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PSYC 315

Course guide for Experimental Psychology. Here you'll find information on APA citation style, evaluating sources, and how to use the Paul Meek Library to locate scholarly resources. Updated fall 2021.


Peer-reviewed articles are sources that have been reviewed by experts in a specific field and determined to meet the expectations of that field for publication in specific scholarly journals. Not all journals use this process. And some peer-reviewed journals have sections that include non peer-reviewed articles, like book reviews or letters to the editor. Resources on the open web, such as blogs, magazines, news sites, and general webpages are not the same as peer-reviewed articles. 

In the peer-review process, scholars review manuscripts submitted for publication. The process is made as anonymous as possible. After review, manuscripts are either accepted, rejected, or returned to the author for revisions.  This process can take many months (sometimes longer).   Manuscripts are critiqued on:

  • Journal appropriateness
  • Methodology (quality of research)
  • Evidence
  • Citations/lit review
  • Relevance to the field
  • Grammar, spelling, word choice, tone

While this process generally guarantees accurate and relevant resources, you still need to use critical thinking skills to evaluate all articles. Keep in mind that in some fields, such as medicine, progress and advancements happen rapidly (within a few years), so some resources are quickly out of date. Pay attention to the article format and the journal in which the article is published, and ask a librarian or your professor if you have questions. 

Empirical Sources

In psychology research, you will often use empirical sources in your work. Empirical articles refer to sources that are reporting on original research. You may also hear these sources referred to as primary sources.  You can limit to empirical studies in the advanced search features of many psychological databases, including PsycArticles.

Empirical sources contain several sections, such as:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methods or methodology . The methodology will tell you how the authors conducted their study or experiment, including how they selected participants, how they determined or selected survey instruments, and other processes.  
  • Analysis
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Suggestions for future research
  • References

Other Sources

You may also discover and use secondary sources, like review articles - these articles will generally evaluate, synthesize, critique, or otherwise do something with empirical sources.  Some examples of review articles include literature reviews, systematic reviews, analysis papers, synthesis papers, etc.

Unlike an empirical  or primary source, you won't see an experiment or survey tool described in the secondary sources. Review articles offer interpretation and commentary on the empirical source and its methodology. Secondary sources will often describe search terms or keywords used to find other articles.