Materials and Methods

Generally, this section should include a concise description of the materials, procedures, and equipment used, including how the study was conducted, how data were collected, and what statistical and/or graphical analyses were undertaken. The materials and methods outline WHAT WAS DONE and HOW IT WAS DONE. There should be enough detail so that someone else could repeat your study. It should be arranged in a logical manner (i.e., keep related ideas together and write chronologically where possible). This section must be written in paragraph form so you must include the materials within the logical and/or chronological order of use. You would include items such as:

  • brand names of equipment,
  • concentrations and quantities of solutions,
  • the organisms(s) studied,their scientific name(s),numbers, size, sex, etc.
  • location of study site(s), if any, noting size of site(s) and other physical characteristics and geography
  • primary materials used
  • techniques and methods (e.g. for measuring, counting); provide references to techniques used (if applicable)
  • diagrams of methods or site maps (as Figures) may be included
  • any formula, decision-making tree, algorithm, or ‘weird’ calculation
  • statistical analyses (e.g. t-tests, 1-way ANOVA, values used in the analyses, visual charts and plots etc.).

If you follow directions from a book or other research study, cite and reference those details accordingly. You need not repeat them in your paper. However, in most cases, the directions given in a lab manual are a recipe to complete the work and are not a good synthesis of the procedures. In this case, it is often good practice to include (write out) the general procedures and reserve referencing for specific aspects of the procedures that you obtain from the course lab manual(s). If you change the procedure from the lab manual or from another study, you should explain why you did so and exactly what you did differently.

Do not include the rationale for your work in this section. Also, be sure to report your procedure as a past event rather than writing this section as a set of directions to your reader. You do not need to report attempts at the experiment with techniques that failed unless these techniques are very likely to be tried by other people in the future.

Materials & Methods Formatting

  • past tense, passive or active voice (e.g. “We weighed the tissue ….” and “The tissue was weighed…” are both acceptable)
  • paragraphs only (no lists!)
  • usually 1-2 pages (can be longer or shorter)