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FUNCTION

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For hypothesis-testing papers, the function of the Materials and Methods section (often referred to as the Methods section) is to tell the reader what experiments you did to answer the question posed in the Introduction. Similarly, for descriptive studies, the Methods section tells what experiments you did to obtain the message stated in the Introduction. For methods papers, the Methods section has two functions: it describes the new method in complete detail and also tells what experiments you did to test the new method. For all types of paper, the Methods section should include sufficient detail and references to permit a trained scientist to evaluate your work fully or to repeat the experiments exactly as you did them.

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STORY LINE

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Hypothesis-Testing and Descriptive Papers

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We saw that the first step in the story line of a hypothesis-testing or a descriptive paper is presented in the Introduction. This first step is either the question being asked or the structure being described. In either case, the second step in the story line is an overview of the experiments you did. This overview of the experiments gives the strategy of the experiments, the plan that connects the methods to each other and to the question or the message.

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Where the overview of the experiments is presented depends on the type of research:

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Type of Research Placement of the Overview of the Experiments Example
Descriptive research In the experimental approach at the end of the Introduction Structure-function studies
Hypothesis-testing research in which one experiment determines what the next experiment will be In the experimental approach at the end of the Introduction (and then threaded through the Results section) (see Chapter 6, Results) Some biochemistry studies
Hypothesis-testing research in which all experiments are designed in advance In the Study Design subsection of the Materials and Methods section

Physiology studies

Clinical studies

Some biochemistry studies

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Methods Papers

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For a Methods paper, the first step in the story line is a statement that you are presenting a new or improved material, method, or apparatus. The second step in the story line has two parts: a complete description of the new method, material, or apparatus; and a description of how this new method, material, or apparatus was tested. These two steps are described in the Methods section.

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In this chapter, we will consider only Methods sections for hypothesis-testing papers.

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CONTENT

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The Materials and Methods section of a hypothesis-testing paper is essentially a cookbook. Thus, the main content of the Materials and Methods section is a detailed description of the materials and methods you used. In addition, in hypothesis-testing papers in which all the experiments are designed in advance, the Materials and Methods should also ...

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