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Social Psychology Definition Paper Essay Writer

Essay Writing Guide for Psychology Students

Saul McLeod published 2014


Before you write your essay it's important to analyse the task and understand exactly what the essay question is asking. It is possible your lecturer will give you some advice - pay attention to this as it will help you plan your answer.

Next conduct preliminary reading based on your lecture notes. At this stage it's not crucial to have a robust understanding of key theories or studies, but you should at least have a general 'gist' of the literature.

After reading, plan a response to the task. This plan could be in the form of a mind map, a summary table, or by writing a core statement (which encompass the entire argument of your essay in just a few sentences).

After writing your plan conduct supplementary reading and refine your plan and make it more detailed.

It is tempting to skip these preliminary steps and just write the first draft while reading at the same time. However, reading and planning will make the essay writing process easier, quicker, and ensure a higher quality essay is produced.

Now let us look at what constitutes a good essay in psychology. There are a number of important features.

  1. A Global Structure - structure the material in a way that allows for a logical sequence of ideas. Each paragraph / statement should follow sensibly from its predecessor. The essay should 'flow'. The introduction, main body and conclusion should all be linked.
  2. Each paragraph should comprise a main theme which are illustrated and developed through a number of points (supported by evidence).

  3. Knowledge and Understanding - recognise, recall and show understanding on a range of scientific material that accurately reflects the main theoretical perspectives.
  4. Critical Evaluation - arguments should be supported by appropriate evidence and/or theory from the literature. Evidence of independent thinking, insight and evaluation of the evidence.
  5. Quality of Written Communication - writing clearly and succinctly with appropriate use of paragraphs, spelling and grammar. All sources referenced accurately and in line with APA guidelines.

In the main body of the essay every paragraph should demonstrate both knowledge and critical evaluation.

There should also be an appropriate balance between these two essay components. Try to aim for about a 60/40 split if possible. Most students make the mistake of writing too much knowledge and not enough evaluation (which is the difficult bit).

It is best to structure your essay according to key themes. Themes are illustrated and developed through a number of points (supported by evidence). Choose relevant points only, ones that most reveal the theme or help to make a convincing and interesting argument.


Knowledge and Understanding

Remember that an essay is simply a discussion / argument on paper. Don't make the mistake of writing all the information you know regarding a particular topic.

You need to be concise, and clearly articulate your argument. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences.

Each paragraph should have a purpose / theme, and make a number of points - which need to be support by high quality evidence. Be clear why each point is is relevant to the argument. It would be useful at the beginning of each paragraph if you explicitly outlined the theme being discussed (.e.g. cognitive development, social development etc.).

Try not to overuse quotations in your essays. It is more appropriate to use original content to demonstrate your understanding.

Psychology is a science so you must support your ideas with evidence (not your own personal opinion). If you are discussing a theory or research study make sure you cite the source of the information.

Note this is not the author of a textbook you have read - but the original source / author(s) of the theory or research study.

For example:

Bowlby (1951) claimed that mothering is almost useless if delayed until after two and a half to three years and, for most children, if delayed till after 12 months, i.e. there is a critical period.

Or

Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to fullfil the next one, and so on.

As a general rule make sure there is at least one citation (i.e. name of psychologist and date of publication) in each paragraph.

Remember to answer the essay question. Underline the key words in the essay title. Don't make the mistake of simply writing everything you know of a particular topic, be selective. Each paragraph in your essay should contribute to answering the essay question.


Critical Evaluation

In simple terms this means outlining the strengths and limitations of a theory or research study.

There are many ways you can critically evaluate:

  • Methodological evaluation of research -

    Is the study valid / reliable? Is the sample biased or can we generalize the findings to other populations? What are the strengths and limitations of the method used and data obtained?

  • Be careful to ensure that any methodological criticisms are justified and not trite. Rather than hunting for weaknesses in every study; only highlight limitations which make you doubt the conclusions that the authors have drawn – e.g. where an alternative explanation might be equally likely because something hasn’t been adequately controlled.

