The introduction in a research paper is intended to capture the reader’s curiosity and get them to care about the outcome of the proposed study. It includes a short literature review and lays out the hypotheses of the study.
For your introduction, a minimum of 3 references will be required. You will find that this minimum requirement will be easily surpassed in order to feel sufficiently knowledgeable on the topic. You should integrate your cited articles into a narrative and not simply have 1 paragraph per article that doesn’t connect to the rest of the paper. A good science paper should tell a story (what is the topic you are studying, what has been studied in the past, and what are you looking at in your paper?). (Note: your three minimum citations must be original research empirical studies. This is in contrast to a review article, which summarizes the research to date on a particular topic. Review articles are great for getting up to speed on the topic, but are not a substitute for reading empirical articles. You can use review or meta-analytic articles as supplements to your 3 required empirical citations. Original research articles often give a more nuanced examination of a piece of a topic and get you familiar with the common paradigms, measures, statistical approaches, criticisms and innovations within a field of research.)
In summary, the introduction section will be approximately one and a half pages. It should introduce the topic, give a brief overview on research in this area, highlight the importance of this topic, and set up the hypotheses. You are being asked to hypothesize the relationship between two variables (i.e. correlation and the direction). These hypotheses need to be correlational and directional. That is, they need to be testable and follow guidelines in Module 4. Please double check with the instructor if you are unsure about your hypotheses. The Paper 1 Planning Document will give you a chance to check both your articles and hypotheses before beginning to write the introduction.
The Introduction section is difficult for many students, to help guide you in your quest to become a research methods master we have created this brief handout: Paper1_IntroductionHandout.pdf
The methods section describes what you actually did in the study. It is typically divided into 3 sub-sections: Participants, Materials/Measures, and Procedures. It should be approximately a page. As you are writing, ask yourself what a naive reader would need to know to replicate your study.
Participants sub-section should characterize the sample that was used. It should include the following information: sample size, descriptives for age, gender, and race, how the sample was recruited, and anything else you think is relevant to give the reader a sense of who was in the study. You will need to run descriptive statistics (for things like age this is the mean and standard deviation, for things like gender this is the number/frequency of people in each category).
Materials/Measures sub-section outlines what was used in the study. Since we are doing a self-report survey, we don’t actually have any materials (which would typically include things like experimental protocols, recording devices, important props used, etc.). Instead we have a number of self-report measures that we will be using. Each measure you use should have its own level 3 heading and include the: name of the scale, what it measures, the way it measures the construct (5-point likert, strongly agree-strongly disagree), the reliability of the scale, and a citation. Below is an example:
The Procedures sub-section outlines the experience of participants and how the materials were used on the participants to collect data. In our case that involved qualtrics (online data collection). Additionally, this section should state what the statistical tests used were and what program they were done with (Pearson R in SPSS).
The results section simply describes the results of the statistical analysis.
- Start by stating what you are testing (keep it simple, e.g. “This research sought to examine the relationship between sleep and exercise…”)
- Report the preliminary analyses (refer to your table that includes the appropriate descriptives for your variables of interest). It is often helpful for readers to know the basics of your variables. This becomes especially important for more complicated write ups!
- Report the statistical results for your hypothesis (i.e., the correlation and Pearson r or t-test). Your statistical test should have a sentence that describes the result (was is a positive, negative, or zero correlation or whether one group was higher), as well as its significance. The statistic goes directly after your sentence describing the result, acting as support for the statement. DO NOT interpret these results beyond stating significance (or lack of). I recommend you re-read the “Presenting your Research” and “Formatting Statistics” readings in Module 2 Part 2
You need to create an APA formatted table that displays the descriptives for the variables in your paper. This table should be placed in-text at the end of your results section.
Below is an example of an APA style table. Your table will have less detail, and far fewer columns. However, all other formatting is the same. You should have an informative title as well, customized to your table.
The discussion section is when we take the results of the study and put them in a more broad context. For this project, the discussion section should be about 2-3 pages long, double spaced.
- Restate your hypotheses and findings in words (1 paragraph). Basically, the first paragraph should conceptually re-state the results and whether or not they were consistent with the hypothesis.
- How do your results relate back to the literature you reviewed? (~ 1 page). The results are considered in relation to each of the studies that you cited in the introduction. Are they consistent with those studies? What might account for any discrepancies? Do your results suggest anything new? Additional studies are often cited in the discussion to help elaborate on why certain findings may have happened.
- Limitations: what can you and can’t you conclude? (~ 1/2 page). Are there sampling issues in our study? Any reason to believe that one measure wasn’t being used right? What about an unaccounted for variable or confound? It is important to not only list these limitations, but ALSO state what their implications on our results are? Do they bias the results one way? Do they limit the external validity? Could they be the result of a confound?
- Future directions: What should be done to follow up on these results? After the limitations have been discussed, it is important to make suggestions for future research. How might a study be improved to address these limitations? Are there different ways of testing the hypothesis (an experimental approach?) that might give more insight?
- Broader Implications: As the paper begins to wrap up, its important to state why the reader should care about these results. What are the implications of these results? Do they inform clinical practice? Could they inform policy? Do they explain an interesting aspect of life? Tell the reader why these results are exciting. Even if the results are negative they can still be informative.
- Finally, conclusions is its own level one heading (bold and centered). This is a short 4-5 sentence section that restates the main points of the study. It should briefly state what was done, what was found, and what do these findings mean. If your reader were to forget everything else in your paper (sad) what main points would you want them to remember?
The discussion should NOT have any statistics in it.
The abstract is a short summary of your paper that should let the reader know whether or not they want to read the full paper. It should be about half of a page. It should (very) briefly state: what was the motivation for the study, what were the hypotheses, what was done, what was found, what do these findings mean. Look at the abstracts of the studies that you are citing and try to model those. Note: For this assignment do NOT mention any statistics in the abstract. The title page is its own page. The abstract is on the second page. The introduction begins on the 3rd page (the level one heading for the introduction is the paper title, but its not bolded). Use page breaks to avoid messing up this formatting when you change things. Note the difference in the running head between the first and second page in the example