Writing in Psychology

The goal of scientific writing is effective communication, communication of abstract propositions, logical arguments, empirical observations, experimental results, and their interrelations and interactions.  Clear organization, as well as lucid and precise writing, are very important conditions for such communication.  This guide is designed to help you produce clear and well written papers, no matter what the topic or format.

To achieve clarity, good writing must be precise in it use of words, free of ambiguity, orderly in its presentation of ideas, economical in expression, smooth in flow, and considerate of the reader.


Strive to choose words which convey the intended meaning. Qualifiers are often a source of imprecision. Expressions such as “quite a large part,” “practically all,” “very few,” and the like are interpreted differently by different readers or in different contexts. They weaken statements, especially those dealing with empirical observations.

Do not use words incorrectly (when you mean think do not write feel), and avoid coined terms (use concept not conceptum).

Avoiding ambiguity. The referent for each term should be so apparent that the reader will not have to search over prior material. Ambiguity is avoided by indicating the referent every time you use this, that, these, and those (e.g., this test and that trial). Also, make certain that the first sentence of a paragraph is comprehensible by itself; do not depend on a vague reference to earlier statements.

Economy of expression.  Strive for clear, economical expression. Avoid overly sophisticated terms, as well as overly complex sentences.

Smoothness of expression.  Do not introduce a topic abruptly. If the reader is likely to ask “How does this fit in?” more transition is necessary. Similarly, do not abandon an argument suddenly. If a reader feels “left hanging,” the discussion needs a concluding statement.

Sudden shifts in tense should be avoided. Do not move capriciously between past and present tense within the same paragraph or successive paragraphs. Past tense is usually appropriate for a literature review (Smith reported) or the experimental design or procedure (the animals were injected), inasmuch as it is an historical account. Using present tense suggests a dialogue between the author and reader and should be used where that situation is appropriate. Future tense is rarely appropriate.

Verbs must agree with their subjects, and pronouns with the nouns to which they refer. This simple rule is usually not troublesome except with plural words of Latin or Greek origin that end in a. For example, data, criteria, and phenomena are plural.

Consideration of the reader

In scientific writing, devices that attract attention to words, sounds or other embellishments, instead of ideas, are inappropriate. Heavy alliteration, accidental rhyming, poetic expression, and clichés are suspect. They are unsuitable in scientific writing because they lead the reader, who is looking for information, away from the theme of the paper. Metaphors are sometimes helpful, but use them sparingly. Avoid mixed metaphors. Literal and figurative usage mix badly; for example, “During the interview, the client sat with her head in her hands and her eyes on the floor.”

Absolute insistence on the third person and the passive voice (“it is thought” or “it is suggested”) has been a strong tradition in scientific writing. It is now thought that this results in a deadly, pompous style known as “scientificese,” and is no longer seen as essential to the preservation of objectivity. However, despite a slight relaxation of these rules, the use of the passive voice and the third person is still the norm in most scientific writing. See the section below for additional information on person and voice.

Avoiding Sexism

Sexism can spring from subtle errors in research design, inaccurate interpretation, or imprecise word choices. An investigator may unintentionally introduce bias into the research design, for example, by using stimulus materials and measures that suggest to one sex or the other what responses are “appropriate.” Or, in interpretation, an investigator may make unwarranted generalizations about both men and women from data about one sex. Imprecise word choices, which occur frequently in journal writing, may be interpreted as biased, discriminatory, or demeaning even if they are not intended to be.

Problems of designation.  When you refer to a person or persons, choose words that are accurate, clear, and free from bias. For example, the use of “man” as a generic noun can be ambiguous and may convey an implicit message that women are of secondary importance. You can choose nouns, pronouns, and adjectives to eliminate, or at least to minimize, the possibility of ambiguity in sex role identity. Problems of designation are divided into two subcategories: ambiguity of referent, when it is unclear whether the author means one sex or both, and stereotyping, when the author conveys unsupported or biased connotations about sex roles and identity.

Problems of evaluation.  Scientific writing, as an extension of science, should be free of implied or irrelevant evaluation of the sexes. Difficulties may derive from the use of clichés, such as “man and wife,” which is non-parallel and implies differences in status and lifestyle (husband and wife” are parallel, or “man and woman”). Problems of evaluation, like problems of designation, are divided into ambiguity of referent and stereotyping.

Avoiding sexist language.  The task of changing language may seem awkward at first. Nevertheless, careful attention to meaning and practice in rephrasing will overcome any initial difficulty. The result of such effort is accurate, unbiased communication. For example, instead of “Much has been written about the effect that a child’s position among his siblings has on his intellectual development”, you might say, “Much has been written about the relationship between sibling position and intellectual development in children.”

Avoiding Ethnic Bias

Like language that may be interpreted as sexist, language that may be construed as ethnically biased can be classified into problems of designation and problems of evaluation.

Problems of designation.  Styles and preferences for nouns referring to ethnic groups change over time. In some cases, even members of a group disagree about the preferred name at a specific time. Ascertain the most acceptable current terms and use them.

Problems of evaluation.  The majority of instances of implied irrelevant evaluation seem to occur when the writer uses one group (usually the writer’s own group) as the standard against which others are assessed. Unfortunately, the basis for negative comparisons is usually established during the planning of the research, for example, by the choice of empirical measures.

At the writing stage, avoid language that suggests evaluation. An example of implied evaluation is found in the phrase “culturally deprived” when it is used to describe a single group rather than to compare two or more groups. Using the term to describe one group of participants implies that one culture is a universally accepted standard against which others are judged. As a test of implied evaluation, substitute another group (e.g., your own) for the group being discussed.  If you are offended by the revised statement, there is probably bias in the original statement.

Types of Papers in Psychology

Writing papers in psychology is much like writing papers in any other discipline. Nevertheless, in psychology, there are a number of different types of papers which may be required. As always, it is best to consult with your instructor, or carefully read the syllabus, to know what is expected of you in any particular course. The following provides a brief description of the types of papers which may be assigned.

Report. In a report, a student is expected to accurately and concisely convey the arguments contained in the book or article read. There is no interpretation in most reports. Instead, the goal is to summarize what the author has said.

Review. In a review, one analyzes a work written by someone else. Generally, the thesis of the paper is either agreement or disagreement with the position taken by the author. The opening paragraph provides a brief synopsis of the book or article ending with a thesis statement which states your evaluation. The body of the paper then presents the arguments and associated evidence justifying your viewpoint.

