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How to Write a Method Section

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The method section should be fairly brief.

The method section details the methods, procedures, and materials used in an experiment.

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The method section of an APA format psychology paper provides the methods and procedures used in a research study or experiment. You should provide detailed information on the research design, participants, equipment, materials, variables, and actions taken by the participants. The method section should provide enough information to allow other researchers to replicate your experiment or study.

The method section should utilize subheading to divide up different subsections. These subsections typically include: Participants, Materials, Design, and Procedure.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Variable

Here's How:

  1. Participants: Describe the participants in your experiment, including who they were, how many there were, and how they were selected.

    For example:

    We randomly selected 100 children from elementary schools near the University of Arizona.
  2. Materials: Describe the materials, measures, equipment, or stimuli used in the experiment. This may include testing instruments, technical equipments, books, images, or other materials used in the course of research.

    For example:

    Two stories from Sullivan et al.'s (1994) second-order false belief attribution tasks were used to assess children's understanding of second-order beliefs.
  3. Design: Describe the type of design used in the experiment. Specify the variables as well as the levels of these variables. Explain whether your experiment uses a within-groups or between-groups design.

    For example:

    The experiment used a 3x2 between-subjects design. The independent variables were age and understanding of second-order beliefs.
  4. Procedure: The next part of your method section should detail the procedures used in your experiment. Explain what you had participants do, how you collected data, and the order in which steps occurred.

    For example:

    An examiner interviewed children individually at their school in one session that lasted 20 minutes on average. The examiner explained to each child that he or she would be told two short stories and that some questions would be asked after each story. All sessions were videotaped so the data could later be coded.

Tips:

  1. Always write the method section in the past tense.
  2. Provide enough detail that another researcher could replicate your experiment, but focus on brevity. Avoid unnecessary detail that is not relevant to the outcome of the experiment.
  3. Remember to use proper APA format. As you are writing your method section, keep a style guide published by the American Psychological Association on hand, such as the Concise Rules Of APA Style.
  4. Take a rough draft of your method section to your university's writing lab for additional assistance.
  5. Proofread your paper for typos, grammar problems, and spelling errors. Do not just rely on computer spell checkers. Always read through each section of your paper for agreement with other sections. If you mention steps and procedures in the method section, these elements should also be present in the results and discussion sections.

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