You’ve come a long way to this point. You’ve done lots of reading and writing for your research project. You’ve gotten IRB approval, and you now have collected data and done some initial analysis. In other words, you’re almost done!But wait, you need to write this all up and turn in a paper. How do you do that?This lecture helps you prepare your final document and highlights key points you should consider in the major sections.
Good writing is important for any paper, and for this research project it’s no exception.A good paper should be a joy to read. What do readers want? They want a story that they can follow and understand.Make sure you provide a clear and logical structure. Have a storyline. With a research paper, you should simply tell us, what problem you’re trying to solve, what you did to solve the problem, and what you found.Because this is your research paper, not advertisement for some company’s product, avoid hyperbole. The paper should clearly demonstrate logical integrity and critical thinking. You should do your best to “sell” your hypotheses by providing convincing evidence from the literature and using sound logic. Your reader will be sold if you have a compelling case for your hypotheses. There’s no need to oversell.A good paper should also be free of editorial errors. Read the paper carefully before turning it in!Last but not least, we’re using the APA style for this paper. Make sure you follow the conventional practices, and use the resources available to you. 4 sample papers are provided for your reference. Review them carefully and you should develop a pretty good idea of what’s expected.You’ve all taken the writing class during the first semester. Try to apply the principles and skills you learned in that class.
The literature review is probably the hardest section to write. You’ve spent quite some time on it and have accumulated some good materials. However, there’s still plenty of room for improvement in all groups.First of all, be selective about what you review. As we’ve learned in this class, commercial materials are usually not considered research because of their self-serving purposes. Someone’s opinion (e.g., Dr. Chung said Giant Eagle is the largest grocery store in the world!) is also not research, unless it’s substantiated with good evidence. As a researcher, your job is to build new scientific evidence based on previous scientific research. Follow Joe Best’s advice. Always make sure the research you cite is of good quality and free of obvious self-serving biases. How do you do that? You need to examine their methodology carefully and make sure it meets the same rigor that you are expected to produce in this class.You all know by now that the lit review is not just a list of facts. Then what is it? This may sound counterintuitive – with the lit review you’re summarizing other people’s work, but in fact the lit review is ALL about you. Why? Because this is your project, your paper, your research. You’re reviewing prior lit for a very selfish goal: You want to build a case for your own agenda! So don’t let it become a laundry list of other people’s accomplishment. Make it your story!Specifically, you need to use prior work to explain why your research question is important. You also need to synthesize prior work in a way that convince people that your hypotheses make sense. For example, if I hypothesize that women work harder than men, I have to summarize prior literature and research findings in a way that convince the reader that I will very likely find a correlation between gender and number of work hours. Remember, you’re graded on the logical integrity of your arguments, and the quality of the evidence you use to support your arguments.
The methodology section is a recipe book. Someone else interested in replicating you work should be able to read the procedure section, follow the steps, and recreate the same study. There should be sufficient information about the participants so that people can replicate the sample if they want.
The results section is where you tell people what you found with the data you collected.This section usually begins with descriptive statistics about key variables. Descriptive statistics are things like frequency counts, mean, standard deviation, range, sample size, etc. For example, if I did a study to find out if women work harder than men, I should document the number of men vs. women included in the study, and the mean, standard deviation, and range of number of work hours for each gender.Descriptive statistics, however, are useless when it comes to testing hypotheses. You need inferential statistics for that. Inferential statistics are things like correlation, regression, t test, and ANOVA. These tests help you determine the statistical significance level of your hypothesis which you can use to support or reject a hypothesis.You might have a lot of questions about what statistics to include, and what tables/figures you need. Please use the lecture slides on statistics as your first reference. You might be surprised by how much we have covered and you have forgotten! Chapter 12 of your textbook is also a good resource. Finally, I’ve provided a few online resources for your reference. Use these tools and ask questions!This section is for summarizing and presenting the results. There’s no need to discuss them in this section. Save that for the discussion section. Again, you’re not selling a product. Present whatever you’ve found in simple, straightforward language.As always, use clear logic and scientific evidence as the basis of your argument. Emotional appeal, drama, and sales tactics should be reserved for your colleagues in the sales and marketing department. Those skills are not part of the core toolkit for writing a research report!
