Describe what you did and how you did it. The interested reader should be able to repeat the study from the account provided. The details are described in subsections under appropriate headings. Most methods sections have several subsections, depending upon the type of study. The Methods section is broken up into several subheadings.
The participants are the respondents or subject of study -- who wa observed, who answered the interviewer's questions, or who filled out the survey. give the number of individuals and describe the relevant characteristics, such as gender and age. For example,
"Thirty -one men and twenty-three women students in an Introductory Psychology class at a large midwestern university filled out the questionnaire." NOTE that
1. the sentence does not begin with numerals - spell out the number.
2. the specific location (and identifying information) of the respondents is not identified.
Also describe how the sample was selected and the degree to which they represent the population of interest. For a content analysis of magazines or videos, the participants section would be unnecessary.
Instruments or materials used are described in this section, including observation sheets, checklists, or standardized tests. The actual title can be altered to better fit the topic for example
Personality was assessed using the 44-item Big Five Inventory which consists of five factors that measure ....
A preprogrammed computer was used to measure reaction time within 1/1,000 of a second.
The four questions used to determine the respondent's attitudes toward the environment were ....
All of the episodes of General Hospital during the first week of November 1995 and 2005 were videotaped and used for the analysis.
Observational studies often require a description of the setting in which the information was collected, for example, an account of the site or event where the study took place. This information might be combined with that describing the Participants (above), labeled "Participants and setting."
For an experiment, a description of the laboratory might be needed. This could possibly be combined with the Procedure section (below), labeled "Setting and procedure."
Describe how the data were obtained. In addition to the actual data collection, this section would include information about training for interviewers or experimenters, a description of the physical setting in which the data were collected, instructions to the participants, and mention of any special problems that were addressed. Describe any pilot tests or reliability check made on procedures, checklists, or equipment. For a content analysis or for open-ended questions, describe the development and use of the coding categories.
See the Method section of the sample report.
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