Types of Writing in Psychology
The Essay The Literature Review The Research Paper
The Laboratory Report The Research Proposal The Poster Presentation
Essays are organized paragraphs that answer a question by summarizing a topic in a clear and logical manner. Essays have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
Purpose Suggestions Links Sample
Frequently, many college level psychology courses require the ability to complete timed and un-timed essay exams. With an essay exam, you are writing to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the material.
- Include a good introduction and conclusion.
- Make sure you thoroughly understand the question.
- Be sure to answer all parts of the question.
- Plan and manage your time wisely.
- Make an outline.
In their book Writing For Psychology, Thaiss and Sanford recommend using the PRO System.
- Understand the question's content and Purpose
- Recall all pertinent information
- Organize the information for clarity
The Writing Center Guide to Taking Essay Tests
Taking Essay Exams, a University of Washington Handout
Taking an Essay Exam, Writing Tutorial Services
Essay Exam Help, Charles L. Dreveskracht, Northeastern State University
How to Prepare for an Essay Exam, Center for Teaching Excellence
Understanding the Assignment in Essay Questions, Writing Across the Curriculum
Definition of Writing Terms, University of Washington
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The Literature Review
The literature review is a concise summary and evaluation of research, organized by a topic, that is related to your objective, thesis, or experiment.
Purpose Components Suggestions Links Sample
Usually, a literature review is contained within the introduction of an experimental laboratory report. However, some professors may require you to write a literature review as a separate assignment.
- A description of information with citations, related to your topic or research question
- Identification of theoretical conflicts or controversies related to your research question
- Any needs or questions for further research to address
- Do not just summarize the research chronologically; instead, organize the research by topic.
- Make sure to narrow down your topic.
- Pick a current topic or area of research.
- Choose a topic that you are actually interested in.
Writing a Literature Review, University of Washington Psychology Writing Center
Writing a Literature Review In the Health Sciences and Social Work, University of Toronto Health Sciences Writing Center
What is a Literature Review?, The Union Institute Research Engine
Summarizing a Research Article, University of Washington Psychology Writing Center
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The Research Paper
A research paper describes and summarizes a specific topic, usually a theory or an area of research, by providing a summary, evaluating the findings and providing suggestions for further research.
Structure Steps Suggestions Links Sample
In their book Writing For Psychology, Thaiss and Sanford suggest breaking down the research paper into three sections:
- First section: Overview of topic and identification of goals of paper
- Middle section: Summary of specific topics and issues
- Concluding paragraphs: Critical evaluation of research you have reported
- Pick a topic.
- Perform research on area through literature searches.
- Organize ideas and develop an outline.
- Write a draft of the paper.
- Proofread and make changes.
- Write final draft.
- Pick a topic that you are interested in.
- Be sure the breadth of the topic is appropriate for the assignment.
- Support all of your assertions with actual evidence such as empirical citations or with logical arugments.
Writing a Research Paper, OWL at Purdue University
Steps in Writing a Research Paper, Empire State College
A Guide for Writing Research Papers based on Styles Recommended by The American Psychological Association, Capital Community College
Basic Research Strategy for Writing Papers, MIT Libraries
Writing a Research Paper, University of Alberta Libraries
Writing the Research Paper, Dartmouth College
General Instructions for Psychology Research Papers (Helpful Tips), Georgia Southern University
The Hypertext Research Paper, Psychology Department at Alverno College
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The Laboratory Report
A laboratory report is a write-up of an experiment or other research project and has the same components as a published research study. The purpose of a lab report is to describe how and why you performed your experiment, what you discovered, and your interpretation of the final results.
Purpose Components Links Sample
Writing an experimental lab report is not only a vital skill for psychology majors, it is an actual requirement for most psychology degrees. As a student at George Mason University, it is a necessary that you learn the proper format and develop good technique for writing lab reports. These skills are especially important if you plan on attending graduate school or becoming involved with research. When writing your lab report, your professors will expect you to follow the guidelines described in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4th ed.). These standard guidelines are commonly known as APA format.
Apparatus and Materials
The title page should be the first page of your document and introduces the reader to the title and author of the lab report.
Manuscript Page Header
The title of your laboratory report is a concise description of the purpose and main focus of the experiment.
- Make the title specific (identify the topic of investigation).
- Make a statement or ask a question.
- Include the independent variable and dependent variable.
- Keep the length to about 10 to 12 words (never more than 20 words).
Include, in order, the author's first name, middle initial, and last name.
Identify where the study was actually performed (e.g., George Mason University)
Manuscript Page Header
The manuscript page header is a very short abbreviation of the title. It should appear at the top of every page in the upper right-hand corner with the page number.
The running head is a short descriptive form of the title. It is typed flush left in all uppercase letters and is limited to a maximum of 50 characters. The running head should only appear on the title page.
Every page of your manuscript, including the title page should have the page number in the upper right-hand corner of the page.
The abstract is a brief summary that highlights the main points of your lab report. It is a one paragraph, self-contained, concise description of the problem under investigation, the participants, the observational method, findings, and conclusions.
- Should be approximately 100 words long (A quick and easy way is to summarize each section with one sentence.)
- Write the abstract after you have written all of the other sections of your lab report.
- Arrange the information in the same order as the lab report: Introduction, Method, Results, and Discussion.
- Should be one paragraph with no indentions
- Use abstracts from articles in APA journals as models.
- Do not use redundant information.
Tips from the book Writing For Psychology by Thaiss and Sanford:
- Try to use few function words (do not use any more articles, conjunctions, or prepositions than needed) e.g., omit "the"
- Use active voice ("Results showed" not "It was found that")
- Use clauses and prepositional phrases to limit abstract's length.
The purpose of the introduction is to describe your research question, summarize previous research, explain why your research was necessary, and state your hypotheses.
In their book, Writing For Psychology, Thaiss and Sanford recommend including these components in the introduction in the following order:
- Introduction to the topic
- Concise discussion of previous literature that has addressed the problem being studied. (See Literature Review)
- Statement of the hypotheses and how they were derived from previous research
- Broad overview of the method used in the study
- Begin by first making an outline of the progression of research related to your study.
- Support your argument with actual research examples.
- Do not use vague references and subjective phrases like "I feel" or "I think".
- Do not arrange the research you summarize chronologically; instead arrange by topic.
The method section is a detailed description of all the operations performed in the research you are reporting. This section should provide enough information so that someone else could later replicate the experiment. The method section is divided into the sub-sections listed below.
Apparatus and Materials
This section includes the number of participants used in the study and where they come from, the selection criteria, and any other important characteristics like age, sex, education level, or occupation. The term "subject" is no longer used when referring to human participants. Only animals are referred to as subjects.
Apparatus and Materials
Apparatus includes any equipment that you use during the actual data collection. Materials are the supplies that were prepared for the experiment such as word lists, puzzles or questionnaires.
- Don't just list the apparatus and materials, you should also describe the function.
- Only include apparatus and materials that were used in data collection.
In this section describe the experimental design, including; the type of design (between, within, mixed, etc.), the independent and dont dent variable(s), and the experimental hypotheses.
This section describes sequentially the procedures employed in the experiment.
What to include in your Procedure from the book Writing For Psychology by Thaiss and Sanford:
- Important instructions given to participants
- How participants were assigned to different conditions
- What the participants did, step-by-step
- Describe procedures chronologically.
- Only include procedures for gathering data, not those for analyzing data.
This section concisely summarizes the data collected and the results of the statistical analysis.
- Results of the descriptive and inferential stastical analyses.
- Rejection or retention of the null hypothesis
- If an effect is found, the direction of the effect
- If necessary, include a summary table or tables of the results
- If necessary, include a figure or figures to display the data
- Be sure to include the descriptive stastics (e.g., mean) that your inferential statistics (e.g., t test) are based on.
- Do not include large amounts of raw data (Place in Appendix.)
- Make sure you include any data in this section that you are going to comment on in the Discussion Section.
- Do not interpret your findings; save your interpretations for the Discussion.
- Do not report the same information twice (e.g., in both a figure and in the text)
Tables provide a clear way of presenting exact values such as means, standard deviations, correlations and probabilities. Use tables to summarize data when there is too much information to include in the text.
Figures are a way to present trends or interactions between variables graphically. Examples of figures commonly used are bar graphs, histograms, and frequency polygons.
This is the section in which you interpret the results of the experiment and discuss the implications of your findings based on your hypotheses. You might also suggest further research and limitations of your experiment.
In the Discussion, you should: (Suggestions from University of Washington Psychology Writing CenterHandout)
- Discuss the results in relation to each of your hypotheses.
- Discuss possible explanations for your results. How do your results agree or disagree with the ideas that you introduced in the Introduction? How do your results relate to previous literature or current theory?
- Identify and discuss limitations in the experimental design that may reduce the strength of your results.
- Introduce new ideas that your results suggest.
- Generalize your results.
- Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of applying your results to other groups, species, ages, or sexes.
- Identify another experiment to be done in this research area.
Tips (From University of Washington Psychology Writing Center Handout)
- If a result didn't turn out as expected, discuss possible explanations as to why, including unanticipated shortcomings in the design, problems such as equipment failure, or even that the theory tested needs modification.
- Avoid overstating the importance of your findings. Be modest rather than expansive.
- Stay focused on the research question.
This section is where you give credit to the sources you cited in the body of your document. Follow APA format.
- List all of the authors you cited in the document in alphabetical order.
- Use APA format for every source.
- Double-space between and within each citation.
- Indent the first line of each citation.
- Only list sources that actually appeared in the body of your paper.
