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Research Summary – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

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Research Summary

Research Summary


A research summary is a brief and concise overview of a research project or study that highlights its key findings, main points, and conclusions. It typically includes a description of the research problem, the research methods used, the results obtained, and the implications or significance of the findings. It is often used as a tool to quickly communicate the main findings of a study to other researchers, stakeholders, or decision-makers.

Structure of Research Summary

The Structure of a Research Summary typically include:

  • Introduction : This section provides a brief background of the research problem or question, explains the purpose of the study, and outlines the research objectives.
  • Methodology : This section explains the research design, methods, and procedures used to conduct the study. It describes the sample size, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques.
  • Results : This section presents the main findings of the study, including statistical analysis if applicable. It may include tables, charts, or graphs to visually represent the data.
  • Discussion : This section interprets the results and explains their implications. It discusses the significance of the findings, compares them to previous research, and identifies any limitations or future directions for research.
  • Conclusion : This section summarizes the main points of the research and provides a conclusion based on the findings. It may also suggest implications for future research or practical applications of the results.
  • References : This section lists the sources cited in the research summary, following the appropriate citation style.

How to Write Research Summary

Here are the steps you can follow to write a research summary:

  • Read the research article or study thoroughly: To write a summary, you must understand the research article or study you are summarizing. Therefore, read the article or study carefully to understand its purpose, research design, methodology, results, and conclusions.
  • Identify the main points : Once you have read the research article or study, identify the main points, key findings, and research question. You can highlight or take notes of the essential points and findings to use as a reference when writing your summary.
  • Write the introduction: Start your summary by introducing the research problem, research question, and purpose of the study. Briefly explain why the research is important and its significance.
  • Summarize the methodology : In this section, summarize the research design, methods, and procedures used to conduct the study. Explain the sample size, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques.
  • Present the results: Summarize the main findings of the study. Use tables, charts, or graphs to visually represent the data if necessary.
  • Interpret the results: In this section, interpret the results and explain their implications. Discuss the significance of the findings, compare them to previous research, and identify any limitations or future directions for research.
  • Conclude the summary : Summarize the main points of the research and provide a conclusion based on the findings. Suggest implications for future research or practical applications of the results.
  • Revise and edit : Once you have written the summary, revise and edit it to ensure that it is clear, concise, and free of errors. Make sure that your summary accurately represents the research article or study.
  • Add references: Include a list of references cited in the research summary, following the appropriate citation style.

Example of Research Summary

Here is an example of a research summary:

Title: The Effects of Yoga on Mental Health: A Meta-Analysis

Introduction: This meta-analysis examines the effects of yoga on mental health. The study aimed to investigate whether yoga practice can improve mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, stress, and quality of life.

Methodology : The study analyzed data from 14 randomized controlled trials that investigated the effects of yoga on mental health outcomes. The sample included a total of 862 participants. The yoga interventions varied in length and frequency, ranging from four to twelve weeks, with sessions lasting from 45 to 90 minutes.

Results : The meta-analysis found that yoga practice significantly improved mental health outcomes. Participants who practiced yoga showed a significant reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as stress levels. Quality of life also improved in those who practiced yoga.

Discussion : The findings of this study suggest that yoga can be an effective intervention for improving mental health outcomes. The study supports the growing body of evidence that suggests that yoga can have a positive impact on mental health. Limitations of the study include the variability of the yoga interventions, which may affect the generalizability of the findings.

Conclusion : Overall, the findings of this meta-analysis support the use of yoga as an effective intervention for improving mental health outcomes. Further research is needed to determine the optimal length and frequency of yoga interventions for different populations.

References :

  • Cramer, H., Lauche, R., Langhorst, J., Dobos, G., & Berger, B. (2013). Yoga for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Depression and anxiety, 30(11), 1068-1083.
  • Khalsa, S. B. (2004). Yoga as a therapeutic intervention: a bibliometric analysis of published research studies. Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology, 48(3), 269-285.
  • Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(1), 3-12.

Purpose of Research Summary

The purpose of a research summary is to provide a brief overview of a research project or study, including its main points, findings, and conclusions. The summary allows readers to quickly understand the essential aspects of the research without having to read the entire article or study.

Research summaries serve several purposes, including:

  • Facilitating comprehension: A research summary allows readers to quickly understand the main points and findings of a research project or study without having to read the entire article or study. This makes it easier for readers to comprehend the research and its significance.
  • Communicating research findings: Research summaries are often used to communicate research findings to a wider audience, such as policymakers, practitioners, or the general public. The summary presents the essential aspects of the research in a clear and concise manner, making it easier for non-experts to understand.
  • Supporting decision-making: Research summaries can be used to support decision-making processes by providing a summary of the research evidence on a particular topic. This information can be used by policymakers or practitioners to make informed decisions about interventions, programs, or policies.
  • Saving time: Research summaries save time for researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders who need to review multiple research studies. Rather than having to read the entire article or study, they can quickly review the summary to determine whether the research is relevant to their needs.

Characteristics of Research Summary

The following are some of the key characteristics of a research summary:

  • Concise : A research summary should be brief and to the point, providing a clear and concise overview of the main points of the research.
  • Objective : A research summary should be written in an objective tone, presenting the research findings without bias or personal opinion.
  • Comprehensive : A research summary should cover all the essential aspects of the research, including the research question, methodology, results, and conclusions.
  • Accurate : A research summary should accurately reflect the key findings and conclusions of the research.
  • Clear and well-organized: A research summary should be easy to read and understand, with a clear structure and logical flow.
  • Relevant : A research summary should focus on the most important and relevant aspects of the research, highlighting the key findings and their implications.
  • Audience-specific: A research summary should be tailored to the intended audience, using language and terminology that is appropriate and accessible to the reader.
  • Citations : A research summary should include citations to the original research articles or studies, allowing readers to access the full text of the research if desired.

When to write Research Summary

Here are some situations when it may be appropriate to write a research summary:

  • Proposal stage: A research summary can be included in a research proposal to provide a brief overview of the research aims, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes.
  • Conference presentation: A research summary can be prepared for a conference presentation to summarize the main findings of a study or research project.
  • Journal submission: Many academic journals require authors to submit a research summary along with their research article or study. The summary provides a brief overview of the study’s main points, findings, and conclusions and helps readers quickly understand the research.
  • Funding application: A research summary can be included in a funding application to provide a brief summary of the research aims, objectives, and expected outcomes.
  • Policy brief: A research summary can be prepared as a policy brief to communicate research findings to policymakers or stakeholders in a concise and accessible manner.

Advantages of Research Summary

Research summaries offer several advantages, including:

  • Time-saving: A research summary saves time for readers who need to understand the key findings and conclusions of a research project quickly. Rather than reading the entire research article or study, readers can quickly review the summary to determine whether the research is relevant to their needs.
  • Clarity and accessibility: A research summary provides a clear and accessible overview of the research project’s main points, making it easier for readers to understand the research without having to be experts in the field.
  • Improved comprehension: A research summary helps readers comprehend the research by providing a brief and focused overview of the key findings and conclusions, making it easier to understand the research and its significance.
  • Enhanced communication: Research summaries can be used to communicate research findings to a wider audience, such as policymakers, practitioners, or the general public, in a concise and accessible manner.
  • Facilitated decision-making: Research summaries can support decision-making processes by providing a summary of the research evidence on a particular topic. Policymakers or practitioners can use this information to make informed decisions about interventions, programs, or policies.
  • Increased dissemination: Research summaries can be easily shared and disseminated, allowing research findings to reach a wider audience.

Limitations of Research Summary

Limitations of the Research Summary are as follows:

  • Limited scope: Research summaries provide a brief overview of the research project’s main points, findings, and conclusions, which can be limiting. They may not include all the details, nuances, and complexities of the research that readers may need to fully understand the study’s implications.
  • Risk of oversimplification: Research summaries can be oversimplified, reducing the complexity of the research and potentially distorting the findings or conclusions.
  • Lack of context: Research summaries may not provide sufficient context to fully understand the research findings, such as the research background, methodology, or limitations. This may lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the research.
  • Possible bias: Research summaries may be biased if they selectively emphasize certain findings or conclusions over others, potentially distorting the overall picture of the research.
  • Format limitations: Research summaries may be constrained by the format or length requirements, making it challenging to fully convey the research’s main points, findings, and conclusions.
  • Accessibility: Research summaries may not be accessible to all readers, particularly those with limited literacy skills, visual impairments, or language barriers.

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How To Write The Methodology Chapter

The what, why & how explained simply (with examples).

By: Jenna Crossley (PhD) | Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | September 2021 (Updated April 2023)

So, you’ve pinned down your research topic and undertaken a review of the literature – now it’s time to write up the methodology section of your dissertation, thesis or research paper . But what exactly is the methodology chapter all about – and how do you go about writing one? In this post, we’ll unpack the topic, step by step .

Overview: The Methodology Chapter

  • The purpose  of the methodology chapter
  • Why you need to craft this chapter (really) well
  • How to write and structure the chapter
  • Methodology chapter example
  • Essential takeaways

What (exactly) is the methodology chapter?

The methodology chapter is where you outline the philosophical underpinnings of your research and outline the specific methodological choices you’ve made. The point of the methodology chapter is to tell the reader exactly how you designed your study and, just as importantly, why you did it this way.

Importantly, this chapter should comprehensively describe and justify all the methodological choices you made in your study. For example, the approach you took to your research (i.e., qualitative, quantitative or mixed), who  you collected data from (i.e., your sampling strategy), how you collected your data and, of course, how you analysed it. If that sounds a little intimidating, don’t worry – we’ll explain all these methodological choices in this post .

Free Webinar: Research Methodology 101

Why is the methodology chapter important?

The methodology chapter plays two important roles in your dissertation or thesis:

Firstly, it demonstrates your understanding of research theory, which is what earns you marks. A flawed research design or methodology would mean flawed results. So, this chapter is vital as it allows you to show the marker that you know what you’re doing and that your results are credible .

Secondly, the methodology chapter is what helps to make your study replicable. In other words, it allows other researchers to undertake your study using the same methodological approach, and compare their findings to yours. This is very important within academic research, as each study builds on previous studies.

The methodology chapter is also important in that it allows you to identify and discuss any methodological issues or problems you encountered (i.e., research limitations ), and to explain how you mitigated the impacts of these. Every research project has its limitations , so it’s important to acknowledge these openly and highlight your study’s value despite its limitations . Doing so demonstrates your understanding of research design, which will earn you marks. We’ll discuss limitations in a bit more detail later in this post, so stay tuned!

Need a helping hand?

methodology summary for research

How to write up the methodology chapter

First off, it’s worth noting that the exact structure and contents of the methodology chapter will vary depending on the field of research (e.g., humanities, chemistry or engineering) as well as the university . So, be sure to always check the guidelines provided by your institution for clarity and, if possible, review past dissertations from your university. Here we’re going to discuss a generic structure for a methodology chapter typically found in the sciences.

Before you start writing, it’s always a good idea to draw up a rough outline to guide your writing. Don’t just start writing without knowing what you’ll discuss where. If you do, you’ll likely end up with a disjointed, ill-flowing narrative . You’ll then waste a lot of time rewriting in an attempt to try to stitch all the pieces together. Do yourself a favour and start with the end in mind .

Section 1 – Introduction

As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the methodology chapter should have a brief introduction. In this section, you should remind your readers what the focus of your study is, especially the research aims . As we’ve discussed many times on the blog, your methodology needs to align with your research aims, objectives and research questions. Therefore, it’s useful to frontload this component to remind the reader (and yourself!) what you’re trying to achieve.

In this section, you can also briefly mention how you’ll structure the chapter. This will help orient the reader and provide a bit of a roadmap so that they know what to expect. You don’t need a lot of detail here – just a brief outline will do.

The intro provides a roadmap to your methodology chapter

Section 2 – The Methodology

The next section of your chapter is where you’ll present the actual methodology. In this section, you need to detail and justify the key methodological choices you’ve made in a logical, intuitive fashion. Importantly, this is the heart of your methodology chapter, so you need to get specific – don’t hold back on the details here. This is not one of those “less is more” situations.

Let’s take a look at the most common components you’ll likely need to cover. 

Methodological Choice #1 – Research Philosophy

Research philosophy refers to the underlying beliefs (i.e., the worldview) regarding how data about a phenomenon should be gathered , analysed and used . The research philosophy will serve as the core of your study and underpin all of the other research design choices, so it’s critically important that you understand which philosophy you’ll adopt and why you made that choice. If you’re not clear on this, take the time to get clarity before you make any further methodological choices.

While several research philosophies exist, two commonly adopted ones are positivism and interpretivism . These two sit roughly on opposite sides of the research philosophy spectrum.

Positivism states that the researcher can observe reality objectively and that there is only one reality, which exists independently of the observer. As a consequence, it is quite commonly the underlying research philosophy in quantitative studies and is oftentimes the assumed philosophy in the physical sciences.

Contrasted with this, interpretivism , which is often the underlying research philosophy in qualitative studies, assumes that the researcher performs a role in observing the world around them and that reality is unique to each observer . In other words, reality is observed subjectively .

These are just two philosophies (there are many more), but they demonstrate significantly different approaches to research and have a significant impact on all the methodological choices. Therefore, it’s vital that you clearly outline and justify your research philosophy at the beginning of your methodology chapter, as it sets the scene for everything that follows.

The research philosophy is at the core of the methodology chapter

Methodological Choice #2 – Research Type

The next thing you would typically discuss in your methodology section is the research type. The starting point for this is to indicate whether the research you conducted is inductive or deductive .

Inductive research takes a bottom-up approach , where the researcher begins with specific observations or data and then draws general conclusions or theories from those observations. Therefore these studies tend to be exploratory in terms of approach.

Conversely , d eductive research takes a top-down approach , where the researcher starts with a theory or hypothesis and then tests it using specific observations or data. Therefore these studies tend to be confirmatory in approach.

Related to this, you’ll need to indicate whether your study adopts a qualitative, quantitative or mixed  approach. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a strong link between this choice and your research philosophy, so make sure that your choices are tightly aligned . When you write this section up, remember to clearly justify your choices, as they form the foundation of your study.

Methodological Choice #3 – Research Strategy

Next, you’ll need to discuss your research strategy (also referred to as a research design ). This methodological choice refers to the broader strategy in terms of how you’ll conduct your research, based on the aims of your study.

Several research strategies exist, including experimental , case studies , ethnography , grounded theory, action research , and phenomenology . Let’s take a look at two of these, experimental and ethnographic, to see how they contrast.

Experimental research makes use of the scientific method , where one group is the control group (in which no variables are manipulated ) and another is the experimental group (in which a specific variable is manipulated). This type of research is undertaken under strict conditions in a controlled, artificial environment (e.g., a laboratory). By having firm control over the environment, experimental research typically allows the researcher to establish causation between variables. Therefore, it can be a good choice if you have research aims that involve identifying causal relationships.

