The ASA will be printing a new article from the series each month.
(Reprinted with permission from The American Acupuncturist, vols. 63-67)
The Materials and Methods Section
A scientific paper is usually comprised of these sections:
Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion/Conclusion, Acknowledgements Literature Cited
Scientific writing is direct and orderly. The materials and methods section structure should:
Describe in detail the materials used in the study and include all tools: needles, herbs, surveys and questionnaires. (It’s not necessary to include all questions in the questionnaire if it is a proven measure previously used in research (ex. SF- MPQ, FACIT, etc.)
- Describe the human subjects, age, eligibility criteria, demographics, etc.
- If you did a field or survey study, provide a description of the study site, including
the precise location, town, state and country. If an online internet survey was used, include details on who received the surveys, inclusion/exclusion criteria, how many surveys were sent out, how many were completed and returned, how many were included in the data analysis.
- If the manuscript is a meta-analysis or review, include the search engines and
scientific databases that were searched and the inclusion/exclusion criteria for
the studies that were discussed in the results section.
- Explain how the materials were used in the study
- Describe the research protocol. Include how subjects were randomized (ex.
numbers picked out of a hat or block randomization). Include controls,
treatment, variables that were measured, etc.
- Explain how the data were collected, how measurements were made, and what
calculations were performed
- State which statistical tests were done to analyze the data
The materials and methods section should always be written in past tense and in 3rd person. The description of preparations, measurements, and the protocol should be organized clearly and chronologically. Only include information relevant to the description of the materials and methods. Do not include any personal thoughts in this section; only describe what took place. Personal thoughts should be reserved for the discussion section.
A materials and methods section should clearly explain the details of the study so that another researcher can read the manuscript and replicate the study exactly. In acupuncture research, remember to describe what brand of needle was used including: manufacturer, length and gauge, points used, how the treatment was determined, depth of insertion, style of needling, length of time needles were retained, etc.
Example: Six acupuncture needles, Seirin Corp., Shizuoka, Japan, No. 3(0.20) x 30 mm were inserted bilaterally into acupoints San Yin Jiao (SP6), Zusanli
(ST36), and Tai Xi (KI3) at a depth of 1.5cm and gently rotated until daqi was observed. Needles were retained for 20 minutes. Acupoints were chosen through consensus by a group of 4 TCM experts, each with over 20 years of TCM practice.
When describing an herbal formula, include the formula name if it is a patent herb formula. Also include the brand, manufacturer, dose, and each individual herb included in the formula. Some writers choose to list the indications for the herbal formula or each herb or acupoint although it is not necessary.
If a writer chooses to list indications, it should not be listed in the materials and methods section. Indications should be reserved for the introduction or discussion section. Remember, the materials and methods section is a description of exactly what was done and how it was done so another researcher can duplicate the protocol exactly.
Example: Traditionals, Zizyphus Sleep Formula, Suan Zao Ren Tang distributed by Kan Herb Company, Scotts Valley, CA. Lot 0610-07 was used in this study. The dose
given to the subjects was: 2 tablets, 3 times a day for 5 days on an empty stomach (1 hour before/2 hours after eating). Herbs include: Sour jujube seed (dry fried) (Suan Zao Ren (chao)), Sichuan lovage rhizome (Chuan xiong), Poria (Fu ling), Anemarrhena rhizome (Zhi mu), Chinese Licorice root (Gan cao).
When preparing to write a scientific paper, refer to these guidelines but before you begin, PLEASE search for more information online. There are so many fantastic resources for people writing scientific papers. Many of these resources are on the websites of major research institutions and universities.
Here is a resource: