The method section of an APA format psychology paper provides the methods and procedures used in a research study or experiment. This part of an APA paper is critical because it allows other researchers to see exactly how you conducted your research. This allows other researchers to reproduce your experiment if they want and to assess alternative methods that might produce differing results.
So what exactly do you need to include when writing your method section?
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 Parts of the Method Section
The method section should utilize subheadings to divide up different subsections. These subsections typically include: Participants, Materials, Design, and Procedure.
In this part of the method section, you should describe the participants in your experiment including who they were, how many there were, and how they were selected. Include details about how your participants were chosen, who they were, and any unique features that may set them apart from the general population. If you utilized random selection to choose your participants, it should be noted here.
"We randomly selected 100 children from elementary schools near the University of Arizona."
At the very minimum, this part of your method section must convey who was in your study, the population from which your participants were drawn, and any restrictions on your pool of participants. For example, if your study consists of female college students from a small private college in the mid-West, you should note this in this part of your method section.
This part of your method section should also explain how many participants were in your study, how many were assigned to each condition, and basic characteristics of your participants such as sex, age, ethnicity, or religion. In this subsection, it is also important to explain why your participants took part in your research. Was your study advertised at a college or hospital? Did participants receive some type of incentive to take part in your research?
Be sure to explain how participants were assigned to each group. Were they randomly assigned to a condition or was some other selection method used?
Providing this information helps other researchers understand how your study was performed, how generalizable the result might be, and allows others researchers to replicate your results with other populations to see if they might obtain the same results.
Describe the materials, measures, equipment, or stimuli used in the experiment. This may include testing instruments, technical equipment, books, images, or other materials used in the course of research. If you used some type of psychological assessment or special equipment during the course of your experiment, it should be noted in this part of your method section.
"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."
For standard and expected equipment such as computer screens, television screens, videos, keyboards, and radios, you can simply name the device and not provide further explanation. So if you used a computer to administer a psychological assessment, you would need to name the specific assessment you used, but you could simply state that you used a computer to administer the test rather than listing the brand and technical specifications of the device.
Specialized equipment, especially if it is something that is complex or created for a niche purpose, should be given greater detail. In some instances, such as if you created a special material or apparatus for your study, you may need to provide and illustration of the item that can be included in your appendix and then referred to in your method section.
Describe the type of design used in the experiment. Specify the variables as well as the levels of these variables. Clearly identify your independent variables, dependent variables, control variables, and any extraneous variables that might influence your results. Explain whether your experiment uses a within-groups or between-groups design.
"The experiment used a 3x2 between-subjects design. Theindependent variableswere age and understanding of second-order beliefs."
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.
"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."
Keep this subsection concise yet detailed. Explain what you did and how you did it, but do not overwhelm your readers with too much information.
Things to Remember When Writing a Method Section
- Always write the method section in the past tense.
- 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.
- 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 Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
- Take a rough draft of your method section to your university's writing lab for additional assistance.
- 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.
A Word From Verywell
The method section is one of the most important components of your APA format paper. The goal of your paper should be to clearly detail what you did in your experiment. Provide enough detail that another researcher could replicate your study if he or she wanted.
Finally, if you are writing your paper for a class or for a specific publication, be sure to keep in mind any specific instructions provided by your instructor or by the journal editor. Your instructor may have certain requirements that you need to follow while writing your method section.
American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2010.
You are now ready to plan and compose the second piece of your proposal, the methodologysection. In it you will describe what you plan to accomplish, why you want to do it and how you are going to do it. This process is very important; to a reviewer, your research investigation is only as a good as your proposal methodology. Generally, a research proposal should contain all thekey elements involved in theresearch process and include sufficient information for the readers to evaluate the proposed study. An ill-conceived proposal dooms the project, even if it somehow is approved, because your methods are not carefully thought out in advance.
The methodology section should describe how each specific objective will be achieved, with enough detail to enable an independent and informed assessment of the proposal. This section should include:
- Restatement of research tasks:hypothesis or research questions;
- Studypopulationandsampling: description of study areas, populations and the procedures for their selection;
- Data collection: description of the tools and methods used to collect information, and identification of variables;
- Data analysis: description of data processing and analyzing procedures;
- Laboratory procedures: descriptions of standardized procedures and protocols and new or unique procedures; and
- The specific tools that will be used to study each research objective.
