How to Write a Psychology Research Paper

Writing guide
Posted on July 22, 2013

As a student, you are likely to write one of two basic kinds of Psychology research papers. The literature review involves summarizing the research conducted by others. The empirical paper is either reporting the results of your own study or presenting the proposal for a study.
Papers in the field of psychology follow the American Psychological Association (APA) writing style format. The basic parts of the paper are dependent upon whether it is a literature review or an empirical paper.
Parts of a Literature Review:

  • Introduction – introduces the topic and provides an explanation of the topic’s importance. It also provides related theories or findings concerning the topic. Finally, it provides the thesis statement for the literature review.
  • Body – provides evidence from others’ research related to your thesis statement.
  • Discussion/Conclusion/Implication – states your final conclusion. It synthesizes your findings into a succinct summary and discusses what your conclusion means in relationship to the explanations or theories stated by field experts. It also presents questions you have as a result of your research. Finally, it states the possible implications for existing theories.
  • References – lists references cited in your paper.

Parts of an Empirical Paper:

  • Abstract – is typically 150 to 250 words in length. It provides a one or two-sentence summary of each of the paper’s main sections.
  • Introduction – introduces the research question for your study or proposed study and provides a rationale for why your question is relevant or important to that field. It also explains how your study relates to previous work conducted in that field. In addition, it relates theories or findings concerning the topic. Finally, it provides the hypothesis your study addressed or is designed to address.
  • Method – explains how you conducted or will conduct your study. It describes the study’s participants, as well as data-collection and analysis procedures. You are expected to provide enough information so that your study can be replicated by someone else.
  • Results – provides an explanation of what your study found or expects to find. You will present data from your study visually, such as in a chart, graph, or table, and you will explain it.
  • Discussion – states your final conclusion. It synthesizes your findings and offers conclusions. It explains the relationship between your findings and the research discussed in the introduction. In addition, it explains the results of your study and how they support your hypothesis. Furthermore, it offers explanations for any discrepancies between your findings and your predictions. Finally, it clarifies how your findings fit into existing theories and what the implications for practical applications are.
  • References – lists references cited in your Psychology research paper.
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