When research psychologists talk about writing a paper, they are talking about a lengthy and complicated chain of events that includes a great deal more than just reporting research results. In this chapter, we outline these events from start to finish:
1. Planning your experimental research project■ getting an idea■ selecting independent variables■ selecting dependent variables■ deciding on between-subjects and within-subjects variables■ deciding how data will be analyzed■ selecting participants■ choosing experimental materials■ choosing a means of presenting experimental materials■ writing directions■ deciding on a means of scoring data■ writing a consent form■ writing a debriefing sheet■ getting approval from the institutional review board■ conducting a pilot study
2. Executing the experimental research
3. Data analysis
4. Reporting the experimental research■ title■ author's name and institutional affiliation■ abstract■ introduction■ method■ results■ discussion■ references■ appendix■ order of sections
PLANNING EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH
Getting an Idea
The basis of any good research is a viable idea that results in a study that contributes to the current state of knowledge. However, getting ideas, and especially getting good ideas, often turns out to be one of the hardest parts of research. If you need help forming ideas for your research, please read Chapter 2.
Selecting Independent Variables
After you have come up with an idea, you need a way to test it. To test the idea, you need one or more independent variables. In random-assignment experiments (i.e., experiments in which participants are randomly assigned to groups), independent variables are those variables that are manipulated by the experimenter. In an experiment to test people's susceptibility to persuasive communications, for example, possible independent variables include (a) amount of exposure to persuasive communications, (b) content of persuasive communications, and (c) level of agreement between participants’ initial attitudes and the position advocated by the persuasive communications. Once you have chosen your independent variable(s), you must decide how many and what level of them to use. For example, you might include in a persuasibility experiment three levels of exposure to the persuasive communications (no exposure, 10 minutes of exposure, and 1 hour of exposure) and two communications (one message dealing with capital punishment and one message dealing with compulsory use of seat belts in cars).