Ethnographic research , on the other hand, involves observing and capturing the experiences and perceptions of participants in their natural environment (for example, at home or in the office). In other words, in an uncontrolled environment.  Naturally, this means that this research strategy would be far less suitable if your research aims involve identifying causation, but it would be very valuable if you’re looking to explore and examine a group culture, for example.

As you can see, the right research strategy will depend largely on your research aims and research questions – in other words, what you’re trying to figure out. Therefore, as with every other methodological choice, it’s essential to justify why you chose the research strategy you did.

Methodological Choice #4 – Time Horizon

The next thing you’ll need to detail in your methodology chapter is the time horizon. There are two options here: cross-sectional and longitudinal . In other words, whether the data for your study were all collected at one point in time (cross-sectional) or at multiple points in time (longitudinal).

The choice you make here depends again on your research aims, objectives and research questions. If, for example, you aim to assess how a specific group of people’s perspectives regarding a topic change over time , you’d likely adopt a longitudinal time horizon.

Another important factor to consider is simply whether you have the time necessary to adopt a longitudinal approach (which could involve collecting data over multiple months or even years). Oftentimes, the time pressures of your degree program will force your hand into adopting a cross-sectional time horizon, so keep this in mind.

Methodological Choice #5 – Sampling Strategy

Next, you’ll need to discuss your sampling strategy . There are two main categories of sampling, probability and non-probability sampling.

Probability sampling involves a random (and therefore representative) selection of participants from a population, whereas non-probability sampling entails selecting participants in a non-random  (and therefore non-representative) manner. For example, selecting participants based on ease of access (this is called a convenience sample).

The right sampling approach depends largely on what you’re trying to achieve in your study. Specifically, whether you trying to develop findings that are generalisable to a population or not. Practicalities and resource constraints also play a large role here, as it can oftentimes be challenging to gain access to a truly random sample. In the video below, we explore some of the most common sampling strategies.

Methodological Choice #6 – Data Collection Method

Next up, you’ll need to explain how you’ll go about collecting the necessary data for your study. Your data collection method (or methods) will depend on the type of data that you plan to collect – in other words, qualitative or quantitative data.

Typically, quantitative research relies on surveys , data generated by lab equipment, analytics software or existing datasets. Qualitative research, on the other hand, often makes use of collection methods such as interviews , focus groups , participant observations, and ethnography.

So, as you can see, there is a tight link between this section and the design choices you outlined in earlier sections. Strong alignment between these sections, as well as your research aims and questions is therefore very important.

Methodological Choice #7 – Data Analysis Methods/Techniques

The final major methodological choice that you need to address is that of analysis techniques . In other words, how you’ll go about analysing your date once you’ve collected it. Here it’s important to be very specific about your analysis methods and/or techniques – don’t leave any room for interpretation. Also, as with all choices in this chapter, you need to justify each choice you make.

What exactly you discuss here will depend largely on the type of study you’re conducting (i.e., qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods). For qualitative studies, common analysis methods include content analysis , thematic analysis and discourse analysis . In the video below, we explain each of these in plain language.

For quantitative studies, you’ll almost always make use of descriptive statistics , and in many cases, you’ll also use inferential statistical techniques (e.g., correlation and regression analysis). In the video below, we unpack some of the core concepts involved in descriptive and inferential statistics.

In this section of your methodology chapter, it’s also important to discuss how you prepared your data for analysis, and what software you used (if any). For example, quantitative data will often require some initial preparation such as removing duplicates or incomplete responses . Similarly, qualitative data will often require transcription and perhaps even translation. As always, remember to state both what you did and why you did it.

Section 3 – The Methodological Limitations

With the key methodological choices outlined and justified, the next step is to discuss the limitations of your design. No research methodology is perfect – there will always be trade-offs between the “ideal” methodology and what’s practical and viable, given your constraints. Therefore, this section of your methodology chapter is where you’ll discuss the trade-offs you had to make, and why these were justified given the context.

Methodological limitations can vary greatly from study to study, ranging from common issues such as time and budget constraints to issues of sample or selection bias . For example, you may find that you didn’t manage to draw in enough respondents to achieve the desired sample size (and therefore, statistically significant results), or your sample may be skewed heavily towards a certain demographic, thereby negatively impacting representativeness .

In this section, it’s important to be critical of the shortcomings of your study. There’s no use trying to hide them (your marker will be aware of them regardless). By being critical, you’ll demonstrate to your marker that you have a strong understanding of research theory, so don’t be shy here. At the same time, don’t beat your study to death . State the limitations, why these were justified, how you mitigated their impacts to the best degree possible, and how your study still provides value despite these limitations .

Section 4 – Concluding Summary

Finally, it’s time to wrap up the methodology chapter with a brief concluding summary. In this section, you’ll want to concisely summarise what you’ve presented in the chapter. Here, it can be a good idea to use a figure to summarise the key decisions, especially if your university recommends using a specific model (for example, Saunders’ Research Onion ).

Importantly, this section needs to be brief – a paragraph or two maximum (it’s a summary, after all). Also, make sure that when you write up your concluding summary, you include only what you’ve already discussed in your chapter; don’t add any new information.

Keep it simple

Methodology Chapter Example

In the video below, we walk you through an example of a high-quality research methodology chapter from a dissertation. We also unpack our free methodology chapter template so that you can see how best to structure your chapter.

Wrapping Up

And there you have it – the methodology chapter in a nutshell. As we’ve mentioned, the exact contents and structure of this chapter can vary between universities , so be sure to check in with your institution before you start writing. If possible, try to find dissertations or theses from former students of your specific degree program – this will give you a strong indication of the expectations and norms when it comes to the methodology chapter (and all the other chapters!).

Also, remember the golden rule of the methodology chapter – justify every choice ! Make sure that you clearly explain the “why” for every “what”, and reference credible methodology textbooks or academic sources to back up your justifications.

If you need a helping hand with your research methodology (or any other component of your research), be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through every step of the research journey. Until next time, good luck!

methodology summary for research

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Quantitative results chapter in a dissertation



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SciSpace Resources

A Comprehensive Guide to Methodology in Research

Sumalatha G

Table of Contents

Research methodology plays a crucial role in any study or investigation. It provides the framework for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data, ensuring that the research is reliable, valid, and credible. Understanding the importance of research methodology is essential for conducting rigorous and meaningful research.

In this article, we'll explore the various aspects of research methodology, from its types to best practices, ensuring you have the knowledge needed to conduct impactful research.

What is Research Methodology?

Research methodology refers to the system of procedures, techniques, and tools used to carry out a research study. It encompasses the overall approach, including the research design, data collection methods, data analysis techniques, and the interpretation of findings.

Research methodology plays a crucial role in the field of research, as it sets the foundation for any study. It provides researchers with a structured framework to ensure that their investigations are conducted in a systematic and organized manner. By following a well-defined methodology, researchers can ensure that their findings are reliable, valid, and meaningful.

When defining research methodology, one of the first steps is to identify the research problem. This involves clearly understanding the issue or topic that the study aims to address. By defining the research problem, researchers can narrow down their focus and determine the specific objectives they want to achieve through their study.

How to Define Research Methodology

Once the research problem is identified, researchers move on to defining the research questions. These questions serve as a guide for the study, helping researchers to gather relevant information and analyze it effectively. The research questions should be clear, concise, and aligned with the overall goals of the study.

After defining the research questions, researchers need to determine how data will be collected and analyzed. This involves selecting appropriate data collection methods, such as surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments. The choice of data collection methods depends on various factors, including the nature of the research problem, the target population, and the available resources.

Once the data is collected, researchers need to analyze it using appropriate data analysis techniques. This may involve statistical analysis, qualitative analysis, or a combination of both, depending on the nature of the data and the research questions. The analysis of data helps researchers to draw meaningful conclusions and make informed decisions based on their findings.

Role of Methodology in Research

Methodology plays a crucial role in research, as it ensures that the study is conducted in a systematic and organized manner. It provides a clear roadmap for researchers to follow, ensuring that the research objectives are met effectively. By following a well-defined methodology, researchers can minimize bias, errors, and inconsistencies in their study, thus enhancing the reliability and validity of their findings.

In addition to providing a structured approach, research methodology also helps in establishing the reliability and validity of the study. Reliability refers to the consistency and stability of the research findings, while validity refers to the accuracy and truthfulness of the findings. By using appropriate research methods and techniques, researchers can ensure that their study produces reliable and valid results, which can be used to make informed decisions and contribute to the existing body of knowledge.

Steps in Choosing the Right Research Methodology

Choosing the appropriate research methodology for your study is a critical step in ensuring the success of your research. Let's explore some steps to help you select the right research methodology:

Identifying the Research Problem

The first step in choosing the right research methodology is to clearly identify and define the research problem. Understanding the research problem will help you determine which methodology will best address your research questions and objectives.

Identifying the research problem involves a thorough examination of the existing literature in your field of study. This step allows you to gain a comprehensive understanding of the current state of knowledge and identify any gaps that your research can fill. By identifying the research problem, you can ensure that your study contributes to the existing body of knowledge and addresses a significant research gap.

Once you have identified the research problem, you need to consider the scope of your study. Are you focusing on a specific population, geographic area, or time frame? Understanding the scope of your research will help you determine the appropriate research methodology to use.

Reviewing Previous Research

Before finalizing the research methodology, it is essential to review previous research conducted in the field. This will allow you to identify gaps, determine the most effective methodologies used in similar studies, and build upon existing knowledge.

Reviewing previous research involves conducting a systematic review of relevant literature. This process includes searching for and analyzing published studies, articles, and reports that are related to your research topic. By reviewing previous research, you can gain insights into the strengths and limitations of different methodologies and make informed decisions about which approach to adopt.

During the review process, it is important to critically evaluate the quality and reliability of the existing research. Consider factors such as the sample size, research design, data collection methods, and statistical analysis techniques used in previous studies. This evaluation will help you determine the most appropriate research methodology for your own study.

Formulating Research Questions

Once the research problem is identified, formulate specific and relevant research questions. These questions will guide your methodology selection process by helping you determine what type of data you need to collect and how to analyze it.

Formulating research questions involves breaking down the research problem into smaller, more manageable components. These questions should be clear, concise, and measurable. They should also align with the objectives of your study and provide a framework for data collection and analysis.

When formulating research questions, consider the different types of data that can be collected, such as qualitative or quantitative data. Depending on the nature of your research questions, you may need to employ different data collection methods, such as interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. By carefully formulating research questions, you can ensure that your chosen methodology will enable you to collect the necessary data to answer your research questions effectively.

Implementing the Research Methodology

After choosing the appropriate research methodology, it is time to implement it. This stage involves collecting data using various techniques and analyzing the gathered information. Let's explore two crucial aspects of implementing the research methodology:

Data Collection Techniques

Data collection techniques depend on the chosen research methodology. They can include surveys, interviews, observations, experiments, or document analysis. Selecting the most suitable data collection techniques will ensure accurate and relevant data for your study.

Data Analysis Methods

Data analysis is a critical part of the research process. It involves interpreting and making sense of the collected data to draw meaningful conclusions. Depending on the research methodology, data analysis methods can include statistical analysis, content analysis, thematic analysis, or grounded theory.

Ensuring the Validity and Reliability of Your Research

In order to ensure the validity and reliability of your research findings, it is important to address these two key aspects:

Understanding Validity in Research

Validity refers to the accuracy and soundness of a research study. It is crucial to ensure that the research methods used effectively measure what they intend to measure. Researchers can enhance validity by using proper sampling techniques, carefully designing research instruments, and ensuring accurate data collection.

Ensuring Reliability in Your Study

Reliability refers to the consistency and stability of the research results. It is important to ensure that the research methods and instruments used yield consistent and reproducible results. Researchers can enhance reliability by using standardized procedures, ensuring inter-rater reliability, and conducting pilot studies.

A comprehensive understanding of research methodology is essential for conducting high-quality research. By selecting the right research methodology, researchers can ensure that their studies are rigorous, reliable, and valid. It is crucial to follow the steps in choosing the appropriate methodology, implement the chosen methodology effectively, and address validity and reliability concerns throughout the research process. By doing so, researchers can contribute valuable insights and advances in their respective fields.

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How to Write Research Methodology

Last Updated: May 21, 2023 Approved

This article was co-authored by Alexander Ruiz, M.Ed. and by wikiHow staff writer, Jennifer Mueller, JD . Alexander Ruiz is an Educational Consultant and the Educational Director of Link Educational Institute, a tutoring business based in Claremont, California that provides customizable educational plans, subject and test prep tutoring, and college application consulting. With over a decade and a half of experience in the education industry, Alexander coaches students to increase their self-awareness and emotional intelligence while achieving skills and the goal of achieving skills and higher education. He holds a BA in Psychology from Florida International University and an MA in Education from Georgia Southern University. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, several readers have written to tell us that this article was helpful to them, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 518,697 times.

The research methodology section of any academic research paper gives you the opportunity to convince your readers that your research is useful and will contribute to your field of study. An effective research methodology is grounded in your overall approach – whether qualitative or quantitative – and adequately describes the methods you used. Justify why you chose those methods over others, then explain how those methods will provide answers to your research questions. [1] X Research source

Describing Your Methods

Step 1 Restate your research problem.

  • In your restatement, include any underlying assumptions that you're making or conditions that you're taking for granted. These assumptions will also inform the research methods you've chosen.
  • Generally, state the variables you'll test and the other conditions you're controlling or assuming are equal.

Step 2 Establish your overall methodological approach.

  • If you want to research and document measurable social trends, or evaluate the impact of a particular policy on various variables, use a quantitative approach focused on data collection and statistical analysis.
  • If you want to evaluate people's views or understanding of a particular issue, choose a more qualitative approach.
  • You can also combine the two. For example, you might look primarily at a measurable social trend, but also interview people and get their opinions on how that trend is affecting their lives.

Step 3 Define how you collected or generated data.

  • For example, if you conducted a survey, you would describe the questions included in the survey, where and how the survey was conducted (such as in person, online, over the phone), how many surveys were distributed, and how long your respondents had to complete the survey.
  • Include enough detail that your study can be replicated by others in your field, even if they may not get the same results you did. [4] X Research source

Step 4 Provide background for uncommon methods.

  • Qualitative research methods typically require more detailed explanation than quantitative methods.
  • Basic investigative procedures don't need to be explained in detail. Generally, you can assume that your readers have a general understanding of common research methods that social scientists use, such as surveys or focus groups.

Step 5 Cite any sources that contributed to your choice of methodology.

  • For example, suppose you conducted a survey and used a couple of other research papers to help construct the questions on your survey. You would mention those as contributing sources.

Justifying Your Choice of Methods

Step 1 Explain your selection criteria for data collection.

  • Describe study participants specifically, and list any inclusion or exclusion criteria you used when forming your group of participants.
  • Justify the size of your sample, if applicable, and describe how this affects whether your study can be generalized to larger populations. For example, if you conducted a survey of 30 percent of the student population of a university, you could potentially apply those results to the student body as a whole, but maybe not to students at other universities.

