How to write a brilliant psychology essay.
March 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm
A wise man once said “there are three things that are 100% certain in life:
- We will be born
- We will die one day
- Psychology students will have a horrible amount of essays to write during their studies.”
And you know what? He was right!
In this blog post, I aim to provide a few pointers towards writing an essay that will get you a first. Of course, this will likely apply to any college students as well, but you usually require much less work at A-Level standard than degree level.
So, what how exactly do you write a good psychology essay?
Leave yourself plenty of time before your deadline.
Perhaps the most important point, it’s crucial to leave your self time to prepare! Leaving an entire essay until the night before is an almost guaranteed way to drop a few grade points. Granted, some people have the amazing ability to get first’s without any effort, but there’s no harm in getting an early start.
Research around the topic thoroughly
Very often lectures will contain the fundamental research in a given area. For example, you can’t really have a lecture on short-term memory without mentioning Atkinson and Shiffrin’s (1968) Multi-Store Model of Memory, right? The important thing however, is to not stick with what is safe. Sure, lecturer’s know best and include the most relevant research, but copying all of the lecture studies will get you no more than a 2:1 (in the second/third year anyway).
Make sure you use all the sources you have – books, journal articles, eJournal databases (such as Web of Science and PSYCarticles if you have access to them at University), e-books, webpages (make sure they’re credible though!), Google Scholar etc. If you’ve taken the first point into consideration, you should have plenty of time to research the topic thoroughly and pick out studies which support what you need to say. Unless you know your topic inside-out, you’ll probably find it pretty hard to write anything of good quality.
Plan, plan… and plan.
For those who write a lot and are more spontaneous, this may not be as useful. For the majority of people, however, it will be hugely beneficial to sit down and structure the essay before you begin writing. I find sometimes if I don’t plan, I end up writing and find new research which means I’m going back and forth all the time and lose my flow. Of course, some people might prefer this method of adding as you go; it’s by no means a bad thing. Planning can be very worthwhile though, and will save a lot of time in the long run. Plan what you will include in the introduction – what exact is the essay about? Then decide in what order you will include your research, and structure those paragraphs accordingly.
For an essay on schizophrenia, for example, you might begin by explaining what schizophrenia is. Then you might have a paragraph detailing prevalence rates, and research that supports these figures. Next you might look at the aetiology – possibly with a paragraph on each cause (such as biological causes, neurology, pharmacological explanations etc.). Next you might outline the main treatments, before ending on a conclusion of findings.
Be aware of the dreaded word limit.
Something that irks me more than I would ever imagine is that horrible word limit. I’d say most essays range from 1000-2500 words, and it’s very important you are aware of how many yours is. There’s a huge difference between a 1000 word essay and 2000 word one; you’ll be expected to have a lot more research in the latter. It also gives you a good idea of how much time you will need to invest in relation to other assignments, and how much detail you’re expected to include. Try not to overrun the limit; it’s very difficult to cut words out once you’re over. Usually you’ll be given a 10% either way lee-way (1800-2200 for a 2000 word essay), but CHECK with your tutors first.
Make sure you’re answering the question and nothing else.
It’s very easy, especially when you get engrossed in research, to begin including things that don’t really answer the question. If your essay title is “The effects of drugs on neurotransmission“, it is not helpful just to write all about drugs and then about neurotransmission. You need to look at the effects of the drugs, not just them both individually. Similarly, the long term effect of drugs on the heart, for example, is irrelevant to the question. Make sure you really think about what the research is saying before throwing it in an essay. Just make sure everything you include links back to the main topic, and really has a purpose for being there. As mentioned before, words are golden in essays, so make every single one count!
Cite as many studies as you can find.
Although there’s certainly no need to take that too literally, it is useful to back up most (if not ALL) of your points with valid research. When you read what you’ve put, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to support it. Saying things like “many studies show the effect of X on Y” without naming any studies is just not going to work in your favour. A better statement would be “many studies show the effect of X and Y (Example et al., 2011; Smith and Bloggs; 1995)”. It’s also a good idea to use recent research (within the past 10 years), because it shows you’ve really looked into the area in depth to find relevant research.