First, review the two types of research, qualitative and quantitative, in order to make a decision about your own methodology's procedures pathway.
In a series of steps in aplanning guide, you will outline yourmethodologysection and craft yourproposal.
Deciding My Own Approach
Start planning and writing by clicking on each of the elements in research proposal's methodology section
What type of overall study design is best for my investigation and research?
There are two types of information gathering—qualitativeandquantitative. Both designs, quantitative and qualitative, are said to be systematic, meaning that they have a system or follow a process. Each type of design, however has different approaches to methods of reasoning, step-by-stepprocedures, and researchtoolsandstrategies. Although deciding that an investigation is qualitative or quantitative directs the researcher toward a certain path, depending on what research questions still need to be answered as the investigation unfolds a combination of approaches can be used in the specific research tools used.
Now you will determineoverall project design; that decision will help you to frame out your basic methodology and determine whether you will need to use inductive or deductive reasoning in making your conclusion.
Complete Crafting a Research Proposal: II. Approach to Research Design in order to decide which approach will best suit your research. To answer some of the questions there, you may need to review your Reflection Journal and the material introduced earlier about methodology located on this web site.
When you are done, select the approach that you think will work best for your research and follow the pathway for your particular approach
Design My Project
Now that you know which design best suits your investigation, you will need to follow a specific pathway for the following research proposal elements in order to follow the specific reasoning and concerns of your approach. You will also need to download and save the planning guide for your approach to methodology to your computer.
Crafting the Proposal: III. The Methodology (Qualitative)
Crafting the Proposal: III. The Methodology (Quantitative)
Different Pathways for Different Research Design Approaches
After you have downloaded and saved the file, you will need to complete Step 1 : Designing Research Methodology. Use the links below to help you to make decisions as you complete your planning guide.
Qualitative Approach Pathway
Role of the Researcher in Qualitative Design
Researchers usually prefer fairly lengthy and deep involvement in the natural setting. Social life is complex in its range and variability, and operates at different levels. It has many layers of meaning and the researcher has to lift veils to discover the innermost meanings. In order to gain access to deeper levels, the researcher needs to develop a certain rapport with the subjects of the study, and to win their trust.
There are some key ideas to consider as you plan for your role in your research design.
Quantitative Approach Pathway
Role of the Researcher in Quantitative Design
The quantitative researcher is detached and objective. Explain whether you will be an unobtrusive observer, a participant observer, or a collaborator. Evaluate how your own bias may affect the methodology, outcomes, and analysis of findings.
Many times this element of the research proposal will be affected by ethics. In addition, this section is often interwoven in a narrative design explanation with other elements of the proposal. Review sample proposals to see how other researchers with similar designs to yours have explained their roles in the research investigation.
Complete this section on your planning guide.
When you have completed Step 1 on your planning sheet, move on to Step 2: Refining My Quantitative(or Qualitative) Investigation with Specific Methods, Tools, and Procedures.
You will need to make decisions in Step 2 for the following topics. Use the links below, your reflection journal, and the Elements of the Proposal section of the web site to assist you as you complete this portion of your planning guide.
After you have planned the elements above, there are a few more things to decide and plan. Use the list below and your planning guide to help youcomplete the rest of yourresearch proposal.
Other Elements in the Research Methodology
- Resources and Materials
- Limitations and Delimitations
- Final Product In the section, the researcher discusses the possible outcomes of the study, its relation to theory and literature, and its potential impact or application. A description of the possible forms of the final product, e.g., publishable manuscript, conference paper, invention, model, computer software, exhibit, performance, etc., should be outlined. Be specific about how you intend to share your results or project with others. Although all of these ideas may change in light of the research process or the final results, it is always good to plan with the end product in mind.
This section may also include an interpretation and explanation of results as related to your question; a discussion on or suggestions for further work that may help address the problem you are trying to solve; an analysis of the expected impact of the findings and product on the audience; or a discussion on any problems that could hinder your creative work.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- In what form will your findings be presented?
- How will you be disseminating your findings?
- To whom will you be disseminating your findings?
- How will you ensure anonymity in any publications?
- Will you need to create an abstract of your overall investigation?
- References Keep a running list of all references as you work through the proposal. You will need to have this list to avoid plagiarism and chances are you will need to go back to certain references throughout the entire research experience. This includes all textbooks, reference books, journal articles, Internet sources, etc.
