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Data Visualizations! Why Do We Need Them?

By: Sofia Salazar and Hannah Providence

Data visualizations are important to any research paper as they can effectively illustrate trends found in data that are not obvious when observing raw data. Visual learning is one of the most popular learning styles and can capture your audience’s attention to the results being presented. 

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • Incorporating data visualizations
  • Determining how to best display data
  • Cleaning data
  • Recommending data visualization tools

Incorporating Data Visualizations

Different theses may use different methods for data visualization including: 

  • Heat maps
  • Pie charts
  • Bar graphs
  • Heat Maps
  • Scatter Plots
  • Line graphs
  • Timelines
  • Cartograms
  • Tree Diagrams

Each method mentioned serves a specific purpose in presenting data and has its strength when displaying qualitative or quantitative data, as well as nominal, ordinal, or interval variables. 

Determining How To Best Display Data

Knowing what method of data visualization to use is crucial to not present misleading information.

Deciding whether variables are nominal (categories that cannot be ranked), ordinal (can be ranked but not quantified), or interval (can be ranked and quantified) is one of the first steps in visualization, and determines whether data is qualitative or quantitative. Nominal and ordinal variables are qualitative data unless coded, while interval data is quantitative. 

Quantitative data is best represented by bar graphs, histograms, pie charts, scatter plots, and often cartograms to represent numerical data. Meanwhile, qualitative data is best represented by timelines, flowcharts, tables, and tree diagrams, as they are better able to represent categorical data. 

Finally, data visualization may require the use of color to highlight categories or different aspects of a whole. Using color is best when color means something as to the data. If there is no difference to point out through the use of color it is best not to use it. Be sure to use hex color codes to keep the colors you use to represent the data evenly. Determining whether to use sequential (shades of the same color) or diverging color themes (opposing colors) can also boost your data representation.

Here are some tips to help with key factors of data visualization:

  • When using figures, be sure to label them below the figure
  • When using tables, be sure to label them above the table
  • Make sure axes start at zero to avoid misleading readers with your data
  • Using hex codes in data visualization can provide further ease in understanding and observing trends and differences across variables, but only when color matters!

Cleaning Your Data

Data cleaning is how analysts prep their data before analysis. It is the process of finding and correcting inaccurate records and removing, adding, or recoding unfinished data into your dataset/dataset.

Why is cleaning data important?

Data cleaning improves efficiency of data analysis by ensuring that you get rid of errors in formatting and false values before you even begin your analysis. This way, your formulas run correctly the first time and you can feel confident that you’re working with a strong dataset. (Sharma, 2020

Cleaning data is essential to the analytical process. “Data scientists spend 80% of their time cleaning and manipulating data and only 20% of their time actually analyzing it” (Lohr, 2014). As data becomes more readily available, the error margin continues to increase.

Here are key steps to clean your data (using Excel)

  1. Get rid of extra spaces
    1. You want all of your rows and columns to align with each other. Often, you are faced with data that has extra spaces in some columns.
    2. To remove the extra spaces use the =TRIM() function. This will ensure that there is only a single space between each word
  2. Remove duplicates
    1. You can highlight all of the values that are duplicated through the conditional formatting function
      1. Highlight the row or column that you want to check for duplicates (or the whole spreadsheet)
      2. Conditional formatting > Highlight cell rules > Duplicate values
  3. Check for errors
    1. You can also use the conditional formatting function to highlight formula errors
      1. Conditional formatting > new rule
      2. The new formatting rule dialog box appears
      3. Format only cells that contain > errors > format (suggested: red) > OK
  4. Uniform text casing
    1. You can use syntax to ensure all of your text in a particular row, column or worksheet is the same
      1. LOWER() converts all text into lower case
      2. UPPER() converts all text into UPPER CASE
      3. PROPER() converts all text into Proper Case