  • Compare or contrast different theories -

    Outline how the theories are similar and how they differ. This could be two (or more) theories of personality / memory / child development etc. Also try to communicate the value of the theory / study.
  • Debates or perspectives -

    Refer to debates such as nature or nurture, reductionism vs. holism or the perspectives in psychology. For example, would they agree or disagree with a theory or the findings of the study?

  • What are the ethical issues of the research? -

    Does a study involve ethical issues such as deception, privacy, psychological and physical harm.
  • Gender bias -

    If research is biased towards men or women it does not provide a clear view of the behavior that has been studied. A dominantly male perspective is known as an androcentric bias.

  • Cultural bias -

    Is the theory / study ethnocentric? Psychology is predominantly a white, Euro-American enterprise. In some texts, over 90% of studies have US participants, who are predominantly white and middle class. Does the theory or study being discussed judge other cultures by Western standards?
  • Animal Research -

    This raises the issue of whether it’s morally and/or scientifically right to use animals. The main criterion is that benefits must outweigh costs. But benefits are almost always to humans and costs to animals.

    Animal research also raises the issue of extrapolation. Can we generalize from studies on animals to humans as their anatomy & physiology is different from humans?


The PEC System

It is very important to elaborate on your evaluation. Don't just write a shopping list of brief (one or two sentence) evaluation points. Instead make sure you expand on your points, remember, quality of evaluation is most important than quantity.

When you are writing an evaluation paragraph use the PEC system.

  • Make your Point.

  • Explain how and why the point is relevant.

  • Discuss the Consequences / implications of the theory or study. Are they positive or negative?

For Example

    (Point) It is argued that psychoanalytic therapy is only of benefit to an articulate, intelligent, affluent minority.

    (Explain) Because psychoanalytic therapy involves talking and gaining insight, and is costly and time-consuming, it is argued that it is only of benefit to an articulate, intelligent, affluent minority. Evidence suggests psychoanalytic therapy works best if the client is motivated and has a positive attitude.

    (Consequences) A depressed client’s apathy, flat emotional state and lack of motivation limit the appropriateness of psychoanalytic therapy for depression. Furthermore, the levels of dependency of depressed clients mean that transference is more likely to develop.


Using Research Studies in your Essays

Research studies can either be knowledge or evaluation.

  • If you refer to the procedures and findings of a study, this shows knowledge and understanding.
  • If you comment on what the studies shows, and what it supports and challenges about the theory in question, this shows evaluation.

Writing an Introduction

It is often best to write your introduction when you have finished the main body of the essay, so that you have a good understanding to the topic area.

If there is a word count for your essay try to devote 10% of this to your introduction.

Ideally the introduction should;

  1. Identify the subject of the essay and define the key terms.

  2. Highlight the major issues which “lie behind” the question. Let the reader know how you will focus your essay by identifying the main themes to be discussed.

  3. “Signpost” the essay’s key argument, (and, if possible, how this argument is structured).

Introductions are very important as first impressions count and they can create a halo effect in the mind of the lecturer grading your essay. If you start off well then you are more likely to be forgiven for the odd mistake later one.


Writing a Conclusion

So many students either forget to write a conclusion or fail to give it the attention it deserves. If there is a word count for your essay try to devote 10% of this to your conclusion.

Ideally the conclusion should summarize the key themes / arguments of your essay. State the take home message – don’t sit on the fence, instead weigh up the evidence presented in the essay and make a decision which side of the argument has more support.

Also, you might like to suggest what future research may need to be conducted and why (read the discussion section of journal articles for this).

Don't include new information / arguments (only information discussed in the main body of the essay).

If you are unsure of what to write read the essay question and answer it in one paragraph.

Points that unite or embrace several themes can be used to great effect as part of your conclusion.


The Importance of Flow

Obviously, what you write is important, but how you communicate your ideas / arguments has a significant influence on your overall grade. Most students may have similar information / content in their essays, but the better students communicate this information concisely and articulately.

When you have finished the first draft of your essay you must check if it 'flows'. This is an important feature of quality of communication (along with spelling and grammar).

