The Research Report

The purpose of the research report is to communicate the purpose, method, findings, and conclusions of a research project to the interested reader. In order to do this clearly and effectively a certain conventionalized format is followed in writing the report. The following discussion is based on the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Associations (APA), which provides the format required for publication of articles in journals sponsored by the APA. Example of acceptable reports can be found by referring to recent issues of such psychological journals as the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Journal of Applied Psychology, the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, or the Journal of Social and Personality.

Sections of the Research Report


This section is an aid to scientific communication. It takes the place of the formerly used Summary section, and saves time for the reader who wishes to acquaint himself quickly with the investigation. For one who has read the article, the abstract provides a useful review of the salient facts. Although kept very brief (100 to 120 words), this section should provide information from each part of the report. Th. reason for undertaking the research should be indicated (i.e., the problem studied or the hypothesis investigated), the chief aspects of the method should be mentioned, and the major results should be stated together with some notion of the discussion given to them (including conclusions). In general, a sequential representation of major points from each section will be stressed. Refer to the previously cited journals for examples of styles of abstracts. The abstract is placed on a separate sheet of paper, end appears at the beginning of the report. The title, as described below, should appear both before the Abstract and before the Introduction.


The title usually gives the independent and dependent variables involved in the study. Examples are: Y as a function of X; the effects of X on Y. Strive to be precise in your statement of the variable and accurate in your statement of relations being studied. The title is centered at the top of the page, followed by the authorís name and institutional affiliation, e.g.,:

Full Title of Report

Authorís Name

University of Hawaii


The word "Introduction" does not appear as a heading in the report. This section should indicate the problem toward which the experiment was directed, present background material (including relevant literature), then lead to and culminate in a statement of the problem or hypothesis to be tested.


An introduction should answer the question "Why was the experiment carried out?" Very often an experiment is conducted to extend previous work. In such a case the prior studies are mentioned and cited as references; the relation of the current investigation to the past work is explained. Studies are often undertaken to test hypotheses derived from theory. In this case, the introduction indicates the theoretical background and the derivation f the hypothesis. This should enable the reader to understand how the study actually tests the hypothesis and, indirectly, the theory. Another reason for doing research is to obtain answers that might be applied to the solution of a practical problem. Here an appropriate introduction might be to outline this problem and then to indicate what information must be sought experimentally to help solve it.

Every time a statement based on information in a published work is made the source of that information must be cited. The complete citation of the work appears in the Reference section at the end of the report. In the text the citation is limited to the author and date of the work, e.g., (Woodworth and Schlosberg, 1954). Page numbers are customarily added if the work cited is long.

If material is quoted from any source, the parenthetical citation should include the author, year of publication, and page number where the portion quoted may be found. The parentheses enclosing the citation data are placed right after the closing quotation mark.


The Method section is often subdivided into portions dealing with the subjects (Se) used in the study, the apparatus employed, and the procedure followed.

The subsection dealing with Ss indicates briefly how many Ss were tested and their primary relevant characteristics, e.g., "Ss were 40 male University of Hawaii undergraduates chosen randomly from Introductory Psychology sections." The apparatus subsection is often expanded to cover apparatus and materials where the selection of stimulus items forms an important part of the experimental method in the study.

Under the procedure subsection the design of the experiment must be indicated end the treatment given to Ss under the various conditions must be described. In simpler experiments the design may be presented implicitly as the administering of the different conditions to the Ss is described. In more complex research, the design of the experiment might be outlined in a subsection of its own along with the clarifying aid of a table which shows the different conditions and perhaps the sequence of their administration to different groups of Ss. In describing the tested of Ss, key aspects of instructions that were given to them might be indicated. Where instructions might play an important role ft is customary to quote from them in the preceding subsection. In the case of student reports it is often desirable to have a verbatim copy of the instructions as one appendix.

It is not easy to state how detailed a description of the method is needed. An E should certainly describe every aspect of the investigation which is relevant to the hypothesis being tested or to the results that were obtained, It space permits, he may go further and give factual details that were only indirectly involved in the experimental test. Ideally, a research report should be complete enough to permit replication of the study in all its essential characteristics. In the technical journals, an economy is effected in describing experimental method if reference can be made to an earlier published description of the technique used. Changes in procedure may be briefly described when these are variations in a standard method that has been described before.


††††††††††† The major functions of the Results section are: (1) to present descriptive statistics on the outcome of the study; (2) to indicate the statistical tests that were applied in evaluating the data.

