IA Exemplar High

The sample below is one of three exemplars that I will be using with my students.  They are all from the same experiment, there is a "high",  a "mid" and  a "low" scoring internal assessment.

The experiment by Rogers, Kuiper and Kirker (1977), which focuses on the self-reference effect, can be found here.

The appendices are not included on this page, but they are available in the annotated version which is attached at below.

The rubric with comments is at the bottom of this page.

Annotated sample


There are many theories as to what factors may affect our ability to recall information.  The Levels of Processing theory was developed by Craik & Tulving (1975).  The researchers proposed that the depth to which we process information determines the likelihood that we will recall it. In their classic study, the researchers presented participants with a series of words; each word was followed by a simple yes or no question. Some of the questions led to shallow processing - for example, did the word start with the letter “s”? At the deep level of processing, participants were asked if words fit within the context of a sentence. Following the task, participants were asked to read a list of words and determine which words were part of the original list and which words were new. Results of the study indicated that participants' memories were more accurate for words that they had processed at a deeper level.

Rogers, Kuiper and Kirker (1977) took Craik & Tulving’s study a step further by proposing “the self-reference effect” - that is, “the tendency for individuals to have better memory for information that relates to oneself in comparison to material that has less personal relevance” (Mandernach). In their study they replicated the study done by Craik & Tulving (1975), using a sample of 32 first year psychology students. Participants were shown a list of forty words and then asked either a shallow processing question or a question that would lead to self-referent encoding , such as “Does this describe you?” After answering the questions about the words, the participants were given a piece of paper and asked to recall the words in any order. The findings showed that participants in the self-reference condition remembered 8.35 times as many words as those in the structural condition.

The aim of this study is to determine whether the self-reference effect increases the recall of a list of words among international, multi-lingual teenagers. It is an interesting question to investigate as it potentially supports the idea that if what we learn in school is relevant to our own identity, then we should be able to recall it better than if there is no personal relevance attached to it. This evidence could be used to support changes in both what is taught in schools - and how it is taught.

The null hypothesis is that there will be no significant difference in the number of words recalled from a list of 40 words whether the participant engages in shallow processing or self-referent encoding.

The research hypothesis is that participants who use self-referent encoding will recall significantly more words from a list of 40 words than participants who engage in shallow processing. Self-referent encoding will be accomplished by asking participants if a word describes them.  Shallow processing will be accomplished by asking participants the structural question, is the letter “e” in the word.

The independent variable is the level of encoding (structural or self-referent); the dependent variable is the number of words recalled from the original list.


This experiment used an independent samples design. The independent variable is the level of encoding (structural or self-referent); the dependent variable is the number of words recalled from the original list. Each group was either given questions that would lead to shallow processing or to self-referent encoding.  The sample was made up of two IB English classes. There were 32 participants - with 15 in the shallow processing condition and 17 in the self-referent condition. A sample of opportunity was used, guaranteeing that the sample was easily organised.  In this case, it also meant that the participants had a relatively similar level of English proficiency, which is important when asking participants to recall vocabulary.  Also, by using IB students we were hoping that we would have a more motivated sample, seeing as how they understood the importance of the internal assessment.  

In order to create the list of words, we first consulted websites for lists of positive and negative personality adjectives (EnglishClub). We chose 20 positive and 20 negative words. in addition, we chose only words with more than one syllable in order to avoid word length effect having an influence on our data. Additionally, we made sure that only half of them had the letter “e.”  We then took the list of words to our IB Psychology class and asked them if they knew all of the words.  Words which were unfamiliar to any member of our class were replaced with words that were more familiar.

We flipped a coin to randomly allocate the classes to structural or self-referential conditions. In each condition, participants were read the standardised directions (see Appendix ii). Participants were given an “answer sheet” to fill in while they watched the 40 words projected in a Powerpoint slideshow. The slides were timed for 15 seconds so that the amount of time that they saw the word was standardized. Following the presentation of each word, participants answer one of two questions: "Does this word have an "e"?" (structural encoding) or "Does this word describe you?" (self-referent encoding).  After the list was complete, participants were shown the video “Funny Animal Videos” as a distractor task. This was to make sure that words were not still in STM and avoiding the recency effect.

After the distractor task, the answer sheets were collected and new paper was distributed; participants were asked to write down as many words as they could recall.  They were given 2 minutes to complete the task. New paper was distributed to make sure that no one had written down some of the words, anticipating that they would be asked to recall them.


In order to provide a richer interpretation of our data, we not only collected the number of correct responses, but also words that would be considered synonyms and words that were not at all relevant to the words on the list (For raw data see app iv).  This was also done in the original experiment. The results were as follows.

