Thesis Methods Section Writing Prompts

In theory, the methods section should be the easiest part of the thesis to write. In actuality, however, some students are unsure which information to include and how to structure the overall chapter. Do not waste your time attempting to write this section and failing because you are uncertain! Instead, follow this guide, and use the following prompts (in order) to compose your chapter correctly.

Part 1: Overview

In this section, give the reader a rough outline of what you will be examining and how you will be examining it. Remind them of your hypotheses. Do not name specific measures or statistical tests yet in this section of the paper. Just give a general schema of how the rest of the chapter will unfold, noting in particular how many studies you will be conducting, and whether they will be experimental, survey-based, archival, or something else.

Part 2: Independent Variables

List the manipulations or measures you will use to tap into your predictor variables. If you are experimentally manipulating mood by having participants watch sad or happy movies, say so, and provide a citation of the movie source. If you are measuring participants’ heart rates, say so, and specify how you will be recording it. Make note of the tools you are using and cite them exactly. Make it clear to the reader how everything works.

Part 2: Dependent Variables

Next, you should describe the outcomes you are interested in, and how you will go about recording those. Are you measuring performance on a challenging task? Where did the task come from? What is it called? Give the reader enough information that they could track down all your materials on their own, if necessary. Your materials are the ingredients to your recipe. How long was a questionnaire? How long did it take? Under what conditions was it administered? Make note of all these things, using procedural and clear language.

Part 3: Procedure

If the above sections are the ingredients to the recipe, the procedure section of the Methods chapter is the recipe itself. Walk through the entire data collection method for each study (one study at a time), noting every single activity in the order that it occurred. If you are describing a survey, note the order of the questions. If you are describing a biological experiment, provide step-by-step instructions of how to prep all the materials and administer them.

Part 4: Participants

Finally, tell the reader where you found your sample or your population of participants. Give some demographic or background information on your data source. This section can be very brief, but it is essential.