EXPANDED GUIDELINES FOR PHYSIOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY TERM PAPER
Research is often summarized in the popular press (e.g. The New York Times, the L.A. Times, Newsweek, the Washington Times, etc.) The press will assign reporters to write stories on research that the editors think the public will find interesting. You can frequently find summaries or reviews of research in Medicine, Physiological Psychology, Physics, Anthropology, etc.
You should be aware that the popular press publishes summaries of research, not the actual original research articles. Factors like space limitations, biases on the part of reporters and editors, perceptions of what will interest readers and what will sell, influence the length and style of these summaries. As a result, summaries in the popular press usually are much shorter than the original research report, and they may contain inaccuracies, ignore critical information, misstate the researcher’s conclusions, and/or discuss topics that are not directly relevant to the original report.
In your term paper, you are to address the general issue of how the popular press reports research by considering a specific report. You are to read an article from the popular press (newspapers, news magazines) that summarizes an original research report concerned with some aspect of biopsychology. Then you must read the original research report. Copies of several popular press articles and the original research articles which they summarize are on reserve in the library. Your term paper must be on ONE of the sets of papers on reserve in the library. Term papers on articles other than those on reserve in the library will not be accepted.
In your term paper, you are to summarize the original research AND critique the popular press report.
In your summary of the original research article, you must cover four major points:
Why the researchers performed the study. In APA formatted articles, this information will be contained in the Introduction section. In papers that do not follow APA format, this information will usually be found in the first several paragraphs of the report. Things to look for and mention in your summary:
The background to the research: what previous research led the researchers to conduct the particular study?
Were the researchers influenced by any particular theories as they designed their study?
What did the researchers hope to demonstrate: what hypothesis or hypotheses did they test?
How the researchers performed the study. In APA formatted articles (see sample APA paper), this information will be contained in the Method section. This section will contain several subsections: participants or subjects, materials or apparatus, and procedure. In non-APA formatted journals, you will find the same information, although you may not find clear subsections. Things to look for and mention in your summary:
Any information about the participants (subjects) who were in the study that might influence your judgment and opinion about how the popular press article treats the study’s conclusions.
Any information about materials and apparatus used that would help a reasonably educated reader understand what things were used in the study. Materials and apparatus include things like tests and surveys, drugs given to participants, testing equipment, computer devices that participants were asked to use, etc. Some of these items may be very specialized and unfamiliar to the everyday reader, and may not have been mentioned by the authors of the popular press article. If these items are important, however, you should make an effort to describe them in simple language using your own words.
How the study was actually conducted—what the participants did and when, what happened to the participants, what instructions were they given, etc. Conclusions about a research study will usually be very dependent on what was done to whom and when. For example, were participants purposefully led to expect something unusual? Did some animals undergo some sort of surgery? Did the researchers treat some participants differently than others? If so, why were they treated differently? If this information was left out of the popular press article, will knowing this information influence a reader’s opinion of the summary?
What the researchers found out. In APA formatted articles, this information will appear in the Results section. Regardless of whether there is a formal results section, you can easily recognize it because there will be lots of numbers and statistics. This is where the researchers report statistical analyses of their data (the measurements they made on their participant’s behavior). Things to look for and mention in your summary.
Make an effort to identify and understand the most important findings and report these. One clue to which findings are important will be found in phrases like “statistically significant”, “significant effect”, “these results reached significance”, and “reliable effect”. Another clue is found in “p values”. This following definition is very imprecise, but basically, a p value is an estimate of how likely it was that a particular result occurred because of chance rather than because of a real effect of the experiment. Typically, if this p value is less than 5% (.05), then the researchers will say the result was reliable or was statistically significant. So statements like “p < .05”, or “p = .001” indicate a statistically significant effect while statements like “p > .05” do not. Statements like these do not guarantee that you are reading about an important effect, but they are a fairly good indicator.
Do not rely overmuch on direct quotes and do not report numbers; concentrate on understanding what the tests and numbers mean.
Paraphrase what the researchers said (be careful not to plagiarize!).
Why the researchers think the study is important. In APA formatted articles, this information will be found in the Discussion section. In non-APA articles, you will almost always find this information in the last several paragraphs of the report. In a few journals, information usually found in separate results and discussion sections will be integrated into a “Results and Discussion” section. Regardless, this is where the authors interpret the results of their study; explain why they think their results are important or how their results apply to the world outside the laboratory. Frequently, the authors will explain how their results fit in with prior research or theory. Things to look for and mention in your summary.
What the results mean, i.e. an interpretation of the results in the context of prior research and theory.
How the results apply to the real world—what implications the study might have for “real people” in the “real world”.
Any limitations that the authors see in their study, i.e. weaknesses or suggestions for further research.
In your term paper, you must also assess whether you think the popular press article omitted important information from the original report, and whether you think the popular press article misleads the reader. The points listed above should give you a good starting spot for identifying information that was left out but which you think was important and should have been mentioned. This will also help you to decide whether you think the popular press article misleads the reader, and if it does, whether you think this was intentional (e.g. a result of editorial or reporter bias) or inadvertent (e.g. a result of space limitations, or assumptions the author made about the readers’ interests or knowledge).
Your paper should be APA formatted and between 5-7typed double-spaced pages, including title and reference pages. Direct quotes are ok, but do not rely too heavily on them. Instead, try to grasp the major ideas of the original research article, and then paraphrase these or put them in your own words. You are required to submit a first draft of the paper and then a final draft that incorporates my feedback (the due datesare indicated in the syllabus schedule).Your paper grade will be the average of the two versions. Late papers will be accepted; however, you will lose 10 points for each day that your paper is late. If your term paper is about an article not on file for this course, it will not be graded.Note that the term paper is a requirement for this course; you may not substitute an exam grade for the paper requirement.
The following table lists five articles and their respective press reports that are available at the library reserve desk and its website ( http://library.sbcc.edu). You are to choose oneoriginalarticleAND its press report for use in your paper.
|Press Report |
Original Article Source
(retrieve at Library)
|“Scientists can implant false memories into mice” (BBC News) |
|“Scientists Transmit Thoughts from one Brain to Another” (ABC News) |
PLOS One, 2014
|“What Happens To Your Brain When You Hear Your Favourite Song”(Huffington Post Canada) |
Nature: Scientific Reports, 2014
|“Pupil response may help brain-damaged patients communicate”(L.A. Times) |
Current Biology, 2013
|“Dad's life stress exposure leaves mark on sperm, can affect offspring brain development” (Science Daily) |
The Journal of Neuroscience, 2013
Article Summary And Critique On “What Happens To Your Brain When You Hear Your Favorite Song”
Length: 4 pages (1100 Words)
Network Science and the Effects of Music Preference on Functional Brain Connectivity: From Beethoven to Eminem is a research article written by Wilkins, Hodges, Laurienti, Steen, and Burdette (2014). This article, published by Nature: Scientific reports journal, addresses what exactly happens in the brain when a person's favorite song is played as well as a non-favorite song is heard. It explains how the brain functions and what part of it reacts to a song. It is an original research study that was carried out to show the effects of music on a human brain. The study captured the attention of other writers from the press because of its nature and the relevancy of the subject topic to people and thus it was summarized. This essay seeks to look at the original research article as well as one press report that summarized the article's content. The authentic research study will be summarized while the press report will be critiqued. What Happens to Your Brain When You Hear Your Favorite Song is the press report to be critiqued (Relaxnews, 2014); it is a Huffington post press report.
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