Chapter 4: Writing the Methods Section

Goals of an Effective Methods Section

There are three main goals for an effective Methods section:

  1. Contextualize the study’s methods;
  2. Describe the study;
  3. Analyze the data.

The image below provides a visual way to understand the three goals:


Visual depiction of the goals of methods sections. The graphic is an upside-down triangle with the broadest goal on the top and the most specific goal at the bottom.

These goals attempt to explain to the reader — in a very detailed fashion — how the study was carried out. Specificity is of utmost importance in this section, and one way to think about how specific the content should be is to imagine that someone is reading your Methods section with the purpose of replicating your research. Would they be able to conduct this same study based on what you have written in this section? You want the answer to be YES. So, by contextualizing, describing, and analyzing, you can explain to the reader exactly what, when, where, and how you did what you did.

Next, we’ll examine each of these three goals in a more careful way and provide some examples from published research.


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