It’s also really worth looking at full text journal articles when they’re available. That way, you can read the introduction to their work, which very often includes a lot of research which will also apply to your topic. Then you can access THOSE full text articles, and so on. In a way you’re “article surfing”, and finding lots of quality research along the way.
I have a few friends who’ve actually dropped grade points because of tiny referencing errors, like not putting something in italics. There’s a very strict bunch of guidelines for referencing everything you use – so stick to it! The guidelines are plastered over the internet, and for the lazy amongst you, here are the three main sources you will use and how they are referenced in APA format. Please note some Universities might require you to use another format, but mine uses APA which is what I will describe below. So, here’s how to reference with APA guidelines:
Primary journal sources:
Author, A. B., Author C. D & Author D. E. (Year). Title of the article. Journal title, volume number(issue number), page no.-page no.
Battle, Y., Martin, B., Dorfmanc, J. & Miller, S. (1999). Seasonality and infectious disease in schizophrenia: the birth hypothesis revisited. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 33(6), 501-509.
Books (but not chapters, just the whole thing):
Author, A. B. & Author, C. (Publish Date). Title of book. Location: Publisher.
Tsuang, M., & Faraone, S. (1990). The Genetics of Mood Disorders. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.
Author, A. (Date Published). Article name. Name of website. [Retrieved] Date, [from] URL of website.
American Psychological Association. (2008). HIV Office on Psychology Education (HOPE). Retrieved June 24, 2008, from http://www.apa.org/pi/aids/hope.html
If there’s a dot there, put it in. If it’s in italics, do it! It takes a few seconds and could be the difference between a 2:1 and 1st depending on the strictness of the markers!
Take pride in the presentation.
I’m guessing you’ve probably been given presentation pointers already by your University, if so – follow them! If not, it only takes a few seconds at the end of the assignment to make sure the fonts are easy to read, the size is appropriate etc. For all my assignments, I put them in Times New Roman, 12pt, line spacing at 1.5 or 2 lines. Make sure to put page numbers at the bottom, and include a header with your student number/ID and the module title. Include a cover sheet as well if that’s what your department asks for.
SPAG is crucial, but you should know that by now…
As if you haven’t heard it enough, spelling, punctuation and grammar are crucial! Simple rules you should have learnt at GCSE or even earlier should still apply now. Paragraphs should be used properly, everything should be spelt correctly and punctuation in the right places. Sentences are meant to be no longer than 25 words. If you can’t spell properly and use the right grammar, it just looks really bad for you when someone comes to mark it. A badly spelt essay just looks… stupid, and you’ll get a grade to reflect that.
I think that’s pretty much it!
If there’s a couple of those pointers that are most important, it’s leave yourself lots of time to research and prepare & research the topic area thoroughly. Lecturers can really tell when someone has explored the topic well, and it will show in the writing. Psychology is an academic study, so use loads of studies to support all your statements. If you do that, you’re pretty much guaranteed a first as long as you write it up correctly, and ALWAYS link back to the question!
If I think of anymore points, I’ll add them in the future!
Thanks for reading,
Entry filed under: Other. Tags: essays, Students.
How to tell if someone is lying… maybe.Attribution.
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:
- Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory and its observational learning. (check here: AP Psychology Paper Sample: Albert Bandura)
- Psychology of games: What is the secret of the popularity of Pokemon Go? (check here: Psychology Papers: The One about Pokémon Go)
- Psychological manipulation of consciousness and methods of protection. (check here: Advertising Essay Sample: People’s Psychology Manipulation)
- Psychological features of professional restaurant business work. (check here: Psychology Paper Sample: Restaurants)
- Protective methods in psychodiagnostic testing: Hand Test, Rorschach test and Lüscher color test. (check here: Psychology Essay: The Rorschach Test)
- Experiment as a method of psychological research and its ethical problems. (check here: Psychology Essay Example: Failed Experiments)
- Compulsive buying disorder: The psychology of sales. (check here: Psychology Behind Love For The Black Friday)
- Psychology of needs: How does Maslow’s Pyramid works? (check here: Psychology Essay Sample: Maslow’s Concept)
- Contradictions of the Muslim religion and classical psychology. (check here: College Essay Samples: The One about Muslim Students)
- 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:
- The diagnosis of attention in children with disabilities.