††††††††††† The reader of the report can save time if the results are summarized in concise tables and figures. They should be tied together in proper sequence and never be presented without being referred to in the text of the report. Each table and figure should be presented on a separate page, and placed as closely as possible to the section of the text in which they are discussed.

††††††††††† Tables. Organization and labeling of tables must be properly done if they are really going to aid communication. A complete title is demanded because a reader might turn directly to a table without reading the textual material dealing with experimental results. The title, centered at the top of the table, should identify the statistics being presented, the response measures from which they were derived, and the conditions under which these measurements were taken. Tables are numbered consecutively with Arabic numerals through the research report. It will pay you to study numerous examples of tables in experimental journals to see how a well-planned table summarizes the results of an investigation.

††††††††††† Figures. The term "figureí is applied to a variety of graphic representations which include photographs and diagrams of apparatus, and graphs showing the results of a study. Figures are numbered through the report in a separate series of Arabic numerals. They are mentioned in the text of the report, which might state, for example, that Fig. I shows a schematic diagram of the apparatus."

††††††††††† Figures that portray the results of an experiment may be of a number of several types: histograms or bar graphs; lime graphs connecting plotted points; smooth curves fitted by inspection or by mathematical methods to the plotted data. The type of graph to be employed should be determined by the information that is to be portrayed. For example, a bar graph seems most appropriate for representing separate statistics derived from discrete experimental conditions.

††††††††††† A graph shoving experimental results should be planned and executed with great care. The scale for the dependent variable generally ranges upward along the ordinate; the values of the independent variable, or the designations for the different conditions, are placed along the abscissa. The scale markings should be located along each coordinate so as to take advantage of the available space for the figure. To avoid compressing the performance unduly, the values plotted along the ordinate are often just those, which will include the set of obtained values. The ordinate axis is then "broken" to indicate that the scale does not range upward from zero. The points and lines plotted in the graph are coded in different ways; this coding is Indexed by a key located within the graph.

††††††††††† Below every figure is a figure number and a legend or caption that aids in understanding the graphic portrayal and gives pertinent facts. These legends vary in length. Where several sentences are given, the first is usually a title for the graph with the others adding Information about the conditions under which the portrayed data were gathered. The values of N, the number of Ss in different groups or conditions. And similar data are sometimes included in the legend and sometimes in the key of the figure.


††††††††††††††††††††††† This section is essentially a consideration of the obtained results as they bear upon the problem or hypothesis stated In the introduction. This discussion of the outcome must be guided by the statistical analyses of the data that were reported in the Results section. Agreement or disagreement with previous findings is often mentioned. If the study was formulated to test some theoretical question, the implications of the results for the theory are discussed. The report writer states what conclusions have been reached as a result of the experiment, or indicates whether the hypothesis being tested is considered tenable or is rejected. For the purposes of this course, the conclusion will be looked for at the end of the discussion.

††††††††††††††††††††††† If unexpected results are obtained, It is sometimes permissible in this part of the report to refer to the way in which the experiment was conducted and to suggest possible reasons for the outcome. It should never be assumed that verbal explanations of an unwanted result automatically reverse the findings. Nor is fluency in listing flaws in an experiment any substitute for carefully designing arid executing the study in the first place. The value in discussing a result that was not anticipated lies in the suggestions that it might generate for new ways of experimenting further with the problem.


This section contains the entire 1.1st of references cited in the study. The references are presented alphabetically by authorsí names. The forms to be used are as follows:

Book.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Woodworth, R.S. and Schlosberg, H. Experimental Psychology. (Rev. Ed.) New York: Holt, 1954.


Chapter In an edited book.†††††††††††††††††† Hovland, C. I. Human learning and retention. In S.S. Stevens (Ed.) Handbook of Experimental Psychology. New York: Wiley, 1951. Pp. 613-689.

Journal article.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Seashore, R.H, and Seashore, S.H. Individual differences in simple auditory reaction times of hands, foot, and jaws. J. exp. Psychology 1941, 29, 346ó349.

The underlined book and journal titles would appear in italics in printing. Thus, any italicized part of references that you see in journals should be underlined when you prepare a report. In listing a chapter, which appears in an edited book the inclusive page, numbers from a BOOK should appear in a listing of references. A specific page in a book may be cited parenthetically in the text of a report. Inclusive page numbers of JOURNAL ARTICLES are always given in a list of references, and a particular page may occasionally need to be cited in a report. A page citation must definitely accompany quoted material.