University of Helsinki The Department of Social Research Social Psychology Writing instructions - Sakki, I., & Pirttilä-Backman, A.-M. English ...

University of Helsinki The Department of Social Research Social Psychology Writing instructions - Sakki, I., & Pirttilä-Backman, A.-M. English ...
University of Helsinki

The Department of Social Research
       Social Psychology

       Writing instructions

                    Sakki, I., & Pirttilä-Backman, A.-M.
                    English translation by Schmuckli, E.
                    April, 2011

Table of contents

Characteristics of scientific writing                              3
Structure                                                          3
  Title page                                                       3
  Abstract                                                         4
  Table of contents                                                4
  Introduction                                                     5
  Theoretical starting points and other relevant prior research    5
  Methods                                                          7
  Results                                                          9
     Quantitative work                                             9
     Qualitative work                                             17
     Figures and tables                                           18
  Discussion                                                      20
  References                                                      21
  Reference list                                                  26
  Footnotes and endnotes                                          34
  Appendices                                                      34
Layout                                                            35
Instructions on writing                                           36
  Tenses                                                          36
  Verb form (person)                                              36
  Use of language                                                 36
  Helpful ideas                                                   37
References and bibliography                                       39

Characteristics of scientific writing
Scientific writing has some distinct features. These do not include being overly
complex and dry, although many caricatures may give you this idea. A good scientific
text is written in beautiful and fluent language. What makes scientific work distinct is
that it is clear and accurate, it is based on individualized reference material concerning
prior research presented, and it often follows a specified structure. References are
needed because scientific studies make use of prior research results and are
constructed on the basis they form. The reader must be able to check whether you, the
author, have interpreted the reference material correctly. It is also proper to give credit
for prior achievements to who it’s due. The reference lists also function as a data bank
for people who are interested in the subject.

A clear and predictable structure helps the busy reader to quickly find exactly what
they are looking for in the text. This, among other reasons, is why it is important that
figures and tables and the text in them are consistent. All in all the text of a scientific
paper is economic and respectful of its subject.

This set of instructions is meant primarily for writing study reports and theses, but it
can also be used for writing term papers. The instructions are as consistent with the
Publication Manual of the American Psychology Association (APA) as possible, and
they are also harmonized with the general writing instructions of the faculty (mostly
in regard to instructions on layout). If you are writing your Master’s Thesis in English
we suggest you also study the APA manual, which has instructions on how to avoid
sexist language, for example. Applicable sections of the APA instructions can be
used when writing term papers and other such works. In the next section we go over
the structure of quantitative and qualitative theses.

An academic paper usually includes the following sections:

Title page

The title page includes he title of the work, name of author, department and
university, information on what the work is or what course it is a part of, name of
opponent and date of presentation in the case of a term paper or a course work, or date
of submission in the case of a Bachelor’s or Master’s Theses. Give also any other
optional information depending on the course.

The title should describe the content as accurately as possible. It should also state
what is distinctive to this paper. The title can be in the form of a question or it can
have a subtitle. It should serve to evoke the reader’s interest. It is good to remember
that the abstracts of Master’s Theses (see below) will be added to the database of the
faculty’s library’s website, which is accessible to everyone. Any leading words such
as “project”, “study” or “thesis” are not needed, the context will be enough for the
reader to infer what the text is about.


An abstract is included in a Master’s Thesis but not, for example, in a term paper. The
abstract should not exceed 350 words1. It should give information in brief on the
work’s theoretical and other background, study questions, methods, results and
significant matters discussed. At the end you should include keywords, which are
used for indexing the paper. Often the abstract is the last part of the paper to be
written and the keywords are chosen after that, but as the keywords are transferred
into several kinds of databases, it is advisable to choose and formulate them carefully.

Table of contents

The table of contents is on a separate page. To avoid using unnecessary typographical
symbols, do not use dotted lines and abbreviations for “page”. The headings in the
table of contents should match the headings in the text exactly. It is easy to make a
table of contents page by using the corresponding function in MS Word (Insert
Reference Index and Tables). Always include the page numbers for references and
appendices, but do not give them a numbered heading.

Use Arabic numerals for structuring chapters and their subsections. Do not place a
period after the last number of a section (for example: 1, 1.2, 1.2.1). It is advisable to
limit the subsections to three or four. Remember that when dividing a chapter into
sub-chapters you must have at least two sub-chapters (for example: 2.1.1 and 2.1.2).

Next we will go over the structure of empirical work in detail. It follows the following


           an introduction to the subject matter and study questions, any relevant
           theoretical starting points, prior study results and your study questions


           research data, collecting methods and possibly analyzing methods


           your own (usually empirical) results


           discussion on the results and the study


 This is according to the instructions of the Discipline of Social Psychology specifically. Journals, for
example, usually require shorter abstracts.

Studies that do not deal with empirical data usually do not have separate chapters for
methods and results. In such a text, the chapters are defined by the themes of their


When talking about the structure of an empirical work, the designation “introduction”
can be used to denote two meanings. It can mean:

   a) a brief introductory chapter in the beginning of the work (one to three pages,
      for example) or
   b) the introductory chapter mentioned above and a following presentation of
      theoretical approaches and other relevant research. In this case, “introduction”
      refers to all text preceding your own study questions.

In a Bachelor’s or Master’s Thesis, introduction typically refers to only a few
introductory pages (version “a” above) and theoretical approaches and other relevant
research are given main headings according to their content. Introduction has a wider
meaning (version “b” above) when writing articles. In that case theoretical approaches
and other prior relevant literature are included in the introduction by using

The function of a version “a” type of introduction is to briefly introduce the subject to
the reader and motivate them to keep reading. It should be easy to see in the
introduction what the author’s basic idea is and what they are aiming at. You can
present the salient ideas of your study clearly and very generally, but if you have an
abstract in the beginning of your paper you should avoid repeating it in the
introduction. You can also outline the goals of your study in the introduction. More
detailed study questions and hypotheses are presented later in the text, after you have
presented the reader with the theoretical starting points and their essential concepts
and other relevant prior research.

