Handout 4.2


WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A JOURNAL ARTICLE



FIRST TIME THROUGH SECOND TIME THROUGH
INTRODUCTION Why do we care about this area of
research? What references do I need
to read to understand this study better?
What are hypotheses? Why do the
authors expect their hypotheses to be supported?
How does the study fit in with existing
work? If it cures a weakness in
previous research, what was wrong
with previous research? If it
extends or fills a gap in previous
research, what is that gap? What
variables are they looking at?
Do I agree with their arguments?
Does the hypothesis really follow
from theory or previous research?
METHOD Who were the participants? How were
they obtained? What was done to the
participants? How were the participants
treated? What did participants do? What
was the dependent variable? What was
the design? If the design was an experiment,
was/were the independent variables?
External validity questions:

Are there reasons to expect that results
from these participation are atypical? Might they
have gotten different results with a different
 population of participants? In real life, does the variable
occur within subjects (an individual would experience
more than one level of the variable) or between
subjects (an individual typically experiences only one
level of the independent variable)?
Was the independent variable between or within
in this study?

Internal validity questions:

Did they use an experiment?Were groups equivalent
before the study began? Was there a mortality problem?
Were their responses independent? Are there
any other variables that should have been
controlled? If the study used a within-subjects design,
could there have been any order effects?

Construct validity questions:

 If you were a participant, would you
have guessed the hypothesis? Would you
have taken the task seriously? Do they have
adequate control groups? Is there any
confounding? Would it have been better
to use different operational definitions?
Should they have used more or different
levels of the treatment variable?

Power questions ( if they failed to find significant effects):
Did they study enough participants?
Was their measure sensitive enough?
Should they have used a more sensitive design (e.g., a
within-subjects rather than a between-subjects design)?

RESULTS How are they deriving the scores that
they put into the analysis? That is, how are
they scoring subjects' responses? How do
they make numbers out of the participants'
behavior? What are the average scores for the
different groups?
Were there manipulation checks? Do the
statistics directly test the predictions made
in the introduction? Do the statistical tests
match up with the verbal descriptions? That is,
if the authors say that Group 1 scored better
than Group 2, do they have an analysis that
directly compares Group 1 against Group 2?
Are the statistics appropriate for the
dependent variable's scale of measurement?
Did they do the appropriate post hoc tests?
Did they properly interpret any null results (null results
are inconclusive?
 
DISCUSSION Do they think the results
matched their predictions?
How do they explain any
discrepancies? What
additional studies do they
recommend?
What questions do I have?
Are there other explanations
for the results, such as
hypothesis guessing or
competing theories? Are there
additional studies I would
recommend? Did the authors
make cause-effect statements
on the basis of correlational
evidence? Did the authors
state something that was not
supported by the results? For
example, do they treat a
nonsignificant (null) result as if it were
significant or talk about a
comparison that was not made?
 

Note: For an even more comprehensive table, see the Instructor's Manual.


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