Step 2 Distinguish your research from any weaknesses in your methods.

  • Reading other research papers is a good way to identify potential problems that commonly arise with various methods. State whether you actually encountered any of these common problems during your research.

Step 3 Describe how you overcame obstacles.

  • If you encountered any problems as you collected data, explain clearly the steps you took to minimize the effect that problem would have on your results.

Step 4 Evaluate other methods you could have used.

  • In some cases, this may be as simple as stating that while there were numerous studies using one method, there weren't any using your method, which caused a gap in understanding of the issue.
  • For example, there may be multiple papers providing quantitative analysis of a particular social trend. However, none of these papers looked closely at how this trend was affecting the lives of people.

Connecting Your Methods to Your Research Goals

Step 1 Describe how you analyzed your results.

  • Depending on your research questions, you may be mixing quantitative and qualitative analysis – just as you could potentially use both approaches. For example, you might do a statistical analysis, and then interpret those statistics through a particular theoretical lens.

Step 2 Explain how your analysis suits your research goals.

  • For example, suppose you're researching the effect of college education on family farms in rural America. While you could do interviews of college-educated people who grew up on a family farm, that would not give you a picture of the overall effect. A quantitative approach and statistical analysis would give you a bigger picture.

Step 3 Identify how your analysis answers your research questions.

  • If in answering your research questions, your findings have raised other questions that may require further research, state these briefly.
  • You can also include here any limitations to your methods, or questions that weren't answered through your research.

Step 4 Assess whether your findings can be transferred or generalized.

  • Generalization is more typically used in quantitative research. If you have a well-designed sample, you can statistically apply your results to the larger population your sample belongs to.

Template to Write Research Methodology

methodology summary for research

Community Q&A


  • Organize your methodology section chronologically, starting with how you prepared to conduct your research methods, how you gathered data, and how you analyzed that data. [13] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Write your research methodology section in past tense, unless you're submitting the methodology section before the research described has been carried out. [14] X Research source Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Discuss your plans in detail with your advisor or supervisor before committing to a particular methodology. They can help identify possible flaws in your study. [15] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

methodology summary for research

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  • ↑ http://expertjournals.com/how-to-write-a-research-methodology-for-your-academic-article/
  • ↑ http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/methodology
  • ↑ https://www.skillsyouneed.com/learn/dissertation-methodology.html
  • ↑ https://uir.unisa.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10500/4245/05Chap%204_Research%20methodology%20and%20design.pdf
  • ↑ https://elc.polyu.edu.hk/FYP/html/method.htm

About This Article

Alexander Ruiz, M.Ed.

To write a research methodology, start with a section that outlines the problems or questions you'll be studying, including your hypotheses or whatever it is you're setting out to prove. Then, briefly explain why you chose to use either a qualitative or quantitative approach for your study. Next, go over when and where you conducted your research and what parameters you used to ensure you were objective. Finally, cite any sources you used to decide on the methodology for your research. To learn how to justify your choice of methods in your research methodology, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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  • How to Write Your Methods

methodology summary for research

Ensure understanding, reproducibility and replicability

What should you include in your methods section, and how much detail is appropriate?

Why Methods Matter

The methods section was once the most likely part of a paper to be unfairly abbreviated, overly summarized, or even relegated to hard-to-find sections of a publisher’s website. While some journals may responsibly include more detailed elements of methods in supplementary sections, the movement for increased reproducibility and rigor in science has reinstated the importance of the methods section. Methods are now viewed as a key element in establishing the credibility of the research being reported, alongside the open availability of data and results.

A clear methods section impacts editorial evaluation and readers’ understanding, and is also the backbone of transparency and replicability.

For example, the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology project set out in 2013 to replicate experiments from 50 high profile cancer papers, but revised their target to 18 papers once they understood how much methodological detail was not contained in the original papers.

methodology summary for research

What to include in your methods section

What you include in your methods sections depends on what field you are in and what experiments you are performing. However, the general principle in place at the majority of journals is summarized well by the guidelines at PLOS ONE : “The Materials and Methods section should provide enough detail to allow suitably skilled investigators to fully replicate your study. ” The emphases here are deliberate: the methods should enable readers to understand your paper, and replicate your study. However, there is no need to go into the level of detail that a lay-person would require—the focus is on the reader who is also trained in your field, with the suitable skills and knowledge to attempt a replication.

A constant principle of rigorous science

A methods section that enables other researchers to understand and replicate your results is a constant principle of rigorous, transparent, and Open Science. Aim to be thorough, even if a particular journal doesn’t require the same level of detail . Reproducibility is all of our responsibility. You cannot create any problems by exceeding a minimum standard of information. If a journal still has word-limits—either for the overall article or specific sections—and requires some methodological details to be in a supplemental section, that is OK as long as the extra details are searchable and findable .

Imagine replicating your own work, years in the future

As part of PLOS’ presentation on Reproducibility and Open Publishing (part of UCSF’s Reproducibility Series ) we recommend planning the level of detail in your methods section by imagining you are writing for your future self, replicating your own work. When you consider that you might be at a different institution, with different account logins, applications, resources, and access levels—you can help yourself imagine the level of specificity that you yourself would require to redo the exact experiment. Consider:

  • Which details would you need to be reminded of? 
  • Which cell line, or antibody, or software, or reagent did you use, and does it have a Research Resource ID (RRID) that you can cite?
  • Which version of a questionnaire did you use in your survey? 
  • Exactly which visual stimulus did you show participants, and is it publicly available? 
  • What participants did you decide to exclude? 
  • What process did you adjust, during your work? 

Tip: Be sure to capture any changes to your protocols

You yourself would want to know about any adjustments, if you ever replicate the work, so you can surmise that anyone else would want to as well. Even if a necessary adjustment you made was not ideal, transparency is the key to ensuring this is not regarded as an issue in the future. It is far better to transparently convey any non-optimal methods, or methodological constraints, than to conceal them, which could result in reproducibility or ethical issues downstream.

Visual aids for methods help when reading the whole paper

Consider whether a visual representation of your methods could be appropriate or aid understanding your process. A visual reference readers can easily return to, like a flow-diagram, decision-tree, or checklist, can help readers to better understand the complete article, not just the methods section.

Ethical Considerations

In addition to describing what you did, it is just as important to assure readers that you also followed all relevant ethical guidelines when conducting your research. While ethical standards and reporting guidelines are often presented in a separate section of a paper, ensure that your methods and protocols actually follow these guidelines. Read more about ethics .

Existing standards, checklists, guidelines, partners

While the level of detail contained in a methods section should be guided by the universal principles of rigorous science outlined above, various disciplines, fields, and projects have worked hard to design and develop consistent standards, guidelines, and tools to help with reporting all types of experiment. Below, you’ll find some of the key initiatives. Ensure you read the submission guidelines for the specific journal you are submitting to, in order to discover any further journal- or field-specific policies to follow, or initiatives/tools to utilize.

Tip: Keep your paper moving forward by providing the proper paperwork up front

Be sure to check the journal guidelines and provide the necessary documents with your manuscript submission. Collecting the necessary documentation can greatly slow the first round of peer review, or cause delays when you submit your revision.

Randomized Controlled Trials – CONSORT The Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) project covers various initiatives intended to prevent the problems of  inadequate reporting of randomized controlled trials. The primary initiative is an evidence-based minimum set of recommendations for reporting randomized trials known as the CONSORT Statement . 

Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses – PRISMA The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses ( PRISMA ) is an evidence-based minimum set of items focusing  on the reporting of  reviews evaluating randomized trials and other types of research.

Research using Animals – ARRIVE The Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments ( ARRIVE ) guidelines encourage maximizing the information reported in research using animals thereby minimizing unnecessary studies. (Original study and proposal , and updated guidelines , in PLOS Biology .) 

Laboratory Protocols Protocols.io has developed a platform specifically for the sharing and updating of laboratory protocols , which are assigned their own DOI and can be linked from methods sections of papers to enhance reproducibility. Contextualize your protocol and improve discovery with an accompanying Lab Protocol article in PLOS ONE .

Consistent reporting of Materials, Design, and Analysis – the MDAR checklist A cross-publisher group of editors and experts have developed, tested, and rolled out a checklist to help establish and harmonize reporting standards in the Life Sciences . The checklist , which is available for use by authors to compile their methods, and editors/reviewers to check methods, establishes a minimum set of requirements in transparent reporting and is adaptable to any discipline within the Life Sciences, by covering a breadth of potentially relevant methodological items and considerations. If you are in the Life Sciences and writing up your methods section, try working through the MDAR checklist and see whether it helps you include all relevant details into your methods, and whether it reminded you of anything you might have missed otherwise.

Summary Writing tips

The main challenge you may find when writing your methods is keeping it readable AND covering all the details needed for reproducibility and replicability. While this is difficult, do not compromise on rigorous standards for credibility!

methodology summary for research

  • Keep in mind future replicability, alongside understanding and readability.
  • Follow checklists, and field- and journal-specific guidelines.
  • Consider a commitment to rigorous and transparent science a personal responsibility, and not just adhering to journal guidelines.
  • Establish whether there are persistent identifiers for any research resources you use that can be specifically cited in your methods section.
  • Deposit your laboratory protocols in Protocols.io, establishing a permanent link to them. You can update your protocols later if you improve on them, as can future scientists who follow your protocols.
  • Consider visual aids like flow-diagrams, lists, to help with reading other sections of the paper.
  • Be specific about all decisions made during the experiments that someone reproducing your work would need to know.

methodology summary for research


  • Summarize or abbreviate methods without giving full details in a discoverable supplemental section.
  • Presume you will always be able to remember how you performed the experiments, or have access to private or institutional notebooks and resources.
  • Attempt to hide constraints or non-optimal decisions you had to make–transparency is the key to ensuring the credibility of your research.
  • How to Write a Great Title
  • How to Write an Abstract
  • How to Report Statistics
  • How to Write Discussions and Conclusions
  • How to Edit Your Work

The contents of the Peer Review Center are also available as a live, interactive training session, complete with slides, talking points, and activities. …

The contents of the Writing Center are also available as a live, interactive training session, complete with slides, talking points, and activities. …

There’s a lot to consider when deciding where to submit your work. Learn how to choose a journal that will help your study reach its audience, while reflecting your values as a researcher…

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What is Research Methodology? Definition, Types, and Examples

methodology summary for research

Research methodology 1,2 is a structured and scientific approach used to collect, analyze, and interpret quantitative or qualitative data to answer research questions or test hypotheses. A research methodology is like a plan for carrying out research and helps keep researchers on track by limiting the scope of the research. Several aspects must be considered before selecting an appropriate research methodology, such as research limitations and ethical concerns that may affect your research.

The research methodology section in a scientific paper describes the different methodological choices made, such as the data collection and analysis methods, and why these choices were selected. The reasons should explain why the methods chosen are the most appropriate to answer the research question. A good research methodology also helps ensure the reliability and validity of the research findings. There are three types of research methodology—quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method, which can be chosen based on the research objectives.

What is research methodology ?

A research methodology describes the techniques and procedures used to identify and analyze information regarding a specific research topic. It is a process by which researchers design their study so that they can achieve their objectives using the selected research instruments. It includes all the important aspects of research, including research design, data collection methods, data analysis methods, and the overall framework within which the research is conducted. While these points can help you understand what is research methodology, you also need to know why it is important to pick the right methodology.

Why is research methodology important?

Having a good research methodology in place has the following advantages: 3

  • Helps other researchers who may want to replicate your research; the explanations will be of benefit to them.
  • You can easily answer any questions about your research if they arise at a later stage.
  • A research methodology provides a framework and guidelines for researchers to clearly define research questions, hypotheses, and objectives.
  • It helps researchers identify the most appropriate research design, sampling technique, and data collection and analysis methods.
  • A sound research methodology helps researchers ensure that their findings are valid and reliable and free from biases and errors.
  • It also helps ensure that ethical guidelines are followed while conducting research.
  • A good research methodology helps researchers in planning their research efficiently, by ensuring optimum usage of their time and resources.

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Types of research methodology.

There are three types of research methodology based on the type of research and the data required. 1

  • Quantitative research methodology focuses on measuring and testing numerical data. This approach is good for reaching a large number of people in a short amount of time. This type of research helps in testing the causal relationships between variables, making predictions, and generalizing results to wider populations.
  • Qualitative research methodology examines the opinions, behaviors, and experiences of people. It collects and analyzes words and textual data. This research methodology requires fewer participants but is still more time consuming because the time spent per participant is quite large. This method is used in exploratory research where the research problem being investigated is not clearly defined.
  • Mixed-method research methodology uses the characteristics of both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies in the same study. This method allows researchers to validate their findings, verify if the results observed using both methods are complementary, and explain any unexpected results obtained from one method by using the other method.

What are the types of sampling designs in research methodology?

Sampling 4 is an important part of a research methodology and involves selecting a representative sample of the population to conduct the study, making statistical inferences about them, and estimating the characteristics of the whole population based on these inferences. There are two types of sampling designs in research methodology—probability and nonprobability.

  • Probability sampling

In this type of sampling design, a sample is chosen from a larger population using some form of random selection, that is, every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. The different types of probability sampling are:

  • Systematic —sample members are chosen at regular intervals. It requires selecting a starting point for the sample and sample size determination that can be repeated at regular intervals. This type of sampling method has a predefined range; hence, it is the least time consuming.
  • Stratified —researchers divide the population into smaller groups that don’t overlap but represent the entire population. While sampling, these groups can be organized, and then a sample can be drawn from each group separately.
  • Cluster —the population is divided into clusters based on demographic parameters like age, sex, location, etc.
  • Convenience —selects participants who are most easily accessible to researchers due to geographical proximity, availability at a particular time, etc.
  • Purposive —participants are selected at the researcher’s discretion. Researchers consider the purpose of the study and the understanding of the target audience.
  • Snowball —already selected participants use their social networks to refer the researcher to other potential participants.
  • Quota —while designing the study, the researchers decide how many people with which characteristics to include as participants. The characteristics help in choosing people most likely to provide insights into the subject.

What are data collection methods?

During research, data are collected using various methods depending on the research methodology being followed and the research methods being undertaken. Both qualitative and quantitative research have different data collection methods, as listed below.

Qualitative research 5

  • One-on-one interviews: Helps the interviewers understand a respondent’s subjective opinion and experience pertaining to a specific topic or event
  • Document study/literature review/record keeping: Researchers’ review of already existing written materials such as archives, annual reports, research articles, guidelines, policy documents, etc.
  • Focus groups: Constructive discussions that usually include a small sample of about 6-10 people and a moderator, to understand the participants’ opinion on a given topic.
  • Qualitative observation : Researchers collect data using their five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing).

Quantitative research 6

  • Sampling: The most common type is probability sampling.
  • Interviews: Commonly telephonic or done in-person.
  • Observations: Structured observations are most commonly used in quantitative research. In this method, researchers make observations about specific behaviors of individuals in a structured setting.
  • Document review: Reviewing existing research or documents to collect evidence for supporting the research.
  • Surveys and questionnaires. Surveys can be administered both online and offline depending on the requirement and sample size.

