Psychologists use a variety of research methods to examine people's mental processes and behaviour. In this chapter, we look at how such research is written and where it is published. We will look at the way a piece of research is reported and then look at a real research paper. This research investigates how quickly and accurately people can recognize something that is threatening, which is an important part of how we act in a dangerous situation.
Having a written report of a piece of research is important for two reasons. First, it enables other people and psychologists to read about it. This is an essential part of psychology because we need to share and discuss findings in order for knowledge to advance. For example, the research may be testing a particular theory, and it is useful for other psychologists to know if there is evidence to support this theory. Second, it means that we can assess the findings. If psychologist X has done an experiment, how do we know how good the findings are unless psychologist Y can read about them, and maybe test them himself/herself? It is also important for the research to be available so that other researchers can try to replicate the study.
Psychologists tend to have (at least!) one thing in common; they have learnt about the different areas of psychology, how to do research and how to write their findings as a report. In psychology, we commonly call such a report a 'research paper' or 'article'. Most psychologists will do some research as part of their job. As research is done to test ideas and find ways to improve people's lives, it would be of no use for psychologists to keep these findings to themselves. To share their findings, they write them up as a research paper and