Introduction to Psychology

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Anatomy of a lab report

Lab reports follow a particular structure, including:

  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion

Through these sections, you can think of your report as starting broad, narrowing to specifics, and then broadening out again.

This section introduces the reader to theoretical background and related studies, describing previous relevant research and positioning your current study in relation to these. You should end this section with your hypotheses, transitioning to the specific concerns of your study and leading into the methods section.

This section describes the design of your study, including dependent and independent variables, participants, equipment, and specific procedure.

This section will provide the results of your study, usually descriptive statistics followed by inferential statistics. You should save interpretation of these results for the next section.

This section relates your results to your hypotheses, considers how these correspond to findings in other research, and describes any limitations with your results. Here, you broaden your scope again to consider implications and suggest further research.  


NOTE: For a comprehensive checklist, consult your Moodle page


Further reading:

“Writing the Experimental Report: Overview, Introductions, and Literature Reviews.” Purdue Online Writing Lab. <>. Accessed September 7, 2016.

Trochim, William M. The Research Methods Knowledge Base, 2nd Edition. Internet WWW page, at URL: <> (version current as of October 20, 2006).

    Empirical research articles & how to find them

    These articles report original research or studies, i.e. actual observations or experiments, rather than theoretical developments or methodological approaches. You can identify them in several ways:

    • keywords: look for “study,” “empirical,” or mentions of participants, observations, methodology, or measurements
    • structure: will usually include introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections
    • publication: should be in an academic or professional journal, such as Journal of Psychology or JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, rather than in popular magazines or newspapers

    The following databases consist of scholarly and professional titles that publish empirical research articles:

    PyscINFO: 1887 to present, covers academic literature in psychology and related disciplines, including psychiatry, sociology, education, and other areas.

    Search tip: On the Advanced Search page, you can scroll down to Methodology and select EMPIRICAL STUDY to narrow your search.

    Advanced search box labeled Methodology, with Empirical Study selected from list of options

    Sociology Database (ProQuest) and Sociological Abstracts:

    • Sociology Database covers 1985 to present, international literature in sociology and social work
    • Sociological Abstracts covers 1952 to present, international literature in sociology and related disciplines

    Search tip: You can add keywords to your search that are included in empirical studies, and can limit to scholarly journals using the checkbox. Using quotes around your terms will tell the database to search for this as a phrase.

    Search tip: You can also narrow your search by using Subject Terms. Articles are tagged with these terms to indicate their primary subjects. To search by Subject Terms, you can click on the links listed in article records.

    list of subject terms in article record, including social phobia, stress reactions, treatment, and mindfulness

    Or you can use the Thesaurus to look up Subject Terms and add them to your search. PsycINFO will also suggest Subject Terms if you toggle that option before searching.


    Thesaurus highlighted and Suggest subject terms underlined at top of search screen in PsycINFO

    Sociology Database & Sociological Abstracts:


    Web of Science: 1984 to present, includes thousands of journals across the sciences and social sciences, and provides a cited reference search function.

    For individual research consultations, you can visit the Reference Desk in Frost, or make an appointment to talk to a librarian (or email me directly:

      Mining references

      Looking Backwards:
      An additional strategy for finding relevant studies is reference mining -- looking at the cited references of a relevant article to find related works. This is moving back in time in relation to your article, into prior research. References list with lines to the first pages of other articles

      Looking Forwards:
      You can also use features like Cited By (Sociology Database, Sociological Abstracts, Google Scholar) and Cited Reference Search (Web of Science) in databases to find works that have cited a particular article. This is moving forward in time in relation to your article, looking at more current research. Image of article first page, with lines to other articles

      Web of Science has a video explaining how to conduct a Cited Reference Search posted on YouTube.  

        Citation tools and style guides

        You can consult the print guide to APA style, in the Reference section of Frost and in the Science Library. You can also refer to APA style guidelines from the OWL at Purdue.

        We also provide instruction and support for Zotero, a free tool that helps you collect, manage, and cite your sources. It's available in all computer labs on campus, and you can download it on your own computer for free.

        If you'd like individual help with citation or research, you can visit the Reference Desk in Frost Library, or make an appointment to talk to a librarian.

          Individual Help

          You can contact me for help at any stage of your assignment or during the course by making an appointment online or emailing me directly ( I can help with brainstorming, literature searching, evaluating and organizing sources, and citation.