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Scientific Report

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Scientific Report

When psychologists carry out research, an essential part of the process involves reporting what the research entailed and the results and conclusions drawn from the study. The American Psychological Association (APA) provides guidelines of the correct format that researchers in psychology should use in their scientific report writing.

Let us examine these guidelines and break down the scientific report structure.

Why is the scientific report structure important?

The reason why research should follow the APA recommendations for writing up psychological scientific research is that:

  • It ensures the researcher adds enough information to replicate and peer-review the study.

  • It makes it easier to read and find the relevant information.

  • It ensures the report is written to a good standard.

  • It ensures any secondary research used acknowledges and credits the original author.

What are the types of scientific reports?

Research can be identified as primary or secondary research; whether the researcher collects the data used for analysis or uses previously published findings determines this. This research produce different types of scientific reports, such as:

  • Primary research data collected from the researcher carrying out an experiment.

    • E.g., a laboratory produces a primary scientific psychology report.

  • Secondary research carried out using previously published research.

    • E.g., a meta-analysis uses statistical means to combine and analyse data from multiple studies that are similar.

    • E.g., systematic review uses a systematic approach (clearly defining variables and creating extensive inclusion and exclusion criteria to find research in databases) to gather empirical data to answer a research question.

Scientific report structure in psychology

APA suggests several headings for use in psychology reports. The scientific report structure and details included in the report will vary based on the researcher's experiment. However, a general framework is used as a template for research. We will now explain this framework in further detail.

Abstract

Psychology research should always start with an abstract. This section provides a short overview of the whole study, which is typically 150-200 words. The important details the abstract should provide overview include the hypothesis, sample, procedure, results, details regarding data analysis, and the conclusions drawn. This section aims to allow readers to read the summary and decide if the research is relevant to them.

Introduction

The purpose of the introduction is to justify why the research is carried out. This is usually done by writing a literature review of relevant information to the phenomena and showing that your study will fill a gap in research.

The information described in the literature review must show how it was applied to form the research question/hypothesis. The literature review will reflect research supporting and negating the hypothesis. In this section, the investigated hypotheses should be reported. The introduction should consist of a third of the psychology research report.

Method

The method consists of multiple subsections to ensure the report covers enough details to replicate the research. It is important to replicate research to identify if it is reliable. Moreover, the details included in this section are important for peer-reviewing the quality of the research. It allows the person peer-reviewing it to identify if the research is scientific, reliable, valid and if it should be published in a psychological journal.

The subsections written in the methods section of a scientific report are:

Design

  • State the experimental design.

  • State all of the (operationalised) variables investigated.

  • If there are multiple conditions investigated, e.g., people treated for one, two, and four weeks, researchers should report it.

  • It is also important to note how researchers allocated participants into groups and if they used any counterbalancing methods.

  • The research design used, e.g., correlational research.

Sample/participants

  • The sampling method should be noted, e.g., opportunity.

  • Researchers should state the number of participants, alongside the number of males and females partaking in the study.

  • They should state the demographics of the participants used in the research, e.g., age (including the mean and standard deviation), ethnicity, nationality, and any other details relevant to the investigation.

Materials/apparatus

  • This section should state all the relevant equipment used in the study, i.e., equipment/materials used to measure the variables, e.g., questionnaires (researchers should include a copy of this in the appendix).

  • Some research does not use this subsection if it did not use any specialised materials, e.g., researchers do not need to state if participants used pens or a stopwatch.

Procedure

  • This section should describe what researchers did in the research in the order they conducted it.

  • They should include the details about standardised instruction, informed consent, and debriefing.

  • This section should be concise but provide enough details so it is replicable.

Ethics

  • This section states which ethical committee reviewed and granted the research.

  • It should state any ethical issues that could have occurred in the research and how researchers dealt with them.

Results

The results section is where you state your findings. This section only states what you have found and does not discuss or explain it. You can present the data found through numerical values, tables, and figures. However, there are specific guidelines on reporting data per APA guidelines when reporting or adding these.

Researchers should not use the raw data collected. Instead, they will use the analysed data. The results should start with the descriptive data followed by inferential statistics (the type of statistical test used to identify whether a hypothesis should be accepted or rejected). These statistics should include effect size and significance level (p). Researchers should report data regardless of whether it is significant or not. They should report the p-value to three decimal places, but everything else to two.

An example of a figure inserted in the results section of a published journal of a scatter plot showing the correlation between the level of education and income is shown below (Gregorio & Lee, 2002):

Scientific Report Scatterplot correlation StudySmarterScatter plot showing the relationship between education and income, José De Gregorio & Jong–Wha Lee, Education and Income Inequality: New Evidence From Cross-Country Data. Review of Income and Wealth, 2002

Discussion

This section should discuss and draw conclusions from the results the research found. The first thing that researchers should write about in the discussion is whether the findings support the hypothesis proposed or not. If they do, researchers should then compare the findings to previously published findings in the introduction that also found the same results. You should add very little new research to the discussion section. If the hypothesis is not supported, the discussion should explain from research why this may be. Here, adding new research to present the findings is acceptable (perhaps another theory better explains it). It is essential to critique this research, such as the strengths and weaknesses, how it contributed to the psychology field and its next direction. In the discussion, researchers should not add statistical values.

References

The purpose of the reference section is to give credit to all the research used in writing the report. Researchers list this section in alphabetical order based on the author's last name – the references listed need to be reported per the APA format. Researchers can attain information used in psychology research via various sources, but the two most common ones are via books or journals. Below we will explain the correct way to format these per APA regulations and provide an example:

Book: Author, initial (year of publication). Book title in italics. Publisher. DOI if available (digital object identifier).

