We start here – at the end - so that you can see where we are going and so that you can build up a picture of the final product. This section is quite long as it also serves as a reference for the writing-up of your dissertation. The main issues that you need to cover here are presented in Harris (1986) and in many other textbooks. The basic rule is to be precise, concise and use the conventions of reporting, referencing and data presentation that are set out in the guides. Harris (1986) is the recommended course text for this unit. It can be found in the Arts and Social Sciences Library and the full reference is:
Harris, P. (1986). Designing and Reporting Experiments. Buckingham: Open University Press. BF200 HAR
Although the book is aimed at psychology students, a lot of the material is relevant to those who study Deaf Studies as well. Another useful text (to which you may wish to refer) is:
APA (1994). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association: 4th Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. PN147 PUB
This text is quite dense (and can be hard to follow) but provides exhaustive details of how to prepare manuscripts for publication, including dissertations and theses.
Whilst Harris (1986) also covers relevant aspects of quantitative research, it does not include qualitative research within its scope. The suggested text for qualitative research methods is:
Bowling, A. (1997). Research methods in health: Investigating health and health services. Buckingham: OUP. RA440.85 BOW
Also included in these course notes are useful WWW links. These are well worth taking a look at, and some of them will match your level of knowledge and interest.
If we imagine the process of writing a project report, it can be thought of as like an hourglass shape. So it is broad at the top, gradually narrows to a point and then starts to broaden again. This is how your research report should look. The introduction should start from a very general point of view – it sets the context of the research in other people’s work and then leads the reader through a critical review (see last session) to the research question. At this point there should be a precise and logical statement. The methodology of how to approach this question then begins to broaden it out and the research study that is designed is a way to make operational, the ideas, takes this further. The research results are then likely to lead outwards with implications and then into the discussion that begins to draw out the implications for the field in general.
There are a number of variations on the structure but the papers should include:
w A Title page with course details and year of submission
w A Statement Page that the work is the whole an unaided work of the student – this to be signed in each copy
w An Acknowledgement page (optional)
w A Summary – one page – which contains the background, study, results and implications
w A Table of Contents with page numbering for each chapter and section
w An Introduction to the report. A review of relevant literature and previous research/publications (up to 30%). The background and establishment of the research theme. This should include a brief and concise version of the review of the literature. It is designed to show that the candidate is capable of critical analysis of current research work and can deal with the theories or models proposed in that field. This should lead to the Statement of a Research Question.
w Next comes the Method section. A detailed account of the work carried out by you (up to 50%). This will have several sections. First, the Aims and Objectives will be presented. If these are to be expressed as hypotheses, they should appear here. Second, the methods to be used and general procedure. This part should indicate which methods have been chosen and how these are to be implemented. It should indicate the sampling and reasoning behind this. It should indicate how participants were contacted and how the design was formulated. Thus you will have a Participants section, followed by a Design section, and then a section detailing any Apparatus/Materials used. Third, the Pilot Work. This should explain how you prepared for the main study by trying out the method and materials. Say what you learned and how your study was altered as a result. Finally, the Procedure - the implementation of the method should be described, showing what actually happened, what was measured and what analysis has been carried out. The success of this section is measured by how well another person can duplicate your study by just reading your report.
w Results: set out the results of your study, using tables, figures, statistics, and graphs, as relevant. Make sure that the measurement is clear and that the tables are self-explanatory (so they have to have labels and numbers e.g. Table 2.6: Deaf women who visit the doctor)
w Discussion: An analysis and discussion of the implications of what has been discovered in terms of the previous review of the literature (20-30%). You should include the plans for future work, in the context of what you would do next time to improve the study. These plans have to arise from and relate to the pilot work and the work reported.
w A Reference List (a conventional list of all materials which have been referred to in the text above)
w Appendices of relevant research materials
The research should aim to provide some new insights and analysis. It should help us to understand the research question better. There is always some learning from the conduct of the research, so be positive and search for the real explanations of your findings, even if they seem to be limited at first.
Be systematic, be concise, be positive and be precise (in what you say, and how you apply the format).
[Dr. Sarah Stevenage from the University of Southampton wrote this section.]
‘Why is writing so difficult?’ This is a question asked by students and lecturers alike. Very often, the problem is not the writing but the whole host of emotions that a blank piece of paper seems to create. For instance, there is the feeling that you have to get it right - first time - because you (YOU) are being judged on what you write. The simple act of submitting a report opens up the field for criticism. Sometimes you just don’t know what to write but armed with the impression that a thick report is better than a paltry few pages you end up waffling about everything remotely linked to the title. Sometimes you can feel that you are not qualified to criticise the work of people who have numerous years of expertise in an area while you have merely read a couple of papers. The result then is a paper that reads more like a reiteration of the work of others rather than a critical evaluation of that work.
