conclusion. Specify the exact tests carried out on the different types of data you have, the requirements you tested like distribution normality, and all assumptions you initially applied.
You should also include all data alterations, possible mix-ups, confidence intervals or significance levels used, techniques for data analysis, and ensuing statistical tests that were employed. Furthermore, specify any criteria particular to the experiment, like set baselines and any specific software used to conduct the statistical analysis.
The Style of the Methods Section
As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the Methods section is to explain how and why the experiment was carried out so that readers can understand it and possibly repeat the procedure.
Therefore, it is essential to be aware of your audience, so you can modify your writing based on what they know and explain technical terms where necessary. If you are finding it difficult to write in the appropriate style, you can buy research paper written by writers. You can find these writers on several platforms for college essays.
The methodology should read as though you describe the experiment to your reader. For this reason, it should be worded in third person constructs and a passive voice. For example, you should use “We carried out a survey” and not “I carried out a survey”. Since the experiment has already been carried out, you must write the entire section in the past tense.
What Information Should Be Included in the Methods Section?
Now you know what the Methods section is, what information must be included in this segment of your paper? Here’s a summary of the things you need to include:
- Literature review. The sources that helped in the methods are cited under this heading.
- Research participants. This includes all information about the study participants, including compensations, mode of selection, and demographics.
- Criteria for inclusion or exclusion include the factors determining what participants were eliminated and why.
- Grouping conditions are the factors determining the subgrouping of the chosen participants.
- Procedures. These are the conditions under which the experiment was carried out.
- Materials and apparatus. These include all devices, equipment, reliability, and validity.
- Statistical analysis. This is detailed information about the data, measured and analysed, and the tests carried out.
We have come to the end of this guide, detailing the critical aspects of writing the methods section. By meticulously writing this part of your paper, you can validate your study and findings and help your reader understand your work well enough to replicate it.
Remember to follow proper APA referencing guidelines and write in the past tense, even if you are yet to complete the study. Give your readers clear and concise details of your research process, and remember to seek help if you need it. Happy writing!