Critical Analysis. A critical analysis is known by a number of different names. It is sometimes called a literature review, a policy paper, or even simply a term paper. In a critical analysis, the point of the paper is to integrate a number of works by different people relevant to a specific topic or issue. In many ways, it combines and extends the type of writing contained in reports and reviews. Like a report you must accurately present the positions of others and like a critical analysis your evaluation of that body of research and/or theory is critical. A critical analysis usually begins with an opening paragraph which presents the problem or topic in general terms. The opening should lead the reader to a clear thesis statement which is often the final sentence in the opening paragraph. The thesis statement should indicate what you intend to show in the paper. Thus, the thesis should take a position. The body of the paper then presents the arguments you will use to justify your thesis. What is important is that you use research/theory to justify your position. You must interpret the research/theory rather than simply report it. Interpretation means that you must explain how a particular finding or method is relevant to your thesis statement. Everything contained in a critical analysis should help you justify your thesis.

Research Proposal. Some courses require research proposals. Since the format for the proposal may depend on the course for which it is written, it is important to ask the instructor for any special instructions. In the absence of special instructions/requirements, the following should apply.

A research proposal has two basic sections. The introduction has as its basic goal the presentation and justification of a testable hypothesis. The opening paragraph of a research proposal generally identifies a problem and indicates the independent variables of the proposed study. The final paragraph of a research proposal usually provides a brief narrative description of the proposed research and ends with a statement of the hypotheses to be tested. Given that you now have a general sense of where to begin (the opening) and where you want to end (the hypotheses), the trick is figure out how to get there from here. The purpose of the body of the paper is to justify the hypotheses through a careful analysis of the available research and theory. Thus, the body of the paper must review the research relevant to the independent variables in your proposal. Again, interpretation of the research rather than simply reporting is the goal. You must state what the research means for the hypotheses you are trying to develop. A research proposal is successful if a reader can easily understand how your interpretation of the research/theory led you to the specific hypotheses presented.

The second section, titled methods, describes the way you are planning to test the hypotheses. It is frequently sub-divided into sections titled, subjects, design, and procedure. Individual instructors may ask for additional sections. Check to see that you are following the instructor’s recommendations.

Lab Report. A lab report usually contains the same sections as a research proposal with the addition of a results section which contains the data and a discussion which addresses the implications of the data for the hypotheses which prompted the study. Instructors generally have a format for lab reports. Check with the instructor for the format to use in that course.

Writing the Paper

Choosing a topic. If your professor has given you a list of suggested topics, of course, take those suggestions seriously. Often, however, you are asked to choose a topic on your own. One way to do this is to step back from your day-to-day immersion in the course and take a broad view of the course content, the breadth of the topics covered, their meaning to you, and their application to your experience, or to “real world” situations that interest you. Examining your textbook from this perspective, skimming its table of contents, index, and chapter subheadings (especially those chapters you haven’t read yet), can be very helpful, and should help you decide on a topic that will sustain your interest and enthusiasm. It is also helpful at this stage to look for a topic that, perhaps from class lectures or your text, you know generates controversy or interesting questions, or leaves you room to participate in problem solving.

Once you have some preliminary ideas, read what is readily available on the topic in your text or the library. Talk to other students and with your professor. Remember that the professor can be a major resource and should be approached early in the process to help you clarify your choice. However, do not expect your professor to welcome a visit which begins with, “I can’t think of anything to write a paper on.” Professors much prefer directing your thinking to doing it for you!

It is important to select a topic which is appropriate in terms of its level of difficulty. A topic which is too broad will lead to a superficial paper without an adequate focus. A topic which is too narrow will make it difficult for you to find enough relevant material, or what you discover may be too complex for you. What is appropriate will also depend upon the level of your course. Some examples will illustrate this problem.

Too Broad:  Emotional disturbances schizophrenia

Too narrow:  Habit disorder in children speech problems in childhood schizophrenia

Better:  Behavioral models of causal factors in emotional disturbances schizophrenia

One test of the appropriateness of your topic will be the amount of relevant material you can find in the library. If you find too little, the topic may be too narrow; if you feel overwhelmed by the amount available, it may be too broad.

Searching the literature. Establish early the level of sophistication you expect to achieve with the topic you have chosen. If you are really interested in, or expect to achieve, state of the art knowledge in the area, you will need to start early and search the literature systematically. Frequently, professors set criteria for the minimum number of books, journals, or magazines cited. Bear in mind that asking questions such as: “How many references do I need?”, or “How long should my paper be?”, is comparable to asking, “How long is a piece of string?” Teachers give answers only to insure adequate work and to avoid having many unnecessarily long papers. The amount of information available and its relevance to the goals of your paper will more appropriately determine the length of your reference list.

Refer to the section of this manual that deals with the library to get some hints on how to proceed. Start with a preliminary look at the subject catalog for book holdings and check recent issues of the indexes and abstracts most likely to cover your topic to see if there is at least some literature available. You may find that the library’s findings must be supplemented by inter-library loans. This should cause no major difficulty if you allow sufficient time for materials to be located and sent.

Reading and organizing. As you read the literature concerning your topic, proceed by systematically taking notes; be sure to record what you feel is important. It is easy to get absorbed in the reading and to move on to other materials without pausing to take notes. However, every good writer needs to accumulate notes carefully before attempting to write a paper. It is very helpful to write notes on index cards so they may be reordered at a later date. Substantive notes summarizing a study or article can be written in the form they might be used in your paper. For instance, after reading a 10 page research report in a journal, your note could summarize the key points in a paragraph that begins:

Throckmorton and Doe (1979) tested the effect of humor on reducing pre-exam anxiety by showing videotapes of early Candid Camera TV shows during breakfast in a large dining hall on the campus of a small Midwestern liberal arts college. The subjects, 215 juniors and seniors, reported ….

By consistently taking the time to do this with material that has a high probability of being included in your paper, your literature review will largely be done when you sit down to write the paper. One word of caution is in order, however. Some detail oriented students get trapped by their note taking. They report finding it hard to screen their reading for importance or relevance and consequently write down everything they read. Some also find it hard to focus their reading and study in one area only; they end up with enough material for several papers instead of one. All of your reading and note taking need to be guided by an ever evolving game plan and goal for the paper.

After you have decided on a topic, collected the relevant research, and taken notes, you have to think about writing the paper. The following are some points to consider as you begin to write.

The Audience. Before you begin to write, ask yourself, “For whom am I writing this paper?” Your answer to this question will determine the amount of detail included in the paper and the amount of sophistication of the writing. For example, think about how you would present any topic to your younger brother or sister who is in elementary school, a fellow student, a senior psychology major, your professor, or the major researcher on your topic. Obviously, if you wrote for the major researcher, your younger brother or sister would not have a clue about what you are writing about. Similarly, if you wrote for your younger brother or sister, the major researcher would be insulted. It is important that you do not write in such a way that the reader is either insulted or confused. Unless your instructor tells you otherwise, assume that your audience is another student who is familiar with the basic concepts and ideas in psychology that you are covering. In other words, a fellow student in the course should be able read your paper, understand what you are arguing, and accurately report back to you what you have written.

