Research Methods Knowledge Base

by Prof William M.K. Trochim hosted by Conjointly



The instructions provided here are for a research article or a research report (generally these guidelines follow the formatting guidelines of the American Psychological Association documented in Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 4th Edition). Please consult the specific guidelines that are required by the publisher for the type of document you are producing.

All sections of the paper should be typed, double-spaced on white 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper with 12 pitch typeface with all margins set to 1 inch. REMEMBER TO CONSULT THE APA PUBLICATION MANUAL, FOURTH EDITION, PAGES 258 - 264 TO SEE HOW TEXT SHOULD APPEAR. Every page must have a header in the upper right corner with the running header right-justified on the top line and the page number right-justified and double-spaced on the line below it. The paper must have all the sections in the order given below, following the specifications outlined for each section (all pages numbers are approximate):

Title Page

On separate lines and centered, the title page has the title of the study, the author’s name, and the institutional affiliation. At the bottom of the title page you should have the words (in caps) RUNNING HEADER: followed by a short identifying title (2-4 words) for the study. This running header should also appear on the top right of every page of the paper.


The abstract is limited to one page, double-spaced. At the top of the page, centered, you should have the word ‘Abstract’. The abstract itself should be written in paragraph form and should be a concise summary of the entire paper including: the problem; major hypotheses; sample and population; a brief description of the measures; the name of the design or a short description (no design notation here); the major results; and, the major conclusions. Obviously, to fit this all on one page you will have to be very concise.


The first page of the body of the paper should have, centered, the complete title of the study.


The first section in the body is the introduction. There is no heading that says ‘Introduction,’ you simply begin the paper in paragraph form following the title. Every introduction will have the following (roughly in this order): a statement of the problem being addressed; a statement of the cause-effect relationship being studied; a description of the major constructs involved; a brief review of relevant literature (including citations); and a statement of hypotheses. The entire section should be in paragraph form with the possible exception of the hypotheses, which may be indented.


The next section of the paper has four subsections: Sample; Measures; Design; and, Procedure. The Methods section should begin immediately after the introduction (no page break) and should have the centered title ‘Methods’. Each of the four subsections should have an underlined left justified section heading.


This section should describe the population of interest, the sampling frame, the method for selecting the sample, and the sample itself. A brief discussion of external validity is appropriate here, that is, you should state the degree to which you believe results will be generalizable from your sample to the population. (Link to Knowledge Base on sampling).


This section should include a brief description of your constructs and all measures that will be used to operationalize them. You may present short instruments in their entirety in this section. If you have more lengthy instruments you may present some “typical” questions to give the reader a sense of what you will be doing (and include the full measure in an Appendix). You may include any instruments in full in appendices rather than in the body. Appendices should be labeled by letter. (e.g., ‘Appendix A’) and cited appropriately in the body of the text. For pre-existing instruments you should cite any relevant information about reliability and validity if it is available. For all instruments, you should briefly state how you will determine reliability and validity, report the results and discuss. For reliability, you must describe the methods you used and report results. A brief discussion of how you have addressed construct validity is essential. In general, you should try to demonstrate both convergent and discriminant validity. You must discuss the evidence in support of the validity of your measures. (Link to Knowledge Base on measurement).


You should state the name of the design that is used and tell whether it is a true or quasi-experiment, nonequivalent group design, and so on. You should also present the design structure in X and O notation (this should be indented and centered, not put into a sentence). You should also include a discussion of internal validity that describes the major likely threats in your study and how the design accounts for them, if at all. (Be your own study critic here and provide enough information to show that you understand the threats to validity, whether you’ve been able to account for them all in the design or not.) (Link to Knowledge Base on design).


Generally, this section ties together the sampling, measurement, and research design. In this section you should briefly describe the overall plan of the research, the sequence of events from beginning to end (including sampling, measurement, and use of groups in designs), how participants will be notified, and how their confidentiality will be protected (where relevant). An essential part of this subsection is a description of the program or independent variable that you are studying. (Link to Knowledge Base discussion of validity).


The heading for this section is centered with upper and lower case letters. You should indicate concisely what results you found in this research. Your results don’t have to confirm your hypotheses. In fact, the common experience in social research is the finding of no effect.


Here you should describe the conclusions you reach (assuming you got the results described in the Results section above). You should relate these conclusions back to the level of the construct and the general problem area which you described in the Introduction section. You should also discuss the overall strength of the research proposed (e.g. general discussion of the strong and weak validity areas) and should present some suggestions for possible future research which would be sensible based on the results of this work.


There are really two parts to a reference citation. First, there is the way you cite the item in the text when you are discussing it. Second, there is the way you list the complete reference in the reference section in the back of the report.

Reference Citations in the Text of Your Paper

Cited references appear in the text of your paper and are a way of giving credit to the source of the information or quote you have used in your paper. They generally consist of the following bits of information:

The author’s last name, unless first initials are needed to distinguish between two authors with the same last name. If there are six or more authors, the first author is listed followed by the term, et al., and then the year of the publication is given in parenthesis. Year of publication in parenthesis. Page numbers are given with a quotation or when only a specific part of a source was used.

