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Here is a basic framework to use when writing your materials and methods section.

Social Sciences and Pure and Applied sciences differ dramatically in Method sections. In social sciences the method should be explained in great detail. Often the method needs to be justified. In sciences there are often standard procedures that do not need to be detailed.

Social Sciences paper method sections tend to need more detail and justification than science or engineering papers were procedures are often more standardized. Here are some examples: the demographic characteristics of respondents, how surveys were distributed exactly, the exact response rate not only the total number of surveys collected, etc.

Explain your choices or methods if they are not standard

TASK: Read the method section in your paper. Put a P over sentences that are passive and an A over active tenses. Is there any logical reason for the choice? There is a tendency for passive sentences to indicate procedures while active indicates new, important or unexpected procedures (Swales & Feak 1994 pg. 161).

Review of active and passive verb tenses:

Links on Methods sections including Biology and Engineering


I explained any special criteria for choosing any special materials/equipment. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___

I have examined the use of passive and active sentence structure in a paper in my field. I understand that active sentence structure is used when the researcher wants to demonstrate their own decision-making or their own choice of method while passive sentences are used for routine procedures or sentences where the subject is not important.___

I have provided enough information so that another researcher could replicate (do) the same experiment with the same results.  (This is not always possible in many fields these days but it is a worthwhile goal in science) ____

I justified and explained any uncommon or unusual methods I used. ____

My Method section format matches that of my model paper: short passive sentences mainly describing procedures or a longer method section that justifies the choices.___

I not only describe the procedure but I explain the reasons for my methods where necessary using sentences beginning with “To …” or “In order to…” _____

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