Psychology is one of the most interesting subjects in all levels of education. What’s cooler than exploring people’s subconscious and determining the reasons behind particular behavioral patterns? When your professor assigned your first psychology paper, you were probably enthusiastic about discovering your own angle to approach the topic. Then, you started conducting a research and you came across endless scientific studies written in incomprehensive language.
Since the psychology research paper has to convey factual knowledge supported by references, you first need to spend some time studying and understanding those sources before making any progress. Don’t worry; after reading this guide you’ll understand that writing a research paper for your psychology course is not as difficult as it seems.
Guide for Writing Your First Psychology Research Paper
1 . Choose a topic
n order to choose a definite topic, you need to understand what the project is all about. Your research paper is supposed to inform the reader about a theory, idea, or experiment from the area of psychologist. To achieve that goal, you need to settle for a clear, specific topic that won’t allow you to make digressions. Go through as many online resources as possible before you determine a topic for your project. This preliminary research stage will enable you to notice gaps in the general knowledge. Maybe you’ll come across a principle, experiment or theory that has been underestimated or overlooked in contemporary psychology. If that approach is too complex for you, then you can focus on finding aspects that haven’t been covered in the coursework material. The main purpose is to learn something new and showcase that knowledge through the project.
2 . The research stage
You already conducted a brief research before defining your topic. Now, it’s time for the actual research that will help you formulate a thesis and support your claims with facts. The primary goal of a research is to identify the knowledge present in authoritative literature from the field of psychology. You will discover different theories and explanations for a single term. Since this is a research project that’s supposed to present different aspects of the same matter, you’ll need to use as many of those resources as possible, even if they contradict each other.
You will need to evaluate those sources and determine your own point of view. Ideally, you should shed a new light on the topic you chose, and the reader should be open-minded about exploring the concepts you described further.
Be careful: not all online materials are considered to be reliable sources in psychology. Stick to the ones that have been peer-reviewed by other experts in the niche before they were published.
When you collect a nice base of authoritative resources related to your topic, you should separate them on primary, secondary and tertiary sources. You will mainly use the primary materials to identify the different sides of the topic and gather claims that you’ll discuss. However, all other resources will also take place in your project; they will help you interpret the main sources.
3 . Developing a thesis statement
After you review all materials you located, you will need to form the main thesis statement for your psychology research paper. This statement needs to present the conclusions you formed after examining the research materials. The statement should summarize, integrate, or reinterpret that data. As an example, you can form a thesis statement that says introversion does not predispose people to psychopathy.
Then, you will explain how you came to that conclusion by reviewing several primary, secondary and tertiary sources. You should also reference sources that claim the opposite, so your research paper will gain on clarity, depth and relevance.
4 . Developing a project based on in-depth research
Many students decide to fully base their projects upon the words of other authors. Of course you need to trust your research. You collected tons of materials and they helped you formed an opinion. That’s the main point: you need to have an opinion of your own! If your professor doesn’t recognize your reasoning behind all those materials you reference, your work will soon be discredited.
For example, American psychologists rely on the DSM standard when diagnosing mental health issues, but that approach differs from the one implemented in Europe. If you’re examining the diagnostics, you should look at both sides and form your own opinion on what’s right and wrong. Examine the strength and weaknesses of all claims and make sure to support them by secondary and tertiary resources.
5 . Structuring the project
You should form an outline that includes the following sections: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. That approach is similar to essay writing, but there is a difference: you need to use subtitles and more points in the body of the paper. This is the part where you provide the evidence that supports the claim you made in the introduction. Provide the facts from the research that has been conducted on the topic, as well as information about the controversies and opposing opinions. Then, you should relate the evidence to the thesis statement you made.
In the conclusion of your research paper, you should wrap up the discussion and describe the questions it implies. What do your conclusions mean for the overall psychology? Did you find a new angle to approach the topic? What further research needs to be conducted for clarifying the main and underlying issues?
Extra Tip: Write as Much as Possible
This is not a simple essay; your professor wants you to prove that you’ve examined the topic in depth and you stand behind all those claims you make. You need to provide as much information as possible; that’s the only way to make a psychology research paper authoritative and useful.
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