Pedagogy in Action > Library > Quantitative Writing > Examples > Becoming a Psychology Scholar

Becoming a Psychology Scholar

This page authored by Lynn Garrioch, Colby-Sawyer College
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This material was originally developed by the the National Numeracy Network
as part of its collaboration with the SERC Pedagogic Service.


This assignment is a term project for Introductory Psychology students. Students will begin the project at the start of a term and complete the final research paper by the end of term. Students are expected to research a specific topic in psychology, write a brief literature review on the topic, generate a research question based on their literature review, design a research study to answer their research question, collect data, and write a research report that includes data analysis.

Learning Goals

Students will learn how to develop and answer a research question in psychology. The specific goals are to:
  1. read primary sources from peer-reviewed research journals
  2. define concepts and terms
  3. summarize and evaluate the research methods findings from the relevant research literature
  4. develop a research question
  5. define and operationalize variables
  6. design a simple experiment
  7. collect and analyze data
  8. write a research manuscript

Ultimately, students will understand and apply basic research methods in psychology, including research design, data analysis and interpretation. Students will use creative and critical thinking, skeptical inquiry and scientific approach to solve problems related to human behavior and mental processes.

Context for Use

This research paper is designed for an introductory level psychology course at a four year institution. It emphasizes the importance of research and statistics. Students should be expected to complete this assignment in stages. Before the students start each stage, there should be class time devoted to providing students with clear expectations for each stage.

Description and Teaching Materials

Most Introductory Psychology textbooks do a fantastic job of summarizing classic and contemporary research in the discipline of psychology. Often these textbooks have a chapter at the beginning of the text about the scientific method, research methods, statistics, and critical thinking. The textbooks then proceed to provide psychological terminology and summarized results for the students, but it seems divorced from the research method chapter.

It is important for students to understand the research process and begin critically think about the research that they are reading about. This term assignment may seem daunting to first year students, but if students are asked to complete the assignment in stages with clear deadlines, they can complete the assignment well. Ultimately, this assignment acquaints students with primary research sources in psychology. Students learn how to read, summarize,cite, reference and evaluate the primary sources. They will then develop a research question based on their reading and design a simple research study to answer their question. Students will be asked to calculate basic descriptive statistics (e.g., means and standard deviations) and inferential statistics (e.g., t-tests). Ultimately, students will be asked to write a short research paper that includes the following components: Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Method section, Results, Discussion, References, and Appendix (i.e., SPSS spreadsheet and output).

This is the assignment description for students. A grading rubric is attached to the end of the assignment. Course Description and Grading Criteria (Microsoft Word 76kB May16 08)

This is a teaching module for students to help students understand the basic concepts in research methods. Basic Research (PowerPoint 507kB May16 08)

This is a teaching module to help students understand the importance of defining and operationalizing variables in research studies. Defining and Operationalizing Variables (PowerPoint 286kB May16 08)

This is a sample literature review. This document is from the Purdue University OWL public webite. Sample Literature from Purdue University (Acrobat (PDF) 174kB May16 08)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This is an intensive project that can fail miserably if students are simply assigned this assignment and not given guidance throughout the course. The purpose of the assignment is supposed to help students learn about the research process. Instructors need to take their students through the research process, step by step. Not only will the instructor need to devote class time to discussing the research project, the instructor will need to be available for individual consultation with the students.


I use a grading rubric. The students are given the rubric with the assignment description. Please see Assignment Description. Assignment Description and Grading Rubric (Microsoft Word 76kB May16 08)

References and Resources

Purdue University offers an on-line writing lab. It is a fantastic lab for professors, instructors, teaching assistants, and students.
Link to Purdue's on-line writing lab