Lab Report:
General Feedback & Marking Criteria



General Feedback

Here's some general comments about the lab reports:


The quality of lab reports ranged widely.  The modal report was a moderate Pass.  For most reports, the Introductions, Methods, and Discussions were OK.  However, there were wide differences in the quality of Results sections and the extent of adoption of APA formatting was very varied.  There were also a notable array of penalties for reports over the word limit and/or late.


...were generally OK, however surprisingly few described the directions and strength of the findings or their theoretical and practical implications.


...were reasonably good.  Most lab reports presented a logical argument supported by background research which lead to statements of testable hypotheses.  However, this was not the case for many weaker reports which needed more conceptual work developing the research question, statements of hypotheses, and underlying rationale/argument.

Some reports were overly reliant on last year's lab report material about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation :(.

There should have been at least one hypothesis per effect examined in the results.


...were pretty good.  More detail could have been given in Participants.  It is a chance to provide a rich description of the sample and population.  Most people just reported gender and age descriptives.  Measures were reasonable.  Procedure often lacked sufficient details to allow a full replication or understanding of the data collection processes.


....were a mixed bag.  The FA was the best conducted section.  Some reports made little effort to deviate from the sample writeup, but in general reports that followed the samples did a lot better.  Surprisingly some reports omitted the critical table (of factor loadings and communalities). 

APA formatting of tables was very varied - some put in considerable effort to create near-perfect APA format; others dumped raw SPSS output :(.

The QA was pretty well handled, with quantitative summaries involving frequencies, percentages, a figure, and sometimes crosstabs with chi-squared and phi drawing the top marks.  A smaller number of reports offered richer, thicker, more qualitative analysis and summaries of the data.  Although less common, these reports generally did well.  Weaker reports tended to offer relatively little description of the coding process, to use more standard/conventional coding categories, and to have relatively simple descriptives.

The MLR/ANOVA were probably the least well handled sections.  Often the descriptives weren't fully reported.  There were some problems with variables not having the appropriate level of measurement or didn't have their distributions checked closely enough (and possibly recoded).  The most common problem, however, was a failure to clearly state the directions of identified relationships or effects.  With the ANOVA, most studies reported eta-squared (but didn't interpret) and fewer studies reported or discussed Cohen's d.  Useful figures for the ANOVA were usually presented, however, not many of these were in full APA format.


...were generally quite good.  Most reports offered some reasonable insight into the results and discussed them in light of previous findings.  Most reports also made some recommendations, however the depth, specificity, and practicality of the recommendations varied widely.  Weaker reports did not not demonstrate a clear  understanding of the directions and strengths of the findings.

A common misunderstanding was that many reports recommended that in future sampling should seek an equal number of males and females.  Why?  This is not necessary.  What we want is a representative sample, i.e., is the sample of males representative of the population of males, and is the sample of females representative of females?  Given that there are more females enrolled, we would expect more females in the sample.

There were few comments about how to improve the measures.

There were few comments about theoretical implications of the findings.

Some discussions were too short (< 400 words), which was usually associated with a lack of depth and consideration of the results.


A surprising number of reports had word counts was often over 3,300.  The best reports were 3,000 - 3,300 words.


Sample Report


Marking Criteria
(revised & extended)

The lab report should be based on the following guidelines.  These guidelines represent a strongly recommended series of pointers, tips, and suggestions for content and style which could be appropriate.

-1. Style

The lab report should use APA style.

0. Word count

Overall word count should be no more than 3,000 words, although 10% variation will be allowed without penalty.

Word count is for body text only, i.e., Introduction, Method, Results and Discussion.  It does not include tables and figures.

Note that the section word counts provided below are only a guideline - marking will only take account of the overall word count.

