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How to Write a Methods Section for a College Research Paper

Research methods are the various procedures used in a research. The methods section describes the research that was conducted. It allows the reader to evaluate the consistency and legitimacy of the study.

This section must be written in a perfect and brief manner, and should always present sufficient information.

The methods section contains all the essential details that other researchers can use to repeat the experiment and help other readers better understand the research.

How to Write an APA Methods Section

The methods section should include:

  • The type of research
  • How data was collected
  • How the data was analyzed
  • Tools or materials used in the research
  • Your basis for selecting the methods

It is essential to learn how to write the methods section in the APA formatting style. This methods part has a descriptive nature, which makes it seem easier, but it is also a section where the details are usually missed when writing and while reading because of its highly procedural nature.

Step 1: Create Your Methodological Approach

Start by introducing your overall approach to the research, which should be either qualitative or quantitative. Then restate your research problem, which research question did you investigate?

Depending on the field as well as the method, you can start with an argument of the authentication and the rules supporting your methodology.

Briefly discuss why you choose the approach to answer your research question. Is the approach a standard methodology, or does it need an explanation? Were there any ethical reflections?

Are there any principles for validity and dependability in your chosen research method?

When discussing the methodological approach in a qualitative study, aim to create background actual knowledge about the actions, social organizations and share the belief of a specific group of people.

This approach is significant, especially when you want to assess the people’s views or understanding of a precise question. This approach is less controlled and more explanatory. This means that you will need to reflect on your place as a researcher, considering how your subjects and insight might impact the findings.

When discussing a quantitative approach, aim to come up with generalizable facts about the foundation of an event.

You can use a quantitative approach when you want to research and file measurable social trends or evaluate the effects of a specific procedure on various variables.

Additionally, you can combine the two approaches. For example, you might focus mainly on a quantifiable social trend and, on the other hand, interview people and get their ideas on how the pattern impacts their lives.

Step 2: Describe How You Collected Data

After creating and introducing your general methodological approach, give details on how you collected or generated data. This part of your methods section tells the readers how, when, and where you conducted your research.

It also gives you the chance to show which limitations were put in place to guarantee your findings’ relative independence.

There are various types of research methodology;

  • Observation
  • Experiments
  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Interviews
  • Secondary data analysis
  • Mixed methods

The following is a guide on how to describe your methods in the two approaches;

Qualitative Methods

This method requires you to explain the principles you used to choose the participants, the background in which the research was done, and the part you played when gathering the data.

1. Overview

Utilize subheadings to divide up the various subsections you want to discuss, such as the participants, materials, design, and the procedure.

2. Interviews
  • How and when were the interviews conducted?
  • How did you find and pick the participants?
  • What form were the interviews (structured, unstructured, or semi-structured)?
  • What were the lengths of the interviews, and how were they recorded?
3. Participant Observation
  • What group of people did you observe, and how did you gain access to them?
  • What was the length of your research, and where was its location?
  • What was your role in the community?
  • What method did you use to record data?
4. Present the Data

Explain why you choose the research study for the focus of your analysis. Don’t forget to cite the materials used as well as the methods you used to collect and select them.

Quantitative Methods

Here, you should give enough details that should allow another researcher to replicate your research.

Describe how you measured your variables and operationalized the theories. Also, include your selection methods, tools used, procedures, and the materials you utilized when collecting data.

1. Survey
  • Give details into how the study or the survey was conducted. Describe how you designed the research question and the form that the question took. Were they in multiple choices, open-ended, or closed.
  • What selection methods did you use to pick your subjects?
  • What were the means of the surveys? Were they by phone, online, mail, or in-person?
  • What were the size of the sample and the reaction rate?
2. Experiments

This is the part where you are supposed to give the details of the tools, techniques, and the procedure you used to do the research. Make sure you provide sufficient detail to allow any other researcher to replicate your study. Describe how you recruited the participants, how you designed the experiment, and how you handled and measured the variables.

3. Existing Data

Give details on how you collected and selected materials for your results. Explain how the data was generated and the criteria you used to choose the materials.

Step 3: Evaluate and Justify Your Methodological Choices

You must make a case for the reason you chose the particular methods for your research. Provide a background for unconventional methods you used for your topic.

Explain why you didn’t use other methods and show that the chosen approach adds new knowledge or understand. Recognize the limitations and weaknesses that were presented by the method you chose, and remember to justify why the strengths of the approach outweighed them.

Things to Remember When Writing the Methods Section

I. Pay Attention to Your Objective and The Research Question

The methods section must clearly describe why your methods are a match for your objectives and persuade the readers that you picked the best possible approach to address the research question and the problem report.

II. Use Past Tense

Always use past tense to describe your methodology. By the time you are writing the report, you have already finished writing your research, so use past tense to record what you did.

III. Mention Relevant Sources

Strengthen your methodology by referencing to current research in the field to confirm that you adhered to the established practices for this type of research. Show that you took a new methodological approach to address the gap in the works. Try to limit to your references to within 5 to 10 years unless it is necessary for you to use old sources.

IV. Include a Visual Presentation

A visual presentation helps the readers follow the methodology well. Visual presentations like flowcharts, tables, and schematic diagrams can be used in this section. The visual presentations will help you break the boredom and streamlines the absorption of compound data.

V. Be Descriptive

Ensure that you give sufficient details that other researchers can use to replicate your study. Avoid including irrelevant information that is not significant to the results of the experiments. The methodology should be clear and well structured to make an argument for your approach.

VI. Specify the Variables

Mention all the control variables, dependent variables, and the independent variables. Also, mention any extraneous variables that might have an impact on the findings of the study.

VII. Use Proper Style

When writing an APA methods section, ensure that you place only relevant information that will be used in the conclusion. Avoid complicated and fused sentences by using active voice. Use the proper APA style when referencing to all sources mentioned and always keep a style guide by your side when using the APA style.

VIII. Indicate the Ethical Approvals

Initially in the methods segment, mention if your research was permitted by the ethics board or official appraisal board or if you have a written cognizant agreement from patients or the custodians.

IX. Proofread

Before submitting or publishing your research paper, make sure that you check it for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. Spell checkers can come in handy when you want to proofread, but you can recognize some mistakes. Sometimes, you can get too close-tied to your work and find it hard to spot any errors. In that case, the best thing to do is to get a second opinion about your paper.

Conclusion

The method section is essentially one of the most vital parts of your research paper. It gives vital information that enables the reader to determine the rationality of the findings and the conclusion of the report.

You should provide a clear and accurate explanation of how the research was conducted and the basis for the methodological approaches you selected.

Keep in mind the instruction of your supervisor. Every field and supervisors have specific requirements that you must follow while writing down your methods section.

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