If you’re a researcher writing an APA paper, you’ll need to include a Methods section. This part explains the methods you used to conduct your experiment or research study and is always written in the past tense.
It’s crucial that you include all the relevant information here because other researchers will use this section to recreate your study, as well as judge how valid and accurate your results are.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to write a clear and comprehensive Methods section for your research paper.
Structuring the Methods Section
This section of an APA paper is typically split into three subsections under the following subheadings:
Participants—who took part in the experiment and why?
Materials—what tools did you use to conduct the experiment?
Procedure—what steps were involved in the experiment?
If necessary, you may add further subsections. Different institutions have specific rules on what subsections should be included (for example, some universities require a “Design” subsection), so make sure to check your institution’s requirements before you start writing your Methods section.
Writing the Participants Subsection
In this first subsection, you will need to identify the participants of your experiment or study. You should include:
● Any relevant demographic information (e.g., age, sex, ethnicity)
You’ll also need to address whether any restrictions were placed on who was selected and if any incentives were offered to encourage participants to take part.
Writing the Materials Subsection
In this subsection, you should address the materials, equipment, measures, and stimuli used in the study. These might include technology and computer software, tools such as questionnaires and psychological assessments, and, if relevant, the physical setting where the study took place.
You’ll need to describe specialist equipment in detail, especially if it has a niche purpose. However, you don’t need to provide specific information about common or standard equipment (e.g., the type of computer on which participants completed a survey) unless it’s relevant to the experiment.
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In addition, you don’t need to explain a material in depth if it’s well known within your field, such as a famous psychological assessment. Instead, you can provide a citation referring to that material.
If any materials were designed specifically for the experiment, such as a questionnaire, you’ll need to provide such materials in the appendix.
Writing the Procedure Subsection
The procedure subsection should describe what you had participants do in a step-by-step format. It should be detailed but concise and will typically include:
● A summary of the instructions given to participants (as well as any information that was intentionally withheld)
● A description of how participants in different conditions were treated
● How long each step of the process took
● How participants were debriefed or dismissed at the end of the experiment
After detailing the steps of the experiment, you should then address the methods you used to collect and analyze data.
Proofreading Your Methods Section
Because the Methods section of your paper will help other researchers understand and recreate your experiment, you’ll want your writing to be at its best.