The APA methods section is a very important part of your academic paper since it shows the methods and procedures you used for the study. Other researchers will use the methods section to see exactly how you conducted your experiments. We will discuss the APA methods section in this guide.
Definition: APA Methods Section
The APA methods section describes the procedures you used to carry out your research and explains why particular processes were selected. It allows other researchers to replicate the study and make their own conclusions on the validity of the experiment.1
APA Methods Section: Structure
- The main heading of the APA methods section should be written in bold and should be capitalized. It also has to be centered.
- All subheadings should be aligned to the left and must be boldfaced. You should select subheadings that are suitable for your essay, and the most commonly used include ‘Participants’, ‘Materials’, and ‘Procedure’.
|Heading||What to include|
|Participants||• Study participants
• Sampling methods
• Sample size
|Materials||• Measures used in the study
• Quality of the measurements
|Procedure||• Methods of collecting data
• The research design
• The method of diagnosing and processing data
• Data analysis method
APA format has certain requirements for reporting different research designs. You should go through these guidelines to determine what you should mention for research using longitudinal designs, replication studies, and experimental designs.
APA Methods Section: Participants
Under this subheading, you will have to report on the sample characteristics, the procedures used to collect samples, and the sample size selected.
Subject or Participant Characteristics
In academic studies, ‘participants’ refers to the people who take part in a study. If animals are used instead of human beings, the researcher can use the term ‘subjects’. In this subheading of the APA methods section, you have to describe the demographic characteristics of the participants, including their age, sex, race, ethnic group, education level, and gender identity. Depending on the nature of the study, other characteristics may be important. Some of these include:
- Education levels
- Language preference
- Immigration status
By describing the characteristics of the participants, readers will be able to determine how much the results can be generalized. Make sure you use bias-free language when writing this part of the APA methods section.
When selecting participants for your study, you will have to use certain sampling procedures. If the study could access all members of the population, you can say that you used random sampling methods. This section of the APA methods section should cover the percentage of respondents who participated in the research, and how they were chosen. You also need to state how participants were compensated and the ethical standard followed.
Sample Size and Statistical Power
In this part of the APA methods section, you should give details on the sample size and statistical power you aimed at achieving. You should mention whether the final sample was the same as the intended sample. This section should show whether your research had enough statistical power to find any effects.
APA Methods Section: Materials
Readers also need to know the materials you used for the study. This part of the APA methods section will give other researchers a good picture of the methods used to conduct the study.
Primary and secondary measures
Here, you should indicate the instruments used in the study, as well as the constructs they were meant to measure. Some of these are inventories, scales, tests, software, and hardware. Make sure you cover the following aspects:
Quality of measurements
You can mention the strategies you applied to ensure data integrity and reliability. These may include:
- Training the interviewers
- Establishing clear data nominalization procedures
- Rigorous data handling and analysis processes
- Having multiple people assess the data
If the data was subjectively coded, you should indicate the interrater reliability scores in the APA methods section.3
APA Methods Section: Procedure
This part of the APA methods section indicates the methods you used to carry out the research, process the data, and analyze the results.
Research Design and Data Collection Methods
Data collection is the systematic gathering of observations and measurements, and you have to describe all procedures used in this process. You can use supplementary materials to describe long and complicated data collection methods.
When reporting the research design, you should mention the framework of the study. This could be experimental, longitudinal, correlational, or descriptive. Additionally, you should mention whether you used a between-subjects or within-subjects design.
In this part of the APA methods section, you should also mention whether any masking methods were used to hide condition assignments from the participants.
This part of the APA method section outlines the steps taken to process the data. It includes:
- Methods of identifying and controlling outliers
- Data transformation procedures
- Methods of compensating for missing values
This subheading of the APA methods section describes the analytic strategies used, but you shouldn’t mention the outcomes. The primary and secondary hypotheses use past studies or theoretical frameworks, while exploratory hypotheses focus on the data in the study.
In this section, you should include the study participants, the methods used, and the procedures.
The methods section covers the participants or subject characteristics, the sampling procedures, the sample size, the measures used, the data collection methods, the research design, the data analysis strategy, and the data processing method.
Yes, the serial comma is required when writing the APA methods section.
Yes, the APA language guidelines encourage researchers to use first-person pronouns when writing the methods section.
1 Cherry, Kendra. “How to Write an APA Method Section of a Research Paper.” Verywellmind. August 29, 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-write-a-method-section-2795726.
2 Madison Schools. “APA Method Section.” Accessed December 5, 2022. https://www.madison-schools.com/cms/lib4/MS01001041/Centricity/Domain/678/APA%20Method%20Section.pdf.
3 Research Data Services. “Quality Assurance in Research.” University of Wisconsin. August 17, 2020. https://researchdata.wisc.edu/uncategorized/quality-assurance-in-research/.