From journal to journalism: analyzing popular descriptions of | Psychology 260

  

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PSY-260 Introduction to Psychological Research and Ethics

From Journal to Journalism: Analyzing popular descriptions of psychology or psychological research

For this assignment, you will find and analyze an example of popular press coverage of psychological research. You will find examples of psychological claims in advertising, magazines, the newspaper, or the Internet. Begin looking for examples now, as it may take some time to locate the perfect example. The popular source you choose has to include a psychological claim, and discuss it in some detail. You’ll have the most fun with a popular source that makes a causal claim, because you can then analyze whether the causal claim is warranted by actual experimental research. This assignment addresses the most fundamental goal of this class—becoming a better consumer of information. You will also practice your PsycINFO and APA style skills. 

Your assignment is to intelligently critique the claim of the popular press coverage by using a psychology research article. Your overall goal is to use your research methods skills to answer this larger question: Is this popular source’s claim an accurate representation of the original article, or is it misleading to people? 

You will need to find an article that mentions an author, institution, journal, etc., so that you can find the original article on which the popular coverage is based. Read the original source and evaluate the quality of the popular coverage. Did the journalist accurately describe the research? Did the journalist offer some advice on the basis of the study (e.g., “based on this study, you should go bungee jumping in the winter, not the summer!”)? If so, is the advice correct, or is it based on some misinterpretations of the study? For example, many journalists or advertisers may report a correlational study, but then give advice based upon the misinterpretation that correlation equals causation, which it does not (e.g., “kids who take piano lessons do better in school! So sign your kid up now!”). Or they may not report that the study was based upon a very particular population (e.g., rats), and, therefore, may not be applicable for their readers (e.g., teenagers). 

You will turn in three parts:

  1. a copy of the popular source,
  2. a copy or PERMALINK of the psychological article you used , and
  3. a 750-1,000-word typed report that analyzes the journalism article and the original article. 

Your report should have the following components, in this order. Please use headings to separate the different sections. 

  • A short summary of the journalist’s story, and a short introduction to the paper’s topic and this assignment.      Identify and classify any claims 

(frequency, association, causal) that the journalist makes in a headline or in the body of the text.

  • A short summary of key aspects of the original journal article: Was the study correlational or experimental?   What were the main variables? What was the key finding or findings? What theory do the findings support? 
  • An analysis of how well the journalist covered the journal article. In this section, try to make at least three significant points
    • What did the journalist get right? 
    • What did the journalist get wrong,  and why? 
    • What might the journalist have said differently?
    • Were any causal claims made by the journalist accurate? (Apply the three causal rules!)
    • Did the journalist focus on the same key finding as the scientists did?
    • Did the journalist accurately describe the procedures of the study? 
    • Did the journalist leave details out?
    • Rephrase or rewrite parts of the journalist’s article to be more accurate, if appropriate.
  • Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the APA Style Guide, located in the Student  Success Center. Include a properly formatted reference page and in-text citations.
  • This assignment uses a scoring guide.   Please review the scoring guide prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.

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