The Opening Paragraph. The opening paragraph introduces the reader to the problem or issue to be addressed in the paper, it limits what the paper will cover, and it provides a central thesis for the paper. Edit out those vague, general throw away sentences often found in an opening paragraph. The following are examples of those sentences:

Since humans are social beings, we are all affected by people around us. B. F. Skinner, a famous psychologist who teaches at Harvard and invented the Skinner box which is used to study operant conditioning, is a controversial figure in psychology.

The opening paragraph should make the reader want to read the paper which follows. It should grab someone’s attention and identify quickly and clearly what the paper is about. If you are addressing a problem, note why the problem is important. If you are analyzing some variables, let the reader know what variables will be considered in the paper. Most importantly, the opening paragraph should lead to and end with a clear, concise thesis statement.

The Thesis Statement. The thesis statement tells the reader what your paper is all about. It takes a position. It tells the reader what you plan to show in the paper. Writing a paper can be compared to taking a trip. Knowing where you want to end up is like having a clear thesis statement. You can organize your arguments to lead the reader to your conclusion. Not having a clear thesis statement is like not knowing where you want to end up. Almost any piece of information is relevant and your paper is confused. The following are some examples of vague thesis statements:

Men and women differ in the influence strategies they use. This paper explores the differences between behavioral and cognitive therapies.

The intergroup contact hypothesis can be used to reduce prejudice other than racial prejudice.

Compare the thesis statements above with those below. Can you see why the statements below are clearer and more focused?

Discrimination against women will continue as long as women use indirect power while men exercise direct power. Cognitive therapies are superior to behavioral therapies because they consider both behavior and the client’s thought processes.

Use of the intergroup contact hypothesis can reduce prejudice against handicapped people

When you have a clear, focused thesis, you know what you have to show in the paper. In the first example, you would have to show how gender differences in power lead to discrimination. In the second, you would have to show why altering the client’s thinking is more important than just changing inappropriate behavior. In the third, you would have to show how the intergroup contact hypothesis can be used to reduce prejudice against the handicapped.

Remember that an interesting opening paragraph and a clear thesis statement is important regardless of the type of paper you are writing. The body of the paper may differ, however, as a function of paper type. In a report, the body of the paper conveys the basic ideas contained in the book or article you read. In a review, the body of the paper presents the reasons, and supporting evidence, for why you agree or disagree with the article or book. In a literature review, the body of the paper presents the arguments or points you are trying to make, interpreting the research/theory to provide support for those arguments. In a research proposal, the body of the paper interprets the research/theory to show why the hypothesis is legitimate.


Outlining your paper before you begin is always a good idea. It helps you organize your ideas and more importantly prevents you from leaving something out. Some outline and other simply write and then edit. If you can teach yourself to use outlines effectively, do so. It will save you time in the long run. If you cannot outline, allow yourself extra time for editing. Nevertheless, always realize that editing will be required.

Writing the First Draft

Some worry so much about every word that they become paralyzed and unable to write. Allow yourself the luxury of putting words down on paper the first time without worrying about whether they are absolutely correct. Our advice to procrastinators and worriers is to write first, edit second, and save the worrying for the outcome of the next national election. You can always edit yesterday’s awkward writing, but only if you wrote the first draft yesterday.

Editing and Rewriting. With a first draft in the computer, the hard part is over. Now you can concentrate on refining what you said without the worry of what to say. You now want to edit for content, style, and organization. Have you said everything you wanted to say? Are all the sections consistent with the outline? Does some material need to be moved to another section, or should you revise the outline? Are you writing clearly? Have you used consistent style throughout and adhered to the proper guidelines for
quotations, headings, referencing others’ work, and so forth?

The number of drafts necessary for a really “good” piece of writing depends on an individual’s ability and experience, as well as his or her criteria for good. While students rarely allow sufficient time for many drafts, professional writers often do four or more drafts and then turn their work over to a copy editor for polishing. Like any highly refined technique, good writing is the result of practice.

When you have done one or more rewrites of your paper, consider these two suggestions before preparing a final copy for your professor. First, let someone else read your paper for style, flow, and clarity. Of course, your paper must remain only your work, but there is no reason why you can’t make use of your friend’s evaluation of your style.

Style and Technical Considerations

The paragraph. The basic unit of writing is the paragraph. Rarely can a sentence stand alone. When you introduce an idea, it should be developed. In some ways a paragraph is like a mini-paper in that it starts with a central concept, develops that concept, and summarizes it. A good paragraph has two characteristics. First, it is unified: each sentence within a paragraph contributes to the same basic concept. You will usually state the concept in a topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph. Second, the sentences in a paragraph should flow naturally. That is, the ideas presented in each sentence should relate to those contained in the sentences before and after.

Transitional devices.  One key to making your paper flow is to use transitional words or devices. Transitional words are helpful in tying one sentence to another and connecting different ideas within the same paragraph or paper. Common kinds of transitional devices include pronouns (e.g., “Lewin was a father of social psychology. He also …”), repeating words or phrases (e.g., “Werner proposed the orthogenic theory of development. Many current developmental theorists have a foundation in Werner’s work.”), and using synonyms or closely related works (e.g., “Cats are a favorite laboratory animal for the study of sleep. As we all know, felines like to sleep.”).

Transitional words can be used in many other ways. You probably already use transitional devices to make comparisons, provide examples, or enumerate. Table 1 provides some examples of transitional phrases and their functions.

Table 1. Examples of Transitional Phrases and Their Functions.

Make comparisons:  Similarly/however/in contrast/on the other hand but/likewise/yet/nevertheless

Augment your point:  In addition/also/too/and/furthermore

Enumerate:  First/second/next/finally/last

Give examples:  For example/to illustrate

Reach conclusions: As a result/as a consequence/therefore/thus

Summarize:  In summary/in short/to summarize

The first sentence of each paragraph may contain a transitional expression relating it to the preceding paragraph. If the new paragraph continues the theme of the preceding paragraph, use a transition like “in addition,” or “furthermore.” If you intend to introduce a new concept or wish to contrast, use “on the other hand” or “in contrast.” Use “in conclusion” or “to summarize” if you are summarizing or reaching a conclusion.