Table 1. Descriptive analysis of data

Shallow processingSelf referent processing
Average and SD recall from listM = 8.86, SD = 4.33M = 21.29, SD = 7.96
Average and SD synonymsM = 3.6; SD = 2.33M = 2.05; SD = 2.23
Average and SD irrelevant wordsM = 1.46; SD = 1.20M = 0.82; SD = 0.92

As can be seen from the data above, it appears that on average the group that used self-referent encoding remembered 2.4 times as many words as the group that used shallow processing.  Both groups had roughly the same number of synonyms, where words were recalled that had the same meaning as words that were read.  In the shallow processing group there were more irrelevant words than in the self-referent group.  In the self-referent group there was a greater variance of the data. This can also be seen in the range of the data. In the shallow processing group the range was from 3 - 19; whereas in the self-referent group there was a range from 8 - 33. The variation in the scores in both groups could be due to language proficiency or level of motivation. In the shallow processing group, it is also possible that the participants engaged in deeper processing that could not be observed by the researchers.

An F-test for the significance of the difference between the variance of the two samples indicated that there was no significant difference (p < 0.01).  Therefore, a t-test for equivalent samples was carried out.  The test showed that the data was significant at p < 0.0001.  This means that we can reject the null hypothesis.  It appears that self-referential encoding leads to great recall than shallow processing when asked to recall a list of adjectives.


As can be seen by the results stated above, we were able to support the findings of Rogers, Kuiper & Kirker (1977). They found a much greater increase in the number of words recalled by the participants than we did.  This could be because our participants were younger and may not have identified as strongly with some of the words. It could also have to do with participant variability; maybe our participants did not have the same level of memory recall in general as the participants in the original study.

The results are supported by the theory of levels of processing.  Self-referential encoded is reflective and gets the participants to make personal links between themselves and the word.  This gives the memory meaning.

One of the strengths of our study was that we tried to adapt our list of adjectives for our own community. This did not, however, prevent us from having words that participants did not recognize some of the words. During the debriefing we asked our participants whether there were any words that they did not know. We found that two participants did not know the meaning of flirtatious and three did not know gullible. If we were to replicate this, we would replace these words with something more common. In hindsight, it may have been better to test the words on a younger group, with the hope of avoiding having a lack of understanding as a confounding variable.

Another strength was that we had the Powerpoint set up to show the words for the same amount of time.  This controlled for human error and guaranteed that there was no variation between the two groups.

A limitation of the study was that we used an independent measures design. Our differences may be due to participant variability.  It would be appropriate to do this as a repeated measures design, with different words processed at either the shallow or self-referent level.  This would eliminate any difference between the participants’ skill of recall, since all participants would be compared to themselves in each condition.

Another limitation is that there may have been expectancy effect - that is, the participants may have guessed that we were going to ask them to recall the words that they were being shown. In our school students are participants in many experiments and many experiments ask students to recall the words.  This may mean that in anticipation of having to recall the words, the participants rehearsed the words.

There were also variables that could not be well controlled because of the nature of our sample.  The level of English proficiency was not controlled, so this could have had an effect on the level of recall - although participants admitted to not knowing only two of the words on the list.   Secondly, it is not possible to know whether the group that was asked to do shallow processing actually did so, or if they used deeper processing - for example, visual imagery. It is not possible to control for this, but we did ask the participants during the debriefing.  None of them said that they did, but this is self-reported information.  Although it may be what the participants believe to be true, it may not represent what actually happened.  Finally, it is difficult to generalize our findings as the sample was made up of only high school students. High school students may be more or less reflective about themselves than the average population.  In addition, students are asked to recall lists more frequently than the general population.  This may make their rates of recall higher than the average person.

For future research, it would be interesting to test some other facet of memory than simply recall of a list of words. For example, if shown a series of photos of a home, if asked to note in which ways is the home similar or different from their own, would they remember recall more items from the images than someone who was asked to do shallow process - for example, count the number of objects in each photo. If so, this would show that self-referential encoding had greater application than simply as seen in the replicated study.

From our study we are able to conclude that self-referential encoding lead to greater recall of words than shallow processing.

Works cited

Craik, F. I. M., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104, 268-294.

Dailymotion. Funny Animal Videos. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x19a02g_funny-animal-videos_animals

EnglishClub. (n.d.) Negative Personality Adjectives List. https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/adjectives-personality-negative.htm

EnglishClub. (n.d.) Positive Personality Adjectives List. https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/adjectives-personality-positive.htm

Mandernach, Jean. (n.d.) Self Reference.  Online Psychology Laboratory. Accessed January 1, 2015. http://opl.apa.org/Experiments/About/AboutSelfReference.aspx

Rogers, T. B., Kuiper, N. A., & Kirker, W. S. (1977). Self-reference and the encoding of personal information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 677-688.



