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PSYC 3980: Research Design

Parts of a Research Article

  • Title - often long and technical.

  • Author Information - author name, affiliation (ex: university or laboratory) and contact information.

  • Citation - article title, journal or source name, volume and issue information and pagination. Also, DOI numbers are used in APA style.

  • Abstract - a summary of the whole article. 

  • Introduction - outlines the problem being examined -- the purpose or hypothesis.

  • Methodology - how the research or experiment was performed. In order for an experiment to be reproduceable, methodology must be thoroughly described.  This may include discussion of materials and subject selection.

  • Data/Results - data in tables, charts, figures, or illustrations.

  • Discussion/Conclusions - explains and interprets the results, drawing a final conclusion about the problem.  Primary research may bring new information to the discipline, or may confirm or dispute previous findings.

  • References - sources given in a consistent style.

Thinking about research

Empirical research is based on observation, so that evidence is collected to reach a conclusion. But how do you figure out what to observe or how to observe once you have a research question? That's your methodology.

A methodology is an approach or process to your research. It is influenced by the philosophy and reasoning behind the particular research design that you have chosen. More specifically, a methodology is the set of particular steps taken to conduct a research project. People often talk about methodologies in terms of these groups.

Qualitative and Quantitative

  • Philosophically, quantitative research assumes that the world can be objectively observed and measured, and thus information is quantifiable.
  • Philosophically, qualitative research assumes that the world is contextual, with multiple perspectives. Qualitative research also depends on careful observation, through which even questions on complex phenomena such as behavior can result in prediction, analysis and interpretation.

Simple summation: If you count the people in several study areas, you can quantitatively determine the most popular study spaces on campus. If you want to know what qualities make a space popular, you would need qualitative methods, such as surveys or questionnaires, to directly question the users. 

Primary and Secondary

  • In primary research, the researcher directly observes, and/or gathers data. This might be during the course of an experiment, or it could be through field work, or questionnaires.
  • In secondary research, the researcher uses data that has been compiled by others. The researcher is still observing. How does that work?
    • A researcher might download data sets from the US Census, or the Center for Disease Control and look for correlations between demographic and other kinds of data.
    • A scientist might review all the current literature on a particular brain trauma issue and review the imaging results over several studies to form a conclusion about treatment.

Sample Articles

The best way to understand the differences between kinds of research is to look at samples.