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What are data analysis methods.

The data collected using the various methods for qualitative and quantitative research need to be analyzed to generate meaningful conclusions. These data analysis methods 7 also differ between quantitative and qualitative research.

Quantitative research involves a deductive method for data analysis where hypotheses are developed at the beginning of the research and precise measurement is required. The methods include statistical analysis applications to analyze numerical data and are grouped into two categories—descriptive and inferential.

Descriptive analysis is used to describe the basic features of different types of data to present it in a way that ensures the patterns become meaningful. The different types of descriptive analysis methods are:

  • Measures of frequency (count, percent, frequency)
  • Measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode)
  • Measures of dispersion or variation (range, variance, standard deviation)
  • Measure of position (percentile ranks, quartile ranks)

Inferential analysis is used to make predictions about a larger population based on the analysis of the data collected from a smaller population. This analysis is used to study the relationships between different variables. Some commonly used inferential data analysis methods are:

  • Correlation: To understand the relationship between two or more variables.
  • Cross-tabulation: Analyze the relationship between multiple variables.
  • Regression analysis: Study the impact of independent variables on the dependent variable.
  • Frequency tables: To understand the frequency of data.
  • Analysis of variance: To test the degree to which two or more variables differ in an experiment.

Qualitative research involves an inductive method for data analysis where hypotheses are developed after data collection. The methods include:

  • Content analysis: For analyzing documented information from text and images by determining the presence of certain words or concepts in texts.
  • Narrative analysis: For analyzing content obtained from sources such as interviews, field observations, and surveys. The stories and opinions shared by people are used to answer research questions.
  • Discourse analysis: For analyzing interactions with people considering the social context, that is, the lifestyle and environment, under which the interaction occurs.
  • Grounded theory: Involves hypothesis creation by data collection and analysis to explain why a phenomenon occurred.
  • Thematic analysis: To identify important themes or patterns in data and use these to address an issue.

How to choose a research methodology?

Here are some important factors to consider when choosing a research methodology: 8

  • Research objectives, aims, and questions —these would help structure the research design.
  • Review existing literature to identify any gaps in knowledge.
  • Check the statistical requirements —if data-driven or statistical results are needed then quantitative research is the best. If the research questions can be answered based on people’s opinions and perceptions, then qualitative research is most suitable.
  • Sample size —sample size can often determine the feasibility of a research methodology. For a large sample, less effort- and time-intensive methods are appropriate.
  • Constraints —constraints of time, geography, and resources can help define the appropriate methodology.

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How to write a research methodology .

A research methodology should include the following components: 3,9

  • Research design —should be selected based on the research question and the data required. Common research designs include experimental, quasi-experimental, correlational, descriptive, and exploratory.
  • Research method —this can be quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method.
  • Reason for selecting a specific methodology —explain why this methodology is the most suitable to answer your research problem.
  • Research instruments —explain the research instruments you plan to use, mainly referring to the data collection methods such as interviews, surveys, etc. Here as well, a reason should be mentioned for selecting the particular instrument.
  • Sampling —this involves selecting a representative subset of the population being studied.
  • Data collection —involves gathering data using several data collection methods, such as surveys, interviews, etc.
  • Data analysis —describe the data analysis methods you will use once you’ve collected the data.
  • Research limitations —mention any limitations you foresee while conducting your research.
  • Validity and reliability —validity helps identify the accuracy and truthfulness of the findings; reliability refers to the consistency and stability of the results over time and across different conditions.
  • Ethical considerations —research should be conducted ethically. The considerations include obtaining consent from participants, maintaining confidentiality, and addressing conflicts of interest.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the key components of research methodology?

A1. A good research methodology has the following key components:

  • Research design
  • Data collection procedures
  • Data analysis methods
  • Ethical considerations

Q2. Why is ethical consideration important in research methodology?

A2. Ethical consideration is important in research methodology to ensure the readers of the reliability and validity of the study. Researchers must clearly mention the ethical norms and standards followed during the conduct of the research and also mention if the research has been cleared by any institutional board. The following 10 points are the important principles related to ethical considerations: 10

  • Participants should not be subjected to harm.
  • Respect for the dignity of participants should be prioritized.
  • Full consent should be obtained from participants before the study.
  • Participants’ privacy should be ensured.
  • Confidentiality of the research data should be ensured.
  • Anonymity of individuals and organizations participating in the research should be maintained.
  • The aims and objectives of the research should not be exaggerated.
  • Affiliations, sources of funding, and any possible conflicts of interest should be declared.
  • Communication in relation to the research should be honest and transparent.
  • Misleading information and biased representation of primary data findings should be avoided.

Q3. What is the difference between methodology and method?

A3. Research methodology is different from a research method, although both terms are often confused. Research methods are the tools used to gather data, while the research methodology provides a framework for how research is planned, conducted, and analyzed. The latter guides researchers in making decisions about the most appropriate methods for their research. Research methods refer to the specific techniques, procedures, and tools used by researchers to collect, analyze, and interpret data, for instance surveys, questionnaires, interviews, etc.

Research methodology is, thus, an integral part of a research study. It helps ensure that you stay on track to meet your research objectives and answer your research questions using the most appropriate data collection and analysis tools based on your research design.

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  • Research methodologies. Pfeiffer Library website. Accessed August 15, 2023. https://library.tiffin.edu/researchmethodologies/whatareresearchmethodologies
  • Types of research methodology. Eduvoice website. Accessed August 16, 2023. https://eduvoice.in/types-research-methodology/
  • The basics of research methodology: A key to quality research. Voxco. Accessed August 16, 2023. https://www.voxco.com/blog/what-is-research-methodology/
  • Sampling methods: Types with examples. QuestionPro website. Accessed August 16, 2023. https://www.questionpro.com/blog/types-of-sampling-for-social-research/
  • What is qualitative research? Methods, types, approaches, examples. Researcher.Life blog. Accessed August 15, 2023. https://researcher.life/blog/article/what-is-qualitative-research-methods-types-examples/
  • What is quantitative research? Definition, methods, types, and examples. Researcher.Life blog. Accessed August 15, 2023. https://researcher.life/blog/article/what-is-quantitative-research-types-and-examples/
  • Data analysis in research: Types & methods. QuestionPro website. Accessed August 16, 2023. https://www.questionpro.com/blog/data-analysis-in-research/#Data_analysis_in_qualitative_research
  • Factors to consider while choosing the right research methodology. PhD Monster website. Accessed August 17, 2023. https://www.phdmonster.com/factors-to-consider-while-choosing-the-right-research-methodology/
  • What is research methodology? Research and writing guides. Accessed August 14, 2023. https://paperpile.com/g/what-is-research-methodology/
  • Ethical considerations. Business research methodology website. Accessed August 17, 2023. https://research-methodology.net/research-methodology/ethical-considerations/

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A tutorial on methodological studies: the what, when, how and why

Lawrence mbuagbaw.

1 Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON Canada

2 Biostatistics Unit/FSORC, 50 Charlton Avenue East, St Joseph’s Healthcare—Hamilton, 3rd Floor Martha Wing, Room H321, Hamilton, Ontario L8N 4A6 Canada

3 Centre for the Development of Best Practices in Health, Yaoundé, Cameroon

Daeria O. Lawson

Livia puljak.

4 Center for Evidence-Based Medicine and Health Care, Catholic University of Croatia, Ilica 242, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia

David B. Allison

5 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health – Bloomington, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405 USA

Lehana Thabane

6 Departments of Paediatrics and Anaesthesia, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON Canada

7 Centre for Evaluation of Medicine, St. Joseph’s Healthcare-Hamilton, Hamilton, ON Canada

8 Population Health Research Institute, Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton, ON Canada

Associated Data

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analyzed in this study.

Methodological studies – studies that evaluate the design, analysis or reporting of other research-related reports – play an important role in health research. They help to highlight issues in the conduct of research with the aim of improving health research methodology, and ultimately reducing research waste.

We provide an overview of some of the key aspects of methodological studies such as what they are, and when, how and why they are done. We adopt a “frequently asked questions” format to facilitate reading this paper and provide multiple examples to help guide researchers interested in conducting methodological studies. Some of the topics addressed include: is it necessary to publish a study protocol? How to select relevant research reports and databases for a methodological study? What approaches to data extraction and statistical analysis should be considered when conducting a methodological study? What are potential threats to validity and is there a way to appraise the quality of methodological studies?

Appropriate reflection and application of basic principles of epidemiology and biostatistics are required in the design and analysis of methodological studies. This paper provides an introduction for further discussion about the conduct of methodological studies.

The field of meta-research (or research-on-research) has proliferated in recent years in response to issues with research quality and conduct [ 1 – 3 ]. As the name suggests, this field targets issues with research design, conduct, analysis and reporting. Various types of research reports are often examined as the unit of analysis in these studies (e.g. abstracts, full manuscripts, trial registry entries). Like many other novel fields of research, meta-research has seen a proliferation of use before the development of reporting guidance. For example, this was the case with randomized trials for which risk of bias tools and reporting guidelines were only developed much later – after many trials had been published and noted to have limitations [ 4 , 5 ]; and for systematic reviews as well [ 6 – 8 ]. However, in the absence of formal guidance, studies that report on research differ substantially in how they are named, conducted and reported [ 9 , 10 ]. This creates challenges in identifying, summarizing and comparing them. In this tutorial paper, we will use the term methodological study to refer to any study that reports on the design, conduct, analysis or reporting of primary or secondary research-related reports (such as trial registry entries and conference abstracts).

In the past 10 years, there has been an increase in the use of terms related to methodological studies (based on records retrieved with a keyword search [in the title and abstract] for “methodological review” and “meta-epidemiological study” in PubMed up to December 2019), suggesting that these studies may be appearing more frequently in the literature. See Fig.  1 .

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is 12874_2020_1107_Fig1_HTML.jpg

Trends in the number studies that mention “methodological review” or “meta-

epidemiological study” in PubMed.

The methods used in many methodological studies have been borrowed from systematic and scoping reviews. This practice has influenced the direction of the field, with many methodological studies including searches of electronic databases, screening of records, duplicate data extraction and assessments of risk of bias in the included studies. However, the research questions posed in methodological studies do not always require the approaches listed above, and guidance is needed on when and how to apply these methods to a methodological study. Even though methodological studies can be conducted on qualitative or mixed methods research, this paper focuses on and draws examples exclusively from quantitative research.

The objectives of this paper are to provide some insights on how to conduct methodological studies so that there is greater consistency between the research questions posed, and the design, analysis and reporting of findings. We provide multiple examples to illustrate concepts and a proposed framework for categorizing methodological studies in quantitative research.

What is a methodological study?

Any study that describes or analyzes methods (design, conduct, analysis or reporting) in published (or unpublished) literature is a methodological study. Consequently, the scope of methodological studies is quite extensive and includes, but is not limited to, topics as diverse as: research question formulation [ 11 ]; adherence to reporting guidelines [ 12 – 14 ] and consistency in reporting [ 15 ]; approaches to study analysis [ 16 ]; investigating the credibility of analyses [ 17 ]; and studies that synthesize these methodological studies [ 18 ]. While the nomenclature of methodological studies is not uniform, the intents and purposes of these studies remain fairly consistent – to describe or analyze methods in primary or secondary studies. As such, methodological studies may also be classified as a subtype of observational studies.

Parallel to this are experimental studies that compare different methods. Even though they play an important role in informing optimal research methods, experimental methodological studies are beyond the scope of this paper. Examples of such studies include the randomized trials by Buscemi et al., comparing single data extraction to double data extraction [ 19 ], and Carrasco-Labra et al., comparing approaches to presenting findings in Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations (GRADE) summary of findings tables [ 20 ]. In these studies, the unit of analysis is the person or groups of individuals applying the methods. We also direct readers to the Studies Within a Trial (SWAT) and Studies Within a Review (SWAR) programme operated through the Hub for Trials Methodology Research, for further reading as a potential useful resource for these types of experimental studies [ 21 ]. Lastly, this paper is not meant to inform the conduct of research using computational simulation and mathematical modeling for which some guidance already exists [ 22 ], or studies on the development of methods using consensus-based approaches.

When should we conduct a methodological study?

Methodological studies occupy a unique niche in health research that allows them to inform methodological advances. Methodological studies should also be conducted as pre-cursors to reporting guideline development, as they provide an opportunity to understand current practices, and help to identify the need for guidance and gaps in methodological or reporting quality. For example, the development of the popular Preferred Reporting Items of Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were preceded by methodological studies identifying poor reporting practices [ 23 , 24 ]. In these instances, after the reporting guidelines are published, methodological studies can also be used to monitor uptake of the guidelines.

These studies can also be conducted to inform the state of the art for design, analysis and reporting practices across different types of health research fields, with the aim of improving research practices, and preventing or reducing research waste. For example, Samaan et al. conducted a scoping review of adherence to different reporting guidelines in health care literature [ 18 ]. Methodological studies can also be used to determine the factors associated with reporting practices. For example, Abbade et al. investigated journal characteristics associated with the use of the Participants, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, Timeframe (PICOT) format in framing research questions in trials of venous ulcer disease [ 11 ].

How often are methodological studies conducted?

There is no clear answer to this question. Based on a search of PubMed, the use of related terms (“methodological review” and “meta-epidemiological study”) – and therefore, the number of methodological studies – is on the rise. However, many other terms are used to describe methodological studies. There are also many studies that explore design, conduct, analysis or reporting of research reports, but that do not use any specific terms to describe or label their study design in terms of “methodology”. This diversity in nomenclature makes a census of methodological studies elusive. Appropriate terminology and key words for methodological studies are needed to facilitate improved accessibility for end-users.

Why do we conduct methodological studies?

Methodological studies provide information on the design, conduct, analysis or reporting of primary and secondary research and can be used to appraise quality, quantity, completeness, accuracy and consistency of health research. These issues can be explored in specific fields, journals, databases, geographical regions and time periods. For example, Areia et al. explored the quality of reporting of endoscopic diagnostic studies in gastroenterology [ 25 ]; Knol et al. investigated the reporting of p -values in baseline tables in randomized trial published in high impact journals [ 26 ]; Chen et al. describe adherence to the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement in Chinese Journals [ 27 ]; and Hopewell et al. describe the effect of editors’ implementation of CONSORT guidelines on reporting of abstracts over time [ 28 ]. Methodological studies provide useful information to researchers, clinicians, editors, publishers and users of health literature. As a result, these studies have been at the cornerstone of important methodological developments in the past two decades and have informed the development of many health research guidelines including the highly cited CONSORT statement [ 5 ].

Where can we find methodological studies?