Example: Comer, R. J. (2007). Abnormal psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.

Journal: Author, initial (year). Article title. Journal title in italics, volume number in italics, issue number, page range. DOI if available.

Example: Fjell, A. M., Walhovd, K. B., Fischl, B., & Reinvang, I. (2007). Cognitive function, P3a/P3b brain potentials, and cortical thickness in ageing. Human Brain Mapping, 28 (11), 1098-1116. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.20335

Scientific Report - Key takeaways

  • A scientific report consists of details regarding scientists reporting what their research entailed and reporting the results and conclusions drawn from the study.
  • Researchers should write scientific psychology reports per the APA format to ensure the scientists report enough information. It makes the report easier to read and find relevant information and ensures that the original authors of the research are acknowledged and credited.
  • The scientific report structure should use the following subheadings: abstract, introduction, method (design, participants, materials, procedure and ethics), results, discussion, references and occasionally appendix, in this order.
  • A primary scientific report is produced when the researchers conduct the research themselves.
  • However, secondary scientific reports such as peer-reviews, meta-analysis and systematic reviews are a type of scientific report that scientists produce when the researcher answers their proposed research question using previously published findings.

Frequently Asked Questions about Scientific Report

When psychologists carry out research, an essential part of the process involves reporting what the research entailed and the results and conclusions drawn from the study. The American Psychological Association (APA) provides guidelines of the correct format that researchers should use when writing psychology research reports.

This is usually done by writing a literature review of relevant information to the phenomena and showing that your study will fill a gap in research.


The information described in the literature review must show how it was applied to form the research question/hypothesis. The literature review will reflect research supporting and negating the hypothesis. In this section, the investigated hypotheses should be reported. The introduction should consist of a third of the psychology research report.

The structure of a scientific report should use the following subheadings: abstract, introduction, method (design, participants, materials, procedure and ethics), results, discussion, references and occasionally appendix, in this order. 

A scientific report consists of details regarding scientists reporting what their research entailed and reporting the results and conclusions drawn from the study. 

Scientific reports can be primary or secondary. A primary scientific report is produced when the researchers conduct the research themselves. However, secondary scientific reports such as peer-reviews, meta-analysis and systematic reviews are a type of scientific report that scientists produce when the researcher answers their proposed research question using previously published findings.

Final Scientific Report Quiz

Question

What is a scientific report?

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Answer

A scientific report consists of details regarding scientists reporting what their research entailed and reporting the results and conclusions drawn from the study.

Show question

Question

Why is scientific research reported per APA in psychology?

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Answer

  • It ensures the scientists report enough information.
  • It makes the report easier to read and find the relevant information.
  • It ensures the original research authors are acknowledged and credited.

Show question

Question

How should the following book be reported per APA guidelines? The book is called Abnormal psychology, Worth Publishers published it in New York in 2007. Ronald J Comer wrote the book. 

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Answer

Comer, R. J. (2007). Abnormal psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.

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Question

What structure should a scientific report follow?

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Answer

The structure of a scientific report should use the following subheadings: 

  • Abstract.
  • Introduction.
  • Method.
  • Results.
  • Discussion.
  • References.
  • Occasionally appendix.

Show question

Question

What are potential subheadings we can find in the methods section of a scientific report? 


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Answer

  • Design.
  • Participants.
  • Materials.
  • Procedure.
  • Ethics.


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Question

Where can readers find the hypothesis of research? 

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Answer

In the astract and introduction.

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Question

What is the purpose of the abstract?

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Answer

The purpose of the abstract is to provide an overview of the research so that the reader can quickly identify if the research is relevant or of interest to them.

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Question

How long should an abstract be?

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Answer

250-300 words.

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Question

Is the following reference reported in accordance with APA guidelines ‘Fjell, A. M., Walhovd, K. B., Fischl, B., & Reinvang, I. Cognitive function, P3a/P3b brain potentials, and cortical thickness in ageing. Human Brain Mapping, 28 (11), 1098-1116. doi:10.1002/hbm.20335’?

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Answer

No, the publication year is missing.

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Question

Do researchers have to report insignificant data?

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Answer

Yes, they need to report all data, whether significant or not.

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Question

What is the difference between the information that should be put in the results and discussion section?

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Answer

In the results section, the researcher should insert the inferential data analysed, which could take the form of numerical numbers, graphs and figures. In this section, they should not discuss or explain the results. Instead, they should write it under the discussion heading. However, the data reported in the results section should not be repeated here.

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Question

What is a primary scientific report?

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Answer

A primary scientific report is produced when the researchers conduct the research themselves.

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Question

What is a secondary scientific report?

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Answer

Secondary scientific reports such as peer-reviews, meta-analysis and systematic reviews are a type of scientific report that scientists produce when the researcher answers their proposed research question using previously published findings.

Show question

Question

What kind of details should be added in the discussion section?

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Answer

  • The first thing that researchers should write about in the discussion is whether the findings support the hypothesis proposed or not.
  • They should then discuss and explain the results the research found.
  • They should then compare the findings to previously published findings that investigated the phenomena.
  • It is essential to critique this research, such as the strengths and weaknesses, how it contributed to the psychology field and its next direction.

Show question

Question

What information should be provided in the procedure section of a scientific report?

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Answer

  • This section should describe what researchers did in the research in the order they conducted it.
  • They should include the details about standardised instruction, informed consent, and debriefing.

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