Theoretical starting points and other relevant prior research

The function of an introduction such as version “b” is to present any prior research
relevant to your study. It is discussed in an order logical to the subject matter and in
such a way that the reader can also see why it is interesting and important to study
these questions in particular. The headings should be contentual: the reader is
therefore aware that prior research is discussed in this section and there is no need to
repeat it.

An introduction to a Master’s Thesis can have several main and sub-chapters. A clear
difference between a traditional monograph Master’s Thesis and a scientific article is,
however, that a monograph Master’s Thesis discusses prior research to a wider extent.
This is because a scientific article is part of the internal discussion of a scientific
community and it is as economical as possible. A Master’s Thesis on the other hand is
a thesis by which a student demonstrates their learning and wide knowledge of their
own field, among other things.

When presenting prior research, indicate sources and references (see more detailed
instructions below) on which your information is based on. The further you have
progressed in your studies, the larger the amount of the references to original research
of your field should be. For example, in a Master’s Thesis you should not refer to
basic textbooks, unless they have, for example, a new kind of classification method
that has not yet been presented elsewhere. Primary sources are printed texts that have
been critically appraised by the scientific community prior to being published.
Personal communications are the last resort of source material you should use. The
Internet especially sets a challenge today because it may sometimes be very hard for
the reader to make the distinction between material that has gone through a review
process and some very personal opinions of an individual person.

As the author you should always remember that you are writing text of your own,
which you base on previously published studies. Therefore, the logic of your work
should be clear and sources should be used to construct your own argument. You
should remember to take note of research in your field equally, not tendentiously and
choosing only certain kind of results. Contradictions are solved and brought up in
scientific writing, they are not hidden.

Be precise with your own expression when citing references.

For example:

In his study Nieminen (1997) has proved - -.

Based on his empirical studies Nieminen (1997) has presented - -.

Nieminen (1997) has raised the question, could - -.

In his survey based on 45 articles Nieminen has concluded that - -.

As early as the beginning of the century Virtanen (1920, 25) claimed that
“development requires both challenge and support”.

All of the examples above are significantly more precise than saying “Development
requires both challenge and support” (Virtanen, 1920).

You should avoid secondary sources, i.e. so called second-hand information. You may
have a few of these in your first written works at the university, but the further you
progress in your studies, the less you should use them.

After presenting prior research information and theoretical starting points you should
specify, formulate and define the study questions derived from the aforementioned
sources. The main question can often be divided into sub-questions. The study
questions should be clearly formulated and the connection of the study questions to
the theory or prior research presented should be clear as well. If you formulate the
study questions as hypotheses, you must derive them logically from a theory or from
prior research. If it is possible to formulate the study questions as a hypothesis, you
should do so. You cannot present some of the questions as hypotheses and others as
open questions in a single work. Never present the same study question formulated
both as a question and a hypothesis.

The study questions may be presented in the last sub-chapter on prior research or as a
main chapter of their own. In a qualitative work it is sometimes sensible to present the
study questions in two stages. Therefore, if presenting more precise study questions
requires a somewhat wide preliminary analysis, you should present preliminary
questions at the end of the chapter on prior research and bring up the precise questions
clearly in the results section below, for example, a sub-heading after preliminary

When constructing a theoretical background, the researcher is therefore aspiring to
attest what the connection between the existing relevant prior theories, study trends
and studies is. Formulating the study questions and possible hypotheses is based on
information from research literature, carefully described.

When explaining the theoretical background of your study you must check whether
you have presented the theories and prior research relevant to your study. It is also
important to demonstrate how they relate to your study questions. You should
describe the concepts of your study in sufficient detail as well.


In the methods section you describe in detail how the study was conducted. Explain
everything necessary for understanding the progress of your study in detail and
precisely. The methods should be described with such accuracy that any researcher in
your field will be able to replicate your study.

Methods and different stages of information gathering and justifying your choices are
the essential content of the method section. When describing your method of study,
pay attention to the following things among others:

       Research framework. When explaining your method tell the reader what kind
       of research framework you are using (for example: cross-section, follow-up
       material, experimental framework, observation).

       Participants or subjects. (interviewees, questionnaire respondents, objects of
       observation, etc.) Give information on how the subjects were selected for the
       study, how many of them there were, their distribution by age, sex and, where
       possible and appropriate, education or profession. The study questions regulate
       how detailed the information on a subject or person should be, but in every
       case a basic description is needed to have an idea of the kind of sampling the
       results are based on. With interviews, you should give information on whether
       they were recorded visually or on audio and how you obtained permission for
       doing it. You also need to specify the accuracy of transcriptions from audio or
       visual recordings.
       Newspapers, magazines, electronic mailing lists etc. as research material.
       How did you choose the newspapers, magazines etc.? How was the final
       research material selected (certain sections of newspapers, for example)?
       When were the newspapers, magazines, electronic mailing lists etc. issued,
       what is their length and how was the material prepared for study?
       How was the questionnaire or interview form formulated? Describe the
       content of the questionnaire or interview form. It is preferable to include the
       form or questionnaire as an appendix. The operationalization of all variables
       should be evident in the method section. If you have used an established scale
       (such as the Rosenberg self-esteem scale) give the reliability to the accuracy of
       two decimals points. Also give reliability indexes on any indicator of you own
       Monitoring protocol used in observation and the basis for its formulation.
       Analytical strategy used on the research data. In a quantitative work the
       regular methods are described briefly, whereas the more exceptional and
       complex analytical strategies are presented by referring to their original
       descriptions. Very complex and multi-phased analytical strategies can be
       presented in their own sub-chapter in the method section. Analytical strategy
       is a many-sided matter as the progress of the analysis can be presented both in
       the method section and the results section. This means that the analytical
       strategy can be described in the method section on a general level, but it
       should be presented with examples of the material in detail in the results
       section. It is overall essential to give sufficiently detailed information on the
       analytical strategy and manner. A qualitative analysis requires using examples
       and specifying what you mean by category, theme etc. and what kind of pieces
       of text the categories, themes etc. may be connected to. It is essential to
       describe the borderline cases in the categories and how you solved them.
       Social psychology uses different kinds of qualitative research methods. With
       some of these methods you should present the indexes that describe the
       unanimity of estimated classifications.

