Describing methods

In the Methods section of a dissertation or research article, writers give an account of how they carried out their research. The Methods section should be clear and detailed enough for another experienced person to repeat the research and reproduce the results. Where the methods chosen are new, unfamiliar or perhaps even controversial, or where the intended audience is from many disciplines, the Methods section will tend to be much more extensive. Typical stretches of text found in this section of a research article or dissertation along with examples of the kind of language used for these are listed below. Note that for most of the functional categories in this section, the verbs are written in the simple past tense.

Describing previously used research methods

Many researchers have utilised X to measure …
One of the most well-known tools for assessing …
Traditionally, X has been assessed by measuring …
A number of techniques have been developed to …
Different methods have been proposed to classify …
X is the main non-invasive method used to determine …
Different authors have measured X in a variety of ways.
Several methods currently exist for the measurement of X.
Previous studies have based their criteria for selection on …
X is one of the most common procedures for determining …
There are three main types of study design used to identify …
The use of life story data has a relatively long tradition within X.
Recent advances in X methods have facilitated investigation of …
There are a number of instruments available for measuring the …
X and Y are currently the most popular methods for investigating …
Recently, simpler and more rapid tests of X have been developed.
In most recent studies, X has been measured in four different ways.
The use of qualitative case studies is a well-established approach in …
Xs have been used in the past to investigate the mechanical properties of …

Giving reasons why a method was adopted or rejected

A major advantage of X is that …
The benefit of this approach is that …
X based methods provide a means of …
X was selected for its reliability and validity.
A case study approach was used to allow a …
This method is particularly useful in studying …
A quantitative approach was employed since …
Qualitative methods offer an effective way of …
The design of the questionnaires was based on …
The X method is one of the more practical ways of …
The semi-structured approach was chosen because …
The X approach has a number of attractive features: …
The advantages of Xs are that they are simple to deliver.
The second advantage of using the multivariate method is …
The study uses qualitative analysis in order to gain insights into …
One advantage of the X analysis is that it avoids the problem of …
Another advantage of using computer simulations is that it allows …
Continuous sampling methods have a number of advantages over …
The collaborative nature of the focus group offers another advantage …
Qualitative methods can be more useful for identifying and characterising …

 

A case-study approach was used
chosen
adopted
to ensure that …
to help understand how …
to allow a deeper insight into …
to conduct this exploratory study.
to evaluate the effectiveness of …
to determine the factors that affect …
to gain a detailed understanding of …
to assess the management practices of …
to obtain further in-depth information on the …
to provide rounded, detailed illustrations of the …
to capture the complexities of the phenomenon.

 

A major problem with the experimental method is that …
The main disadvantage of the experimental method is that …
However, there are certain drawbacks associated with the use of …
There are certain problems with the use of focus groups. One of these is that there is less …

Indicating the use of an established method

The solution was then assayed for X using the Y method.
X was prepared according to the procedure used by Jones et al. (1957).
The synthesis of X was done according to the procedure of Smith (1973).
X was synthesised using the same method that was detailed for Y, using …
Samples were analysed for X as previously reported by Smith et al. (2012).
Analysis was based on the conceptual framework proposed by Smith et al. (2002).
This compound was prepared by adapting the procedure used by Jones et al. (1990)…

Describing the characteristics of the sample

The cohort was divided into two groups according to …
A random sample of patients with … was recruited from …
Articles were searched from January 1965 until April 2014.
The sample was representative with respect to gender and …
Forty-seven students studying X were recruited for this study.
A systematic literature review was conducted of studies that …
Just over half the sample (53%) was female, of whom 69% were …
Of the initial cohort of 123 students, 66 were female and 57 male.
Eligible women who matched the selection criteria were identified by …
Only children aged between 10 and 15 years were included in the study.
The participants were divided into two groups based on their performance on …
Two groups of subjects were interviewed, namely X and Y. The first group were …
The project used a convenience sample of 32 first year modern languages students.
All of the participants were aged between 18 and 19 at the beginning of the study…
All studies described as using some sort of X procedure were included in the analysis.
Participants were recruited from 15 clinics across …, covering urban and rural areas …
The initial sample consisted of 200 students, 75 of whom belonged to minority groups.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 male offenders with a mean age of 38 years.

Indicating criteria for selection or inclusion

Criteria for selecting the subjects were as follows:
Publications were only included in the analysis if…
The participants in this study were recruited from …
To identify X, the following parameters were used: …
The area of study was chosen for its relatively small …
Primary inclusion criteria for the X participants were …
Eligibility criteria required individuals to have received …
Five individuals were excluded from the study on the basis of …
A small sample was chosen because of the expected difficulty in obtaining …
The subjects were selected on the basis of the degree of homogeneity of their …
A comparison group of 12 male subjects without any history of X was drawn from a pool of …

Describing the process: infinitive of purpose

In order to identify …, the participants were asked to …
In order to understand how X regulates Y, a series of transfections was performed.

