Nova A.
Nova A.

How To Write The Methods Section of a Research Paper Step-by-Step

13 min read

Published on: Mar 6, 2024

Last updated on: Mar 5, 2024

research paper methods section

People also read

Share this article

The method and material section stands as the cornerstone of any research paper. Crafting this section with precision is important, especially when aiming for a target journal. 

If you're navigating the intricacies of research paper writing and pondering on how to ace the methodology, fear not – we've got you covered. Our guide will walk you through the essentials, ensuring your methodology shines in the eyes of your target journal. 

Let's jump into the basics of the method section!

On This Page

What is the Methods Section of a Research Paper?

The methods section of a research paper provides a detailed description of the procedures, techniques, and methods employed to conduct the study (American Psychological Association, 2020). It outlines the steps taken to collect, analyze, and interpret data, allowing other researchers to replicate the study and assess the validity of the results. 

This section includes information on the study design, participants, materials or apparatus used, data collection procedures, and statistical analyses. Typically, the methodology section is placed after the introduction and before the results section in a research paper.

Order Essay

Tough Essay Due? Hire Tough Writers!

Importance of Methods Section

The methods section of a research paper holds significant importance. Here is why: 

  • Replicability: The methods section ensures the replicability of the study by providing a clear and comprehensive account of the procedures used.
  • Transparency: It enhances transparency, allowing other researchers to understand and evaluate the validity of the study's findings.
  • Credibility: A well-documented methods section enhances the credibility of the research, instilling confidence in the study's design and execution.
  • Guidance for Future Research: It serves as a guide for future research, offering insights into methodologies that can be applied or modified in similar studies.
  • Ethical Considerations: The section highlights ethical considerations, promoting responsible and accountable research practices.

Structure of Methods Section of a Research Paper

There are some important parts of the method section of a research paper that you will need to include, whether you have done an experimental study or a descriptive study. 

Provided structured approach below ensures clarity and replicability of the research methodology:

Study Design: Clearly outline the overall design and approach adopted for the research.

Participants: Detailed demographic information and selection criteria for the study participants.

Materials or Apparatus: Provide a comprehensive list of all materials, tools, or equipment utilized during the study.

Procedure: Describe the step-by-step procedures followed in data collection, experimentation, or analysis.

Data Collection: Specify how data were collected, including any surveys, measurements, or observations.

Data Analysis: Outline the statistical or analytical methods applied to interpret the collected data.

Ethical Considerations: Address ethical aspects, including participant consent, confidentiality, and Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.

Formatting of the Methods Section 

Make the main "Methods" heading centered, bold, and capitalized. For subtopics under "Methods," like participant details or data collection, use left-aligned, bold, and title cases. 

Feel free to include even sub-headings for more specifics. This formatting helps readers easily follow your study steps.

Next, we will address the most common query, i.e., how to write the methodology section of a research paper. Let’s explain the steps for writing the methodology section of a research paper:

Step 1: Start with Study Design

The initial step in the method section of a research paper is to provide a clear description of the study type. This involves outlining the overall plan and structure of the research. 

Different types of studies, such as cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional, may be employed based on the research objectives.

For instance:

This study employed a randomized controlled trial (RCT) design to investigate the effects of a new teaching method on students' academic performance.

Starting with the study design sets the stage for understanding the methodology. It provides readers with a foundation for subsequent sections in the methods portion of the research paper.

Step 2: Describe Participants

In the methods section, the second step involves providing a detailed account of the participants involved in the study. Start by describing the characteristics of both human and non-human subjects, using clear and descriptive language.

Address specific demographic characteristics relevant to your study, such as age, sex, ethnic or racial group, gender identity, education level, and socioeconomic status. Clearly outlining these essential details ensures transparency, replicability, and a comprehensive understanding of the study's sample.

Sampling Procedures:

  • Clearly outline how participants were selected, specifying any inclusion and exclusion criteria applied.
  • Appropriately identify the sampling procedure used, such as random sampling, convenience sampling, or stratified sampling.
  • If applicable, note the percentage of invited participants who actually participated.
  • Specify if participants were self-selected or chosen by their institutions (e.g., schools submitting student data).