These are both common mistakes in students’ written work. In this section it is hoped you will gain some insight into what the reader wants from a piece of writing. There are, of course, some rules to follow and these are explained below. However, the main aim is to help you to gain confidence in your own writing abilities. Your style of writing is critical in persuading your reader of the validity of your ideas. Confidence can help you achieve a writing style that makes you, and your work, believable.
section covers words that are commonly misused in lab reports and essays.
Many of these are listed below with an indication as to their correct meaning
and usage. However, for a more exhaustive list you are encouraged to
Strunk, W. and White, E.B. (1972). The elements of style (2nd Edition). New York: Macmillan.
Fowler, H.W. (1965). A dictionary of modern English usage (2nd Edition). Revised by E. Gowers. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sternberg, R.J. (1988). The psychologist’s companion (2nd Edition). Cambridge, New York, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
To adapt is to accommodate, to adjust, to bring into correspondence.
To adopt is to embrace, to take on, to make one’s own.
Both can be used as nouns and verbs. An affect is an emotion or something that tends to arouse an emotion. An effect is a result or outcome of some cause. To affect is to influence or to have an effect upon something. To effect is to accomplish or to achieve.
His display of affect seemed contrived.
(b) The effect of the variable was non-significant.
(c) The outcome was affected by several methodological flaws.
(d) With great skill and determination they were able to effect a change in their writing style.
If two things are related then there is said to be a relation between them. If there are more that two things then the relation is among them. (The term between can be used if there are more than two things but only if the relationship is reciprocal - two way.)
of, number of
Use amount of to refer to quantities of things that can’t be counted - i.e., the amount of liquid in the tall jar... Use number of to refer to quantities of things that can be counted - i.e., the number of stimuli...(Note, monetary quantities is an exception - use ‘amount of money’.)
This word has a precise statistical meaning - In statistical terms there are three ways to compute an average resulting in a mean, a median and a modal value. The term ‘average’ is used as a synonym for mean. More generally, the term average can be used as a generic term for all measures of central tendency. To avoid confusion, the term average is best used in its more specific meaning.
to, compare with
To compare to is to point out or emphasise similarities between different things. To compare with is to point out or emphasise differences between similar things.
(a) When the two brothers were compared to each other they were found to be very similar.
(b) The accountability of Theory A was found to be fundamentally lacking when compared with that of Theory B.
Continual means often repeated. Continuous means without stop.
(a) Continual interruptions forced the teacher to work at home.
(b) Continuous background music calmed the dentist’s patients.
Data is the plural noun. Datum is the singular.
(a) The data were analysed...
(b) One datum was inconsistent with the others. (more usual to say ‘one data point’ though)
A fact should be directly verifiable either empirically or logically. Do not refer to judgments or probable outcomes as facts.
This has two quite specific meanings in Psychology - one is statistical; the other refers to determining reasons as in ‘several factors contributed to the current misunderstanding...’ Because of this potential confusion it is best not to use the word in a non-technical sense.
Fewer refers to number. Less refers to degree.
(a) She experienced fewer sleepless nights after discovering Valium.
(b) It takes less time to mark a report in the morning than in the evening.
To imply something is to suggest it indirectly. To infer something is to conclude or deduce it from the information available.
Insignificant means meaningless. Non-significant means that something does not reach significance. Remember, a non-significant finding is NOT insignificant.
This word should be used to express a clear connection ie., something is relevant to something else.
Reliability refers to how well or consistently a test measures whatever the test measures. Validity refers to how well a test measures what it is supposed to measure. Thus, a perfectly reliable test can be completely invalid if it measures something well but not what it is intended to measure. A perfectly valid test, however, must be perfectly reliable too - as it measures what it is supposed to, perfectly.
This word should only be used in a temporal sense. Do not use it as a substitute for ‘because’.
[Dr. Sarah Stevenage from the University of Southampton wrote this section.]
In academic journals, there is a certain conformity of style and convention of presentation that you should be aiming to replicate. The best way to pick this up is, unfortunately, by reading through recognised journals.
Convention dictates that experimental articles are divided into certain sections. Your reader needs to know exactly what you did and how you did it. They should also understand why you did it and know what you found and what your results mean. These different bits of information are often put into separate sections of an article and doing this helps the reader to use the article effectively as they then know what aspect of a study they can find in any particular section.
There is no single correct way to set out a report or article. What follows is a general guide - you should adapt the structure of your report to suit your material. Effective communication is the key concern and is more important than whether or not you have correctly ‘parcelled’ your information.
Typically you should include a title, an abstract, an introduction, a method section, a results section, a discussion section and finally the reference section. Each of these sections is quite specific in what it should contain. As well as referring to the guidelines given below, cross-reference with the Marking Guide reported previously in these notes.
This should be brief, concise, informative, and yet economical with words. The title is not just an irrelevant phrase stuck at the beginning of an article. It is often the means by which someone will decide whether or not to read the article. You should also bear in mind that many literature searches are conducted, at least partially, on the basis of the keywords contained in the title. These keywords are recognised words that all authors within an area use to designate their area of interest.
This should be 150-200 words long and should offer summary of the dissertation. Its job is to provide a brief overview so that the reader can glance over this section and use it to decide whether he or she needs to read the whole paper. This section always precedes the body of the paper but it is sometimes useful to write it last.
You should include a sentence or two on the following points:
1. A brief introduction to the issue you are looking at and what has prompted you to look further at it, i.e. is there any contradiction in the literature that has prompted you to do this study?
2. A couple of sentences to say what YOU did, i.e. what sort of task did you use, what sort of groups did you have, and what sort of measures did you record?
3. Briefly, what did you find? This might take the form of:
The results suggest that age is a
factor in determining the performance on a perceptual learning task
The ANOVA suggests that the height of the stair rather than its horizontal depth is the important factor in determining the ease of climbing
4. Briefly state how the results are to be interpreted. This doesn’t mean include half your discussion section here, it means state how the results will be discussed in that section, i.e. ‘These results are discussed in terms of the theoretical and practical issues involved in ...’
The Introduction section is designed to lay the foundation for the study you are about to present. You should include a review of both theoretical and practical literature that is relevant to the issue that you will be examining. This should be presented in a critical fashion so that the reader can see both the pluses and the minuses of the research to date and can see how it fits together. Highlighting problems and controversies is especially useful as these often act as stimuli for further research.
Your aim here is to provide the reader with enough background information so that they can see how your study contributes to an area and can see the implications of your work in terms of what has already been done. The overall direction or flow of the Introduction should lead from the general background to the specific concerns and purposes of your study. Finally you should end this section with a clear statement of the questions to be tackled and/or the hypotheses to be tested.
The temptation in this section is often to include a summary of everything that you have read on a subject - perhaps to show that you have read it. Try to avoid this - an Introduction is NOT supposed to be an essay and if you include too much you may well end up confusing the reader rather than helping them. Your grasp of a topic is demonstrated as much by what you decide to leave out as by what you include.
Note: There are several important points to note when referring to the work of other people. First, it is important that you indicate clearly where you are making use of other people’s work. You must not present the work of others as your own - this is called plagiarism and is an extremely serious academic offence. Secondly, the best way to refer to previous authors is to cite the actual publication that you have used. The reader is then able to go and look at the original for him or herself if they want to get more information or check on details. Full information on where to find such publications should be listed in a separate reference section at the end of your article but you should give the surname(s) of the author(s) and the date of publication (in brackets) in the main text.
Citing others’ work
Boys’ development may be heavily influenced by their relationship with their mother (Freud, 1890).
This section is often the easiest to write - it breaks down into 4 sub-sections: Design, Participants, Materials and Procedure. Each of these sections is basically a statement of (i) the experimental design, (ii) who was used, (iii) what was used and (iv) what was said and done. These sections MUST be written in the third person - avoid the use of I/We. It is also a good idea to write in the past tense too (‘reaction times were recorded’ rather than ‘we will record the reaction times’). This makes it sound more professional.
In the ‘Design’ section, you should describe the study in general terms. For experimental dissertations, give details of (i) the number of independent variables - factors that you manipulated. (How many levels did each of these have?), and (ii) the number of dependent variables - things that you measured and that you expected to be influenced by the independent variables. For more qualitative designs such information may be irrelevant. Discuss what to include with your supervisor. You should justify your design if others alternatives might have been used in previous research. However, do not fall into the trap of repeating information that is better placed in the Procedure section (below).
