APA Methods Section – How to Write it with Examples

Time to read: 6 Minutes
APA-Methods-Section-Definition

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.

APA Methods Section – In a Nutshell

  • The APA methods section covers the participants, materials, and procedures.
  • Under the ‘Participants’ heading of the APA methods section, you should state the relevant demographic characteristics of your participants.
  • Accurately reporting the facts of the study can help other researchers determine how much the results can be generalized.

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.

Example:

The study included 100 homosexual men and 100 homosexual women aged between 30 and 50 years from the city of London, UK.2

Sampling Procedures

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.

Example:

  • Transgender male students from universities in London were invited to participate in the research.
  • Invites were sent to the students via email, social media posts, and posters in the schools.
  • Each participant received $10 for the time spent in the study.
  • The research obtained ethical approval before the participants were recruited.

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.

Example:

  • The study aimed at having a statistical power of 75% to detect an effect of 10% with an alpha or significance level of .05.
  • 200 participants were required, and the study fulfilled these conditions.

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:

  • Validity
  • Reliability

Example:

  • The Traumatic Stress Schedule (TSS) was used to measure the exposure to traumatic events in the participants.
  • This 10-item chart requires participants to report lifelong exposure to traumatic stress.
  • For example, they could indicate whether they suffered the traumatic death of a loved one (through methods like suicide).
  • The Davidson Trauma Scale was also used to assess the symptoms of trauma.

Under this subheading of the APA methods section, you should also mention covariates or additional variables that can explain the outcomes.

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.

Example:

  • Participants in the study were told that the research would take an hour and would cover their personal experiences in school.
  • They were assured that the reports would be confidential and were asked to give consent.
  • The participants were asked to fill in questionnaires. The control group was given an unrelated filler task, after which they filled a questionnaire.
  • The control group determined how the experiences of homosexual and CIS-gendered students varied on campus.

Data diagnostics

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

Analytic strategies

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.

Example:

We started by assessing the demographic differences between the two groups. We also performed an independent samples t-test on the test scores.

FAQs

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.

Sources

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/.