Sometimes the progress of a study can be so complex that it may be better to explain
it in a sub-chapter or present it as a figure.


Before you conclude the section concerning results you should check that you have
covered all of your study questions in the results section. You need to go over each
study question regardless of whether you obtained an answer for them or not. The
essential content of the results is presented as clearly and simply as possible and the
main results of the study should be easy to find. The results section gives the
background for the discussion and deduction that follows.

Quantitative work

The results of a quantitative work are presented simply and clearly. There should be
no interpretation in the results and at this stage you should avoid expressions such as
“interesting”, “important”, “very”, “which is caused by” etc. In a quantitative work
the following things are presented:

   a)   descriptive parameters of the research material (in table form, for example)
   b)   the main result of the study (preferably in a concise figure or table form)
   c)   “testing” the main result, i.e. elaboration
   d)   other important or affirming results possibly connected to the study question

Often results that have no statistical significance are not reported at all in scientific
periodicals. However, a Master’s Thesis is a thesis paper and it may happen that there
are no statistically significant results. Even these results should be reported.
Sometimes the lack of statistically significant connections can be a scientifically
interesting find if, according to your hypothesis, you expected to find connections.
Nevertheless, it is not allowed to make any conclusions on, for example, the
differences between groups if these differences are not statistically significant.

Statistical significance is not the only thing you should observe, though. For example,
when the sample is large, even very small differences become statistically significant.
You should note that statistical significance tells you nothing of the general
significance of the results. In addition to statistical differences you should also look at
the effect size.

Before presenting the results of statistical tests you should give information on
whether the material met the criteria for using the tests. For example, with factor
analysis you should give the KMO and the values of Bartlett’s test, for example: “The
item was suitable for factor analysis (KMO = .78 and according to Bartlett’s test p <
.001)”. After examining each result, state whether it supported your hypothesis or not.
Statistical significance can be expressed in two ways:

    a) The exact significances that statistics programs produce are primarily used
        nowadays (for example p = 0.23).
b)      Following the conventional way, i.e. p < .05, p < .01, p < .001, i.e. statistically
“almost significant”, “significant” and “very significant”. In a table, significance is
however preferably presented as the superscript asterisks of parameters (for example
averages, correlations or beta factors), * meaning “almost significant”, **
“significant” and *** “very significant”. Key to the superscript symbols is placed
immediately below the table.

According to APA all of the test quantities and other abbreviations (as well as p) are
italicized in the text, but in a Master’s Thesis, it is not necessary to write anything in

Example of a table with averages and standard deviation

Table 1

Averages and standard deviations of age, years of education, expressing, covering,
and controlling anger and cynical distrust with men and women in FINRISKI-92
study (N = 3403)

                       Men               Women          p

                       (N = 1547)        (N = 1856)
Age                          46.0            45.5           .101            .001

                           (10.9)           (11.3)
Education (years)           11.0             11.2           .052            .001

                             (3.9)          (3.7)
Tendency to                  18.6           19.3            .000            .006
become angry
                           (4.7)             (4.5)
Showing anger              14.0              14.5.          .000            .005

                           (3.6)            (3.8)
Not showing anger          17.2             16.7            .006            .002

                          (4.3)             (4.4)
Controlling anger         24.7              23.2            .000            .020

                          (5.0)             (5.1)
Cynical distrust          19.4              18.7            .000            .006

                           (4.4)             (4.6)

Chi-square test (x2):

x2 (4, N = 90) = 10.51, p = ns.


Test quantity, i.e. Chi-square equals 10.51, there are 4 degrees of freedom and the test
quantity is non-significant with these degrees of freedom. N indicates the total number
of observations.

Other non-parametric tests are expressed similarly, for example: McNemar, x2 = 4.55,
df = 1, p < .05 which means you have used the McNemar test with the value of x2 as
test quantity. In this case it equalled 4.55, which with the degree of freedom of 1 was
statistically significant on the risk level of p < .05.


You must mention whether you are talking about an independent samples t-test,
paired samples t-test or one-sample t-test.

The results of t-tests are written in the text as follows, for example: t(229) = – 3.73, p
< .001. Always use a lower case letter “t” to indicate the test quantity, then degrees of
freedom in parentheses (df), t-value after the equal sign, and the statistical
significance after the comma. Statistics programs widely used today (such as SPSS)
usually produce a two-tailed significance of the test. It is, however, worth noting that
one-tailed testing is better suited for testing hypotheses, even though you need to go to
more trouble to find out what the significance is.

Regression analysis:

It is often best to present your regression analysis in the form of a table. You should
present at least the beta-values ( ) and significance using stars after the beta-value.
You should also mention the unstandardized values (B) and their standard errors (SE
B). In a hierarchical regression table, for example, these values are presented with
different steps (step 1, step 2, step 3, etc.). Explanations (R2 and/ R2adj.) and R2-
adjustment measures and their significance are written below the table.

Table 2

Time spent studying for entrance examination and concepts on knowledge and
learning as explanations for entrance examination scores in a hierarchical regression
analysis (N = 71).

             Variable                       B           SE B
Step 1
    Time spent studying                   4.75           .94          .52***
Step 2
    Time spent studying                   4.71           .91          .51***
    Simplicity of knowledge               4.19          1.66          .25*
Step 3
    Time spent studying                   4.71           .88          .51***
    Simplicity of knowledge               5.77          1.74          .35**
    Innateness of learning                4.25          1.72          .26*
    Uncertainty of knowledge               .77          1.06          .07
    Active information processing         2.26          1.54          .14

Note R2 adj. = .29 for Step 1, R2 adj. = .31 for Step 2, R2 adj. = .36 for Step 3.

