How to write a methods section of a research paper

How to write a methods section of a research paper? The validity of scientific papers is checked based on the method section. In general, the information provided in the section method includes the research method and the reason for choosing this particular method. Readers should be aware of some essential issues after reading the section method. These topics include: what has been done to get the answer, and how the experiments were conducted, the correct definition of the research method, and how to analyze the results. The style of scientific writing is direct and orderly.

For this reason, in the section method, materials, and samples used in the research, how to prepare samples and materials for the research, the protocols considered, the measurement system and calculations performed, and the statistical method of analyzing the results should be explained, respectively. First, you have to write the mentioned elements in order. After writing these elements, you should look for a way to present the elements clearly and logically in the paper. Sample preparation, measurements and calculations performed, and protocols should be stated in order. Since much information must be expressed in each section, to avoid confusion and hardness for readers, you should subheading the content of each section in accordance with the topic of that section. The subheadings in each section are based on their importance, from the most important to the least important.

How to write a methods section of a research paper
How to write a methods section of a research paper

What is the methods section of a research paper

There is a part in each scientific article called the method section. The author in the method section should fully explain the method of experiment and study. The purpose of writing a method section is to present the findings as clearly as possible. In general, after reading the method section, the reader should have enough information to repeat the experiment and reach the results. 

Each scientific paper contains a series of specific sections. The order of writing these special sections is determined by the rules of scientific journals or special guidelines. For example, in the field of social and behavioral studies, APA guidelines are used to gather information and write articles. The primary purpose of the APA guideline is to write the text in a way that contains the least distractions to the reader. Each scientific paper must contain a method section. The method section should be written after the Introduction.

What should be included in a methods section

The information that you must write in the methods sections depends on the scientific field of your study and the kind of experiments you have conducted. The general guidelines of the majority of the scientific journals are summarized at PLOS ONE: “The Materials and Methods section should provide enough detail to allow suitably skilled investigators to fully replicate your study.” In this sentence, the author has emphasized one point. The method section should have adequate information for the reader to fully understand the material and be able to retry the experiment. Of course, you should note that your target audience is not unprofessional people. You are not going to publish all the details of the experiment. Your target audience is experts with sufficient knowledge. The information should be such that experts can repeat the experiment after studying the method section.

Structure of the methods section

The method section begins with general information such as the test population, laboratory samples, and animal samples. After this general information, you must provide a series of specific information and details. The structure of the method section is as follows: 

  • The expression of the species being studied, such as humans, animals, or plants, preparation, and pre-test care, as well as the place and time of the study, is also very important;
  • In the field of study, you must specify the exact location of the test along with the physical and biological characteristics of the test site;
  • How to design experiments including test population, controls, treatments performed, data management, and variables affecting test results;
  • Data collection protocols and all details of test methods;
  • Talk about qualitative and statistical analysis of data.

How should I format the Methods section

Each journal has its own rules and format for writing articles. So before writing the paper, you must read the format and guidelines of the relevant journal. But in general, the method section includes the following parts: 

  1. Study Design. In this section, you should explain the reason for choosing the topic and the importance of its background. You should also explain how you answered the questions of the research. Readers want to make sure your experiment’s findings are credible and reliable. For this reason, you should explain the research method and how you controlled the test errors so that the reader can be sure of the validity of your article. 
  2. Test subjects. Questions may arise in the minds of readers after reading the results of your research. To clarify the ambiguity and answer these questions, you need to discuss selection criteria and methods elements.
  3. Data collection. Are your research results reliable? In this section, you must prove how you have controlled all the variables influencing the results and not allowed personal opinions to interfere in determining the results.
  4. Data analysis. Many audiences may not understand how you conclude. In this section, you should explain how to analyze the data and draw conclusions.

12 Tips for Writing the Methods Section for a Research Paper

  1. Avoid writing complex sentences and write everything as simply as possible.
  2. Do not mistake research results for methods and procedures. In the method section, you only need to talk about the research method. 
  3. Do not go into too much detail and write only the most critical information in the method section. If you do not know whether a set of data is useful or not, check the effectiveness of this information. If deleting information confuses or misleads readers, enter this information into the Method section.
  4. In the APA guidelines, the title ‘Method’ must be centralized. Other subheadings such as ‘Participants,’ ‘Materials,’ and ‘Procedure’ must be on the left side in italics.
  5. The purpose of the method section is reproducibility and transparency. For more clarity, you must write down all the methods used in the research. Do not miss even the shortest methods. 
  6. Instead of repeating previously published methods, it is better to describe the previous methods as numbered references and explain new changes or additions.
  7. You may use more subsections, such as Design and Apparatus. Use them if they are essential.
  8. Use the correct APA guidelines of referencing to all resources used in the paper.
  9. Delete any extra explanations that belong to the Discussion part.
  10. Avoid using irrelevant information.
  11. In the research papers, you are writing about what you did in the experiment. So, you must use the past tense.
  12. Clearly describe all measurement errors and describe all units and measurements used in the research.

In this article, you found out how to write a methods section of a research paper. Still need help with your research paper?

More resources

  1. Method Sections for Empirical Research Papers an overview
  3. How to Write the Best Introduction for Nursing Research Paper
  4. How to write an introduction for a scientific research paper

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