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V. Writing-up Research Discoveries
Information to be useful to others and to be consensually validated must be communicated. Any findings which are not independently evaluated are of questionable validity. Discoveries are therefore usually presented in the form of formal papers and published in journals. You must be comfortable with this communication format if you are to conduct research.

Ask yourself what would have been the perfect paper for you to have read in order to understand everything you need to know. Then write it. Assume that your reader is a bright, enthusiastic student with a background in Introductory Psychology. Be curious, ask yourself why things are the way they are. Try to understand your world.

Papers must be understandable and meaningful. Papers are for replication and understanding. Ask yourself "will the reader know everything that happened?" Everything is designed to tell somebody something. Provide everything that is needed, nothing that is not. Each sentence must be as informative as possible. Include all relevant information. Never use anything you do not know is absolutely and totally real. Outline the paper until it is perfectly clear, then write it.

You cannot rediscover all the knowledge in the field of psychology for yourself. You will need to utilize the thousands of man years of hard work and thinking already provided by people in the field if you are going to contribute meaningfully or if you wish to be an ethical purveyor of psychology.

You must read journals to survey what is known and to gain a sense of what is appropriate. You are expected to do enough outside reading to develop an understanding of the implicit rules underlying how to write a paper.

The following list of questions step you through the major issues which must be addressed in a research paper. After each question is answered the construction of the research paper is simply developing transitions between the items. I recommend writing as much as you can possibly think of in a stream of consciousness mode for each item (i.e., false alarms don't hurt much - misses hurt a lot). Then, go back and edit it all, to make it coherent and to remove redundancy or irrelevancy.

This template can also be used as a study guide or evaluation form for other research papers.

Article title:
(Concise portrayal of research)

Context of research question?
Explicit statement of question?
What and how many subjects used?
How question was answered? Research design?
Results of research?
Implication of results?

Background necessary to understand the research?
The specific problem? the specific hypothesis?
Case for why the question is important or interesting and why the reader should want an answer?
Case for why the procedure is appropriate and the best procedure, given the situation?

Information necessary to exactly replicate the study with respect to subjects?
Information necessary to realize any confounds or inability to generalize because of some special property of the subjects?

Information necessary to exactly replicate the study with respect to apparatus or setting?
Information necessary to realize any confounds or inability to generalize because of some special property of the apparatus or the setting?

Specific procedure used to answer the problem?
Information necessary to exactly replicate the study with respect to the procedure?
Designed to avoid potential confounds?
Procedures used to deal with unavoidable confounds?
Information necessary to realize any confounds or inability to generalize because of some special property of the procedure?
Was a baseline obtained or were the groups equal at the start?
How were the independent variables measured?
How were the dependent variables measured?

In general, what was found? What happened?
Data provided to justify statements or major trends?
Reliability of the results?
How was reliability demonstrated?
Was the design capable of detecting very small changes in the dependent variable? How small of a change in the dependent variable would be recognized as significant?
What proportion of the variance in the dependent variable did the independent variable account for?

Was the original question answered? A simple statement of the support or lack of support of the original question in the introduction?
Nonstatistical arguments for the reliability of the finding?
Nonstatistical arguments for the generality of the findings? Arguments for accepting that the exact independent and dependent variables are appropriate "models" for the inferred independent and dependent variables?
Nonstatistical arguments for the meaningfulness of the findings?
Answer the question “so the procedure produced these results - so what?” What additional relevance was there?

Research papers have a syntax just as do any other form of communication. If you put words or ideas out of order when you are talking, then people don't understand you. A similar case holds with research papers. All professional papers are written according to the latest Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4th Ed.)

The word “datum” is singular and the word “data” is plural. Never use anyone's first name or affiliation. Never refer to yourself. Refer to the behavior of the subject. Do not refer to the subject. A very powerful and productive rule of thumb is to never refer to the subject outside of the subject section. If you refer to the subject itself, you are probably wrong. Focus on real changes in the environment, not presumed changes in the mental processes of the subject. Use passive voice; no one wants to know what you did. Readers want to know what variables were manipulated and what happened. Avoid lists and quotes. Question every “it,” to be sure “it” is defined. Never use first person. Never use redundant terms like “an experiment to prove” or “an experiment” in the title. Be simple. Do not be rhetorical. Do not use flowery sentences.
Text margins must be 1 inch on all sides (70-75 characters per line, 20-25 lines per page). Papers must be typed with double spacing between all lines (at least 3/16 to 1/4 inch). Adjust line spacing or leading to give sufficient space between lines for editorial commentary. Never single space under any circumstances. Do not justify the right margin and do not hyphenate words. Use a serif typeface such as Times Roman, Century Schoolbook, or New Century Schoolbook. Print on only one side. Staple your paper in the upper left corner. Do not "bind" in any covers and do not include blank sheets preceding or following the paper.

Abbreviations can simplify technical terms but in order to avoid confusion only standardized abbreviations should be used. Before using an abbreviation introduce the term first, and then consistently use that abbreviation when you use the term. Use abbreviations sparingly. Do not use abbreviations at all in the title or abstract.

Example of introducing a term:
Metric abbreviations are not introduced first.
Numbers are spelled out if they are less then ten.
Numbers are also used when indicating:
The Standard International system of units (the modern version the metric system) should be used when specifying measurements. Abbreviations and conversions of measurements are shown below.

39.4 in = 1 m
1 in = 25.4 mm
1 in = 2.54 cm
1 oz = 31.1 g

1 gram force = .01N

In order to simplify the correction of your papers, the following proofreader's marks are used.

Mark and Meaning

Mark in Margin

Mark in Text



Use only samples.


Use only two twosamples.

let stand as originally typed


Use only two samples.



Use only two smaples.

close up

Use o nly two samples.



Use only too samples.

type in upper case


use only twosamples.

type in lower case


Use ONLY two samples.

insert a space


Use onlytwo samples

begin a new paragraph

¶Use only two samples

move left

Use only two samples.

move right

Use only two samples.

Arrange your papers in the following order and begin a new page for the sections preceded by an asterisk (*).

Number all pages in consecutive order beginning with the Title page. Type the first two or three words of your title in the upper right hand corner, 2 cm down. Place the page number on the same line but typed to the far right.

The following pages represent a sample paper. It is intended to demonstrate appearance. It is not intended to make sense. The commentary within the boxes discusses the section on the page following it; that way you can get commentary as well as a feel for how the paper should appear.

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Date Last Reviewed: December 31, 2002