This section identifies who took part in the study and provides details about them. The number of participants and any particulars (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation) relevant to the experiment needs to be included here. When providing information about each of these, think about what is relevant to the reader. For example, when describing age, the mean and standard deviation of the age of the sample is needed and possibly the age range of participants. Other details such as how your participants were recruited (e.g., volunteers, first year university students), how they were assigned to each condition (e.g., random versus non-random allocation), and how they were rewarded for participation (e.g., credit points, chocolates, money) should be included here. The characteristics you describe will depend on the nature of your research but you need to provide enough detail for a reader to judge if your sample is representative of the population.
If required to include this section, you need to describe what type of research design was employed (e.g., independent groups, repeated measures, quasi-experimental, survey). You need to state the number of independent variables (and how they were combined) and the dependent variable. With each independent variable you will need to list its name, whether it was varied within or between participants, how many levels it had, and the label for each level. For example:
The experiment involved a 2 x 3 independent groups design, with two types of cognitive re-framing exercises (finding the silver lining, generating alternative explanations) given to each of three age groups (20 to 50 years, 51 to 70 years, 71 years and over).
Materials (or Apparatus)
Here you describe any measures or apparatus used in the research. Describe these in sufficient detail to enable the reader to purchase or construct the same or similar materials in order to repeat the experiment.
There are three types of measures common to psychology: questionnaires (or surveys), behavioural measures, and physiological measures. Complex research may use all three types of measurement in which case use of subheadings is recommended to describe each type of measure. However, the most common measure used in undergraduate studies tends to be questionnaires.
If you have used a questionnaire you should provide its name and author/s, an example of the questions, and attach the complete questionnaire as an appendix (where you are permitted to do so under copyright law). Do not forget to cite your source in your reference list as well. You should also include the minimum and maximum scores achievable for your measures, and what such scores might indicate. For example, you might have asked participants to provide a rating from 1 (strongly disagree) to 10 (strongly agree) where “…a maximum score of 10 indicates high job satisfaction”. Include how you calculated scores (were they averaged, summed, using standard scores), mentioning whether certain items were reverse scored. In addition, the psychometric properties of your chosen measures should also be cited, such as any data you have on reliability and validity. This ensures that your choice of measure can be quickly assessed as adequate for the task.
Behavioural measures include tasks that measure some aspect of participant behavior. For example, a computer task measuring attention is a behavioural measure. Physiological measures can include skin conductance, heart rate, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and more. Both behavioural and physiological measures should again be described in enough detail for the reader to replicate in order to repeat the experiment.
If using specific equipment in your study, such as a computer, recorder, projector, or physical measurement device/s (e.g. skin conductance sensor), include the brand and model number of the equipment. Provide enough detail so that the reader can seek out the same or similar equipment in future research. For example, if describing a computer used include the computer brand, model year, processor, monitor size, and any other necessary details.
This section includes a step-by-step description of how the study was conducted. This includes detailing what order tasks were carried out, by whom, and with what instructions; again provide sufficient detail to allow the experiment to be repeated. One way of writing the procedure is considering 'what did the participants do?'. For example, "Participants were detailed about the study requirements by the researcher before signing informed consent. Participants then sat approximately 60cm away from the computer monitor...". If you have controlled for a potentially confounding variable you need to also mention this (e.g., use of randomisation, counterbalancing). You may also need to include issues such as the use of confederates/experimenters being blind to the hypothesis, use of control groups, deception used by experimenters, and debriefing procedures. Do not combine or confuse the Procedure with the Materials section. The Materials describes 'what' was collected and the Procedure outlines 'how' they were collected. Do not start a fresh page for this section, or the Results and Discussion sections.