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Writing a Psychology Practical Report as a Scientific Paper: APA Style and Format

Style and Format

1. Write up your practical report as a scientific paper, using a style and format like an article published in a high-quality psychology journal. 

2. Use a minimum size 11 font and at least 1.5 line spacing. Common fonts include Arial and Times New Roman.

3. You should write your report in American Psychological Association (APA) s

4. Your report should be a maximum of 2000 words. The word limit is a hard limit, and markers will not read the end of your submission past the set word limit. The title, abstract, final references section, tables, figures and table/figure captions do not count in the word count. In-text citations do count. You do not need to submit appendices. 

This should be succinct but informative. APA recommends it should be no more than 12 words long. 

This is a brief paragraph, usually between 150-250 words, that tells your reader all the main points in your paper. In general, it should include 1-2 sentences summarising each of the main sections in your report, including:

  • The aims: what the research question is and why it's interesting
  • The method: who participated and what they did
  • The results: what the main or most important findings were
  • The implications: what impact these findings have on the research area

The introduction should guide your reader from general ideas and principles to the specific research question you are presenting (See Workshop 2 materials)

The first part of the introduction should start out wide, covering the major theories and defining terms in the research area. At the end of the first paragraph or two, include a thesis statement - a clear sentence telling the reader what your contribution to the research area will be – and why it matters.

The second part of the introduction should review key research in the area, becoming progressively more specific.

The final part should justify why your research question is interesting and worth answering (often linked to gaps in the research area), and what you expect to learn from the results. It should end with a clear statement of your hypothesis or research question(s). Sometimes this section has the subheading ‘Present Study’ or ‘Current Study’, but it is your choice whether to include this. You might refer to the fact that this is a secondary analysis in this final section of the introduction e.g., This secondary analysis of data collected by [original researchers] aimed to…..

The slides and the introduction planning sheet used in Workshop 2 are helpful to refer to when writing this section. The introduction planning sheet can easily be adapted for the Language Acquisition scenario.

The method usually has four subsections: Participants, Materials, Design and Procedure. Sometimes the Design and Procedure are combined.


Because you have not recruited the participants yourself, you are likely to want to refer to the fact that this is a secondary analysis and explain where you have drawn your participants from.

If you chose the Language Acquisition research scenario you will want to refer to the fact that your secondary analysis involves a subset of participants from the Henderson et al. (2021) study. An example was given in the slides from Workshop 1.

You can use the original papers to find out how the participants were recruited and write this up in your own words.

For numbers you should report, refer to the Set Analysis from the Discovering Statistics Take-Away Paper. You must report the numbers from the set analysis, not the original papers. These should be written up clearly in your participant section. Workshop 3 provided practice with writing a good participant section. 

If you chose the Language Acquisition research scenario you will need to clearly describe the stimuli and tasks that were used in the original study. Workshop 1 slides have further information.

Warning! Be very aware of the dangers of plagiarism with your materials section. Make sure you really understand the materials well enough to describe them in your own words.

Sometimes this section is combined with the Procedure section.

Explain your design and not the research design of the original study (this is especially important to remember for the language acquisition research scenario).

You can restate that this is a secondary analysis of….[refer to original study]. Workshop 1 slides provided an example.

Then you need to explain what your independent and dependent variables are and how they were operationalised (measured).

This should explain how the data was gathered by the original researchers. You only need to describe the parts of the original procedure that are relevant to your secondary analysis.

If you choose the Language Acquisition research scenario you do not need to describe their full experimental procedure which involved two groups and different timings of when the story was read to children. Just describe the procedure for the group that you have the data for (the children who had the story before bedtime). 

Workshop 1 and Workshop 3 slides have more information relevant to the Method section.

The results section should explain all of the steps of your analysis, in a logical order, with evidence to support each decision you made. You should explain the models you constructed, how you decided on the best one, the result of any assumptions checks, and then report and interpret the final model in full. If you completed the TAP, you have already done most of this write up already. For more help on how to do to this, see the Skills Labs from Discovering Statistics, especially Week 7.

Complete this section by including:

1. A summary of your results, stated in non-statistical terms


2. A detailed explanation of what your findings contribute to the research area


3. What was the answer to your research question?


4. If it was what you expected, what does this tell you?


5. If it was not what you expected, why might this be?


6. How do your results compare to other studies on the same or similar topic?


7. Did you get the same pattern of results?


8. What do you think this means for the effect you are investigating?


9. What are the implications of your findings?


10. What are the strengths and limitations of your study?


11. Critically appraise your study rather than just criticising!


12. Do you think this research question is worth investigating further?


13. If so, what do you think the next studies should investigate, and how?


14. Make some concrete and actionable suggestions for future studies


15. Write a short, clear conclusion summarising your main finding(s) and the main takeaway point(s) from your discussion.

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