Reporting psychological investigations
Progress in science depends on communication between researchers. It is therefore essential to describe the results of research as clearly and accurately as possible. To be published in peer-reviewed journals, research reports must be written in sections in a conventional manner, so that replication, to check the results, is possible. The basic requirements of a report are to say what was done, why it was done, what was found and what it means.
Sections of a report
• Title — should be clear, relevant and informative.
• Table of contents — lists sections in numerical page order.
• Abstract — summarises the study in one paragraph in terms of previous research, aims and hypotheses, methodology, results, conclusions and suggestions for future research.
• Introduction — details why the study was conducted. General theoretical background is supplied. Funnel technique is used, where a broad theoretical background is given that then narrows down to the precise study area, which leads on to the aims and hypotheses.
• Aims — the overall goals of the study are stated clearly and concisely.
An experimental/alternative hypothesis and null hypothesis are stated precisely and unambiguously. A justification of the direction of hypotheses (one- or two-tailed) is also stated, as is the level of significance — normally 5 per cent.
The procedure/method gives an outline of what was done, with methodological details reported so that replication could occur. This may involve details of the design, method, techniques used, identification of variables, sampling details or ethical considerations. It also includes materials used and controls. Details of standardised instructions etc. are included in the appendices.
Findings are presented in the form of a table (with appropriate measures of central tendency and dispersion), graph and verbal summary (in words). Raw data are referenced but presented in the appendices. With inferential statistics, reasons for using a test are given, as well as what it tests for. Calculations are referenced but presented in the appendices. The outcome should be given, along with critical value, significance level and whether the test was one- or two-tailed. The outcome is then finally presented in terms of the hypotheses (rejected or accepted).
Findings are explained in several sub-sections:
1 Explanation of findings — key findings are related in terms of how they relate to the aims and hypotheses.
2 Relationship to background research — findings are discussed in relation to previous research findings presented in the introduction.
3 Limitations and modifications — possible sources of error, for example flawed sampling, are outlined and discussed, as well as possible means of rectifying them.
4 Implications and suggestions for future research — further research ideas that emerge from the findings are suggested, as well as any real-world implications and applications.
• Conclusions — a concise paragraph is provided, summarising key conclusions.
• References — full details of all sources used are provided in an accepted, conventional manner.
• Appendices — numbered appendices are given, containing full details of instructions given to participants, raw data, calculations, materials used, ethics form, etc.