In the ‘Participants’ section include information about the number of participants and their distribution across age and gender (NOT ‘sex’) if this is appropriate. Also, include information such as socio-economic status, educational background, familiarity with the procedure, etc., if you feel these are important. Were the participants volunteers or were they paid? If children were used as participants be sure to state that consent was obtained from their parents/teachers. Ethical problems surrounding participation of children is an important consideration and deserves attention.
In the ‘Materials’ section include information on the materials and apparatus used. Do not simply provide a list of items - you should use connected prose. If standard procedures or apparatus were used of which there are already detailed descriptions available then simply name them, and if possible, direct the reader to a publication where further information may be found. Include what you, as the researcher used as well as what the participant used. This covers interview schedules, questionnaires, and coding systems for observational research. Describe their general structure and put copies in an Appendix. If there were no materials or apparatus then leave this section out. You do not need to record things like ‘paper and pencil’!
In the ‘Procedure’ section include information on the precise order of tasks and any ‘instructions to the participants’ that you feel are important to include. This section is important to get right - a reader must be able to replicate exactly what you did if he/she wants. Do not forget to specify things like the range and direction of rating scales (if used).
This section is often the weakest section of a paper or report. It is the hardest section to get right because you have to include so much information. People differ in how they like results to be presented. Basically, however, the following guidelines may prove helpful.
Begin the Results section with a statement of what was measured, i.e. a rating of the bizarreness of the images formed by the participant together with their score on a memory task.
Then present a summary of the raw data. Rows and rows of figures are not what is required here so present the mean, standard deviation and number of participants for each condition, either in the form of a table or, if possible, in the form of a graph. (The pictorial presentation of data saves the reader from having to plough through masses of text and it provides them with a source from which they have to extract the information that they require - they are made active in the interpretation of the results and this can force them to feel more involved and interested in these results.) Remember to label any tables or graphs with a short but informative title.
Having presented the summary of the data (remember that ‘data’ is plural) then comment on any trends apparent from the data, i.e. ‘From the table it appears that....’
Then present the statistical analyses of the data. Remember to include details of the statistical tests used and why, i.e. ‘A t-test for independent samples was used to see whether the mean ratings for Group A differed from the mean ratings for Group B.’. For qualitative dissertations this may not be necessary. Again, consult your supervisor.
Finally, summarise the results by relating the figures back to the predictions that you laid out in the Introduction. Do the results support or negate your predictions?
This section should begin with a reiteration of the results - but take care to use plain English this time rather than using figures and statistical-speak. If the results agree with your initial predictions then you should say this and then go on to try to develop some theoretical argument to account for these (and previous worker’s) results - i.e. put your results into some sort of context. Thoughts for future research should also be discussed (if possible) in the light of your findings and your emergent explanations.
If your results don’t agree with your initial predictions then it may be that the predictions were wrong and that your results have shown something new. However, you must not ignore the fact that your contradictory results may reflect some methodological fault. It is wise, therefore, to critically examine your method and see if you can suggest any ways in which your method may have caused the unexpected results and to see if there are ways in which it can be improved to overcome any flaws. Do not worry if you do find flaws in your methodology. That is part and parcel of doing research.
You should aim to provide a clear and critical discussion of your findings with the context discussed in the Introduction. Avoid unsupported personal opinions and over-generalisations. However, do not be afraid to question previous research if you find something contrary to it. Where speculations are presented make it clear to the reader. A good ending to this section is a paragraph that recapitulates the main findings and their implications.
Finally, do not be tempted to sidestep embarrassing findings or paradoxical results. One way that science advances is by having to explain results that were not expected.
You should list all references that you have cited in the text. If you have referred to work via secondary sources then it is these secondary sources that must be listed here. You should get into the habit of using a standard format for references. Always list authors in alphabetical order. If several publications are listed for the same author then these should be arranged in date order (most recent first).
Surname, Initial. Initial. (date). Title of paper. Title of Journal, volume number, pages.
Shepard, R.N. and Metzler, J. (1971). Mental rotation of three-dimensional objects. Science, 171, 701-703.
Surname, Initial. Initial. (date). Book Title. Place
of Publication: Publisher.
Bartlett, F.C. (1932). Remembering: A study in experimental and social psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chapters in Books:
Surname, Initial. Initial. (date). Chapter title. In editor’s initial. editor’s surname (Ed.), Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher.
Cohen, G. (1982). Theoretical interpretations of lateral asymmetries. In J.G. Beaumont (Ed.), Divided visual field studies of cerebral organisation. London: Academic Press.