Tools to make data visualization easier

  • Visme: Presenting your research project? This tool creates beautiful presentations with unique themes and animations. You can also present your tables, graphs, hot maps, etc. with a few clicks — the visualizations are modern and customizable
  • Excel: Create data visualizations right from your data set in Excel with pivot tables and other graphics. This will help summarize and find correlations/relationships between your data.
  • Tableau and Power BI: A couple steps up from Excel, these programs heavily focus on the visualization part of data. Create interactive dashboards and identify the patterns, changes, and density of your data through an array of graphs and charts that are easy for anyone to read.
    • In fact, Dr. S is teaching ENGL 4496 next semester called Data Storytelling for Social Impact and it comes with a FREE Tableau certification exam! (normally $200)
  • Infogram and Canva: Use these tools to create a nice one-pager, data report, or a beautiful and detailed infographic! These tools are easy to use and have plenty of templates to choose from. They don’t require as much brainpower as an analytical tool like Excel.

Presenting Data/Results/Evidence

The results section of a thesis or research paper is where you will state your most relevant data points and explain what those data points mean in the context of your study. But how do you know what data to put in, and how to present that data effectively? We’re going to go over how to introduce your results, what you should and should not include, ways to illustrate your data, and how to lead into your discussion section.

How should I start my results section?

As a brief introduction to this section, you want to simply restate the goal or hypothesis of your study. This eases the reader into this section and refreshes them on what your data may or may not support. You want to keep this very simple, and it is okay to paraphrase instead of restating your entire hypothesis – the main focus of this paragraph is the actual data that matters in the context of your study, not the study itself.

Tip: Make sure that you are writing in past tense – your study happened in the past, and therefore your results will be in past tense too!

What data should I use?

In your results section, you want to tell the reader what the most relevant data to your study was. But what does that mean? Some questions to ask yourself to determine whether you should use certain data points:

  • Was any of your data significant, or had a great deal to do with answering your original question?
    • If so, it is important to include that data – if it is significant data, be sure to include how you calculated its significance, and what that says about your study.
  • While some or all of your data may not be significant, does it still mean something in the context of your study?
    • This may be important to include for later discussion of possible implications of that data.
  • Is there data that is negative, or disproves your hypothesis?
    • While your first reaction may be to avoid bringing up this data, it is still important to include it so that you may discuss its implications later in your thesis.
  • Is the data I want to use raw data?
    • Generally, you do NOT want to use raw data in your results because it is not easily understood by the reader. You always want to convert raw data into an easily understood measure, such as averages or percentages. This also makes it much easier for readers to contextualize the data within your study.

TIP: You do not want to discuss implications or anything further than what the data means within the context of your study, as that will be saved for your discussion section.

How should I organize and present my data?

There are a couple of different ways to organize your data in your results section:

  • Explain in the order of your methodology.

Depending on your discipline, you may have outlined your expected findings in your methodology. If this is the case, you are able to address your results in that same order for consistency.

  • Identify key findings and then give a synopsis.

If you believe you have a lot of key findings in your study, you may choose to state those first before giving an overall view of the findings of your study.

  • Give a synopsis of results and then identify key findings.

If you feel that you have few key findings in your study, you may decide to start with an overall synopsis before going into specifics about your data.

Generally, there are three main ways to report your data to readers: text, tables, and figures.

  • Text

Most commonly used of the three is text, as after all, your thesis will mostly consist of text. This is a standard way to report results through text:

“Seed production was higher for plants in the full-sun treatment (52.3 +/-6.8 seeds) than for those receiving filtered light (14.7+/- 3.2 seeds, t=11.8, df=55, p<0.001.)” (Tables and Figures, n.d.)

  • Tables and figures

Tables and figures are a great way to illustrate large amounts of data without having to write it all out. Tables should be used when you want to simply display data as it stands on its own, while figures should be used to display relationships between data points or show trends. Generally, tables and figures are placed relatively close to the paragraphs where they are mentioned; however, some disciplines may prefer that these tables and figures be placed in an appendix at the end of your thesis.