This means that the paragraphs follow a logical order (like the chapters in a novel). Have a global structure with themes arranged in a way that allows for a logical sequence of ideas. You might want to rearrange (cut and paste) paragraphs to a different position in your essay if they don't appear to fit in with the essay structure.

To improve the flow of your essay make sure the last sentence of one paragraph links to first sentence of the next paragraph. This will help the essay flow and make it easier to read.

Finally, only repeat citations when it is unclear which study / theory you are discussing. Repeating citations unnecessarily disrupts the flow of an essay.


Referencing

The reference section is the list of all the sources cited in the essay (in alphabetical order). It is not a bibliography (a list of the books you used).

In simple terms every time you cite/refer to a name (and date) of a psychologist you need to reference the original source of the information.

If you have been using textbooks this is easy as the references are usually at the back of the book and you can just copy them down. If you have been using websites then you may have a problem as they might not provide a reference section for you to copy.

References need to be set out APA style:

Books

Author, A. A. (year). Title of work. Location: Publisher.

Journal Articles

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (year). Article title. Journal Title, volume number(issue number), page numbers

A simple way to write your reference section is use Google scholar. Just type the name and date of the psychologist in the search box and click on the 'cite' link.

Next, copy and paste the APA reference into the reference section of your essay.

Once again remember that references need to be in alphabetical order according to surname.


Further Information

Writing Skills for Psychologists

Study Skills

Essay Writing Guide

How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2014). Essay writing guide for psychology students. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/psychology-essay.html

Are you looking for good psychology papers topics? Look through the list of our ideas and find really good topic for your academic paper. Starting your search of subjects, take into consideration your supervisor’s guidelines. Talking about general psychology, you can choose the topic from the whole course. In some other cases, for example abnormal psychology, you can be assigned to write academic paper, concerning specific subject – psychological disorder, etc.

General Psychology Papers Topics

General psychology is a wide sphere of knowledge and the writer has a great opportunity to choose among the great selection of ideas. Picking up psychology papers topics, it is necessary to pay attention to some general idea and then narrow it down. Some of the most common ideas include:

  1. Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory and its observational learning. (check here: AP Psychology Paper Sample: Albert Bandura)
  2. Psychology of games: What is the secret of the popularity of Pokemon Go? (check here: Psychology Papers: The One about Pokémon Go)
  3. Psychological manipulation of consciousness and methods of protection. (check here: Advertising Essay Sample: People’s Psychology Manipulation)
  4. Psychological features of professional restaurant business work. (check here: Psychology Paper Sample: Restaurants)
  5. Protective methods in psychodiagnostic testing: Hand Test, Rorschach test and Lüscher color test. (check here: Psychology Essay: The Rorschach Test)
  6.  Experiment as a method of psychological research and its ethical problems. (check here: Psychology Essay Example: Failed Experiments)
  7. Compulsive buying disorder: The psychology of sales. (check here: Psychology Behind Love For The Black Friday)
  8. Psychology of needs: How does Maslow’s Pyramid works? (check here: Psychology Essay Sample: Maslow’s Concept)
  9. Contradictions of the Muslim religion and classical psychology. (check here: College Essay Samples: The One about Muslim Students)
  10. The dark side of human personality and its measures. (check here: Sample Essay Writing: Dark Personality)

Abnormal Psychology Papers Topics

The abnormal psychology itself deals with abnormal behavior and other disorders and academic papers topics on psychology usually deal with them and their treatment. For example:

