4 Writing the Materials and Methods (Methodology) Section
The Materials and Methods section briefly describes how you did your research. In other words, what did you do to answer your research question? If there were materials used for the research or materials experimented on you list them in this section. You also describe how you did the research or experiment. The key to a methodology is that another person must be able to replicate your research—follow the steps you take. For example if you used the internet to do a search it is not enough to say you “searched the internet.” A reader would need to know which search engine and what key words you used.
Open this section by describing the overall approach you took or the materials used. Then describe to the readers step-by-step the methods you used including any data analysis performed. See Fig. 2.5 below for an example of materials and methods section.
- Explain procedures, materials, and equipment used
- Provide enough detail for replication!
- Example: “We used an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer to analyze major and trace elements in the mystery mineral samples.”
- Order events chronologically, perhaps with subheadings (Field work, Lab Analysis, Statistical Models)
- Use past tense (you did X, Y, Z)
- Quantify measurements
- Include results in the methods! It’s easy to make this mistake!
- List unnecessary details; i.e., if someone could look up how to operate an instrument, you do not need to explain how to use that instrument.
- Example: “We turned on the machine and loaded in our samples, then calibrated the instrument and pushed the start button and waited one hour. . . .”