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IB Psychology IA: How to Structure & Smash It!

The Psychology IA has a unique format compared to other IAs - it’s based around an experiment, like the Experimental Sciences (Chemistry, Biology, Physics), but there are a lot of other things that make it unique. It can be tough to know if you’re on the right track when you’re not sure what goes where, so today we’re going to go through the different areas of a Psychology IA!

1. Methodology & Materials

Instead of starting with the introduction, it’s best to write down your methods and materials while the details are still fresh in your mind. Most people don’t do a proper write-up of their Psychology IA until they’ve collected some data, and it can be daunting to stare down at a blank document. Start by stating how you found your participants and how you sorted them into different conditions (sampling design). Then, write down everything you did with your participants, from briefing to debriefing. This will also help you standardize your procedure, which strengthens your overall conclusions. Finally, throw in a section about any relevant ethical considerations that you took into account, and how - this is where your consent and debriefing materials come in. 

Pro tip: Don’t throw any of your materials away! You’ll need to include them in your appendix, which you will reference in your methods and materials to demonstrate that you put your money where your mouth is when it comes to carrying out your exploration to the letter. 

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2. Results

Next, you should record the data you collected. You will probably spend most of your time on this section of your IA - even though other sections may be worth more points. This is because the more well presented your results are, the easier it will be to talk about them in the evaluation! For the analysis part of your results, stick with the barebones explanation: you don’t need to be a statistics expert to analyse your results. Most of the time, the statistical test will do most of the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is clearly state which one you’ve chosen and why, and using the number it spits out, choose to accept or reject your hypothesis. The words ‘statistically significant/insignificant’ are your best friend here!

3. Introduction

Your goal for the introduction is to present your research design. In other words, you need to explain the original study you have chosen to replicate, any changes you’re making to the method, and most importantly, why you’re choosing to do these things. Nowadays, a Psychology IA requires students to link their studies to a specific theory - avoid replicating original studies that have no clear research question, and the aims of your study will be easy to define. Lots of teachers will also ask you to “operationalize” your variables, which is a fancy way of telling you to state exactly what you’ve done to quantify these variables. For example, if you’re exploring how physical attractiveness impacts our first impression of someone, you need to explain the criteria of an ‘attractive person’, and why you chose that set of standards.

4. Evaluation

This part of the Psychology IA gives many students a headache! The best way to approach this section is to match it to your introduction, in a call-and-response format. The first paragraph of your evaluation should respond directly to your research question and accomplish your aims. Your strengths and limitations paragraphs should callback to the theory and original study you referenced in your introduction and how that may have impacted your conclusions. Any changes you made to the research design should be discussed - did it give your study more validity? Less reliability? What other conditions could you have controlled?

Pro tip: Explicitly state the p-value you got from your statistical tests in the results section, and use that value to explain why you’ve chosen to accept or reject your null hypothesis. This is your conclusion, and the crowning statement of your evaluation, so say it loud and proud!

5. Abstract

Abstracts should be very easy to write, but only after you’ve completed all the other sections. I like to think of them as the grand tour of your study - every section we’ve been through so far goes into great detail about your experiment, but your abstract should highlight only the most important points from your Psychology IA. Summarise each of the other sections (introduction, methods, results, and evaluation) in one or two sentences, and you can be sure to have written an abstract to remember!

So there we have it, a guide to all of the important components to make sure you smash your Psychology IA! If you’re looking for even more support with the process, you can meet your personal Psychology tutor by clicking the button below!

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