Methodological studies can be found in most common biomedical bibliographic databases (e.g. Embase, MEDLINE, PubMed, Web of Science). However, the biggest caveat is that methodological studies are hard to identify in the literature due to the wide variety of names used and the lack of comprehensive databases dedicated to them. A handful can be found in the Cochrane Library as “Cochrane Methodology Reviews”, but these studies only cover methodological issues related to systematic reviews. Previous attempts to catalogue all empirical studies of methods used in reviews were abandoned 10 years ago [ 29 ]. In other databases, a variety of search terms may be applied with different levels of sensitivity and specificity.

Some frequently asked questions about methodological studies

In this section, we have outlined responses to questions that might help inform the conduct of methodological studies.

Q: How should I select research reports for my methodological study?

A: Selection of research reports for a methodological study depends on the research question and eligibility criteria. Once a clear research question is set and the nature of literature one desires to review is known, one can then begin the selection process. Selection may begin with a broad search, especially if the eligibility criteria are not apparent. For example, a methodological study of Cochrane Reviews of HIV would not require a complex search as all eligible studies can easily be retrieved from the Cochrane Library after checking a few boxes [ 30 ]. On the other hand, a methodological study of subgroup analyses in trials of gastrointestinal oncology would require a search to find such trials, and further screening to identify trials that conducted a subgroup analysis [ 31 ].

The strategies used for identifying participants in observational studies can apply here. One may use a systematic search to identify all eligible studies. If the number of eligible studies is unmanageable, a random sample of articles can be expected to provide comparable results if it is sufficiently large [ 32 ]. For example, Wilson et al. used a random sample of trials from the Cochrane Stroke Group’s Trial Register to investigate completeness of reporting [ 33 ]. It is possible that a simple random sample would lead to underrepresentation of units (i.e. research reports) that are smaller in number. This is relevant if the investigators wish to compare multiple groups but have too few units in one group. In this case a stratified sample would help to create equal groups. For example, in a methodological study comparing Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews, Kahale et al. drew random samples from both groups [ 34 ]. Alternatively, systematic or purposeful sampling strategies can be used and we encourage researchers to justify their selected approaches based on the study objective.

Q: How many databases should I search?

A: The number of databases one should search would depend on the approach to sampling, which can include targeting the entire “population” of interest or a sample of that population. If you are interested in including the entire target population for your research question, or drawing a random or systematic sample from it, then a comprehensive and exhaustive search for relevant articles is required. In this case, we recommend using systematic approaches for searching electronic databases (i.e. at least 2 databases with a replicable and time stamped search strategy). The results of your search will constitute a sampling frame from which eligible studies can be drawn.

Alternatively, if your approach to sampling is purposeful, then we recommend targeting the database(s) or data sources (e.g. journals, registries) that include the information you need. For example, if you are conducting a methodological study of high impact journals in plastic surgery and they are all indexed in PubMed, you likely do not need to search any other databases. You may also have a comprehensive list of all journals of interest and can approach your search using the journal names in your database search (or by accessing the journal archives directly from the journal’s website). Even though one could also search journals’ web pages directly, using a database such as PubMed has multiple advantages, such as the use of filters, so the search can be narrowed down to a certain period, or study types of interest. Furthermore, individual journals’ web sites may have different search functionalities, which do not necessarily yield a consistent output.

Q: Should I publish a protocol for my methodological study?

A: A protocol is a description of intended research methods. Currently, only protocols for clinical trials require registration [ 35 ]. Protocols for systematic reviews are encouraged but no formal recommendation exists. The scientific community welcomes the publication of protocols because they help protect against selective outcome reporting, the use of post hoc methodologies to embellish results, and to help avoid duplication of efforts [ 36 ]. While the latter two risks exist in methodological research, the negative consequences may be substantially less than for clinical outcomes. In a sample of 31 methodological studies, 7 (22.6%) referenced a published protocol [ 9 ]. In the Cochrane Library, there are 15 protocols for methodological reviews (21 July 2020). This suggests that publishing protocols for methodological studies is not uncommon.

Authors can consider publishing their study protocol in a scholarly journal as a manuscript. Advantages of such publication include obtaining peer-review feedback about the planned study, and easy retrieval by searching databases such as PubMed. The disadvantages in trying to publish protocols includes delays associated with manuscript handling and peer review, as well as costs, as few journals publish study protocols, and those journals mostly charge article-processing fees [ 37 ]. Authors who would like to make their protocol publicly available without publishing it in scholarly journals, could deposit their study protocols in publicly available repositories, such as the Open Science Framework ( https://osf.io/ ).

Q: How to appraise the quality of a methodological study?

A: To date, there is no published tool for appraising the risk of bias in a methodological study, but in principle, a methodological study could be considered as a type of observational study. Therefore, during conduct or appraisal, care should be taken to avoid the biases common in observational studies [ 38 ]. These biases include selection bias, comparability of groups, and ascertainment of exposure or outcome. In other words, to generate a representative sample, a comprehensive reproducible search may be necessary to build a sampling frame. Additionally, random sampling may be necessary to ensure that all the included research reports have the same probability of being selected, and the screening and selection processes should be transparent and reproducible. To ensure that the groups compared are similar in all characteristics, matching, random sampling or stratified sampling can be used. Statistical adjustments for between-group differences can also be applied at the analysis stage. Finally, duplicate data extraction can reduce errors in assessment of exposures or outcomes.

Q: Should I justify a sample size?

A: In all instances where one is not using the target population (i.e. the group to which inferences from the research report are directed) [ 39 ], a sample size justification is good practice. The sample size justification may take the form of a description of what is expected to be achieved with the number of articles selected, or a formal sample size estimation that outlines the number of articles required to answer the research question with a certain precision and power. Sample size justifications in methodological studies are reasonable in the following instances:

  • Comparing two groups
  • Determining a proportion, mean or another quantifier
  • Determining factors associated with an outcome using regression-based analyses

For example, El Dib et al. computed a sample size requirement for a methodological study of diagnostic strategies in randomized trials, based on a confidence interval approach [ 40 ].

Q: What should I call my study?

A: Other terms which have been used to describe/label methodological studies include “ methodological review ”, “methodological survey” , “meta-epidemiological study” , “systematic review” , “systematic survey”, “meta-research”, “research-on-research” and many others. We recommend that the study nomenclature be clear, unambiguous, informative and allow for appropriate indexing. Methodological study nomenclature that should be avoided includes “ systematic review” – as this will likely be confused with a systematic review of a clinical question. “ Systematic survey” may also lead to confusion about whether the survey was systematic (i.e. using a preplanned methodology) or a survey using “ systematic” sampling (i.e. a sampling approach using specific intervals to determine who is selected) [ 32 ]. Any of the above meanings of the words “ systematic” may be true for methodological studies and could be potentially misleading. “ Meta-epidemiological study” is ideal for indexing, but not very informative as it describes an entire field. The term “ review ” may point towards an appraisal or “review” of the design, conduct, analysis or reporting (or methodological components) of the targeted research reports, yet it has also been used to describe narrative reviews [ 41 , 42 ]. The term “ survey ” is also in line with the approaches used in many methodological studies [ 9 ], and would be indicative of the sampling procedures of this study design. However, in the absence of guidelines on nomenclature, the term “ methodological study ” is broad enough to capture most of the scenarios of such studies.

Q: Should I account for clustering in my methodological study?

A: Data from methodological studies are often clustered. For example, articles coming from a specific source may have different reporting standards (e.g. the Cochrane Library). Articles within the same journal may be similar due to editorial practices and policies, reporting requirements and endorsement of guidelines. There is emerging evidence that these are real concerns that should be accounted for in analyses [ 43 ]. Some cluster variables are described in the section: “ What variables are relevant to methodological studies?”

A variety of modelling approaches can be used to account for correlated data, including the use of marginal, fixed or mixed effects regression models with appropriate computation of standard errors [ 44 ]. For example, Kosa et al. used generalized estimation equations to account for correlation of articles within journals [ 15 ]. Not accounting for clustering could lead to incorrect p -values, unduly narrow confidence intervals, and biased estimates [ 45 ].

Q: Should I extract data in duplicate?

A: Yes. Duplicate data extraction takes more time but results in less errors [ 19 ]. Data extraction errors in turn affect the effect estimate [ 46 ], and therefore should be mitigated. Duplicate data extraction should be considered in the absence of other approaches to minimize extraction errors. However, much like systematic reviews, this area will likely see rapid new advances with machine learning and natural language processing technologies to support researchers with screening and data extraction [ 47 , 48 ]. However, experience plays an important role in the quality of extracted data and inexperienced extractors should be paired with experienced extractors [ 46 , 49 ].

Q: Should I assess the risk of bias of research reports included in my methodological study?

A : Risk of bias is most useful in determining the certainty that can be placed in the effect measure from a study. In methodological studies, risk of bias may not serve the purpose of determining the trustworthiness of results, as effect measures are often not the primary goal of methodological studies. Determining risk of bias in methodological studies is likely a practice borrowed from systematic review methodology, but whose intrinsic value is not obvious in methodological studies. When it is part of the research question, investigators often focus on one aspect of risk of bias. For example, Speich investigated how blinding was reported in surgical trials [ 50 ], and Abraha et al., investigated the application of intention-to-treat analyses in systematic reviews and trials [ 51 ].

Q: What variables are relevant to methodological studies?

A: There is empirical evidence that certain variables may inform the findings in a methodological study. We outline some of these and provide a brief overview below:

  • Country: Countries and regions differ in their research cultures, and the resources available to conduct research. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that there may be differences in methodological features across countries. Methodological studies have reported loco-regional differences in reporting quality [ 52 , 53 ]. This may also be related to challenges non-English speakers face in publishing papers in English.
  • Authors’ expertise: The inclusion of authors with expertise in research methodology, biostatistics, and scientific writing is likely to influence the end-product. Oltean et al. found that among randomized trials in orthopaedic surgery, the use of analyses that accounted for clustering was more likely when specialists (e.g. statistician, epidemiologist or clinical trials methodologist) were included on the study team [ 54 ]. Fleming et al. found that including methodologists in the review team was associated with appropriate use of reporting guidelines [ 55 ].
  • Source of funding and conflicts of interest: Some studies have found that funded studies report better [ 56 , 57 ], while others do not [ 53 , 58 ]. The presence of funding would indicate the availability of resources deployed to ensure optimal design, conduct, analysis and reporting. However, the source of funding may introduce conflicts of interest and warrant assessment. For example, Kaiser et al. investigated the effect of industry funding on obesity or nutrition randomized trials and found that reporting quality was similar [ 59 ]. Thomas et al. looked at reporting quality of long-term weight loss trials and found that industry funded studies were better [ 60 ]. Kan et al. examined the association between industry funding and “positive trials” (trials reporting a significant intervention effect) and found that industry funding was highly predictive of a positive trial [ 61 ]. This finding is similar to that of a recent Cochrane Methodology Review by Hansen et al. [ 62 ]
  • Journal characteristics: Certain journals’ characteristics may influence the study design, analysis or reporting. Characteristics such as journal endorsement of guidelines [ 63 , 64 ], and Journal Impact Factor (JIF) have been shown to be associated with reporting [ 63 , 65 – 67 ].
  • Study size (sample size/number of sites): Some studies have shown that reporting is better in larger studies [ 53 , 56 , 58 ].
  • Year of publication: It is reasonable to assume that design, conduct, analysis and reporting of research will change over time. Many studies have demonstrated improvements in reporting over time or after the publication of reporting guidelines [ 68 , 69 ].
  • Type of intervention: In a methodological study of reporting quality of weight loss intervention studies, Thabane et al. found that trials of pharmacologic interventions were reported better than trials of non-pharmacologic interventions [ 70 ].
  • Interactions between variables: Complex interactions between the previously listed variables are possible. High income countries with more resources may be more likely to conduct larger studies and incorporate a variety of experts. Authors in certain countries may prefer certain journals, and journal endorsement of guidelines and editorial policies may change over time.

Q: Should I focus only on high impact journals?

A: Investigators may choose to investigate only high impact journals because they are more likely to influence practice and policy, or because they assume that methodological standards would be higher. However, the JIF may severely limit the scope of articles included and may skew the sample towards articles with positive findings. The generalizability and applicability of findings from a handful of journals must be examined carefully, especially since the JIF varies over time. Even among journals that are all “high impact”, variations exist in methodological standards.

Q: Can I conduct a methodological study of qualitative research?

A: Yes. Even though a lot of methodological research has been conducted in the quantitative research field, methodological studies of qualitative studies are feasible. Certain databases that catalogue qualitative research including the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) have defined subject headings that are specific to methodological research (e.g. “research methodology”). Alternatively, one could also conduct a qualitative methodological review; that is, use qualitative approaches to synthesize methodological issues in qualitative studies.

Q: What reporting guidelines should I use for my methodological study?

A: There is no guideline that covers the entire scope of methodological studies. One adaptation of the PRISMA guidelines has been published, which works well for studies that aim to use the entire target population of research reports [ 71 ]. However, it is not widely used (40 citations in 2 years as of 09 December 2019), and methodological studies that are designed as cross-sectional or before-after studies require a more fit-for purpose guideline. A more encompassing reporting guideline for a broad range of methodological studies is currently under development [ 72 ]. However, in the absence of formal guidance, the requirements for scientific reporting should be respected, and authors of methodological studies should focus on transparency and reproducibility.

Q: What are the potential threats to validity and how can I avoid them?

A: Methodological studies may be compromised by a lack of internal or external validity. The main threats to internal validity in methodological studies are selection and confounding bias. Investigators must ensure that the methods used to select articles does not make them differ systematically from the set of articles to which they would like to make inferences. For example, attempting to make extrapolations to all journals after analyzing high-impact journals would be misleading.

Many factors (confounders) may distort the association between the exposure and outcome if the included research reports differ with respect to these factors [ 73 ]. For example, when examining the association between source of funding and completeness of reporting, it may be necessary to account for journals that endorse the guidelines. Confounding bias can be addressed by restriction, matching and statistical adjustment [ 73 ]. Restriction appears to be the method of choice for many investigators who choose to include only high impact journals or articles in a specific field. For example, Knol et al. examined the reporting of p -values in baseline tables of high impact journals [ 26 ]. Matching is also sometimes used. In the methodological study of non-randomized interventional studies of elective ventral hernia repair, Parker et al. matched prospective studies with retrospective studies and compared reporting standards [ 74 ]. Some other methodological studies use statistical adjustments. For example, Zhang et al. used regression techniques to determine the factors associated with missing participant data in trials [ 16 ].

With regard to external validity, researchers interested in conducting methodological studies must consider how generalizable or applicable their findings are. This should tie in closely with the research question and should be explicit. For example. Findings from methodological studies on trials published in high impact cardiology journals cannot be assumed to be applicable to trials in other fields. However, investigators must ensure that their sample truly represents the target sample either by a) conducting a comprehensive and exhaustive search, or b) using an appropriate and justified, randomly selected sample of research reports.

