Description of Assignments:
The descriptions of the different assignments as detailed
to the students are listed below.
100 Level: Short Research Summary and Evaluation (Article
The goal of this project is to help you become more familiar
with library resources in psychology and with the types of
articles you're likely to find in psychology journals. Psychology
journal articles typically fall into one of three types: (a)
reports of new research related to some theory, (b) review
articles that summarize and tie together a number of earlier
studies, and (c) theoretical papers that focus primarily on
presenting a new theory. For this assignment, you will identify
a primary research article, which represents an article of
the first type. You will then write a summary and evaluation
of the research article.
During the first week of the term, the social sciences librarian
will conduct a hands-on workshop on the use of PsycINFO (the
major research database in psychology), PsycARTICLES (full-text
on-line articles in psychology), and interlibrary loan options.
Articles that are not in our library may be available via
a full-text database or may be ordered through interlibrary
loan. On the first Friday of the block, each student will
submit the abstracts of 2 articles for review and approval.
(Note: We sometimes require students to use specific criteria
for identifying an article, such as locating an article that
focuses on some aspect of diversity.)
Writing a Summary and Evaluation
The paper should begin with an introduction of the topic
and focus of the article as well as your goals. Next, your
summary of the article should address most of the following
questions: What is the major question addressed by this research?
The authors may be testing a particular theory; if so, describe
the theory. Who was studied? How was the research conducted?
Write (briefly and in your own words) about the research methods
the authors used. What were the results? Rather than describing
specific statistics, describe in general terms what the authors
found. How did the researchers interpret their results? Were
hypotheses supported? If not, what new hypotheses did the
researchers identify as potential explanations for the results?
What did the researchers propose as a good next step in the
research process? Do not get bogged down in technical details,
but describe in words the general issues that may be relevant
to the study you're describing.
The final portion of the paper should include evaluative
comments about the study. The questions you may address include
the following: In general, how effectively was the study conducted?
More specifically, how representative was the sample, and
how reliable and valid were the measures? What confounding
variables may have influenced the findings? Was there good
correspondence between the evidence and their conclusions?
Are there any limitations to the work that the authors didn't
mention? How generalizable are the findings, and what type
of research is likely to build on these findings?
Format and Timeline
Papers should be typed, double-spaced, and follow the general
format of research reports, with the exception that research
summary and evaluation papers outlined should not include
section headings (e.g., participants, method). Papers should
be approximately 3-4 pages in length and include a title page,
the summary and review section, and a reference page. The
article you summarized should be attached after the reference
This paper can be completed over a two-week interval, with
week 1 devoted to identifying and reading articles, and week
2 devoted to writing the review. Thus, the professor may require
two assignments of this type or require a second short paper,
such as a short research report based on a class project.
200/300 Level: Short Research Review (Annotated Bibliography/Topical
Review or Two Papers)
This paper is to expand students' skills for summarizing,
evaluating, and integrating research findings. Depending on
the specific course, the number of papers a professor is requiring,
and the nature of research published in the specific area
(e.g., complexity, typical number of research articles per
article), the assignment might require the integration of
2-3 sources or 6-7 sources.
Short Research Review: Option One (Annotated Bibliography/Topical
Phase One: During the first week of the term, the
social sciences librarian will conduct a workshop on the use
of PsycINFO (the major research database in psychology), PsycARTICLES
(full-text on-line articles in psychology), and interlibrary
loan options. To help with the identification of articles
that are closely related to each other in terms of topic and
content, the library session will emphasize advanced searching
tools and the use of PsycINFO citation features.
To facilitate your research, you should identify one published
article as the centerpiece of your review paper. However,
you may need to consult multiple abstracts and articles (approximately
4 sources) to locate an article that is most appropriate for
In addition to a computer search, you should examine the
literature review section of your central article (or multiples
articles) to identify other closely related articles that
may be most appropriate for this integrative review. Computer
searches on PsycINFO are very useful, but the sources they
identify may not necessarily be closely related to each other.
