#6%20-%20Reading%20Research%20Reports

#6 Reading R - ‘30 35 40 with permission from Contemporary Readings in Social Psychology edited by David A Schroeder David E Johnson and Thomas D

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–4. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: ‘30 35 40 with permission from Contemporary Readings in Social Psychology. edited by David A. Schroeder, David E. Johnson. and Thomas D. Jensen (pages 36-42).'Copyright O l985 by Nelson-Hall Publishers (Chicago). Reprinted To many students, the prospect of reading a research re- port in a professional journal elicits so much fear that no information is, in fact, transmitted. Such apprehension on the part of the reader is not necessary, and we hope that this article will help students understand more clearly what such reports are all about and will teach them how to use these resources more effectively. Let us assure you that there is nothing mystical or magical about research reports, although they may be somewhat more technical and precise in style, more intimidating in vocabulary, and more likely to refer to specific sources of information than are everyday mass me- dia sources. However, once you get beyond these intimidat- ing features, you will find that the vast majority of research reports do a good job of guiding you through a project and of informing you of important points of which you should be aware. , A scientific research repon has but one purpose: to communicate to others the results of one‘s scientific investi- gations. To ensure that readers will be able to appreciate fully the import and implications of the research, the author of the report will make every effort to describe the project so comprehensively that even a naive reader will be able to follow the logic as he or she traces the author‘s thinking through the project. r - ' ' A standardized format has been developed by editors and authors to facilitate effective communication. The format is subject to some modification, according to the specific needs and goals of a particular author for a particular article, but, in general, most articles possess a number of features in com- mon. We will briefly discuss the six major sections of re- search articles and the purpose of each. We hope that this selection will help you take full advantage of the subsequent articles and to appreciate their content as informed “con- sumers” of social psychological research. Heading The heading of an article consists of the title, the name of the author or authors, and their institutional affiliations. Typically the title provides a brief description of the primary independent and dependent variables that have been investi- gated in the study. This information should help you begin to categorize the study into some implicit organizational framework that will help you keep track of the social psy- chological material. For example, if the title includes the word persuasion, you should immediately recognize that the article will be. related to the attitude-change literature, and '45 .so 5,5 60 65 70 75 80 85 182 you should prepare yourself to identify the similarities and differences between the present study and. the previous lit- erature. . ' The names of the authors may also be important to you for at least two reasons. First, it is quite conunon for social psychologists to use the names of authors as a shorthand notation in referring among themselves to critical articles. Rather than asking, “Have you read ‘Videotape and the at- tribution process: Reversing actors‘ and observers’ points of view'?", it is much easier to say, “Have you read the Storms (1973) article?" In addition, this strategy gives the author(s) credit for the material contained in the article. Second, you will find that most researchers actively pursue programs of research that are specific toga particular area of interest. For example, you will eventually be able to recogniZe that an article written by Albert Bandura is likely to be about social learning processes, while an article by Leonard Berkowitz is probably going to discuss aggression and violence. Once you begin to identify the major researchers in each area. you will find that you will be able to go beyond the information pre- sented within an article and understand not only how a piece of research fits into a well-defined body of literature but also how it may be related to other less obvious topics. Abstract I view of the contents of the article. The Abstract should be totally Self~contained and intelligible without any reference to the article prOper. It should briefly convey a statement of the problem explored, the methods used, the major results of the study, and the conclusions reached. The Abstract helps to set the stage and to prepare you for the article itself. Just as the title helps you place the article in a particular area of investigation, the Abstract helps pinpoint the exact question or questions to be addressed in the study. Introduction The Introduction provides the foundation for the study it- self and therefore for the remainder of the article. Thus it serves several critical functions for the reader. First, it pro— vides a context for the article and the study by discussing past literature that is relevant to and has implications for the present research. Second, it permits a thorough discussion of the rationale for the research that was conducted and a full description of the independent and dependent variables that were employed. Third, it allows the hypotheses that were tested to be stated explicitly, and the arguments on which these predictions were based to be elucidated. Each of these 90 95 i 100 105 '110 “5 l20 Appendix A Reading Research Reports: A Brief Introduction ' will be considered in detail. . fimfirlfirmm review that is typically the initial portion of the Introduction is not intended to provide a comprehen- sive restatement of all the published articles that are