Title: Describe your take home message in 12 words or fewer

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Title: Describe your take home message in 12 words or fewer.

Nate Kornell

Williams College

[Note: If you’re in my class, you don’t need an author note for your lab report.]

Author Note

Nate Kornell, Department of Psychology, Williams College.

Grant x from Mr. Nobody supported this research. Juliet and Violet Kornell provided invaluable support.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nate Kornell, Department of Psychology, Williams College, Williamstown, MA, 01267. E-mail: nate.kornell@williams.edu.


The abstract for this “paper” is very brief: Nate summarizes the formatting and content of each section of a psychology paper following the guidelines of the 6th edition of the APA Manual. The abstract should be a concise summary of your paper. In about 150 words or less, it should cover some or all of the following elements, not necessarily in this order: What the question/hypothesis is; why it matters; key aspects of the method; what you found; and your conclusions/what your findings mean. Be specific (here and throughout the paper) when possible; for example, “participants learned significantly more when they studied trivia questions under water than on land” is better than “participants’ learning was significantly affected by where they studied.”

Keywords: Up to five keywords (e.g., Learning, Memory, Bias, Heuristic)

-- Insert title (again) here --

Your introduction goes here. The big task of the introduction is to explain the issue/problem you’re addressing, and explain why it matters. In other words, explain why the reader should care about the study you did. For this class it should probably be a maximum of about two pages.

A big part of an effective introduction is explaining previous scholarship—that is, explain whatever background your reader needs to know in order to understand your research. In describing previous scholarship, you’ll be citing references. The references should be in APA format. Please refrain from including background if it is only tangentially related to the issues in your paper.

Use an ampersand to cite a reference inside parentheses (Allen, Mahler, & Estes, 1969; Baron-Cohen, 1995) but use “and” if you want to cite something outside of parentheses, such as Baker and Brown (1984).

In the course of your introduction, you’ll naturally want to talk about the question(s) you asked in your research. In many (but not all) cases, you will have a hypothesis or set of hypotheses instead of a question or set of questions. The only difference between a question and a hypothesis you have a question and an educated guess about the answer.

The second time you cite something with more than two authors, just use the first author’s name followed by et al. For example, here is how our three articles from above would now be cited (Allen et al., 1969; Baker & Brown, 1984; Baron-Cohen, 1995).

When you write about your hypotheses (or, in the absence of hypotheses, your questions), explain what they were, and also why you think they make sense. In other words, explain your predictions and the reasoning behind them. Your reasons will probably be based on a mix of previous research and intuition.

At the end of the introduction (or in the first paragraph of the method), try to summarize your method in one paragraph. Only include the key elements.

Here and throughout the paper, write as if your reader is an intelligent person who knows basic psychology terms and basic statistics but doesn't know anything about the research you did or the background literature.

A few miscellaneous notes: Write in the past tense (e.g., “the results showed”) Work with other students (do analyses, read drafts for each other, etc.) but write your own paper. And do not plagiarize.

Formatting notes: According to the APA manual, 6th edition, there are multiple levels of headings within the body of the text. The highest level is bold and centered on its own line (see below). Also, notice that there are no page breaks between introduction, method, results, and discussion. And notice that everything is double-spaced.


The first level of heading (Method, above) should be centered in bold.

The method section should describe what you did. For this class it should probably be a maximum of about two pages. Be concrete and precise. After reading your method, your reader should be able to replicate your study at another college or university. Sometimes the first paragraph of the method section is a summary of the method (in which case you obviously shouldn’t include a summary at the end of the introduction), but sometimes you go straight to the participants heading (see below).

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