Examining literature reviews and reference sections of a central
article (or several potential central articles) can help ensure
that your search for closely related articles is complete.
Phase Two: Annotated Bibliography. (Due: End of week
The annotated bibliography is a road map for your paper. The
bibliography must begin with a short paragraph describing
the general problem or question that the research covers.
The bibliography should list the full reference for each
source (in APA format), accompanied by a short paragraph describing
the studies. The summary should provide a brief description
of the participants, methods, result, and conclusions. Each
new entry in the annotated bibliography should also state
how the research is related to previous entries in the bibliography.
A good annotated bibliography traces how thinking on a topic
has developed through various pieces of research. Chronological
organization may be especially helpful to ensure that early
questions about a topic are discussed first, followed by the
progression of research on the topic. Alternatively, you may
choose to feature the article that addresses the most fundamental
question first, even if it was not published first. In this
case, later entries will show how other research is related
to fundamental questions.
Phase Three: Topical review (Due: End of week three)
To guide your writing, consult class handouts on writing a
summary and critique of a specific article and writing a research
review. Your topical review should be double spaced and include
a title page, citations, and reference list.
Short Research Review: Option Two (Two Papers)
The assignment consists of two papers. For paper 1, you will
write a description and evaluation of a specific, central
research article. The second paper includes a revision of
the content of paper 1. It also includes the summary, evaluation,
and integration of two additional articles on the same topic.
Thus, the final product will be a brief review based on three
Phase One: Identical to phase one listed above.
Due at the end of week one: Abstracts of four articles, including
the identification of a "central" article.
Phase Two: This paper should begin with the definition
and description of the psychological concept explored in your
brief review paper. Second, you will also describe the study,
including the participants, the methods, the results, and
a discussion of the study's conclusions, strengths, and limitations.
(See instructions for the brief research summary and evaluation
for more detail.) Due: Two copies, Thursday of week two. For
Friday, your paper will be read by two members of a small
group (approximately 3-4 members per group). On Friday of
week 2, group members will discuss the papers, provide written
and verbal feedback to each other (criteria for feedback will
be provided), and will then submit both copies to the instructor,
who will return papers with additional summary comments on
Tuesday of week 3.
Phase Three: Paper 1 will becomes the foundation for
a second paper. You will summarize three research articles
(revised and edited version of the introduction and summary/evaluation
of article 1 and two additional research articles). After
summarizing and providing a brief evaluation of each article,
you will conclude by comparing and integrating/synthesizing
Sections of the final paper should include: (a) the definition
and description of the psychological construct being studied
(see paper 1), (b) summaries and commentary about three articles
(paper 1 and two additional articles), and (c) an integration
and synthesis section. For the final, integration section,
consider the following questions: How do specific studies
build on the findings of previous studies or examine related
hypotheses? What overall conclusions appear appropriate when
considering the findings of these three articles? How are
the articles similar and different with regard to methodology,
sample studied, measures used by researchers, etc.? If the
results contradict each other, why is this the case? What
are the implications of this line of research? What recommendations
for future research seem appropriate?
300/400 Level Content Courses: Research Proposal (Paper)
Your major paper for this class will be a research proposal.
Research proposals should be approximately 8-10 double-spaced
pages in length, and include at least six references. In your
paper, you should describe at least four original pieces of
research as a foundation for your research proposal. Although
you may use research reviews as sources for your paper, these
materials cannot be counted as one of the four original research
articles. (Reminder: Original research articles always include
methods, results, and discussion sections.)
Deciding on a Topic and Searching the Literature
As you begin to explore a topic for this research paper,
you are likely to benefit from browsing in the current journals
section of the library.