Even applicability to high impact journals may vary based on the investigators’ definition, and over time. For example, for high impact journals in the field of general medicine, Bouwmeester et al. included the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM), BMJ, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), and PLoS Medicine ( n  = 6) [ 75 ]. In contrast, the high impact journals selected in the methodological study by Schiller et al. were BMJ, JAMA, Lancet, and NEJM ( n  = 4) [ 76 ]. Another methodological study by Kosa et al. included AIM, BMJ, JAMA, Lancet and NEJM ( n  = 5). In the methodological study by Thabut et al., journals with a JIF greater than 5 were considered to be high impact. Riado Minguez et al. used first quartile journals in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) for a specific year to determine “high impact” [ 77 ]. Ultimately, the definition of high impact will be based on the number of journals the investigators are willing to include, the year of impact and the JIF cut-off [ 78 ]. We acknowledge that the term “generalizability” may apply differently for methodological studies, especially when in many instances it is possible to include the entire target population in the sample studied.

Finally, methodological studies are not exempt from information bias which may stem from discrepancies in the included research reports [ 79 ], errors in data extraction, or inappropriate interpretation of the information extracted. Likewise, publication bias may also be a concern in methodological studies, but such concepts have not yet been explored.

A proposed framework

In order to inform discussions about methodological studies, the development of guidance for what should be reported, we have outlined some key features of methodological studies that can be used to classify them. For each of the categories outlined below, we provide an example. In our experience, the choice of approach to completing a methodological study can be informed by asking the following four questions:

  • What is the aim?

A methodological study may be focused on exploring sources of bias in primary or secondary studies (meta-bias), or how bias is analyzed. We have taken care to distinguish bias (i.e. systematic deviations from the truth irrespective of the source) from reporting quality or completeness (i.e. not adhering to a specific reporting guideline or norm). An example of where this distinction would be important is in the case of a randomized trial with no blinding. This study (depending on the nature of the intervention) would be at risk of performance bias. However, if the authors report that their study was not blinded, they would have reported adequately. In fact, some methodological studies attempt to capture both “quality of conduct” and “quality of reporting”, such as Richie et al., who reported on the risk of bias in randomized trials of pharmacy practice interventions [ 80 ]. Babic et al. investigated how risk of bias was used to inform sensitivity analyses in Cochrane reviews [ 81 ]. Further, biases related to choice of outcomes can also be explored. For example, Tan et al investigated differences in treatment effect size based on the outcome reported [ 82 ].

Methodological studies may report quality of reporting against a reporting checklist (i.e. adherence to guidelines) or against expected norms. For example, Croituro et al. report on the quality of reporting in systematic reviews published in dermatology journals based on their adherence to the PRISMA statement [ 83 ], and Khan et al. described the quality of reporting of harms in randomized controlled trials published in high impact cardiovascular journals based on the CONSORT extension for harms [ 84 ]. Other methodological studies investigate reporting of certain features of interest that may not be part of formally published checklists or guidelines. For example, Mbuagbaw et al. described how often the implications for research are elaborated using the Evidence, Participants, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, Timeframe (EPICOT) format [ 30 ].

Sometimes investigators may be interested in how consistent reports of the same research are, as it is expected that there should be consistency between: conference abstracts and published manuscripts; manuscript abstracts and manuscript main text; and trial registration and published manuscript. For example, Rosmarakis et al. investigated consistency between conference abstracts and full text manuscripts [ 85 ].

In addition to identifying issues with reporting in primary and secondary studies, authors of methodological studies may be interested in determining the factors that are associated with certain reporting practices. Many methodological studies incorporate this, albeit as a secondary outcome. For example, Farrokhyar et al. investigated the factors associated with reporting quality in randomized trials of coronary artery bypass grafting surgery [ 53 ].

Methodological studies may also be used to describe methods or compare methods, and the factors associated with methods. Muller et al. described the methods used for systematic reviews and meta-analyses of observational studies [ 86 ].

Some methodological studies synthesize results from other methodological studies. For example, Li et al. conducted a scoping review of methodological reviews that investigated consistency between full text and abstracts in primary biomedical research [ 87 ].

Some methodological studies may investigate the use of names and terms in health research. For example, Martinic et al. investigated the definitions of systematic reviews used in overviews of systematic reviews (OSRs), meta-epidemiological studies and epidemiology textbooks [ 88 ].

In addition to the previously mentioned experimental methodological studies, there may exist other types of methodological studies not captured here.

  • 2. What is the design?

Most methodological studies are purely descriptive and report their findings as counts (percent) and means (standard deviation) or medians (interquartile range). For example, Mbuagbaw et al. described the reporting of research recommendations in Cochrane HIV systematic reviews [ 30 ]. Gohari et al. described the quality of reporting of randomized trials in diabetes in Iran [ 12 ].

Some methodological studies are analytical wherein “analytical studies identify and quantify associations, test hypotheses, identify causes and determine whether an association exists between variables, such as between an exposure and a disease.” [ 89 ] In the case of methodological studies all these investigations are possible. For example, Kosa et al. investigated the association between agreement in primary outcome from trial registry to published manuscript and study covariates. They found that larger and more recent studies were more likely to have agreement [ 15 ]. Tricco et al. compared the conclusion statements from Cochrane and non-Cochrane systematic reviews with a meta-analysis of the primary outcome and found that non-Cochrane reviews were more likely to report positive findings. These results are a test of the null hypothesis that the proportions of Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews that report positive results are equal [ 90 ].

  • 3. What is the sampling strategy?

Methodological reviews with narrow research questions may be able to include the entire target population. For example, in the methodological study of Cochrane HIV systematic reviews, Mbuagbaw et al. included all of the available studies ( n  = 103) [ 30 ].

Many methodological studies use random samples of the target population [ 33 , 91 , 92 ]. Alternatively, purposeful sampling may be used, limiting the sample to a subset of research-related reports published within a certain time period, or in journals with a certain ranking or on a topic. Systematic sampling can also be used when random sampling may be challenging to implement.

  • 4. What is the unit of analysis?

Many methodological studies use a research report (e.g. full manuscript of study, abstract portion of the study) as the unit of analysis, and inferences can be made at the study-level. However, both published and unpublished research-related reports can be studied. These may include articles, conference abstracts, registry entries etc.

Some methodological studies report on items which may occur more than once per article. For example, Paquette et al. report on subgroup analyses in Cochrane reviews of atrial fibrillation in which 17 systematic reviews planned 56 subgroup analyses [ 93 ].

This framework is outlined in Fig.  2 .

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is 12874_2020_1107_Fig2_HTML.jpg

A proposed framework for methodological studies


Methodological studies have examined different aspects of reporting such as quality, completeness, consistency and adherence to reporting guidelines. As such, many of the methodological study examples cited in this tutorial are related to reporting. However, as an evolving field, the scope of research questions that can be addressed by methodological studies is expected to increase.

In this paper we have outlined the scope and purpose of methodological studies, along with examples of instances in which various approaches have been used. In the absence of formal guidance on the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of methodological studies, we have provided some advice to help make methodological studies consistent. This advice is grounded in good contemporary scientific practice. Generally, the research question should tie in with the sampling approach and planned analysis. We have also highlighted the variables that may inform findings from methodological studies. Lastly, we have provided suggestions for ways in which authors can categorize their methodological studies to inform their design and analysis.


Abbreviations, authors’ contributions.

LM conceived the idea and drafted the outline and paper. DOL and LT commented on the idea and draft outline. LM, LP and DOL performed literature searches and data extraction. All authors (LM, DOL, LT, LP, DBA) reviewed several draft versions of the manuscript and approved the final manuscript.

This work did not receive any dedicated funding.

Availability of data and materials

Ethics approval and consent to participate.

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Competing interests.

DOL, DBA, LM, LP and LT are involved in the development of a reporting guideline for methodological studies.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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An executive summary is a thorough overview of a research report or other type of document that synthesizes key points for its readers, saving them time and preparing them to understand the study's overall content. It is a separate, stand-alone document of sufficient detail and clarity to ensure that the reader can completely understand the contents of the main research study. An executive summary can be anywhere from 1-10 pages long depending on the length of the report, or it can be the summary of more than one document [e.g., papers submitted for a group project].

Bailey, Edward, P. The Plain English Approach to Business Writing . (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 73-80 Todorovic, Zelimir William and Marietta Wolczacka Frye. “Writing Effective Executive Summaries: An Interdisciplinary Examination.” In United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Conference Proceedings . (Decatur, IL: United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 2009): pp. 662-691.

Importance of a Good Executive Summary

Although an executive summary is similar to an abstract in that they both summarize the contents of a research study, there are several key differences. With research abstracts, the author's recommendations are rarely included, or if they are, they are implicit rather than explicit. Recommendations are generally not stated in academic abstracts because scholars operate in a discursive environment, where debates, discussions, and dialogs are meant to precede the implementation of any new research findings. The conceptual nature of much academic writing also means that recommendations arising from the findings are distributed widely and not easily or usefully encapsulated. Executive summaries are used mainly when a research study has been developed for an organizational partner, funding entity, or other external group that participated in the research . In such cases, the research report and executive summary are often written for policy makers outside of academe, while abstracts are written for the academic community. Professors, therefore, assign the writing of executive summaries so students can practice synthesizing and writing about the contents of comprehensive research studies for external stakeholder groups.

When preparing to write, keep in mind that:

  • An executive summary is not an abstract.
  • An executive summary is not an introduction.
  • An executive summary is not a preface.
  • An executive summary is not a random collection of highlights.

Christensen, Jay. Executive Summaries Complete The Report. California State University Northridge; Clayton, John. "Writing an Executive Summary that Means Business." Harvard Management Communication Letter (July 2003): 2-4; Keller, Chuck. "Stay Healthy with a Winning Executive Summary." Technical Communication 41 (1994): 511-517; Murphy, Herta A., Herbert W. Hildebrandt, and Jane P. Thomas. Effective Business Communications . New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997; Vassallo, Philip. "Executive Summaries: Where Less Really is More." ETC.: A Review of General Semantics 60 (Spring 2003): 83-90 .

Structure and Writing Style

Writing an Executive Summary

Read the Entire Document This may go without saying, but it is critically important that you read the entire research study thoroughly from start to finish before you begin to write the executive summary. Take notes as you go along, highlighting important statements of fact, key findings, and recommended courses of action. This will better prepare you for how to organize and summarize the study. Remember this is not a brief abstract of 300 words or less but, essentially, a mini-paper of your paper, with a focus on recommendations.

Isolate the Major Points Within the Original Document Choose which parts of the document are the most important to those who will read it. These points must be included within the executive summary in order to provide a thorough and complete explanation of what the document is trying to convey.

Separate the Main Sections Closely examine each section of the original document and discern the main differences in each. After you have a firm understanding about what each section offers in respect to the other sections, write a few sentences for each section describing the main ideas. Although the format may vary, the main sections of an executive summary likely will include the following:

  • An opening statement, with brief background information,
  • The purpose of research study,
  • Method of data gathering and analysis,
  • Overview of findings, and,
  • A description of each recommendation, accompanied by a justification. Note that the recommendations are sometimes quoted verbatim from the research study.

Combine the Information Use the information gathered to combine them into an executive summary that is no longer than 10% of the original document. Be concise! The purpose is to provide a brief explanation of the entire document with a focus on the recommendations that have emerged from your research. How you word this will likely differ depending on your audience and what they care about most. If necessary, selectively incorporate bullet points for emphasis and brevity. Re-read your Executive Summary After you've completed your executive summary, let it sit for a while before coming back to re-read it. Check to make sure that the summary will make sense as a separate document from the full research study. By taking some time before re-reading it, you allow yourself to see the summary with fresh, unbiased eyes.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Length of the Executive Summary As a general rule, the correct length of an executive summary is that it meets the criteria of no more pages than 10% of the number of pages in the original document, with an upper limit of no more than ten pages [i.e., ten pages for a 100 page document]. This requirement keeps the document short enough to be read by your audience, but long enough to allow it to be a complete, stand-alone synopsis. Cutting and Pasting With the exception of specific recommendations made in the study, do not simply cut and paste whole sections of the original document into the executive summary. You should paraphrase information from the longer document. Avoid taking up space with excessive subtitles and lists, unless they are absolutely necessary for the reader to have a complete understanding of the original document. Consider the Audience Although unlikely to be required by your professor, there is the possibility that more than one executive summary will have to be written for a given document [e.g., one for policy-makers, one for private industry, one for philanthropists]. This may only necessitate the rewriting of the introduction and conclusion, but it could require rewriting the entire summary in order to fit the needs of the reader. If necessary, be sure to consider the types of audiences who may benefit from your study and make adjustments accordingly. Clarity in Writing One of the biggest mistakes you can make is related to the clarity of your executive summary. Always note that your audience [or audiences] are likely seeing your research study for the first time. The best way to avoid a disorganized or cluttered executive summary is to write it after the study is completed. Always follow the same strategies for proofreading that you would for any research paper. Use Strong and Positive Language Don’t weaken your executive summary with passive, imprecise language. The executive summary is a stand-alone document intended to convince the reader to make a decision concerning whether to implement the recommendations you make. Once convinced, it is assumed that the full document will provide the details needed to implement the recommendations. Although you should resist the temptation to pad your summary with pleas or biased statements, do pay particular attention to ensuring that a sense of urgency is created in the implications, recommendations, and conclusions presented in the executive summary. Be sure to target readers who are likely to implement the recommendations.

Bailey, Edward, P. The Plain English Approach to Business Writing . (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 73-80; Christensen, Jay. Executive Summaries Complete The Report. California State University Northridge; Executive Summaries. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Clayton, John. "Writing an Executive Summary That Means Business." Harvard Management Communication Letter , 2003; Executive Summary. University Writing Center. Texas A&M University;  Green, Duncan. Writing an Executive Summary.   Oxfam’s Research Guidelines series ; Guidelines for Writing an Executive Summary. Astia.org; Markowitz, Eric. How to Write an Executive Summary. Inc. Magazine, September, 15, 2010; Kawaski, Guy. The Art of the Executive Summary. "How to Change the World" blog; Keller, Chuck. "Stay Healthy with a Winning Executive Summary." Technical Communication 41 (1994): 511-517; The Report Abstract and Executive Summary. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing Executive Summaries. Effective Writing Center. University of Maryland; Kolin, Philip. Successful Writing at Work . 10th edition. (Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2013), p. 435-437; Moral, Mary. "Writing Recommendations and Executive Summaries." Keeping Good Companies 64 (June 2012): 274-278; Todorovic, Zelimir William and Marietta Wolczacka Frye. “Writing Effective Executive Summaries: An Interdisciplinary Examination.” In United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Conference Proceedings . (Decatur, IL: United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 2009): pp. 662-691.

