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How to Write a Methods Section for a Psychology Paper

Tips and Examples of an APA Methods Section

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

sample of procedure in research paper

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

sample of procedure in research paper

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin 

The methods section of an APA format psychology paper provides the methods and procedures used in a research study or experiment . This part of an APA paper is critical because it allows other researchers to see exactly how you conducted your research.

Method refers to the procedure that was used in a research study. It included a precise description of how the experiments were performed and why particular procedures were selected. While the APA technically refers to this section as the 'method section,' it is also often known as a 'methods section.'

The methods section ensures the experiment's reproducibility and the assessment of alternative methods that might produce different results. It also allows researchers to replicate the experiment and judge the study's validity.

This article discusses how to write a methods section for a psychology paper, including important elements to include and tips that can help.

What to Include in a Method Section

So what exactly do you need to include when writing your method section? You should provide detailed information on the following:

  • Research design
  • Participants
  • Participant behavior

The method section should provide enough information to allow other researchers to replicate your experiment or study.

Components of a Method Section

The method section should utilize subheadings to divide up different subsections. These subsections typically include participants, materials, design, and procedure.


In this part of the method section, you should describe the participants in your experiment, including who they were (and any unique features that set them apart from the general population), how many there were, and how they were selected. If you utilized random selection to choose your participants, it should be noted here.

For example: "We randomly selected 100 children from elementary schools near the University of Arizona."

At the very minimum, this part of your method section must convey:

  • Basic demographic characteristics of your participants (such as sex, age, ethnicity, or religion)
  • The population from which your participants were drawn
  • Any restrictions on your pool of participants
  • How many participants were assigned to each condition and how they were assigned to each group (i.e., randomly assignment , another selection method, etc.)
  • Why participants took part in your research (i.e., the study was advertised at a college or hospital, they received some type of incentive, etc.)

Information about participants helps other researchers understand how your study was performed, how generalizable the result might be, and allows other researchers to replicate the experiment with other populations to see if they might obtain the same results.

In this part of the method section, you should describe the materials, measures, equipment, or stimuli used in the experiment. This may include:

  • Testing instruments
  • Technical equipment
  • Any psychological assessments that were used
  • Any special equipment that was used

For example: "Two stories from Sullivan et al.'s (1994) second-order false belief attribution tasks were used to assess children's understanding of second-order beliefs."

For standard equipment such as computers, televisions, and videos, you can simply name the device and not provide further explanation.

Specialized equipment should be given greater detail, especially if it is complex or created for a niche purpose. In some instances, such as if you created a special material or apparatus for your study, you might need to include an illustration of the item in the appendix of your paper.

In this part of your method section, describe the type of design used in the experiment. Specify the variables as well as the levels of these variables. Identify:

  • The independent variables
  • Dependent variables
  • Control variables
  • Any extraneous variables that might influence your results.

Also, explain whether your experiment uses a  within-groups  or between-groups design.

For example: "The experiment used a 3x2 between-subjects design. The independent variables were age and understanding of second-order beliefs."

The next part of your method section should detail the procedures used in your experiment. Your procedures should explain:

  • What the participants did
  • How data was collected
  • The order in which steps occurred

For example: "An examiner interviewed children individually at their school in one session that lasted 20 minutes on average. The examiner explained to each child that he or she would be told two short stories and that some questions would be asked after each story. All sessions were videotaped so the data could later be coded."

Keep this subsection concise yet detailed. Explain what you did and how you did it, but do not overwhelm your readers with too much information.

Tips for How to Write a Methods Section

In addition to following the basic structure of an APA method section, there are also certain things you should remember when writing this section of your paper. Consider the following tips when writing this section:

  • Use the past tense : Always write the method section in the past tense.
  • Be descriptive : Provide enough detail that another researcher could replicate your experiment, but focus on brevity. Avoid unnecessary detail that is not relevant to the outcome of the experiment.
  • Use an academic tone : Use formal language and avoid slang or colloquial expressions. Word choice is also important. Refer to the people in your experiment or study as "participants" rather than "subjects."
  • Use APA format : Keep a style guide on hand as you write your method section. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is the official source for APA style.
  • Make connections : Read through each section of your paper for agreement with other sections. If you mention procedures in the method section, these elements should be discussed in the results and discussion sections.
  • Proofread : Check your paper for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.. typos, grammar problems, and spelling errors. Although a spell checker is a handy tool, there are some errors only you can catch.

After writing a draft of your method section, be sure to get a second opinion. You can often become too close to your work to see errors or lack of clarity. Take a rough draft of your method section to your university's writing lab for additional assistance.

A Word From Verywell

The method section is one of the most important components of your APA format paper. The goal of your paper should be to clearly detail what you did in your experiment. Provide enough detail that another researcher could replicate your study if they wanted.

Finally, if you are writing your paper for a class or for a specific publication, be sure to keep in mind any specific instructions provided by your instructor or by the journal editor. Your instructor may have certain requirements that you need to follow while writing your method section.

Frequently Asked Questions

While the subsections can vary, the three components that should be included are sections on the participants, the materials, and the procedures.

  • Describe who the participants were in the study and how they were selected.
  • Define and describe the materials that were used including any equipment, tests, or assessments
  • Describe how the data was collected

To write your methods section in APA format, describe your participants, materials, study design, and procedures. Keep this section succinct, and always write in the past tense. The main heading of this section should be labeled "Method" and it should be centered, bolded, and capitalized. Each subheading within this section should be bolded, left-aligned and in title case.

The purpose of the methods section is to describe what you did in your experiment. It should be brief, but include enough detail that someone could replicate your experiment based on this information. Your methods section should detail what you did to answer your research question. Describe how the study was conducted, the study design that was used and why it was chosen, and how you collected the data and analyzed the results.

Erdemir F. How to write a materials and methods section of a scientific article ? Turk J Urol . 2013;39(Suppl 1):10-5. doi:10.5152/tud.2013.047

Kallet RH. How to write the methods section of a research paper . Respir Care . 2004;49(10):1229-32. PMID: 15447808.

American Psychological Association.  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association  (7th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2019.

American Psychological Association. APA Style Journal Article Reporting Standards . Published 2020.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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Here's What You Need to Understand About Research Methodology

Deeptanshu D

Table of Contents

Research methodology involves a systematic and well-structured approach to conducting scholarly or scientific inquiries. Knowing the significance of research methodology and its different components is crucial as it serves as the basis for any study.

Typically, your research topic will start as a broad idea you want to investigate more thoroughly. Once you’ve identified a research problem and created research questions , you must choose the appropriate methodology and frameworks to address those questions effectively.

What is the definition of a research methodology?

Research methodology is the process or the way you intend to execute your study. The methodology section of a research paper outlines how you plan to conduct your study. It covers various steps such as collecting data, statistical analysis, observing participants, and other procedures involved in the research process

The methods section should give a description of the process that will convert your idea into a study. Additionally, the outcomes of your process must provide valid and reliable results resonant with the aims and objectives of your research. This thumb rule holds complete validity, no matter whether your paper has inclinations for qualitative or quantitative usage.

