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How to Write an Effective Materials and Methods Section for Clinical Studies

Stenson, James F., DO*; Foltz, Carol, PhD; Lendner, Mayan, BS; Vaccaro, Alexander R., MD, PhD, MBA

doi: 10.1097/BSD.0000000000000722

The Materials and methods section of a research paper is oftentimes the first and easiest part to write. It details the steps taken to answer a research hypothesis, the success of which determines whether or not the study can be replicated. Arranging the section in chronological order, writing succinctly, and consistently using the third-person passive voice adds clarity and improves readability. Furthermore, utilizing headers, tables, and flow charts to break down difficult and complex experiments into logical subsections makes it easier for the reader to grasp complicated designs.

*Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ

Rothman Institute, Philadelphia, PA

Dr Vaccaro has consulted or has done independent contracting for DePuy, Medtronic, Stryker Spine, Globus, Stout Medical, Gerson Lehrman Group, Guidepoint Global, Medacorp, Innovative Surgical Design, Orthobullets, Ellipse, and Vertex. He has also served on the scientific advisory board/board of directors/committees for Flagship Surgical, AO Spine, Innovative Surgical Design, and Association of Collaborative Spine Research. Dr Vaccaro has received royalty payments from Medtronic, Stryker Spine, Globus, Aesculap, Thieme, Jaypee, Elsevier, and Taylor Francis/Hodder and Stoughton. He has stock/stock option ownership interests in Replication Medica, Globus, Paradigm Spine, Stout Medical, Progressive Spinal Technologies, Advanced Spinal Intellectual Properties, Spine Medica, Computational Biodynamics, Spinology, In Vivo, Flagship Surgical, Cytonics, Bonovo Orthopaedics, Electrocore, Gamma Spine, Location Based Intelligence, FlowPharma, R.S.I., Rothman Institute and Related Properties, Innovative Surgical Design, and Avaz Surgical. He has also served as deputy editor/editor of Spine. In addition, Dr Vaccaro has also provided expert testimony. The remaining authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Mayan Lendner, BS, Rothman Institute Orthopaedics, Philadelphia, PA 19107 (e-mail:

Received February 21, 2018

Accepted August 21, 2018

© 2019 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.