The methods section should to tell readers in 5-6 paragraphs (~800 words or ~20-30% of manuscript text) what was done to achieve the study objectives. A well-written methods section should improve a readers’ ability to interpret study results and assess the quality of the research study and findings. The methods section should read like a recipe, so that reader could reproduce your study. This section should include the study design, setting, participant selection, variables, procedures, data management, and statistical methods.

Beginning

The beginning paragraph should describe the study design used (e.g., prospective, retrospective, randomized controlled trial, cohort, case-control, systematic review, and meta-analysis) and study setting, including all study locations and dates.

  • A systematic literature review was conducted of studies that …
  • There are a number of instruments available for measuring the …
  • A major advantage of X is that … The benefit of this approach is that …
  • The main disadvantage of the experimental method is that …
  • Analysis was based on the conceptual framework proposed by Smith et al. (2002).
  • A X-study approach was used to gain a detailed understanding of…

Middle

The middle paragraph(s) should discuss the methods used to select study participants, including the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Include a sentence that institutional review board approval was obtained or waived, when applicable. Include a description of how participants were consented or how data was obtained. Next, describe the specific study outcomes and major variables.

  • A random sample of patients with … was recruited from …
  • Prior to commencing the study, ethical clearance was sought from…
  • Two groups of subjects were interviewed, namely X and Y. The first group were …
  • Criteria for selecting the subjects were as follows:
  • To assess whether and how Xs are produced and received, we measured …
  • Descriptive data were generated for all variables.

End

The last paragraph should discuss the specific materials, equipment, or procedures used to determine study outcomes. Discuss the steps taken to reduce bias in the study. Conclude the methods section with a paragraph listing the statistical methods and software (manufacturer, location, and version) used to analyze the data. Be sure to also state the P value used for significance testing (usually p=0.05).

  • Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS software (manufacturer, location, version).
  • In particular, the analysis of X was problematic.
  • It was not possible to investigate the significant relationships of X and Y further because…
  • In observational studies, there is a potential for bias from …
  • The responses relating to X were subjective and were therefore susceptible to recall bias.

References

  1. The EQUATOR Network. Reporting guidelines for main study types. Published 2020. Accessed August 5, 2020. https://www.equator-network.org/reporting-guidelines/
  2. Kotz D, Cals JWL. Effective writing and publishing scientific papers, part IV: methods. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 2013;66(8):817. doi:10.1016/j.jclinepi.2013.01.003
  3. Guyatt G, Cook D. 4. CORRELATION AND REGRESSION. CAN MED ASSOC J.:8.
  4. Jaeschke R, Cook D, Heddle N. BASIC STATISTICS FOR CLINICLkNS: 3. ASSESSING THE EFFECTS OF TREATMENT: MEASURES OF ASSOCIATION. CAN MED ASSOC J.:7.
  5. Guyatt G, Shannon H, Walter S. BASIC STATISTICS FOR CLINICLNS: 2. INTERPRETING STUDY RESULTS: CONFIDENCE INTERVALS. CAN MED ASSOC J.:5.
  6. Vintzileos AM, Ananth CV. How to write and publish an original research article. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2010;202(4):344.e1-344.e6. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2009.06.038
  7. Branson RD. Anatomy of a Research Paper. RESPIRATORY CARE. 2004;49(10):7.