Methods Papers

What are Methods Papers?

Simply put methods papers detail how your research was conducted. Method sections have always been part of a traditional research article but have recently gained more prominence as a separate article type - allowing the method to be written in more detail and in a way that can be replicated.

Method articles can describe observational, experimental, theoretical or computational methods or procedures. Some method articles may also be describing how to apply existing methods to new areas.

Many journals accept methods articles and there are also journals that are methods only such as Nature Methods and BMC Medical Research Methodology which is discipline specific.

You can also share your method through sites like protocols.io, which is an open-access platform for detailing, sharing, and discussing protocols that can be useful before, during, and after publication of research results. Unlike method articles, the protocols posted on the site are dynamic so can be updated at any time but record versions of the methods.

Why write a Methods Paper?

Traditional research articles often have word limits, so writing out your method comprehensively to allow others to replicate it may be tricky to do in a methods section. By publishing your method paper separately you can ensure your method is fully detailed.

Methods papers make your method more discoverable to others in your field and beyond, and by having it as a citable item you can get credit when others use your method that you’ve developed.

How do you write a Methods Paper?

Methods papers can vary in format. Overall you want to inform readers exactly what was done - you may include preliminary work, how data was generated/collected, how the data was analysed, validation of the method, and details about robustness of the method.

For any of these sections, it may be useful to add step-by-step processes, rationale and as much as detail as possible such as settings and conditions for your experiment, specific software you used, specific reagents and resources used.

How do you review a Methods Paper?

You can find general guidance on how to peer review a paper in our peer review chapter here.

When reviewing a methods paper specifically it may be useful to focus on (adapted from F1000Research’s guidance):

  • Is the rationale for developing the new method (or application) clearly explained?

  • Are sufficient details of the method provided and would this allow the method to be replicated by others?

  • Are the conclusions about the method and its performance adequately supported?