Tip: There are various types and formats of figures and tables that can be used to display your results. When a reader looks at your tables and figures, they should be able to understand your data without having to read the rest of your results section. This source has great dos and don’ts for tables and figures.

How do I lead into my discussion section?

It is important to end your results by using a general wrap up statement or paragraph stating whether or not your hypothesis was supported by the data presented. Without this, there may be an awkward drop-off at the end of the section. Be sure to synthesize the most prevalent findings that you will explore further in your discussion so that the reader knows what direction you will be heading in going forward.

**Creative Thesis**

For those who may be completing a creative thesis, there are still opportunities to present results. If you want to synthesize literature that you reviewed previous to your completion of your creative project, you may use text or even a table to illustrate the conclusions of the literature and how you plan to base your work off of them. The formatting of any tables and figures is slightly different, as they are often included at the end of the thesis as opposed to within it.

Organizing Your Writing & Establishing Coherence

Amanda Pappas and Francesca Pimenta


Importance of Organization

  • 55% of readers will read something for 15 seconds or less before moving on
  • For the reader:
    • Avoids confusion
    • Helps readers draw connections
    • Retains reader’s focus
  • For the writer:
    • Helps the writer stay focused on addressing main points and not going off topic
    • Improves effectiveness of writing
    • Ensures writer addresses important details
    • Makes writing look professional
    • Saves time
    • Eliminates repetitiveness

Structure of Honors Thesis

  1. Abstract- overview of your thesis
  2. Introduction-overview of thesis main points
  3. Literature Review- evaluate previous research on your topic
  4. Methods- outlines how you chose to gather data
  5. Results- what you found out
  6. Discussion- includes your own analysis and interpretation of the data
  7. Conclusion-highlight your research goals


  • Traditional outline
    • Occurs at prewriting/ drafting stage
    • Want to think about all of your concepts, ideas and key topics you want to include in your thesis in order to accomplish the goal of your thesis
    • Next, take these concepts, ideas and topics and think about the information readers may need in order for each of these points to make sense
    • TIP: try to arrange your ideas in a way that logically makes sense, meaning you build from one key idea to the next

Questions you should ask yourself when writing an outline

  1. What are the main points I am trying to make in this piece of writing?
  2. What background information will my readers need to understand each point? What will novice readers vs. experienced readers need to know?
  3. In what order do I want to present my ideas? Most important to least important, or least important to most important? Chronologically? Most complex to least complex? Another order?

Reverse Outlines

  • Comes at the drafting or revision stage of the writing process 
    • Typically once you have already written your first draft
  • You can work by yourself or with a partner to read through your thesis 
    • Goal- understanding main points you have made and how they relate to one another
  • Good way to see how your paper flows and if the order makes sense

Questions you may ask yourself when writing a reverse outline

  1. What topics are covered in this piece of writing?
  2. In what order are the ideas presented? Is this order logical for both novice and experienced readers?
  3. Is adequate background information provided for each point, making it easy to understand how one idea leads to the next?
  4. What other points might the author include to further develop the writing project?


  • Practice of using language designed to help orient readers 
  • Includes the use of transitional words and phrasing
  • Can be explicit or subtle
  • Example: 
    • “This section will cover Topic A and Topic B” (more obvious)
    • “It’s important to consider the impact of Topic A and Topic B” (more subtle)
  • Good to include in the beginning and end of each section
  • Sometimes helpful to include signposts in the middle of your paper to remind the reader of the argument you are trying to make

Organizing paragraph structure

  • Importance: incoherent or weak paragraphs can compromise the entire argument you are trying to make
  • Back to the basics– what is a paragraph? 
    • Single unit of a paper
    • Suppose to indicate a new point and offer support
  • Purpose of paragraphs:
    • Supportive of argument
    • Cooperation between paragraphs
      • Each paragraphs placement should make sense
    • Strengthen argument

