How to Write a Psychology Lab Report

Writing Resources — Psychology Lab Report Peer Review — Hamilton College

How to Write a Psychology Lab Report

Your job is to read your classmate’s paper (title page, intro, method and references) as a reviewer or editor.

Make comments on the actual manuscript using the reviewing toolbar in Microsoft Word AND write a two to three page (double-spaced, typed) review.

Please submit the following: (1) the review, and (2) the paper you reviewed, with comments made using the reviewing toolbar (and changes using “track changes”).

Consider the following as you read:

Title page

  • Does the title accurately describe the study? Is it concise? (recommended length: 12 words or fewer)
  • Has the author followed APA style guidelines?


  • Does the author open with a strong paragraph?  (i.e., something other than, “Research has shown…”) Does the paper immediately grab your attention? Does the author state the goal(s) of the paper?
  • Is the literature presented important and relevant to the author’s hypothesis? Has the author clearly read at least 6-8 empirical articles and presented only information directly related to the proposed study?
  • Is the introduction well-organized? Does the research presented flow in a logical order? Are there strong transitions between paragraphs? If not, provide some suggestions for improvement.
  • Has the author avoided simply telling a story of who did what when, and let the ideas determine the order of presentation?
  • Has the author paraphrased the ideas of other researchers rather than quoting directly?
  • Would the use of subheadings improve the organization of the intro? Are there too many or too few subheadings? (Should not have just one paragraph beneath a subheading.) Perhaps provide some suggestions.
  • Does the author provide a concise overview of the current study and clearly describe its hypothesis(es)?
  • Is the rationale behind the hypotheses clear? It should be obvious what the author was going to hypothesize, given the research that s/he already presented. If there are any missing links in the logic, suggest improvements.


  • Does the author include all relevant information in the Participants section (planned number of participants, gender, age range (and M and SD for age), how they were recruited, how they were compensated)? [Since the study hasn’t yet been run, does the author leave blanks for this information?]
  • Are the materials adequately described? Does the author describe the questionnaires and stimulus materials used in enough detail? If not, provide suggestions about what else should be included.
  • Could someone replicate the study after having read the Procedure section? If not, what does the author need to add?
  • Is there any redundancy between the Procedure and the Materials sections? If so, how could the author fix it?
  • Will the author be able to address the hypothesis properly with the design chosen?
  • Are there any threats to validity in the study? Any extraneous variables that could affect interpretation of the results? Any confounds? Any demand characteristics or bias problems?
  • Could the study be improved? If so, how? Can you provide suggestions of alternative approaches? These suggestions may help the author write a strong discussion section.


  • Are the references presented in alphabetical order?
  • Are the references in proper format (first initials instead of first names; “&” used; only first letter of first word and first letter of first word following a colon capitalized in article titles; journal and volume # in italics; dois included)
  • Is there a one-to-one correspondence between the articles cited in the paper and the articles that appear in the References section?


  • Are ideas presented in a logical order with no redundancy?
  • Does the author provide smooth transitions between ideas?
  • Are statements adequately backed up with evidence from the literature?
  • Are critical terms clearly defined
  • Is anything confusing or ambiguous?
  • Are there any spelling or grammatical errors?
  •  Does the paper conform to APA style guidelines? (e.g., proper headings, correct page breaks)
  • Is all research cited properly?

What to Include in the 2-3 Page (Double-spaced) Written Review

  1. Reviewers of journal articles often begin their review with a 3-4 sentence summary of the author’s study. The summary lets the author know that the reviewer has understood what the author has said. I suggest that you follow this convention.
  2. Next, lead off with positive feedback.

    What are the strengths of the paper and the study?

  3. The bulk of your review should be focused on major comments (e.g., organization of the paper, whether the author has provided sufficient rationale for the hypotheses, major criticisms of the design or procedure) or suggestions (e.g.

    , how the design might be improved, other literature to cite to support the hypotheses).

  4. Don’t talk about individual spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors; you can mark those on the paper itself. However, if you notice that the author makes the same error repeatedly (e.g.

    , mixing up “effect” and “affect”), you should call the author’s attention to this problem.

Rules to Live By

  1. Treat others as you want to be treated. Provide the author with constructive comments (e.g., “I think you might want to consider putting information about X earlier in the introduction,” NOT “Your organization is terrible!”)
  2. Be specific.

    Don’t write, “I don’t get this.” Instead, write, “I think this sentence may be confusing to readers; it is unclear exactly what information the experimenter is giving to participants.”

  3. Be honest.

    You have a responsibility to help your classmate write the best paper s/he can write.

  4. Take pride in your reviewing. Take the time to do the job right. Remember, someone else is doing the same for you.

an assignment by Professor Jennifer Borton, Psychology Dept.,                                          for Psych 311W, Fall 2013.


How to Write a Lab Report

How to Write a Psychology Lab Report

A typical lab report would include the following sections: title, abstract, introduction, method, results and discussion.

Title page, abstract, references and appendices are started on separate pages (subsections from the main body of the report are not). Use double-line spacing of text, font size 12, and include page numbers.

The report should have a thread of argument linking the prediction in the introduction to the content in the discussion.

1. Title Page:

This must indicate what the study is about. It must include the variables under investigation. It should not be written as a question.

Title pages should be formatted APA style.

2. Abstract: (you write this last)

The abstract provides a concise and comprehensive summary of a research report. Your style should be brief, but not using note form. Look at examples in journal articles. It should aim to explain very briefly (about 150 words) the following:

• Start with a one/two sentence summary, providing the aim and rationale for the study.