 R2 = .063 for Step 2 (ps < .05), R2 = 0.76 for Step 3 (ps < .05)

* p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001

Looking at Table 2 we can see that time spent studying has a statistically significant
positive connection to scores in entrance examinations (B = 4.75, p < .001). The effect
of time spent studying remained significant in the second and third steps as well,
when to the model were added first the simplicity of knowledge epistemology and
then the concepts of knowledge and learning: innateness of knowledge, uncertainty of
knowledge and active information processing. The simplicity of knowledge
epistemology added to the model in the second step also has a nearly significant
positive effect to the entrance examination score (B = 4.19, p < 0.5).

After adding the concepts of information and learning, innateness of learning,
uncertainty of knowledge and active processing of information to the model in the
third stage the effect of the simplicity of knowledge epistemology clearly increased (B
= 4.19, p < .05 B = 5.77, p < .001). In addition to that, the innateness of learning
epistemology has a statistically significant negative effect on entrance examination
scores (B = 4.75, p < .001). The uncertainty of knowledge epistemology and active
processing of information epistemology on the other hand have no significant effect
on entrance examination scores.

Variance analysis:

With a variance analysis you need to mention whether you used ANOVA or
MANOVA and one- or several-tailed analysis. If you used a two-tailed variance
analysis or a variance analysis with more tails you should always start with examining
whether the interaction terms are statistically significant. If they are, you cannot
examine the significance of independent variables directly, because interaction
confuses them. You should also state the effect size of a variance analysis.

The information of a variance analysis is presented, for example, as follows in a case
comparing whether collectivism correlates with sex and geographical area in

Two-tailed ANOVA (F(5, 409) = 5.98, p < .001) demonstrated a statistically
significant interaction between sex and geographical area in collectivism (F(2, 409) =
3.72, p < .05). In the sample of women collectivism deviated significantly in the three
areas of the study (F(2, 219) = 12.95, p < 001). Scheffé’s post hoc method
demonstrated a statistically significant difference in all paired comparisons (South and
West: p < .05, South and North, p < .001, West and North, p < .05).

You can continue reporting by explaining the effect sizes of cultural influences, which
we will not do here. You should note, however, that usually effect size 2 is reported
with a variance analysis for example as follows: (F(1, 656) = 4.44, p < .05, 2 = .007).


Degrees of freedom are in parentheses, for example (5, 409). After that comes the
value of the test quantity F, and p refers to the level of statistical significance. With a
variance analysis, present the result of the whole model first. In our example the
interaction is meaningful and the researcher must continue the analysis with the
sample of women only.

Factor analysis:

Statistic methods offer help in deducing how many factors there are in your material.
Your final decision must however be based on a theoretical view and interpretation.
Naming the factors is an important part of research.

With a factor analysis you should explain how the propositions are loaded on the
factors and what their communalities are like. If one or several propositions have been
removed on account of small loading and communality value, you should mention this
in the text. It’s a good idea to present the factors in the form of a table (at least as an
appendix) that shows the loadings of the proposals on the factors. A table is often the
most economical way of presenting the questions; that way you don’t need to list
them separately with the description of the indicator. You should comment on the
factors that were formed in the text.

Table 3

An explorative factor analysis on personality characteristics of the Bem sex role
inventory test with men and women aged 25-64 of the FINRISKI-97 material.

                            Feminine          Masculine         Negative
          Variable                                                              Communality
                          characteristics   characteristics   characteristics
Gentle                         .72                                                  .52
Heartfelt/warm                 .72                                                  .53
Sweet                          .69                                                  .48
Willing to comfort             .68                                                  .47
Acknowledges other’s
                               .65                                                  .45
Understanding                  .64                                  .23             .47
Compassionate                  .64                                                  .42
Emotional                      .57                                  .22             .38
Fond of children               .44                                                  .22
Capable of adjusting           .43                                  .26             .28
Tactful                        .42               .21                                .24
Pitying                        .38                                                  .16
Sincere                        .38                                  .28             .26
Conservative                   .36                                                  .17
Reliable                       .36               .21                .34             .29
Conscientious                  .28                                  .26             .18
Confident                                        .72                                .53
Capable of leadership                            .70                                .50
Strong personality                               .70                .21             .54
Dominant                                         .64                .28             .49
Expresses opinion                                .59                                .37
Defends own views                                .52                                .29
Efficient                      .22               .51                                .32
Willing to take risks                            .50                                .27
Independent                                      .49                                .29
Confrontational                                  .36               .56              .46
Temperamental                                                      .53              .29
Envious                                                            .50              .26
Conceited                                        .29               .48              .34
Secretive                                                          .43              .19
Eigenvalue                    5.7               3.3               1.7
Variance explained %         19.0              10.9               5.7             35.5

Note: Only loadings with absolute value of .20 or more are reported

At times it is more sensible to present the factor table in another form, as in the
following example:

Table 4

Social representation (SR) indicator, averages of the sums of items and all factor
loadings of more than 0.30.

                                                             Standard        Factor
  Section               Proposition                Average
                                                             deviation      loading

Factor 1      Suspicion of and opposition
              to new things (13.0 %, =
              There are too many news
     1.                                              4.2        1.8           .64
              kinds of food nowadays.
              New kinds of food are trivial
     2.                                              3.8        1.7           .63
              I’d rather eat food that is safe
     3.                                              5.2        1.5           .46
              and familiar
              I’m always a bit suspicious of
     4.                                              4.7        1.5           .46
              new things.
              Traditionally made food is
     5.                                              5.7        1.4           .45
              the best.
              Functional food is like a
     6.       nuclear power plant: efficient         3.5        1.5           .45
              but dangerous.
              Food today is artificial
     7.       compared to what we had                4.6        1.6           .44
              when I was a child.
              Health enthusiasm causes
     8.                                              5.0        1.6           .42
              people unnecessary stress.
Factor 2      Supporting
              technology (9.9 %,
              = .80)
              New food technology is
     9.                                              3.7        1.4           .64
              I believe in the possibilities of
    10.                                              4.0        1.4           .62
              new food technology.
              Being opposed to genetically
    11.       modified food is just a                3.1        1.6           .62
              longing for the old times.
              Genetic engineering can be
    12.       the answer to the world’s              3.8        1.7           .60
              food shortage.
              Modifying food genetically is
    13.       just giving a helping hand to          2.7        1.7           .59
              nature, nothing more.
              People fear genetically
    14.                                              4.7        1.8           .48
              engineered food, because

             they are not familiar with it.

