How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper?

The method section a research paper is the one of the most essential part that outlines the methodology and materials used in the research process. This section is also known as Materials and Methods (M&M) section. A well written M&M section should provide readers enough information for replicating the study and understand the accuracy and reliability of the results. Therefore, it is important to provide the step by step details of the materials, experimental details and the procedure of the analysis.

Importance of the methods section of a research paper:

When a reader reads the M&M section of your paper, s/he should find comprehensive information about your conducted research. For example, the type of materials and instruments you used. What procedures you followed to prepare any sample? What type of analysis you did? What instruments you used? If you have done any theoretical work, then you should provide the details of the model, flow diagram of your framework etc. You should write your M&M section in such a way so that anyone can easily find all the required information to repeat your work. This ensures the credibility of your work. Always remember that the results that you publish should always be repeatable. If people find your reported results repeatable, then the scientific community would mostly like to use your work. Thus, it will bring more citations and credibility to your work.

Structure and format the method sections:

The material and methods section of a research paper usually follows the introduction and precedes the results and discussion sections. This section can be subdivided into different subsections such as materials, procedures and data analysis etc. These subsections might vary depending upon the type of your studies. For example, if you do theoretical work, then you might add description for your theoretical framework, how you developed your model etc.

Regardless of the type of the work, this section should be always written in past form and in complete sentences. Generally, passive voice is used to focus on the action, not on the person who conducted the work. It should only discuss the procedures used, rather than an introduction to the topic or the study’s findings.

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Report in chronological order:

When you report your experiments in the M&M section, do not just list them. Rather focus on describing in such a way that you are telling a story to your readers. For example, after preparing your sample, which set of experiments you did first to analyze your sample. Then what made you to do the subsequent experiments. Please not that you should structure the M&M section in the same way as your result section. Thus, it will be easier for the readers to follow your work and the findings that you claimed. A synchronized M&M and results section helps the peer reviewers to evaluate your manuscript more efficiently during the review process as well.

Provide manufacturer information:

You must provide the model, name of the manufacturer, and location of the company for laboratory or technical equipment. For US-based manufacturers, the usual format for these details is the product name (company name, city, state) and for companies outside the US, the product name (company name, city/town, country).

Provide enough supplementary information:

Now a days, you will often see any published articles comes with a supplementary section that includes images, figures and analysis of the reported work. When you report the procedure of your experimental work, you often focus on the key information. But it is always nice to provide additional images of your experimental setup, samples that you prepared in the supplementary section. A good supplementary section always provides more insights about your work to the readers. Therefore, if you have extra information to share you may consider sharing them as a supplementary information and properly refer to them in your M&M section.

Things to avoid:

You should be aware of the common pitfalls that makes your cumbersome to read or might makes your work questionable.

  • You should not provide any background information that is not helpful.
  • You should avoid providing a lot of detail.
  • You should focus more on the method that you used to meet the research objectives and less on mechanics.
  • You should mention the obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them.

When to write this section?

It is best to write the methods section of a research paper first. Perhaps, you should write this section while you are working on your experiments. Thus, you will be able to document every details of your experiments. If you work with other members on the reported work, then it becomes easier to persuade team members to write their respective method sections while they are working or shortly after. Once the experiments are completed, and the team moves on to further projects, then writing a complete methods section will take longer, and many crucial details might be lost.

To sum, the materials and method section is easy to write, but if you are not careful enough you might miss a lot of details about your experiments. And, if the readers find that some information is missing, they will start questioning the credibility of your research. Therefore, you should pay attention while writing this section.

Disclaimer: No A.I. was used to generate any portion of this content.

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