Sample Size and Power:

  • Detail the intended sample size estimation per condition and the statistical power aimed for in the study.
  • Provide information on any analyses conducted to determine the sample size and power.
  • Emphasize the importance of statistical power for detecting effects if present.
  • State whether the final sample size differed from the originally intended sample.
  • Base your interpretations of study outcomes solely on the final sample, reinforcing the importance of transparency in reporting.

Example (for human participants):
"The study included 200 undergraduate students (mean age = 22.5 years, SD = 2.0) from diverse ethnic backgrounds (40% Caucasian, 30% Asian, 20% African American, 10% Hispanic). Participants were recruited from various academic disciplines to ensure a representative sample. There were 120 females and 80 males, reflecting the gender distribution on campus. All participants provided informed consent before participation."

Example (for non-human participants):
"Twenty-four laboratory mice (C57BL/6 strain) were used in the experiment. The mice were evenly divided into two groups, with an equal distribution of males and females. Their ages ranged from 8 to 10 weeks at the beginning of the study. Mice were housed in standard laboratory conditions with ad libitum access to food and water throughout the experimental period."

Step 3: State Materials or Apparatus

In the third step, thoroughly describe the materials or apparatus used in your research. In addition, gives detailed information on the tools and techniques employed to measure relevant outcome variables.

Primary and Secondary Measures:

  • Clearly define both primary and secondary outcome measures aligned with research questions.
  • Specify all instruments used, citing hardware models, software versions, or references to manuals/articles.
  • Report settings of specialized apparatus, such as screen resolution.

Reliability and Validity:

  • For each instrument, detail measures of reliability and validity.
  • Include an explanation of how consistently (reliability) and precisely (validity) the method measures the targeted variables.
  • Provide examples or reference materials to illustrate the reliability and validity of tests, questionnaires, or interviews.

Covariates and Quality Assurance:

  • Describe any covariates considered and their relevance to explaining or predicting outcomes.
  • Review methods used to assure measurement quality, such as researcher training, multiple assessors, translation procedures, and pilot studies.
  • For subjectively coded data, report interrater reliability scores to gauge consistency among raters.
"To measure cognitive performance, we utilized the Stroop Color-Word Test (Golden, 1978), a widely accepted instrument for assessing attention and processing speed. The test comprises three conditions, each with a specific cognitive demand. We cited the test manual for reference, including the number of items and providing an example item for each condition. Additionally, we used Qualtrics survey software (version 3.2.1) for administering psychological questionnaires."

Step 4 Write the Procedure

Next is the procedure section of the research paper, which thoroughly details the procedures applied for administering the study, processing data, and planning data analyses.

Data Collection Methods and Research Design

  • Summarize data collection methods (e.g., surveys, tests) and the overall research design.
  • Provide detailed procedures for administering surveys, tests, or any other data collection instruments.
  • Clarify the research design framework, specifying whether it's experimental, quasi-experimental, descriptive, correlational, and/or longitudinal.
  • For multi-group studies, report assignment methods, group instructions, interventions, and session details.

Data Analysis 

  • Clearly state the planned data analysis methods for each research question or hypothesis.
  • Specify descriptive statistics, inferential statistical tests, and any other analysis techniques.
  • Include software or tools used for data analysis (e.g., SPSS, R).
  • Provide a brief rationale for choosing each analysis method.


This randomized clinical trial (RCT) explored the impact of a 4-week mindfulness intervention on college students' stress levels. Participants were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group, engaging in 30-minute sessions twice a week. Data collection involved pre- and post-intervention Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) self-reports and heart rate variability (HRV) recorded using a Polar H10 device.

For data analysis, paired-sample t-tests assessed within-group changes, and an independent samples t-test compared intervention and control groups. The level of significance (?) was 0.05, and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated for mean changes. Statistical power was ensured at 80% for robust findings. This streamlined approach combines self-reported and physiological measures, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation of the mindfulness intervention's impact.

