Literature Review/ Introduction for Psychology Experiement Paper

Paper Prep Step 2: Rough Draft of Introduction / Literature Review My research topic is “Is social media associated with mood?” I would like to test the influence of social media on mood in general.

Over the course of the semester we will be writing an APA format paper based on the experiment you have chosen with your group, the data you have collected as a group, and the results you analyze as an individual. I am breaking the process down for you to make it easier for you.

For an overall APA format paper check out my crib sheet: APA format overview! This hits all the high points.

In many of the social sciences, you will be asked to design and conduct your own experimental research. If so, you will need to write up your paper using a structure that is more complex than that used for just a literature review. You can find a complete resource devoted to writing an experimental report in the field of psychology here Links to an external site.

This structure follows the scientific method, but it also makes your paper easier to follow by providing those familiar cues that help your reader efficiently scan your information for:

  • Why the topic is important (covered in your introduction)
  • What the problem is (also covered in your introduction)
  • What you did to try to solve the problem (covered in your methods section)
  • What you found (covered in your results section)
  • What you think your findings mean (covered in your discussion section)

Paper Prep – Step 2: Rough Draft of Literature Review

Learning Objective:

  • Students will become familiar with both finding, and reading, a peer-reviewed research article.
  • Students will work on writing a literature review of several peer-reviewed research (empirical) articles for their paper / proposal.
  • Students will work on developing a hypothesis based on past research.
  • Students can further develop their skills as a critical reader of psychological research.

Audience: Write to a novice, uninformed audience in a professional tone. So think of a classmate in a different course, someone who may not know the area you are investigating or the lingo we use in Psychology. It is OK to write in the first person if you are providing an opinion or analysis of a topic but avoid slang and text-lingo (e.g., LOL, OMG, etc.).


For this step you will submit a rough draft of your introduction.

  • You MUST have at least 3 references for the literature review and all MUST be cited in proper in-text APA format.
  • You MUST use sub-headers for organization. Word has an APA template that makes this very easy.
  • You MUST not use any quotes OR plagiarize!
  • Maximum length of the Introduction: 4 double-spaced pages
  • The Introduction should discuss theories and studies that support you hypothesis. You end with a paragraph that helps the reader see the connection between your literature review and your “question” or hypothesis.

Make sure you include enough information for your reader to understand the reasoning behind your study. See the Academic Literacy: Writing an APA Format Paper module for tips on searching for relevant literature.

This section should describe the research area and findings from previous studies. Write in a goal-directed manner. By this I mean you will eventually be proposing some experiment in your proposal. Therefore, the literature review should be designed so that it discusses an issue or question that needs to be addressed in that area and provides a rationale for your proposed study. Moreover, you should structure your Introduction so that the motivation for your proposal becomes clear.

To achieve that you should begin with a relatively big issue (e.g., a related example from daily life – like age and memory) and then focus down to the specific issue you are interested in, highlighting the aspects of previous research (e.g. some methodological flaw in previous approaches – they only do certain types of memory tests on specific age groups) that your proposal is meant to address. By the end of the Introduction the reader should have a very good idea of what the central issue of your proposal will be.

Your introduction should reference a minimum of three research articles on the topic: this can be two primary and 1 secondary articles, feel free to use more then 3 but I am requiring 3 minimum so you have a feel for where the field is at on this topic.

Remember, a good literature review demonstrates understanding of the issues related to the topic you have selected, including disagreements or controversies in the field. It also should demonstrate analytical thinking through the connections you are able to make between the 3 articles that you have selected.

This is very important: State your specific hypothesis for your study at the end of your introduction section. (e.g., it is hypothesized in this study that people will report higher self-esteem if they also report feeling attractive.) APA is all about redundancy so introduction gets a hypothesis, results and discussion do as well! We state it over and over so you know why we are doing what we are doing 🙂

Be specific; define your terms; whatever it is you are talking about MUST be defined and cited!. Even though I may know what you mean, I want to see that you understand AND you should always be specific in terms of operational definitions! Which brings me to my number one rule of scientific writing:

Assume your reader is an idiot. Okay, so that’s a little harsh. But seriously, write these papers for a naïve reader—that is, someone who doesn’t know about the topic you’re presenting. Assume your reader is not familiar with whatever it is your paper is on! It is okay to assume they know what an average is, but don’t give them much more credit than that. This is important, because I need to see in your papers that you understand the material. In writing an intro for a paper, the train of thought should go something like this:

Citations: You MUST have a references page citing your sources. In addition to the APA publication manual, there’s a fairly good guide to APA-format citations here: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.And for in-text citing check out: How to cite your sources for examples. And, on the subject of citations…

Quotes are not crutches! You should never see entire paragraphs of quotes, and I’d really rather not see that. If you are entirely dependent on someone else’s explanation of a concept, it leads me to believe that you don’t actually get it—I know this trick because I’ve used it in papers before, myself. Let me assure you it didn’t work out.

