Method Outline/Comments
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Topics covered:

                       1.  Research Design     2.  Participants     3.  Materials     4.  Procedure 

I.  General Comments

The method section is the most straightforward part of a research paper.  In this section, you describe exactly how you conducted your experiment; type of participants, instructions, manipulations, questionnaires, and so forth.  IF YOU DO NOT HAVE AN APA MANUAL, THEN YOU WILL NOT DO WELL IN THIS COURSE.

As you already know, the method section is the most straightforward part of a research paper.  The method section is where you describe to your reader in a CLEAR and CONCISE manner the participants and the procedure, that is, exactly how you conducted your experiment.  For some of the research based papers you conduct or proposals that you write, you will also have a materials section.  The method section usually has at least two subsections: Participants and Procedure.  The participants subsection describes the number and type of experimental participants.  The procedure subsection is a chronological step-by-step description of the experimental events.

            Important.  Keep in mind that you should include all the information necessary for another researcher to replicate your experimental methodology.  However, do not include trivial details or “over describe” standard experimental techniques.

II.  Format and Content of Method Section

This is only an OUTLINE of a method section.  Your method section may be longer or shorter depending on the nature of your study.  There is no "expected" length of a method section; your study will, in part, determine the length of this section.  You should use complete sentences and double-spacing.  Write in the past tense, remember, you have already conducted the experiment. 

                                                            Method (This is a centered heading that is boldfaced)

Research Design (This is a margin heading and is bolded: See the APA manual for formatting)

Sometimes you will want to include this section when the design is somewhat complicated.  In such cases,  you will want to provide the reader with an overview of the experimental design.  You will want to include the independent variables (IVs), the levels of the IV, and your dependent variables (DVs). 

For example:

             This study was a 2 x 2 x 2 between-subjects factorial design with independent variables being the sex of the participant (male or female), level of warning (no prior warning or prior warning), and participants' self-esteem (low or high).  The levels of the self-esteem variable were created from participants' responses to a self-esteem scale by a median split analysis.  The dependent measures were victim responsibility and victim attractiveness.

Participants (This is a margin heading)
        (points to include)

- how many male and female participants
- type of sample (e.g., haphazard, convenience, random, etc.)
- age range (M = x.xx, SD = x.xx)
- cultural diversity of the sample
- random assignment to conditions and number of participants in each condition
- how many were excluded and why (if applicable)

            For example: Ten participants were excluded, because they failed or did not answer the manipulation check.  The exclusions were not a result of a particular condition. 

For example:

                The participants were 80 male and 80 female undergraduates from the University of Kentucky enrolled in introductory psychology.  Participants received course credit for their participation.  These participants ranged in age from 19 to 41 with a mean age of 19.27 (SD = 3.67).  Participants were randomly assigned to read about a woman dressed conservatively (40 males and 40 females) or suggestively (40 males and 40 females).  The present sample was 61.2% White, 22.5% Asian American, 16.2% Hispanic, and less than 1% were African American.  The school classification of participants were 20.2% Freshman, 26.9% Sophomores, 26.9% Juniors, 24.4% Seniors, 1.2% graduate students, and 0.4% did not indicate their school standing.  

                                                              - OR -

                The participants were 193 undergraduate volunteers from Valdosta State University.  These participants ranged in age from 19 to 31 with a mean age of 19.87 (SD = 2.35).  Male participants were randomly assigned to read about an attractive suspect (n = 45) or an unattractive suspect (n = 53).  Female participants were randomly assigned to read about an attractive suspect  (n = 46) or an unattractive suspect (n = 49).  There were 12 participants who were excluded in the attractive suspect condition (4 males and 8 females) and 20 in the unattractive suspect condition (15 males and 5 females).  The exclusions were a result of participants being suspicious about the nature of the experiment.  The sample was 61.2% White, 22.5% Asian American, 16.2% Hispanic, and less than 1% were African American.  The school classification of participants were 59.7% Freshman, 27.7% Sophomores, 8.3% Juniors, 3.6% Seniors, and 0.8% were
post-baccalaureate students.

Materials (This is a margin heading)
        (points to include)

In the materials section, you provide concise information on the scale that was used.  You want to include the name of the scale, how many items the scale had, what the scale measures, sample questions, any items that are reverse scored, the possible range the scores can take, what higher scores represent (or lower, but do not describe both), the reliability of the scale in past research (if applicable), and the reliability of the scale for your sample.  If this is a scale you created, then you will want to include the scale in an Appendix.  If you have more than one material, then you should use a paragraph heading to separate the discussion of the two instruments.  

        - Mention the instrument used. 
        - The trait(s) the instrument was designed to measure. 
        - A couple of sample items. 
        - How participants respond to the instrument. 
        - Any items that may have been recoded or reverse scored. 
        - What lower scores or higher scores indicate. 
        - If any special instructions were given, then you need to mention them.  
        - Information on the reliability and validity should be reported if available. 
        - The reliability of the scale for your sample should also be reported.  

