Journal Reading Assignment #1
I. Objective: To practice skills needed to read, evaluate, and discuss articles
on sevelopmental psychology published in peer-reviewed journals
Not all mental health professionals conduct scientific research. But every
professional needs to read about the results of scientific research in the
form of articles published in peer-reviewed journals. Such articles are one
of the important ways researchers communicate advances in our
understanding of human development.
Even if you’re convinced of the importance – and relevance – of reading
journal articles, you may still find the actual reading challenging. One
reason is that the format of these articles is very different from the types of
materials you are used to reading in your courses—such as textbooks,
essays, novels, or news reports—and it may seem rigid and formal at first.
Because journal articles need to include a lot of information in a limited
amount of space, they can’t include a lot of explanation, and they lack the
flow and conversational tone of most other forms of writing. Therefore,
you’re likely to encounter many unfamiliar terms and concepts that may
make you wonder if the article is written in some strange foreign language.
Scientific articles ARE written in a new language – the language of your
future profession. Just as it takes time and effort to learn Spanish or
Chinese, you will need repeated exposure and practice before you become
fluent in the language of behavioral science. This assignment is designed to
help you get started building the skills you’ll need to make reading peer-
reviewed journal articles easier.
The article you’ll be reading is by Espy, Fang, Johnson, Stopp, Weibe, and
Respass, titled “Prenatal Tobacco Exposure: Developmental Outcomes in
the Neonatal Period.” A copy will be distributed to you in class. You will also
find a link to this article in the Unit 1 module on Canvas.
Step 1: Read through the article once without dwelling on any unfamiliar
words or concepts. Notice how it follows a specific format common to most
Heading: This section at the beginning of the paper includes the title,
the names of the scientists who carried out the study, and the
institution they are affiliated with.
Abstract: You will notice a blank area on the front page. This is where
the Abstract would normally be. Your assignment will be to create an
abstract for this article, so the original text has been removed.
Introduction: This section “sets the stage” by giving the reader some
background on the topic and why the current research was done. It
also includes the research hypothesis – the researchers’ prediction of
what the results of their study will demonstrate.
Method: As the name implies, this section will tell you who
participated in the study and what tools and techniques were used to
carry it out.
Results: This is the section that describes the data obtained in the
study. It typically includes both visual elements (e.g., graphs, tables,
photographs, or drawings) and a verbal explanation of the results.
Discussion: This section often begins with a summary of the main
result(s) and how they add to existing knowledge about the topic.
And because all research methodologies have drawbacks and
limitations, a review of these limitations is also an important part of
the discussion. Finally, the authors may suggest ideas for future
References: A complete list of other articles cited by the authors. In
papers published in psychological journals, these citations are
formatted according to guidelines established by the American
Psychological Association (APA format).
Step 2: Read the article again. This time, you will be looking carefully for
the procedures and outcomes of the study. Work with your group to write
your answer to each question below to begin to make sense of the article.
Step 3: put your notes and answers to the questions together into an
abstract, a paragraph that summarizes the background, hypotheses,
methodology, and conclusions of the study.
Step 4: Add a complete citation for the article at the beginning of your
article summary, using APA formatting rules (you can find information on
APA format on the college library web site or in the course Canvas space).
Attach your answers to the questions to the abstract.
Step 5: Submit a hard copy of your answers and your completed abstract
by the due date.
(1) What prompted the authors to want to study the effects of smoking on
(2) What have previous studies suggested about the effect of smoking on neonates?
(3) What makes this study different from other previous studies on the topic?
(4) Why weren’t the effects of other substances included in this study?
(1) Who participated in the study? How were they recruited? How many
participants were there?
(2) What were the criteria for the control group?
(3) What type of research methodology (correlation, longitudinal study,
experiment, etc.) was used in this study?
(4) What factors were observed and recorded in the study?
(1) Describe the key findings in comparing the experimental group with the control
(2) How did the researchers determine that the results observed were NOT merely
a random, chance occurrence?
(3) Were all of the results consistent with the hypotheses? Were there any
(1) What did the authors conclude? Did the data support their hypothesis?
(2) What did the authors suggest as possible reasons for the outcomes?
(3) What do the authors suggest for future research on the topic
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