  • Basic elements of thesis: Abstract, Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion and Conclusion
  • Where should I start? Start with your literature review! 
  • What should I write last? Abstract 
  • Importance of organization: makes writing more readable and comprehensible.
  • Outlines and reverse outlines can help the writer organize their thoughts and ensure coherence
  • Signposting = Practice of using language designed to help orient readers 



A Complete Guide to Board Meeting Agendas (with Templates!)
  1. Importance of establishing coherence in your writing
  2. Consequences of a lack of coherence 
  3. How to establish coherence
    • Linking
    • Consistency
    • Arrangement
    • Repetition
  4. Common mistakes to look out for
  5. Summary 

Importance of Establishing Coherence

  • Make main points clear to…
    • Increase the readability of your work
    • Make your argument strong
    • Allow readers to quickly absorb the content
  • Display talents as a writer

Consequences of a Lack of Coherence

CalNonprofits Insurance ServicesYIKES! Did That Really Happen? |  CalNonprofits Insurance Services
  • Make it hard for the reader to follow the main ideas 
    • Negatively impact reader’s experience
    • Hinder readability of the material 
  • Weaken the argument 
  • Obstruct the rhythm and flow

How to Establish Coherence 

Weekly editorial from our Secretary General: Moving from ''what'' to ''how''  - Eurodiaconia


  1. Connect ideas together
    • Form a bigger picture. Link ideas to each other to improve flow.
  2. Use bridging in between sections/points and transitional sentences throughout your writing to improve rhythm
    • Bridging is a type of topic sentence that helps transition between paragraphs or ideas. Bridging sentences convey a connection between what the new paragraph will be about about and how the prior paragraph relates/connects.  
  3. Use ‘linking‘ language:
    • Phrases/words
      • EX: The boy did not like cats and dogs. On the contrary, he liked animals that could fly, such as sparrows and falcons. Likewise, he liked bats. 
    • Pronouns
      • EX: “Mr. Thompson agreed to meet with members of the worker’s union before he signed the contract. He was interested in hearing their concerns about the new insurance plan.”
      • As underlined: he refers to Mr. Thompson and their refers to the worker’s union.
  4. When forming a sentence- Carry over known information from the previous sentence and then add new information as well.
    • Populations of co-existing, closely related, but diverging variants of HCV RNA molecules are termed qausispecies (new information). Quasispecies (known information) occur in many RNA viruses (new information).


  • Acronyms
    • EX: If you shorten the United States of America to “US”– make sure you use that exact form throughout your writing. Do not change it to “U.S., U.S.A., or USA.”
  • Bibliography and Citations
    • EX: Follow APA, MLA, Chicago guidelines
  • Capitalization
    • Keep the capitalization of words the same. If you write Brooklyn Bridge, make sure to capitalize “bridge” every time.
  • Dates
    • EX: If you format dates as the following: September 27th, 2019 –> do not change that format such as: 27th of September in 2019, In 2019 on September 27, 10/27/2019, or 10/27/19. One format should be kept when mentioning any dates.
  • Hyphens
    • EX: If you say far-right political groups, do not write this phrase without a hyphen as follows: far right.
  • Parallelism
    • EX: Usually, the children spend the summer weekends playing ball in park, swimming in the neighbor’s pool, eating ice cream under the tree, or camping in the backyard.
  • Point of view
    • 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person omniscient/limited.
  • Spelling
    • EX: If you choose to spell the word “hezbollah” like this, stick with it throughout the entire piece. Do not use other spellings like: “hesbollah, hizbullah, hizbollah, hisbollah.”


