Starting a Psychology Lab Report

lab report writing

Why am I writing this?

Why are they making me write this lab report? You might wonder this as you lose motivation over the impending lab report writing. You’re not alone. I certainly did this too. If you study psychology, you need to get used to the fact that this involves a lot of research. A lab report teaches you a wide range of research skills.

  • Reading
  • Scientific writing
  • Data analysis and interpretation
  • Critical thinking
  • Organisation
  • Communication

In fact, these skills can extend beyond research. For example, you’re learning important communication skills. How are you going to convey complex information to others? How about receiving information from others? There are also critical thinking skills. You might come across someone who will try to convince you that vaccines cause autism. Instead of believing them straight away, you do your own research and find that this is not actually the case. Critical thinking could save you from scams or believing false information.

You are going to be reading a lot of articles. You need to keep your articles organised. You’re going to be reading more and more articles. How will you keep track of which articles you’ve read, and which ones are still on the to-be-read list? Same for data analysis. How are you going to keep your data organised? You need to document what you did and how you did it. Having competent organisation skills will enable you to tackle busy workloads and stay oriented in your day-to-day tasks.

How do I look for articles?

This can be tricky if you’re doing this for the first time. The key is: practise makes progress. The first thing I suggest is to identify your key terms and concepts. Are you testing a particular theory? A model? Google Scholar is my go-to articles search engine. If you’re at university, they may also provide you with a search engine like OneSearch.

Now, some articles can be 50 pages… I’ve reached the point where I jump for joy when an article is only 12 pages. Don’t waste your time reading 50-page articles if they’re not relevant. How do you assess if they’re appropriate? Read the abstract. A well-written abstract will nicely summarise the entire paper. If you’re unsure of something, jump to the section where you need more clarity. Journal articles are not books. You don’t need to read each section in order.

Where do I start?

The easiest place to start is the methods section. All you need is your data. Sometimes the data is provided to you. If you’re conducting your own research, then maybe you can’t start here. You can always start writing and put fillers that you can later change into your actual data. For example, right now, I don’t know how many people I’m going to test. So, I can write “I tested X people.” Once you get your data, the writings already done and you just need to change the X with the proper number.

Cheyenne Chooi, PhD Student (Neuropsychology)

Cheyenne is a graduate of the University of Western Australia where she received a Bachelor's degree in Science, and a Bachelor's degree in Science with Honours in psychology. She is currently a third year PhD Student researching factors related to Alzheimer's disease. Her current research focuses on the concept of cognitive reserve.

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