Introduction Justification Assignment
To ensure that students are on track, submit a 1‐2 page double‐spaced justification for your topic. This justification should be written in formal academic language and be structured like the introduction to a research report. It must include the following components:
1. A clear thesis statement briefly describing the hypothesis and methods that will be used to test the hypothesis.
2. A statement or discussion about the theoretical importance* of the topic (e.g., how does research on the specific topic relate to theoretical or methodological questions).This should include an academic argument for the importance of your study via a short literature review that helps convince the reader that your hypothesis is reasonable and that your study will fill a gap. In other words, describe what psychologist will learn as a result of your research that they didn’t know before.
3. Include an outline of specific topics/claims/evidence to be used to introduce the constructs involved and justify your hypothesis. This outline should be put in an appendix following the reference page.
4. Please make this statement concise and brief. Do not turn in your entire introduction, but provide a short summary of the above.
*It is more important that you defend the theoretical importance of your topic than defend the practical importance of your topic in most cases. Exceptions include a literature review on an applied research topic. For example, if your topic is on an applied topic such as training commercial air pilots, then the practical importance should be fleshed out (e.g., training could decrease landing and take off errors by 15%). However, if your topic is based on basic research (e.g., the effects of perspective taking on greed) then do not discuss the practical importance too much since your paper will be about theory.
How to Provide Justification for Your Research Project: Advice for the Introduction Section
According the APA style manual a complete introduction addresses four issues: 1) describes why the topic or issue is important, 2) describes how the study relates to previous work in the area (e.g., literature review), 3) describes the hypothesis, and 4) describes how the study will answer the research question. A good introduction convinces the reader that one’s research study is worthwhile. Below are the specific steps to take in developing your introduction.
1. Find scholarly research articles on your topic. Evaluate each article your find in terms of its currency. Decide if the publication is outdated (is it an important “classic” study or is it just old?) and if the publication meets the need of your topic and paper. Is it relevant? Does the article provide new information about your topic?
a. Students should use articles published in the last 5 to 10 years. Older papers should be avoided unless they are “classic” or “important” papers on the topic.
2. Summarize and analyze each article. Take notes while reading. Paraphrase important content. Paraphrase the main claims and the main evidence used to support the claims.
3. Synthesize the content. Organize your knowledge by topic or subtopic. Draw connections between the various research studies. Examine points of contradiction and hypothesize the reasons for these discrepancies.
4. What are the unanswered questions or gaps in the literature?
a. If you already have a working hypothesis, then ensure that it hasn’t been investigated already. If it has been investigated previously decide if you can still add to the literature. Perhaps you can investigate the question in a different way than has been done in the past. Has the research been investigated with diverse samples and an array of different methods? Replication studies are okay as long as they add to the literature by providing unique operationalizations of the constructs.
5. Develop an argument to justify a hypothesis.
a. Usually justifications come in two forms. As you may have guessed, you will either justify your hypothesis by claiming that the work has not been previously, or you’ll justify the hypothesis by describing how your methods are better or different than the methods used to test the question previously.Although justification via discussion GAPS in literature is the most common, there are other ways to justify a research question.
b. Arguments can be quite simple (e.g., justifying why two things should be related) or very complex. Keep in mind that your “job” as a writer of a research proposal is to convince the reader that your research question or your research methods are unique and worthwhile. If you are having trouble, please see your instructor for help.
Making reasonable arguments in an introduction justification
A research paper is a form of reasoned argument. You, the researcher, are claiming that a particular hypothesis is sensible and that research needs to be conducted to examine whether the hypothesis may or may not be supported by empirical data. You are also making a second argument—that the methods you developed to test the hypothesis are good ones. Good arguments require three things: clear definitions of psychological constructs, inductive, and deductive reasoning.
Each argument you make should begin with a clear discussion of the main construct you are interested in. For example, if I was interested in empathy I would describe the general construct and distinguish it from other concepts. Further, I might describe it laymen’s terms and describe its theoretical links to other psychological constructs.
Deductive reasoning is a process by which we move from a general theory or idea to the application of this theory to a particular case. For example, according to the general theory that perspective taking should increase helping behavior, you may argue that people will increase their willingness to be organ donors following a movie about problems organ recipients face compared to a movie about farm animals.
Inductive reasoning is a process in which we proceed from a particular piece of evidence to a conclusion. This is often referred to as empirical reasoning. For example, imagine that there is evidence that people are more willing to help after they watch movies that give them opportunities to take the perspective of those different from themselves. I might use this evidence to make a general claim—that perspective taking is more effective when people are exposed to people’s stories via movies, than when they are simply asked to imagine another person’s life. Now this particular example is pretty risky—the hypothesis that I generated given the evidence is a stretch. Thus, if I were writing a paper, I would want to find more evidence to support my hypothetical claim.
While writing your research proposal, strive to create a good argument for your research hypotheses and methods using inductive and deductive reasoning, and by making clear the definitions for the constructs under investigation.
6. Write the introduction
i. Provide a context by defining general topics or issues
ii. Explain the organization of your paper
iii. Discuss previous literature as it relates to your hypothesis. Make claims that are supported by evidence (e.g., X and Y are related).
iv. Make clear the theoretical and/or methodological gaps that exist in the previous literature.
7. Include a short summary of the research discussed, and the main justification for your hypothesis.
8. Include a short overview of the methods that will be used to test the hypothesis.
Keep in mind. Your introduction should justify your research proposal by
• Placing your study in the context of other work that has already been done in the field
• Informing the reader about the theories upon which your study is based
• Establishes the need for the research by identifying how it fills a gap in knowledge
• Establishes the logic behind your specific research question or methods (e.g., explains the basis for your research strategy)
Do’s and don’ts for your paper
o Organize your paper before you begin writing
o Provide strong transitions between the discussion of one idea and another (e.g., transitional statements help the reader follow your line of thought and create “flow” throughout the paper [see Mitchell, Jolley, & O’Shea, 2013, pp. 18-19])
o Reference appropriately
o Write well and see someone in the success center or smart thinking if you need help
o Simply review and paraphrase previous research in the introduction
o Use more than one or two quotes
o Rely heavily on secondary sources (use primary articles published in peer reviewed scholarly journals)
o Include anecdotal information
o Discuss each article separately as if writing an abstract on each
Students who choose to plagiarize will earn a zero on their paper and risk failure in the course. All instances of plagiarism will be recorded with the Dean of Students and placed on one’s permanent academic record. The turn-it-in software where students will upload their paper will alert the instructor of any sentences or phrases that closely match published work. Remember, to avoid plagiarism you should ensure that you have written your report in your own words. Each sentence that you create should bear little to no resemblance to the reports you read. To paraphrase effectively you must clearly understand the research you are discussing. This may require that you read scholarly work several times or may require that you find a tutor to help. If you must quote text do so sparingly and be sure to enclose quotes in quotation marks. It is expected that students in this class have mastered the ability to write about psychology. Thus, plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated.
Suggestions for success:
Write. Rest. Revise. Repeat. I recommend completing these assignments early and then letting them “rest” before you revise them. Two to three days after you complete a draft, read it, revise it and improve it. No one writes brilliantly on the first draft. Brilliant writing comes only after countless revisions.
Read the Mitchell, Jolley, and O’Shea text. This book is invaluable because it not only describes how to write research papers, it also describes how to build logical arguments. Critical thinking and reasoning are essential to write well in psychology.