Writing Assignments in Psychology

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Writing Assignments in Psychology

Being a student of the psychology department or taking a course in this field is exciting and educational, as it implies processing tones of interesting information about the human psyche and brain and discovering new aspects of your own character. Along with reading and learning, a lot of writing is involved, and all sorts of essays, term papers, reports, etc. become the students’ daily routines. Coping with the written assignments properly is obligatory for successful graduation and good grades, so one has to learn how to compose various types of papers on psychology. Our article presents the major types of writing tasks and gives expert tips on composing them correctly.

The Subject of Psychology

To have a better understanding of papers on psychology, it is important to know the nature of the discipline itself. Psychology is a science about human behavior and reactions and all the related processes. All the research work in psychology is aimed at noticing, describing, and predicting human reactions, emotions, and behavior, and a number of methods and approaches have been developed with this purpose. In general, all the writing assignments on psychology are related to the processes that happen within the human psyche and outside, in the social interaction.

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Papers on Psychology

Academic writing related to psychology should be compliant with the universal standards of writing scientific works. This means that all the existing norms of format, style, referencing, and paper organization is applicable to works on psychology. Clearly, such papers often involve making researches, processing sources of literature, incorporating data of other studies, and all the other procedures typical for scholarly papers.

Types of Assignments

Reaction papers

This type of task usually involves replying to a scholarly publication in one of the psychology journals. Such paper shows your ability to reflect on the other scholars’ works, define the strong and weak points in them, and give an objective assessment of their articles. As a rule, reaction papers have the following structure:

  • Introduction with a brief presentation of the analyzed article and its content;
  • Your personal assessment of the study’s findings and their importance for the field;
  • Defining the areas that require further research;
  • Discussing the study’s limitations or drawbacks, if any;
  • Conclusion within the frame of your class lectures.

As you can see, it is not enough to summarize the article and present its main points; a reaction paper asks for your perception and critical opinion on the study and its scientific value.

In order to write such a paper properly, the first thing you need to do is read the required article with your full focused attention. While the articles usually present all the objectives, findings, and methods in a clear and consecutive manner, your task is to read it between the lines and see the intentions of the author in it. You need to see if the study is significant in terms of the current state of research in this field and analyze its contribution to the addressed problem. In other words, you have to stay objectively critical, analyzing all the aspects of the paper.

For such assignments, only the articles published in respectable journals are considered. In some cases, you will be given an article to reflect on, in others, you will have to find one yourself. As a rule, professors suggest the portals and websites search publications, but even if they do not, you can always look for the needed material at official websites of various psychological institutions and associations, such as The American Psychological Association. There, you will see a number of sections, which contain different types of articles. These may be basically divided into empirical and theoretical, with the former focusing on experiments and newly found data, and the latter dealing with making assumptions on the basis of the already existing literature on the topic. The type of article to take for analysis will depend on your professor’s instructions.

You may find this article useful: APA Style for Dummies

Research papers

A research paper on psychology usually studies a certain problem or phenomenon by analyzing the existing literature related to this topic. However, it requires more than a summary of the works: it requires filtering out the unnecessary details and presenting only the material that is relevant to the studied question. You will also need to demonstrate your analytical skills and relate the sources to your thesis statement.

To write a good research paper, you need to define the topic in the first place. Before coordinating the topic with your supervisor, make sure that there is enough information available on this matter in books, journals, and on the Internet. Otherwise, the research will be impossible or will be limited due to a lack of materials to work with. In addition, you need to narrow your topic down to some specific problem or research question, which will be the central point of your work. The next step is reading all the available sources on the matter and highlighting the significant ideas in them. Then, an outline should be mapped out, with the basic elements of the research paper included. Next, you should write each section with enough examples and quotes from the sources you have worked with. After that, proper formatting takes place, with the thorough following of the required referencing rules.


You may also write your own study or empirical article at some point in your learning. A study should have a clear structure and present an in-depth analysis of a certain scholarly question. The main sections that are obligatory for this kind of paper include:

  • Introduction. This part briefly presents the topic and must end with a thesis statement – the central argument in your work. The introduction poses the main question that the whole paper will answer. It may also contain a theoretical framework that shows the current state of research in a particular field.
  • Methodology. This section of your study shows which approaches, methods, and tools you used to study your research question. There are certain methods available in every science, and you will need to choose one of the psychology’s methodological approaches. You need to discuss both what methods were used on the stage of data collection and on the stage of interpretation.
  • Results. In this part of your work, present what your study has shown. Besides just describing the research results, you need to relate them to the objectives that were set initially, pointing whether they managed to answer the questions and reach the purposes that you had set.
  • Discussion. Here, the results of your research have to be shown in the scope of the discipline. You are supposed to discuss how exactly your paper contributed to science and whether there still remain certain aspects that need further research.
  • Conclusion. This section should be a brief summary of the research course, with the thesis statement rephrased again.

Successful Writing in Psychology

In general, regardless of the type of paper and its purpose, your academic writing in psychology must be clear, informative, and consecutive. In addition, style and tone are significant. For better writing, you may use the following tips:

  • Use specific terms. Writing in psychology involves dealing with a lot of terms, so it is better to research and clarify them in order to present a proper scholarly explanation.
  • Choose literal rather than figurative. The scientific language has to be precise, and there is no place for lyrical metaphors.
  • Use the active voice. Passive voice may be needed for some studies, but in psychological articles, especially the empirical ones, active voice is more common.
  • Avoid using phrasal verbs. It is more formal and professional to use full verb forms.
  • No bias. In behavioral science, ambiguous situations are very frequent, but as a scholar, you need to stay neutral and impartial. Use the American Psychological Association’s guide for avoiding bias and judgments in academic writing to ensure the proper language in your works.
  • Avoid labeling people. It is unacceptable to divide people into categories based on the specificities of their mental or physical state, so pay special attention to this while writing your paper.
  • Always present accurate data. It is advisory to provide specific numbers and figures rather than give approximate estimates. Accuracy is the key to your study’s validation in the circle of other scholars.
  • Follow the required formatting rules. As with any other scientific writings, psychology papers require proper formatting and referencing. Special attention should be given to in-text citations: based on the referencing style required by your professor, you must cite every source properly.
  • Refer only to the respected sources. Peer-reviewed articles, studies from international journals, books by notorious scholars are some of the examples of good sources for your studies.

All in all, writing papers in psychology requires being clear, accurate, unbiased, and professional. You will learn all the nuances in the process of writing, and hopefully, our tips assisted you in it as well.

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