tangen- tially relevant to the present research. Normally, a selective review is presented—one that carefully sets up the rationale of the study and identifies deficiencres in our understanding of the phenomena being investigated. .In .takmg ap- proach, the author is attempting to provrde insights mto the thought processes that preceded the actual conducting of the ‘ study. Usually the literature review will begm by drscussmg rather broad conceptual issues (e.g., major theories, recog- nized areas of investigation) and will then gradually narrow its focus to more specific concerns (e.g., specific findings from previous research, methods that have been employed). It may be helpful to think of the Introduction as a funnel, gradually drawing one’s attention to a central point that rep- resents the critical feature of the article. Following the review of the past literature, the author typically presents the rationale for his or her own research. A research study may have one of several goals as its primary aim: ( I) It may be designed to answer a question specifically raised by the previous literature but left unanswered. (2) lt may attempt to correct methodological flaws that have plagued previous research and threaten the validity of the conclusions reached. (3) It may seek to reconcile conflicting findings that have been reported in the literature, typically by identifying and/or eliminating confounding variables by exerting greater experimental control. (4) It may be designed to assess the validity of a scientific theory by testing one or more hypotheses that have been deduced or derived from that theory. (5) It may begin a novel line of research that has not been previously pursued or discussed in the literature. Research pursuing any of these five goals may yield signifi~ , cant contributions to a particular field of inquiry. 125 I30 I35 MO 145 After providing the rationale for the study, the author properly continues to narrow the focus of the article from broad'conceptual issues to the particular variables that are to be employed in the study. Ideally, in experimental studies, . the author clearly identifies the independent and dependent variables to be used; in correlational studies, the predictor and criterion variables are specified. For those readers who do not have an extensive background in research methodol- ogy, a brief explanation of experimental and correlational studies may be in order. Experimental studies. An experimental study is designed to identify causeelfect relationships between independent variables that the experimenter systematically manipulates and the dependent variable that is used to measure the be- havior of interest. In such a study, the researcher controls the situation to eliminate or neutralize the effects of all extrane- ous factors that may affect the behavior of interest in order to assess more precisely the impact of the independent vari- ables alone. In most instances, only the tightly controlled experimental method permits valid inferences cause~effeet relationships to be made. Correlational studies. In some circumstances the re- searcher cannot exert the degree of control over the situation #4_,_,, . of' I50 155 I60 165 I70. 175 ISO l85 I90 I95 200 183 that is necessary for a true experimental study. Ramer fl!” giving up the project, the researcher may explore altemauvc methods that may still permit an assessment of his or her hypotheses and predictions. One such alternative is the cor- relational approach. In a correlational study, the “533mm specifies a set of measures that should be related concept? ally to the display of a target behavior. x'I'he measure that {5 used to assess the target behavior is called the criterion van- able; the measure from which the researcher expects to be able to make predictions about the criterion variable is called the predictor variable. Correlational soldier-permitthe re- searcher to assess the degree of . relationship between the predictor variable(s) and the criterion variable(s'), but infer- ences of cause and effect cannot be validly made because the effects of extraneous variables have not been adequately controlled. Correlational studies are most frequently used in naturalistic or applied situations in which researchers must either tolerate the lack of control and do the best they can under the circumstances or give up any hope of testing their hypotheses. After the discussion of these critical components of the study, the author explicitly states the exact predictions that the study is designed to test. The previous material should have set the stage sufficiently well for you as a reader to anticipate what these hypotheses will be, but it is incumbent on the author to present them nonetheless. The wording of the hypotheses may vary, some authors preferring to state the predictions in conceptual terms (e.g., “The arousal of cognitive dissonance due to counterattitudinal advocacy is expected to lead to greater attitude change than the presenta- tion of an attitude-consistent argument") and others prefer- ring to state their predictions in terms of the actual operationalizations that they employed (e.g., “Subjects who received a $1 incentive to say that an objectively boring task was fun are expected to subsequently evaluate the task as being more enjoyable than subjects who Were offered a $20 incentive to say that the task was interesting"). In reading a research report, it is imperative thatyou pay attention to the relationship between the literature review, the rationale for the study and the statement of the hypotheses. In a well—conceived and well-designed investi- , gation, each section will flow logically from the preceding one; the internal consistency of the author’s arguments will make for smooth transitions as the presentation advances. If there appear to be discontinuities or inconsistencies through- out the author’s presentation, it would be wise to take a more critical view of