Psychology 101 Assignment Guide

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Gathering background information on your topic can help you find better scholarly articles.

Helpful Links

Scholarly Articles

Recommended Databases

What are Scholarly Sources?

The term scholarly sources is a blanket term that is often used interchangeably with academic sources and peer-reviewed sources - and they typically have the following qualities:

  • Written by experts - scholarly sources are created by people that have advanced far in their field of study.
  • Written for experts - scholarly sources are created to inform other experts in a field about advances or new ideas.
  • Technical language - authors of scholarly sources assume the readership is conversant with the content discussed, and are typically taking great care to ensure that the arguments and claims within their works are narrow and specific; thus the language of scholarly sources will be dense.
  • Citations to other sources - authors of scholarly work do a lot of research for their publications. They build upon the research of others, and cite that research throughout their own work.
  • Review process - before publication, scholarly sources are thoroughly reviewed by a group of experts to make sure that the content of the source is sound and valid.

Typically, academic journals contain scholarly sources called academic articles. Academic articles are going to be your go to resource for scholarly material.

Why Scholarly?

Why bother or care about scholarly sources?

  • Scholarly sources are the best because they make claims, and then support those claims with evidence.
  • You get information directly from researchers, rather than watered down through various filters of commentary and interpretation. It's the pure stuff. The good stuff.
  • Because scholars are experts, using their findings to support your arguments makes your paper stronger while making your points more persuasive.

Sure - you could write a paper just using background information while not really saying anything new. It would, in essence, be a book report that reiterates what is already known about a subject. Those kinds of papers are boring - they are boring to write, and they are boring to read.

How to Identify Research Studies

Scholarly Psychology Journals usually have two types of articles:

  • Reviews look at other peoples' research and summarize research in a specific area of study.
  • Research studies report the original research being conducted by the authors of the article.

Quick Indicators of Original Research Studies

Read the abstract of an article before diving into it completely and then give the article a quick once over. You are looking for keywords such as:

  • Purpose or Objective: Why the experiment is being done in the first place, the question that the researchers are attempting to address with their research.
  • Participants, Population, or subjects: In psychology, research is done on people or animals – a research article should discuss who participated in a study. If it DOES NOT talk about the people used in the research, it may be an analysis or review of research. It is likely NOT a research study.
  • Methods or Methodology: This explains how the research is done.
  • Results or Findings: An explanation of what the researchers found within the scope of their experiment or research.
  • Conclusions and/or Discussion: A description of what the researchers’ findings entail or mean, and suggestions for future research informed by such findings.

Adapted from “What is Original Research?”

Background Information

What is Background Information & Why Does it Matter?

Any research project you work on will be about something, or in other words, you are going to have a topic. In order to write about your topic in a lucid and coherent manner, you are going to need the background of your topic. Background information consists of the relevant facts, terminology, and contexts of your topic. It is the kind of information you would find in an encyclopedia 

Let's say that you were going to write a research paper about school violence and ways to address school violence. What do you need to know in order to write about school violence coherently? You made need to know:

  • the dates and specifics of famous incidents of school violence
  • the history of state and federal policy approaches for addressing school violence
  • various theories for why school violence is a phenomena

Not only do you need to know the above, but you will need to point your audience to an authoritative source that states that information should you use it in your paper - that is, you will need to cite the sources you use in your paper.

For further guidance on background information, check out these pages:

Recommended Background Databases

Recommended Reference Books & Subject Introductions

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

Print. Available at the FCC Library Welcome Desk.

Abnormal Psychology Across the Ages

Available online through the Gale Virtual Reference Library.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology

Available online through the Gale Virtual Reference Library.

The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Available online through the Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Additional Resources for Background Information

Citing Sources

About Citing Sources and Plagiarism

Basic Guidelines for Citing Sources in APA 6th Edition Format

In-Text Citations:

When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, for example, (Jones, 1998), and a complete reference should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

If you are referring to an idea from another work but NOT directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your in-text reference. All sources that are cited in the text must appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.


The list of your full citation entries is called References in APA style. Your reference list should appear at the end of your paper. It provides the information necessary for a reader to locate and retrieve any source you cite in the body of the paper. Each source you cite in the paper must appear in your reference list; likewise, each entry in the reference list must be cited in your text.

Basic Format for Encycopedia Entries:

Auther, A. A. (Year of Publication). Title of entry. In Title of encyclopedia in which entry is contained. (volume xx, pages xx). City of Publication: Publisher.

Bergmann, P. G. (1993). Relativity. In The New Encyclopedia  Britannica. (Vol. 26, pp. 501-508). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica.

Basic Format for Articles from a Journal:

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages. (if applicable)

Harlow, H. F. (1983). Fundamentals for preparing psychology journal articles. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 55, 893-896.

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