Supporting statements.  A key to writing clearly is being specific. Avoid using broad generalizations unless you follow them with concrete examples. Document or validate your point with data. If you state, “The intelligence scores of mothers and their children are strongly related.” support this statement with research findings or theory. For example, “In a study of 2,500 17 year-olds, Hollister (1983) found the strongest predictor of IQ was the mother’s IQ.”

The proper tense.  Choosing the correct tense in which to write your psychology paper can be confusing. The basic rule is to avoid the future tense. Most of your paper should be written in the past tense. The reason is that most of what you are describing has already been done. That is, the literature you cite has already been written, and the studies have already been conducted. As a general rule, discussions of prior research, descriptions of procedure, or statements of results, are in the past tense. For example:

Literature review:  Mitchell’s study found (not finds) …

Procedure:  The subjects were (not are) …

Results:  Mean scores were (not are) …

While most of your paper will be written in the past tense, certain statements may be in the present tense. A rule of thumb is to use the present tense in a scientific paper for statements which have continuing or general applicability. Therefore, definitions or statements from a well-defined theory should be stated in the present tense. For example:

Definition:  Drever defines …; in this experiment pain is …

Theory:  The orthogenetic theory states that …; Freud says …

Hypothesis:  Memory was not expected to correlate with motivation.

Results:  Mitchell demonstrated (past tense when referring to a particular study) that person nodes are used (present tense   when referring to general findings) …

References to tables or figures: Table 1 shows …

Correct person and voice.  In addition to tense, verbs can show voice and person. The active voice implies action by the subject (“The butler committed the crime.”), while the passive voice indicates something is happening to the actor (“The crime was committed by the butler.”). Traditionally, scientific papers have been written in the third person and the passive voice, i.e., “The researcher administered the survey.” The purpose of this writing style is to de-emphasize the personal nature of the report. The procedures and data are to stand on their own. However, this often results in clumsy prose that is difficult or boring to read. In term papers it is usually better to use the active voice. “Jones found …” rather than “It was found by Jones …” The use of the first person, “I,” should be reserved for those situations where the writer is clearly expressing his or her own views. Avoid the use of “we.”

Agreement of subject and verb.  The most common grammatical errors concern subject verb agreement. Singular and plural forms of a verb are sometimes incorrectly matched with a subject noun or pronoun. Every sentence must have both a subject and a verb. The subject is that part of the sentence that performs. For example, “Mark is an industrial psychologist.” In the case of a passive sentence, the subject receives the action of the verbs (e.g., “The shot was given to Smedley.”). The verb expresses action or a state of being. For example, “Mabel ran in the Boston Marathon.” or “The rats were psychotic.”

Correct singular and plural forms.  Many psychology students get confused about the singular and plural forms of certain scientific terms. The following list should be helpful.

Table 2. Singular and Plural Forms for a Number of Words

Singular                                 Plural

criterion                                  criteria

phenomenon                         phenomena

apparatus                               apparatus or apparatuses

stimulus                                 stimuli

analysis                                 analyses

datum                                     data

appendix                                appendixes or appendices

Avoiding sexist language.  You may have learned to write using the generic words he, him, his, man, and mankind to refer to people in general. In addition, you may have habits that either subtly or blatantly support sex role stereotypes. Until recently such sexist usage was not questioned. However, we encourage you to adopt a nonsexist alternative. Since 1977, the American Psychological Association has encouraged writing styles that support egalitarian attitudes and assumptions about people and sex roles. Below are some tips on writing in an appropriate, nonsexist manner.

1. Don’t use the words “girls” or “boys” unless you are speaking specifically about children; use “women” and “men” instead.

2. Substitute “person” for “man” and “people” for “men” unless you are talking specifically about males.

3. Use the plural when you are referring to a class of people. For example, “Students prefer their classes …,” rather than “A student prefers his classes…” The use of plurals will help you avoid the generic male pronoun.

4. Don’t designate gender unless it’s relevant. For example, use “minister” rather than “woman minister.”

5. Remember to use current job titles, instead of previous sexist ones. Examples of appropriate titles include: police officer, flight attendant, postal worker, secretary (not office girl).

Grammar and style.  Avoid the use of long involved sentences, inverted phrases, etc., which can lead to confusion. Simple, direct declarative sentences are usually the best. The style of psychology papers may seem dry but it is intended to be clear and consistent. Avoid emotionally loaded words (e.g., drastically significant, desperately needed). An evaluation need not have moral implications; an author may be incorrect without the results being unwarranted, bad, etc.

Titles and headings.  Except for very short papers (two or three pages) your paper should have a title page. Center the title about midway down the title page. Under the title, center your name. In the lower right hand corner of the page, include the number and name of the course for which the paper is being prepared, the date it is submitted, and your pledge. Remember to type of word “pledge” and sign your name.

The next page begins the body of your paper. Center your title in uppercase and lowercase letters about two inches below the top of the page (do not underline). In the upper right hand corner of this and the following pages should be a page number. Make this page one. Page numbering and headers, as they are called, can be done automatically with PC-Write.

Effective use of headings helps the writer to organize a paper effectively and the reader to better understand a paper’s content. Therefore, we encourage you to make appropriate use of headings as a means of organizing your paper. You can see how headings and titles are used in the paper in Appendix A.

Three levels of headings are sufficient for most student papers. They are illustrated below:

Centered Uppercase and Lowercase Heading (Level 1)Flush Left, Underlined, Uppercase and Lowercase(Level 2)Indented, underlined, lowercase with a period. (Level 3) (Text begins on same line as heading)

Usually the material which follows the title on the second page is introductory. The purpose of such material is presumed by a reader and no heading such as “Introduction” is used. The first time you use a heading will be for a section later in the body of the paper.

Items in a series.  Sometimes it is very helpful to organize material using a list. When this appears within a paragraph or sentence, items should be noted alphabetically: (a) first item, (b) second item, and so on.

Another type of list is one made up of a series of conclusions or steps in some procedure which need to be entered on separate lines for emphasis. Each item is treated as a separate paragraph. These should be indented and listed as follows:

1. Item number one. The first line of each item should be indented. Additional material continues on subsequent lines.

2. Item number two.

3. Item number three and so forth.

Numbers in the text. The use of numbers in psychology is somewhat different from other styles of writing. In psychology it is important to ensure precision and clarity with the statistics often included in a paper.

A rule of thumb for using numbers in your paper is that all numbers 10 and above should be expressed in Arabic figures, and all numbers below 10 should be expressed in words. There are, however, some important exceptions. For example, a sentence should never begin with an Arabic number. The table which follows summarizes the use of numbers in the text of a paper.
Table 3.  Use of Numbers in Text.