Step 5: Mention Ethical Approvals

In the fifth step of the methods section, explicitly address the ethical considerations of your research, ensuring transparency and adherence to ethical standards. Here are some key ethical considerations: 

  • IRB Approval:

Clearly state that the research received approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or an equivalent ethical review body.

  • Informed Consent:

Specify the process of obtaining informed consent, including the provision of information sheets to participants.

  • Confidentiality:

Describe measures taken to maintain confidentiality, such as assigning unique identification numbers and securing data.

  • Participant Rights:

Emphasize participants' right to withdraw from the study at any point without consequences.

  • Debriefing:

Mention if debriefing procedures were implemented to address any participant concerns post-study.

"This study received approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at [Institution Name], ensuring that it adheres to ethical guidelines for research involving human subjects. Informed consent was obtained from all participants before their involvement in the study. Participants were provided with a detailed information sheet explaining the purpose of the research, the procedures involved, potential risks, and benefits. They were assured of their right to withdraw from the study at any point without consequences. Confidentiality was maintained by assigning unique identification numbers to participants, and all data were stored securely, accessible only to the research team. Additionally, debriefing was provided to participants upon study completion, clarifying the study's objectives and addressing any concerns."

Methods Section of Research Paper Examples

Exploring sample methodology sections is crucial when composing your first research paper, as it enhances your understanding of the structure. We provide PDF examples of methodology sections that you can review to gain inspiration for your own research paper.

Journal Guidelines to Consider

When writing the methods section, be mindful of the specific guidelines set by your target journal. These guidelines can vary, impacting the structure, word limitations, and even the presentation of your methodology. 

Here's a detailed explanation, along with an example:

Structure & Word Limitations

If a journal follows APA guidelines, it might allow flexibility in structuring the method section. However, some journals may impose strict limitations on the manuscript's length and the number of subsections. 

For instance, a journal might specify a maximum of 3000 words for the entire paper and limit the method section to 500 words. In such cases, ensure you adhere to these constraints, potentially submitting supplemental files for additional details.

Standardized Checklists

Journals often request authors to use standardized checklists for various study types to ensure completeness. 

For a randomized clinical trial, the CONSORT(Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) checklist might be required. If your research involves observational studies, the STROBE (Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology) checklist may be applicable. 

For diagnostic accuracy studies, adherence to the STARD (Standards for the Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies) checklist is common. These checklists serve as a systematic way to include essential details in your manuscript, aligning with the journal's preferred reporting standards.

Blind Review Procedures

Some journals implement single- or double-blind review procedures. If a double-blind review is in place, authors need to remove any information that might reveal their identity or institutional affiliations. 

For instance, the method section cannot explicitly mention the institution's name, researchers' identities, or the institutional ethics committee. This ensures an unbiased evaluation of the research without reviewers being influenced by the authors' affiliations.

Order Essay

Tough Essay Due? Hire Tough Writers!

The Dos And Don’ts Of Writing The Methods Section

While it's important to be thorough, certain elements are better suited for other sections of the paper. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts of writing the methods section:

Dos of Writing the Methods Section

Here are what to include in the methods section: 

  • Clarity and Precision: Clearly and concisely describe the procedures used in your study. Ensure that another researcher can replicate your work based on your explanation.
  • Chronological Order: Present the methods in a logical and chronological sequence. This helps readers follow the flow of your research.
  • Detail and Specificity: Provide sufficient detail to allow for replication. Specify equipment, materials, and procedures used, including any modifications.
  • Consistency with Study Design: Align your methods with the overall design of your study. Clearly state whether it's experimental, observational, or another design.
  • Inclusion of Participants: Detail participant characteristics, including demographics and any inclusion/exclusion criteria. Clearly state the sample size.
  • Operational Definitions: Define and operationalize key variables. Clearly explain how each variable was measured or manipulated.
  • Transparency in Data Collection: Describe the data collection process, including the timing, location, and any relevant protocols followed during the study.
  • Statistical Information: Outline the statistical methods used for analysis. Specify the software, tests employed and significance levels.
  • Ethical Considerations: Discuss ethical approvals obtained, informed consent procedures, and measures taken to ensure participant confidentiality. Address any potential conflicts of interest.

