The ability to write well is one of the most important skills you can gain as a psychology major. Most psychology courses require a significant amount of writing, including essays, case studies, research reports, and other papers. Learning effective communication skills will help you succeed in high school, university, graduate school and the work force.
How can you improve your writing skills? Start by viewing each class assignment as an opportunity to learn and practice.
Check out resources offered by your school such as tutors or writing labs and learn more about the different types of psychology writing. The following resources offer tips, guidelines and advice on how to write psychology papers.
Tips for Writing Psychology Papers
If you have never written a psychology paper before, you need to start with the basics. Psychology writing is much like other types of writing, but most instructors will have special requirements for each assignment. Always check the grading rubric for an assignment before you begin writing and brush up on the basics with these tips for writing psychology papers.
How to Write a Psychology Case Study
Students taking courses in abnormal psychology, child development, or psychotherapy will often be expected to write a case study on an individual - either real or imagined. Case studies vary somewhat, but most include a detailed history of the client, a description of the presenting problem, a diagnosis and discussion of possible treatments.
Before you begin your assignment, learn more about how to write a psychology case study.
How to Write a Psychology Lab Report
Lab reports are commonly assigned in experimental or research-based psychology courses. The structure of a lab report is very similar to that of a professional journal article, so reading a few research articles is a good way to start learning more about the basic format of a lab report.
Your lab report should provide a clear and concise overview of the experiment, research or study you conducted. Before you begin working on your paper, read more about how to write a psychology lab report.
How to Write a Psychology Critique Paper
Psychology critique papers are often required in psychology courses, so you should expect to write one at some point in your studies. Your professor may expect you to provide a critique on a book, journal article, or psychological theory. How can you prepare for this type of assignment? Start by reading these tips and guidelines for how to write a psychology critique paper.
How to Copy Edit a Psychology Paper
Before you turn in any type of psychology writing, it is vital to proofread and edit your work for errors, typos, and grammar. Do not just rely on your computer's spellchecker to do the job! Always read thoroughly through your paper to remove mistakes and ensure that your writing flows well and is structured logically. Finally, always have another person read your work to spot any mistakes you may have missed. You can find more tips and tricks for revising your papers in this article on how to copy edit a psychology paper.
A Guide to APA Format
Not learning APA format is mistake that costs points for many students.
APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association and is used in many different types of science writing, especially the social sciences. Before you hand in any writing assignment, always double-check your page format, in-text citations, and references for correct APA format. If you need directions or examples, check out this guide to APA format.
The purpose of an introduction in a psychology paper is to justify the reasons for writing about your topic. Your goal in this section is to introduce the topic to the reader, provide an overview of previous research on the topic and identify your own hypothesis. Before you even begin:
Stary by Researching Your Topic
Search a journal database, such as PsychInfo or ERIC, to find articles on your subject.
Once you have located an article, look at the reference section to locate other studies cited in the article. As you take notes from these articles, be sure to write down where you found the information. A simple note detailing the author's name, journal, and date of publication can help you keep track of sources and avoid plagiarism.
Create a Detailed Outline
This is often one of the most boring and onerous steps, so students have a tendency to skip outlining and go straight to writing. Creating an outline of might seem tedious, but it can be an enormous time-saver down the road and will make the writing process much easier. Start by looking over the notes you made during the research process and consider how you want to present all of your ideas and research.
Once you are ready to write your introduction:
Introduce the Topic
Your first task is to provide a brief description of the research question.
What is the experiment or study attempting to demonstrate? What phenomena are you studying? Provide a brief history of your topic and explain how it relates to your current research.
As you are introducing your topic, consider what makes it important? Why should it matter to your reader? The goal of your introduction is not only to let your reader know what your paper is about, but also to justify why it is important for them to learn more about.
If your paper tackles a controversial subject and is focused on resolving the issue, it is important to summarize both sides of the controversy in a fair and impartial way. Consider how your own paper fits in with the relevant research on the topic.
Summarize Previous Research
The second task of your introduction is to provide a well-rounded summary of previous research that is relevant to your topic. So, before you begin to write this summary, it is important to thoroughly research your topic. Finding appropriate sources amid thousands of journal articles can be a daunting task, but there are a number of steps you can take to simplify your research. If you have completed the initial steps of researching and keeping detailed notes, writing your introduction will come much easier.
It is important to give the reader a good overview of the historical context of the issue you are writing about, but do not feel like you have to give an exhaustive review of the subject. Focus on hitting the main points and try to include the most relevant studies. You might describe the findings of previous research and then explain how the current study differs or expands upon earlier research.
Provide Your Hypothesis
Once you have summarized the previous research, explain areas where the research is lacking or potentially flawed.
What is missing from previous studies on your topic? What research questions have yet to be answered? Your own hypothesis should lead from these questions. At the end of your introduction, offer your hypothesis and describe what you expected to find in your experiment or study.
- Use 3x5" note cards to write down notes and sources.
- Look in professional psychology journals for examples of introductions.
- Remember to cite your sources.
- Maintain a working bibliography with all of the sources you might use in your final paper. This will make it much easier to prepare your reference section later on.
- Use a copy of the APA style manual to ensure that your introduction and references are in proper APA format.