Psychology -> A guide to writing each section of an empirical research activity
A guide to writing each section of an empirical research activity
• Should be short and concise, yet specific enough for the reader to know what you are doing exactly.
• Should summarise the main idea of the empirical research.
• Should identify the actual variables or theoretical issues under investigation and the relationship between them.
• Should make sense. Do not make the mistake of just putting a few terms together.
• Aim for one to two lines, preferably less than 12 words.
ABSTRACT (100 WORDS)
• This is a summary of all sections in your report to enable the reader to gain an understanding of the main outline of the research.
• Should describe the following in order:
- the problem being investigated, including the hypothesis(es)
- participants/subjects and their characteristics, e.g. sex, age, number
- the method, including apparatus and data collection procedures
- the main findings
- the conclusion(s)
• Use past tense to describe what was done and present tense to discuss conclusions.
• Should be in one single paragraph.
• It is easier to write the abstract last, after you have completed each section. However, remember that
it does appear immediately after the title.
INTRODUCTION (200-250 WORDS)
• Provides the background to your experiment.
• Should start with a broad general statement, introducing the area of the research.
• Begins with the greatest level of generality, then it becomes more specific leading to the aim and hypothesis of your experiment.
• Explain what previous research has been done in the particular area, making sure to cite references
• There should be no separate sub-headings for the aim and hypothesis.
• A good introduction tells the reader what had been done in past research, and provides adequate justification for the aim and hypothesis.
METHOD (150-200 WORDS)
Tells the reader how the experiment has been conducted. It has three main parts. Each should provide
enough detail for other people to repeat the experiment in the exact same way.
• Specify who has participated in the experiment, the number of subjects, their age, gender and the method of selection.
• Specify the number of subjects assigned to the experimental and control conditions. Materials/Apparatus:
• Describe all the equipment used in the order that it was required in the experiment.
• You may include material relevant to the apparatus section in the appendix such as any questionnaires that were used.
• State every step in the experiment in chronological sequence.
• You must provide enough detail for someone to replicate your research if they wish.
• Do not use terms like 'students' and 'teacher'. Use terms like 'subjects' and 'experimenter'.
RESULTS (150-200 WORDS)
• A simple, clear summary of the main results. Order according to the research question and hypothesis tested.
• Do not include raw data but the data that has been processed. Remember that it is the data from the entire class not just your individual findings.
• Organise the data using appropriate descriptive statistics such as tables, graphs, charts or diagrams.
• Tables and figures should be numbered in the order of appearance in the report.
• They should also have titles.
• The number and title of a figure appears underneath the diagram. However, the number and title of a table appears above the table. Accompany the data with a brief factual description of the salient patterns or trends. Interpretation of the data and detailed comments are reserved for the discussion
DISCUSSION (200-250 WORDS)
• Relates back to the introduction where you begin by stating whether the hypothesis(es) is/are supported or rejected.
• Never use the words 'prove' or 'disprove' when discussing the hypothesis as, in psychology,
nothing is ever so definite or conclusive. The results of a single experiment cannot prove or
disprove anything. End your discussion with a broad statement. The discussion should be
approximately the same length as the introduction.
• Use the Harvard system of referencing.
• Mainly needed in the introduction and discussion sections.
• Don't leave referencing till the last moment, as you will be creating work for yourself by having to find the details of books that you can no longer access. Take down the details of every source you use as you are researching.
• Keep the referencing information close beside you as you are writing the report so that you can constantly check your references.
• Attach any new data, questionaires or additional material that was used in the experiment.
• Number each attachment as Appendix 1: Appendix 2 etc.
Click on to each section of the empirical research activity for tips on writing a research report.
Referencing accurately and following a particular methodology is crucial when writing an empirical research activity. In the following pages you will learn how to correctly reference from books, journals, CD-ROMs and other reference material
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