Writing the Method Section of a Research Grounded Paper
Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA
Research grounded papers in education are typically divided into main sections (sometimes these are also called chapters) that are further divided into subsections. Each main section usually begins on a new page. In the paper these sections are typically titled the Introduction, Literature Review, Method, Results, Discussion, and References. The main sections are further divided (with the exception of the Reference section) into subsections that help the reader to follow sequential information contained within each main section. The structure of the paper represents sequential steps of how everything was conducted for the research study or project. The writing is technical, formal, or informational writing in which you are seeking to explain your topic and what you did for the sake of the reader. Most technical papers in education follow the writing style and format of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA).
Research grounded papers include the reporting of past research findings that are directly related to the main topic and subtopics of the paper.
The purpose of the Method section is twofold, one is to adequately describe the study or project so that anyone who wants to implement it can do so, and the other is to substantiate validity for what was done. The information for the content of the Method section comes from what you have learned about the topic and subtopics while conducting a literature review, particularly the methods employed by the authors of the document sources for how they conducted their studies or developed their projects. The main focus of the Method section is how to do this study or project. The writing is technical in style and format.
Format of the Paper
The format of the paper is typically size 12, Times New Roman font, with 1.5 inch left margin, and all the others an inch. This will allow room for binding the completed paper if that is needed. The writing throughout the entire paper should all be evenly double-spaced text, and follow APA for all headings within the paper.
What to Include in the Method Section
Each of the following components are subheadings within this main section of the paper.
Write about and cite document sources that gave you ideas for how to conduct the research study or project that you are doing.
Describe where and when the study took place, however do not use the actual name of your study's location, but instead use a pseudonym and state that you are using a pseudonym, and be general, rather than specific in giving the location. If you are writing about a project, then describe the intended setting where the project is mostly likely to be implemented.
Describe the study participants: age, sex, race, and any other pertinent information related to your study. Give pseudonyms to your participants to protect their identity. Explain your reasons for selecting the participants. If the paper is about a project, describe the intended participants that would most likely benefit from the project.
Write about exactly how you conducted the study in a step-by-step sequence. Be very specific and detailed. The details should be accurate and clear enough that someone else would be able to replicate the study. If the paper is about a project, describe specific step-by-step procedures for designing, creating, and developing the project. If there any supporting documents related to the procedures, these are typically inserted into the paper as appendixes (see the APA manual for style, format, and placement of appendixes).
Tools for Data Collection
Describe the tools that were used for data collection, e.g., video, audio, interviews, surveys, journals, and field notes. Explain the rationale for selecting each tool and how each tool was implemented. If the paper is about a project, describe the tools that were used to collect information for project design, creation, and development.
Describe what method was used to analyze the data collected from the data tools using data analysis methodology from document sources. Make sure to cite and reference each source. If the paper is about a project, describe methods for determining the impact or influence that the project could have on the intended participants.
Write in a non evaluative style, meaning, you are not inserting any of your personal
opinions, thoughts, or feelings in this section of the paper.
• Follow APA for headings for this section and the subheadings within it.
• Do not reveal any biases, predetermined expectations, or outcomes.
• Write using "newspaper language" meaning, use language that an eighth grader would understand.
• Use as few trade terms as possible, meaning words that only professional educators would know, and if you have to use a trade term, do so in an appositive.
• Use past tense.
• Use short, direct, and simple sentences.
• Use active rather than passive voice, and avoid using: I, me, we, you, our- as much as possible (see APA for Passive Voice).
• Do not use "this author" or refer to yourself in third person.
• Use only a quotation from a text if you absolutely have to.
• Make sure you are writing in an expository style, this is not a personal narrative.
Follow the APA manual for all of the writing style, grammar, and formatting in the paper. When you have a draft completed, read it at least several times for revisions and edits. Make sure all the citations have corresponding, complete references in the Reference section of the paper.
About Author / Additional Info:
Timothy G. Weih is an associate professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and teaches qualitative research methodology.