Factor 3     Supporting organic
             food (7.8%, = .81)
             I appreciate organic origin in
    15.                                            4.7      1.6    .73
             I trust organically produced
    16.                                            5.0      1.5    .73
             I think organic products are
  17. (R)    not any better than                   3.7      1.9    .62
             conventionally grown food.
             Clean and organic food
    18.                                            5.5      1.3    .59
             makes you feel good.
             I would like to only eat food
    19.                                            5.0      1.6    .57
             with no additives.
Factor 4     Taking pleasure in
             eating (5.2 %, = .80)
             Eating is very important to
    20.                                            5.3      1.5    .75
             Feasting on good food is an
    21.      essential part of the weekend         4.5      1.7    .74
             for me.
             Eating is the high point of the
    22.                                            4.6      1.5    .69
             I treat myself by buying
    23.                                            5.1      1.5    .59
             something really good to eat.
Factor 5     Eating is a
             necessity (3.8 &,
             = .71)
             I don’t care what I eat as long
    24.                                            2.5      1.6    .57
             as it satisfies my hunger.
             I don’t care how the food I
    25.                                            2.3      1.4    .55
             eat is grown.
             I don’t care what kind of food
    26.                                            2.6      1.6    .54
             is served at parties.
             I don’t really need
    27.      information on new kinds of           3.2      1.7    .46

R = reversed item

“Reversed” refers to using a new variable, with reversed coding.


Below you see an example of how to report a correlation table. Statistical significance
is examined one-way, because the researchers had a hypothesis of the direction of the
correlations. Many statistics programs produce a two-tailed test significance unless
you specifically request a one-tailed test.

Table 5

Correlations of horizontal and vertical collectivism (HC and VC) and individualism
(HI and VI) measured with the attitude and scenario method in Cameroon (N = 367).

                                Attitude measure (A)             Scenario method (S)
                          AHC      AVC AHI         AVI          SHC    SVC     SHI

Attitude measure
         VC                .52**
         HI                .13**    .10*
         VI                .13**    .17**     .30**
Scenario method
         HC                .22**    .13**     .08      .14**
         VC                .11**    .11*      .22**    .04       .18**
         HI                .17**    .22**     .24**    .10*      .39**     .50**
         VI                .17**    .02       .05      .31**     .48**     .29**    .15**

* p < .05. ** p < .01, one-tailed testing

Qualitative work

In a qualitative work you may structure the examination of results in a few different
ways. Because qualitative results are more bound to theory than quantitative results,
separating result and interpretation is not always possible in the way it is in
quantitative research. Therefore the results section may be more interpretative than in
a quantitative report. In the result section of a qualitative work you may also refer to
prior research, which is something you can practically never do in a quantitative work.
If you do refer to prior research, you must follow that principle consistently.

Using citations:

In qualitative research, citations have a central role because interpreting the research
material (such as interviews, newspaper articles) is largely built on them. You can use
citations at least in the three following ways:

        as justification to your interpretation
        to have an example descriptive of your material
        to enliven your text

You should lead the reader up to what the direct citation says, but you should not
explain its content (before the citation) or repeat it in scientific language after it.

Citations should be used moderately and with consideration, because using a lot of
citations makes the research report a heavy read. At best, presenting research material
gives the reader a suggestion of the richness of your material, the expressions used by
the participants and their way of perceiving their life and environment.

The general rule for the amount of citations in a text is that you should have a
considerably larger amount of your own text than of citations. Usually the same
citation should not be used twice in a report.

Citations are usually italicized (often additional quotation marks are used, but
italicization is sufficient). Short citations can be placed in the text in italics, whereas
longer ones should be presented separate with indent and condensed, also in italics.
Citations of more than 40 words in length are indented from left (1.3 cm) in a
paragraph of its own. If something irrelevant in the citation is left out on purpose, this
is marked with two dashes [– –]. Samples of text should be translated into the
language your work is written in (i.e. English). The translator’s name should be
mentioned in the method section or at latest with the first sample of text. Include the
original samples of texts are as an appendix.

The text samples must include identification in code, i.e. the reader should be able to
tell who was interviewed or which article sample is in question. Sometimes it may be
necessary to withhold this information in order to protect the anonymity of the
interviewees. If this is the case, you must explain why you must do this. In this case as
well you should explicitly explain whether you have included samples from all the
interviewees etc. as the reader is usually interested to know whether you have
included citations equally from everyone interviewed. If you add your own
clarifications to the text samples (who or what does a particular pronoun refer to, for
example), place these in brackets [ ].

Figures and tables

The main content of the results is usually presented as tables and figures as well as
text. Sometimes it is easier and more illustrative to present things as a figure or a table
than as text. Text, figures and tables are alternative forms of presentation. Tables and
figures are placed in the text and they are each numbered according to their respective
series. Each table and figure should be readable as an independent whole. In order for
this to be possible, you must give them titles. In addition to giving them a sufficiently
detailed title you should name the possible axes and explain the various codes (the
patterning on the columns of a diagram, for example) to the reader. If you use a table
or a figure from someone else’s work which is therefore not connected to your results
but you wish to include it in the introduction, for example, you should mark the
reference under it, just like textual references. Figures and tables are often used in the
results section, but you may use them in other sections too.

Table 6

Percentage (%) of respondents according to sex and education in three geocultural
areas in Cameroon (N = 415).

                             Area           Middle (%)    West (%)          North (%)   Total (%)

Women                                           6.8           26.7            20.0        53.5
Men                                             6.5           15.4            24.6        46.5

Upper secondary school                         12.1           20.0            31.2        63.3
University                                      1.2           22.0            13.3        36.7

Usually when N equals approximately a hundred or more you may use percentages.
When N presents lower numbers, it is preferable to use frequencies.


