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Psychology 124: Empirical Research Essay

The Hourglass model

The Hourglass model for writing an article or thesis, is just one of many different models available. 

 

 

An article (and thesis) should have the shape of an hourglass.

You will begin with broad statements that introduce the background of your research topic and it becomes more and more narrow (your research question and hypothesis) until it reaches the Methods and Results sections, which are the most specific sections of your paper. 

In the Discussion, you start off addressing the implications of the results of your study and then you discuss the limitations and finally the broad, generalizability of your study findings. 

Bem, D. J. (2003). Writing the empirical journal article. In Darley, J. M., Zanna, M. P., & Roediger III, H. L. (Eds.), The Complete Academic: A Practical Guide for the Beginning Social Scientist 2nd Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

Branson, R. D. (2004). Anatomy of a research paper. Respiratory Care49(10), 1222-1228.

Kallet, R. (n.d.). Writing the method section of a medical study. Retrieved February 13th, 2014 from http://www.mrcophth.com/publishorperish/methods.html

Purdue University. (2014). Writing the experimental report: Methods, results, and discussion. Retrieved on February 12th, 2014 from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/670/04/ 

Van Way, C. W. (2007). Writing a scientific paper. Nutrition in Clinical Practice,22(6), 636-640.

The introduction section is where you introduce the background and nature of your research question, justify the importance of your research, state your hypotheses, and how your research will contribute to scientific knowledge.

Begin with some opening statements to help situate the reader. Do not immediately dive into the highly technical terminology or the specifics of your research question. 

Write a Literature Review in order to frame your question and to summarize the current state of knowledge related to your topic. Preparing and writing the literature review is an ongoing process and it should begin before you begin your experiment, and it should continue throughout:

  • In order to design an experiment, you need to see what is already known on your research topic
  • You also must ensure that your research question has not yet been answered (unique
  • You will learn about techniques which worked/ did not work and you can use them or critically address them in your research
  • As you begin your experiment, other questions will arise which will send you back into the literature 

The Literature Review is an in-depth process, and it is expected that you will read a lot more on your topic than what will be included in the paper. You will want to ensure that only the most relevant research related to your research question is included in your literature review, so an in-depth search in the current literature (across many databases) is necessary. 

You will want to end the Introduction with a brief overview of your study. You should also clearly state your hypotheses at this point as well. 

This section is focused on the particular methods -steps of your research study. This section must be clear, organized, and only include methods that were actually used (not procedures you tried but did not use or failed). The goal is that others can follow the steps to replicate your study

Depending on your research and subject, some of the followings sub-headings within the Methods section can be used:

  • Participants (or Subjects in animal research): Who participated in the study (include drop-out, return rates, and exclusion information), their key demographic information, and how they were selected/recruited and compensated.
  • Materials (or apparatus): The materials, scales or tests, equipment, stimuli, etc used in the research. If specialized equipment wass used,  include calibration information, preparation for use, and information regarding the tool's reliability and validity. 
  • Procedures: Walk readers through the experiment as if they were the participant/subject. Detail how the study was run, what variables were manipulated and measured, any specific instructions given to participants, and how data was collected. 
  • Data analysis/Data collection: A description of the statistical methods used for data analysis and/or collection. This section should be brief and in more depth during the results section.  
  • Ethical considerations: In this section you can include any ethical considerations including consent, care and treatment of animals and whether or not you received IRB approval for the study and if not, why you didn't seek approval

The Results section should contain both data (not raw) as well as written English. Tables and Figures should be used if it makes the data easier to understand. Do not include unnecessary figures or tables as this will confuse readers. Do not include any statistical tests that you tried (out of curiosity) but are not related to the methodology or results of the study. 

First, present evidence that demonstrates that you accurately and reliably designed the methods section of the study. This can include the reliability and validity of certain tests and scales you used to create conditions. 

Then present the results in-order of the methodology of the study. This will allow reader's to clearly make sense of the results and the statistical analyses begin performed.

The central and basic findings should also be prominent in this section and should be clearly stated. After the primary results have been provided, you can include the results of the preliminary tests that were performed. 

If many different types of  statistical analyses were performed, it may be best to divide he results section into different subsections which will make the information easier to understand. 

It may be necessary and is often recommended to provide a brief and clear summary of each section of the results before moving on to the next set of statistical analyses. This will remind readers of the issue in question and will create a nice transition into the next section of analyses. 

Finally, be sure to include information pertaining to the significance and if possible include effect size information as well. Remember that results can only confirm or reject a hypothesis and that the results in and of themselves do not necessarily "prove" anything. 

Similar to an hourglass, the Discussion section should clearly map onto the Introduction section of your research paper. The discussion section allows you to bring together the results of your study and the interpretation of the results within the context of previous research and literature, which you included in your Introduction. 

Begin the Discussion section by providing the results and conclusion of your research study in plain English. Stating that your hypothesis was either confirmed or rejected is not satisfactory, you must elaborate further by reminding readers what it was you were interested in researching and what you have learned. This is the most specific part of the Discussion section.

Then compare your results to the literature that you referenced in your introduction section and to other research that has been conducted. In this section you will also want to address the generalizability and potential limitations of your study. 

Finally it is often recommended that a section on future research directions be included in your Discussion. Thereby concluding your research paper with a broad statement as to the future of your research topic. 

The abstract should be written after your have completed your research and written your article. 

The abstract is very concise and often does not exceed more than 120 words. It should contain a sentence addressing each section of the the article including:

  • The research question
  • The important information pertaining to the participants (or subjects)
  • Experimental method and key methodology including important tools, tests, and measurements
  • Key relevant findings (including statistical significance)
  • And the results and implications of your study results

All of this must be written as coherently and succinctly as possible. Remove unnecessary words wherever you can and remove information that is not absolutely pertinent to a reader's understanding of your research question or study. To ensure each word is pertinent, you may need to evaluate the importance of each section and remove details in sections such as the methodology and results.

The abstract will require plenty of time to write and will undergo many revisions, so be patient, and never hesitate to ask for help. 

The title should also be written following the completion of your research study and article. The title should be no longer than 10 words in length, engaging, and provide a quick overview of your research article. It is essential that the title be clear and focused on the findings of your study.