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Psychology Report Structure

Writing an essay or report for Psychology is stricter than your normal essay. It requires specific sections and must follow a few other rules. The following is a detailed examination of these requirements to help you obtain a good grade on your report. Here is an overview of the sections you must include in your Psychology essay:

  • Title*
  • Abstract
  • Introduction*
  • Method
    • Subjects/Participants
    • (Design)
    • Materials/Apparatus
    • Procedure
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Reference List*
  • (Appendix)*

* = section starts at the top of a new page The Abstract and Introduction do not require headings. The abstract is written beneath the Title and the Introduction begins on the next page. The Design and Appendix sections are not compulsory.

Title

The title should summarize the topic in a concise manner. It should indicate the variables under investigation and the estimated relationship between them. Keep the title to fewer than 12 words and avoid both emotional and journalistic styles of language. Never use abbreviations in the title and do not use redundant words or phrases. Do not use “A study of...” or “an experimental investigation of...”, since it is clear that the paper is a study or investigation. Use a more common title, such as “The effect of x on y” or “The relationship between x and y”, replacing x and y with your variables.

Abstract

Abstracts are single paragraphs of 100-120 words, which summarize the entire work. In it you tell what question was addressed by the report, how it was addressed, and what the conclusions were. It is not an Introduction. It is intended as a very short version of the report, so you must state your conclusions. The same language restrictions apply here as in the Title. You are not selling the paper, but simply informing as concisely as possible. Leave the details out. Include the following:

  • Problem (in one sentence)
  • Describe the subjects (sex, age, quantity, type)
  • Experimental method (apparatus, procedure, and names of tests used)
  • Results (also statistical significance is mentioned here, but not evaluated)
  • Conclusions and implications or applications

Introduction

This section in a Psychology essay is an overview of the existing literature on the subject being studied. It also present the reason for studying this question. Lastly, you present a hypothesis about what you expect the results to be from your study. The language is simply prose style. Develop the background for the question within the field of Psychology, through an historical and/or literary survey. Then justify the need to further investigate the issue, indicating any shortcomings in previous studies or new lines of thought in the field that may hint at the need to revisit the issue. Why did you choose your approach over other possibilities? How did you actually implement it? Finally, you should present your hypothesis in one or two sentences. Make a formal and clear statement of it, relating it to your review of the literature if possible, or to some argument you have developed in the Introduction. For example: “Based on the literature reviewed, we estimated that the subjects exposed to self-esteem boosting would produce better results on the academic assessment exam than those to whom we administered low self-esteem manipulation.”

Method

In this section you will detail the manner in which you conducted your research. It allows the reader to evaluate the veracity of your results through their examination of your design and materials. They should be able to reproduce your study from the details you give here. You must use the following subheadings in this section, but it is the only part of the essay that has such a strict requirement:

  • Subjects/Participants
  • (Design)
  • Materials/Apparatus
  • Procedure

Results

This section is a summary of the data you gathered and a presentation of your statistical analysis. Even results that do not fit your hypothesis should be reported here. You should not present the raw data, but rather the means and standard deviations, etc... Tables and figures are often employed in this section, but only those to which you refer within the text of the section. Also, never illustrate the same data in both a table and a figure.

Discussion

In the discussion you will interpret the results and explore the implications this has on the background you reviewed in the Introduction. Start with a statement of how well or badly your results support your hypothesis. Then come the implications in relation to the literature. Lastly, admit shortcomings of your study and potential directions for further study.

Appendix

Any additional information that is either too detailed for the main part of the paper or more tangential, it should be included in an appendix entry. For example, if you have developed a questionnaire, it should be included in an appendix and that appendix referenced in the Method section. Every appendix should be referred to from within the text of the report. Do not add appendices of irrelevant or even loosely relevant material. It will cause your grade to suffer.

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