How to Write a Methods Section for a University APA Research Paper

While the format of research papers varies based on project-specific requirements, every research paper must include the research methodology section.

This section, as the name implies, breaks down the methods and procedures used to conduct the research. It describes in detail the steps, the materials, and procedures used to investigate research questions and justifies why these particular strategies were utilized.

In other words, the APA methods section of any research paper serves as the roadmap that guides the reader through the steps the writer took towards achieving the study’s objectives. In this article, we take an in-depth look at how to write a methods section for a research paper.

The Purpose of the Methods Section

The method section is the essential parts of a research paper for the two primary reasons explained below;

1.    It Proves the Rationality of the Results

In this age of internet connectivity, anyone can select a psychology research topic, explore the basics, craft a random thesis, and then generate some random research methods in psychology and some cooked-up results.

However, thanks to the methodology section, every research writer has no choice but to describe the types of research methodology they used, the tools and even design in detail, for their results to be considered valid. 

This helps the reader grasp how the researcher arrived at their results and clears any doubts they may have had towards their findings.

Also, since everything about the study, from the types of research methodology to design used is documented and out there in the open, it becomes impossible for critics to come up with claims that may undermine the study.

2.    Makes Your Research Reproducible  

One of the many reasons why students are assigned a research project is to test their knowledgeability of a particular topic.

They prove their expertise by coming up with results that contribute to knowledge advancement in their field of study. What this means is that their research can be used in future studies of the same or similar topic by other researchers.

What does any of this have to do with the methodology section? Well, it’s through this section other researchers get a glimpse of how exactly you carried out your research. It allows them to replicate or formulate new methods of research, come up with refined results, and expand existing knowledge on the research problem in question.

That said, you should strive to make the APA methods section of your research paper clear and concise, but at the same time, ensure it offers a complete description of every step you took instead of being just a basic tutorial.

Structure of the Method Section

You cannot claim you know how to write a methods section for a research paper if you do not know how to keep it organized. You need to ensure that the data you present is engaging and easy to skim through, still maintains its professional touch. A typical APA methods section should have the following subsections;

1.    Participants

This section describes those involved in your study. You are required to be as detailed as possible in all types of research methods.  In some disciplines, for instance, the research methods in psychology, you are expected to describe any feature that may distinguish a participant from the general population.

You’re also required to say exactly how many participants were involved in your study during data collection and not use estimates. Avoid using phrases like about, approximately, around, or roughly in your APA methods section.

You’re also expected to describe the selection process. For instance, was it a stratified random selection process, or are your participants a convenience sample?  Some of the demographic characteristics you can use to describe the participants in a research methodology include but are not limited to;

  1. Age group
  2. Gender
  3. Race/ethnicity
  4. Level of education

Here’s a simple methods section of research paper example describing the participant’s subsection to give you an idea of what’s expected of you;

Participants in this study included 70 students from Harvard University. Among them, thirty were female students between ages 18 and 21, while the remaining 40 were male between ages 20 and 24. All participants were randomly selected.

The participant’s methods section of the research paper example above is incredibly detailed. Even a non-expert can replicate the same study.

It uses unique demographic characteristics such as gender and age and also goes on to describe the selection process and even where the population of participants was drawn(Harvard).

2.    The Materials Used

This is yet another critical subsection that you must master if you want to learn how to write a methods section for a research paper. Here you list and describe all the materials used in the research.

They could be the technical tools, testing instruments, or even special psychological assessment tests. Note, while the key is to be detailed, you can use generic names for standard experiment equipment such as computers or microscopes.

A proper methods section of research paper example describing the material’s subsection is as follows;

For this experiment, a potato was skinned, thoroughly washed, and diced. 30grams of the diced sweet potato together with 150ml of distilled water were then added to a blender and blended for two minutes. The solution was then filtered through a cheesecloth and stored in a capped container in a cool, dry place.

For our methods section of the research paper example above, the researcher vividly explains the preparation of the study material and the tools used, how long the procedure took, and even the nature of storage.

3.    The Design

The design subsection describes the overall structure of the research methods in psychology or any other discipline. It helps the reader differentiate the dependent and the independent variables in your methods of research.

 It also enables them to determine how these variables were manipulated regardless of the types of research methods you may have used. A design subsection example can be as follows;

The study used the 4×2 between participant’s design. Four male participants and two female participants, all between ages 18 and 20, were asked to have a seat and sign well-detailed consent forms.

Our methods section of the research paper example above clearly tells the reader what design was used in the experiment.

This way, if the reader were ever to try to repeat the experiment, the process would be seamless since they even have details of the sitting positions used.

4.    Procedure

The last subsection of research methods in psychology is the procedure. Once you master this section and all the others above, you can proudly say you know how to write a methods section for a research paper.

Here, you explain how the study was conducted. You address things like, what did the participants do? How did you collect the data? What was your role behind the scenes? Here’s an example;

Female participants gave in their signed consent forms first, followed by the male participants. After this, the researcher individually debriefed and excused each participant. Each interview session took half an hour and was videotaped for data collection and analysis purposes.

The example above is descriptive enough for any reader to grasp. It describes the order in which the participants gave in their forms and even how long each interview lasted.

Method Section Standard Guidelines

While writing the research methods in psychology part of your research project, remember the following;

  1. All types of Research methodology sections are always in the past tense
  2. All types of research methodology sections should be incredibly descriptive.
  3. Always use the word “participants” instead of subjects in all types of research methods.

Tips for Writing a Strong and Engaging Methodology

Although critical, the APA methods section is often perceived as the most monotonous part of research paper writing. You can make it more engaging without losing your professionalism by;

a.    Using Visual Elements

While describing your methods of research, make your APA methods section break the monotony of text and, at the same time, maintain the professional touch of your work by using visual elements. Use graphs, flowcharts, pie charts, and schematic diagrams whenever you can.

b.    Beginning with General Information Then Narrowing it Down

Some types of research methods can be hard to take in all at once. Make your content enjoyable and useful to the user by explaining your methods from a general point of view first, and then slowly narrowing things down.

This way, it’ll be easier for the reader to follow and understand your research methodology. 

c.    Match the Order of Your Research Methods with the Order of the Results

Do you want your paper to make even more sense to the reader? Then ensure the order of your methods of research matches the order of results generated.

If you mention that the female participants had the interviews first, ensure your result’s section also follows the same pattern. This should be done for all types of research methods.

Tackle Methodology Section with Confidence Today

At a glance, writing the methods of research for your project can seem pretty tedious.

However, as you may have seen above, all it takes is a little patience and a whole lot of detail. Still, think you don’t have what it takes to write an A-plus APA methods section?

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of highly experienced and hospitable experts.

We are always ready to help you learn how to write a methods section for a research paper, offer more info on the various types of research methodology, and turn you into a methods-section writing guru.

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