The research paper methods section is an extremely important part of the research paper.
It is therefore important to understand what the section entail.
In simple language, the research paper methods section can be termed as:
A research section that describes the actions taken when investigating a research problem and the rationale behind the application of particular techniques and procedures in identifying, selecting, processing, and analyzing information applied in understanding the problem.
Note that in the case of a research proposal, the methods section describes the actions to be taken.
Importance of the Research Paper Methods Section
The research paper methods section is important in numerous ways.
Such ways include:
1. The methods section is critical because the procedures adopted in it determines the reliability of the results obtained and the value of the analysis of findings made.
2. It informs the readers how data collection was done since the methods used affects results.
In this, the methods section lays the foundation for the discussions section, where it explains the interpretation of the results’ significance.
3. The research paper methods section clearly expresses the reasons for choosing a specific technique or procedure among other different methods that could be used to investigate a research problem.
4. The methods section illustrates the appropriateness of the procedures and methods in achieving the overall aims of the study.
For instance, a good example of participants section in research proposal should include a sample size suitable to support the generalization of findings.
5. It provides the leader with evidence on whether data collection was done in consistency with accepted practices of the particular field.
For instance, if an interview was used to collect data, it is important to know whether it was facilitated honesty from the participant.
Generally, the methods section determines the appropriate types of research instruments for a particular research study.
Approaches to the Methods Section
The research paper methods section could apply two main approaches.
These approaches are:
1. Interpretive approach
Research methods under this category focus on understanding the phenomenon comprehensively and holistically.
They seek to analytically disclose the practices that make meaning to human subjects.
The methods examine how, why, and what about people and strive to demonstrate how the practices by human subjects are arranged with the intention of generating observable outcomes.
These methods enable the researcher to identify their connection with the phenomenon being investigated.
The approaches are more subjective and therefore require careful scrutiny of entailed research study variables.
2. Empirical-analytical approach
This approach to the research paper methods section handles social sciences the same way as natural sciences.
The approach is founded on objective knowledge, where a good methods section of research proposal example would for instance use questions that seek yes or no answers.
Further, it focuses on the operational definitions of the research study variables to be measured.
The approach uses deductive reasoning that is based on existing theory as its foundation in the formulation of the hypotheses that require testing.
It is more focused on “explanation”.
Structure of the Research Paper Methods Section
The research paper methods section should be well organized to ensure that it fulfills its purpose.
Such organization is usually realized through various subsections.
To enhance this organization, the methods section should start with an introduction.
The introduction of the research paper methods section should:
1. Restate the research problem
2. Stipulate the underlying assumptions
Then the section should go ahead and stipulate the methods for gathering, analyzing, and processing relevant research data.
Note that it is important to provide justification for the choice of methods made particularly if they lie outside the tradition of the field of the study.
Key subsections include:
In the research paper methods section, this subsection describes the participants involved in the research study.
Information to be included about the participants encompass:
1. Who they were (the unique features that distinguish them from the general population)
2. Their number
3. Their selection method
In line with the above observations, example of participants section in research proposal would therefore be as follows:
“200 workers were randomly selected from tech companies in the Midtown Palo Alto.”
Importantly, this subsection should at least provide the participants’ basic demographic characteristics (like age, sex, ethnicity, religion, etc.), the study’s population, and restrictions on the participants’ pool.
For example, if the research study’s participants entailed male nurses from a local private hospital, it should be noted in this subsection as illustrated below.
“The study’s participants included male nurses from 3 hospitals in Kingman rural Arizona.”
The subsection should also give information on how the number of participants assigned the conditions was arrived at and the criteria used in their selection.
On assignment of conditions, the subsection should explain:
1. The participants selection method employed
2. Reasons why the participants took part in the research study
3. Where the study was advertised
4. Whether an incentive was given for participation
Materials as a key part of the research paper methods section requires you to describe the materials, equipment, measures, or stimuli used in the research.
It covers technical equipment, testing instruments, and other materials used in conducting the research.
All the data collection and measurement instruments should covered in this subsection.
For instance, data instruments used in a nursing bedside shift study and psychological assessment tool used in a psychological study should appear in the materials subsection.
The materials methods section of research proposal example would therefore appear as below:
“A structured questionnaire was used to assess nurses’ beliefs on the role of patient involvement in bedside shifts in enhancing patient safety.”
Note that you could include standard equipment like videos and computers without explaining their use in details.
The important thing to understand is that you should provide adequate details for specialized equipment used in research.
For example, data collection instruments created for a specific niche should be illustrated by succinctly highlighting them in the methods section and then including them in the appendix.
Design is also a very important part of the research paper methods section.