Studying research methods used in related studies can provide helpful insights and direction for your own research. Now easily discover papers related to your topic on SciSpace and utilize our AI research assistant, Copilot , to quickly review the methodologies applied in different papers.

Analyze and understand research methodologies faster with SciSpace Copilot

The need for a good research methodology

While deciding on your approach towards your research, the reason or factors you weighed in choosing a particular problem and formulating a research topic need to be validated and explained. A research methodology helps you do exactly that. Moreover, a good research methodology lets you build your argument to validate your research work performed through various data collection methods, analytical methods, and other essential points.

Just imagine it as a strategy documented to provide an overview of what you intend to do.

While undertaking any research writing or performing the research itself, you may get drifted in not something of much importance. In such a case, a research methodology helps you to get back to your outlined work methodology.

A research methodology helps in keeping you accountable for your work. Additionally, it can help you evaluate whether your work is in sync with your original aims and objectives or not. Besides, a good research methodology enables you to navigate your research process smoothly and swiftly while providing effective planning to achieve your desired results.

What is the basic structure of a research methodology?

Usually, you must ensure to include the following stated aspects while deciding over the basic structure of your research methodology:

1. Your research procedure

Explain what research methods you’re going to use. Whether you intend to proceed with quantitative or qualitative, or a composite of both approaches, you need to state that explicitly. The option among the three depends on your research’s aim, objectives, and scope.

2. Provide the rationality behind your chosen approach

Based on logic and reason, let your readers know why you have chosen said research methodologies. Additionally, you have to build strong arguments supporting why your chosen research method is the best way to achieve the desired outcome.

3. Explain your mechanism

The mechanism encompasses the research methods or instruments you will use to develop your research methodology. It usually refers to your data collection methods. You can use interviews, surveys, physical questionnaires, etc., of the many available mechanisms as research methodology instruments. The data collection method is determined by the type of research and whether the data is quantitative data(includes numerical data) or qualitative data (perception, morale, etc.) Moreover, you need to put logical reasoning behind choosing a particular instrument.

4. Significance of outcomes

The results will be available once you have finished experimenting. However, you should also explain how you plan to use the data to interpret the findings. This section also aids in understanding the problem from within, breaking it down into pieces, and viewing the research problem from various perspectives.

5. Reader’s advice

Anything that you feel must be explained to spread more awareness among readers and focus groups must be included and described in detail. You should not just specify your research methodology on the assumption that a reader is aware of the topic.  

All the relevant information that explains and simplifies your research paper must be included in the methodology section. If you are conducting your research in a non-traditional manner, give a logical justification and list its benefits.

6. Explain your sample space

Include information about the sample and sample space in the methodology section. The term "sample" refers to a smaller set of data that a researcher selects or chooses from a larger group of people or focus groups using a predetermined selection method. Let your readers know how you are going to distinguish between relevant and non-relevant samples. How you figured out those exact numbers to back your research methodology, i.e. the sample spacing of instruments, must be discussed thoroughly.

For example, if you are going to conduct a survey or interview, then by what procedure will you select the interviewees (or sample size in case of surveys), and how exactly will the interview or survey be conducted.

7. Challenges and limitations

This part, which is frequently assumed to be unnecessary, is actually very important. The challenges and limitations that your chosen strategy inherently possesses must be specified while you are conducting different types of research.

The importance of a good research methodology

You must have observed that all research papers, dissertations, or theses carry a chapter entirely dedicated to research methodology. This section helps maintain your credibility as a better interpreter of results rather than a manipulator.

A good research methodology always explains the procedure, data collection methods and techniques, aim, and scope of the research. In a research study, it leads to a well-organized, rationality-based approach, while the paper lacking it is often observed as messy or disorganized.

You should pay special attention to validating your chosen way towards the research methodology. This becomes extremely important in case you select an unconventional or a distinct method of execution.

Curating and developing a strong, effective research methodology can assist you in addressing a variety of situations, such as:

  • When someone tries to duplicate or expand upon your research after few years.
  • If a contradiction or conflict of facts occurs at a later time. This gives you the security you need to deal with these contradictions while still being able to defend your approach.
  • Gaining a tactical approach in getting your research completed in time. Just ensure you are using the right approach while drafting your research methodology, and it can help you achieve your desired outcomes. Additionally, it provides a better explanation and understanding of the research question itself.
  • Documenting the results so that the final outcome of the research stays as you intended it to be while starting.

Instruments you could use while writing a good research methodology

As a researcher, you must choose which tools or data collection methods that fit best in terms of the relevance of your research. This decision has to be wise.

There exists many research equipments or tools that you can use to carry out your research process. These are classified as:

a. Interviews (One-on-One or a Group)

An interview aimed to get your desired research outcomes can be undertaken in many different ways. For example, you can design your interview as structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. What sets them apart is the degree of formality in the questions. On the other hand, in a group interview, your aim should be to collect more opinions and group perceptions from the focus groups on a certain topic rather than looking out for some formal answers.

In surveys, you are in better control if you specifically draft the questions you seek the response for. For example, you may choose to include free-style questions that can be answered descriptively, or you may provide a multiple-choice type response for questions. Besides, you can also opt to choose both ways, deciding what suits your research process and purpose better.

c. Sample Groups

Similar to the group interviews, here, you can select a group of individuals and assign them a topic to discuss or freely express their opinions over that. You can simultaneously note down the answers and later draft them appropriately, deciding on the relevance of every response.

d. Observations

If your research domain is humanities or sociology, observations are the best-proven method to draw your research methodology. Of course, you can always include studying the spontaneous response of the participants towards a situation or conducting the same but in a more structured manner. A structured observation means putting the participants in a situation at a previously decided time and then studying their responses.

Of all the tools described above, it is you who should wisely choose the instruments and decide what’s the best fit for your research. You must not restrict yourself from multiple methods or a combination of a few instruments if appropriate in drafting a good research methodology.

Types of research methodology

A research methodology exists in various forms. Depending upon their approach, whether centered around words, numbers, or both, methodologies are distinguished as qualitative, quantitative, or an amalgamation of both.

1. Qualitative research methodology

When a research methodology primarily focuses on words and textual data, then it is generally referred to as qualitative research methodology. This type is usually preferred among researchers when the aim and scope of the research are mainly theoretical and explanatory.

The instruments used are observations, interviews, and sample groups. You can use this methodology if you are trying to study human behavior or response in some situations. Generally, qualitative research methodology is widely used in sociology, psychology, and other related domains.

2. Quantitative research methodology

If your research is majorly centered on data, figures, and stats, then analyzing these numerical data is often referred to as quantitative research methodology. You can use quantitative research methodology if your research requires you to validate or justify the obtained results.

In quantitative methods, surveys, tests, experiments, and evaluations of current databases can be advantageously used as instruments If your research involves testing some hypothesis, then use this methodology.

