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Biomedical Engineering Resources

Reading the Methods Section of an Article


The second step many researchers use in order to analyze an article is to read the Methods section. The methodology section or methods section tells you how the author(s) went about doing their research. It should let you know a) what method they used to gather data (survey, interviews, experiments, etc.), why they chose this method, and what the limitations are to this method.

The methodology section should be detailed enough that another researcher could replicate the study described. When you read the methodology or methods section ask the following questions. 

  • What kind of research method did the authors use? Is it an appropriate method for the type of study they are conducting?
  • How did the authors get their tests subjects? What criteria did they use?
  • What are the contexts of the study that may have affected the results (e.g. environmental conditions, lab conditions, timing questions, etc.)
  • Is the sample size representative of the larger population (i.e., was it big enough?)
  • Are the data collection instruments and procedures likely to have measured all the important characteristics with reasonable accuracy?
  • Does the data analysis appear to have been done with care, and were appropriate analytical techniques used? 
  • Does the math work? Do the methods match the assumptions? 



Once you have a handle on both the background information and how the experiments were performed, you're ready to tackle the results section. The results section should include figures and tables that you should examine.

  • Make sure you read the legends on figures to understand the variables of the experiments.
  • Refer back to the methods if you're unsure of how the data was collected.
  • While reading the figures, try to analyze and draw your own conclusions from the figures.
  • Then, once you've looked at all the figures, go back and read the results text.
    • Since you've already been through the data on your own, you'll be better able to follow the authors' writing, and to decide if you agree with the conclusions they're making about the data.

 This work is adapted from the Oregon State University Scholarly Articles LibguideCreative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License.