the study-particularly if the predictions do not seem to follow logically from the earlier material. In such cases, the author may be trying to present as a predic- tion a description of the findings that were unexpectedly uncovered when the study was being conducted. Although there is nothing wrong with reporting unexpected findings in a journal article, the author should be honest enough to identify them as what they really are. As a reader, you should have much more confidence in the reliability of pre- dictions that obtain than you do in data that can be described by postdictions only. Appendix A Reading Research Reports: A Brief Introduction _ Method To this point, the author has dealt with the study in rela- 205 tively abstract terms, and has given little attention to the 260 actual procedures used in conducting it. In the Method sec- tion, the author at last describes the operationalizations and procedures that were employed in the investigation. There . are at least two reasons for the detailed presentation of this 210 information. First, such a presentation allows interested 265 readers toreconstruct the methodology used, so that a repli- cation of the study can be undertaken. By conducting a rep- - lication using different subject populations and slightly different operationalizations of the same conceptual vari- has included any questions that were intended to allow the effectiveness of the independent variable manipulation to be assessed, these manipulation checks are described at this point. All of this information may be incorporated in the procedures subsection or in a separate subsection. ' After you have read the Method section, there should be no question about-what has been done to the subjects who participated in‘the study. You should try. to evaluate how representative the methods that were used were‘of the con- 270 ceptual variables discussed in the introduction. Manipulation ' 215 ables, more information can be gained about the validity of the conclusions that the original investigator reached. Sec- ond, even if a replication is not conducted, the careful de- scription of the method used will permit you to evaluate the adequacy of the procedures employed. 220 The Method section typically comprises two or more subsections, each of which has a specific function to fulfill. Almost without exception, the Method section begins with a subject subsection, consisting of a complete description of the subjects who participated in the study.l The number of y 225 subjects should be indicated, and there should be a summary male and female subjects, age) so that you can know to what populations the findings can be reasonably generalized. Sampling techniques that were used to recruit subjects and 230 incentives used to induce volunteering should also be clearly 275 of important demographic information (e.g., numbers of 280 specified. To the extent that subject characteristics are of 285 checks may help to allay one’s concerns, but poorly con- ceived manipulation checks are of little or no value. There- fore, it is important for you as a reader to remember that you are ultimately responsible for the critical evaluation of any research report. Results Once the full methodology of the study has been de- scribed for the reader, the author proceeds to report the re- sults of the statistical analyses that were conducted on the data. The Results section is probably the most intimidating section for students to read, and often the most difficult sec- tion for researchers to write. You are typically confronted with terminology and analytical techniques with which you are at best unfamiliar, or at worst totally ignorant. There is no reason for you to feel badly about this state of affairs; as a neophyte in the world of research, you cannot expect mas- tery of all phases of research from the start. Even experi- enced researchers are often exposed to statistical techniques with which they are unfamiliar, requiring them either to learn the techniques or to rely on others to assess the appro- priateness of the procedure. For the student researcher. a little experience and a conscientious effort to learn the basics will lead to mastery of the statistical skills necessary. The author‘s task is similarly difficult. lie or she is at- ' tempting to present the findings of the study in a straight- forward and easily understood manner, but the presentation of statistical findings does not always lend itself readily to this task. The author must decide whether to present the re- sults strictly within the text of the article or to use tables, graphs, and figures to help to convey the information effec- tively. Although the implications of the data may be clear to the researcher, trying to present the data clearly and con- cisely so that the reader will also be able to discern the im— plications is not necessarily assured. In addition, the author is obligated to present all the significant results obtained in the statistical analyses, not just the results that support the hypotheses being tested. Although this may clutter the pres- entation and detract from the simplicity of the interpretation. it must be remembered that the researcher's primary goal is to seek the truth, not to espouse a particular point of view that may not be supported by the data. primary importance to the goalsof the research, greater de- tail is presented in this subsection, and more attention should be directed to it. ' 235 A procedures subsection is also almost always included in the Method section. This subsection presents a detailed 290 account of the subjects' experiences in the experiment. Al- though other formats may also be effective, the most com- mon presentation style is to describe the subjects' activities 240 in chronological order. A thorough description of all ques- tionnaires administered or tasks completed is- given, as well 295 as any other features that might be reasonably expected to affect the behavior of the subjects in the study. After the procedures have been discussed, a full descrip- 245 tion of the independent variables in an experimental study, or predictor variables in a correlational study, is typically 300 provided. Verbatim description of each of the different lev- els of each independent variable is presented, and similar detail is used to describe each predictor variable. This in- 250 formation may be included either in the procedures subsec- tion or, if the description of these variables is quite lengthy, 305 in a separate subsection. ‘ After thoroughly describing these variables, the author usually describes the dependent variables in an experimental 255 study, and the criterion variables in a correlational study. The description of the dependent and/or criterion variables 3‘0 also requires a verbatim specification of the exact operation- _____________.