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Psychology 242
Research in Psychology
Dr. David J. McKirnan

The Paper Structure

Introduction                            25 points

                           25 points
  • A statement of how the phenomenon works.
  • A causal statement of how the psychological processes that underlie your phenomenon (the hypothetical constructs) relate to each other.
  • Derive your theory from the two (or more) published scientific articles you began working with in Week 5.
  • Describe how the theory is important to understanding (or changing) the phenomenon.
  • This is not simply a glorified hypothesis or prediction (I predict that multi-media learning will lead to higher performance...). Rather you must explain why or how the Independent Variable leads to the Dependent Variable.


  • When you explain your theory and what your study will tell us, directly refer to the two (or more) articles you chose.
  • There is no need for you to invent a theory.   Rather, take a theory from the papers you have read and use it to help explain your phenomenon.
  • Your hypothesis should be drawn from or express a prediction from the theory.  In a sense you are testing how well the theory can explain the phenomenon you are interested in.
  • Your hypothesis is a simple experimental prediction: If I manipulate X, Y will occur.
  • Your theory is an explanation of how or why your hypothesis makes sense.

Note Also:

  • You must back up every statement you make.
  • You cannot make a statement such as "everyone knows that older people dislike tattoos...”  Rather, you must either cite a survey or other data that support the assertion, or frame it as a speculation.

                           25 points
  • A prediction or empirical question that clearly follows from or tests the theory.
  • Your prediction must:
    • Be clear;
    • Refer to variables that can be operationally defined;
    • Reflect or adequately assess the hypothetical constructs cited in your theory;
    • Be testable and/or logically falsifiable.
Methods                            25 points

  • Who are your research participants? Why did you sample these participants?
    • Is this a random sample of the population?
    • A targeted sample? ... if so, whom and why?
    • A convenience sample? ... if so, what are the limitations of this sampling approach?
  • Explicitly describe your Inclusion Criteria and Exclusion Criteria; who fits your sampling frame and who does not?
  • Where and how did you actually contact and recruit participants?
  • Cite any sampling limitations and explain why your approach is still justified.


  • What was the overall design? 
  • Was this a true or a quasi-experiment? 
  • What were the overall study procedures? 
  • What, step-by-step, did you do with each participant?
    • A reader should be able to repeat your experiment exactly.
  • How did you obtain informed consent? 
  • What ethical issues may be present (e.g., stressful conditions, deception or placebo groups…), and how did you deal with them?

How did you construct your Independent Variable?

  • Was it a quasi-independent variable?
    •  Based on an existing group membership (e.g., people how got therapy v. those who did not, male v. female, etc…)?
    • Based on a measurement (people above or below some score on a scale, e.g., high v. low stress…)?
  • Was it a true independent variable, i.e. that you manipulated or controlled?
    • Was it presented directly, such as a drug dose?
      • What was the dose?
      • How do you know it was the correct dose?
    • Was it presented indirectly, such as instructional conditions designed to induce stress v. relaxation?
      • How do you know you actually induced the condition you meant to?  What was your manipulation check?

How did you operationally define your Dependent Variable

  • Specifically, where did your numbers come from – what kind of measures did you use, how did you go from, e.g., questionnaire items to an actual score, etc. 
  •  Were the measures known to be reliable and valid? How?

Results                               10 points
  • Use the data from your Week 12 assignment, or develop your own data sheets showing all the observations for each participant.
  • In an appendix you will:
    • Perform your statistics, showing all calculations.   You must show every step involved in deriving your t score.
    • Provide key statistical assumptions: your alpha level, p value.
    • Graph your data to show the statistical effects you are testing.


  • Provide basic descriptive data: Ms, Standard Deviations.
  • Provide the t score in standard APA format (t (df) = x.yz, p<.xx)
  • How did you determine whether your results were statistically significant? 
  • Describe your results in relation to your hypothesis:
    • Was the hypothesis supported?
    • Why is it important if it was / was not?
Discussion                      15 points

    • What are the implications of your results for the hypothesis – was it supported? 
    • What are the implications for the initial theory or empirical question you asked? What do we know now?
    • Cite any alternative explanations of your results?
      • Might there have been a confound?
      • What other variables should you have been measuring or controlling?
      • Might these results have been different with a different sample?
        • e.g., men v. women, different social or cultural group...
    • What were the limitations of your study for Internal Validity?
      • ...from the way you operationally defined or measured your variables?
      • ...from the overall design or larger research approach?
    • Limitations to External Validity, in terms of:
      • Your experimental manipulation / independent variable:
        • Was it realistic? Is this how it would work outside the lab?
        • Did it really reflect the hypothetical construct you were interested in?
      • Your assessment of the outcome / dependent variable:
        • Realistic?
        • Reflected the relevant construct?
      • The research setting or context:
        • Was this setting representative of the way things work outside the lab?
      • Your sample or sampling procedure.
    Conclusion                      10 points

    • What do we now know about phenomenon or "big picture"?
    • How has psychological theory been (or not been…) advanced?
    • What basic descriptive or other data do we now have about the phenomenon that we did not have before?
    • What other research follows from this; what should your next study be?


    Writing style             5 points

    • APA format, including at least two references to scientific papers. Click here for an electronic guide to APA format.
    • The entire paper must be in your own words unless you are explicitly quoting another source.
    • You will be graded on grammar, spelling, layout, paragraph & sentence structure, and overall clarity.
    • Write short, active declarative sentences.
    • Use your paragraph structure to separate key thoughts or paper sections.

    Appendices                      5 points
    1. Your measures (survey, questionnaire, interview, etc). This must be typed.
    2. Your informed consent document
    3. Your raw data; this does not need to be typed.
    4. Statistical computations. This does not have to be typed, but it must be orderly enough for us to read and follow.
    5. Copies of the abstracts of the articles you used as references. Do not turn in the whole articles.

    Paper Sections

    A) In the text

    • The first page is the title page. Include your name, the title of your paper, the date, "Psychology 242, Research Methods", and your TA name.
    • The second page is your abstract. It is a summary of your paper, 100-120 words long. This is the only part of the actual paper that should be single-spaced; everything else is double spaced.
    • The body of the paper starts on page 3 and continues through your reference section.

    C) The Informed Consent Document
    Any research involving data directly collected from people must have an informed consent statement.  For your studies this does not need to be very long. It should contain each of the sections given in the informed consent file (see also, week 4 Lecture notes).  This is the template UIC provides researchers to complete their consent documents.
    (For an example of an informed consent document from one of my HIV studies click here).

    Get a complete description of informed consent and other human subjects protections at the UIC Office for the Protection of Research Subjects at: http://www.uic.edu/depts/ovcr/oprs/