So you’ve run a bunch of statistics. What do all those numbers mean? Most importantly, what do they mean in terms of your research question and hypotheses? In the discussion section, your job is to explain these numbers and what they mean for your research in plain English.First of all, remind us of your research questions and hypotheses. It’s been a while. What are they again?Then, summarize your findings using no numbers. Just tell us whether X is significantly different from Y, whether Y is significantly correlated with Z, etc.The next step is to discuss whether these findings support your hypotheses. Discuss each of them briefly, and summarize these findings in a table. Remember to discuss what these findings mean in plain English.The most fun part is to speculate what these findings mean. Be creative! Tell us what these results mean for the theories you have discussed in the lit review. If the results are different from what you expected, what does this mean to prior research? Was it wrong? Or perhaps there’s something that’s been overlooked? What do these findings mean for future research? And how should practitioners use this information?Don’t forget to discuss potential limitations of your study. No study is perfect and it’s important to recognize the boundary conditions of your research so others don’t overgeneralize it inappropriately.Please make sure you use the grading rubric as a checklist to make sure your report meets all the requirements. I hope you find this set of tips useful during your writing process. Good luck and have fun!
Writing up the final report (narrated)
Writing up the Final Report
Overall Guidelines Maintain a clear and logical structure Have a storyline – simply, tell us what problem you’re trying to solve, what you did, and what you found. Avoid hyperbole – Good research speaks for itself; no need to oversell Have a clean document Proofread before turning in the paper Read the entire document – make sure the first half is consistent with the second half! Follow APA style Use in-text citation; all references must be cited in the text and all citations have to be listed in the bibliography Check out the sample papers Use online resources – for example, http://www.uwsp.edu/PSYCH/apa4b.htm#toc
Literature Review Include valid research only Commercial materials are not considered research Opinion pieces are not considered research Apply what we have learned this semester (e.g., Best’s book) to evaluate your sources ‘ objectiveness and determine whether they are worth including Compose the literature review to motivate your research question Use articles to illustrate the research gap and why your study is needed Tell us how your study is different from previous ones Compose the literature review to motivate your hypotheses Use articles to convince us what you’re hypothesizing makes sense – e.g., What existing research makes you believe women are smarter than men? Weave existing research together in a logical way to support your story. You’re not making a list of other people’s work. You’re
Method Key Point: Document the data collection methodology in sufficient detail such that others can use this section to replicate the study (no need to document how you did the literature review; this section is for data collection only) Provide specific information on the following: Participants – How many of them? Basic demographics (# of males? Females? Age? Other relevant information?) Number of disqualified/dropped participants? Reason for disqualification? Final sample size? Procedure – Step-by-step recipe of what you did to collect data Briefly explain the materials you used for data collection and point the reader to the Appendix for the instruments
Results Present descriptive statistics for your key variables in a table – means, standard deviations, ranges, sample size, and other notable summaries. Include figures when appropriate. Present inferential statistics for your hypotheses – correlations, regressions, ANOVAs, and their significance levels. Include tables and/or figures to illustrate your findings. Make sure you understand the statistics you’re presenting. Use the lecture slides, textbook Chapter 12, and sample papers for references. A simple guide is available at http://www.uwsp.edu/PSYCH/stat/index.htm A simple example is available at http://www.uwsp.edu/PSYCH/apa4b.htm#A2 Summarize your findings in simple, straightforward language. Again, no hyperbole. No need to interpret your results against the hypotheses here. Save that for the discussion section.
Discussion Restate your research question(s) and hypotheses. Give a non-technical summary of your results Evaluate and interpret your results with respect to each hypothesis. Summarize whether hypotheses are supported or not in a table. Discuss implications of your results What do the results mean? To other researchers? To the organization? Discuss limitations of your study Provide a summary conclusion