Journal Article Assignment (60 points)
Parts of an Article (items in blue text are video hyperlinks):
Article Reference: At the beginning of the article, you will see a lot of information that helps you know about the article, such as the title, authors, journal name, volume, pages, etc. When you create your article reference, this is an easy place to go to get that information.
An abstract: In the beginning of most research articles, you will see a brief paragraph providing an overview of the whole article. It can be helpful to read. Think of it like a movie preview to the movie, itself. The content would not be sufficient to create a chart because much more detail is provided within the article.
Rationale Section: More people struggle with this section than any other, so I’ll try to make this extra clear. This content is usually in the beginning of the article, but it is not identified in the same way that other article sections are identified. Consider this parallel; If you were to drive across the country and plot your course, you would typically do this from point to point (maybe by rest stop or even by state line). As an analogy, consider the trip as broken into one huge process of “connect the dots”. By the time you get to your destination, you understand that the trip did not consist of only the last two dots, but all of the dots earlier in the process. In a sense, a research article contains the same “dots”. When researchers ask an experimental question, they might only look to take on the next “dot” of the trip, but there were a lot of earlier “dots” that were visited. These individual “dots” are described at the beginning of the article. You will read about the findings of other researchers, and these findings are the earlier pieces, or “dots”, in the genesis of the research. For example, let’s say that you were reading an article about a new therapy treatment for anxiety. The authors would probably describe some of the other findings regarding treatments for anxiety discovered by other researchers. In addition, you may also read about what the other treatments failed to provide. As you think logically, the “dots” provided an order that led the researchers to the current research. Look at the citations in this section to help you pick out findings from prior research.
Do not confuse rationale with purpose (how the research was conducted) or hypotheses (which are predictions about the findings). I’m interested only in prior research findings.
Methods: In the best methods section, the ultimate goal is to provide the reader with enough information that it would allow someone to replicate (or re-do) the research in the exact way that the article researcher conducted the research. Consider this task for a moment. If you were told that subjects received “medicine”, then you don’t know very much detail, but if you read that the subjects received a specifically named medicine, in a specific amount, a specific number of times per day, for a particular duration of days or weeks, and in a particular dosage, then you could repeat the process in the exact same way as the researchers. It is similar for specific tests or measurements. If you read that someone took a test for depression, then that’s pretty vague. If you read that someone took the Beck Depression Inventory, then you would be able to repeat the work in a similar way.
Subjects/Participants: These are the “who” of the study. Think about what you would want to know about the people used in the study. From where were they recruited? How many people were used? How old were they (on average)? Was anything mentioned about grade level? Did anything allow them or prevent them from being in the study (such as a pre-existing condition)? This information may reside in a named section, and you may also read about the subjects and their characteristics in the Results section (usually in Table 1).
Tests/Measures: In this section, be as specific as possible about what tests/measures were used to gather information from the subjects. For example, was a test used? If so, what was the name of the test? Were questionnaires used? If so, which questionnaires were used? Again, you are trying to be specific, but it is not necessary to re-write the section. Look for phrases such as “was measured” or “was assessed” to help you focus in on what was measured. Be careful not to confuse Procedures (how the research was conducted) with Tests and Measures.
Results Section: This is the section that is probably the hardest for people to understand, because most people don’t have a background in statistics to help them. However, there is hope. Most of the numerical “stuff” usually has some explanation in the text around it. In addition, think back to the tests that were conducted. If IQ tests were given, then you should see results regarding those tests. For example, were there differences found between groups? Did one medication seem more effective than another? As a technique, print out a copy of the results and take a marker and draw lines through all of the numbers in the text. You should be left with “the language”, and you might find that more helpful. Take comfort; I do not expect you to be statistical experts.
Discussion Section: This section of the article summarizes the findings and puts those findings into context. For example, maybe the authors think that there was a particular reason why one group performed differently than another. How did the authors compare their findings with earlier findings? The authors may also describe some of the limitations/difficulties in their research, or suggestions for future research. This section is meant to try to help the reader understand the “big picture” of the research.
References: An author is expected to identify all of the sources used in the creation of their written paper. The citations that were in the body of the document are listed completely (and identified correctly as a “reference”) in the case that anyone wanted to find that exact source. In your chart, you only need to include the reference of the article that you read.