What are methods and what are results?

We’ve been having a discussion about where the PRISMA flow sheet belongs.  The answer to this is quite easy on the one hand.  PRISMA org state that the flow sheet belongs in the results section of your report. The rationale for this is that it contains the results of the search.

PRISMA results section

The confusion probably arises because the PRISMA flow sheet is also a useful method of helping your reader understand your methods – how you got the set of results. It seems easier to me to separate out what is methods and what is results if I think about writing the methods in the future tense.  If I write about what I will do I can’t include results in there because they didn’t happen yet.

Other things that creep into the method section quite commonly are the results of the critical appraisal.  The method describes how you will undertake the critical appraisal, the results tells me what the critical appraisal revealed.  Similarly the data extraction: in the method I tell you how I will extract the data, in the results i provide you with a summary of that data.

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