To establish whether …,
To measure X, a question asking … was used.
To determine whether …, the cells were incubated for …
To rule out the possibility that X, the participants were …
To control for bias, measurements were carried out by another person.
To assess whether and how Xs are produced and received, we measured …
To see if the two methods gave the same measurement, the data was plotted and …
To enable the subjects to see the computer screen clearly, the laptop was configured with …
To increase the reliability of measures, each X was tested twice with a 4-minute break between …
To compare the scores three weeks after initial screening, a global ANOVA F-test was used

The vials were capped with … to prevent …
The process was repeated several times in order to remove …
In an attempt to make each interviewee feel as comfortable as possible, the interviewer …

Describing the process: expressing purpose with 'for'

For the attitude questions, a Likert scale was used.
For the purpose of height measurement, subjects were asked to stand …
For the purpose of analysis, two segments were extracted from each …
For the estimation of protein concentration, 100 µL of protein sample was mixed with …

Describing the process: verbs used in the passive

All participants were sent …
The data were normalised using …
Ethical approval was obtained from …
Drugs were administered by icv injection …
Descriptive data were generated for all variables.
The procedures of this study were approved by …
Prompts were used as an aid to question two so that …
Data were collected using semi-structured interviews in …
Participants were thanked for their time and effort and for …
The experiments were run using custom software written in…
Two sets of anonymised questionnaires were completed by …
A total of 256 samples were taken from 52 boreholes (Figure 11).
The solution was washed three times with deionized water and …
Significance levels were set at the 1% level using the student t-test.
Data management and analysis were performed using SPSS 16.0 (2010).
Published studies were identified using a search strategy developed in …
Data were gathered from multiple sources at various time points during …
Injection solutions were coded by a colleague to reduce experimenter bias.
The pilot interviews were conducted informally by the trained interviewer …
Article references were searched further for additional relevant publications…

Describing the process: sequence words

To begin this process, …
The first step in this process was to …
The second method used to identify X involved …

 

Prior to commencing the study, ethical clearance was sought from …
analysing the interview data, the transcripts were checked for …
data collection, the participants received an explanation of the project.
undertaking the investigation, ethical clearance was obtained from …
After ‘training’, the participants were told that …
collection, the samples were shipped back to X in …
testing for the presence of antibodies, the blood was …
the appliance was fitted, the patients attended X every four weeks.
On arrival at the clinic, patients were asked to …
completion of X, the process of parameter estimation was carried out
obtaining written informed consent from the patients, a questionnaire was …
Once the samples were extracted, it was first necessary to …
the Xs were located and marked, a thin clear plastic ruler …
the exposures were completed, the X was removed from the Y and placed in …
the positions had been decided upon, the Xs were removed from each Y and …
Following correction for …, X was reduced to …
conformational analysis of X, it was necessary to …
administration of X to patients, we assessed the effects on …
this treatment, the samples were recovered and stored overnight.
When dividing X, care was taken to …
removing X, it was important to …
inviting the participants, the purpose of the research was clearly explained.

 

The subjects were then shown a film individually and were asked to …
The soil was then weighed again, and this weight was recorded as …
The results were corrected for the background readings and then averaged before …
These ratings were then made for the ten stimuli to which the subject had been exposed …
The analysis was checked when initially performed and then checked again at the end of …

Finally, questions were asked as to the role of …
In the follow-up phase of the study, participants were asked …
The final stage of the study comprised a semi-structured interview with participants who …

Describing the process: adverbs of manner

The medium was then aseptically transferred to a conical flask.
A sample of the concentrate was then carefully injected into …
The tubes were accurately reweighed to six decimal places using …
The soil was then placed in a furnace and gradually heated up to …
The vials were shaken manually to allow the soil to mix well with the water.
The resulting solution was gently mixed at room temperature for ten minutes and …

Describing the process: 'using' + instruments

Data were collected using two high spectral resolution Xs.
Semi-automated genotyping was carried out using X software and …
Using the X-ray and looking at the actual X, it was possible to identify …
Comparisons between the two groups were made using unrelated t-tests.
The data were recorded on a digital audio recorder and transcribed using a …
Statistical significance was analysed using analysis of variance and t-tests as appropriate.
Using an Anthos Micro plate Reader, we were able to separate single cells into different …
15 subjects were recruited using email advertisements requesting healthy students from …
All the work on the computer was carried out using Quattro Pro for Windows and …

Describing the process: questionnaire design

The first question elicited information on …
Seven questions, adapted from X, assessed …
All survey questions utilised a 5-point Likert scale.
Using a 5-point Likert scale, participants were asked …
A short questionnaire was designed to ascertain the participants’ …
The questionnaire was designed to measure the following constructs:
Participants were asked to respond using a 5-point Likert scale ranging from …
The questions asked participants to rate how strongly they agreed with each statement.
The study began with two open-ended survey questions that asked participants to indicate …
The questionnaire asked participants to complete three open-ended questions that asked about …

 

The first question was designed to find out …
gauge how much…
ascertain whether …
identify the types of …
test participants’ knowledge of …
measure the students’ ability to explain …
elicit a simple answer to a complex question about …
Describing the process: statistical procedures

The data were normalised using …
A p value Descriptive data were generated for all variables.
Reliability was calculated using Cronbach’s alpha.
All analyses were carried out using SPSS, version 20.
Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS software (version 20).
Significance levels were set at the 1% level using the student t-test.
Data management and analysis were performed using SPSS 16.0 (2010).
The mean score for the two trials was subjected to multivariate analysis of variance to …

Indicating methodological problems or limitations

In particular, the analysis of X was problematic.
In observational studies, there is a potential for bias from …
The small size of the dataset meant that it was not possible to …
Further data collection is required to determine exactly how X affects Y.
Another major source of uncertainty is in the method used to calculate X.
In this investigation there are several sources for error. The main error is …
It was not possible to investigate the significant relationships of X and Y further because…
The responses relating to X were subjective and were therefore susceptible to recall bias.