The aim of the investigation is stated and its relevance is explained." The theory or model upon which the student’s investigation is based is described and the link to the student’s investigation is explained." The independent and dependent variables are stated and operationalized in the null or research hypotheses. 6 marks.


The research design is explained. The sampling technique is explained. The choice of participants is explained. Controlled variables are explained. The choice of materials is explained. 4 marks


Descriptive and inferential statistics are appropriately and accurately applied. The graph is correctly presented and addresses the hypothesis. The statistical findings are interpreted with regard to the data and linked to the hypothesis. 6 marks


The findings of the student’s investigation are discussed with reference to the background theory or model. Strengths and limitations of the design, sample and procedure are stated and explained and relevant to the investigation. Modifications
are explicitly linked to the limitations of the student’s investigation and fully justified. 6 marks

Total marks: 22 marks

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Comments 18

Dabalina Chatterjee 23 March 2018 - 08:32

This IA is well written with full clarity. Will we be able to use ANOVA (F) in vassarstat? t test has been donee

John Crane 24 March 2018 - 13:04

Yes, students may use any appropriate test. There are no limitations.

Dabalina Chatterjee 28 March 2018 - 04:09

Okay. Thank you

Katrine Mortensen 13 April 2018 - 12:31

Instead of reading the original study, is there a more simple description of the study somewhere?

John Crane 14 April 2018 - 02:57

Dear Katrine,

Which study are you referring to? Rogers, Kuiper and Kirker (1977)? If so, students should use the original study since it is available.

Melissa Rossiter 22 July 2018 - 22:41

HI John: Would this student not be penalized for stating that it is Craik and Tulvings theory, when it is actually Craik and Lockhart's theory? Also, is it better to write the null and research hypothesis in paragraphs or can they set it out with a bold heading? Thanks! Mel

John Crane 23 July 2018 - 06:11

Dear Melissa

The text says "was developed by" and that is correct. They would not lose marks for this. It does not make a difference whether the hypotheses are stand-alone (but with no heading and you should only use the specified headings) or as a paragraph.

Karen Hinnen 8 August 2018 - 18:55

John, you state that the students should only use the specified headings? What do you mean by this? Only the four sections? If my students separated the Exploration section into subheadings, should they take that out?

John Crane 9 August 2018 - 06:44

Dear Karen

Yes, they should not use any other headings than the four that are specified. That is what we were told in training.

Steve Kerr 6 September 2018 - 04:15

Dear John,

In the introduction, when presenting the findings of the original study, is it necessary to quantify the results of the original study? If so, should they present only raw data, measure of central tendency or statistically-analysed data and, if it's not just raw data, should they use the same type as the original? It seems that the data used here is mean (measure of central tendency) but it isn't explicitly stated.


Bhawna Egbert 6 September 2018 - 06:50

Dear John,

Some of my students have replicated Glanzer and Cunitz for serial positing effect. Since they need to maintain only one experimental condition they have considered only primacy effect. My students are very confused on how to calculate it now for Analysis. Would it be possible to consider 1/3rd of the list and take the average out and then calculate??Or can they do the same way it has been calculated in this sample you have uploaded for the Higher band as an average & SD of the first, middle and last words and graph it for the average mean or only one mean ???Please help they are at the verge of finalizing their IA results.
Thanks in advance



John Crane 6 September 2018 - 17:56

Dear Bhawna

Either of the two approaches are fine.

Bhawna Egbert 16 September 2018 - 18:56

thanks a ton!!

John Crane 7 September 2018 - 06:30

Dear Steve

There are actually no guidelines for what students must include about the original study. I tell my own to try to include the descriptive and inferential statistics findings of the original if available. I don't understand your question about raw data and type of data. You do not need to include this with regard to the original study. Students must include their own raw data in an appendix. The level of data should be same as the original study because it is the same IV and DV.

Sania Begum 10 September 2018 - 13:21

Dear John,

Is there a particular format for Works cited? Could you recommend a format and/or website that will aid students please.

Steve Kerr 11 September 2018 - 04:50

Dear John,

Thanks for your reply and sorry my question wasn't so clear! You have somehow managed to answer it though!


John Crane 11 September 2018 - 04:56

Dear Sania

I would recommend either APA or MLA format.

Sania Begum 11 September 2018 - 05:35

Thank you John.

I think I will recommend APA.