Introduction to Psychology

Listed in: Psychology, as PSYC-100
Catherine A. Sanderson (Section 01)
Moodle site: Section 01

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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 a description of who the participants are and the specific procedures used.

This section will provide the results of your study, usually including a report of differences between groups or the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. A graph is often included to visually illustrate the results. You should save interpretation of these results for the next section.

This section summarizes your results and discusses their implications. The discussion relates your results to your hypotheses, describes any limitations of your study Then, you broaden your scope again to consider implications and suggest further research.  

NOTE: For comprehensive instructions, 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

    PsycINFO is a database that contains scholarly journals that publish empirical research articles in the field of Psychology.

    Basic searching:
    When searching for a topic, first it's best to break it up into keywords according to the main concepts.
    For example, if you're interested in the impact of social media on loneliness in teenagers, your keywords might be:

    • social media
    • loneliness
    • teenagers

    Next, you should think about other keywords that might also describe your topic. This helps make sure you don't miss relevant articles. 

    For example: teenagers could also be adolescents, young adults

    Then, you can use the drop-downs with AND, OR, and NOT to tell the database to include or exclude various terms.

    Social media AND loneliness will only retrieve articles with both terms, which creates a narrower search


    Teenagers OR adolescents will retrieve articles with either term, or both, which creates a broader search


    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.

    Subject terms are a tag that indicate the major subjects of a work, and can help you make sure you've found all relevant material on a particular topic.

    Empirical article searching:

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

      Tracking down references

      If you have information like the article author, date, or general topic, you can track down these references in various ways. Citations usually include at least the author's last name and date, for example: (Kruger 2005).

      You can use the drop-down fields in PsycINFO's search to focus on the author and date information: 


      You can then add in keywords related to the general topic, to narrow down further:

      To find works that cite a particular article, you can use the Cited References search to look up the article, and then see what other articles are citing it.

        Getting individual help

        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: