The methodology of a research paper is a pivotal portion of academic writing, a roadmap to the core of the research. You’re telling people how you carried out your study, taking your audience through the journey you took to reach your destination. This part of the paper contains the essential details of the study’s experiments, which other researchers can replicate. The common reader can tell what your study is about from reading the methods section.
How long should a methods section be?
The methods section of a research paper is its longest section, amounting to about 29.7% of the total word count. The length of your paper’s methodology section depends on the quantity of data you used, among other things. There is no exact number regarding how long a methods section should be, but it typically ranges from five to ten. Also, the standards of the field you’re writing the research paper on can factor in the methods section length.
Your methods section should explain your methodological approach, describe your data collection methods, your analysis methods, and evaluate and justify your choices. The methods section is a heavy part of the marking scheme of research papers, typically carrying about one-third of the marks.
Standard structure of APA methods section
The APA writing style has its designated structure for each section of a research paper. For the methods section, you must concisely report how you carried out your study. If you’re in the natural or social sciences, this is the writing style you will follow – assuming you weren’t told. Below is the standard order in which your methods section in APA style should be:
- The main heading, “Methods,” should be capitalized, boldfaced, and centered, with subheadings in the title case, boldfaced, and left-aligned. You can use the subheadings of “Participants,” “Procedures,” and “Materials” to section your methodology in APA. They aren’t mandatory, but they help organize the section with subheadings your readers can make sense of.
- Start the section by reporting sample characteristics, sample size, and sampling procedures. You can use “subjects,” “participants,” or “respondents” for people, but only use “subject” in animal research.
- Next, list the materials – tools, and techniques used in measuring relevant variables; provide a thorough, complete picture of the techniques.
- After the materials, report all the procedures you applied to administer the study, plan data analysis, and process the acquired data.
How to write a methodology section
Writing a research paper methodology is pretty straightforward, provided you have all the information it’ll contain. So, in these four simple steps, here’s how to write methods section of a research paper:
- Step 1: Start with the introduction of your general approach to the research and, depending on your discipline, the underpinning assumptions.
- Step 2: After introducing your methodological approach, provide full detail of the method using either quantitative or qualitative data collection methods. In the quantitative type of methodology, describe your methods in detail to make replicating your study by another researcher possible. Qualitative methods are more flexible and subjective, but you should reflect on your approach and explain your choices.
- Step 3: Explain how you processed and analyzed the data you collected in the course of the study without giving too many details. If you did quantitative research, your data analysis would typically be based on numbers. So, you’ll include how you prepared the data before analysis, the software you used in analyzing, and the statistical tests used. However, your analysis is based on language, images, and observation for qualitative studies.
- Step 4: Finally, justify your methodological choices; this is especially important if you didn’t take the most standard approach in the study. Explain why you couldn’t use other methods and how your approach contributes to new knowledge.
Now that you understand how important the methods section of a research paper is, you know it requires much attention. While writing methodology seems easy, it can be tricky; it is easy to miss important details. However, with what we’ve shared, you should be able to write a standard, professional research paper methodology.