3. Amalgam methodology

As the name suggests, the amalgam methodology uses both quantitative and qualitative approaches. This methodology is used when a part of the research requires you to verify the facts and figures, whereas the other part demands you to discover the theoretical and explanatory nature of the research question.

The instruments for the amalgam methodology require you to conduct interviews and surveys, including tests and experiments. The outcome of this methodology can be insightful and valuable as it provides precise test results in line with theoretical explanations and reasoning.

The amalgam method, makes your work both factual and rational at the same time.

Final words: How to decide which is the best research methodology?

If you have kept your sincerity and awareness intact with the aims and scope of research well enough, you must have got an idea of which research methodology suits your work best.

Before deciding which research methodology answers your research question, you must invest significant time in reading and doing your homework for that. Taking references that yield relevant results should be your first approach to establishing a research methodology.

Moreover, you should never refrain from exploring other options. Before setting your work in stone, you must try all the available options as it explains why the choice of research methodology that you finally make is more appropriate than the other available options.

You should always go for a quantitative research methodology if your research requires gathering large amounts of data, figures, and statistics. This research methodology will provide you with results if your research paper involves the validation of some hypothesis.

Whereas, if  you are looking for more explanations, reasons, opinions, and public perceptions around a theory, you must use qualitative research methodology.The choice of an appropriate research methodology ultimately depends on what you want to achieve through your research.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Research Methodology

1. how to write a research methodology.

You can always provide a separate section for research methodology where you should specify details about the methods and instruments used during the research, discussions on result analysis, including insights into the background information, and conveying the research limitations.

2. What are the types of research methodology?

There generally exists four types of research methodology i.e.

  • Observation
  • Experimental
  • Derivational

3. What is the true meaning of research methodology?

The set of techniques or procedures followed to discover and analyze the information gathered to validate or justify a research outcome is generally called Research Methodology.

4. Where lies the importance of research methodology?

Your research methodology directly reflects the validity of your research outcomes and how well-informed your research work is. Moreover, it can help future researchers cite or refer to your research if they plan to use a similar research methodology.

sample of procedure in research paper

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How to write the methods section of a research paper

How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper

How to write the methods section of a research paper

Writing a research paper is both an art and a skill, and knowing how to write the methods section of a research paper is the first crucial step in mastering scientific writing. If, like the majority of early career researchers, you believe that the methods section is the simplest to write and needs little in the way of careful consideration or thought, this article will help you understand it is not 1 .

We have all probably asked our supervisors, coworkers, or search engines “ how to write a methods section of a research paper ” at some point in our scientific careers, so you are not alone if that’s how you ended up here.  Even for seasoned researchers, selecting what to include in the methods section from a wealth of experimental information can occasionally be a source of distress and perplexity.   

Additionally, journal specifications, in some cases, may make it more of a requirement rather than a choice to provide a selective yet descriptive account of the experimental procedure. Hence, knowing these nuances of how to write the methods section of a research paper is critical to its success. The methods section of the research paper is not supposed to be a detailed heavy, dull section that some researchers tend to write; rather, it should be the central component of the study that justifies the validity and reliability of the research.

Are you still unsure of how the methods section of a research paper forms the basis of every investigation? Consider the last article you read but ignore the methods section and concentrate on the other parts of the paper . Now think whether you could repeat the study and be sure of the credibility of the findings despite knowing the literature review and even having the data in front of you. You have the answer!   

Researcher Life

Having established the importance of the methods section , the next question is how to write the methods section of a research paper that unifies the overall study. The purpose of the methods section , which was earlier called as Materials and Methods , is to describe how the authors went about answering the “research question” at hand. Here, the objective is to tell a coherent story that gives a detailed account of how the study was conducted, the rationale behind specific experimental procedures, the experimental setup, objects (variables) involved, the research protocol employed, tools utilized to measure, calculations and measurements, and the analysis of the collected data 2 .

In this article, we will take a deep dive into this topic and provide a detailed overview of how to write the methods section of a research paper . For the sake of clarity, we have separated the subject into various sections with corresponding subheadings.  

Table of Contents

What is the methods section of a research paper ?  

The methods section is a fundamental section of any paper since it typically discusses the ‘ what ’, ‘ how ’, ‘ which ’, and ‘ why ’ of the study, which is necessary to arrive at the final conclusions. In a research article, the introduction, which serves to set the foundation for comprehending the background and results is usually followed by the methods section, which precedes the result and discussion sections. The methods section must explicitly state what was done, how it was done, which equipment, tools and techniques were utilized, how were the measurements/calculations taken, and why specific research protocols, software, and analytical methods were employed.  

Why is the methods section important?  

The primary goal of the methods section is to provide pertinent details about the experimental approach so that the reader may put the results in perspective and, if necessary, replicate the findings 3 .  This section offers readers the chance to evaluate the reliability and validity of any study. In short, it also serves as the study’s blueprint, assisting researchers who might be unsure about any other portion in establishing the study’s context and validity. The methods plays a rather crucial role in determining the fate of the article; an incomplete and unreliable methods section can frequently result in early rejections and may lead to numerous rounds of modifications during the publication process. This means that the reviewers also often use methods section to assess the reliability and validity of the research protocol and the data analysis employed to address the research topic. In other words, the purpose of the methods section is to demonstrate the research acumen and subject-matter expertise of the author(s) in their field.  

Structure of methods section of a research paper  

Similar to the research paper, the methods section also follows a defined structure; this may be dictated by the guidelines of a specific journal or can be presented in a chronological or thematic manner based on the study type. When writing the methods section , authors should keep in mind that they are telling a story about how the research was conducted. They should only report relevant information to avoid confusing the reader and include details that would aid in connecting various aspects of the entire research activity together. It is generally advisable to present experiments in the order in which they were conducted. This facilitates the logical flow of the research and allows readers to follow the progression of the study design.   

sample of procedure in research paper

It is also essential to clearly state the rationale behind each experiment and how the findings of earlier experiments informed the design or interpretation of later experiments. This allows the readers to understand the overall purpose of the study design and the significance of each experiment within that context. However, depending on the particular research question and method, it may make sense to present information in a different order; therefore, authors must select the best structure and strategy for their individual studies.   

In cases where there is a lot of information, divide the sections into subheadings to cover the pertinent details. If the journal guidelines pose restrictions on the word limit , additional important information can be supplied in the supplementary files. A simple rule of thumb for sectioning the method section is to begin by explaining the methodological approach ( what was done ), describing the data collection methods ( how it was done ), providing the analysis method ( how the data was analyzed ), and explaining the rationale for choosing the methodological strategy. This is described in detail in the upcoming sections.    

How to write the methods section of a research paper  

Contrary to widespread assumption, the methods section of a research paper should be prepared once the study is complete to prevent missing any key parameter. Hence, please make sure that all relevant experiments are done before you start writing a methods section . The next step for authors is to look up any applicable academic style manuals or journal-specific standards to ensure that the methods section is formatted correctly. The methods section of a research paper typically constitutes materials and methods; while writing this section, authors usually arrange the information under each category.

