6.5 Method

The method section details who your prospective participants will be (or what your sample will consist of and how you will select it), and provides information on the setting and materials, procedures, and main variables for your study (Symbaluk, 2019). Sub-headings are often used to separate these sections, which typically include the following:


Begin with your proposed participants. For example, if you are interested in success strategies used by struggling students, you might want to examine views of university students who successfully transitioned off academic probation and you might want to recruit volunteers through invitations sent out via student newsletters (e.g., see Giampa & Symbaluk, 2018). If you were instead conducting a content analysis of gender representation in television programming as depicted above, your proposed unit of analysis might be a random sample of commercials shown on major networks during prime time that contain central characters that are human.

Setting and Materials

After describing your participants and how you will recruit them (or your sample and how you will select it), list the setting and materials needed to carry out the study. For example, if students are your participants, the setting might be the regular class room for an introductory psychology class, and the main material required might be a standardized questionnaire. Alternatively, the setting for an observational study of aggressive behaviour among children might include a daycare, a playground, or a more controlled environment (e.g., a play lab set up with a variety of toys and one-way glass for viewing). Materials for this kind of study may entail a more extensive list of items such as particular kinds of toys, climbing apparatuses, mats, plastic slides, a coding instrument that lists the toys, and timing devices.


The procedures section explains in as much detail as possible the kind of information you plan to gather from your participants, how you intend to carry out the study (in terms of the type of methodology you will employ), and the rationale for choosing the methodology. Suppose you are describing your intention to observe children at play in a daycare setting to determine what kind of toys are preferred as a function of age and gender. You would need to detail what constitutes an observational session, how toy preference will be determined, and how and for how long each child will be observed. Likely, you can obtain information on the children’s biological age and gender from their parents or guardians.

Perhaps you intend to have two observers assigned to each child in the day care (so you can later look at inter-rater reliability). An observational period might be a two-hour block of unstructured play time from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Every toy in the day care can be itemized on a coding sheet and the observers are trained in advance of the observation session to ensure familiarity with all the toys. Observers use code sheets to record the onset of play with a toy and the amount of time spent using that toy. All sorts of coding rules are established ahead of time to determine how to deal with situational variants such as the use of multiple toys, cases where a toy is put down and then immediately picked back up, or ways to record incidents when a child takes a toy away from another who did not wish to give it up. If possible, you should cite the authors of methodology-based textbooks for rationale on the techniques and procedures you plan to include in your study (e.g., for why you selected an observational method, for how to code variables, and/or for ways to establish inter-rater reliability).

Main Variables

Try to list and describe the main variables you plan to examine in your study. Dependent variables are what you plan to measure in your study. Preference for toys, for example, might be a dependent variable that is measured via the length of time spent with a toy as recorded to the nearest minute using a stop watch that commences when a child picks up a toy and ends when the toy is abandoned.

Method Checklist

❏ Title section “Method,” in bold text and centered

❏ Double-spaced

❏ Participants and how they will be obtained or Units of Analysis

❏ Setting and Materials

❏ Procedures

❏ Main Variable(s)


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Navigating an Undergraduate Degree in the Social Sciences by Diane Symbaluk, Robyn Hall, and Geneve Champoux is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.