8 Tips for Writing Psychology Papers
Psychology is a fascinating subject, but it will soon become clear that the classes are swamped with paper after paper if you talk to any psych major. It can be overwhelming when you get your first research assignment and have no idea how to write one. The thing is, you have to know what you’re doing when it comes to psychology papers to get a good mark. Ironically, I didn’t learn how to properly write one until my 300 level psychology course.
A lot of people usually skim the assignment before writing. A very easy way to get more marks is to read your assignment carefully. Highlight what concepts your professor wants you to cover, write down notes in the margin, and note anything important. It is vital to know your professor’s expectations, and you can only do this if you read the assignment carefully.
Research is probably the biggest part of a psychology paper. Usually, professors leave the research up to you unless it is a rare case where they provide you with the study. When writing your first paper, go to your university library and let the librarians show you how to find articles. The go-to database is PsychINFO to find relevant articles (most universities will have this available online).
Once you have found some articles around your subject, print them out (if possible) and read the article, paying attention to the abstract, results, conclusion and discussion. These sections will provide the most relevant information. Highlight the article and get comfortable with the concepts explained in the article. If you don’t know exactly what the article/study is talking about, it will show in your paper.
Make sure to write your thesis statement after you have read all of your articles. That way, you’ll be able to provide specific arguments. Your thesis statement should be specific and clear. Your entire paper will prove your thesis, so make sure you know what evidence you will use to support your thesis.
It is very easy to skip this step, but it will make your life so much easier when it comes to crunch time. When outlining, make sure to include your thesis, intro, body paragraph one, two and three (or however many paragraphs you need), and your conclusion. Write bullet points under each heading and put all of the direct quotations you will be using (to make it easier, write the quotations with the proper in-text citation in your outline).
The most frequent feedback I have gotten from professors is that I need to be more specific. For example, if I write, “The articles above show…” I need to mention what exact articles I am referring to. There is no room for vagueness in any scientific paper, so be sure to explain everything vital. This includes terms that the average reader wouldn’t know, the exact studies you’re referring to and specific points that support your claims. Remember: science is about evidence and data. Keep this in mind when writing your papers.
University libraries are fantastic resources. As I stated earlier, make sure to get the librarian’s help when learning how to properly search for articles. If your university has a blog, they will usually have great tips specific to your school. If you’re writing in APA format, Purdue University has an amazing online resource that shows you how to write APA correctly.
Purdue website: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/apa_sample_paper.html
Editing can get you from an 80 to an 86. Clarity and readability are vital to a good psychology paper, so send your final draft to a trusted friend or use an online grammar checker to edit it. As you start to write more papers, this step will grow to be more comfortable!
Once you get the hang of it, writing psychological papers can be fun and exciting. Do your research, be specific, and have fun!
Hello! My name is Emma. I am a fourth year psychology student and a part-time freelance writer. In my spare time you will find me writing, studying or reading. You can follow me on twitter at eparkerwriter.