The materials category describes the samples, materials, treatments, and instruments, while experimental design, sample preparation, data collection, and data analysis are a part of the method category. According to the nature of the study, authors should include additional subsections within the methods section, such as ethical considerations like the declaration of Helsinki (for studies involving human subjects), demographic information of the participants, and any other crucial information that can affect the output of the study. Simply put, the methods section has two major components: content and format. Here is an easy checklist for you to consider if you are struggling with how to write the methods section of a research paper .   

  • Explain the research design, subjects, and sample details  
  • Include information on inclusion and exclusion criteria  
  • Mention ethical or any other permission required for the study  
  • Include information about materials, experimental setup, tools, and software  
  • Add details of data collection and analysis methods  
  • Incorporate how research biases were avoided or confounding variables were controlled  
  • Evaluate and justify the experimental procedure selected to address the research question  
  • Provide precise and clear details of each experiment  
  • Flowcharts, infographics, or tables can be used to present complex information     
  • Use past tense to show that the experiments have been done   
  • Follow academic style guides (such as APA or MLA ) to structure the content  
  • Citations should be included as per standard protocols in the field  

Now that you know how to write the methods section of a research paper , let’s address another challenge researchers face while writing the methods section —what to include in the methods section .  How much information is too much is not always obvious when it comes to trying to include data in the methods section of a paper. In the next section, we examine this issue and explore potential solutions.   

sample of procedure in research paper

What to include in the methods section of a research paper  

The technical nature of the methods section occasionally makes it harder to present the information clearly and concisely while staying within the study context. Many young researchers tend to veer off subject significantly, and they frequently commit the sin of becoming bogged down in itty bitty details, making the text harder to read and impairing its overall flow. However, the best way to write the methods section is to start with crucial components of the experiments. If you have trouble deciding which elements are essential, think about leaving out those that would make it more challenging to comprehend the context or replicate the results. The top-down approach helps to ensure all relevant information is incorporated and vital information is not lost in technicalities. Next, remember to add details that are significant to assess the validity and reliability of the study. Here is a simple checklist for you to follow ( bonus tip: you can also make a checklist for your own study to avoid missing any critical information while writing the methods section ).  

  • Structuring the methods section : Authors should diligently follow journal guidelines and adhere to the specific author instructions provided when writing the methods section . Journals typically have specific guidelines for formatting the methods section ; for example, Frontiers in Plant Sciences advises arranging the materials and methods section by subheading and citing relevant literature. There are several standardized checklists available for different study types in the biomedical field, including CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) for randomized clinical trials, PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analysis) for systematic reviews and meta-analysis, and STROBE (STrengthening the Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology) for cohort, case-control, cross-sectional studies. Before starting the methods section , check the checklist available in your field that can function as a guide.     
  • Organizing different sections to tell a story : Once you are sure of the format required for structuring the methods section , the next is to present the sections in a logical manner; as mentioned earlier, the sections can be organized according to the chronology or themes. In the chronological arrangement, you should discuss the methods in accordance with how the experiments were carried out. An example of the method section of a research paper of an animal study should first ideally include information about the species, weight, sex, strain, and age. Next, the number of animals, their initial conditions, and their living and housing conditions should also be mentioned. Second, how the groups are assigned and the intervention (drug treatment, stress, or other) given to each group, and finally, the details of tools and techniques used to measure, collect, and analyze the data. Experiments involving animal or human subjects should additionally state an ethics approval statement. It is best to arrange the section using the thematic approach when discussing distinct experiments not following a sequential order.  
  • Define and explain the objects and procedure: Experimental procedure should clearly be stated in the methods section . Samples, necessary preparations (samples, treatment, and drug), and methods for manipulation need to be included. All variables (control, dependent, independent, and confounding) must be clearly defined, particularly if the confounding variables can affect the outcome of the study.  
  • Match the order of the methods section with the order of results: Though not mandatory, organizing the manuscript in a logical and coherent manner can improve the readability and clarity of the paper. This can be done by following a consistent structure throughout the manuscript; readers can easily navigate through the different sections and understand the methods and results in relation to each other. Using experiment names as headings for both the methods and results sections can also make it simpler for readers to locate specific information and corroborate it if needed.   
  • Relevant information must always be included: The methods section should have information on all experiments conducted and their details clearly mentioned. Ask the journal whether there is a way to offer more information in the supplemental files or external repositories if your target journal has strict word limitations. For example, Nature communications encourages authors to deposit their step-by-step protocols in an open-resource depository, Protocol Exchange which allows the protocols to be linked with the manuscript upon publication. Providing access to detailed protocols also helps to increase the transparency and reproducibility of the research.  
  • It’s all in the details: The methods section should meticulously list all the materials, tools, instruments, and software used for different experiments. Specify the testing equipment on which data was obtained, together with its manufacturer’s information, location, city, and state or any other stimuli used to manipulate the variables. Provide specifics on the research process you employed; if it was a standard protocol, cite previous studies that also used the protocol.  Include any protocol modifications that were made, as well as any other factors that were taken into account when planning the study or gathering data. Any new or modified techniques should be explained by the authors. Typically, readers evaluate the reliability and validity of the procedures using the cited literature, and a widely accepted checklist helps to support the credibility of the methodology. Note: Authors should include a statement on sample size estimation (if applicable), which is often missed. It enables the reader to determine how many subjects will be required to detect the expected change in the outcome variables within a given confidence interval.  
  • Write for the audience: While explaining the details in the methods section , authors should be mindful of their target audience, as some of the rationale or assumptions on which specific procedures are based might not always be obvious to the audience, particularly for a general audience. Therefore, when in doubt, the objective of a procedure should be specified either in relation to the research question or to the entire protocol.  
  • Data interpretation and analysis : Information on data processing, statistical testing, levels of significance, and analysis tools and software should be added. Mention if the recommendations and expertise of an experienced statistician were followed. Also, evaluate and justify the preferred statistical method used in the study and its significance.  

What NOT to include in the methods section of a research paper  

To address “ how to write the methods section of a research paper ”, authors should not only pay careful attention to what to include but also what not to include in the methods section of a research paper . Here is a list of do not’s when writing the methods section :  

  • Do not elaborate on specifics of standard methods/procedures: You should refrain from adding unnecessary details of experiments and practices that are well established and cited previously.  Instead, simply cite relevant literature or mention if the manufacturer’s protocol was followed.  
  • Do not add unnecessary details : Do not include minute details of the experimental procedure and materials/instruments used that are not significant for the outcome of the experiment. For example, there is no need to mention the brand name of the water bath used for incubation.    
  • Do not discuss the results: The methods section is not to discuss the results or refer to the tables and figures; save it for the results and discussion section. Also, focus on the methods selected to conduct the study and avoid diverting to other methods or commenting on their pros or cons.  
  • Do not make the section bulky : For extensive methods and protocols, provide the essential details and share the rest of the information in the supplemental files. The writing should be clear yet concise to maintain the flow of the section.  