Express as Numbers                                                 Express as Words

Numbers 10 and above                                          Numbers less than 10

Ages and dates                                                        Common fractions (two thirds of the U.S. population)

Groups of numbers with some above
and some below 10

Percentages and percentiles                             Numbers that begin a sentence

Ratios                                                                         Precise measures or quantities (Fifty-four percent of the group)

Scores                                                                        Usual expressions (Fourth of July)

Statistical functions                                              Street numbers in addresses

Sums of money

Abbreviations.  Abbreviations are used in a paper when they will help make a reader’s task easier, but it is possible to overuse abbreviations. When in doubt, avoid an abbreviation. Certain terms and titles have meaning to almost everyone familiar with the field. For example, MMPI can be used as a clear substitute for Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and almost any reader would comprehend the use of IQ instead of Intelligence Quotient. These abbreviations make the task of reading simpler.

References.  One of the most important tasks in the preparation of papers is the proper citation of references. This may seem a little confusing since most students are used to thinking of bibliographies. There are some important differences between the two. A reference section includes only those literature items that are actually cited in the paper. A bibliography will include items that served as background material but which were not explicitly cited (also, see the Citation Guidelines page for more information on referencing).

References in the text.  When you discuss almost anything that is not original with you, such as a book, journal article, or even a lecture, it must have a reference. Psychology papers use the name/date method of noting such citations, not footnotes.

For every statement that you have adapted from another source, there should be both a name or names and a publication date included in the body of the paper. There are a three basic ways in which a reference can be cited. First, the sentence containing the material can begin with the author and date:

Jones (1983) was one of the first researchers to study carefully the annual spring migration of college students to southern beaches.

Second, the above style could be changed to the following:

In 1983 Jones first began to study carefully the annual spring …

Third, the author’s name and the date of publication may be placed in parentheses at the conclusion of the statement:

One recent study examined the annual spring migration of college students to southern beaches (Jones, 1983).

The reference may be linked with a single sentence or even a paragraph, but the material to which you are referring should be clear from the way you have entered the citation. If you refer to one article or book several times in the same paragraph, or on the same page, you need only use the date once, unless the reader would be confused by such things as other references with the same author which have different dates. The best rule to follow in this case is common sense. Always ask yourself, will the reader easily understand the source of the material referenced?

Multiple authors.  There are instances when you use references with several authors, or several references which address the same material. Some of the ways in which this can be handled are illustrated below:

Several early studies (Good & John, 1955; James & Stevens, 1962) collected data on student sleeping habits.

Note that the ampersand (&) is used between authors’ names when they are enclosed in parentheses, and a semicolon separates different references. Also note that the references are listed alphabetically and in order of publication.

Sometimes you will use a reference in your paper with more than two authors. The first time you cite such a reference in your paper, list all of the authors:

Perhaps the most comprehensive study of “walkman” listening behavior was done by Johnson, Jones, and James (1982).

If you cite the same study again, you may omit the names of all but the first author and substitute “et al.” for the other authors:

One of the most interesting conclusions of Johnson et al. (1962) …

Secondary sources.  You may find it necessary to cite a reference from a secondary source. For example, you might find a pertinent article discussed in your textbook but discover that the study is unavailable in the library. This is most likely to occur with older articles or articles from foreign journals. While you should be careful this doesn’t occur too often in a paper, it is usually acceptable to use such a reference in the text. However, it should be followed by the notation in parentheses such as:

Pavlov (cited in Hilgard & Bower, 1966) was the first to study …

Since you have read about Pavlov in Hilgard and Bower, only the secondary source is listed in the reference section at the end of the paper.

Quotations.  You may wish to include quotations to emphasize important points in your paper. Brief quotations can be marked with quotation marks and included as a part of the text. Quotations longer than one sentence or 40 words should be set in an indented block without quotation marks, as illustrated below. Whenever you use a quotation, it should be referenced in the same way as other material, with the important addition of the page number(s) on which the original appeared.

An important issue is raised by Walker (1978) who indicates “the unusual habit of compulsive and repetitive running back and forth in confined space while attempting to force a large ball through a metal hoop high above the ground” (p. 363) requires more careful study by behavioral scientists.  Miller (1973) has also studied these behaviors and draws the following conclusion:

It is clear that the individuals who engage in this activity are often above
average in height and lanky in physical build. This common characteristic
adds credibility to the hypothesis that the compulsion to engage in such
behavior is biologically based. (p. 18)

In looking at these samples, note that the page numbers follow the quotation marks, or, in the case of the longer block quote, follows the period at the end of the quote. It would also have been possible to arrange the material so that the author’s name, the date of the reference and the page number follow the quote in parentheses.

One author dismissed the conjecture about basketball as “a case of behavioral scientists failing to see ‘the forest through the trees’” (Doe, 1982, p. 343).

Web-Based References.  APA has recently updated the format for citing material taken from the World Wide Web.  A summary of the format rules for web material can be found at:  https://www.apastyle.org/elecref.html

Reference Lists.  At the conclusion of your paper should be a list of all the references cited in the text. Only references which have actually been used in preparation of the paper should be included here. You must be sure that there is consistency between the citation in the text and the reference list.

The style we are describing is consistent with the American Psychological Association style. The two major types of references are those taken from journals (technical, professional magazines) and those from books. The examples below should cover most of the more common types of references. If you have questions about how to present an unusual source of material, check with your professor. And note that the first line of a reference is flush with the left margin but subsequent lines are indented.

Murray, R., & Jones, J. (1982). Mating behavior of squirrels on the capitol mall. Journal of Squirrel
Psychology, 2, 123-128.

Jackson, J. K., Jackson, K. J., & Jackson, J. J. (1952). The effects of birth order on career selection (2nd
ed.). Green Bay, WI: Green Bay Press.

Bindrim, P. (1980, July). Group therapy: Protecting privacy. PsychologyToday, pp. 24, 27-28.

Zuzman, J. (1975). Recognition and management of psychiatric emergencies. In H. L. P. Resnik & H. L.
Ruben (Eds.), Emergency psychiatric care (pp. 35-59). Bowie, MD: Charles Press.

Kopolow, L. E., Brands, A. B., Burton, J. L., & Ochberg, F. (1975).Litigation and mental health services
(National Institute of Mental Health, DHEW Publication No. ADM 76-261). Washington, DC:
U.S. Government Printing Office.

NSF commission looks at science education. (1983, May). APA Monitor, p.34.

The first reference is a standard journal article. Note carefully the punctuation and capitalization. The 2 is the volume number of the journal.

The next reference is a book. Note that only the first letter of the first word is capitalized. The book was published in Green Bay, WI by Green Bay Press.