  • Present your ideas in a logical order to paint a bigger picture
  • Create structured paragraphs
  • Plan and execute an organized layout

Repetition (This is a form of linking)

  • Repeat key nouns, phrases, and ideas to emphasize the main points
    • EX: Anaphora in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.
  • TIPS:
    • Make sure not to to lose sentence variety
    • Do not simply repeat the same information or ideas with different wording

Common Mistakes to Look out For

Buzzwords and Why You Should Generally Avoid Them in Your Writing
  • Lack of Rhythm or Flow
  • Disorganized ideas or an illogical order of sections
  • Failure to communicate the main points and the bigger picture
  • Lack of Sentence Variety
  • Dangling or Misplaced Modifiers
File:No sign.svg - Wikipedia


Incorrect: When nine years old, my mother enrolled in medical school.


Incorrect: They saw a fence behind the house made of barbed wire.

Free Check Mark Green, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on Clipart  Library

Correct: When I was nine years old, my mother enrolled in medical school. 


Correct: They saw a fence made of barbed wire behind the house.

Summary of Coherence 

Summary Royalty Free Vector Image - VectorStock

  1. Purpose
  • Communicate your main points to the reader
  • Assert credibility as a scholar and/or academic 

2. What a lack of coherence causes

  • Confusion/disinterest for the reader
  • Decrease in the readability of your work
  • Your ideas, main points, and bigger picture will not be communicated effectively.

3. Ways to Establish Coherence

Main Takeaways: Connect ideas to each other and to the big picture, parallelism(using the same tense), tie sentences together using bridging and transitional phrases and sentences, keep things like hyphens, dates, points of view, and spelling the same throughout your work.


  • Connecting ideas
  • Bridging
  • Create sentences using carried-over information and new information.


  • Acronyms
  • Bibliography and Citations
  • Capitalization
  • Dates
  • Hyphens
  • Parallelism
  • Point of view
  • Spelling


  • Put emphasis on important ideas, concepts, phrases
  • Organize paragraphs and sentences
  • Present ideas logically
  • Connect your points to the big picture


  • Mention important ideas and phrases multiple times to put emphasis on them
  • Make sure not to repeat the same information with it just phrased in a different way.

4. What to avoid:

  • Choppy or non-varied sentences 
  • Arrhythmic Sentences
  • Dangling or misplaced modifiers 


Cohesion and coherence. (2019, June 22). Retrieved March 9, 2021, from 

Grammar: Modifiers. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from 

How to structure a thesis. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1 0, 2021, from

MasterClass. (2020, November 08). Writing 101: What IS Repetition? 7 types of repetition in writing with examples – 2021. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from

Nordquist, R. (2019, August 8). How do you organize a written composition? Retrieved March 10, 2021, from 

Purdue Writing Lab. (n.d.). Organization and Structure // Purdue Writing lab. Retrieved March 12, 2021, from 

T. (2000). Self teaching Unit: Avoiding Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers. Retrieved March 13, 2021, from 

Topic sentences – definition and examples. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2021, from 

U. (n.d.). How to Structure & Organize Your Paper. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from 

W. (n.d.). Grammar: Modifiers. Retrieved March 13, 2021, from 

Whitton, N., & Wiemelt, J. (2010). Coherence. Adapted from The Little, Brown Handbook, 11th ed. In 1250999566 926591483 D. Sherman & 1250999567 926591483 J. Slawson (Authors), The Little, Brown handbook, 11th ed (pp. 42-45). New York: Longman. doi:03/11/2021

Why consistency is key to your writing. (2021, January 14). Retrieved March 13, 2021, from 

Paraphrasing, Summarizing, and Quoting

By: Selena Soto

When we integrate information from our sources into our writing, we usually utilize paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting, and in some cases a combination of all three. Utilizing these three tools in our writing is also important in regards to how we analyze and synthesize our information. Before I go into describing the difference between the three, when to use them, and how to effectively incorporate them into your writing, it is important to explore why we use them in the first place.