- Do not cite or list sources that you did not read (For example if you read about a study in another study's report, you should not use that source.)
This section is where you place any additional information such as raw data, statistical calculations, or stimulus material. Everything in the appendix must be referred to somewhere in the body of the report.
Preparing Your Laboratory Report, by Dr. Jan Kennedy
Guidelines for Laboratory Reports, Department of Psychology St. Francis Xavier University
Writing an APA Lab Report, University of Washington Psychology Writing Center
Lab Report Writing Guide, Monash University Department of Psychology
ResearchWriting, by Douglas Degelman, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology at Vanguard University of Southern California
How to Write a Research Report in Psychology, Psychology Department, University of Pennsylvania
Writing the Empirical Journal Article by Daryl J. Bem, Cornell University
APA Lab Report Template from the University of Washington Psychology Writing Center
How to Write a Laboratory Report, University of Nottingham Psychology Department
Psychology with Style: A Hypertext Writing Guide
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The Research Proposal
Although writing a research proposal is not a requirement for all undergraduate psychology classes, it is a necessary skill if you are considering furthering your psychology education or participating in an honors program.
Writing a Research Proposal, Warnborough Online Resource Centre
Writing Proposals, Writers' Workshop, University of Illinois
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The Poster Presentation
Poster presentations are becoming an increasingly common and important way of communicating research and ideas through the use of visual displays. As a researcher or student in the field of psychology, you may at some point need to be able to effectively present information through the use of a poster presentation.
Developing a Poster Presentation by Casey Flinn George Mason University
Effective Presentations, KU Medical Center
Developing a Poster Presentation, KU Medical Center
Creating Posters for Humanities & Social Sciences, Marilyn A. Levines
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Articles and Instructions
The three articles we're using are linked below. You may want to print them out. They are all pdfs, and fairly short.
- Attitudes Toward Medical and Mental Health Care Delivered Via Telehealth Applications Among Rural andUrban Primary Care Patients
- Clinical Case Discussion: Combat PTSD and Substance Use Disorders
- A Pilot Study of Prolonged Exposure Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Delivered via Telehealth Technology
Writing the Analyses
Article analyses will be written in a question-directed manner similar to the 5 step analysis but using the categories of information researchers are most interested in. While the 5 step analysis is suitable for quick read, the content analysis produced by answering the kinds of questions researchers ask of articles provides deeper understanding of a piece of research. In fact, increasingly, such analyses are provided by the journal, usually written by subject-expert editors. This kind of literature is called "pre-processed literature". It is most common in medically-oriented publications, but is making its way into the broader realm of the sciences. The example below is from PLoS Medicine, written for the article: Suicide after Leaving the UK Armed Forces —A Cohort Study.
Each analysis should begin with an APA style reference (see -- here -- for how to format a source from an online journal) with content organized as questions and answers. The questions are:
- 1) What is the context of this study? (the "big picture");
- 2) What problem motivates the study? What is the research question? (gap/RQ);
- 3) What did the researchers do and find? (method/results);
- 5) What do the researchers think this study contributes? (discussion)
Writing the Synthesis
Your task for the synthesis assignment will be to write a short, informative review paper using the 3 articles/analyses that you've already prepared. You will need to combine information from all three sources and cite correctly in APA style with sources at the end in APA style. The format below lists the actual subheadings you should use and explains the kind of information that belongs in each section. However, do not use the questions as you did with the analyses! In this case, the questions are used to help direct the content, not to specify form. (Generally speaking, writing is often easier if understood as a series of questions to be answered rather than information to be delivered.)
Use the subheadings below. Note: you do not have to use a second-level of subheading, but your synthesis should target each population separately -- that is, write what you want about patients, then providers, but do not switch back and forth
- Introduction, subheading "Introduction" --
- What is telehealth?
- What is telepsychiatry?
- How is telepsychiatry being used for PTSD?
- Subheading "Benefits of Delivering PE via Telehealth"
- Subheading "Limitations of Delivering PE via Telehealth"
- Final section, subheading "Conclusion"
- synthesis of main points (max 2 sentences --> 1 with benefits, 1 with limitations)
- your evaluation of what should happen next (clinical and/or research)
Example of Synthesized definition
"…telehealth technology (ie, videoconferencing) was used." (Tuerk, Brady, & Grubaugh, 2009)
"One such method proposed is telemedicine or telehealth, which involves the use of telecommunication technology for providing assessment and treatment to patients." (Tuerk, Yoder, Ruggiero, Gros, & Acierno, 2010)
“Telehealth is the delivery of health care using communication technology (Tuerk, Yoder, Ruggiero, Gros, & Acierno, 2010) such as videoconferencing (Tuerk, Brady,& Grubaugh, 2009; Tuerk, et al., 2010) or cell phone (Tuerk, et al. 2009; Tuerk et al., 2010)”