Professional journals have continuous page numbering. That is, page numbering continues from one issue to the next for an entire year. When this system is used, it is not necessary to include the month of publication as part of the date. However, most popular magazines begin each issue with page 1. In this situation, it is necessary to include the month as part of the date. See example three above.

There are a number of special situations that require special reference formats. The fourth example above is a situation where several authors have contributed chapters to a book. Zuzman is the author of a chapter in a book edited by Resnik and Ruben.

The final two examples are a government publication and a news article without an author. The final item would be noted as NSF (1983) in the body of the paper.

References are listed alphabetically by author, or in order of publication if there are several items by the same author. Where there is more than one author, all single author references by an author come first. Then the listing proceeds alphabetically by second author, then third author, etc.

References are typed in the following way. The first line of each reference begins at the left-hand margin of the paper. The following lines are indented five spaces, making it easy for the reader to quickly locate a reference by the author’s name.

Grading Standards

Although professors use varying grading standards, most can tell you what an “A” paper should be like. The following grading standards are meant to be general guidelines only.

An “A” paper has a clear point that the average reader could express in one sentence if asked to do so. This point is substantiated, developed, or discussed with evidence or examples or detail that is concrete, vivid, and logically arranged. The sentences in the “A” paper invite re-reading because they are interesting. The “A” paper is excellent for this level of instruction.

A “B” paper also has a clear point with pertinent concrete detail used to support or explain that point. It too shows above-average usage and control of punctuation, but sentence patterns and length may not indicate the writing competence of the “A” paper. Diction may be not quite as precise. It too may invite re-reading.

A “C” paper makes a fairly clear point but may include occasional irrelevant information or misplaced ideas. It won’t have the clear organization of the “A” or “B” papers. Nor will sentences be as varied. Minor usage errors (such as pronoun references and noun agreement) and some punctuation errors may occur, and words may be used inaccurately on occasion. The “C” paper is average work for this level of instruction.

The “D” and “F” papers are difficult to process because of the “static” at the sentence level and foggy meaning due to uncontrolled diction and sentence structure. Words may be used inaccurately so frequently as to confuse readers. Ideas are difficult to get at because of uncontrolled sentences. Such papers are exhausting to the reader and invite only masochists to re-read them.

Plagiarism and the Honor Code

Using an idea, phrase, sentence, paragraph, etc., from someone else, whether a published writer or friend, (unless given credit in the text via a reference), is plagiarizing. Both direct quotes and paraphrased material must be credited by referencing. Paraphrasing means thinking through a point made by another person and restating it in your own words. It does not mean taking a phrase or sentence from another person and substituting a synonym here and there.   For more details see the document on proper citations.

Presenting Results

While experimental and library projects often require different writing styles and rules, there are many commonalities including scholarly work, clarity of expression, adherence to format, and appearance. The following applies to both experimental and library project papers.

Preliminary Pages (in order of appearance).  Title and signature pages. Note that the title of the paper (in capital letters) and your name are centered in the upper part of the page. The purpose of the paper is indicated at the bottom of the page. (Example of Title Page; Example of Signature Page.)

The signature page indicates that the advisor and the second reader have approved the final draft of the project. The title and your name appear on this page using the same format as that used in the title page. Along the lower left hand margin of the signature page there should be places for both your advisor and the second reader to sign the comp after the orals.

Acknowledgments page.  An acknowledgments page is optional. However, it is customary to acknowledge those individuals who have provided significant assistance in the preparation of the project. Likely candidates include persons who helped prepare stimulus materials, persons who helped type the manuscript (if they were not paid), advisors who provided conceptual assistance, etc. If you decide to include an acknowledgments page, the word ACKNOWLEDGMENTS should be centered and typed in capital letters at the top of the page.

Table of contents (required). TABLE OF CONTENTS should be centered and typed in capital letters at the top of the page. All headings and subheadings in the paper should be included in the table of contents.

List of tables.  If your comp includes tables, a LIST OF TABLES page should be added. This page lists the titles of the tables and the pages on which they may be found. As with the table of contents, the title is centered and typed in capital letters.

List of figures.  The same rules used for a list of tables page would be used for a LIST OF FIGURES if figures are included in the comp.

Abstract (required).  An abstract is a synopsis of the comp. If your paper is reporting an experiment, the abstract should include a statement of the problem, type of subjects used, independent and dependent variables, the major findings, conclusions, and implications. For an experiment, abstracts are generally 100 to 150 words. Abstracts for library comprehensives are 75 to 100 words. Include the topic, thesis, sources used (e.g., published literature), conclusions, and implications. Abstracts should be succinct, accurate, and provide an informative overview of the project. Abstracts are typed in a one-paragraph double-spaced block (no indentation at the beginning). Center the word ABSTRACT at the top of the page in capital letters.

Numbering Preliminary Pages.  All the pages to this point (excepting the title and signature pages) should be numbered using lower case Roman numerals, e.g., i, ii, etc. The page numbers should be placed on the upper right hand corner of the page.

Requirements of Style

The most basic requirement of style is adherence to the elementary rules of grammar and good usage. Following are some explicit suggestions about the use of tense, person, voice and number which are relevant in scientific writing.

Tense. Scientific reports are written in a combination of present and past tense. The literature cited has already been written, the study’s procedure has been carried out, and the results have been obtained, therefore these are written in the past tense (“the subjects performed”). Conclusions, on the other hand, are written in the present tense (“the data indicate”). This draws the reader into a “current” conversation with the writer.

Certain other statements are often written in the present tense. A useful rule is that the present tense indicates statements which have a continuing or general applicability. Definitions, statements from a well-defined theory, and hypotheses are stated in the present tense.


Definition: “Webster defines …”

“In this study, a discrepancy is defined as …”

Theory: “The Gestalt theory holds that …”

Hypothesis: “It is hypothesized that intelligence is (not, “will be”) positively correlated with …”

Results: “Jones established (past tense, particular study) that auditory stimuli are (present tense, general findings) most effective …”

Person and voice.  Scientific communications are usually written in the third person, which often troubles inexperienced writers. There are occasions when the use of the first person is permissible (or even preferable).

The passive voice is used extensively, especially in describing procedures. Do not, however, let the passive voice lead to into clumsy, involved expression. Problems of person and voice are illustrated by these examples:

Bad: “We classified the subject’s responses…” (“We” is faulty, unless it refers to two or more defined persons. Never use “we” as a substitute for “I”.)

Better: “The investigator classified the subject’s responses…” (The statement tells who classified the responses, but without self-consciousness. Third-person references to “the experimenter” or “the investigator” are usual and acceptable. References to “the author” or “the writer” are generally avoided as self-conscious, except in theoretical arguments.)