We use paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting for a variety of reasons that include (John E. Mayfield Library, 2014):

  • Providing support for claims
  • Integrating sources into your paper
  • Giving examples of several points of view on a subject
  • Highlighting and discussing a position that you agree or disagree with
  • Including certain points, phrases, sentences, passages, and etc. from one source or multiple sources
  • Adding depth to your writing
  • Referring to past research that has been done on your topic (Especially important for your lit review section of your paper)

There is a clear difference between paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting but they do share some rules in common if you are going to utilize them. The first rule that they share in common is that when using these three tools you need to reference the original source that you are taking information from. The second rule that they share in common is that when you are referencing the original source that you are drawing information from, you need to include in-text citations in your writing in the appropriate styling format you are being asked to use (Ex. APA, MLA, etc.) If you need to refresh your memory or need some guidance on how to successfully include in-text citations in your writing, I have included a link below to Purdue Owl Writing Lab (OWL), a highly recommended source.

Source: Purdue OWL // Purdue Writing Lab

Below I have included a table that discusses the major difference between paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting that I found on a website and thought was super helpful:

Taking a direct quote and integrating it into a paper. A direct quote should be enclosed in quotation marks.Expressing a short passage in your own words. Paraphrasing involves completely rewriting the passage while retaining the meaning.Expressing a longer excerpt in your own words. Summarizing involves conveying the main ideas and main points of the source material.

(Table from Custom Essay Meister, 2019)


You should paraphrase in your writing: (George Mason University The Writing Center, 2021):

  • As another option to quoting or to avoid the over use of quotes
  • To rewrite someone else’s ideas without changing the meaning
  • To support claims in your writing and when you want to report numerical data or statistics (common in APA style writing)

How to paraphrase (The University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center, 2021):

  • Read the text carefully and make sure you understand the main ideas and points of the text
  • After you have read the text, put it aside, and write out the essential information in your own words
  • Explain why the paraphrase is important

Example (University of Connecticut Library Guides, 2020):

  • People who are naturally morning people have been shown to also display traits that are considered proactive, and late risers display fewer of these traits because they don’t get enough sleep on days when they have to go to work or school. (Randler, 2009, p. 2793).

(Replacing a few words and not writing it in your own words is considered plagiarism)

For more information on the Do’s and Don’ts of Paraphrasing check out the link below:

Source: How to Paraphrase: Dos, Don’ts, and Strategies for Success | Scribendi


You should summarize when (George Mason University The Writing Center, 2021):

  • A passage from a source is too long to quote or paraphrase
  • To establish background information or an overview of a topic
  • When you want to describe knowledge (from several sources) about a topic

How to summarize (The University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center, 2021):

  • Read the text and highlight the main points
  • Reread the text and make notes of the main points, leaving out examples, evidence, etc.
  • Without the text, rewrite your notes in your own words. Include the main idea at the beginning of the summary and include all the main points, conclusions, and final findings of the work.

Example (University of Connecticut Library Guides, 2020):

Original Source:

  • These results suggest that morning people, or early chronotypes—as measured on the morningness–eveningness continuum are more proactive than are evening types. Additionally, the misalignment of social and biological time, as assessed by the difference between rise times on weekdays and on free days, correlated with proactivity, suggesting that people with a high misalignment of social and biological time may be less able to act in a proactive manner, probably because of sleep delay. Their biological schedules seem not to fit neatly into social demands (e.g., school, university, work schedules) as do those of less misaligned people.

(Randler, C. (2009). Proactive people are morning people. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39(12), 2787-2797.)

Summarized Version:

  • Recent research shows that people who are not naturally early risers often have persistent issues adjusting themselves to the morning-oriented schedule of most schools and workplaces, and because of this may be less proactive in their behaviors (Randler, 2009).


You should use quoting in your writing when:

  • You are introducing the position of author of a source that you want to discuss
  • When you want to include a particular point or statement that was made that you don’t want to express or can’t express in your own words.

Use the ICE method (Introduce, Cite, and Explain) method when you are quoting (The University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center, 2021):

  • Introduce your quotation by identifying who said it or where it came from and add a signal verb (Ex: Stated, Argued, etc.)
  • Cite the phrase or words you are using with quotation marks and proper in-text citation in the expected formatting style (Ex: APA, MLA., etc.)
  • Explain the importance of the quote you are using. Consider what this information is adding to the points you are trying to convey.