We hope that by this point, you understand how crucial it is to write a thoughtful and precise methods section and the ins and outs of how to write the methods section of a research paper . To restate, the entire purpose of the methods section is to enable others to reproduce the results or verify the research. We sincerely hope that this post has cleared up any confusion and given you a fresh perspective on the methods section .

As a parting gift, we’re leaving you with a handy checklist that will help you understand how to write the methods section of a research paper . Feel free to download this checklist and use or share this with those who you think may benefit from it.  

sample of procedure in research paper


  • Bhattacharya, D. How to write the Methods section of a research paper. Editage Insights, 2018. https://www.editage.com/insights/how-to-write-the-methods-section-of-a-research-paper (2018).
  • Kallet, R. H. How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper. Respiratory Care 49, 1229–1232 (2004). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15447808/
  • Grindstaff, T. L. & Saliba, S. A. AVOIDING MANUSCRIPT MISTAKES. Int J Sports Phys Ther 7, 518–524 (2012). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474299/

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Sampling methods in Clinical Research; an Educational Review

Mohamed elfil.

1 Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Egypt.

Ahmed Negida

2 Faculty of Medicine, Zagazig University, Egypt.

Clinical research usually involves patients with a certain disease or a condition. The generalizability of clinical research findings is based on multiple factors related to the internal and external validity of the research methods. The main methodological issue that influences the generalizability of clinical research findings is the sampling method. In this educational article, we are explaining the different sampling methods in clinical research.


In clinical research, we define the population as a group of people who share a common character or a condition, usually the disease. If we are conducting a study on patients with ischemic stroke, it will be difficult to include the whole population of ischemic stroke all over the world. It is difficult to locate the whole population everywhere and to have access to all the population. Therefore, the practical approach in clinical research is to include a part of this population, called “sample population”. The whole population is sometimes called “target population” while the sample population is called “study population. When doing a research study, we should consider the sample to be representative to the target population, as much as possible, with the least possible error and without substitution or incompleteness. The process of selecting a sample population from the target population is called the “sampling method”.

Sampling types

There are two major categories of sampling methods ( figure 1 ): 1; probability sampling methods where all subjects in the target population have equal chances to be selected in the sample [ 1 , 2 ] and 2; non-probability sampling methods where the sample population is selected in a non-systematic process that does not guarantee equal chances for each subject in the target population [ 2 , 3 ]. Samples which were selected using probability sampling methods are more representatives of the target population.

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Sampling methods.

Probability sampling method

Simple random sampling

This method is used when the whole population is accessible and the investigators have a list of all subjects in this target population. The list of all subjects in this population is called the “sampling frame”. From this list, we draw a random sample using lottery method or using a computer generated random list [ 4 ].

Stratified random sampling

This method is a modification of the simple random sampling therefore, it requires the condition of sampling frame being available, as well. However, in this method, the whole population is divided into homogeneous strata or subgroups according a demographic factor (e.g. gender, age, religion, socio-economic level, education, or diagnosis etc.). Then, the researchers select draw a random sample from the different strata [ 3 , 4 ]. The advantages of this method are: (1) it allows researchers to obtain an effect size from each strata separately, as if it was a different study. Therefore, the between group differences become apparent, and (2) it allows obtaining samples from minority/under-represented populations. If the researchers used the simple random sampling, the minority population will remain underrepresented in the sample, as well. Simply, because the simple random method usually represents the whole target population. In such case, investigators can better use the stratified random sample to obtain adequate samples from all strata in the population.

Systematic random sampling (Interval sampling)

In this method, the investigators select subjects to be included in the sample based on a systematic rule, using a fixed interval. For example: If the rule is to include the last patient from every 5 patients. We will include patients with these numbers (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, ...etc.). In some situations, it is not necessary to have the sampling frame if there is a specific hospital or center which the patients are visiting regularly. In this case, the researcher can start randomly and then systemically chooses next patients using a fixed interval [ 4 ].

Cluster sampling (Multistage sampling)

It is used when creating a sampling frame is nearly impossible due to the large size of the population. In this method, the population is divided by geographic location into clusters. A list of all clusters is made and investigators draw a random number of clusters to be included. Then, they list all individuals within these clusters, and run another turn of random selection to get a final random sample exactly as simple random sampling. This method is called multistage because the selection passed with two stages: firstly, the selection of eligible clusters, then, the selection of sample from individuals of these clusters. An example for this, if we are conducting a research project on primary school students from Iran. It will be very difficult to get a list of all primary school students all over the country. In this case, a list of primary schools is made and the researcher randomly picks up a number of schools, then pick a random sample from the eligible schools [ 3 ].

Non-probability sampling method

Convenience sampling

Although it is a non-probability sampling method, it is the most applicable and widely used method in clinical research. In this method, the investigators enroll subjects according to their availability and accessibility. Therefore, this method is quick, inexpensive, and convenient. It is called convenient sampling as the researcher selects the sample elements according to their convenient accessibility and proximity [ 3 , 6 ]. For example: assume that we will perform a cohort study on Egyptian patients with Hepatitis C (HCV) virus. The convenience sample here will be confined to the accessible population for the research team. Accessible population are HCV patients attending in Zagazig University Hospital and Cairo University Hospitals. Therefore, within the study period, all patients attending these two hospitals and meet the eligibility criteria will be included in this study.

Judgmental sampling

In this method, the subjects are selected by the choice of the investigators. The researcher assumes specific characteristics for the sample (e.g. male/female ratio = 2/1) and therefore, they judge the sample to be suitable for representing the population. This method is widely criticized due to the likelihood of bias by investigator judgement [ 5 ].

Snow-ball sampling

This method is used when the population cannot be located in a specific place and therefore, it is different to access this population. In this method, the investigator asks each subject to give him access to his colleagues from the same population. This situation is common in social science research, for example, if we running a survey on street children, there will be no list with the homeless children and it will be difficult to locate this population in one place e.g. a school/hospital. Here, the investigators will deliver the survey to one child then, ask him to take them to his colleagues or deliver the surveys to them.

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Home » Sampling Methods – Types, Techniques and Examples

Sampling Methods – Types, Techniques and Examples

Table of Contents

Sampling Methods

Sampling refers to the process of selecting a subset of data from a larger population or dataset in order to analyze or make inferences about the whole population.

In other words, sampling involves taking a representative sample of data from a larger group or dataset in order to gain insights or draw conclusions about the entire group.

Sampling Methods

Sampling methods refer to the techniques used to select a subset of individuals or units from a larger population for the purpose of conducting statistical analysis or research.

Sampling is an essential part of the Research because it allows researchers to draw conclusions about a population without having to collect data from every member of that population, which can be time-consuming, expensive, or even impossible.

Types of Sampling Methods

Sampling can be broadly categorized into two main categories:

Probability Sampling

This type of sampling is based on the principles of random selection, and it involves selecting samples in a way that every member of the population has an equal chance of being included in the sample.. Probability sampling is commonly used in scientific research and statistical analysis, as it provides a representative sample that can be generalized to the larger population.