    Number of respondents

                                                              Sex of respondent

                                  North   West Middle/South

Figure 1. Sex of respondents according to three geocultural areas in Cameroon (N =

The title of a figure is placed below it and the title of a table above it.


In the discussion section the research results are proportioned in no uncertain terms to
the background literature and the study questions formulated on said literature, and
the significance, reliability and usability or the results are evaluated. The idea is to
link the details of the method section to prior research and more general thoughts, and
to interpret your results. If your results do not agree with the results of other
researchers, discuss why that may be. You can start the discussion by briefly
highlighting your main results. The idea of summarizing your results in the discussion
section is to describe the “forest” that constitutes of the “trees” of your results.

In the discussion of both quantitative and qualitative work, among other things you

       answer the questions formulated in the beginning
       acknowledge the limitations and weaknesses of the research method
       contemplate on how your research increased knowledge in the field of study
       discuss the reliability and validity of your results.
       comment on the possibilities of making use of the results
       present the challenges for further research your study produced and make
       suggestions for action

If your hypotheses were overturned or you got some unexpected results, contemplate
on what could have caused this to happen. The discussion may even be quite
speculative as long as you express the degree of speculation with your choice of
words. You can also raise new perspectives and basis for interpreting the results.
Furthermore, you may refer to the prior research already discussed and to other
research you have not yet mentioned in your paper as well.

The structure of a Master’s Thesis can therefore be illustrated in the form of the
bowtie below. You start with a wide discussion on the subject matter of study, move
on to the study questions, methods and results, and then again discuss the subject
matter more extensively in the discussion section.


The references you have used are incorporated into the text and listed in the reference
section. A reference in the text must give sufficiently detailed information to be easily
found in the reference list. The reader must be able to find the sources with the
reference information to be able to check the accuracy, i.e. that you have referenced a
work correctly. This is why references in the text and in the reference list must match

Different fields of science use different ways of referencing. The most important rule
is to use a single method of reference consistently. In social psychology the APA
manual (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association) method is
mostly used. However, it is good to remember that some publications (such as the
Finnish journals Sosiologia and Psykologia) have their own way of referencing that is
not always consistent with the APA norms. These writing instructions mainly follow
the APA rules.

In the field of social psychology, references in the text are presented so that the author
and year are in parentheses. The page number(s) are always marked when a direct
citation or a monograph is referenced. In the latter case the pages should indicate
approximately which part of the book the text in your study is based on. Place a
comma between the author, year and page(s).


       (Brown, 1986, pp. 45–46)

When referencing several works, separate publications with a semicolon. The
reference information placed in parentheses in the text is ordered alphabetically.


       (Argyle, 1969, pp. 35-37; Tajfel, 1978)

When you mention the author in the text and you want to refer to the entire book, only
the year is placed in parentheses. If you want to refer to certain pages in a publication,
write the whole reference in parentheses.


       Kaplan (1965, p. 78) says that the children of emotionally disturbed parents
       often have problems of their own.

Two or several works by an author published in the same year are separated in the text
by adding a lowercase letter after the year of publication starting with “a”, for
example (Tajfel, 1978a) and (Tajfel, 1978b).

If a work has two authors, both of them are mentioned. If it has several authors,
mention the first one and add “et al”. However, when you mention the reference in the
text for the first time, list all authors but if there are six or more of them, use the
shorter form of “first author et al.” also when mentioning the publication for the first

When a publication with two authors is mentioned in the text as only a reference,
write is as follows: (Myllyniemi & Helkama, 1984). With three or more authors,
mention only the first one (Helkama et al., 1998, pp. 149–150), if you have already
mentioned the reference earlier in the text.

If you refer to several authors in flow text, do it as follows:


       Tajfel and Turner (1979) have proposed, that - - .

       Hargie et al. (1995, pp. 226–233) list several functions of opening - -.

The articles or chapters of an edited book are referred to in the text by the author of
the article or chapter, just like with an entire book.


       McArthur (1982, pp. 151–153) explains that physical appearance - -.

If you wish to generally describe an edited book, you can mention the title of the
publication and the editors, for example the theoretical concepts discussed in
Cognitive Social Psychology (Hastorf & Isen, 1982). In this case, the publication can
be found in the reference list under Hastorf & Isen.

When referring to an article in a periodical you need not mention the page numbers.
Mention only the author and year.


       (Vainio, 2003)

When you refer to a newspaper article that has an author who is part of the editorial
staff (typically applies to any domestic or foreign news articles published on the
Helsingin Sanomat website, for example), the title of the article is used in place of the
name of the author both in the text and in the reference list. Insert the publication date
of the newspaper after the title of the article.


       (Hague: Bosnian Serbs Sentenced, 2009, July 21)

When you refer to a newspaper article the author of which is clearly not part of the
editorial staff, write the author’s name and publication date in the text.

For example, the opinion articles and columns in newspapers are presented thusly.


        (Brooks, 2009, July 21)

By using the full stop you show whether the reference refers to one or more sentences.
If it refers to one sentence or part of a sentence, place the reference in parentheses in
the sentence before a full stop.


       Modernism and postmodernism are two fundamentally different philosophies
       (Rogers, 2003, p. 26).

If the reference applies to more than one sentence, place the reference after the
sentences and after the last full stop. In this case place a full stop inside the


       Appearance is usually the first thing people notice about a person. Therefore
       people often categorize each other by physical traits. This begins at an early
       age. (McArthur, 1982, p. 152.)

If several consecutive sentences are based on the same reference, it may be difficult
for the reader to understand which sentences the reference applies to. In order to avoid
confusion, it’s a good idea to combine information from different sources that applies
to the thematic entity or at least make note of the risk of confusion when formulating
the sentences. Your text also becomes livelier when you don’t leave the mention of
the author to the end and do it earlier.


       McArthur (1982, p. 152) has compiled previous research and remarks that
       appearance is usually the first thing people notice about a person. It is then to
       be expected that people should often categorize each other by physical traits
       and that this begins at an early age. (ibid., 152.)

