Please note that this section is not always required in student assignments, especially in the early undergraduate years.  Carefully check the instructions you have been given for writing your report.

The methods should give enough detail so that someone else can duplicate your experiment.  However, they should not be as detailed as the instructions in your laboratory notes.  Remember not to comment on your observations or measurements in the methods stage.  You should do this in the results stage. The information you provide should typically answer the following questions:

  1. What materials did you use?
  2. What methods did you use?

In the early undergraduate years, you may be given a list of instructions for carrying out your experiment in your laboratory notes. For example:

  1. Measure the time it takes for X ml of water to be collected from the drain of the flow tank.
    Repeat the measurement 3 timesand calculate the average time T (seconds).
  2. Measure the internal width of the flow tank W (cm).
  3. Calculate the flow in the tank Q = X/T (cm3/second).

In later years, you will be expected to construct your own instructions or flow chart and write out the procedure for your experiments yourself in your workbook. Although the instructions or flow chart can help you to write up the methods stage, they are usually too detailed for what you will eventually write in your methods section. So don't just copy the list of instructions in your laboratory notes and simply change the language structures. You will have to decide what the key information is for carrying out the methods and use this in writing up your methods stage.


David advises students on the role of the methods section (19s):

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