A description of how the thesis was carried out so that the reader can
1) recreate the procedure and potentially apply it to their own project
2) evaluate the reliability of the project and the results
The method section should answer two key questions:
1) What did you do?
2) Why did you do it that way?
The length and detail of the methods section depend on your particular field and on the knowledge and expectations of your audience (see more information on this below). See also visual support for information on using visuals in texts.
Possible elements of a methods and materials section
- Possible elements
- Describes steps carried out in project
- Lists hardware (equipment, apparatuses), or software (programs) used to carry out the project
- Definitions employed
- Presents terminology that needs to be specifically defined for the context of this project
- Subjects / participants in study
- Describes selection and composition of subjects / participants
- Statistical procedures used
- Describes tests and comparisons made with data (results) that will be used later to make inferences and evaluations.
•This section is often written first, since it is one of the most straightforward sections to write
•The title of the section does not have to be Methods, perhaps a more descriptive heading might be appropriate
•Subsections: Materials and Methods can also make up two separate sections or chapters
- If the report is short and the method is less complex e.g. you have read and discussed a number of articles or the method is well-known to your reader, it can be enough with a method section in the introduction.
•Language: past tense and passive (see discussion in Active vs passive voice ) is often used in this section
For useful phrases to use in discussing findings, click here for the University of Manchester's Academic Phrasebank.
How detailed should the method section be?
A methods section can be condensed i.e. focus on what you did or extended i.e. explain why you did it that way. There might be several reasons to explain why you did it that way:
1) your method is unfamiliar or unusual in this context
2) to show your reader why you have carried out your study in a certain way e.g. your supervisor
NB: A methods section is more likely to be extended in a student thesis than in a research article.
Other ways of extending methods sections:
-providing useful background knowledge e.g. through definitions and examples
-using descriptions of procedural steps e.g. how you worked in the lab
-including a number of justifications i.e. because, in order to
-using cognitive or volitional verbs e.g. we believed, we wanted to
-Including by+ -ing + how statements e.g. this was done by reversing the order
-employing a wide range of linking words and phrases e.g. time expressions such as next or prior to