Type of Probability Sampling :

  • Simple Random Sampling: In this method, every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected for the sample. This can be done using a random number generator or by drawing names out of a hat, for example.
  • Systematic Sampling: In this method, the population is first divided into a list or sequence, and then every nth member is selected for the sample. For example, if every 10th person is selected from a list of 100 people, the sample would include 10 people.
  • Stratified Sampling: In this method, the population is divided into subgroups or strata based on certain characteristics, and then a random sample is taken from each stratum. This is often used to ensure that the sample is representative of the population as a whole.
  • Cluster Sampling: In this method, the population is divided into clusters or groups, and then a random sample of clusters is selected. Then, all members of the selected clusters are included in the sample.
  • Multi-Stage Sampling : This method combines two or more sampling techniques. For example, a researcher may use stratified sampling to select clusters, and then use simple random sampling to select members within each cluster.

Non-probability Sampling

This type of sampling does not rely on random selection, and it involves selecting samples in a way that does not give every member of the population an equal chance of being included in the sample. Non-probability sampling is often used in qualitative research, where the aim is not to generalize findings to a larger population, but to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular phenomenon or group. Non-probability sampling methods can be quicker and more cost-effective than probability sampling methods, but they may also be subject to bias and may not be representative of the larger population.

Types of Non-probability Sampling :

  • Convenience Sampling: In this method, participants are chosen based on their availability or willingness to participate. This method is easy and convenient but may not be representative of the population.
  • Purposive Sampling: In this method, participants are selected based on specific criteria, such as their expertise or knowledge on a particular topic. This method is often used in qualitative research, but may not be representative of the population.
  • Snowball Sampling: In this method, participants are recruited through referrals from other participants. This method is often used when the population is hard to reach, but may not be representative of the population.
  • Quota Sampling: In this method, a predetermined number of participants are selected based on specific criteria, such as age or gender. This method is often used in market research, but may not be representative of the population.
  • Volunteer Sampling: In this method, participants volunteer to participate in the study. This method is often used in research where participants are motivated by personal interest or altruism, but may not be representative of the population.

Applications of Sampling Methods

Applications of Sampling Methods from different fields:

  • Psychology : Sampling methods are used in psychology research to study various aspects of human behavior and mental processes. For example, researchers may use stratified sampling to select a sample of participants that is representative of the population based on factors such as age, gender, and ethnicity. Random sampling may also be used to select participants for experimental studies.
  • Sociology : Sampling methods are commonly used in sociological research to study social phenomena and relationships between individuals and groups. For example, researchers may use cluster sampling to select a sample of neighborhoods to study the effects of economic inequality on health outcomes. Stratified sampling may also be used to select a sample of participants that is representative of the population based on factors such as income, education, and occupation.
  • Social sciences: Sampling methods are commonly used in social sciences to study human behavior and attitudes. For example, researchers may use stratified sampling to select a sample of participants that is representative of the population based on factors such as age, gender, and income.
  • Marketing : Sampling methods are used in marketing research to collect data on consumer preferences, behavior, and attitudes. For example, researchers may use random sampling to select a sample of consumers to participate in a survey about a new product.
  • Healthcare : Sampling methods are used in healthcare research to study the prevalence of diseases and risk factors, and to evaluate interventions. For example, researchers may use cluster sampling to select a sample of health clinics to participate in a study of the effectiveness of a new treatment.
  • Environmental science: Sampling methods are used in environmental science to collect data on environmental variables such as water quality, air pollution, and soil composition. For example, researchers may use systematic sampling to collect soil samples at regular intervals across a field.
  • Education : Sampling methods are used in education research to study student learning and achievement. For example, researchers may use stratified sampling to select a sample of schools that is representative of the population based on factors such as demographics and academic performance.

Examples of Sampling Methods

Probability Sampling Methods Examples:

  • Simple random sampling Example : A researcher randomly selects participants from the population using a random number generator or drawing names from a hat.
  • Stratified random sampling Example : A researcher divides the population into subgroups (strata) based on a characteristic of interest (e.g. age or income) and then randomly selects participants from each subgroup.
  • Systematic sampling Example : A researcher selects participants at regular intervals from a list of the population.

Non-probability Sampling Methods Examples:

  • Convenience sampling Example: A researcher selects participants who are conveniently available, such as students in a particular class or visitors to a shopping mall.
  • Purposive sampling Example : A researcher selects participants who meet specific criteria, such as individuals who have been diagnosed with a particular medical condition.
  • Snowball sampling Example : A researcher selects participants who are referred to them by other participants, such as friends or acquaintances.

How to Conduct Sampling Methods

some general steps to conduct sampling methods:

  • Define the population: Identify the population of interest and clearly define its boundaries.
  • Choose the sampling method: Select an appropriate sampling method based on the research question, characteristics of the population, and available resources.
  • Determine the sample size: Determine the desired sample size based on statistical considerations such as margin of error, confidence level, or power analysis.
  • Create a sampling frame: Develop a list of all individuals or elements in the population from which the sample will be drawn. The sampling frame should be comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date.
  • Select the sample: Use the chosen sampling method to select the sample from the sampling frame. The sample should be selected randomly, or if using a non-random method, every effort should be made to minimize bias and ensure that the sample is representative of the population.
  • Collect data: Once the sample has been selected, collect data from each member of the sample using appropriate research methods (e.g., surveys, interviews, observations).
  • Analyze the data: Analyze the data collected from the sample to draw conclusions about the population of interest.

When to use Sampling Methods

Sampling methods are used in research when it is not feasible or practical to study the entire population of interest. Sampling allows researchers to study a smaller group of individuals, known as a sample, and use the findings from the sample to make inferences about the larger population.

Sampling methods are particularly useful when:

  • The population of interest is too large to study in its entirety.
  • The cost and time required to study the entire population are prohibitive.
  • The population is geographically dispersed or difficult to access.
  • The research question requires specialized or hard-to-find individuals.
  • The data collected is quantitative and statistical analyses are used to draw conclusions.

Purpose of Sampling Methods

The main purpose of sampling methods in research is to obtain a representative sample of individuals or elements from a larger population of interest, in order to make inferences about the population as a whole. By studying a smaller group of individuals, known as a sample, researchers can gather information about the population that would be difficult or impossible to obtain from studying the entire population.

Sampling methods allow researchers to:

  • Study a smaller, more manageable group of individuals, which is typically less time-consuming and less expensive than studying the entire population.
  • Reduce the potential for data collection errors and improve the accuracy of the results by minimizing sampling bias.
  • Make inferences about the larger population with a certain degree of confidence, using statistical analyses of the data collected from the sample.
  • Improve the generalizability and external validity of the findings by ensuring that the sample is representative of the population of interest.

