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Reading in the Disciplines: Psychology


Studying psychology will require you to read articles published in the academic literature. Research Articles can be complex and may seem daunting, but a few simple techniques can make the process much easier. 


Understand how the article is structured and understand the function of each section. Psychology articles follow a fairly standard format with the following sections:

  • The Abstract  is a paragraph that provides a brief overview of the article. Reading the abstract will enable you to know what to expect from the article. It will let you know why and how the study was done. The abstract will help you decide if the article is relevant your research. 
  • The Introduction is a section that provides the background on the topic and the relevant previous research. This will also present the current question under investigation.
  • The Method section details how the research was conducted. It will give you information about the participants and procedures,
  • The Results section describes the results of the study. What was actually found when the study was conducted. This section can contain tables, charts and graphs. These present important useful information about what was found in the study. 
  • The Discussion section presents the implications of the experiment. This section could suggest further research that could be done. 
  • The References provide information about all the literature that was used in the production of this research. You can use the reference section to follow interesting research presented. 


Skim the article to become familiar with the topic. Skimming may let you know that the paper is not appropriate to your research.  This will save you time because you only want to deeply read articles that are relevant to your research. 


Take notes and ask questions:

As you read take notes of important points and look up things that are important but you don't understand. 

Some of the key questions to ask yourself are:

  • What is the main hypothesis?
  • What methods were used?
  • Are the methods appropriate?
  • What were the variables, and how were they measured?
  • What were the key findings?
  • Do the findings justify the author's conclusions?



Questions for critical readers.


1. What is the author’s goal?

2. What hypothesis will be tested in the experiment?

3. If I had to design an experiment to test this hypothesis, what would I do?


4a. Is my proposed method better than the authors?

4b. Does the author’s method actually test the hypothesis?

4c. What are the independent, dependent, and control variables?

5. Using the participants, apparatus, materials, and procedures described by the author, what results would I predict for this experiment?


6. How did the author analyze the data?

7. Did I expect the obtained results?

8a. How would I interpret these results?

8b. What applications and implications would I draw from my interpretation of the results?


9a. Does my interpretation, or the author’s, best represent the data?

9b. Do I or does the author offer the most cogent discussion of the applications and implications of the results?

10. Am I being too critical

From Roediger III, H. L., & Gallo, D. A. (2001). Reading journal articles in cognitive psychology. Visual perception: Key readings in cognition, 405-415.

Reading Articles in Cognitive Psychology

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