Various on-line databases, especially PsycINFO, will be helpful
to you as you identify three closely related studies that
form a foundation for your study. However, another helpful
method is to find a recent article (either through browsing
or by conducting an on-line literature search) that describes
a study on the topic of interest to you. A recent original
research study will cite the related research that preceded
and informed the study. By using the citations and reference
list, you may be able to find additional studies that are
relevant to your topic. I advise you to avoid relying only
on computerized databases to identify appropriate sources.
Content of the Research Proposal
Your research proposal should begin with a review of the
published research and theory on a particular topic or psychological
disorder. To frame your own research proposal, you will describe
the questions that previous researchers and theorists have
asked and the research that has been conducted to find answers
to these questions. For this review, you should cover a set
of closely related works on a single relatively narrow topic
or question. Describe each study in a paragraph or so, and
include at least a brief description of all relevant aspects
of the research design, results, and conclusion. Use transitional
sentences and paragraphs to interrelate and evaluate research
studies and to explain how one question in this area leads
The latter portion of your paper should describe your proposal
for addressing a significant new question of interest. What
new research can you design that might help understand or
explain an issue of interest? New research ideas come in many
types. For example, new research may examine a well-studied
approach with a new participant population. It is possible,
for example, that cognitive behavioral therapy is associated
with different outcomes when used with children than with
older adults. If you choose a new subject population, explain
why this population might be especially relevant to the question
you are asking. DO NOT simply say that you will collect a
larger, more randomly selected, or more diverse sample from
the population. Getting a better sample always improves research
-- this proposal is to add something substantive to what we
know about a particular psychological problem, not just to
improve research generally.
Past research provides excellent guidance for research proposals.
Do not come up with your own research design before you have
reviewed the literature in an area. The best research is informed
by the work of previous researchers.
Structure of the Research Proposal
Your research proposal should include the following sections:
Title and Title Page. The title of your paper should
be descriptive of the area of research that you are reviewing.
If you are writing about a particular memory phenomenon, name
it in the title. If you are writing about a particular participant
population, name them in the title. Your title might, for
example, be something like, "Research on PTSD in domestic
Introduction. Begin this section on the second page
of your paper, with the title at the top of the page. (Do
not use the heading "Introduction," even though
that is what this section is.)
This section should review theories and research on the issue
you have chosen. Describe what is currently known about the
phenomena of interest, what theories have been proposed concerning
the phenomena, and what findings are well-supported. What
have previous researchers found? Each study description should
be about a paragraph in length.
At the end of the introduction, describe the hypothesis for
the study you propose. Based on the earlier research, what
do you propose to study next? Very briefly outline how you
propose to study this question and what you expect to find.
At this point, shift to a verb tense that refers to the future
(e.g., "Participants will be asked to complete
and stay with this tense as long as you are describing proposed
research, results, and conclusions.
Method. In the method section, you should describe
the technical details of your proposed study. Carefully model
the methods you propose on those in previous research. Describe
the participants and methods for the study as well as the
procedures you would follow as a researcher. A general principle
for method sections is that every detail that might affect
the results of the study should be described. Be sure to include
a clear description of the measurements you would take to
test your hypothesis or compare one group of participants
Results. Describe the results you expect to be most
likely given past research or theorizing on the topic. If
you expressed a hypothesis for this study earlier in your
paper, note what results would be consistent with the hypothesis.
Describe, in general terms, the results you would obtain if
your hypothesis or predominant theories are correct. You need
not include specific numbers, but identify how participants
or groups are most likely to perform.
In most areas of research, there is more than one theory
or explanation that is relevant to a particular study. How
might you explain your hypothesized findings from alternative
theoretical perspectives? In this section of the proposal,
you should also write about other possible and plausible outcomes
for the study. What if your results don't support your hypothesis?
Describe possible alternative outcomes and what they might
indicate about the issue you are studying.
Discussion. Your paper should end with a general discussion
of the topic of your paper. How important is this issue to
the field as a whole? Why is it important? Where does research
in this area seem to be going? Do we know a great deal about
the topic or not? What principles have already been established?
What is yet to be known? Are there practical applications
of this work?