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Structuring your Materials and Methods section

In your Materials and Methods section, also titled ‘Methodology’ or ‘Methods’, you explain in detail how you collected and analyzed your data. This section should include all the information the reader needs to judge the validity and reliability of your study, and where relevant, to replicate it. Think of:

  • What data did you collect? For example, audio or video recordings, survey responses, (transcribed) interviews, paper-based or digital test responses, samples or specimens.
  • How did you collect this data? This is where you’ll go into when, where, and under what conditions you collected the data. This is key for the reader to understand your results. For experimental research, authors usually also mention the materials and instruments used, referring to the supplier and its location.
  • Who were your participants? If your study involved human participants, explain who participated, how you sampled them, how you recruited them, how you selected subjects from the pool, and how you divided them into groups or conditions. Demographics such as age and sex are usually mentioned here, and if you have different subject groups (for instance, an experimental and control group), give details of both. If you worked with animals, also give all relevant details; their name (regular and scientific), sex, age, weight, etc.
  • What were your conditions? Explain the (comparative) conditions of your study. For example, three patient groups participated: one group followed diet A, another diet B, and the third was the control group that followed no diet.
  • What existing approach or method did you use, if any? If you based your work on an existing approach, such as a model or framework, give an introduction to it (if you haven’t done so already) and explain how you reused or adapted it for your work.
  • What existing data did you use, if any? If you drew data from an existing data set, explain what the data involve, where you got them from, and what subpart of the data set (if any) you used. Make sure to cite the data source.
  • How did you analyze the data? If you work with numerical data, you can discuss your statistics here; for example, the ttests, ANOVA, or Chi-squared test used. For qualitative data, you likely also did some form of analysis. For example, if you conducted interviews, how did you categorize or code the responses? What software did you use for this?
  • What sanity checks or quality control did you do? During data collection and analysis, you might perform different types of quality checks. Think of inter-rater reliability checks right after rating or scoring, and consistency checks or outlier removal before analyzing.
  • Any reference to protocols, informed consent, or approval by the ethics committee While this doesn’t apply to all types of research, it may be relevant to refer to protocols, informed consent forms, or approval from the ethics committee (the latter two are common in the social sciences and in clinical research, for instance).

These examples of Methodology sections should help you get started!

Useful phrases for your Materials and Methods section

Materials and Methods examples with explanations

FAQs about writing a Materials and Methods section