Methods section clarification


We are on the final section of the class that will primarily cover how to put your research paper together.  Below is the table of the various elements that you will piece together before submitting your final paper during finals week. 
Title Page

• Introduction

• Method

It may seem like there’s a lot to do, but some of the components only take 10 minutes to complete (e.g., title page, abstract) and you have already finished some of them (e.g., most of the introduction, references).  The module this week will cover how to complete the Introduction and Methods section of your paper, leaving you with plenty of time to submit your best work for your final research paper.
Earlier in the semester, you completed your literature review.  This is the hardest part of the research paper to write, and thankfully, we had a big start on it.  Incorporate the feedback you received to improve and expand upon your earlier version in order to earn more point on your final paper.  However, it is actually only one of three components of the Introduction (though, it is the bulk of the Introduction section).  To complete the Introduction section of your paper, you will also need at least a paragraph of explanation covering the background of your topic to a general audience and explain why it is important to study.  Don’t introduce esoteric terms yet, and try to ease your reader into reading a technical scientific article.  Next, you can go ahead and paste in your literature review after you have edited and revised it.  The last section is where you set up your current study and state your three hypotheses.  By reading the literature review, the reader should be able to identify the missing gap in the research that your study is addressing and have a good understanding of the rationale you are using.  To make it clear what your hypotheses are, you can list them in a semi-bullet point fashion as seen below after you write at least a paragraph summarizing the the rationale and theoretical framework for your current study that builds off the cited articles in your literature review:
H1) Students who listen to music more often will report lower levels of stress

H2) Men will report higher levels of listening to “intense music” (e.g., heavy metal, EDM, aggressive rap)
H3) Students who report listening to jazz and classical music will have higher GPA scores
The Introduction section will be the longest section of your paper (for most students, it is somewhere between 3-5 pages, double-spaced with citations).  You will not submit an additional draft before your final research paper submission, so be sure to incorporate the suggested changes in your literature review and offer to take turns editing other group members’ papers.  Use the examples and guides posted under the APA Format Content module.

Writing the Methods section:

The Methods section is where you actually explain how you (would have) collected data and your methodology for drawing conclusions for your hypotheses.  I like to think of it as the recipe for a research study and imagine the reader is attempting to follow my instructions in order to run the study for them-self.  The intention is to explain it in as much detail as needed for another researcher to be able to replicate the study and observe similar results in similar conditions.  It will have to be written as a proposal reflecting on your understanding of how the survey research would practically be done (meaning realistic as if you were actually going to collect data and describing the process in detail).
There are typically three major sections the Methods section gets broken down to (think of these as your logical subdivisions, akin to what you used in your literature review): Participants, Materials, and Procedure.  Each should be a minimum 1-2 paragraphs, and most students typically turn in 2 pages double-spaced.
In the Participants subdivision (they are not referred to as “subjects” anymore, because you don’t want to “subject” people to something, instead they are participating!), you describe the demographics of your participants in terms of their age, gender, race, income, or anything else that you collected about your participants in your questionnaire that was not based on the content of the study.  Be sure to include ranges of values, frequency counts of various groups, and/or percentage breakdowns (as seen in the example below).  Provide information that would be of use for your particular research study.  For example, if gender was a component of one of your hypotheses for your research topic, be sure to include the breakdown of participants and perhaps how you would expect their scores to be different on certain questionnaire items based on your literature review research.

You should also include information about how they were selected for the study (why were they included and not someone else?).  Although for our purposes in this class we are not actually carrying out the data collection procedures, you will be expected to write the section as if it were a hypothetical.  In other words, what would realistically be a satisfactory means for gathering participants to address your research topic?  Write about the setting (time and place), who you would be targeting, and the selection process.  What would make for a representative sample?  Refer to the other examples posted here and the Method sections from the articles you were reading for your literature review to get ideas.

In the Materials subdivision, you will write about any materials used during the research (questionnaire), how they were developed, and other example items.  Be sure to include the specific items on the survey that are being used to help assess your variables of interest within your hypotheses.  You should explain your process for constructing the questionnaire as a group and the items used to represent your constructs.  Don’t include every item of the survey, just some example items to represent the structure used, then refer to the full questionnaire with (See Appendix), where it will be attached in your final paper submission.
If there were any other reference materials (e.g., images for your participants to view, maps for them to indicate locations), describe them and why they were included as well. 

The final subdivision of your Methods section, the Procedure, is usually more in-depth when using other research designs compared to simply using a questionnaire for your study.  After you have selected your participants, go into detail regarding everything that happened next as part of the data collection process.  For an experiment, you describe the different conditions the different groups were placed into and any other variables that were being observed.  For a questionnaire, you would describe the informed consent process, the specific approach to providing data for the items (e.g., face-to-face, online, group) and write about anything that could have influenced the participants to respond a certain way.  Provide an estimate for the time-length of the questionnaire based on the trial runs you ran earlier after completing your questionnaire.  Also mention the debriefing process and if any compensation was offered to participants for their participation.
Be sure to use the subdivision formatting as seen in the example below for the full Methods section.  Refer to the other materials posted under the APA format module and in your textbook.  Questions you may want to ask yourself when writing it: Where? (e.g., part of the world, location, setting of administration, etc.), When? (e.g., time of the year, after class, day of the week, etc.), and How? (e.g., survey, in-groups, online, etc.).  They key to this section is replication:  If someone wants to repeat this study, they should reasonably be able to.

 my topic is “The Impact of Domestic Violence on College Students’ Mental Health.”

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