You can also refer to a source by a verbatim citation. In that case, use quotation marks
to mark the cited text off from your own text.


         And as it happens, Kaplan’s (1965, 214) statement “When an individual is
         confronted with the necessity of choosing between incompatible action
         systems, he is in a conflict situation” applies to the dilemma in question.

When the citation is long (over 40 words), indent it from left (1.3 cm) to make it a
paragraph of its own. In that case, do not use quotation marks. Place the reference at
the end of the citation and put a full stop inside the reference text before the closing
parenthesis. Always give the page number(s).

You can use the reference signal ibid. for “aforementioned book” or ibid. + page
number(s) for “in the aforementioned book on page(s)” when you are referring to the
same source for a second time and you haven’t referred to any other source in
between these two references. When referring to books, give the page number(s)
you’re referring to. Be careful with using reference signals: the reference shouldn’t
cause confusion and there should be no other references between the original
reference and the signal.


       According to Mardi Jon Horowitz (1978, p. 32) there is no etiological
       distinction between Adjustment Disorders and Post Traumatic Stress
       Disorders, and the diagnosis of both kinds of disorder is made by balanced

       “Paradoxically, this sense of now being safe, often coupled with some
       perceptual reminder of the event, can trigger the onset of an intrusive phase of
       symptoms.” (ibid. 38.)

Using your own discretion, you may place such extra words as e.g., especially,
particularly, notably, see and cf. inside the parentheses before the reference. Be
careful when using these kind of references: see directs the reader to seek more
similar information in the source given, cf. directs to information that is different at
least in some respects. You should not overuse these abbreviations and signals. When
putting the finishing touches to your text, it’s a good idea to check where they are
really needed and where not.

When you want to refer to an Internet source, you can mark the textual reference in
several ways. What is most important is that the reference is clear and can easily be
found in the reference list.

For example, when referring to the basic information on AIDS and HIV at the KELA
website, you can formulate the reference in the text as follows.


       (Basic information on HIV and AIDS, 2006)

If you do not know the author of the publication, use the title and year of the
publication in the text and begin the corresponding entry in the reference list
similarly. Sometimes you can also use the name of the publishing community in the
reference, but often the title of the publication gives the reader more information on
the content than a reference to the publishing community, which in this case would be
KTL (National Public Health Institute). When you do know the author’s name, refer
to the source by mentioning the author and then the year. (Kauppinen, 1998).

Sometimes you may have to refer to a source that someone else has referred to, but
you haven’t been able to find (it might be very old, the printing edition may have run
out, etc.). You should avoid these so called second hand sources, but if you find
yourself in this situation, make the reference as follows.


       (Sheldon, 1949, pp. 2–3, as cited in Eskola, 1985, p. 28)

In the case above you have read a book by Eskola (second hand source), who has
referred to a publication by Sheldon (original source) which you haven’t read.
Mention the original source first and after that the second hand source, i.e. the book
that referred to the original source. This practice is not recommended and it is to be
used only in exceptional cases, that is only when it is impossible get hold of the
original source.

Personal communications include among other things letters, memos, telephone
conversations, personal interviews and e-mails. Give only the name and year of the
source in the textual reference.


       According to Haukkala (2004) - -.

Personal communications are also included in the reference list.                             Comment [A1]: The APA instructions
                                                                                             require these only in the text.

You should not rely on personal communications too much, your primary sources
should be printed publications.

When referring to legal text, mark only the official or use title of the law and the year.


       Mental health act (1990)

Reference list

The reference list at the end of your text gives the information required to identify and
find each source you have used. You should choose your sources carefully and
include only those you refer to in your text.

As the reference list is meant to make it easier to find the sources, the references must
be accurate and correct. Each entry normally includes the following elements:
author, year of publication, title of publication and publisher.

When the source in question is a book, in addition to the year give also the publisher
and publishing location (location of publishing company). Do not give both the
publishing and printing locations.


       Helsinki: WSOY (not: Helsinki Porvoo: WSOY).

You can leave out the abbreviations concerning company form, for example Oy, Ab,
Ltd., Co., & Sons., Inc., Publishers. If the publisher has several places of business, it
is sufficient to give the first one or the typographically emphasized one. Not, for
example: Oxford, London, New York, Paris. Give only the place mentioned first, in
this case Oxford.

Make the reference list in the same language as your thesis. You may group entries in
the reference list for example into published and non-published works, or printed and
electronic sources if needed.

Do not number the references. A reference entry ends in full stop. Arrange the
publications in alphabetical order according to the author’s name. If a source has more
than one author, their names are marked in the reference entry in the order they appear
in the publication.

Publications by the same author are arranged in order according to their year of
publication. If there are more than one publications in the same year, mark them by
adding a lower case letter after the year (2000a, 2000b etc.). You should naturally use
the same marking in the text. Publications by different authors with the same name are
arranged in the reference list so that the author whose first name precedes the other in
alphabetical order is first.

If the author is unknown, the reference entry begins with the title of the publication.
Sometimes the author may be an association, an organization or an institution. If the
author is not mentioned in the publication, begin both the textual reference and the
reference list entry with the title of the publication. The name of an organization can
also be the first author (if there is more than one).


         Statistics Finland. (1987). Causes of death 1986 (SVT VI B: 142). Helsinki:
         Statistics Finland.


Give the author’s last name, initial of first name, year of publication, title of book (in
its entirety), place of publication and publisher. If the year of publication is unknown,
mark n.d. (= no date) in parentheses in the place of the year. Write the title of the
book in italics.


         Hebb, D. O. (1949). Organization of Behavior. New York: Wiley.

         Bannister, D. (Ed.) (1977). New Perspectives in Personal Construct Theory.
         London: Academic Press.