____————- ‘ Editor 's note: Many researchers prefer the terms participants or respondents to the term subjects. 184 325 330 335 340 345 350 355 360 365 370 WWW sistencies and offering plausible reasons for their occur- rence. In general, the first portion of the Discussion de- voted to an evaluation of the hypotheses that were originally set forward in the Introduction, given the data that were ob- 'tained in the research. . - The Discussion may be seen as the inverse of the Intro- duction, paralleling the issues raised in that section in the opposite order of prescntation. Therefore, afier discussmg the relationship of the data with the hypotheses, the author often attempts to integrate the new findings into the body of research that provided the background for the study. Just as this literature initially provided the context within which you can understand the rationale for the study, it subsequently provides the context within 'which the data can be under- stood and interpreted. The author’s responsibility at this point is to help you recognize the potential import of the research, without relying on hype or gimmicks to make the aim. ' p The Discussion continues to expand in terms of the breadth of ideas discussed until it reaches the broad, con- ceptual issues that are addressed by the superordinate theo- retical work that originally stimulated the past research literature. If a particular piece of research is to make a sig- nificant contribution to the field, its findings must either clarify some past discrepancy in the literature, identify boundary conditions for the applicability of the critical theo- retical work, reconcile difi'erences of opinion among the researchers in the field, or otherwise contribute to a more complete understanding of the mechanisms and mediators of important social phenomena. . . Once the author has‘reached the'goals that are common to most journal'arti'cles, attention may be turned to less rig» orous ideas.'Depending on a particular journal's editorial policy and the availability of additional space, the author may finish the article with a brief section about possible ap- plications' of the present work, implications for future work in the area, and with some restraint, speculations about what lies ahead for the line of research. Scientists tend to have relatively little tolerance for conclusions without foundation and off-the-cuff conunan made without full consideration. Therefore authors must be careful not to overstep the bounds of propriety in making speculations about the fixture. But such exercises can be useful and can serve a heuristic fianc- tion for other researchers if the notions stated are well con- ceived. Finally. particularly if the article has been relatively long or complex, the author may decide to end it with a short Conclusion. The Conclusion usually simply restates the major arguments that have been made throughout the article, reminding the reader one last time of the value of the work. As we suggested earlier, not all articles will follow the 185 380 points in the report. Let‘us end with a word of encourage- ment: Your enjoyment of social psychology will be en- hanced by your fuller appreciation of the sources of the information to which you are being exposed, and, to the ex- tent that you are able to read and understand these original 385 sources for yourself, your appreciation of this work will be maximized. - Reference Storms. M. D. 0973). Videotape and the emotion process: Reversing actors' and W' points of view. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 27, l65-l75. Exercise for Appendix A Factual Questions 1. What four elements should the Abstract contain? 2. Nomially, should the literature review be selective or comprehensive in research reports? 3. If there is a research hypothesis, should it be explicitly stated in the Introduction? 4. Should the Introduction to a research report start with a narrow discussion of variables or with a discussion of broad conceptual issues? 5. What is a criterion variable in a correlational study? 6. The Method section usually begins with a description of what? 7. According to the authors, what is probably the most in- timidating section of a research report for students? 8. How should the Discussion section of a research report typically begin? Questions for Discussion 9. Name an area in which you are interested in identifying cause-and-efi'ect relationships but in which a correla- tional study would probably be more appropriate than an experimental study. 10. Name some demographic information that might be of interest to you in a typical social science research article ...
View Full Document

This note was uploaded on 02/05/2012 for the course COM 217 taught by Professor Na during the Fall '11 term at Purdue University-West Lafayette.

Page1 / 4

#6 Reading R - ‘30 35 40 with permission from Contemporary Readings in Social Psychology edited by David A Schroeder David E Johnson and Thomas D

This preview shows document pages 1 - 4. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online