Example (APA format):

  • As stated (Signal Verb) by Cormac McCarthy in his 2006 novel The Road: “You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget” (p. 12).

I hope that this this was helpful and here is a friendly reminder that YOU GOT THIS!!!

Reference (In APA Format):

Inc, S. (n.d.). How to PARAPHRASE: Dos, DON’TS, and strategies for success. Retrieved March 07, 2021, from

Custom Essay Meister. (2019). Quote vs paraphrase vs summary. Retrieved March 07, 2021, from

George Mason University.(n.d.). When to summarize, paraphrase, and quote. Retrieved March 07, 2021, from

John E. Mayfield Library. (2014). Online library workshops: Quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing.  Retrieved March 07, 2021, from

The University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center (n.d.). Quoting, paraphrasing, & summarizing.Retrieved March 07, 2021, from

University of Connecticut. (n.d.). Understand citations: Quoting, paraphrasing, summarizing. Retrieved March 07, 2021, from

How to Write a Methods Section

Madison Boulay and Allison Yu 

The methods section of a research paper describes the actions taken to investigate a research problem and the rationale behind implementing those techniques and procedures. Below are a few things to address when writing the methods section: 

  • How was data collected and analyzed?
  • Was the data collected in a way consistent with the accepted practices in the field? 
  • What were the methods and materials used to collect data? 
  • How are relevant variables being identified?
  • Are the methods justified?
  • What were the potential limitations? 

Method sections should also be precise and written in past tense/passive voice. Another researcher in the same field should be able to repeat your research just by using the methods section.


When collecting qualitative data by means of a survey or questionnaire, it is important to provide a description of the participants, measures, and statistical analysis. 


Describe the target population and population size. Include participant demographic information as applicable such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, etc. How was the survey distributed and how long was the survey available? 


In this subsection, identify the independent and dependent variables. Explain the questions asked in the survey/questionnaire and justify why those questions are appropriate. If there is a score range, explain what the scores mean in relation to the overall aim of the study. If standard scales and indices were adapted in the research, explain why they were used. Any extra materials that were used to collect your data can also be included here (ex: pictures included in your survey). 

Statistical Methods/Analysis Plan: 

In this section, describe how you analyzed your data and explain any software or model you used. Be specific, but precise. 

Secondary Data Analysis

Secondary Data Analysis usually involves sorting information from a variety of sources into categories to analyze trends between variables. This may be in the form of a table or spreadsheet.

The methods section should define dependent and independent variables. This section should thoroughly explain why each category was selected and what it will measure. How these categories will be used to analyze the data collected should also be included.

If necessary, a key may be included for each category. This is most often used if numbers are used for qualitative measurements (i.e. 1=yes, 2=no, 0=unknown).

Experimental Research

Experimental Research is typically research in the “hard sciences” (physics, chemistry, biology, etc) that involves designing and performing a series of experiments to try and observe a relationship between two or more variables.

The methods section for experimental research often includes a detailed description of reagents, protocols, data collection methods, variables, and controls.

  • Include concentrations, but not volumes
  • If a kit is used, don’t write out the protocol but include the kit name and serial #.
  • List factors that are held constant throughout the experiment
  • Define variables
  • Describe techniques used

Creative Writing

In a creative thesis, the “Methods Section” is part of the reflection paper. This section describes the decisions that went into making the creative piece and how/why they were made. There should be an explanation of what the sources are, why they were chosen, and what factors decided whether or not a source would be used for the creative project.

A creative thesis often serves the purpose of evaluating or understanding theories or events. The methodology section should reflect how the creative work will be used for this purpose. 

**Example** A creative artwork that resembles various mental health disorders is created to visualize the actual thoughts and feelings of individuals suffering from these illnesses. 

Link: for more information on creative thesis methods.

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