Purposes of the Methods Section To allow others to replicate what you did –In order to test it –In order to do further research To allow others to evaluate what you did –To determine whether the conclusions seem valid –To determine whether the findings seem applicable to other situations
Methods: Basic Information to Include In most cases, overview of study design Identification of (if applicable) –Equipment, organisms, reagents, etc used (and sources thereof) –Approval of human or animal research by an appropriate committee –Statistical methods
Methods: Amount of Detail to Use For well-known methods: name of method, citation of reference For methods previously described but not well known: brief description of method, citation of reference For methods that you yourself devise: relatively detailed description
Methods: The Words and More Should be written in past tense In some journals, may include subheads (which can help readers) May include tables and figures—for example: –Flowcharts –Diagrams of apparatus –Tables of experimental conditions
An Example of a Methods Section From the following short paper: Pitkin RM, Burmeister LF. Prodding tardy reviewers: a randomized comparison of telephone, fax, and e-mail. JAMA 2002;287:2794-2795.
The study was conducted in the main editorial office of Obstetrics & Gynecology, a monthly medical specialty journal, whose practice has been to send a manuscript to a potential reviewer with a request that the review be returned within 21 days of the date it was sent. When 28 days had elapsed since the original request, if telephone and fax numbers and e-mail address for the reviewer in question were on file and the reviewer lived no more than 4 time zones from Los Angeles, Calif, he or she was entered into the study. Using a computer-generated random number sequence, the tardy reviewer was assigned to be contacted by telephone, fax, or e- mail. Identical wording inquiring as to the status of the review and urging the report be sent by fax or e- mail was used in all cases. Telephone calls were timed to occur during the working day at the receiving end.
The main outcome assessed was receipt of review within 7 days of the contact. A secondary outcome was the number of days from contacting the tardy reviewer until a review was received among those who returned within 7 days. Sample size was estimated a priori based on response rates of 50%, 50%, and 20%; to achieve 80% power at =.05, 65 subjects were needed in each arm. We enrolled these numbers between January and July 1998, when analysis indicated underestimated response rate overall and overestimated difference among the 3 arms. Therefore, in November 1998, we reinitiated the study and continued it until June 1999 at which time the original sample size was essentially doubled. The Χ 2 test was used to compare the proportions returning reviews and analysis of variance to compare the time for those returning reviews within 7 days.
Methods: A Suggestion Look at the Methods sections of some papers in your target journal. Use them as models.
Transition to Small-Group Workshop: Providing Feedback on Drafts
Providing Feedback on Drafts: A United States Perspective Find out what level of feedback is being sought—for example: –Comments on overall content and organization? –Suggestions for improving the wording (to make it clearer, more concise, etc)? –Correction of errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc? Remember to identify strengths. Don’t only focus on weaknesses.
Providing Feedback (continued) Consider serving a criticism sandwich: praise, criticism, praise. Express criticisms as perceptions, not facts. Criticize the work, not the person. Other
Today’s Small-Group Discussion Discussion of today’s lectures: –Main points to remember –Questions –Plans to apply the content Initial revision of group members’ methods sections Evaluation of tables and figures in group members’ papers (identification of strengths; proposal of ideas for improvement) Preparation of brief presentation: highlights of this afternoon’s discussion