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General Research Paper Guidelines: Methods


The methods section is designed to describe, in detail, how you conducted your study. Different study designs will require different methodologies, which means the specific details within this section vary widely. However, despite such variations, all effectively written methodology sections should include the following:

  • A clear introduction of the methodological design and approach for conducting your research
    • A rationale of why such a design and approach are appropriate for your given topic
  • An indication of the specific methods for information gathering and/or data collection
    • A rationale of why the methods are appropriate for your given topic
  • An explanation of how you intend to analyze results
  • Subsections, if necessary, that include the following: (a) participant descriptions, (b) procedures used, (c) sampling procedures and sample size, (d) measurement approaches, (e) detailed information about research design
    • For more on each of these possible subsections, review Sections 3.6 (p. 82) and 3.14 (p. 94) of your 7th edition APA manual.

*Box content adapted from:

University of Southern California (n.d.). Organizing your social sciences research paper: 6. the methodology.

Methods Section Basics

In examining a research question, social scientists may present a hypothesis and they may choose to use either qualitative or quantitative methods of inquiry or both. The methods most often used include interviews, case studies, observations, surveys, and so on. The nature of the study should dictate the chosen method. (Do keep in mind that not all your papers will require that you employ the various methods of social science research; many will simply require that you analyze an issue and present a well reasoned argument.) When you write your capstones, however, you will be required to come to terms with the reliability of the methods you choose, the validity of your research questions, and ethical considerations. You will also be required to defend each one of these components. The research process as a whole may include the following: formulation of research question, sampling and measurement, research design, and analysis and recommendations. Keep in mind that your method will have an impact on the credibility of your work, so it is important that your methods are rigorous. Walden offers a series of research methods courses to help students become familiar with research methods in the social sciences.