Methods section includes the steps that have been taken to answer the research questions put forward at the start of the research or to prove the hypothesis developed initially. Methods or Methods and Materials section is an imperative section of a research article. This section should be written in the brief but comprehensive manner so that the readers may be able to understand the whole research and follow the same (if required).
The organization of the methodology must be in a very lucid and logical flow, such that the reader is able to comprehend it easily. However, extra details should be avoided. Only that information should be focused which is expected to have any type of impact on the result of the study.
Elements of Methods Section
There are 3 elements in which the methods section is classified. These 3 sections are:
- Participants of the study
- Apparatus or materials used in the study
Sometimes, data analysis is also considered a sub-section of methods section while sometimes it is considered altogether a different section. Each sub-section has been explained in details below:
Participants of the study
This sub-section includes the details of the subjects that have taken part in the research. These participants of the research are also called as subjects. First, it should elucidate whether the subjects are humans, animals, plants or anything else. After the identification, the sample size of the population should be defined along with the number of participants dedicated for each experiment. Furthermore, the demographic features of the participants involved should be stated like their age, sex, nationality etc.
The way in which participants are inducted in the study may vary and that should be described. The participants may volunteer to join or they might have been offered compensation in any form. Assignment of participants to different experiments should also be defined whether all of the participants are assigned to the same experiment or different groups have been assigned to different experiments.
Apparatus/Materials used in the study
In this section, all the equipment used in the research study should be defined. The apparatus includes all the tools whether in the form of software or hardware. Often, apparatus refers to the mechanical devices used and materials refer to other non-technical tools used to run the experiments and acquire the data. Sometimes, the information regarding the apparatus in written in the text while sometimes it is written in the appendix.
The procedure is the most important subsection of the methods section. It includes all the steps that were followed to carry out the research. The steps should be clearly defined, listing all the details in a comprehensive manner but extra details should be avoided to avoid overburdening the reader
Example: This is a very long and wordy explanation of a simple procedure, which is characterized by single actions per sentence and lots of extra details.
“Lid of the petri dish was raised a bit. Furthermore, the culture was shifted to agar surfacing by using an inoculating loop. Turntable was given a 90-degree rotation. In order to disperse the culture on the surface, the inoculating loop was moved to and fro. After that, the bacteria were shifted to the incubator. The temperature of the incubator was maintained at 37o C for 24 hours”.
Better Example: Superfluous detail and otherwise obvious information have been deleted while important missing information has been added.
Petri dish, containing the E. coli culture, placed on the turntable was moved back and forth by an inoculating loop. The bacteria were kept in the incubator at 37o C for 24 hours.”
Best: This statement is written under the assumption that the reader has initial knowledge of techniques of microbiology, therefore surplus information has been removed.
“Each dish was moved rapidly with overnight fresh E. coli culture and kept in the incubator at 37o C for a day.”
Avoid using ambiguous terms to categorize treatments or other parameters that require specific identifiers to be clearly understood.
All the statistical tools used to scrutinize the results should be identified. All the quantitative/qualitative analyses employed to explain the significance and the probability used to choose the significance should be incorporated.
An experiment may be divided as the time passes by but in the beginning, the order should be started as one. This is because the design part of the research and the procedure are most effectively presented as one unit since it would become difficult otherwise to divide. In general, sufficient quantitative detail should be provided regarding the ongoing experiment so that the other scientists can easily comprehend and reproduce the experiments.
Effective use of Subheadings should be used to organize a flow for the research methodology. Everything is written in past tense, in the third person and mostly in the passive voice.
Description of the organism(s) observed in the research
(1) Complete source information from the organisms was procured should be given.
(2) The size of the organism(s) including their weight, length etc.
(3) Description on how the organism(s) were handled, kept and fed prior to the experiment
(4) Description on how the organism(s) were handled, kept and fed during the experiment
Only for field research
When the research is carried out in the field, the biological and physical features of the site should be stated, along with the date on which the research has been conducted. The identification of the location is important so that if someone else wants to replicate the experiment, it may be easy for him to do so.
Clear description of the experimental design
During the research, the hypotheses developed and tested, treatments, controls, variables measured; the number of replicates made, and the result, the final form of the data etc. should be included. Usage of vague and general name to identify treatments should be avoided and proper variable or treatment name should be used instead. When the paper includes multiple experiments, subheadings should be used for easy organization of the experiment.
In the research description, “quantitative” aspects of the study should come first, which include; the masses, concentrations, volumes, incubation times, etc. It is useless to waste your time in explaining the procedure if it has been carried out with standard lab equipment or known field methods. Focus should be on stating the necessary steps only and to avoid stating the obvious and overburdening the reader with the material.
Summary and analysis of data
An indication of the descriptive statistics types used and the analyses that were used to respond to the questions and determined statistical significance is also done.
The section should also include:
- Name of the statistical software used to carry out the research.
- Techniques used to summarize the data, whether is it mean, percent or something else.
- Names of the data transformations used
- Names of the statistical tests used
”A paired t-test was applied to evaluate the dissimilarities between younger and older adults on their perception on satisfied life.”
“One way ANOVA test was conducted to test how much safe the following three types of cars are: compact, midsize and full-size cars. For this purpose, a mean pressure on the head of the driver was applied at the time of the crash and checked whether each pressure corresponds to the car type.”
Anurag Tewari MD, Anna Winters, & Ajay Pal Singh MD (APtizer)
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How to cite this article: Winters A, Tewari A, Singh AP. (May 18, 2016). How to Write the Methods Section of your Research Article. Retrieved from http://www.Pub4Sure.com/blog/ on [Month] [Day], [Year]
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