• Describe participants and setting: who, when, where, how many, what groups?

• Describe the method: what design, what experimental treatment, what questionnaires, surveys or tests used.

• Describe the major findings, which may include a mention of the statistics used and the significance levels, or simply one sentence summing up the outcome.

• The final sentence(s) outline the studies 'contribution to knowledge' within the literature. What does it all mean? Mention implications of your findings if appropriate.


The abstract comes at the beginning of your report but is written at the end (as it summarises information from all the other sections of the report).

3. Introduction:

The purpose of the introduction is to explain where your hypothesis comes from (i.e. it should provide a rationale for your research study).

Ideally, the introduction should have a funnel structure: Start broad and then become more specific. The aims should not appear thin air, the preceding review of psychological literature should lead logically into the aims and hypotheis.

• Start with general theory, briefly introducing the topic. Define the important key terms.

• Explain the theoretical framework.

• Summarise and synthesize previous studies – What was the purpose? Who were theparticipants? What did they do? What did they find? What do theseresults mean? How do the results relate to the theoretical framework?

• Rationale: How does the current study address a gap in theliterature? Perhaps it overcomes a limiation of previous research.

• Aims and hypothesis. Write a paragraph explaining what you plan to investigate annd make a clear and concise prediction regarding the results you expect to find.


  • How many participants were recruited?
  • Say how you obtained your sample (e.g. opportunity sample).
  • Give relevant demographic details, e.g. gender, ethnicity, age range, mean age, and standard deviation.


  • State the experimental design.
  • What were the independent and dependent variables? Make sure the independent variable is labeled and name the different conditions/levels.

    For example, if gender is the independent variable label, then male and female are the levels/conditions/groups.

  • How were the IV and DV operationalised?
  • Identify any controls used, e.g.

    counterbalancing, control of extraneous variables.


  • List all the materials and measures (e.g., what was the title of thequestionnaire? Was it adapted from a study?).
  • You do not need to include wholesale replication of materials – instead include a ‘sensible’ (illustrate) level of detail. For example, give examples of questionnaire items.
  • Include the reliability (e.g. alpha values) for the measure(s).


  • Describe the precise procedure you followed when carrying out your research i.e. exactly what you did.
  • Describe in sufficient detail to allow for replication of findings.
  • Be concise in your description and omit extraneous / trivial details. E.g. you don't need to include details regarding instructions, debrief, record sheets etc.

5. Results:

  • The results section of a paper usually present the descriptive statistics followed by inferential statistics.
  • Report the means, standard deviations and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for each IV level. If you have four to 20 numbers to present, a well-presented table is best, APA style.
  • Name the statistical test being used.
  • Report appropriate statistics (e.g., t-scores, p values).
  • Report the magnitude (e.g., are the results significant or not?) as wellas the direction of the results (e.g., which group performed better?).
  • It is optional to report the effect size (this does not appear on the SPSS output).

Use APA Style

  • Numbers reported to 2 d.p. (incl. 0 before the decimal if 1.00, e.g. “0.51”). The exceptions to this rule: Numbers which can never exceed 1.0 (e.g. p-values, r-values): report to 3 d.p. and do not include 0 before the decimal place, e.g. “.001”.

  • Percentages and degrees of freedom: report as whole numbers.
  • Statistical symbols that are not Greek letters should be italicised (e.g. M, SD, t, X2, F, p, d).
  • Include spaces either side of equals sign.
  • When reporting 95% CIs (confidence intervals), upper and lower limits are given inside square brackets, e.g. “95% CI [73.37, 102.23]”

6. Discussion:

• Outline your findings in plain English (avoid statistical jargon) and relate your results to your hypothesis, e.g. is it supported or rejected?

• Compare you results to background materials from the introduction section. Are your results similar or different? Discuss why/why not.

• How confident can we be in the results? Acknowledge limitations, but only if they can explain the result obtained. If the study has found a reliable effect be very careful suggesting limitations as you are doubting your results. Unless you can think of any confounding variable that can explain the results instead of the IV, it would be advisable to leave the section out.

• Suggest constructive ways to improve your study if appropriate.

• What are the implications of your findings? Say what your findings mean for the way people behave in the real world.

• Suggest an idea for further researched triggered by your study, something in the same area, but not simply an improved version of yours. Perhaps you could base this on a limitation of your study.

• Concluding paragraph – Finish with a statement of your findings and the key points of the discussion (e.g. interpretation and implications), in no more than 3 or 4 sentences.

7. References:

The reference section is the list of all the sources cited in the essay (in alphabetical order). It is not a bibliography (a list of the books you used).

In simple terms every time you refer to a name (and date) of a psychologist you need to reference the original source of the information.

If you have been using textbooks this is easy as the references are usually at the back of the book and you can just copy them down. If you have been using websites then you may have a problem as they might not provide a reference section for you to copy.

References need to be set out APA style:


Author, A. A. (year). Title of work. Location: Publisher.

Journal Articles

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (year). Article title. Journal Title, volume number(issue number), page numbers

A simple way to write your reference section is use Google scholar. Just type the name and date of the psychologist in the search box and click on the 'cite' link.

Next, copy and paste the APA reference into the reference section of your essay.

Once again remember that references need to be in alphabetical order according to surname.

How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2019). Psychology research report. Simply Psychology.

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