1. Cover sheet

  1. p. 1
  2. Download and insert

2. Cover page

  1. p. 2
  2. Title (~10-15 words)
  3. Student name, ID
  4. Word count (for main body text - not including abstract, tables, figures, appendices and list of references)

3. Abstract

  1. p. 3
  2. ~150-200 words
  3. Marked as part of Intro
  4. Does it describe the purpose of the study?
  5. Does it summarise the literature review?
  6. Are the hypotheses clear?
  7. Does it describe the method without being overly detailed?
  8. Are the key results summarised?
    1. There is generally no need to report details of descriptive statistics (such as Ms for SDs for IVs and DVs), although statistical significance and effect sizes for the main findings should be reported.
  9. Are theoretical implications mentioned?
  10. Are methodological implications considered?
  11. Avoid citing references in the abstract (unless referring to a major, central piece of literature).
  12. Should be one paragraph for a small-medium study.

4. Introduction (15%)

  1. p. 4
  2. ~600 words
  3. Concisely summarise the study's purpose - introduce and explain the research question
  4. Develop and focus on a coherent research question and clearly state testable hypotheses.
  5. The research question is up to you, and you should use your own ideas, but it must connect logically to the data and should draw on the background reading listed in the references. 
  6. Overview and critique relevant past research, identifying key issues which can be addressed in this study
  7. Create logical hypotheses with theoretical argument and citations.
  8. Do the hypotheses state the direction (where appropriate) of the expected findings?
  9. Do the hypotheses inappropriately imply causation for cross-sectional research?
  10. Are the hypotheses clearly identified, possibly by number? (this usually makes it easier to organise the results and discussion)
  11. Do not include specific details about the methodology (including instrumentation) used in the current study, although reviewing background theory and research to the current study's methodology may be relevant.

5. Method (15%)

  1. ~500 words
  2. Clearly explain how the study was conducted in sufficient detail to allow a replication study, but without extraneous detail.
  3. Will someone, say in Japan in 20 years time, have sufficient information to fully replicate the study?
  4. Participants:
  5. Measures
    1. Has the development of the materials been well described?
    2. Are the questionnaire items described and examples provided?
    3. Is the measurement scale accurately described, including the meaning of high/low scores?
    4. Only report on measures included (i.e., analysed) in this study.
    5. Is the collection of background/demographic variables which you use in your study described (e.g., accommodation type, employment hours)
  6. Procedure
    1. Is the sampling technique described such that it could be replicated?
    2. How long did participants take?
    3. Refusal rate?
    4. Procedural anomalies?
    5. Where did sampling take place?
    6. When did sampling take place?
    7. Who collected the data?
    8. Are references made to procedural guidelines (e.g., in appendix)

6. Results (45%)

  1. ~1200 words
  2. Described how the data was screened before proceeding with the statistical analyses:
  3. Have you used correct APA format for statistical symbols (e.g., see Reporting Statistics in APA Style)
    1. Have you used the correct statistical symbols and abbreviations?
    2. Have you italicised English letters used as statistical symbols?
  4. Do you use APA layout for tables?
    1. Centred on the page
    2. Informative, descriptive title
    3. Right aligned statistics
    4. Exclude redundant information? (e.g. instead of reporting the same N on Several lines of the table, it would be better to put the N in brackets as part of the table title)
    5. Is a note included to explain any abbreviations or anomalies?
    6. Horizontal lines above and below heading row and below bottom row with the same weight; no vertical lines
    7. Is there enough data to warrant a table?  (e.g., a table with less than approx. five cells is probably better presented in a sentence or two)
  5. Have you inserted figures where they aid understanding of the data?
  6. Do you have perfect APA layout for figures?
    1. Centred
    2. Informative title (usually best to do in the word processor, not SPSS)
    3. No inner frame (switch off manually in SPSS chart editor)
    4. Axes use same font as text (change manually in SPSS chart editor)
    5. Axis labels are consistent with terms in the text
    6. Is a note included to explain any abbreviations or anomalies?
    7. Caption below
    8. More info and an example
  7. Are statistics reported to two decimal places, unless there is a particular reason to use more or less decimal places?
  8. Are appendices easy to find when a reader wants to check your analyses?
  9. Do you clearly identify the independent and dependent variables for inferential statistical analyses?
  10. Do you report results in a robotic manner, or does your reporting of the results demonstrate an indepth understanding?
  11. Do you structure each of the results in a similar, logical manner or is there inconsistency between the approach of each analysis?
  12. Do you capitalise "Table", "Figure", and "Appendix" in the text (yes, you should)?
  13. Is there evidence that effort has been to include special statistical symbols where appropriate. Examples: α (alpha), β (beta), χ2 (chi-squared), η2 (eta-squared).
  14. Are SPSS variable names used in reporting and discussing results? (They are inappropriate - they are arbitrary and don't mean anything to a reader - use a name for the variable instead)
  15. Are the directions of any relationships reported?
  16. Is the strength of relationship (e.g., Cohen's d, η2) reported where appropriate?

6a. Factor Analyses & Reliabilities (15%)

  1. Type & purpose of factor analyses
  2. Meeting of assumptions (sample size, cases:variables ratio, factorability of correlation matrix)
  3. Whether expected structure was evident (number of factors extracted & how this was decided)
  4. % of variance explained
  5. Which items were retained/deleted and why?
  6. Table of factor loadings
  7. Name and description of each factor
  8. Reliabilities
  9. Composite scores (could be covered in other sections)
  10. Correlations amongst factors (could be covered in other sections)
  11. For more detail see:

6b. Qualitative Analysis (10%)

  1. Purpose of analysis
  2. Data coding
  3. Themes / trends with illustrative quotes
  4. For more detail see:

6c. Multiple Regression (10%)

  1. Type & purpose of regression
  2. Independent variables and dependent variables, including any manipulations (recoding)
  3. Assumptions, particularly correlations between IV and DV and amongst IVs
  4. Correlation table
  5. Amount of variance explained (R2)), at each step if hierarchical
  6. Significance and size of R2
  7. Significance, size, direction and relative contribution of each IV
  8. Table of multiple regression coefficients, including B for intercept & IVs and Beta, t, p, and possibly the zero-order and partial correlations for each IV
  9. State whether hypothesis/hypotheses was/were rejected
  10. For more detail see:

6d. ANOVA (10%)

  1. Type and purpose of ANOVA
  2. Independent variables and dependent variables, including any manipulations (recoding)
  3. Assumptions, particularly normality of DVs & homogeneity of variance
  4. Table of descriptive statistics, with cell means, standard deviations, ns and marginal (sub-total) and total descriptive statistics
  5. Figure such as line graph or error bar graph to illustrate the relationship amongst variables of interest [optional]
  6. Statistical significance of main effects and interaction effects, η2 for the overall model, and the partial η2 for each IV - include comment on direction and size of effects
  7. Posthoc tests or planned comparisons to identify differences between any means that aren't clear from the main analysis
  8. State whether hypothesis/hypotheses was/were rejected
  9. For more detail see:

7. Discussion (25%)

  1. ~700 words
  2. Insightful and balanced interpretation of the results with tangible recommendations for future practice and research.
  3. Does the discussion demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the research area and the results?
  4. Is this discussion boring because it just resummarises the results without providing useful, addition commentary?
  5. Is the discussion limited in scope or does it demonstrate a breadth of thinking and analysis?
  6. Does the discussion try to defend its hypotheses (or attack the hypotheses) or does it take a balanced, considered approach?
  7. Do you consider the power of the study?
  8. Do you consider the appropriateness of the sampling technique?
  9. Do you consider the generalisability of the findings?
  10. Does the discussion build upon the material reviewed in the introduction?
  11. Do you consider a range of potential implications and applications of the current study?
  12. Is the discussion balanced, emphasising the strengths and the weaknesses of the current study?

8. Appendices

  1. Selected SPSS output with annotations to demonstrate how you arrived at your results.
  2. Do not include the questionnaire.

9. General Checklist

  1. ~10% of the marks in each section will reflect the APA style
  2. Use Times New Roman 12 throughout
  3. Single-spacing for electronic submissions
  4. Wide margins throughout (e.g., 2.5 cm on all sides)
  5. Page numbers (but not first page), bottom centred, 12 pt Times New Roman
  6. Write in the third person (i.e. no 1st person ("I" or "our" statements) or 2nd person ("you" statements)
  7. Logical flow between paragraphs (or are there illogical jumps?)
  8. Does each sentence contain one main point?
  9. Paragraph length
    1. too long (e.g. more than about 2/3 page or more than about 5 or 6 sentences?)
    2. too short (e.g. 1-2 sentences)?
  10. Does each paragraph introduce a concept, flesh out the detail, and conclude by clarifying your point?
  11. Is there untidy splitting of tables, figures, titles, and so on, over different pages?
  12. Is the text left justified, but not right justified?
  13. Are abbreviations such as "e.g.", "i.e.", and "&" only used inside brackets?
  14. Do you use spaces before and after symbols such as = and p? (treat them like words)
  15. Do full stops occur after the close of brackets and after the close of direction quotations?
  16. Are page numbers given for direct quotations (but not for citations without quotes)?
  17. Are quotes > 40 words inset, without quotation marks?
  18. Are all authors cited the first time a paper is referenced?
  19. Is "et al." used for second and subsequent citations which have three or more authors?
  20. Avoid directional references to "above", "below", "following" and "preceding"
  21. Do you use bold font?  (not APA format)
  22. Are appropriate, conventional abbreviations used?  For example, ANOVA.
  23. Grammar:
    1. Are ownership apostrophes used correctly?
    2. Is Australian spelling, rather than American spelling used (e.g., analyse vs. analyze)?
    3. Are fully grammatical sentences used? (e.g. watch out for incomplete sentences such as "For example ongoing pain related to their injury or cognitive deficits.")
    4. Its vs. it's
    5. Affect vs. effect
      1. Dictionary
      2. Quiz
    6. Who or That / Which or What
  24. Is "participants" used, rather than "subjects"?
  25. Numbers reported in sentences should be in words if under 10, or in numbers in over 10.
  26. Section length too short - should be at least 2 paragraphs, otherwise expand or combine with another section.
  27. Are references cited in brackets in alphabetical order e.g., (Aardvaak, 2006; Zebra, 1958).
  28. Are references listed without issue number for journals whose volumes are continuously numbered?
  29. Do not italicise or underline common foreign abbreviations (vice versa, et al., a priori).
  30. Numbers at the start of sentences should be reported in words (e.g., Twenty-three geese flew north, 16 of whom survived the migration.)
  31. Has a spell check been conducted?
  32. Excessive space (e.g., 2 or more lines) between paragraphs
  33. Unnecessary capitalisation
  34. Is all body text left aligned?
  35. When a reference is cited on a second or subsequent occasion within a paragraph the year is not included.
  36. Headings should be in sentence case (i.e., Abstract, Results, etc.)
  37. Tense: Use third person throughout.
  38. Variables names should have the first letter capitalised (e.g., Overall Satisfaction), but general psychological ideas such as often referred to in the introduction and discussion should not be capitalised (e.g., life satisfaction).
  39. Are double quotation marks used around quotes <40 words?


10. Notes

  1. Each student must contribute at least 5 cases of real data by the end of W2. Failure to do so will attract a penalty (4 / 40 marks) on the lab report.
  2. Reports more than 10% over the 3,000 word limit will be penalised 1% per extra 100 words.  Abstract, Tables, Figures and Appendices are not included the word count.
  3. Penalties (2 / 40 marks per day) will apply to late assignments, and extensions will only be granted in extreme circumstances. Technology problems (e.g., hard drive crashes, dial-up problems, corrupted disks, viruses, etc.) will not be accepted as grounds for an extension. You should take appropriate precautions to avoid these problems (e.g., use backups and don't leave the assignment to the last minute).

11. Referencing and Citation

  1. Referencing of electronic sources