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As the interest for knowledge has increased, the amount it is available has also risen with the availability levels. Majority of us have access to the internet, which gives us the chance to research anything we wish to know. This also applies to research findings found in psychology. There was a blog topic that I would have liked to cover, asking whether there is anything that psychology cannot test; so shouldn’t everything we test be available for everyone?

All research findings are published in a research report, to then be bound and available for other researchers to read, and gain knowledge for future research, but is this fair? As the need for knowledge has increased, more people wish to know about research, especially of which can have impact on their life. So should research be written in a different format for the “layman” to be able to read, or should it remain in the same format to drive people to enhance their learning skills to read to papers available?

On a further note, research finidngs are published in other forms due to the media; newspapers and magazine articles making important findings very easy for the working man to read. There is a large number of magazines that are specific to psychology and its findings (http://www.world-newspapers.com/psychology.html) and also sections in newspapers that are dedicated to health, covering many findings in psychology, such as the New York Times (http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/news/health/diseasesconditionsandhealthtopics/psychology_and_psychologists/index.html). These are all published, and available easily online, in the format for both the layman and scientist.

However, these articles are still published in a manor for individuals of a higher intelligence, therefore taking away from the layman. Although, this is npt always a bad thing. Psychology (as we all know too well) have APA formatting(http://webster.commnet.edu/apa/) that we have to abide by in all research papers, keeping things very structured. So personally, I do not think that this should change for non-scientists to read, even if it would make things easier for us to write.

To conclude, I think that psychologists should not change the format that they write in as it is down to each individual to read the available information. All the information is out there, on the internet or in the shops for us to enhance our own knowledge about the world. Research is generally stereotyped to the “scientists” rather than the “layman” anyway, as it is this group of people that strive for this information to further research, not just reading it for something interesting.

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Comments on: "Should psychological research be written for the layman or the scientist?" (11)

  1. I think this is a really interesting topic as to whether psychological research should be written for the layman instead of scientist community. The way research reports are currently written does dis-encourage the average layman from reading, as it is hard to understand. However before we change the way we report psychological findings, have to consider whether the typical layman actually wants to read psychological findings in their raw format, or instead likes the magazine version that only publishes the ‘important’ and ‘interesting’ findings.

  2. Although I partly agree that the layman should strive to search for further information if they cannot fully understand a paper as that search could further increase their knowledge but also their interest in that area of science. From this increase in knowledge the layman should find more and more papers easier to read. However I feel that there is a point where papers stop becoming accessible when the whole paper is filled with jargon (not just a few unclear areas) and so the whole paper cannot be comprehended. Although there are other formats other than journals as you mentioned, which do attempt to resolve this problem they can actually make this problem worse. As you stated majority of us have access to the internet, therefore surely a lot of people would go to the internet for answers? I feel that it is this that hinders the layman’s knowledge (although this format is not alone in doing this) as it can be difficult to tell what is classed as reputable information with so many different websites and blogs providing an individual with information on the desired topic. I feel that a good example of this is: http://him.uk.msn.com/sex-and-dating/why-women-really-do-make-men-crazy
    You could assume that this is a fairly reputable website as it news on everything from politics to gossip and the information in the article can be understood by the layman and even presents the methods of the research to some extent. However you will notice that there are no citations. Where does all this information come from? How is the layman to know the best way proceed to find out more information on this topic? Therefore I think that if the media wishes to continue presenting such information it must include sources / citations. In addition to this may be it would not be such a bad idea if the writing of research was also reviewed, after all in some situations we do not know much more than the layman either.

  3. I think this is a really interesting topic, and research has found that the easiness of understanding of research is the most important factor when scientific research is presented through the media to the layman, and that approximately 50% of people say that scientific research is too difficult to understand (Eurobarometer, 2007). However, I think it could be argued that a lot of research is presented in a way that the layman can understand and is presented evaluatively, because is that not what a textbook is? A textbook basically summarises the main concepts on a particular topic and presents it in a manner where it is easy to read and understand, and references are available for you to further your knowledge if you wish to. I think that making research too easily accessible to the general public could be detrimental as too many people will believe they are an expert in an area and try advising others when they really do not know the field well enough and have not evaluated their resources. Despite this, as a student I do believe that most journal articles are directed too much at scientists who are experts in that particular area. As someone who is setting out in the area of research I find it hard to understand a lot of the terms used and to utilise and evaluate the literature effectively because of this. So how are we meant to progress to become these experts who will understand it all easily if it’s so difficult to start out? Due to this I think that research should be reported in a way which is still aimed at those interested in science, but not in such a way that it is too difficult for students to read.

    Eurobarometer (2007): http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_282_sum_en.pdf

  4. I agree with you that psychology should not be written in layman terms. Firstly my reason for saying this is that not many other professional fields do this. Take the medical field for example, medical terminology such as “acute idiopathic polyneuritis” is not simplified so that non-professionals can understand it. If someone with no prior knowledge in the field wanted to know what it meant they would be required to do their own research and look it up. Terminology cannot just be simplified because there are some that do not understand it…we have different terminology for a reason after all! I do not think that it is right for psychology to be written in layman terms when other fields do not have to be. Psychology is a controversial subject which many do not see as even remotely scientific, so if we simplify it even more surely no one will take the field seriously? Yes like you said, psychology does have real world applications and after all researchers strive for external validity however theories etc can still be applied without them being simplified. Surely it should work in the sense that if you want to understand something, whether it be in scientific research or simply something in everyday life, you have to take matters in your own hands and broaden your knowledge yourself. Nobody has the ability to understand everything first hand but the option is always there (books, internet etc) for you to look into things you want to know more about 🙂 .

  5. I think this is a very interesting topic to write a blog on and you have done it very well. You have made your points clear, and have backed up your work well with good research. Psychology shouldnt be written specifically for a certain group of people, but should be available to everyone. The layman might not be able to understand the raw data like a scientist can, but we see data and research in everyday life, from textbooks to the media. Milgram’s study of obedience (http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/milgram.htm) is something that the majority of people can understand, so research like this shouldnt be changed for different groups of people.

  6. Research papers have a specific structure (abstract, intro, methods, results, discussions etc.) and inevitably, long or complicated words will be presented throughout. To aim such papers at the layman would require the deletion of difficult words and a break down of the structure, both of which I think would take the ‘science’ out of the paper. For example, most of the names for different parts of the brain come from Latin origins so sound nothing like English (such as the medulla oblongata). If these were to be simplified so that anyone could understand them, then not only would the true meaning be lost, but they also would not sound very professional or academic. Besides, if a person wants to understand terms in a paper, then all they need to do is a Google search to find an easier definition or diagram explanation!!!

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