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The Methods section
Lesson 3:

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Quiz Yourself

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In the methods section, scientists provide specific information on how the hypothesis was tested. It is important that the methods section is detailed enough for a competent reader to repeat the study and reproduce its results. This section usually covers four main topics:

  • Equipment and materials
  • Observations and measurements
  • Methods of data analysis
  • Experimental design
  • Equipment and materials. The method section provides a description of the equipment and materials used during experimentation. For example, scientists may note solution concentrations, specific research techniques or sampling procedures, as well as model and catalog numbers of equipment used during experimentation. Scientists generally provide the species name and a brief description of any living organism used in their experiment.

    Observations and measurements. Experimental measurements and observations are also reported in the methods section. Here, scientists mention any unexpected developments or observations. They also explain what data was collected and how and when their measurements were obtained. Imagine that a scientist is investigating the influence of exercise on blood osmolality. Their data collection would be described precisely in the methods section and would read something like this: blood osmolality was measured at 1, 2, and 3 hrs after exercise using a vapor pressure osmometer.

    Methods of data analysis. Experimental data are generally evaluated using statistical tests and computer programs. The methods section usually specifies the type of statistical analysis used to assess data. The results are not discussed at this point in the paper.

    Experimental design. Scientists also use the methods section to explain the strategy of their study. This strategy is known as the "experimental design" and is the foundation of any scientific investigation. Because experimental design is so important to the success and validity of a scientific paper, we will discuss it in greater detail on the next page.

    Click here to learn about the experimental design of a scientific paper.