Essential components of methods papers

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Marcel Leist
Jan G. Hengstler


Methods papers are important for the progress of biomedical research, as they provide the essential tools to explore new questions and help to better answer old ones. However, it is often not clear how a methods paper differs from a methods protocol. Confusion between these two very different types of publication is widespread. The resultant misun­derstanding contributes to a relatively poor reputation of methods research in biology despite the fact that many Nobel prizes have been awarded specifically for method development. Here, the key components of a methods paper are summarized: (i) methods description, (ii) performance standards, (iii) applicability domains, (iv) evidence for advances compared to the state-of-the-art, (v) exemplification of the method by practical application. In addition, information domains are discussed that are desirable but may be provided on a case-by-case basis or over the course of a series of papers: (vi) method robustness, (vii) accuracy and (viii) precision measures, including various quantifications of method performance, and (ix) measures of uncertainty, including a sensitivity analysis. Finally, elements of the overall framing of the method description are highlighted. These include the scientific, technical and, e.g., toxicological rationale for the method, and also the prediction model, i.e., the procedure used to transform primary data into new information.

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How to Cite
Leist, M. and Hengstler, J. 2018. Essential components of methods papers. ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation. 35, 3 (Jul. 2018), 429-432. DOI: