Variation in Methods Sections of Research Articles

The contemporary research article (RA) was correctly glossed by Montgomery (1996) as that ‘master narrative of our time’. Although recent research into RA products and the processes of their construction has tended to focus on the more ‘rhetorical’ introduction and discussion sections, I here argue that it is in the methods sections that we find the greatest and most interesting disciplinary variation. I illustrate this with examples both typical and atypical and then discuss why this may be so. I close by offering a checklist of features that may or may not occur and indicate how such a device might prove helpful for editors, tutors and authors preparing articles for publication.

John M. Swales, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Director of the English Language Institute (1985-2001), The University of Michigan. Professor Swales is the author of numerous articles and books on how to identify the salient features of written academic and professional discourses. His initiation of the field of ‘genre analysis’ empowered students and instructors of English for specific purposes to systematize their observations about the texts they must write and understand.

Professor Swales’ Genre Analysis (CUP, 1990) is one of the most frequently cited works on academic discourse and his textbooks with Christine Feak are used to teach graduate-level academic writing in many parts of the world.

Montgomery SL (1996). The Scientific Voice. New York: The Guilford Press.