Bad: “The classification of the subjects’ responses was carried out by dividing them …” (Clumsy use of passive voice. The writing is self-conscious, emphasizing the process of classifying.)

Better: “The subjects’ responses were divided…” (Better use of passive voice. The focus is on the research, not on the researcher.)

Headings.  In psychology it is appropriate to use two or three levels of headings positioned in this way:

A Centered Main Heading

A Flush Side Heading

An indented paragraph heading. (Text begins here)

The three headings would look like this in a manuscript:



Pretraining period.

If the paper requires four levels of headings, subordinate the three levels above by introducing another centered heading using upper and lower case letters and omitting the underlining.

Experiment 1


Pretraining period.

Abbreviations.  Use abbreviations: (a) if the reader is more familiar with the abbreviation than with the complete form (LSD or ESP); (b) if the use of the abbreviation is conventional (IQ or REM), or (c) if considerable space can be saved and cumbersome repetition avoided.

Because the acronyms that psychologists employ in their daily writing may not be familiar to students or readers in other disciplines or locales, acronyms and abbreviations should be explained. A term to be abbreviated must, on its first appearance be spelled out completely and immediately followed by its abbreviation in parentheses. Thereafter, the abbreviation is used.

“Studies of simple reaction time (RT) to a visual target have found a strong negative relationship between RT and luminance.”

Note that no periods are used with these abbreviations

Statistics.  To present a statistic in the text, give the symbol, degrees of freedom, value, and probability level. In addition, give the mean, standard deviation, or other descriptive statistic to clarify the nature of the effect.

“As predicted, the first-grade girls reported a significantly greater liking for school (M = 4.63) than did first-grade boys (M = 1.38), t(22) = 2.62, p < .01.”

“The mean score for the long retention interval was 1.38, and the mean score for the short retention interval was 28.90. The analysis of variance indicated a significant retention interval effect, F(1, 34) = 123.07, p<.01.”

With chi-square, report degrees of freedom and sample size in parentheses:

X2 (4, N = 90) = 10.51, p < .05

In scientific writing the word significant is only used when a statistical relationship at a specified level of confidence has been demonstrated. With the exception of Greek letters, underline or italisize all letters used as statistical symbols. This is true wherever they appear (text, tables, and figures).


Numbers.  Use words to express numbers in the following cases:

(a) the numbers zero through nine,
(b) any number, above or below 10, that begins a sentence.

Use numerals to express the following cases:

(a) number 10 or greater,

(b) any numbers above or below 10 that are:

(1) units of measurement or time
“5-mg pellets for 3 days”

(2) ages
“was 6 years old”

(3) times and dates
“8:30 a.m. on May 6, 1972”

(4) percentages
“a total of 6%”

(5) arithmetic manipulations
“multiplied by 3”

(6) ratios

(7) fractional or decimal quantities
“on a 2 1/2-year old”

(8) scores and points on a scale
“on a 7-point scale”

(9) actual numbers
“the numerals 1-6”

(10) page numbers
“on page 2”

(11) a series of four or more
“1,3,5, and 7”

(12) numbers grouped for comparison within a sentence or a series of related sentences if any one of the numbers is 10 or above “of the 40 trails, 6 were practice trials” related sentences

Tables.  An informative table supplements–it does not duplicate–the text. In the text, refer to every table and its data. In the text tell the reader what to look for in the table, discussing the table’s highlights. If you discuss every item on the table in text, the table is unnecessary.

Tables must be intelligible without reference to the text. Explain all abbreviations (except such standard statistical abbreviations as M, SD, and df). In the text, refer to tables by their numbers:

…  as shown in Table 8, the responses …

… children with pretraining (see Table 8) …

Do not write “the table above/below” or “the table on page 32.”

When preparing tables, all number should be reported using the same number of decimal places. For example, instead of 3.4, 2.56, and 1, you should report 3.40, 2.56, 1.00.

Table numbers. Number all tables in the text with Arabic numerals in the order in which the tables are first mentioned in the paper. Identify tables of the appendix with capital letters and Arabic numerals (e.g., Table A-1 is the first table of Appendix A, Table C-2 is the second table of Appendix C).

Table titles. Give every table a brief but clear and explanatory title. The title should be left justified and either underlined or in italics.

Examples. Samples of well-prepared tables are provided in the Appendix. Examine them carefully. Pay special attention to Table 3, an example of an ANOVA table. Note that the table includes columns for df and F but none for SS or MS. MS error is given in parentheses. See your comp advisor for additional help in preparing correct tables.

Figures.  A well-prepared figure can convey the qualitative aspects of data, such as comparisons, relationships, and structural or pictorial concepts, more efficiently than can text or tables.

Standards for figures. The standards for good figures are simplicity, clarity, and continuity. A good figure

* augments rather than duplicates the text
* conveys only essential facts
* is easy to read, with elements (type, lines, labels, etc.)
* is large enough to be read with ease
* is easy to understand–its purpose is readily apparent

Types of figures. Graphs show relationships–comparisons and distributions–in a set of data. There are four major types of figures, line graphs, bar graphs, scatter graphs, and photographs.

1. Line graphs are used to show the relation between two quantitative variables. They are most often used to show continuous change or when the shape of the curve or curves is important.

2. Bar graphs or histograms are simple, adaptable, and telegraphic. They are used when the independent variable is categorical (e.g., as with different experimental conditions).

3. Scatter graphs consist of single dots plotted on a line graph; the dots are not joined by lines. A cluster of dots along a diagonal indicates a correlation.

4. Photographs have excellent eye appeal. They should be of professional quality and should be prepared with a background that produces the greatest contrast.

Many of the design and execution problems involved in producing figures are reduced with the use of the computer. See Figures and Tables for details.

Placement of Figures and Tables. Until recently figures and tables were placed on separate pages in a manuscript. The new convention is that figures and tables may be incorporated directly into the body of a paper, if that is convenient. A figure or a table should appear after the first reference to it. That is, a statement such as, “see Figure 1” should appear before the figure is placed in the paper. If figures or tables are on separate pages, number these pages just as you do all pages in the paper. You may also wish to look at the Figures and Tables page for more details.

Typing Instructions & Finishing Touches

Regardless of whether your comp is a library project or an empirical study, there are some rules of appearance which reflect professional interest and concern for your work. The appearance of your paper has an effect on how it is received. A neat, clean manuscript indicates that the writer cared about the paper.

