How To Write a Methodology for a Publishable Journal Article

How To Write a Methodology for a Publishable Journal Article
Writing about the significant results and exciting implications of advanced research necessitates writing about the methodology employed to achieve those results. Although a well-written methodology for an academic or scientific journal article may come across as straightforward and even simple, the process of writing it is usually neither. Research procedures are often complicated, and decisions about the inclusion or exclusion of details in the methodology written for an article can be as challenging as initial decisions about the research design were. Unfortunately, there is no single set of rules or practices that apply to every project or article: journal requirements vary, and each research project as well as its methodology is unique. The following tips therefore do not address every situation and possibility, but they do outline a number of common requirements and concerns for the scholarly author who is working to write a suitable and informative methodology for an article that will prove worthy of publication in a reputable peer-reviewed journal.
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• The heading, subheadings, length, content and arrangement of material for an article methodology varies among journals, so always read the author instructions or guidelines and follow them precisely to ensure that you write an acceptable methodology.
• A research methodology section in a journal article should inform readers about exactly what was done during the research, including the initial preparations and the way in which information or evidence (data) was gathered or generated, measured and analysed.
• A methodology should also offer a rationale for the research methods, so be sure to explain why the research design and individual procedures are appropriate for examining the problem investigated, answering the research questions or testing the hypotheses.
• A discussion of the broader contexts of the methodology may be desirable. This might involve introducing theoretical concepts and situating the methodology within the body of current knowledge or practice through descriptions and citations of published studies.
• Established methods in a field can usually be simply named or identified rather than described in detail, but if those methods have been modified in any way, the modifications will require more extensive explanation as well as some justification.
• Instruments commonly used in the field need only be named in most cases, but new instruments developed or adapted for the research should be carefully explained, perhaps with illustrations. Readers should be told exactly how all instruments were used.
• The subject or subjects studied should always be described. Whether the article reports medical research on human subjects or palaeographical research on ancient books, give all the details about the objects or individuals studied and explain why they were chosen.
• The variables considered and manipulated should be introduced and discussed. Independent variables should be distinguished from dependent ones, and the risks and precautions associated with confounding variables should be disclosed and explained.
• Study and control groups and categories should be described in detail. The criteria for selection and division should be explained with precision, and any changes or problems associated with groups and categories as the research progressed should be itemised.
• If ethical approval or informed consent was required for the research, the fact that it was obtained as appropriate should be stated. The same is the case with any kind of approval or permission required to make use of instruments, methods or data in the research.
• Remember that a methodology should let readers know that the research procedures used are consistent with sound and accepted practice in the field. Any procedures that may seem questionable should therefore be justified in relation to the research objectives,
• A methodology should provide the information necessary for experts in the field to judge whether the methods used are valid, reliable and replicable. Providing the details required for such judgements, such as statements about limitations, is therefore imperative.
• The written style of a methodology should be clear, direct and concise. Errors and ambiguities must be avoided to prevent confusion, and unnecessary words should be removed. The procedures described have been done, so the past tense is appropriate.
• Like all parts of an academic or scientific article, a methodology should be carefully proofread, edited and revised before submission. Ensure that all mistakes are corrected and that procedures and processes are presented in a chronological or logical order.

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If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.

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