How to use a research article

How to understand a research
Behavioral Research
Structure of the article
• Most research articles are structured as
four basic sections:
– Introduction: justification for the study
– Methods: Exact description of the procedures
– Results: Statistical Section
– Conclusion/Discussion: Explanation of
• Other types of research articles
– Naturalistic Observations
• A hypothesis is a statement about the
relationship between two variables. It can be a
question, or it can be a statement, but it does
not speak to the outcome.
• The hypothesis is introduced in the Introduction.
• We will examine a type of Naturalistic
Observation “ On Being Sane in Insane Places”
Rosenhan, 2007.
• What is the hypothesis of this study?
Rosenhan’s hypothesis
• Found on pp 251…”The question of whether
the sane can be distinguished from the
insane….. Is a simple matter…Do the salient
characteristics that lead to diagnoses reside in
the patients themselves or in the environments
and contexts in which observers find them?
• If we word this hypothesis as I want you to word
it, it might read: “The purpose of the current
study is to examine whether the sane or insane
can be distinguished in the context of the
insane as observed in a mental hospital.”
• Differs from the hypothesis as the
researcher states how they predict the
variables are related ( e.g. what caused
• Rosenhan’s prediction pp 251…”There
would be prima facie evidence that a sane
individual can be distinguished from the
insane context in which he is found”
Operational Definition
• In all journal articles and research papers,
the operational definition must be clearly
• Rosenhan is looking at a very subjective
variable of sanity.
• Rosenhan defines sanity and insanity as
part of normality which he describes in
detail on pp 251, third paragraph, first
What is the purpose of this study
OR Did I get the right article?
• Looking for the hypothesis and operational
definition of a journal article is important in
choosing to use this article for your
• The purpose of Rosenhan’s study was to
assess whether the insane can be
distinguished from the sane in a mental
• What type of participants (characterisitcs,
gender, age, etc) were used in the study?
Where they randomly assigned to groups?
Is there a control condition?
See Rosenhan pp 251 “Pseudopatients and
their settings”
Methods or Procedures
• How was the experiment conducted?
• Rosenhan pp251, section “Pseudopatients
and their settings”
Rosenhan’s Procedures
• Eight pseudopatients were admitted to hospitals
located in 5 different states on the east or west
coast. The participants went to the hospital and
complained of hearing voices that were often
unclear, but the words, “empty, hollow and
thud” were said to be heard. No other
symptoms were reported and the events of the
participants life history were given as they had
Rosenhan Procedures
• All participants were admitted to a
psychiatric hospital and after admittance
the participants ceased simulating any
symptoms and acted normally.
What did they find?
• Rosenhan, pp 252 ….”Despite their public show of sanity, the
pseudopatients were never detected. Admitted, except in one
case, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia with a length of
hospitalization ranging from 7-52 days (average stay was 19
days), patients were discharged with a diagnosis of
schizophrenia in remission.
• Note: Although it was never suspected by mental health care
providers that these participants were anything other than
mentally ill patients, 35 patients voiced their suspicions that the
participants were not mentally ill. pp 252
Summary and Conclusion
• Rosenhan gives reasons for his findings
and theories that might explain the
findings in pp 257, often giving examples
from the experiment to back up the theory
(e.g. Depersonaliztion-pp 256)
• In his summary, Rosenhan reiterates his
hypothesis in as much as “We cannot
distinguish the sane from the insane in
psychiatric hospitals”
How should you approach an
article for selection?
• Read the abstract, the intro and the
conclusion first. This will help you decide if
the article is relevant to your topic. The
details can be found in Methods and
Using an article in Introduction
• In APA style, quotations are seldom used.
Information from the article is summarized
and a citation is used afterward.
• The full citation of the article will be listed
in your reference page.
• Diagnosis of a mental disorder is a subjective
opinion, based on criteria set forth in the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ( citation,
year). However, many questions have been
raised as to whether the sane can be
distinguished from the insane. In a related
study, eight participants ( 3 women, 5 men)
were admitted to a psychiatric hospital after
complaining that they had been hearing voices
that said “empty”, “hollow” and ‘thud”.
Although the participants gave false names,
vocations and employment as well as the
“symptoms”, all other facts as to their history or
circumstances were true. Immediately after
admission to the hospital, all participants
ceased to report the simulated symptoms and
behaved “normally”. The purpose of the
experiment was to observe whether the
pseudopatients would be identified as sane, or
if the bias towards the initial complaint would
yeild a diagnosis (Rosenhan, 1973).
• The lengths of the hospital stay of the 8
pseudopatients ranged from 7-52 days
with an average stay of 19 days. Although
the pseudopatients behaved normally,
sanity was never suspected and all were
diagnosed with schizophrenia and when
released said to be “in remission”. It is
interesting to note that 35 patients stated
that the pseudopatients did not belong
“they were not crazy” (pp 252).
• Therefore the conclusion of this study was
that the sane cannot be distinguished from
the insane in psychiatric hospitals.
Possible reasons for this finding are due to
the special environment of the hospital
itself and how easily behavior in this
context can be misunderstood. This poses
serious problems to patients that could
lead to problems in proper therapeutic
treatment ( Rosenhan, 1973)

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