How to write a psychology research paper

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If you’re working on a psychology research paper, you may find the writing process a little overwhelming. If you know where to start, it will make things less stressful and much easier.

Below you will find useful tips on how to write a psychology research paper and improve your writing skills.

The kind of paper you are writing

First of all, find out what kind of paper you are expected to prepare. There are several common types of psychology papers. They include:

  • Lab report or original research. This is an empirical paper or a report that provides details of your research. You will need to prepare this kind of paper if your professor asks you to conduct your own psychology experiment. You will need to follow the basic format like an APA and include a title, abstract, entry, methods, results, discussion, and references.
  • Literature review. In this kind of paper, you need to summarize the research conducted by others on a certain subject. If you are preparing a paper in this form, your professor may indicate the number of studies you need to cite as well as what length your paper should be. Usually, students are required to cite from 5 to 20 studies and create a paper that is from 8 to 20 pages long. When preparing this kind of a psychology research paper, you will need to include an entry, body, as well as implications, discussion, and conclusions. Literature reviews often start by specifying the research issue before you narrow the focus to certain studies. Then you will need to describe every study in detail. Also, you need to compare and evaluate the studies that you use and include your discussion of the implications of the findings.

Understanding the question of the essay

Before you start working on your essay it is necessary to analyze the assignment and understand what the assignment question is asking. Sometimes your professor will give you some advice, which you need to pay attention to in order to better prepare your answer.

Then you need to conduct prior research reading through your lecture notes. At this point you don’t need to have a thorough understanding of the main theories or studies but you should have at least a general idea of the literature.

Once you go through your notes, plan an answer to the assignment. This plan can be in the following forms:

  • A summary table
  • A mind map
  • A core statement

Once your plan is ready, do supplementary reading improving your plan and making it more detailed.

Of course, you may want to skip these prior steps and just write the draft while reading. However, planning and reading will make your writing process quicker, easier, and ensure that you deliver a high-quality essay.

Selecting a good idea for your paper

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When you know what kind of paper you need to prepare, it is necessary to select a good subject. Sometimes you may be assigned at topic or at least given a general theme you need to focus on.

When choosing the subject, try to stay away from general and to broad problems. For instance, instead of writing a paper on a general subject such as attachment, concentrate on how insecure attachment styles in childhood influence romantic attachment later in life.

When you narrow your subject down, it allows you to concentrate your research on important things, develop your thesis, and fully study the appropriate findings.

Psychology topics you may consider writing about include:

  • Child obesity and mental health
  • Is hypnosis effective in quitting smoking?
  • Mental illnesses
  • Depression and work performance
  • Things that affect our motivation
  • Miscarriage and its influence on mental health of the couple
  • Impact of violent music on kids
  • Reasons and consequences of introverted behavior in adults
  • Why do people have phobias
  • The role of environment in personality development
  • The reason for rate rise in divorce

An effective research strategy

In the process of going through references for your psychology research paper, take notes and begin developing your bibliography. It is very difficult to structure information and cite sources if you need to constantly look information up. There is nothing worse when you can’t track back to the source, which is important for your paper.

Things that constitute a good paper in psychology

If you want to know how to write a psychology research paper in a professional manner, there are several things that will help you do that. They include:

  • Understanding and knowledge. You need to remember, recognize, and demonstrate understanding on the range of scientific material that precisely reflects the main theoretical perspectives.
  • A global structure. You need to structure the material in a way that would allow for a logical order of ideas. Every paragraph should flow from its predecessor. Your paper should flow. Everything have to be linked in an essay. There should be a major theme in every paragraph and it has to be demonstrated and developed through a number of points backed up by evidence.
  • Written communication. Write briefly and clearly using appropriate paragraphs, grammar, and spelling. Reference all the sources according to the APA guidelines.
  • Critical assessment. You should support the argument by appropriate evidence and/or theory from the literature. Also use insight, evidence of independent thinking, and evaluation of evidence.

Writing an outline

If you develop a strong working framework, you can save a lot of time and avoid frustration and hassle. This way you can also notice potential issues with flow and organization of your content.

When you line out what you are going to write about, it will be easier for you to see how one idea flows into the next one and how your research backs up the general hypothesis.

Begin by drafting three fundamental sections:

  • The entry
  • The body
  • The deduction

Then start working on subsections based on the literature review. The more details you include in your outline, the easier it will be for you to prepare your psychology paper.

Sections of a paper

Your psychology research paper should include the following sections:

  • Title. Here you need to say as much as possible about the content of your research in as few words as possible.
  • Abstract. This is a short summary of the whole essay including the issue, the method you use for solving it, the results you achieve, and the drawn or suggested findings. This is the section that usually consists of only one paragraph so you need to include all the necessary information here very briefly. The objective of the abstract is to allow the reader to decide whether or not they want to read the paper.
  • Entry. In this section, you tell the audience what the issue is, what question you are trying to find an answer to, and why it is important. The importance of the issue may be for practical or theoretical reasons. If your issue is basic, you may indicate it first and then review what has already been studied about it.
  • Method. In this section, you need to provide the details of how you researched your project. The section is usually split into subsections like materials, subjects, and procedure.
  • Results this is a summary that includes information on what you have found in your research. It should let the audience know what summary statistics you are using and how it will help them understand what happened. Here, you also need to include the results of statistical tests. In this section you can also insert tables, charts, and graphs.
  • Discussion. It is recommended to start the discussion with the summary of the results to help the readers skip the section of results if they want to. Here you need to return to your initial question and explain what’s your results have to say about it. You may combine the discussion section with the results putting the results in the context of the problems that form them. This is also a good place to say anything else you want to say that didn’t fit anywhere else in your research like implications of the results, methods, etc.
  • References. Here, you need to cite articles you used in your research.
  • Footnotes. If you want to say something that is not necessary, you can do that in a footnote.

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