I specifically stated “Absolutely no quotations are allowed!!” Because you need to break free of the crutch! APA style is not big on quotations at all! However if you quote you MUST use quotation marks AND cite so that it is not considers plagiarism. (See Plagiarism & Citing and Academic Writing & Plagiarism Information for more details, and tutorials, check out the files located in the Academic Literacy: Writing an APA Format Paper module)

Other Pointers:

  • Briefly introduce your concept – start broad! The intro begins broad & works its way to specifics. And FYI the discussion section is the opposite – it starts narrow with your hypotheses and goes broad into implications.
  • Discuss current research on the topic – you MUST have 5 peer reviewed studies here – describe them in detail
  • Are their specific trends in the data: this would include – but is not limited to – gender, culture, etc.
  • Are there any feuding camps in the area? If so, what about?
  • What do the current trends imply? What do they predict?
  • Where are the gaps in the research? What are the needs for future directions?
  • Then describe how your proposed research will fill the gaps in these areas. And of course, the hypothesis.
  • Cite recent evidence, especially articles appearing in the last 3 or 4 years. Be sure to include some primary sources. A primary source is an original data-based study. You may also wish to read some secondary sources. A secondary source is a review article that summarizes the findings of a research area (that is, summarizes the findings of many different primary sources). Your textbook, for example, is a secondary source. I recommend beginning your term paper by reading a secondary source.
  • Be evaluative and critical. Not all theories are equally convincing, nor are all studies methodologically sound. Tell when you think specific theories or studies have problems. Don’t be uncritically accepting of what you read.
  • Organize around topics, issues, or questions. Don’t just review studies one after another. Use studies to support points you are making.
  • The Introduction section always begins on the third page of the manuscript
  • The title of your paper (centered at the top of page 3) is used to mark the beginning of the Introduction section (not the word Introduction)
  • From this point on, all paragraphs should be indented 1/2 inch (or 5-7 spaces)
  • All citations in the Introduction must adhere to APA format
  • Main purpose of the introduction is to convince the reader that the research is important
  • Any idea that is not your own must have a reference citation following it
  • Never cite a source that you have not actually read yourself – use “as found in…” or “as cited in…” and cite where you found it 🙂
  • When describing past research, use the past tense (e.g., “Jones found…”) or present perfect tense (e.g., “Researchers have shown…”
  • Although it is important to review related research that has been done previously, be sure that your introduction does not simply read like a sequence of short summaries
  • The links between the past research you have reviewed and your hypotheses need to be clear and logical
  • When summarizing past research, be sure to address any important theoretical controversies in the literature
  • You should also comment on any apparent strengths and weaknesses of past research
  • At the end of the introduction, you should explicitly state your hypotheses
  • Hypotheses (predictions) should be logically derived from past theories and research

You will upload your rough draft for us so that we can provide feedback. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Both sites have detailed examples for you to follow

Maximum length of the Introduction: 4 double-spaced pages

For more information, please check out: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

What is APA Style?

APA Style establishes standards of written communication concerning:

  • the organization of content
  • writing style
  • citing references
  • and how to prepare a manuscript for publication in certain disciplines.

Why Use APA?

Aside from simplifying the work of editors by having everyone use the same format for a given publication, using APA Style makes it easier for readers to understand a text by providing a familiar structure they can follow. Abiding by APA’s standards as a writer will allow you to:

  • Provide readers with cues they can use to follow your ideas more efficiently and to locate information of interest to them
  • Allow readers to focus more on your ideas by not distracting them with unfamiliar formatting
  • Establish your credibility or ethos in the field by demonstrating an awareness of your audience and their needs as fellow researchers

APA Formatting and Writing Style

You should start by becoming familiar with the general formatting requirements of APA Style, as well as the different standards for writing that are expected among APA writers. Because APA is different than other writing styles, you should pay attention to everything from general paper layout to word choice. The following pages will introduce you to some of these basic requirements of APA Style to get you started in the right direction.

General APA Format Links to an external site.

  • Covers the basic page layout for a typical APA manuscript, including everything from margin widths to the use of headings and visuals
  • Includes a general list of the basic components of an APA paper: title page, abstract, and reference page
  • Also includes a PowerPoint slide presentation Links to an external site.with detailed information about the APA citation style

Types of APA PapersLinks to an external site.

  • Describes the two most common types of APA papers: the literature review and the experimental report
  • Outlines what sections must be included in each type of paper, from introductions to a methods section


Any direct quotation MUST be placed within quotes and cited. Citing alone does not make it not plagiarized!

It is a violation of the honor code to plagiarize. So let’s use an example:

Let’s say that I have read something by an author named Bob Bobson & Fred Fredrickson (2007).
If I was paraphrasing I could write:

Bobson & Fredrickson (2007), argue that leaves are predominantly green in the summer. So here I am paraphrasing what the authors have said in their communication (presumable publication – but not necessarily so).
Researchers argue that in the summer most leaves are typically green in the northern hemisphere (Bobson & Fredrickson, 2007). Once again, here I am paraphrasing what the authors have said in their communication

Now if I use a direct quotation:
Bobson & Fredrickson (2007), argue that leaves are predominantly green in the summer, “often we see that statistically, leaves are typically green in most of the United States in the summer time.”
Researchers suggest that “statistically, leaves are typically green in most of the United States in the summer months” (Bobson & Fredrickson, 2007).

Citing merely tells the reader where the information is coming from – using direct quotations “” tells the reader it is a direct quote from someone else. Why is this important? Well chiefly, it’s not your words or work. Secondly, if you have the reader feels the information is wrong they can seek out the original source to verify that information a) wasn’t taken out of context or b) is indeed wrong.

Please check out the Module: Academic Research and Writing and read through some of the files like “Plagiarism Tutorial (from UNC Chapel Hill)”. This is an issue many students have but I would hate for it to become an honor code issue 🙂

Remember, you are typically better off loosing points for having nothing in your own words that plagiarizing someone else.

Course policy is that any plagiarism results in an automatic 0 on the assignment. University policy is that this is a violation of the university honor code and as such must be reported!!!

So please do NOT plagiarize!

See the module on academic writing and research for several files on plagiarism. Plagiarism & Citing amongst them.