Don'ts of Writing the Methods Section

  • Extraneous Details: Unlike the discussion section avoid including unnecessary details or information that does not contribute directly to understanding the research methods.
  • Results Discussion: Refrain from discussing or interpreting the results in the methods section. Focus solely on describing the methods employed.
  • Ambiguity and Vagueness: Steer clear of vague or ambiguous language. Be precise and specific in your descriptions.
  • Overemphasis on Background: While some background information is relevant, avoid turning the methods section into an extensive literature review. Keep the focus on the research methods.
  • Personal Opinions: Do not include personal opinions or anecdotes. Stick to factual and objective descriptions.
  • Excessive Jargon: Minimize the use of technical jargon that may be confusing to readers who are not experts in your field. If necessary, provide clear explanations.
  • Inadequate Explanation of Modifications: If you deviate from standard procedures, clearly explain the modifications and justify why they were made.
  • Inconsistency with Design: Ensure that your methods align with the study design. Avoid inconsistencies that could create confusion for readers.

In conclusion, learning the art of writing the methods section is pivotal for any research paper. Following a step-by-step approach, from defining the study design to detailed data collection and analysis, ensures clarity and replicability. 

Remember, precision matters. If you find yourself grappling with the intricacies of your methodology, don't hesitate to reach out to 

Our professional writing service is ready to assist you in crafting a robust and well-structured methods section. 

Connect with our research paper writing service for expert guidance and conquer the challenges of research paper writing.

Nova A.


Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That’s our Job!

Get Help Top-class writers are here! Get Help!

Keep reading

11 min read

How to Write a Research Paper Step by Step

research paper methods section
12 min read

How to Write a Proposal For a Research Paper in 10 Steps

research paper methods section
13 min read

A Comprehensive Guide to Creating a Research Paper Outline

research paper methods section
10 min read

Types of Research - Methodologies and Characteristics

research paper methods section
19 min read

300+ Engaging Research Paper Topics to Get You Started

research paper methods section
28 min read

Interesting Psychology Research Topics & Ideas

research paper methods section
12 min read

Qualitative Research - Types, Methods & Examples

research paper methods section
8 min read

Understanding Quantitative Research - Definition, Types, Examples, And More

research paper methods section
7 min read

Research Paper Example - Examples for Different Formats

research paper methods section
9 min read

How To Start A Research Paper - Steps With Examples

research paper methods section
14 min read

How to Write an Abstract That Captivates Your Readers

research paper methods section
13 min read

How To Write a Literature Review for a Research Paper | Steps & Examples

research paper methods section
8 min read

Types of Qualitative Research Methods - An Overview

research paper methods section
9 min read

Understanding Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research - A Complete Guide

research paper methods section
10 min read

How to Cite a Research Paper in Different Citation Styles

research paper methods section
13 min read

Easy Sociology Research Topics for Your Next Project

research paper methods section
24 min read

200+ Outstanding History Research Paper Topics With Expert Tips

research paper methods section
13 min read

How To Write a Hypothesis in a Research Paper | Steps & Examples

research paper methods section
10 min read

How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper - A Step-by-Step Guide

research paper methods section
10 min read

How to Write a Good Research Paper Title

research paper methods section
7 min read

How to Write a Conclusion for a Research Paper in 3 Simple Steps

research paper methods section
12 min read

How to Write an Abstract For a Research Paper with Examples

research paper methods section
12 min read

How To Write a Thesis For a Research Paper Step by Step

research paper methods section
10 min read

How to Write a Discussion For a Research Paper | Objectives, Steps & Examples

research paper methods section
15 min read

How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper - Structure and Tips

research paper methods section
10 min read

How to Write a Problem Statement for a Research Paper in 6 Steps

research paper methods section
10 min read

How to Find Sources For a Research Paper | A Guide

research paper methods section