Characteristics of Sampling Methods

Here are some characteristics of sampling methods:

  • Randomness : Probability sampling methods are based on random selection, meaning that every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. This helps to minimize bias and ensure that the sample is representative of the population.
  • Representativeness : The goal of sampling is to obtain a sample that is representative of the larger population of interest. This means that the sample should reflect the characteristics of the population in terms of key demographic, behavioral, or other relevant variables.
  • Size : The size of the sample should be large enough to provide sufficient statistical power for the research question at hand. The sample size should also be appropriate for the chosen sampling method and the level of precision desired.
  • Efficiency : Sampling methods should be efficient in terms of time, cost, and resources required. The method chosen should be feasible given the available resources and time constraints.
  • Bias : Sampling methods should aim to minimize bias and ensure that the sample is representative of the population of interest. Bias can be introduced through non-random selection or non-response, and can affect the validity and generalizability of the findings.
  • Precision : Sampling methods should be precise in terms of providing estimates of the population parameters of interest. Precision is influenced by sample size, sampling method, and level of variability in the population.
  • Validity : The validity of the sampling method is important for ensuring that the results obtained from the sample are accurate and can be generalized to the population of interest. Validity can be affected by sampling method, sample size, and the representativeness of the sample.

Advantages of Sampling Methods

Sampling methods have several advantages, including:

  • Cost-Effective : Sampling methods are often much cheaper and less time-consuming than studying an entire population. By studying only a small subset of the population, researchers can gather valuable data without incurring the costs associated with studying the entire population.
  • Convenience : Sampling methods are often more convenient than studying an entire population. For example, if a researcher wants to study the eating habits of people in a city, it would be very difficult and time-consuming to study every single person in the city. By using sampling methods, the researcher can obtain data from a smaller subset of people, making the study more feasible.
  • Accuracy: When done correctly, sampling methods can be very accurate. By using appropriate sampling techniques, researchers can obtain a sample that is representative of the entire population. This allows them to make accurate generalizations about the population as a whole based on the data collected from the sample.
  • Time-Saving: Sampling methods can save a lot of time compared to studying the entire population. By studying a smaller sample, researchers can collect data much more quickly than they could if they studied every single person in the population.
  • Less Bias : Sampling methods can reduce bias in a study. If a researcher were to study the entire population, it would be very difficult to eliminate all sources of bias. However, by using appropriate sampling techniques, researchers can reduce bias and obtain a sample that is more representative of the entire population.

Limitations of Sampling Methods

  • Sampling Error : Sampling error is the difference between the sample statistic and the population parameter. It is the result of selecting a sample rather than the entire population. The larger the sample, the lower the sampling error. However, no matter how large the sample size, there will always be some degree of sampling error.
  • Selection Bias: Selection bias occurs when the sample is not representative of the population. This can happen if the sample is not selected randomly or if some groups are underrepresented in the sample. Selection bias can lead to inaccurate conclusions about the population.
  • Non-response Bias : Non-response bias occurs when some members of the sample do not respond to the survey or study. This can result in a biased sample if the non-respondents differ from the respondents in important ways.
  • Time and Cost : While sampling can be cost-effective, it can still be expensive and time-consuming to select a sample that is representative of the population. Depending on the sampling method used, it may take a long time to obtain a sample that is large enough and representative enough to be useful.
  • Limited Information : Sampling can only provide information about the variables that are measured. It may not provide information about other variables that are relevant to the research question but were not measured.
  • Generalization : The extent to which the findings from a sample can be generalized to the population depends on the representativeness of the sample. If the sample is not representative of the population, it may not be possible to generalize the findings to the population as a whole.

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Assessing Risks and Benefits

The IRB is responsible for evaluating the potential risks and weighing the probability of the risk occurring and the magnitude of harm that may result. It must then judge whether the anticipated benefit, either of new knowledge or of improved health for the research subjects, justifies inviting any person to undertake the risks.

Per DHHS and FDA regulations ( 45 CFR 46.111 and 21 CFR 56.111 ) two of the required criteria for granting IRB approval of research are:

  • Risks to subjects are minimized by using procedures which are consistent with sound research design and which do not unnecessarily expose subjects to risk, and whenever appropriate, by using procedures already being performed on the subjects for diagnostic or treatment purposes.
  • Risks to subjects are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits, if any, to subjects, and the importance of the knowledge that may reasonably be expected to result. In evaluating risks and benefits, the IRB Committee will consider only those risks and benefits that may result from the research, as distinguished from risks and benefits of therapies subjects would receive even if not participating in the research.
  • Benefit A valued or desired outcome; an advantage.
  • Risk The probability of harm or injury (physical, psychological, social, or economic) occurring as a result of participation in a research study. Both the probability and magnitude of possible harm may vary from minimal to significant. Federal regulations define only "minimal risk."
  • Minimal Risk A risk is minimal where the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the proposed research are not greater, in and of themselves, than those ordinarily encountered in daily lives of the general population or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests.
  • Minimal Risk for Research involving Prisoners The definition of minimal risk for research involving prisoners differs somewhat from that given for non-institutionalized adults. Minimal risk is in this case is defined as, "the probability and magnitude of physical or psychological harm that is normally encountered in the daily lives, or in the routine medical, dental or psychological examinations of healthy persons."

There are two sources of confusion in the assessment of risks and benefits. One arises from the language employed in the discussion:

  • "Risk" is a word expressing probabilities;
  • "Benefits" is a word expressing a fact or state of affairs.

It is more accurate to speak as if both were in the realm of probability: i.e., risks and expected or anticipated benefits. Confusion also may arise because "risks" can refer to two quite different things:

  • those chances that specific individuals are willing to undertake for some desired goal; or
  • the conditions that make a situation harmful to a subject.

Researchers should provide detailed information in the IRB application about potential risks and benefits associated with the research, and provide information about the probability, magnitude and potential harms associated with each risk.

The IRB cannot approve research in which the risks are judged unreasonable in relation to the anticipated benefits. The IRB must:

  • As applicable, evaluate the available clinical and nonclinical information on an investigational product to determine if the data is adequate to support the proposed clinical trial;
  • Determine that the risks will be minimized to the extent possible [see below];
  • Identify the probable benefits to be derived from the research;
  • Determine that the risks are reasonable in relation to be benefits to subjects , if any, and the importance of the knowledge to be gained; and
  • Assure that potential subjects will be provided with an accurate and fair description (during consent) of the risks or discomforts and the anticipated benefits.

The risks to which research subjects may be exposed have been classified as physical, psychological, social, and economic .