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  • Published: 19 April 2024

Asparagine reduces the risk of schizophrenia: a bidirectional two-sample mendelian randomization study of aspartate, asparagine and schizophrenia

  • Huang-Hui Liu 1 , 2   na1 ,
  • Yao Gao 1 , 2   na1 ,
  • Dan Xu 1 , 2 ,
  • Xin-Zhe Du 1 , 2 ,
  • Si-Meng Wei 1 , 2 ,
  • Jian-Zhen Hu 1 , 2 ,
  • Yong Xu 1 , 2 &
  • Liu Sha 1 , 2  

BMC Psychiatry volume  24 , Article number:  299 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

208 Accesses

Metrics details

Despite ongoing research, the underlying causes of schizophrenia remain unclear. Aspartate and asparagine, essential amino acids, have been linked to schizophrenia in recent studies, but their causal relationship is still unclear. This study used a bidirectional two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) method to explore the causal relationship between aspartate and asparagine with schizophrenia.

This study employed summary data from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) conducted on European populations to examine the correlation between aspartate and asparagine with schizophrenia. In order to investigate the causal effects of aspartate and asparagine on schizophrenia, this study conducted a two-sample bidirectional MR analysis using genetic factors as instrumental variables.

No causal relationship was found between aspartate and schizophrenia, with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.221 (95%CI: 0.483–3.088, P -value = 0.674). Reverse MR analysis also indicated that no causal effects were found between schizophrenia and aspartate, with an OR of 0.999 (95%CI: 0.987–1.010, P -value = 0.841). There is a negative causal relationship between asparagine and schizophrenia, with an OR of 0.485 (95%CI: 0.262-0.900, P -value = 0.020). Reverse MR analysis indicates that there is no causal effect between schizophrenia and asparagine, with an OR of 1.005(95%CI: 0.999–1.011, P -value = 0.132).

This study suggests that there may be a potential risk reduction for schizophrenia with increased levels of asparagine, while also indicating the absence of a causal link between elevated or diminished levels of asparagine in individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. There is no potential causal relationship between aspartate and schizophrenia, whether prospective or reverse MR. However, it is important to note that these associations necessitate additional research for further validation.

Peer Review reports


Schizophrenia is a serious psychiatric illness that affects 0.5 -1% of the global population [ 1 ]. The burden of mental illness was estimated to account for 7% of all diseases worldwide in 2016, and nearly 20% of all years lived with disability [ 2 ]. The characteristics of schizophrenia are positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms, which are often severe functional impairments and significant social maladaptations for patients suffering from schizophrenia [ 3 ]. It is still unclear what causes schizophrenia and what the pathogenesis is. There are a number of hypotheses based on neurochemical mechanisms, including dopaminergic and glutamatergic systems [ 4 ]. Although schizophrenia research has made significant advances in the past, further insight into its mechanisms and causes is still needed.

Association genetics research and genome-wide association studies have successfully identified more than 24 candidate genes that serve as molecular biomarkers for the susceptibility to treatment- refractory schizophrenia (TRS). It is worth noting that some proteins in these genes are related to glutamate transfer, especially the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) [ 5 ]. It is thought that NMDARs are important for neural plasticity, which is the ability of the brain itself to adapt to new environments. With age, NMDAR function usually declines, which may lead to decreased plasticity, leading to learning and memory problems. Consequently, the manifestation of cognitive deficits observed in diverse pathologies, including Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and major depression, can be attributed to the dysfunction of NMDAR [ 4 ]. There are two enantiomers of aspartate (Asp): L and D [ 6 ]. In the brain, D-aspartate (D-Asp) stimulates glutamate receptors and dopaminergic neurons through its direct NMDAR agonist action [ 7 ]. According to the glutamate theory of Sch, glutamate NMDAR dysfunction is a primary contributor to the development of this psychiatric disorder and TRS [ 8 ]. It has been shown in two autopsy studies that D-Asp of prefrontal cortex neurons in patients with schizophrenia are significantly reduced, which is related to an increased expression of D-Asp oxidase [ 9 ] or an increased activity of D-Asp oxidase [ 10 ]. Several studies in animal models and humans have shown that D-amino acids, particularly D-Ser and D-Asp [ 11 ], are able to modulate several NMDAR-dependent processes, including synaptic plasticity, brain development, cognition and brain ageing [ 12 ]. In addition, D-Asp is synthesized in hippocampal and prefrontal cortex neurons, which play an important role in the development of schizophrenia [ 13 ]. It has been reported that the precursor substance of asparagine (Asn), aspartate, activates the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor [ 14 ]. Asparagine is essential for the survival of all cells [ 15 ], and it was decreased in schizophrenia patients [ 16 ]. Asparagine can cause metabolic disorders of alanine, aspartate, and glutamic acid, leading to dysfunction of the glutamine-glutamate cycle and further affecting it Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid(GABA) level [ 17 ].It is widely understood that the imbalance of GABA levels and NMDAR plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, causing neurotoxic effects, synaptic dysfunction, and cognitive impairments [ 18 ].Schizophrenic patients exhibited significantly higher levels of serum aspartate, glutamate, isoleucine, histidine and tyrosine and significantly lower concentrations of serum asparagine, tryptophan and serine [ 19 ]. Other studies have also shown that schizophrenics have higher levels of asparagine, phenylalanine, and cystine, and lower ratios of tyrosine, tryptophan, and tryptophan to competing amino acids, compared to healthy individuals [ 20 ]. Aspartate and asparagine’s association with schizophrenia is not fully understood, and their causal relationship remains unclear.

The MR method is a method that uses Mendelian independence principle to infer causality, which uses genetic variation to study the impact of exposure on outcomes. By using this approach, confounding factors in general research are overcome, and causal reasoning is provided on a reasonable temporal basis [ 21 ]. The instrumental variables for genetic variation that are chosen must adhere to three primary hypotheses: the correlation hypothesis, which posits a robust correlation between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and exposure factors; the independence hypothesis, which asserts that SNPs are not affected by various confounding factors; the exclusivity hypothesis, which maintains that SNPs solely influence outcomes through on exposure factors. In a recent study, Mendelian randomization was used to reveal a causal connection between thyroid function and schizophrenia [ 22 ]. According to another Mendelian randomization study, physical activity is causally related to schizophrenia [ 23 ]. Therefore, this study used Mendelian randomization method to explore the causal effects of aspartate on schizophrenia and asparagine on schizophrenia.

To elucidate the causal effects of aspartate and asparagine on schizophrenia. This study used bidirectional MR analysis. In the prospective analysis of MR, the exposure factors under consideration were aspartate and asparagine, while the outcome of interest was the risk of schizophrenia. On the contrary, in the reverse MR analysis, schizophrenia was utilized as the exposure factor, with aspartate and asparagine being chosen as the outcomes.

Materials and methods

Obtaining data sources, select genetic tools closely related to aspartate or asparagine.

In this research, publicly accessible GWAS summary statistical datasets from the MR basic platform were utilized. These datasets consisted of 7721 individuals of European ancestry [ 24 ] for the exposure phenotype instrumental variable of aspartate, and 7761 individuals of European ancestry [ 24 ] for the exposure phenotype instrumental variable of asparagine.

Select genetic tools closely related to schizophrenia

Data from the MR basic platform was used in this study for GWAS summary statistics, which included 77,096 individuals of European ancestry [ 5 ], as instrumental variables related to schizophrenia exposure phenotype.

Obtaining result data

The publicly accessible GWAS summary statistical dataset for schizophrenia was utilized on the MR basic platform, with a sample size of 77096. Additionally, the summary level data for aspartate and asparagine were obtained from the publicly available GWAS summary dataset on the MR basic platform, with sample sizes of 7721 and 7761, respectively, serving as outcome variables.

Instrumental variable filtering

Eliminating linkage disequilibrium.

The selection criteria for identifying exposure related SNPs from the aggregated data of GWAS include: (1) Reaching a significance level that meets the threshold for whole genome research, expressed as P -value < 5 * 10 − 6 [ 25 ]; (2) Ensure the independence of the selected SNPs and eliminate linkage disequilibrium SNPs ( r 2  < 0.001, window size of 10000KB) [ 26 ]; (3) There are corresponding data related to the research results in the GWAS summary data.

Eliminating weak instruments

To evaluate whether the instrumental variables selected for this MR study have weak values, we calculated the F-statistic. If the F-value is greater than 10, it indicates that there are no weak instruments in this study, indicating the reliability of the study. Using the formula F =[(N-K-1)/K] × [R 2 /(1-R 2 )], where N denotes the sample size pertaining to the exposure factor, K signifies the count of instrumental variables, and R 2 denotes the proportion of variations in the exposure factor that can be elucidated by the instrumental variables.

The final instrumental variable obtained

As a result of removing linkage disequilibrium and weak instrumental variables, finally, 3 SNPs related to aspartate and 24 SNPs related to asparagine were selected for MR analysis.

Bidirectional MR analysis

Research design.

Figure  1 presents a comprehensive depiction of the overarching design employed in the MR analysis undertaken in this study. We ascertained SNPs exhibiting robust correlation with the target exposure through analysis of publicly available published data, subsequently investigating the existence of a causal association between these SNPs and the corresponding outcomes. This study conducted two bidirectional MR analyses, one prospective and reverse MR on the causal relationship between aspartate and schizophrenia, and the other prospective and reverse MR on the causal relationship between asparagine and schizophrenia.

figure 1

A MR analysis of aspartate and schizophrenia (located in the upper left corner). B  MR analysis of schizophrenia and aspartate (located in the upper right corner). C  MR analysis of asparagine and schizophrenia (located in the lower left corner). D  MR analysis of schizophrenia and asparagine (located in the lower right corner)

Statistical analysis

Weighted median, weighted mode, MR Egger, and inverse variance weighting (IVW) were used to conduct a MR study. The primary research findings were derived from the results obtained through IVW, the results of sensitivity analysis using other methods to estimate causal effects are considered. Statistical significance was determined if the P -value was less than 0.05. To enhance the interpretation of the findings, this study converted the beta values obtained in to OR, accompanied by the calculation of a 95% confidence interval (CI).

Test for directional horizontal pleiotropy

This study used MR Egger intercept to test horizontal pleiotropy. If the P -value is greater than 0.05, it indicates that there is no horizontal pleiotropy in this study, meaning that instrumental variables can only regulate outcome variables through exposure factors.

Results of bidirectional MR analysis of aspartate and schizophrenia

Analysis results of aspartate and schizophrenia.

In prospective MR analysis, this study set aspartate as the exposure factor and schizophrenia as the outcome. We used 3 SNPs significantly associated with aspartate screened across the entire genome. The instrumental variables exhibited F-values exceeding 10, signifying the absence of weak instruments and thereby affirming the robustness of our findings. Through MR analysis (Fig.  2 A), we assessed the individual influence of each SNP locus on schizophrenia. The results of the IVW method indicate that no causal effect was found between aspartate and schizophrenia, with an OR of 1.221 (95%CI: 0.483–3.088, P -value = 0.674).

In addition, the analyses conducted using the weighted mode and weighted median methods yielded similar results, indicating the absence of a causal association between aspartate and schizophrenia. Furthermore, the MR Egger analysis demonstrated no statistically significant disparity in effectiveness between aspartate and schizophrenia, as evidenced by a P -value greater than 0.05 (Table  1 ; Fig.  2 B).

In order to test the reliability of the research results, this study used MR Egger intercept analysis to examine horizontal pleiotropy, and the result was P -value = 0.579 > 0.05, indicating the absence of level pleiotropy. Furthermore, a leave-one-out test was conducted to demonstrate that no single SNP had a substantial impact on the stability of the results, indicating that this study has considerable stability (Fig.  2 C). Accordingly, the MR analysis results demonstrate the conclusion that aspartate and schizophrenia do not exhibit a causal relationship.

Analysis results of schizophrenia and aspartate

Different from prospective MR studies, in reverse MR studies, schizophrenia was set as an exposure factor and aspartate was set as the outcome. Through MR analysis (Fig.  2 D), we assessed the individual influence of each SNP locus on aspartate .The results of the IVW method indicate that there is no causal effect between schizophrenia and aspartate, with an OR of 0.999(95%CI: 0.987–1.010, P -value = 0.841). Similarly, the weighted mode, weighted median methods also failed to demonstrate a causal link between schizophrenia and aspartate. Additionally, the MR Egger analysis did not reveal any statistically significant difference in effectiveness between schizophrenia and aspartate ( P -value > 0.05) (Table  1 and Fig . 2 E).

The MR Egger intercept was used to test horizontal pleiotropy, and the result was P -value = 0.226 > 0.05, proving that this study is not affected by horizontal pleiotropy. Furthermore, a leave-one-out test revealed that no individual SNP significantly influenced the robustness of the findings (Fig.  2 F).

figure 2

Depicts the causal association between aspartate and schizophrenia through diverse statistical analyses, as well as the causal association between schizophrenia and aspartate through diverse statistical analyses. A The forest plot of aspartate related SNPs and schizophrenia analysis results, with the red line showing the MR Egger test and IVW method. B  Scatter plot of the analysis results of aspartate and schizophrenia, with the slope indicating the strength of the causal relationship. C  Leave-one-out test of research results on aspartate and schizophrenia. D The forest plot of schizophrenia related SNPs and aspartate analysis results, with the red line showing the MR Egger test and IVW method. E  Scatter plot of the analysis results of schizophrenia and aspartate, with the slope indicating the strength of the causal relationship. F  Leave-one-out test of research results on schizophrenia and aspartate

Results of bidirectional MR analysis of asparagine and schizophrenia

Analysis results of asparagine and schizophrenia.

In prospective MR studies, we used asparagine as an exposure factor and schizophrenia as a result to investigate the potential causal relationship between them. Through a rigorous screening process, we identified 24 genome-wide significant SNPs associated with asparagine. In addition, the instrumental variable F values all exceeded 10, indicating that this study was not affected by weak instruments, thus proving the stability of the results. This study conducted MR analysis to evaluate the impact of all SNP loci on schizophrenia. (Fig.  3 A). According to the results of IVW, a causal relationship was found between asparagine and schizophrenia, and the relationship is negatively correlated, with an OR of 0.485 (95%CI: 0.262-0.900, P -value = 0.020).

The weighted median results also showed a causal relationship between asparagine and schizophrenia, and it was negatively correlated. In the weighted mode method, asparagine and schizophrenia did not have a causal relationship, while in the MR Egger method, there was no statistically significant difference in efficacy between them ( P -value > 0.05) (Table  1 ; Fig.  3 B).

In order to examine the horizontal pleiotropy, the MR Egger intercept was applied, and P -value = 0.768 > 0.05 result proves that this study is not affected by horizontal pleiotropy Furthermore, a leave-one-out test was conducted to demonstrate that no individual SNP had a substantial impact on the stability of the results, indicating that this study has good stability. (Fig.  3 C). Therefore, MR analysis shows that asparagine is inversely proportional to schizophrenia.

Analysis results of schizophrenia and asparagine

In reverse MR analysis, schizophrenia is considered an exposure factor, and asparagine is considered the result, studying the causal effects of schizophrenia and asparagine. Through MR analysis (Fig.  3 D), we assessed the individual influence of each SNP locus on s asparagine. The IVW method results indicated no potential causal relationship between schizophrenia and asparagine, with an OR of 1.005(95%CI: 0.999–1.011, P -value = 0.132). The research results of weighted mode method and weighted median method did not find a causal effects of schizophrenia and asparagine. Additionally, the MR Egger analysis did not reveal any statistically significant difference in effectiveness between schizophrenia and asparagine ( P -value > 0.05) (Table  1 ; Fig.  3 E).