For example:       

                The 28-item Role Attitudes in Marriage Scale (Jacobson, 1951) was used to measure attitudes toward spousal roles in marriage (see Appendix).  Examples of the items comprising this scale are: "The husband should help with housework" and "A married woman should not work outside the home." Each item is scored on a five point scale from 1 (Strongly Agree) to 5 (Strongly Disagree).  A lower score is indicative of a traditional, male dominant attitude toward spousal roles and a higher score is indicative of a more egalitarian viewpoint.  The participant sample utilized for the construction of the scale was composed of 100 married and 100 divorced couples.  The median age for males was 27.2 and 23.2 for females with males reporting a median education of 9.1 years and 9.7 years for females.  All males were employed with 36.5% being laborers and 6.5% reported being professional, semi-professional, and business officials.  A smaller percentage of females were employed (61.5%) with 4% reported being professional, semi-professional, and business officials.  The AMS has a reported split-half reliability of .91 and a test-retest reliability of .79.  The reliability (internal consistency) was .83.

- OR -

                 Participants were given Spence and Helmreich’s (1978) short, 15 item version of the Attitudes toward Women Scale.  The Attitudes toward Women Scale contains statements that describe the roles and freedoms women should have, such as "Swearing and obscenity are more repulsive in the speech of a woman than a man" and "There are many jobs in which men should be given peference over women in being hired or promoted." Participants respond to each statement on a 4-point scale from 0 (agree strongly) to 3 (disagree strongly).  Scores can range from 0 to 45 with items 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, and 14 reverse scored so that higher scores reflect more traditional attitudes toward women.  The reliability (internal consistency) of the scale has been reported to be .89 and correlates .91 with the original 55 item AWS (Spence & Helmreich, 1978).  The reliability (internal consistency) was .81.  


Note: You may not have a materials section in your paper.  This section is included only when you have materials that need to be described.  If the scale instructions are specific (e.g., state self-esteem or trait self-esteem instructions), then you must specify them.  In addition, you could also have a margin heading called "Apparatus."  Under this heading, you would provide information about any specialized equipment you used, such as an operant chamber, video camera, galvanic skin response, etc.

Procedure (This is a margin heading)
        (points to include: overview)
 

        1.  The APA no longer requires a statement that the project was approved by the institutional review board to be stated in the procedure.  This statement is
             provided to the journal editor in a cover letter when the manuscript is submitted for review.
        2.  The nature of their task, including what participants were told about the experiment.

        3.  The manner by which the independent variable was manipulated.
        4.  The manner by which the dependent variable was measured.
        5.  Debriefing statement.



 
AN EXAMPLE:

            The participants completed the experiment individually.  I approached a student and asked if he or she would participate in an experiment attempting to investigate the perception skills of people.  If the student refused, then he or she was thanked and not bothered any further.  If the student agreed, then  he or she was given a three page booklet and asked to follow the instructions on the cover page.  

Instructions to participants.  (This is a paragraph heading)

            The participants read the instructions typed on the cover page of the booklet.  They read about an attempt to investigate the perception skills of people and  that their answers would be compared to other universities across the country.  The participants then read that they would be asked to read an article and answer a questionnaire that followed, and that referring back to the article when answering the questions was not allowed.  

Description of the crime.  (This is a paragraph heading)

           The second page of the booklet contained a fictional account of a reported date rape.  The article stated that a woman went to a bar one Friday night after work.  While she was there, she was drinking moderately and was dancing most of the night with a man she just met.  At the end of the night, the man asked her back to his apartment and she accepted.  The following morning the woman filed a police report accusing the man of rape.  All participants read the same account of the crime.  

              Note: Some reviewers like to see more detail about the scenario, because they can better evaluate the study.  As such, some researchers will provide the exact
                        wording of the
scenario in an appendix or in the body of the text.  

Manipulation of style of dress.  (This is a paragraph heading)

            The independent variable of mode of dress was manipulated by varying the clothing the woman was wearing.  In the conservatively dressed condition, the woman was described as wearing a long blue dress, a white long sleeve blouse, and low heel pumps.  In the suggestively dressed condition, the woman was described as wearing a short black leather mini skirt, a very low cut red blouse, black stockings and high heels.  In both conditions, the woman was described as being 25-years-old, 5'-6" tall, long auburn hair, attractive, good figure, and as having a beauty mark on the right corner of her mouth. 

Dependent measures.  (This is a paragraph heading)

            After reading the articles, the participants completed the questionnaire on the third page of the booklet.  The questionnaire measured the participants' attitudes regarding both the man’s and woman’s responsibility for the incident.  First, the participants were asked to indicate how strongly they believed that the woman was responsible for the incident on a six point scale from 1 (not responsible) to 6 (very responsible).   Second, the participants rated how strongly they believed the man was responsible for the incident on a six point scale from 1 (not responsible) to 6 (very responsible). 

Manipulation check.  (This is a paragraph heading)

           The participants were also asked to evaluate the appearance of the woman using a six point scale to check the effectiveness of the manipulation from 1 (very conservative) to 6 (very suggestive).  The questionnaire contained filler items on the age and attractiveness of the man and woman.  These filler items were included to draw attention from the question of the individual's responsibility for the incident.  

Debriefing.  (This is a paragraph heading)

            After participants completed the questionnaire, they were told the true purpose of the study and allowed to ask any questions.  Also, the participants were instructed on how to obtain the results of the study.  If participants wanted to know the results of the study, they provided their email address and told they would receive an summary of the research findings.  Only 18 of the 160 participants requested such information. 


        - YOU MUST INCLUDE THESE TWO POINTS:

                 - Participants were asked to participate in a study for an experimental psychology class. 
                 - If the participant refused, then he or she was thanked and not bothered further.  If the participant agreed, then he or she was ...  

        You also include how participants completed the experiment.  For example, "Participants completed the experiment one at a time" or "Participants completed the experiment in groups of 10-15,"
        or whatever you did.