“To be or not to be” (Shakespeare, 1660, p. 241)

One Work by One Author:

Rogers (1994) compared reaction times…

One Work by Multiple Authors:

Wasserstein, Zappulla, Rosen, Gerstman, and Rock (1994) [first time you cite in text]

Wasserstein et al. (1994) found [subsequent times you cite in text]

Reference List in Reference Section

There are a wide variety of reference citation formats. Before submitting any research report you should check to see which type of format is considered acceptable for that context. If there is no official format requirement then the most sensible thing is for you to select one approach and implement it consistently (there’s nothing worse than a reference list with a variety of formats). Here, I’ll illustrate by example some of the major reference items and how they might be cited in the reference section.

The References lists all the articles, books, and other sources used in the research and preparation of the paper and cited with a parenthetical (textual) citation in the text. These items are entered in alphabetical order according to the authors’ last names; if a source does not have an author, alphabetize according to the first word of the title, disregarding the articles “a”, “an”, and “the” if they are the first word in the title.

Examples book by one author:

Jones, T. (1940). My life on the road. New York: Doubleday.

Book by two authors:

Williams, A., & Wilson, J. (1962). New ways with chicken. New York: Harcourt.

Book by three or more authors:

Smith, J., Jones, J., & Williams, S. (1976). Common names. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Book with no given author or editor:

Handbook of Korea (4th ed.). (1982). Seoul: Korean Overseas Information, Ministry of Culture & Information.

Two or more books by the same author:

Oates, J.C. (1990). Because it is bitter, and because it is my heart. New York: Dutton.

Oates, J.C. (1993). Foxfire: Confessions of a girl gang. New York: Dutton.

Note: Entries by the same author are arranged chronologically by the year of publication, the earliest first. References with the same first author and different second and subsequent authors are listed alphabetically by the surname of the second author, then by the surname of the third author. References with the same authors in the same order are entered chronologically by year of publication, the earliest first. References by the same author (or by the same two or more authors in identical order) with the same publication date are listed alphabetically by the first word of the title following the date; lower case letters (a, b, c, etc.) are included after the year, within the parentheses.

Book by a corporate (group) author:

President’s Commission on Higher Education. (1977). Higher education for American democracy. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Book with an editor:

Bloom, H. (Ed.). (1988). James Joyce’s Dubliners. New York: Chelsea House.

A translation:

Dostoevsky, F. (1964). Crime and punishment (J. Coulson Trans.). New York: Norton. (Original work published 1866)

An article or reading in a collection of pieces by several authors (anthology):

O’Connor, M.F. (1975). Everything that rises must converge. In J.R. Knott, Jr. & C.R. Raeske (Eds.), Mirrors: An introduction to literature (2nd ed., pp. 58-67). San Francisco: Canfield.

Edition of a book:

Tortora, G.J., Funke, B.R., & Case, C.L. (1989). Microbiology: An introduction (3rd ed.). Redwood City, CA: Benjamin/Cummings.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Author.

A work in several volumes:

Churchill, W.S. (1957). A history of the English speaking peoples: Vol. 3. The Age of Revolution. New York: Dodd, Mead.

Encyclopedia or dictionary:

Cockrell, D. (1980). Beatles. In The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians (6th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 321-322). London: Macmillan.

Article from a weekly magazine:

Jones, W. (1970, August 14). Todays’s kids. Newseek, 76, 10-15.

Article from a monthly magazine:

Howe, I. (1968, September). James Baldwin: At ease in apocalypse. Harper’s, 237, 92-100.

Article from a newspaper:

Brody, J.E. (1976, October 10). Multiple cancers termed on increase. New York Times (national ed.). p. A37.

Article from a scholarly academic or professional journal:

Barber, B.K. (1994). Cultural, family, and personal contexts of parent-adolescent conflict. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 375-386.

Government publication:

U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (1980). Productivity. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Pamphlet or brochure:

Research and Training Center on Independent Living. (1993). Guidelines for reporting and writing about people with disabilities. (4th ed.) [Brochure]. Lawrence, KS: Author.


Any Tables should have a heading with ‘Table #’ (where # is the table number), followed by the title for the heading that describes concisely what is contained in the table. Tables and Figures are typed on separate sheets at the end of the paper after the References and before the Appendices. In the text you should put a reference where each Table or Figure should be inserted using this form:

Insert Table 1 about here


Figures are drawn on separate sheets at the end of the paper after the References and Tables, and before the Appendices. In the text you should put a reference where each Figure will be inserted using this form:

Insert Figure 1 about here


Appendices should be used only when absolutely necessary. Generally, you will only use them for presentation of extensive measurement instruments, for detailed descriptions of the program or independent variable and for any relevant supporting documents which you don’t include in the body. Even if you include such appendices, you should briefly describe the relevant material in the body and give an accurate citation to the appropriate appendix (e.g., ‘see Appendix A’).