In order to examine the horizontal pleiotropy, the MR Egger intercept was applied, and the result was P -value = 0.474 > 0.05, proving that this study is not affected by horizontal pleiotropy. Furthermore, a leave-one-out test was conducted to demonstrate that no individual SNP had a substantial impact on the stability of the results, indicating that this study has good stability (Fig.  3 F).

figure 3

Depicts the causal association between asparagine and schizophrenia through diverse statistical analyses, as well as the causal association between schizophrenia and asparagine through diverse statistical analyses. A  The forest plot of asparagine related SNPs and schizophrenia analysis results, with the red line showing the MR Egger test and IVW method. B  Scatter plot of the analysis results of asparagine and schizophrenia, with the slope indicating the strength of the causal relationship. C Leave-one-out test of research results on asparagine and schizophrenia. D  The forest plot of schizophrenia related SNPs and asparagine analysis results, with the red line showing the MR Egger test and IVW method. E  Scatter plot of the analysis results of schizophrenia and asparagine, with the slope indicating the strength of the causal relationship. F  Leave-one-out test of research results on schizophrenia and asparagine

In this study, the MR analysis results after sensitivity analysis suggested a causal relationship between asparagine and schizophrenia, which was negatively correlated. However, the reverse MR analysis did not reveal any potential relationship between schizophrenia and asparagine, no potential causal relationship between aspartate and schizophrenia was found in both prospective and reverse MR analyses (Fig.  4 ).

figure 4

Summary of results from bidirectional two-sample MR study

The levels of asparagine in schizophrenia patients decrease, according to studies [ 16 ]. Based on the findings of the Madis Parksepp research team, a continuous five-year administration of antipsychotic drugs (AP) has been observed to induce significant metabolic changes in individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. Significantly, the concentrations of asparagine, glutamine (Gln), methionine, ornithine, and taurine have experienced a substantial rise, whereas aspartate, glutamate (Glu), and alpha-aminoadipic acid(α-AAA) levels have demonstrated a notable decline. Olanzapine (OLZ) treatment resulted in significantly lower levels of Asn compared to control mice [ 27 ]. Asn and Asp play significant roles in various biological processes within the human body, such as participating in glycoprotein synthesis and contributing to brain functionality. It is worth noting that the ammonia produced in brain tissue needs to have a rapid excretion pathway in the brain. Asn plays a crucial role in regulating cellular function within neural tissues through metabolic control. This amino acid is synthesized by the combination of Asp and ammonia, facilitated by the enzyme asparagine synthase. Additionally, the brain effectively manages ammonia elimination by producing glutamine Gln and Asn. This may be an explanation for the significant increase in Asn and Gln levels (as well as a decrease in Asp and Glu levels) during 5 years of illness and after receiving AP treatment [ 28 ]. The study by Marie Luise Rao’s team compared unmedicated schizophrenic patients, healthy individuals and patients receiving antipsychotic treatment. Unmedicated schizophrenics had higher levels of asparagine, citrulline, phenylalanine, and cysteine, while the ratios of tyrosine, tryptophan, and tryptophan to competing amino acids were significantly lower than in healthy individuals [ 29 ].

The findings of our study demonstrate an inverse association between asparagine levels and the susceptibility to schizophrenia, suggesting that asparagine may serve as a protective factor against the development of this psychiatric disorder. However, we did not find a causal relationship between schizophrenia and asparagine. Consequently, additional investigation and scholarly discourse are warranted to gain a comprehensive understanding of this complex association.

Two different autopsy studies measured D-ASP levels in two different brain samples from patients with schizophrenia and a control group [ 14 ]. The first study, which utilized a limited sample size (7–10 subjects per diagnosis), demonstrated a reduction in D-ASP levels within the prefrontal cortex (PFC) postmortem among individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, amounting to approximately 101%. This decrease was found to be correlated with a notable elevation in D-aspartate oxidase (DDO) mRNA levels within the same cerebral region [ 30 ]. In addition, the second study was conducted on a large sample size (20 subjects/diagnosis/brain regions). The findings of this study indicated a noteworthy decrease of approximately 30% in D-ASP selectivity within the dorsal lateral PFC (DLPFC) of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, when compared to corresponding brain regions of individuals without schizophrenia. However, no significant reduction in D-ASP was observed in the hippocampus of patients with schizophrenia. The decrease in D-Asp content was associated with a significant increase (about 25%) in DDO enzyme activity in the DLPFC of schizophrenia patients. This observation highlights the existence of a dysfunctional metabolic process in DDO activity levels in the brains of schizophrenia patients [ 31 ].

Numerous preclinical investigations have demonstrated the influence of D-Asp on various phenotypes reliant on NMDAR, which are linked to schizophrenia. After administering D-Asp to D-Asp oxidase gene knockout mice, the abnormal neuronal pre-pulse inhibition induced by psychoactive drugs such as MK-801 and amphetamine was significantly reduced by the sustained increase in D-Asp [ 32 ]. According to a review, free amino acids, specifically D-Asp and D-Ser (D-serine), have been identified as highly effective and safe nutrients for promoting mental well-being. These amino acids not only serve as integral components of the central nervous system’s structural proteins, but also play a vital role in maintaining optimal functioning of the central nervous system. This is due to their essential role in regulating neurotransmitter levels, including dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and others. For many patients with schizophrenia, a most persistent and effective improvement therapy may be supplementing amino acids, which can improve the expected therapeutic effect of AP and alleviate positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia [ 33 ].

Numerous studies have demonstrated a plausible correlation between aspartate and schizophrenia; however, our prospective and reverse MR investigations have failed to establish a causal link between aspartate and schizophrenia. This discrepancy may be attributed to the indirect influence of aspartate on the central nervous system through the stimulation of NMDAR, necessitating further investigation to elucidate the direct relationship between aspartate and schizophrenia.

This study used a bidirectional two-sample MR analysis method to explore the causal relationship between aspartate and asparagine with schizophrenia, as well as its inverse relationship [ 34 ]. The utilization of MR analysis presents numerous benefits in the determination of causality [ 35 ]. Notably, the random allocation of alleles to gametes within this method permits the assumption of no correlation between instrumental variables and confounding factors. Consequently, this approach effectively alleviates bias stemming from confounding factors during the inference of causality. Furthermore, the study’s utilization of a substantial sample size in the GWAS summary data engenders a heightened level of confidence in the obtained results [ 36 ]. Consequently, this investigation not only advances the existing body of research on the relationship between aspartate and asparagine with schizophrenia, but also contributed to clinical treatment decisions for patients with schizophrenia.

Nevertheless, this study possesses certain limitations, as it solely relies on populations of European ancestry for both exposure and results. Consequently, it remains uncertain whether these findings can be replicated among non-European races, necessitating further investigation. In addition, in this study, whether the effects of aspartate and asparagine on schizophrenia vary by gender or age cannot be evaluated, and stratified MR analysis should be performed. Additional experimental research is imperative for a comprehensive understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms connecting aspartate and asparagine with schizophrenia.

In summary, our MR analysis found a negative correlation between asparagine and schizophrenia, indicating that asparagine reduces the risk of schizophrenia. However, there is no potential causal relationship between schizophrenia and asparagine. This study provides new ideas for the early detection of schizophrenia in the clinical setting and offers new insights into the etiology and pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Nonetheless, additional research is required to elucidate the potential mechanisms that underlie the association between aspartate and asparagine with schizophrenia.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets generated and analysed during the current study are available in the GWAS repository. https://gwas.mrcieu.ac.uk/datasets/met-a-388/ , https://gwas.mrcieu.ac.uk/datasets/met-a-638/ , https://gwas.mrcieu.ac.uk/datasets/ieu-b-42/ .

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (82271546, 82301725, 81971601); National Key Research and Development Program of China (2023YFC2506201); Key Project of Science and Technology Innovation 2030 of China (2021ZD0201800, 2021ZD0201805); China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2023M732155); Fundamental Research Program of Shanxi Province (202203021211018, 202203021212028, 202203021212038). Research Project Supported by Shanxi Scholarship Council of China (2022 − 190); Scientific Research Plan of Shanxi Health Commission (2020081, 2020SYS03,2021RC24); Shanxi Provincial Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine (2023ZYYC2034), Scientific and Technological Innovation Programs of Higher Education Institutions in Shanxi (2022L132); Shanxi Medical University School-level Doctoral Initiation Fund Project (XD2102); Youth Project of First Hospital of Shanxi Medical University (YQ2203); Doctor Fund Project of Shanxi Medical University in Shanxi Province (SD2216); Shanxi Science and Technology Innovation Talent Team (202304051001049); 136 Medical Rejuvenation Project of Shanxi Province, China; STI2030-Major Projects-2021ZD0200700. Key laboratory of Health Commission of Shanxi Province (2020SYS03);

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Department of Psychiatry, First Hospital/First Clinical Medical College of Shanxi Medical University, NO.85 Jiefang Nan Road, Taiyuan, China

Huang-Hui Liu, Yao Gao, Dan Xu, Xin-Zhe Du, Si-Meng Wei, Jian-Zhen Hu, Yong Xu & Liu Sha

Shanxi Key Laboratory of Artificial Intelligence Assisted Diagnosis and Treatment for Mental Disorder, First Hospital of Shanxi Medical University, Taiyuan, China

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Huang-Hui Liu and Yao Gao provided the concept and designed the study. Huang-Hui Liu and Yao Gao conducted the analyses and wrote the manuscript. Dan Xu, Huang-Hui Liu and Yao Gao participated in data collection. Xin-Zhe Du, Si-Meng Wei and Jian-Zhen Hu participated in the analysis of the data. Liu Sha, Yong Xu and Yao Gao revised and proof-read the manuscript. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.

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Liu, HH., Gao, Y., Xu, D. et al. Asparagine reduces the risk of schizophrenia: a bidirectional two-sample mendelian randomization study of aspartate, asparagine and schizophrenia. BMC Psychiatry 24 , 299 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-024-05765-5

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    Your Methods Section contextualizes the results of your study, giving editors, reviewers and readers alike the information they need to understand and interpret your work. Your methods are key to establishing the credibility of your study, along with your data and the results themselves. A complete methods section should provide enough detail ...

  13. What is Research Methodology? Definition, Types, and Examples

    Definition, Types, and Examples. Research methodology 1,2 is a structured and scientific approach used to collect, analyze, and interpret quantitative or qualitative data to answer research questions or test hypotheses. A research methodology is like a plan for carrying out research and helps keep researchers on track by limiting the scope of ...

  14. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.

  15. PDF Methodology: What It Is and Why It Is So Important

    and make for good science and scientific research. The purpose of this introductory chapter is to convey what methodology is, why it is needed, and the key tenets that guide what we do as scientists. These foci may seem obvious—after all, everyone knows what methodology is and why it is needed. Perhaps so, but the answers are not all so obvious.

  16. A tutorial on methodological studies: the what, when, how and why

    They help to highlight issues in the conduct of research with the aim of improving health research methodology, and ultimately reducing research waste. ... Development and Evaluations (GRADE) summary of findings tables . In these studies, the unit of analysis is the person or groups of individuals applying the methods. We also direct readers to ...

  17. Executive Summary

    Although the format may vary, the main sections of an executive summary likely will include the following: An opening statement, with brief background information, The purpose of research study, Method of data gathering and analysis, Overview of findings, and, A description of each recommendation, accompanied by a justification.

  18. Examples of Methodology in Research Papers (With Definition)

    Example of a methodology in a research paper. The following example of a methodology in a research paper provides insight into the structure and content to consider when writing your own: This research article discusses the psychological and emotional impact of a mental health support program for employees. The program provided prolonged and ...


    5.0 Summary This chapter describes the research methodology used to collect and analyze the data required to address the research questions and to test the hypothesized relationships developed in this study. The chapter begins with a discussion of the research design, followed by the population from which data will be collected and

  20. Summary of research methodology: The six main steps of the study

    Download scientific diagram | Summary of research methodology: The six main steps of the study methodology included literature review, deciding aims and objectives, designing the study, conducting ...

  21. Overall Survival with Adjuvant Pembrolizumab in Renal-Cell Carcinoma

    Detailed methods have been published previously 9,12 and are provided in the trial protocol, ... Research Summary (nejmoa2312695_research-summary.pdf) Download; 734.93 KB; Protocol ...

  22. What Is a Research Design

    A research design is a strategy for answering your research question using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about: Your overall research objectives and approach. Whether you'll rely on primary research or secondary research. Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects. Your data collection methods.

  23. U.S. Surveys

    Pew Research Center has deep roots in U.S. public opinion research. Launched initially as a project focused primarily on U.S. policy and politics in the early 1990s, the Center has grown over time to study a wide range of topics vital to explaining America to itself and to the world.Our hallmarks: a rigorous approach to methodological quality, complete transparency as to our methods, and a ...

  24. Development of a Scalable Method for Identifying Ethical Issues Arising

    Yet, the lack of an accepted, workable methodology for ethical analysis of proposed uses of AI in health care is a critical obstacle to achieving this goal. Other promising medical technologies, like gene therapy, have led to patient harm in clinical research because of failures to identify and address ethical concerns early.

  25. Asparagine reduces the risk of schizophrenia: a bidirectional two

    Despite ongoing research, the underlying causes of schizophrenia remain unclear. Aspartate and asparagine, essential amino acids, have been linked to schizophrenia in recent studies, but their causal relationship is still unclear. This study used a bidirectional two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) method to explore the causal relationship between aspartate and asparagine with schizophrenia.

  26. How to Write an Abstract

    An abstract is a short summary of a longer work (such as a thesis, dissertation or research paper). The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research, so that readers know exactly what your paper is about. ... Next, indicate the research methods that you used to answer your question. This part should be a straightforward ...

  27. PDF Research Summary for the Single-laboratory Validation Study of a Draft

    Research Summary for the Single-laboratory Validation Study of a Draft EPA LC-MS-MS Isotope Dilution Method for 6PPD- Quinone . 1.0 Background A study conducted by the University of Washington and funded by Region 10 EPA and published in Science in December 2020 reported that p-phenylenediamine (PPD), an antiozonant added to tires, is

  28. Development of regional input-output tables for Northern Ghana: An

    The remainder of the paper is structured as follows: the summary of the literature review is reported in the next section. The theoretical framework and analytic methods are outlined next. The results of the analysis are reported in the fourth section of the paper and are followed by a discussion of these results.

  29. Simple probes can catch sleeper agents \ Anthropic

    The exact same dataset and method generalizes across all the sleeper agent models that we tested, resulting in strong detector performance across multiple base models, dangerous hidden goals and backdoor training methods. Ablations. Given how simple and borderline silly these training datasets are, one might naturally ask if we're fooling ...