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PSY 225 - Research Methods in Psychology: Evaluating Your Sources

Spotting Bad Science

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By Compound Interest:

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Class Discussion: Find the Peer-Reviewed Source

Research Versus Review Articles

Research articles: 
Are original research and include details of the scientific data obtained during the research, and should specify the methodology used in the study. They are known as a primary source of scientific information, and should include:

  • An abstract, or summary of the content in the article READ THIS FIRST
  • An introduction which will explain the reason/purpose/justification for the study
  • A clear outline of the methodology used to both perform the study and then to analyze it
  • Data to support the study and analysis
  • Discussion of results and outcome
  • References

Review articles:
Review the literature published on a particular topic:

  • Provide an overview of the research conducted (up to that date) on a topic
  • Identify significant contributions to the field, and themes in the literature
  • Discuss and/or analyze the research of different authors working in the same field

A review article is usually considered to be a secondary source of information, and can provide a great starting point for researching a topic.  The reference list is a good way of locating other literature that may be relevant to your topic- citations for the research articles (primary sources) discussed.  Be aware that a review article reflects the view/bias of its authors - you should still look at the articles discussed and draw your own conclusions.

Critically Evaluate

Quality Questions:

  1. Is the author an expert in their field? Who sponsored the article?
  2. Is it current? What is the pub. date?
  3. Is it peer reviewed? 

Content Questions:

  1. What is the research question?
  2. What is the primary methodology used?
  3. How was the data gathered?
  4. How is the data presented?
  5. What are the main conclusions?
  6. Are these conclusions reasonable?
  7. What theories are used to support the researcher's conclusions?

Take notes on the articles as you read them and identify any themes or concepts that may apply to your research question.

This sample template (below) may also be useful for critically reading and organizing your articles.