Advice from Professor Dr. Jane Berry: Writing a Lab Report for PsychologyWriter's Web
Interview by Tori Giamino
Printable version available

For many new psychology students, writing specifically for psychology can be challenging since it differs greatly from writing in other disciplines. Most importantly, you must use APA guidelines to craft your paper. On this page, you will find advice from the head of University of Richmond's Psychology Department, Dr. Jane Berry.



Writing for Psychology- APA Style

Key Points:

"It's not an essay, it's not expository, it's scientific writing and somewhat cut-and-dry."

    • APA Style is a convention where there are specific sections of the paper
    • Each section has specific criteria that you must address



General Advice for Writing for Psychology

Key Points:

"One piece of advice I give students when writing up an APA style lab report is: do not underestimate how hard it is to write a discussion section."

    • There is a lot of effort that should go into your paper, such as answering the questions:
      • What's my idea?
      • What's my research question?
      • What's the background literature?
      • Who's done what?
    • It is hard to not run out of steam by the time you get to the discussion, but if you can keep your enthusiasm and energy going for the discussion, then your paper will be much better.
    • Really try to pull together all of the pieces of your intro, methods, and results in the discussion.



Professor Pet Peeves

Key Points:

A Pet Peeve of Dr. Berry's is when students"haven't taken the project seriously and they just try to patch in the pieces for an APA Style paper."

    • Avoid the temptation to look only at the abstracts or discussions of the articles that you incorporate into your lab report.
    • In order to have a strong paper:
      • Show that you've read the background literature
      • Integrate what other's have done into your report
      • Make a new piece of writing- Show how what you have done is different from others' work in the field.



Difficult Sections of a Psychology Lab Report

Key Points:

The Introduction should "really engage the reader to want to read more and learn what you found and what else is left to be done in the field."

    • The most difficult sections to write are the Introduction and the Discussion.
    • In the Introduction:
      • Get readers interested in your hypotheses, research question, and purpose.
      • Evaluate what other people have done.


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