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Netlab: How to Read a Research Article and Evaluate the Research

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How To Read A Research Article and Evaluate The Research

In your text and on this site you will read a great deal about social psychology research. Indeed, research is the basis for your textbook. This site features Evaluating Research activities, in which you are presented with either short research articles or summaries of research and asked to make some conclusions about the research findings and methods.

Reading longer research articles is more of a challenge (a challenge the textbook authors have had to master in order to write the text). Here are a few suggestions for how to read a research article, followed by a link to a recent research article and a step-by-step guide to reading and understanding it.

Tips for Reading a Research Article

  1. Read the Abstract. It consists of a brief summary of the research questions and methods. It may also state the findings. Because it is short and often written in dense psychological language, you may need to read it a couple of times. Try to restate the abstract in your own nontechnical language.

  2. Read the Introduction. This is the beginning of the article, appearing first after the Abstract. This contains information about the authors' interest in the research, why they chose the topic, their hypothesis, and methods. This part also sets out the operational definitions of variables.

  3. Read the Discussion section. Skip over the Methods section for the time being. The Discussion section will explain the main findings in great detail and discuss any methodological problems or flaws that the researchers discovered.

  4. Read the Methods section. Now that you know the results and what the researchers claim the results mean, you are prepared to read about the Methods. This section explains the type of research and the techniques and assessment instruments used. If the research utilized self-reports and questionnaires, the questions and statements used may be set out either in this section or in an appendix that appears at the end of the report.

  5. Read the Results section. This is the most technically challenging part of a research report. But you already know the findings (from reading about them in the Discussion section). This section explains the statistical analyses that led the authors to their conclusions. It will test your knowledge of statistics, as well as research terms such as correlation coefficient, dependent and independent variables, subject variables, main effect, interaction, and interrater reliability, to name a few.

  6. Read the Conclusion. The last section of the report (before any appendices) summarizes the findings, but, more important for social research, it sets out what the researchers think is the value of their research for real-life application and for public policy. This section often contains suggestions for future research, including issues that the researchers became aware of in the course of the study. Following the conclusions are appendices, usually tables of findings, presentations of questions and statements used in self-reports and questionnaires, and examples of forms used (such as forms for behavioral assessments).

    Evaluating the Research

    With these suggestions in mind, read a report about the relationship between socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and other parental factors and discipline style in the September 2000 issue of Journal of Family Psychology: "Discipline Responses Influences of Parents' Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, Beliefs About Parenting, Stress, and Cognitive-Emotional Processes."



    To read the article, go to the link below.

    Netlab Questions for "How to Read a Research Article and Evaluate the Research"

    Answer the questions and then compare your answers with the answer key, which is merely a guide. If required by your instructor you can print out your answers and hand them in.

    1. Look at the References section at the end of the article and note the format for citing journal articles such as this one. Using the same format, write the complete citation for this article, including authors, year of publication, title of the article, name of the journal, volume number of the journal, and page numbers of the article. Note: You will find all of the information you need about the article on the first page of the web site.

    2. Who were the participants in the study, how many were there, what was the sex and ethnicity of the parents, and how did the authors find them? Note: This will be in the Methods section.

    3. What question did the researchers want to answer? Note: You will find this in the first paragraph of the article.

    4. What methods did the researchers use in the study to try to answer their questions? Note: This is found in the Methods section.

    5. How did the results answer the researchers' questions about discipline style and its relationship to (a) socioeconomic status

      (b) ethnicity

      (c) sex of parent

      (d) parenting beliefs

      and (e) cognitive-emotional processes? Note: You will find this in the Discussion section. There are several findings, each set out with different headings.

    6. What are the policy implications of the research findings and what future research do the authors suggest to contribute to this goal? Note:You will find this in the Conclusion section.

    7. Did you find the research interesting? What did you learn from it? What more would you like to know?


After you have compared your answers to the answer key you can then print them out and hand them in to your instructor if required.