Writing a journal article

Methods

For non-essay papers, the methods section describes everything the reader needs to know to replicate what you did. This means that all procedures need to be described in sufficient detail that somebody else could implement them again. Methods are usually written in past tense. The only references in the methods section tend to be to previous, related work (which the reader needs to know about) or technical papers outlining particular protocols. In the latter case, it is appropriate to summarise the technical procedure briefly, as well as point to a specific reference for further details. The only procedures that need no references are those that are accepted as ‘standard techniques’. It will depend on your discipline what is considered a standard method. An example might be simple linear regression. If you say that you used simple linear regression in an empirical science context, nobody will expect you to provide a reference. If you say, for example, that you used canonical correspondence analysis, however, people probably will want you to give a reference, so they can look up the details. So what is considered a standard technique and what is not is context-dependent.

See also:

Possible exercises:
  • Do you have  lot of methods? If so, you probably need to think of a series of sub-headings.
  • What can you assume is general background knowledge in your discipline, and what requires explanation? Hence, which of your methods can you describe briefly (perhaps with a reference), and which need more space?
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