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Evaluating Scholarly Research

Evaluating Scholarly Research

Author: Erick Taggart

Identify and discuss variables (in abstract), method used, potential sources of bias/confounding variables, and the analysis used.

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Hello, class. So when we're presented with a scholarly research article, like a lot of papers are published as in psychology, reading and understanding them can be a little bit different from traditional forms of articles. Things in magazines, like Time or Newsweek. This is because they are written in a different style for a more academic audience. So these are some basic guidelines and tips to understanding exactly how to read a research article and understand it better.

So let's take a look at different aspects of the articles and what we can find there so that we can understand those articles better in those specific sections. So first, we want to know what exactly is being studied within a research article that we're presented with. And the best place to look for that is our abstract.

The abstract is the specific, a structure specific to scholarly research articles that's essentially a short summary, about one paragraph long, at the very beginning of an article, even before it starts. So this is a nice place to, most importantly, identify variables that are talked about in the experiment or in the research. So what is the person actually looking at? So you can tell, are they talking about soda and children? Then we know that those two things are our variables within the study. This also provides a quick overview to understand exactly what the methods and the conclusions are for the experiment itself. So if you need a quick understanding, or if you need to refer to this later to understand the methods or conclusions later, this is a good place to start.

Next we want to know what's exactly important to know about this topic or this area of study. So if we're looking at developmental psychology, let's say. And we don't necessarily have a clear understanding of this area of developmental psychology, then the introduction is a good place to start. The introduction provides any kind of prior research about the topic that's being addressed within the paper. In other words, it gives us a good background knowledge of what the author is talking about.

This can also be a good place to look for other research that we might want to understand within this area, which we can then go to the end of the paper for in the references section where they provide the citations for other papers. And we can use that as a jumping off point to find more research in this area of study.

Next we might want to know how was the research or the study actually done? Or how does it actually work within the paper that we're reading? And this would be when we would look at the methods section. The methods section tells all about the study itself so it can be reviewed and replicated. It says things like who was in the study. What was used in the study to measure different kinds of things? How are the subjects tested themselves?

So this is a good place to look at if we want to understand potential sources of bias or confounding variables. In other words, if we want to know what might have influenced the study in ways that were unintended. So how could this study have gone wrong? So this is the area that we want to look at for there. For example, if the person used an invalid test. Something that doesn't necessarily test what it actually says it's testing. So if they said they're studying IQ, and they used say a Rorschach inkblot test, we would say, those two don't fit together. So this is an incorrect conclusion or data that the researcher is coming to.

There might have been errors in the people that were used. There might have been methods that were really confusing or not necessarily related to the topic. There might have been too many elements of it. And things could have gotten lost. These are certain things that we want to look at when we're looking at the method section of a paper.

Finally, when we want to know what does the actual research prove, we would jump down to the end of the paper in the analysis, or conclusions, section. Which is where it says how it relates to the subject that's being talked about say in the introduction. And so it links the methods and the data to the section. And what's important here is that we look at the conclusions that are being made and think, are they actually logical? So do the results show what the researcher says that they're showing? Do they make sense in any kind of way?

So if this person is saying that say soda causes children to have lower IQs, we would say, well does the data actually say that? Does that make sense in my mind as well? And does the research prove it out? If it doesn't, then that would be an incorrect assumption. It wouldn't be logical for the researcher to make.

You also want to be careful, in the conclusions section especially, that the conclusions aren't being applied too broadly to everybody based on the research that's being done. So if only certain people were being tested within the experiment, you can't necessarily say it's the same for everybody. So you want to make sure that the conclusions that are being made are being made correctly for the correct populations and people that were being studied.

Notes for "Evaluating Scholarly Research


(0:00-2:32) Abstract and Introduction

(2:32-5:14) Methods, Analysis, and Conclusions

Terms to Know

Anything that can be changed; anything that can affect the results of an experiment.