  1. The diagnosis of attention in children with disabilities.
  2. Mechanisms of psychological protection of drug addicts and their relationship with personality traits.
  3. Pathological study of cognitive processes in organic brain lesions.
  4. Methods of diagnosis of specific personality disorders among young people.
  5. Psychological model of social anxiety disorder. Diagnosis and treatment.
  6. Violation of the basic components of cognitive activity in young men and women with schizophrenic disorders.
  7. Features of the course of circular depressions in patients with concomitant personality disorder.
  8. Depressive disorder with generalized anxiety. Diagnosis and treatment.
  9. The influence of hereditary factors in the formation of depressive disorders in children and adolescents.
  10. Clinical features of a recurrent depressive disorder in the cases of multiple sclerosis.
  11. Differential diagnosis and treatment of depressive disorders in women during menopause.
  12. Factors influencing the clinic and treating depressive disorders.
  13. Theoretical analysis of the mechanisms of the emotional Stroop effect.
  14. Perfectionism and satisfaction with body image in the personality structure of patients with eating disorders and alimentary obesity.
  15. The use of group art therapy in the complex hospital treatment of patients suffering from severe mental disorders.
  16. System of psychotherapy for family disadaptation in men and women with personality disorders.
  17. Approaches to complex therapy of panic disorder. Treatment options.
  18. Personal features in the mechanisms of the pathogenesis of a panic disorder.
  19. The occurrence of nocturnal panic attacks and their connection with depressive disorders.
  20. Psychological protection in children of mothers with personality disorders.

Developmental Psychology Papers Topics

This field of psychology deals with the lifespan of the person, so there is no need to worry about the variety of topics. Just make sure yourself:

  1. Determination of levels of understanding of the child on the experiments connected with the Piaget phenomenon.
  2. Development of reflective judgment and moral judgment.
  3. Role games as a means of developing psychological competence in adolescence.
  4. Diagnosis of child giftedness in early ontogeny.
  5. Analysis of reasons why children are fighting.
  6. The concept of aggression and the causes of its manifestation in children.
  7. Development of self-confidence in middle childhood (from 7 to 11 years).
  8. History and causes of dyslexia. A review of various modern methods of diagnosis and correction of dyslexia.
  9. The psychological status of a person subjected to abuse in the family.
  10. Prevention of child suicides and their relationship to family conflicts.
  11. Peculiarities of personal development and aggressive behavior of adolescent boys from single-parent families.
  12. Personal determinants of parenthood: paternity and masculinity.
  13. Gender roles: positive and negative impact on family relationships.
  14. How the roles of men and women have changed in society.
  15. Influence of mass media on the formation of the child’s personality.
  16. Features of mental and psychosexual development of persons who have experienced sexual violence.
  17. Psychological features that precede the formation of homosexuality.
  18. Moral development stages. Heinz’s Dilemma “Greedy Apothecary” or “Hack a Pharmacy?”
  19. Personal and social-emotional development in late adulthood (old age).
  20. Behavioral and emotional characteristics of adolescents from divorced families.

Cognitive Psychology Papers Topics

Among the most recommended cognitive psychology papers topics are:

  1. Cognitive psychology of coping with loneliness.
  2. Comparison of early Buddhism and concepts of cognitive psychology.
  3. Cognitive styles and impulsivity among gamers with different levels of gaming activity.
  4.  Social expectations for gifted children from the standpoint of cognitive psychology.
  5. Manifestation of the cognitive unconscious in the phenomenon of overconfidence.
  6. Behavioral and cognitive impact of the media on adolescents.
  7. The influence of music on the cognitive development of children of primary school age.
  8. Art-therapeutic methods and techniques in socio-psychological training.
  9. Emotional responsiveness: content and methods of development.
  10. The natural and social components of empathy and altruism.
  11. The diagnostic and therapeutic importance of medical empathy in psychiatry.
  12. Features of cognitive development of preschool children.
  13. The role of attention in the development of cognitive processes.
  14. Influence of power loads of different directions on the properties of short-term memory.
  15. Psychology of metacognitive processes of personality and its intricate relation with cognition.
  16. Psychological mechanisms of the “Deja vu” effect.
  17. Mental images of higher orders: the word as sounding and as meaning.
  18. Paramnesia: Cryptomnesia, false memory syndrome and confabulation.
  19. Cognitive psychology: the theory of the dual process of thinking.
  20. Psychology of decision making, or how we make choices.

Now, you can see there is no need to worry about psychology papers topics, as their variety is great. Writers can choose something really interesting to write about, according to their tastes and preferences.

Psychology Papers Topics: Help

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