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PSYD 501 - Theories of Personality and Psychotherapy: Reading Research Articles

Is the Research Good or Bad?

Tips for evaluating the research published in academic journals:

Evaluating research in academic journals : A practical guide to realistic evaluation

Structure of a Journal Article

How to Read a Research Study Article


  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Method
  • Result
  • Discussion
  • References

If you don’t see these sections, it's not a research study article.

  • Brief overview and key points of the study
  • Read to quickly determine the article’s relevance to your topic
  • Hypothesis of the study and review of relevant literature
  • Read for the context of the problem and the prior relevant research
  • Detailed information about the research conducted
  • Includes participants, procedures, instruments, history and background of the instruments chosen, and the variables
  • Summary of data, including:
    • relationships among variables
    • methodology for statistical analysis
    • P value (construct for significance, .05 or .01)
    • N (sample size)
    • how the results relate to the hypothesis or problem stated in the introduction.
    • Comparisons may be included to clarify findings, or to explore unanticipated findings
  • Summary of results in narrative form. 
  • Usually relates the results of the study to prior study results and gives suggestions for further study
  • List of the sources cited
  • Sources not directly cited but used as prior reading

Research Article Critique

Evaluative Criteria for Each Section

Statement of the Problem or Hypothesis - Introduction:
  • Problem or Hypothesis clearly stated?
  • Problem significant?
  • Assumptions stated?
  • Limitations stated?
  • Terms defined?
Review of Literature - Introduction:
  • Pertinent literature included?
  • Review of literature well organized?
  • Review of literature is critical?
  • Relationship of the literature reviewed to the problem is apparent?
  • Research design explained fully such that you could repeat it?
  • Research design appropriate to the problem?
  • Variables well described, such as: population, sampling method, data gathering methods, etc.?
  • Instrument used described and some history and context for this decision given?
  • Measures to assure the validity and reliability of the data collected given?
Data Analysis - Result:
  • Method used to analyze data is well explained?
  • Methods used are applied and interpreted correctly?
  • Results of analysis clearly stated?
  • Conclusions clearly stated and relevant to the stated problem?
  • Generalizations applied appropriately?
  • Limitations noted?
  • Recommendations for further study appropriate?
  • Tone of discussion is objective?


Source: Hall, B. W., Ward, A. W., & Comer, C. B. (1988). Published Educational Research: An Empirical Study of Its Quality. Journal of Educational Research, 81(3).