In this subsection, you should provide details of the design employed in the research study.
The design should specify the research variables and their levels.
You should clearly identify:
1. Independent variables
2. Dependent variables
3. Control variables
4. Any extraneous variables that might affect the results
All relevant details on design elements and factors should be included in this subsection.
For instance, in an example of methods section in scientific paper, the design should clarify whether the experiment used a between-groups or within-groups design.
The procedure subsection should cover the procedures used in the research study or experiment.
It should explain:
1. What the participants did
2. How data was collected
3. The steps followed in data collection
Accordingly, a methods section of research proposal example for procedure would be as following:
“The researcher will administered questionnaires through mail. The questionnaires explained to the respondents that they were expected to answer all the questions, within a 2 weeks timespan.”
The procedure subsection should be detailed and concise at the same time.
It should explain:
1. What you did
2. How you did it
Tips for Writing the Research Paper Methods Section
You could rely on different tips to make your research paper methods section more effective.
These tips include:
1. Introduce the Methods Section
Introducing the methods section is important in building interest among the readers.
It helps eliminate boredom of reading through the methods section, which is particularly associated with the presence of terminologies and technical language.
Such introduction can be done through two main ways, including:
1. Explanation: This entails using the first paragraph or subsection of the methods section to explain the reasons behind choosing a particular study approach or experiment.
For instance, explanation example of methods section in scientific paper would entail providing details on the inclusion or exclusion criteria in clinical research.
2. Visual presentation: A visual presentation of the methods section like a table, flowchart, or schematic diagram can be used to introduce the section and help readers easily follow the methods section.
2. Use the Appropriate Style
The research paper methods section should be written in a manner that imitates researcher’s verbal description of the research process.
It should be written in a way that the reader can understand the research procedures used, effectively repeat them and obtain similar results.
You should therefore use simple language and provide explanations for technical language used.
As well, the language used in the methods section should be in:
1. Third person
2. Passive voice
Note that sometimes you could use active voice and future tense.
Future tense is often used in this section.
Use of active voice and future tense in the methods section of research proposal example may be as follows:
“We will administer the questionnaires through mail.”
3. Assuming the Reader’s View
Putting yourself in the shoes of the reader is an important tip to consider when writing the research paper methods section.
You need to look at the methods section from the reader’s view to help evaluate whether it is thorough and clear.
Questions to ask yourself include:
1. Does the methods section provide adequate information to facilitate the reproduction of the study?
2. Can information be removed from the methods section without negatively affecting its interpretation?
3. Have all the controls, essential references, and reagents’ sources been mentioned?
Finding answers to the above questions would help you determine whether the methods section is effectively developed or not.
4. Borrow a Leaf from Others
It is advisable to borrow ideas from past studies when writing the research paper methods section.
You should find a number of well-written research paper articles in your field to act as a guide on how to write the methods section.
The articles chosen should be in a similar field as the one being explored and preferably on related or close topics.
Some of the things to observe from these articles include:
1. The structure of the methods section,
2. Language used
3. Nature and amount of information provided
You should use insights gained from these articles as the starting point when writing the methods section.
Dos and Don’ts
There are various things to do and avoid when writing the research paper methods section.
Things to do include:
1. Adhere to the research paper instructions. This involves the way the methods section should be structured and the information to be included.
2. Structure the methods section in a way that it tells the research story. This entails presenting the methods in a logical manner to help the reader effectively follow the development of the study.
3. Use subheadings to structure the methods section. The subheadings divide the section in a way that helps the reader easily follow the section.
4. Follow the order of the results to improve organization of the methods section. This requires you to match the sequence of the methods to the sequence of the results acquired from the methods.
5. Provide relevant details in a diligent manner. This involves giving details on the smallest variations in steps in methods to ensure effective interpretation of results.
6. Specify the research study’s variables. In this, you should include all the independent variables, dependent variables, control variables, and extraneous variables.
7. Provide for statistical analysis approaches used. This involves describing the analysis software used, all the relevant statistical tests, and entailed levels of significance.
8. Mention the ethical approval given by the ethics committee. Ethical approval can be mentioned in the methods section when relevant.
Things to avoid include:
1. Repeating published methods. You should avoid incidences where methods used in other research studies are in details included in the methods section. Instead, you should cite them.
2. Providing to little or too much information. Too little information hampers effective interpretation while too much information makes the methods section indistinct.
3. Failing to provide a context for the methods section. This entails failing to justify the choices made in the methods. To this problem, you should use language that shows intention, purpose, and aims.
4. Using ambiguous terms in designating conditions and parameters. You should instead use specific identifiers that can be clearly understood.