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How to write a research methodology

Updated February 21, 2017

Whether or not your research project yielded breakthrough results or insights, you can still write a technically strong paper. The key to writing a high-quality paper is to be thorough, yet concise, and to include all of the most important sections, including the methodology. The methodology is the section of the paper in which you describe the goals of the experiment and the methods by which you hope to achieve those goals. Make sure you include everything that belongs in this section while omitting everything that does not.

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  1. Write a very brief introduction to the methodology section as a whole. The introduction should state the goals of the research experiment (or restate them briefly if they've been covered in a previous section), and should suggest any distinct challenges that may stand in the way of achieving these goals. This general introduction should ideally be a single paragraph and it should have its own heading.

  2. Write a summary of your research methodology. Again, this section should be relatively brief, but it can be longer than the introduction. The summary should quickly cover all of the main components of the methods you've used to conduct your research, omitting all of the lesser details. As you write, keep in mind that the purpose of this summary is to inform readers who do not read the extended version of the methodology, which you will write next. This section should also have its own heading.

  3. Begin the extended methodology under a new heading. The first part of the extended methodology should address your data-collection methods. This section should be thorough, although not overly wordy, and it should describe in exact terms all of the methods you used to achieve your research goals through data collection. You may include several subheadings within this section, such as materials, participants, research duration and step-by-step procedures.

  4. Continue the extended methodology by writing the data-analysis section. Just as in the data-collection section, these paragraphs should cover every detail of the system you use to draw meaningful conclusions from the data you've collected. Subheadings may also be appropriate for this section, but the types of subheadings you use depend entirely on the subject matter of the research.

  5. Proofread and edit your work. Be sure to indicate the methodology as its own section within the table of contents for your research paper.

  6. Tip

    Write in the past tense.

    Warning

    When writing a research paper for a class, always defer to the specific style and composition guidelines given by your instructor. While most research papers follow a common formula, there are several schools of thought on some of the finer points.

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