- Mechanisms of psychological protection of drug addicts and their relationship with personality traits.
- Pathological study of cognitive processes in organic brain lesions.
- Methods of diagnosis of specific personality disorders among young people.
- Psychological model of social anxiety disorder. Diagnosis and treatment.
- Violation of the basic components of cognitive activity in young men and women with schizophrenic disorders.
- Features of the course of circular depressions in patients with concomitant personality disorder.
- Depressive disorder with generalized anxiety. Diagnosis and treatment.
- The influence of hereditary factors in the formation of depressive disorders in children and adolescents.
- Clinical features of a recurrent depressive disorder in the cases of multiple sclerosis.
- Differential diagnosis and treatment of depressive disorders in women during menopause.
- Factors influencing the clinic and treating depressive disorders.
- Theoretical analysis of the mechanisms of the emotional Stroop effect.
- Perfectionism and satisfaction with body image in the personality structure of patients with eating disorders and alimentary obesity.
- The use of group art therapy in the complex hospital treatment of patients suffering from severe mental disorders.
- System of psychotherapy for family disadaptation in men and women with personality disorders.
- Approaches to complex therapy of panic disorder. Treatment options.
- Personal features in the mechanisms of the pathogenesis of a panic disorder.
- The occurrence of nocturnal panic attacks and their connection with depressive disorders.
- 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:
- Determination of levels of understanding of the child on the experiments connected with the Piaget phenomenon.
- Development of reflective judgment and moral judgment.
- Role games as a means of developing psychological competence in adolescence.
- Diagnosis of child giftedness in early ontogeny.
- Analysis of reasons why children are fighting.
- The concept of aggression and the causes of its manifestation in children.
- Development of self-confidence in middle childhood (from 7 to 11 years).
- History and causes of dyslexia. A review of various modern methods of diagnosis and correction of dyslexia.
- The psychological status of a person subjected to abuse in the family.
- Prevention of child suicides and their relationship to family conflicts.
- Peculiarities of personal development and aggressive behavior of adolescent boys from single-parent families.
- Personal determinants of parenthood: paternity and masculinity.
- Gender roles: positive and negative impact on family relationships.
- How the roles of men and women have changed in society.
- Influence of mass media on the formation of the child’s personality.
- Features of mental and psychosexual development of persons who have experienced sexual violence.
- Psychological features that precede the formation of homosexuality.
- Moral development stages. Heinz’s Dilemma “Greedy Apothecary” or “Hack a Pharmacy?”
- Personal and social-emotional development in late adulthood (old age).
- Behavioral and emotional characteristics of adolescents from divorced families.
Cognitive Psychology Papers Topics
Among the most recommended cognitive psychology papers topics are:
- Cognitive psychology of coping with loneliness.
- Comparison of early Buddhism and concepts of cognitive psychology.
- Cognitive styles and impulsivity among gamers with different levels of gaming activity.
- Social expectations for gifted children from the standpoint of cognitive psychology.
- Manifestation of the cognitive unconscious in the phenomenon of overconfidence.
- Behavioral and cognitive impact of the media on adolescents.
- The influence of music on the cognitive development of children of primary school age.
- Art-therapeutic methods and techniques in socio-psychological training.
- Emotional responsiveness: content and methods of development.
- The natural and social components of empathy and altruism.
- The diagnostic and therapeutic importance of medical empathy in psychiatry.
- Features of cognitive development of preschool children.
- The role of attention in the development of cognitive processes.
- Influence of power loads of different directions on the properties of short-term memory.
- Psychology of metacognitive processes of personality and its intricate relation with cognition.
- Psychological mechanisms of the “Deja vu” effect.
- Mental images of higher orders: the word as sounding and as meaning.
- Paramnesia: Cryptomnesia, false memory syndrome and confabulation.
- Cognitive psychology: the theory of the dual process of thinking.
- 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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