How to Write a Psychology Essay
Before you begin to write your psychology essay, it’s a good idea to decide just what area of psychology you want to focus on. Without a proper focus, the essay will be meandering and uninteresting. A good choice is educational psychology.
What’s Educational Psychology?
Educational psychology is the study of children in an educational environment and looks at the way they learn, teaching methods and childhood development and aptitude. When this is used properly, it’s possible to improve the methods used for teaching children.
Many psychology articles have been written on the results of educational psychology and can be used as you write your essay. Psychology research articles can be found online and quoted or referenced in your psychology essay.
With so many options in careers with a psychology degree, you can write on literally any area of psychology, but educational psychology is one area that is particularly interesting. The examples we give here will be in this field.
Wondering what’s psychology? It is the science of studying the human mind and how it works. The main focus here is on behavior, particularly in various environments. It’s a fascinating area of study and one that can lead you in many different directions when you write your essay. Whatever you choose to write about, you’ll find plenty of facts, studies and stats to back your statements up.
With so many studies to choose from, be sure to narrow your research to the ones that are published by reputable journals or education sites. It’s important not to get caught up in quasi-psychology topics and blog posts.
To avoid starting your essay abruptly, you’ll want an introduction. This is the first paragraph of the essay and should be just three to five sentences long. The purpose of the introductory paragraph is simple; it’s designed to explain what the essay will be about. An educational psychology essay will tend to be an expository essay or one that explains the topic. In this case, you’ll be educating people on this particular branch of psychology (unless you choose a different psychology topic).
The introduction should include your thesis statement, which will tell the reader what the main point of the essay is. Let the reader know what to expect in this section.
The main part of the essay is the body, which will be anywhere from three to eight paragraphs long. Each paragraph can be several sentences long, but each one should stay focused on a single idea that supports the thesis statement.
For every main idea, you’ll want to use data or research that you’ve looked up and collected from reputable sources. The first sentence can be written as the main idea, then follow up with the supporting information.
Use the information you collected in the pre-writing phase, through your research. You should have plenty of information and facts to sift through, so you can select the information that best describes educational psychology. Remember that you want to provide your reader with a good idea of what it’s all about and educate them if they’ve never heard of this area of study before.
The conclusion paragraph is a tidy way to round up all the information that was given in the psychology essay and present the thesis statement one last time. Ideally, you will rewrite the thesis to make it slightly different, without losing the main intent. The conclusion paragraph should be roughly the same length as the introduction, or slightly shorter. You don’t need much space to sum up the whole essay.
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.
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