Cognitive Studies/Psychology/Visual Studies 201:

Guidelines for Writing a Scientific Article

Based on the guidelines set out in the
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4th Edition, 1994)

Title: A title should summarize the main idea of the paper simply and, if possible, with style. It should be a concise statement of the main topic and should identify the actual variables or theoretical issues under investigation and the relationship between them. An example of a good title is "Effect of Transformed Letters on Reading Speed".

Author's Name & Institutional Affiliation: Every article has a byline consisting of two parts: the name of the author and the institution where the investigation was conducted (without the words by or from the).

Abstract: An abstract is a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of the article; it allows readers to survey the content of an article and, like a title, is used by abstracting and information services to index and retrieve articles. A good abstract should be accurate, self-contained, concise and specific, non-evaluative, coherent, and readable.

An abstract of a report of an empirical study should describe in 100 to 120 words the following:

Introduction: The introduction begins the body of the paper. The introduction addresses the specific problem under study and describes the research strategy. A clear introduction should The introduction should discuss previous literature but should not contain an exhaustive historical review. Assume that the reader has knowledge in the field for which you are writing and does not require a complete digest. A scholarly review of earlier work provides an appropriate history and recognizes the priority of the work of others. Citation of and specific credit to relevant earlier works is part of the author's scholarly responsibility.

In the closing paragraphs of the introduction the purpose and rationale of the study should be made explicit. There should be a definition of the variables and a formal statement of the hypotheses. Adequately outlining the logic of the study at this stage will lend much to the clarity of the sections of the paper which are to follow.

Method: The Method section describes in detail how the study was conducted. Such a description enables the reader to evaluate the appropriateness of your methods and the reliability and the validity of your results. It also permits experienced investigators to replicate the study if they so desire.

It is both conventional and expedient to divide the Method section into labeled subsections. These usually include descriptions of the participants, the apparatus (or materials), and the procedure.

Participants: Appropriate identification of research participants is critical, particularly for assessing the results (making comparisons across groups), generalizing the findings, and making comparisons in replications, literature reviews, or secondary data analysis. The sample should be adequately described and it should be representative. Conclusions and interpretations should not go beyond what the sample warrants.

Major demographic characteristics such as sex and age should be reported. When particular demographic characteristics are experimental variables or are important for the interpretation of the results, describe the group specifically -- for example, in terms of racial and ethnic designation, national origin, level of education, health status, or language use.

Apparatus: The subsection on apparatus briefly describes the apparatus or materials used and their function in the experiment. Identify specialized equipment obtained from a commercial supplier by the model number of the equipment and the supplier's name and location. Complex or custom-made equipment may be illustrated by a drawing or a photograph.

Procedure: The subsection on procedure summarizes each step in the execution of the research. Include the instructions to the participants, the formation of the groups and the specific experimental manipulations. Describe randomization, counterbalancing, and other control features in the design.

Results: The Results section summarizes the data collected and the statistical treatment of them. First, briefly state the main results or findings. Then report the data in sufficient detail to justify the conclusions. Discussing the implications of the results is not appropriate here. Mention all relevant results, including those that run counter to the hypothesis. Do not include individual scores or raw data, with the exception, for example, of single-case designs or illustrative samples.

Discussion: After presenting the results, you are in a position to evaluate and interpret their implications, especially with respect to your original hypothesis. You are free to examine, interpret, and qualify the results, as well as to draw inferences from them. Emphasize any theoretical consequences of the results and the validity of your conclusions.

Open the discussion with a clear statement of the support or non-support for your original hypothesis. Similarities and differences between your results and the work of others should clarify and confirm your conclusions. Do not, however, simply reformulate and repeat points already made; each new statement should contribute to your position and to the reader's understanding of the problem. You may remark on certain shortcomings of the study, but do not dwell on every flaw. Negative results should be accepted as such without an undue attempt to explain them away. Avoid polemics, triviality, and weak theoretical comparisons in your discussion. In general, be guided by the following questions:

References: All citations in the manuscript must appear in the reference list, and all references must be cited in the text.