Senior projects should be typed on white paper and double spaced, using 1 inch margins on top, bottom, left and right side.  The Psychology Department requires preparation of the original plus two copies of your comprehensive project. The original is placed in the library, one copy is retained by the first reader, and the second copy is kept by the student. As a courtesy, ask the second reader if he or she would like to keep a copy of the comp. In most cases, the second reader will not wish a copy. However, if the second reader is particularly interested in the topic or the presentation, a copy may be desired. The Psychology Department will pay for one copy of the paper. If additional copies are needed for the second reader, for an outside agency that provided participants, etc., the Department will pay for these copies as well.

All the copies of the paper should be submitted in hard cover, three hole red binders available from the Bookstore. In the final orals, there may be recommendations for rewriting a section of the paper or for correcting typographical errors. All such changes must be made and the corrected copies of the paper returned to the first reader within one week of the oral

Ordering and Numbering Pages.  Pages are ordered in the following manner: preliminary pages, the body of the paper including tables and figures, references, and appendices. All preliminary pages (except the title and signature pages) are numbered using lower case Roman numerals. All other pages are numbered in the upper right hand corner of the page.

Length.  There is no department policy on the length of a senior project. Length depends on the topic, the available literature, and a number of other factors. Make certain that your paper covers the topic and that you can defend its length. Consultation with both the first and second reader is advisable when determining the length of a paper.

Word Processing.  A single copy of the paper should be produced on a letter quality printer with other copies being made at the College Print Shop.

In addition to word processing, the college has other software that may be useful to the comp writer. These include spelling checkers, grammar checkers, and software to help organize and outline a paper.

Proofreading.  Carefully proofread the final copy of the comp before you turn it in. In the process of copying the comp, pages may be missed or be placed out of order. Be especially careful if someone has helped you type the paper. The typists may have made minor changes or errors which are difficult to catch, even if you have used a spelling checker.

Manuscript Checklist.  The most common oversights in manuscript preparation are listed below. Pay special attention to these items before submitting your comp.


________ Is the manuscript double-spaced with the exception of long quotations? Has the entire paper been proofread?


________ Have you provided an abstract of appropriate length?


________ Have you checked for appropriate placement of headings?

Mathematics and Statistics

________ Have you underlined all letters used as statistical symbols?


________ Are journal titles in the reference list spelled out fully?

________ Are all references cited in the body of the paper included in the reference list?

________ Is every item in the reference list cited in the body of the paper?

________ Have you included page numbers for quotations in the body of the paper?

________ Have you included page numbers in citations when the material which is  paraphrased is from a book?

Tables and Figures

________ Do all tables and figures meet specifications for complete title, adequate  headings, etc.?

The final copy of your paper should not be printed until after your orals. It is most likely that you will be asked to make changes in the manuscript. Put these preliminary copies in binders or envelopes for each reader. After the orals, make any changes that you have been asked to make, print a final copy, and have this duplicated, and then signed by the members of your committee. The project is not considered complete until all these steps have been taken.

The Final Copy of the Paper

Project feedback.  An important element of the senior project oral examination is the feedback that is provided to the student on his or her performance. Students will be advised at the end of the oral as to whether their project is acceptable or not, i.e., did the student pass or not. In addition, specific comments will be made regarding both the oral and the written presentations.  However, the actual grade on the comp will not be available at this time.  The Psychology 600 grade will be included on the grade report provided by the Registrar at the end of the semester.

As part of these comments, students may be asked to make minor revisions to their paper. These revisions will be limited to the correction of spelling errors, changing small technical details, etc. Since making these changes is considered part of the original effort, the project will be graded assuming that the changes will be made. However, a student who fails to complete the corrections as required may have his or her grade lowered accordingly.

Grading the senior project.  At the end of the final orals, the student is asked to leave the room for a few minutes while the faculty discuss the student’s performance. Although the criteria for each letter grade differ somewhat among faculty, just as they do for any course, the department has agreed upon a set of factors which will influence that final grade. These criteria differ slightly for laboratory and library projects.

Laboratory research.  The following items are used to judge performance of a laboratory project.

a) Quality of the research idea or hypothesis. (Including originality, utility, uniqueness, etc.)

b) Conduct of the research. (A qualitative evaluation of how well the student conducted the project, including diligence, adherence to methodology, etc.)

c) Quality of the paper.

Introduction. (Is the problem clearly specified: Are the hypotheses clear? Does the paper logically lead to the hypothesis? Is the relevant research reviewed?)

Method. (Could a reader replicate the research given the information provided in this section? Are subheadings used correctly?)

Results. (Are the results presented in a clear logical manner? Are appropriate statistical tests employed? Are all significance levels stated clearly and accurately?)

Discussion. (Do the results of the study support the discussion? Are all results mentioned in the results section discussed? Are implications and/or applications of the study clearly stated?)

Format and Mechanics. (Do the tables and figures supplement rather than substitute for the text? Are tables and figures clearly and accurately presented?)

(Are preliminary pages included? Are all cited studies referenced? Are references presented correctly? Are appendices included when necessary? Are appendices presented clearly?)

d) Final conference. (Does the student understand what he or she has done? Can he or she explain the methods and procedures in a clear and logical manner? Does the student understand the relationship between this project and the wider research area or theory involved?)

Remember that these criteria are designed to indicate the range of items that are considered in assigning a grade. The weight given to each factor will vary from instructor to instructor.

Library research. The following items are used to judge performance of a library project.

a) Quality of the research idea or hypothesis. (Including originality, utility, uniqueness, etc.)

b) Conduct of the research. (A qualitative evaluation of how well the student conducted the project, including diligence, willingness to seek assistance, discussion of the project with the advisors during the formation of the project and its completion.)

c) Quality of the paper.

Introduction. (Is the problem clearly specified? Will the reader understand the scope of the problem from the introduction?)

Organization. (Are the chapters of the paper organized logically? Does the organization of the chapters lead the reader to the writer’s conclusions? Within a chapter are arguments organized logically?)

Justification. (Are statements justified in terms of relevant research and/or theory? Are studies interpreted correctly? Cited appropriately?)

Conclusions. (Are the conclusions supported by the cited data? Are the conclusions linked to the available research and/or theory or merely stated? Implications and applications of the project noted and justified?)

Format and Mechanics. (Are necessary preliminary pages included? Are all cited studies referenced? Are references presented correctly? Are appendices included when appropriate? Are appendices presented clearly and correctly?)

d) Final conference (Comp Oral). (Does the student understand what he/she has done? Can he/she explain the methods and procedures in a clear and logical manner? Does the student understand the relationship between this project and the wider research area or theory being investigated?)

e) After you have completed all your revisions, you are ready to go to the print shop for your final copies. You need to have one copy for each of your readers, spiral bound. The library copy is to be submitted online through the Digital Asset Management site. You will also need to submit the Permissions Form to the library.