If the number of authors does not exceed seven, all the authors are mentioned in the
reference list in the order they appear in the source. If there are more than seven
authors, give the names of the first six, insert three ellipsis points and add the name of
the last author:

              Hukkinen, J. I., Hansen, K.G., Langlais, R., Rasmussen, R.O., Jeppson,
              S., Levänen, J.,…Lange.S. (2009). Knowledge-based tools for
              sustainable governance of energy and climate adaptation in the Nordic
              periphery (K-Base). Stockholm: Nordregio

If there is any additional information on the publication (such as edition, volume
number etc.) that may make indentifying and finding the source easier, place this
information in parentheses right after the title of the publication. If the text has been
revised in a new edition, mark the number of the edition.


         Pervin, L. A. (1984). Personality (4th ed.). New York: Wiley. (Original work
         published 1970)

         Gergen, K., & Gergen, M. (1986). Social Psychology (2nd rev. ed.). New              Comment [s2]: Notice the comma
                                                                                             before the & sign.
         York: Springer Verlag.

If the work was published long ago, mark the original year of publication. In the text,
the reference to Pervin’s book would be marked thusly: (Pervin 1970/1984).

When you refer to a translated work, you don’t need to mention the title of the
original. It is sufficient to give the translator’s name after the translated title.


        Freud, S. (1961). Beyond The Pleasure Principle (J. Strachey, Trans.).
        London: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1920)

On the other hand, if you refer to the original source, you should use the original title
and place your translation of the title in brackets after it (unless the original is written
in Finnish, English or Swedish).


        Helkama, K. (1999). Recherches récentes sur les valeurs [Recent Value
        Research]. In W. Doise, N. Dubois & J.-L. Beauvois (Eds.), La construction
        sociale de la personne [The Social Construction of Personality] (pp. 61–73).
        Grenoble: Presses universitaires de Grenoble.

If the source is an edited book, give the author of the text (article or chapter), year of
publication, title of text, marking that it is an edited book (Ed., Eds.), title of book,
page numbers, place of publication and publisher. Following the APA norms insert
the page numbers immediately after the title of the book in parentheses. Write the title
of the edited book in italics, but not the article/chapter referred to.


        Liebkind, K. (2001). Acculturation. In R. Brown & S. Gaertner (Eds.),
        Blackwell handbook of social psychology: Intergroup processes (pp. 286–
        406). UK: Blackwell.

Source material may also be unpublished. Typically these include among other things
Master’s Theses and Licentiate Theses.


        Arppe, A. (1995). The Strategic Opportunities of a Small High-Technology
        Company on Emerging Markets. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Institute of
        Strategy and International Marketing, Department of Industrial Management,
        Helsinki University of Technology.

If a source is a manuscript under review, you cannot give the name of the possible
publisher. Mark the unpublished manuscripts in the reference list in the same way.


        Pirttilä-Backman, A.-M., & Kajanne, A. (1998). The development of implicit
        epistemologies during early and middle adulthood. Manuscript under review.

If you use a second hand source, mark both sources in the reference list. In addition,
make it clear which is the original source by marking it with “As cited in”
immediately after it and then give the author of the second hand source and its year of
publication (in parentheses).


       Sheldon, W. H. (1949). Varieties of delinquent youth: An introduction to
       constitutional psychiatry. New York: Harper. As cited in Eskola (1985).

The information on the second hand source is given in the reference list in its own
place alphabetically:

       Eskola, A. (1985). Persoonallisuustyypeistä elämäntapaan:
       Persoonallisuuden tutkimuksen metodologisia opetuksia. Helsinki: WSOY.

Articles in periodicals:

Give the author’s name, year of publication, title of article, name of periodical,
volume and the article’s page numbers. When referring to an article in a periodical
italicize the name of the periodical, number and the comma after the number instead
of the title of the article. Unlike with an edited book, mark the page numbers last.


       Pirttilä-Backman, A.-M., Kassea, R., & Sakki, I. (2009). Human and peoples’
       rights: Social representations among Cameroonian students. International
       Journal of Psychology, 44, 459–467.

Do not write the abbreviation “vol.” before the volume. Mark the issue number of the
periodical in parentheses after the volume only when each issue of each volume
begins on page 1.

Also include any information essential to indentifying and finding the source
publication after the title of the article in brackets. Information in brackets gives a
description on the form of the article, not on the title. Examples of this kind of
additional information: [special edition], [monograph], [abstract] and [letter to the

When referring to daily newspapers it is important to give the publication date. Write
the title of the newspaper in italics. Give the page number or other location at the end
of the reference.


       Angier, N. (2009, July 21). When ‘What Animals Do’ Doesn’t Seem to Cover
       It. The New York Times, p. D 1.                                                     Comment [A3]: Insert a space here as
                                                                                           the code is for location in the paper. APA
                                                                                           gives different instructions.

It is also typical that the newspaper does not mention the author of an article or the
author is part of the permanent editorial staff of the newspaper. In this case begin the
reference entry with the name of the article.


        Hague: Bosnian Serbs Sentenced. (2009, July 21.) The New York Times, p. A7.

If the article is still in press, the year of publication, volume or page number are not


        Pirttilä-Backman, A.-M., Kassea, B. R., & Ikonen, T. (in press). Cameroonian
        forms of collectivism and individualism. Journal of Cross-Cultural

In the text, refer to the article as follows: (Pirttilä-Backman et al., in press).

Note! Always check whether your in-press sources have already been published
before you submit your work for review. If they have, give full reference information
on them.

Conference publications, presentations and committee reports:

When a book is compiled based on a symposium or conference, the published text is
marked in the reference list much as an article in an edited book, but the name of the
symposium or conference is written in italics.


        Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1991). A motivational approach to self:
        Integration in personality. In R. Dienstbier (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on
        Motivation: Vol. 38. Perspectives on Motivation (pp. 237–288). Lincoln:
        University of Nebraska Press.

If the work is unpublished, give the date of the symposium after the authors (month
and year) and give the name and location of the conference at the end of the reference
(see next example).

Presentations and posters given in meetings or at events are often not printed and they
are included in the reference list in the following way:

        Myyry, L. (2002, June). Everyday value conflicts and integrative complexity of
        thought. Paper presented at the 13th General Meeting of the European
        Association for Experimental Social Psychology, San Sebastian, Spain.
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