  • Physical Harms Medical research often involves exposure to minor pain, discomfort, or injury from invasive medical procedures, or harm from possible side effects of drugs. All of these should be considered "risks" for purposes of IRB review. Some of the adverse effects that result from medical procedures or drugs can be permanent, but most are transient. Procedures commonly used in medical research usually result in no more than minor discomfort (e.g., temporary dizziness, the pain associated with venipuncture).Some medical research is designed only to measure more carefully the effects of therapeutic or diagnostic procedures applied in the course of caring for an illness. Such research may not entail any significant risks beyond those presented by medically indicated interventions. On the other hand, research designed to evaluate new drugs or procedures may present more than minimal risk, and, on occasion, can cause serious or disabling injuries.
  • Psychological Harms Participation in research may result in undesired changes in thought processes and emotion (e.g., episodes of depression, confusion, or hallucination resulting from drugs, feelings of stress, guilt, and loss of self-esteem). These changes may be transitory, recurrent, or permanent. Most psychological risks are minimal or transitory, but some research has the potential for causing serious psychological harm.Stress and feelings of guilt or embarrassment may arise simply from thinking or talking about one's own behavior or attitudes on sensitive topics such as drug use, sexual preferences, selfishness, and violence. These feelings may be aroused when the subject is being interviewed or filling out a questionnaire. Stress may also be induced when the researchers manipulate the subjects' environment - as when "emergencies" or fake "assaults" are staged to observe how passersby respond. More frequently, however, is the possibility of psychological harm when behavioral research involves an element of deception.
  • Is the invasion of privacy involved acceptable in light of the subjects' reasonable expectations of privacy in the situation under study;
  • Is the research question of sufficient importance to justify the intrusion?
  • The IRB must also consider whether the research design could be modified so that the study can be conducted without invading the privacy of the subjects.
  • Note: Breach of confidentiality is sometimes confused with invasion of privacy, but it is really a different risk. Invasion of privacy concerns access to a person's body or behavior without consent; confidentiality of data concerns safeguarding information that has been given voluntarily by one person to another.
  • Some research requires the use of a subject's hospital, school, or employment records. Access to such records for legitimate research purposes is generally acceptable, as long as the researcher protects the confidentiality of that information. However, it is important to recognize that a breach of confidentiality may result in psychological harm to individuals (in the form of embarrassment, guilt, stress, and so forth) or in social harm (see below).
  • Social and Economic Harms Some invasions of privacy and breaches of confidentiality may result in embarrassment within one's business or social group, loss of employment, or criminal prosecution. Areas of particular sensitivity are information regarding alcohol or drug abuse, mental illness, illegal activities, and sexual behavior. Some social and behavioral research may yield information about individuals that could "label" or "stigmatize" the subjects. (e.g., as actual or potential delinquents or schizophrenics). Confidentiality safeguards must be strong in these instances. Participation in research may result in additional actual costs to individuals. Any anticipated costs to research participants should be described to prospective subjects during the consent process.
  • Provide complete information in the protocol regarding the experimental design and the scientific rationale underlying the proposed research, including the results of previous animal and human studies.
  • Assemble a research team with sufficient expertise and experience to conduct the research.
  • Ensure that the projected sample size is sufficient to yield useful results.
  • Collect data from standard-of-care procedures to avoid unnecessary risk, particularly for invasive or risky procedures (e.g., spinal taps, cardiac catheterization).
  • Incorporate adequate safeguards into the research design such as an appropriate data safety monitoring plan, the presence of trained personnel who can respond to emergencies, and procedures to protect the confidentiality of the data (e.g., encryption, codes, and passwords).

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How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.

Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.

This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.

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Table of contents

Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.

Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:

  • Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
  • Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
  • Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.

Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.

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sample of procedure in research paper

There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.

You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.

You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.

Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:

  • A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
  • A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.

Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.

Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.

  • Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
  • Are there any heated debates you can address?
  • Do you have a unique take on your topic?
  • Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?

In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”

A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.

The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.

You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.

A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.

Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:

  • Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
  • Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
  • Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.

You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.

Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.

Paragraph structure

Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.

Example paragraph

George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.

Citing sources

It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.

You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.

What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.

Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?

How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.

The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.

One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:

  • topic sentences against the thesis statement;
  • topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
  • and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.

Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.

The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.

Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.

You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.

You should not :

  • Offer new arguments or essential information
  • Take up any more space than necessary
  • Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)

There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.

  • Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
  • Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
  • Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
  • If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.

The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible. You can speed up the proofreading process by using the AI proofreader .

Global concerns

  • Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
  • Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
  • Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.

Fine-grained details

Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:

  • each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
  • no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
  • all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.

Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .

Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading  or create an APA title page .

Scribbr’s professional editors can help with the revision process with our award-winning proofreading services.

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Checklist: Research paper

I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.

My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.

My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .

My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .

Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.

I have used appropriate transitions  to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.

My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.

My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.

My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.

I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.

I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .

I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).

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Computer Science > Computation and Language

Title: self-training for sample-efficient active learning for text classification with pre-trained language models.

Abstract: Active learning is an iterative labeling process that is used to obtain a small labeled subset, despite the absence of labeled data, thereby enabling to train a model for supervised tasks such as text classification. While active learning has made considerable progress in recent years due to improvements provided by pre-trained language models, there is untapped potential in the often neglected unlabeled portion of the data, although it is available in considerably larger quantities than the usually small set of labeled data. Here we investigate how self-training, a semi-supervised approach where a model is used to obtain pseudo-labels from the unlabeled data, can be used to improve the efficiency of active learning for text classification. Starting with an extensive reproduction of four previous self-training approaches, some of which are evaluated for the first time in the context of active learning or natural language processing, we devise HAST, a new and effective self-training strategy, which is evaluated on four text classification benchmarks, on which it outperforms the reproduced self-training approaches and reaches classification results comparable to previous experiments for three out of four datasets, using only 25% of the data.
Subjects: Computation and Language (cs.CL); Artificial Intelligence (cs.AI); Machine Learning (cs.LG)
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CRediT author statement

CRediT (Contributor Roles Taxonomy) was introduced with the intention of recognizing individual author contributions, reducing authorship disputes and facilitating collaboration. The idea came about following a 2012 collaborative workshop led by Harvard University and the Wellcome Trust, with input from researchers, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) and publishers, including Elsevier, represented by Cell Press.

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Ideas; formulation or evolution of overarching research goals and aims


Development or design of methodology; creation of models


Programming, software development; designing computer programs; implementation of the computer code and supporting algorithms; testing of existing code components


Verification, whether as a part of the activity or separate, of the overall replication/ reproducibility of results/experiments and other research outputs

Formal analysis

Application of statistical, mathematical, computational, or other formal techniques to analyze or synthesize study data


Conducting a research and investigation process, specifically performing the experiments, or data/evidence collection


Provision of study materials, reagents, materials, patients, laboratory samples, animals, instrumentation, computing resources, or other analysis tools

Data Curation

Management activities to annotate (produce metadata), scrub data and maintain research data (including software code, where it is necessary for interpreting the data itself) for initial use and later reuse

Writing - Original Draft

Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically writing the initial draft (including substantive translation)

Writing - Review & Editing

Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work by those from the original research group, specifically critical review, commentary or revision – including pre-or postpublication stages


Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically visualization/ data presentation


Oversight and leadership responsibility for the research activity planning and execution, including mentorship external to the core team

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Management and coordination responsibility for the research activity planning and execution

Funding acquisition

Acquisition of the financial support for the project leading to this publication

*Reproduced from Brand et al. (2015), Learned Publishing 28(2), with permission of the authors.

Sample CRediT author statement

Zhang San:  Conceptualization, Methodology, Software  Priya Singh. : Data curation, Writing- Original draft preparation.  Wang Wu : Visualization, Investigation.  Jan Jansen :  Supervision. : Ajay Kumar : Software, Validation.:  Sun Qi:  Writing- Reviewing and Editing,

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