See the references section from your Literature Review for a comprehensive guide to completing the reference section of your proposal. You do not need to duplicate the efforts of your Literature Review, but PLEASE remember to add any new references that you utilized for your methodology, data collection tools, etc. Spend some time reviewing the references to ensure that they are complete and accurate - names of all the authors, correct date, full and accurate title, complete publishing information (city of publication, publishing company for books, full journal title, volume and number and pages for journal articles). Use the appropriate citation forms for your field of study.Complete this section using the directions on your proposal planning guide.
- Appendices Adding a few appendices to the end of your proposal allows you to show how thoroughly you have prepared your research project without obliging the reader to wade through all the details. The purpose of an appendix is to display documents which are relevant to main text, but whose presence in the text would disturb rather than enhance the flow of the argument or writing. Results of the literature search, pilot data, data collection forms, patient information sheets, and consent forms can all be added as appendices to include documents, pilot study material, questions for interviews, survey instruments, explanatory statement to participants,etc.
Some likely parts to incorporate in the appendices are:
- Distribution Plan - A part of the proposal which is the plan for distributing of information about the project to the audience. It can also include financial statements for the funding agencies which want to see financial standing of the project. This section may include radio broadcasts, training programs, workshops, printed handouts, newsletters, presentations, etc.
- Cooperating Agency Information – If references of different cooperating agencies are given, then try to give some detail about these agencies in appendices like name and address, services or product, names of important personals, etc.
- Evaluation Tools – It is good to include the copy of evaluation tools planed to use which are used in information gathering like questionnaires, survey, interview, etc.
Appendices have a format:
- Pagination: Each Appendix begins on a separate page.
- Heading:If there is only one appendix, "Appendix" is centered on the first line below the manuscript page header. If there is more than one appendix, use Appendix A (or B or C, etc.). Double-space and type the appendix title (centered in uppercase and lowercase letters).
- Format: Indent the first line 5-7 spaces.
- Example of APA-formatted Appendix:
Most of the items that you include in your appendix will only need a Copy-Paste to be added to your proposal. It could also be possible that they would need to be converted into a graphic or a .PDF file if they are web-based.
Complete this section following the directions on your proposal planning guide.
After you make your decisions for above, you will have completed Sections 2, 3, 4, and 5 of your planning guide. You now will need to write your methodology draft. Use this sample methodology section as an example for explanations, language, and phrasing for this part of your proposal.
Sample Description of Methodology
Data Gathering Plans – The two instruments and a simple instruction sheet that also asks subjects their age and gender, will be delivered to an administrator in each setting who has agreed to distribute and collect the completed instruments. Prior to their distribution an introductory letter from both the researcher and the respective administrators will be placed in each selected subject’s mailbox or mail slot asking for their cooperation. The letters will describe the research and its importance and the support of the administrator. They also will note that a $5 coupon toward any groceries at the local Wegman’s Grocery (donated by the store’s public relations office) will be available to each person completing the two instruments and signing a letter of informed consent related to the research. Finally, they will provide a telephone number for anyone with questions or who may need assistance in completing the instruments. This procedure will be pilot-tested with at least 10 volunteers from the Fayetteville Senior center to refine the data gathering plans.
Once the pilot-testing procedures have been completed, any required changes in the administration plans will be carried out. Then the administrators will be authorized to distribute the forms. Any person who has phoned needing clarification will be provided further explanation. Anyone who phones in a need for assistance in completing the forms will receive support in the form of one the location’s administrative assistants reading the forms and recording the answers. Each assistant so involved will be provided training by the researcher on how to read and record the answers in an unbiased manner.
One week after this initial delivery, a follow-up phone call will be made to either thank those who completed the forms or to remind those who have not yet completed their forms. The grocery coupons will be mailed to all who have completed the forms with a letter of thanks. If fewer than 95 people from each of the two settings complete the forms, then the random sampling and distribution will continue until at least that number of completed forms from each setting has been received. It is anticipated that all data collection efforts will be completed within one month.
Your Reflection Log and the sample proposals you studied earlier also should be excellent resources.
Through the steps in Crafting the Proposal: III. The Methodology, you have planned, and maybe even completed, the first draft of your research proposal's methodology section.
When you have completed your draft, you will need to combine all three pieces of your proposal, your introduction, your literature review, and your methodology. Use Step 6 on your planning guide to assist you.