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PIA-245: Psychological Research

Guide to library resources

You will be conducting a search of the primary literature for a selection of peer-reviewed journal articles on your topic of interest. Peer-reviewed articles have been checked by a group of experts in the same field to make sure it meets necessary standards before it is published. You will find the articles in the databases below. The instructions will help you to find literature reporting empirical evidence, information acquired by observation or experimentation. Research methods used to gather empirical measurements and data are qualitative and quantitative. In qualitative research, data is found by observing. When applying quantitative methods, numerical data is collected and analyzed using statistical methods. Literature reporting empirical evidence supports a hypothesis or stated problem, tests a theory and helps construct new theories proposed by the author.

We will go over in our library session how to determine when an article is relevant. 


Updated instructions coming soon.

We have many great databases to find research in psychology.

If you need help with any of these databases, please let me know,, or come by the library.

How do I Identify Research Articles?

  • Confirm that it is a scholarly article.  It should be published in a scholarly journal and not a newspaper or popular magazine. The authors should be experts in the field and not journalists. The article must have a reference list. If the article does not have these elements it is not scholarly, and it cannot be a research article.
  • It must be original research conducted by the authors of the research article. They ran surveys, did the experiments, collected data, made observations, conducted interviews or otherwise gathered material on their own or with a team of researchers. 
  • The abstract often has clues. Look for a sentence that says something like “this study examines…” or “we did research to find…” Such statements indicate that the author probably conducted original research.
  • A research article is different than a "literature review" article, which is a critical evaluation of material that has been previously published. 

Elements of a Research Article

Research articles are a specific type of scholarly, peer-reviewed article. They typically follow a particular format and include specific elements that show how the research was designed, how the data was gathered, how it was analyzed, and what the conclusions are. Sometimes these sections may be labeled a bit differently, but these basic elements are consistent:

Abstract: A brief, comprehensive summary of the article, written by the author(s) of the article.This abstract must be part of the article, not a summary in the database. Abstracts can appear in secondary source articles as well as primary source.

Introduction: This introduces the problem, tells you why it’s important, and outlines the background, purpose, and hypotheses the authors are trying to test. The introduction comes first, just after the abstract, and is usually not labeled.

Methods: Tells the reader describes in details how the research was conducted, and may be subdivided into subsections describing Materials, Apparatus, Subjects, Design, and Procedures.

Results: Summarizes the data and describes how it was analyzed. It should be sufficiently detailed to justify the conclusions. Sometimes called "Findings." 

Discussion: The authors explain how the data fits their original hypothesis, state their conclusions, and look at the theoretical and practical implications of their research. Sometimes called "Analysis."

ReferencesLists the complete bibliography of sources cited in the research article.