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Psychology term papers: refining your writing

To the surprise of many new psychology majors, the field of psychology is highly writing intensive. If you cannot write in a coherent, informative fashion about a number of psychological constructs, your grade in your psychology major will suffer deeply. It is necessary, then, that you learn to hone your writing and refine your final products before turning them in.

But how does one become a more skilled and proficient psychology writer? Follow the tips below to start improving your essays and papers.

Understand Theory

Like any science, psychology is a combination of empirical testing and highly abstract theorizing. Many students of psychology struggle with this latter aspect. It is important to understand how various findings within psychology relate to one another, under the umbrella of a complex and well articulated scientific theory.

Never take a set of experimental results at face value. This applies even when you are outside of the classroom. When you encounter a research finding of any kind, ask yourself what the mechanism is that underlies the phenomenon. What makes this pattern of results happen? Would you have expected these results? Why or why not? Given this pattern of results, what further predictions or inferences could you make about related topics? Thinking theoretically will make you a more critical scientist and a better writer.

Learn the Jargon

Psychology is a field that possess a ton of specific language, and you must know how to use this language correctly and adeptly if you are going to succeed. Many students get confused about the difference between an independent variable and a dependent variable, or a correlation and a t-test. Learn your research terminology so that you know it forward and backward. What is a type one error? What is a type two error? Can you give examples of each? Practice defining and explaining these terms until they are part of your working vocabulary.

Don’t Believe Media Portrayals

The media misrepresents many psychological phenomena. Do not let this misinformation taint your psychology papers! Rethink everything you have been taught to believe about gender differences, parenting styles and their effects, how prejudice works, how the brain functions, how memory works, how reliable perceptions are, and how smart the average person is. Approach your psychology classes with an open mind and a ton of empathy, and remember that just because “everybody knows” a certain fact does not mean it is scientifically supported. Being a skeptical student of science and culture will make you a far more accomplished writer and a better scientist.