Critical Thinking Essays Psychology

Essay Writing Guide for Psychology Students

Saul McLeod published 2014


Before you write your essay it's important to analyse the task and understand exactly what the essay question is asking. It is possible your lecturer will give you some advice - pay attention to this as it will help you plan your answer.

Next conduct preliminary reading based on your lecture notes. At this stage it's not crucial to have a robust understanding of key theories or studies, but you should at least have a general 'gist' of the literature.

After reading, plan a response to the task. This plan could be in the form of a mind map, a summary table, or by writing a core statement (which encompass the entire argument of your essay in just a few sentences).

After writing your plan conduct supplementary reading and refine your plan and make it more detailed.

It is tempting to skip these preliminary steps and just write the first draft while reading at the same time. However, reading and planning will make the essay writing process easier, quicker, and ensure a higher quality essay is produced.

Now let us look at what constitutes a good essay in psychology. There are a number of important features.

  1. A Global Structure - structure the material in a way that allows for a logical sequence of ideas. Each paragraph / statement should follow sensibly from its predecessor. The essay should 'flow'. The introduction, main body and conclusion should all be linked.
  2. Each paragraph should comprise a main theme which are illustrated and developed through a number of points (supported by evidence).

  3. Knowledge and Understanding - recognise, recall and show understanding on a range of scientific material that accurately reflects the main theoretical perspectives.
  4. Critical Evaluation - arguments should be supported by appropriate evidence and/or theory from the literature. Evidence of independent thinking, insight and evaluation of the evidence.
  5. Quality of Written Communication - writing clearly and succinctly with appropriate use of paragraphs, spelling and grammar. All sources referenced accurately and in line with APA guidelines.

In the main body of the essay every paragraph should demonstrate both knowledge and critical evaluation.

There should also be an appropriate balance between these two essay components. Try to aim for about a 60/40 split if possible. Most students make the mistake of writing too much knowledge and not enough evaluation (which is the difficult bit).

It is best to structure your essay according to key themes. Themes are illustrated and developed through a number of points (supported by evidence). Choose relevant points only, ones that most reveal the theme or help to make a convincing and interesting argument.


Knowledge and Understanding

Remember that an essay is simply a discussion / argument on paper. Don't make the mistake of writing all the information you know regarding a particular topic.

You need to be concise, and clearly articulate your argument. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences.

Each paragraph should have a purpose / theme, and make a number of points - which need to be support by high quality evidence. Be clear why each point is is relevant to the argument. It would be useful at the beginning of each paragraph if you explicitly outlined the theme being discussed (.e.g. cognitive development, social development etc.).

Try not to overuse quotations in your essays. It is more appropriate to use original content to demonstrate your understanding.

Psychology is a science so you must support your ideas with evidence (not your own personal opinion). If you are discussing a theory or research study make sure you cite the source of the information.

Note this is not the author of a textbook you have read - but the original source / author(s) of the theory or research study.

For example:

Bowlby (1951) claimed that mothering is almost useless if delayed until after two and a half to three years and, for most children, if delayed till after 12 months, i.e. there is a critical period.

Or

Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to fullfil the next one, and so on.

As a general rule make sure there is at least one citation (i.e. name of psychologist and date of publication) in each paragraph.

Remember to answer the essay question. Underline the key words in the essay title. Don't make the mistake of simply writing everything you know of a particular topic, be selective. Each paragraph in your essay should contribute to answering the essay question.


Critical Evaluation

In simple terms this means outlining the strengths and limitations of a theory or research study.

There are many ways you can critically evaluate:

  • Methodological evaluation of research -

    Is the study valid / reliable? Is the sample biased or can we generalize the findings to other populations? What are the strengths and limitations of the method used and data obtained?

  • Be careful to ensure that any methodological criticisms are justified and not trite. Rather than hunting for weaknesses in every study; only highlight limitations which make you doubt the conclusions that the authors have drawn – e.g. where an alternative explanation might be equally likely because something hasn’t been adequately controlled.

  • Compare or contrast different theories -

    Outline how the theories are similar and how they differ. This could be two (or more) theories of personality / memory / child development etc. Also try to communicate the value of the theory / study.
  • Debates or perspectives -

    Refer to debates such as nature or nurture, reductionism vs. holism or the perspectives in psychology. For example, would they agree or disagree with a theory or the findings of the study?

  • What are the ethical issues of the research? -

    Does a study involve ethical issues such as deception, privacy, psychological and physical harm.
  • Gender bias -

    If research is biased towards men or women it does not provide a clear view of the behavior that has been studied. A dominantly male perspective is known as an androcentric bias.

  • Cultural bias -

    Is the theory / study ethnocentric? Psychology is predominantly a white, Euro-American enterprise. In some texts, over 90% of studies have US participants, who are predominantly white and middle class. Does the theory or study being discussed judge other cultures by Western standards?
  • Animal Research -

    This raises the issue of whether it’s morally and/or scientifically right to use animals. The main criterion is that benefits must outweigh costs. But benefits are almost always to humans and costs to animals.

    Animal research also raises the issue of extrapolation. Can we generalize from studies on animals to humans as their anatomy & physiology is different from humans?


The PEC System

It is very important to elaborate on your evaluation. Don't just write a shopping list of brief (one or two sentence) evaluation points. Instead make sure you expand on your points, remember, quality of evaluation is most important than quantity.

When you are writing an evaluation paragraph use the PEC system.

  • Make your Point.

  • Explain how and why the point is relevant.

  • Discuss the Consequences / implications of the theory or study. Are they positive or negative?

For Example

    (Point) It is argued that psychoanalytic therapy is only of benefit to an articulate, intelligent, affluent minority.

    (Explain) Because psychoanalytic therapy involves talking and gaining insight, and is costly and time-consuming, it is argued that it is only of benefit to an articulate, intelligent, affluent minority. Evidence suggests psychoanalytic therapy works best if the client is motivated and has a positive attitude.

    (Consequences) A depressed client’s apathy, flat emotional state and lack of motivation limit the appropriateness of psychoanalytic therapy for depression. Furthermore, the levels of dependency of depressed clients mean that transference is more likely to develop.


Using Research Studies in your Essays

Research studies can either be knowledge or evaluation.

  • If you refer to the procedures and findings of a study, this shows knowledge and understanding.
  • If you comment on what the studies shows, and what it supports and challenges about the theory in question, this shows evaluation.

Writing an Introduction

It is often best to write your introduction when you have finished the main body of the essay, so that you have a good understanding to the topic area.

If there is a word count for your essay try to devote 10% of this to your introduction.

Ideally the introduction should;

  1. Identify the subject of the essay and define the key terms.

  2. Highlight the major issues which “lie behind” the question. Let the reader know how you will focus your essay by identifying the main themes to be discussed.

  3. “Signpost” the essay’s key argument, (and, if possible, how this argument is structured).

Introductions are very important as first impressions count and they can create a halo effect in the mind of the lecturer grading your essay. If you start off well then you are more likely to be forgiven for the odd mistake later one.


Writing a Conclusion

So many students either forget to write a conclusion or fail to give it the attention it deserves. If there is a word count for your essay try to devote 10% of this to your conclusion.

Ideally the conclusion should summarize the key themes / arguments of your essay. State the take home message – don’t sit on the fence, instead weigh up the evidence presented in the essay and make a decision which side of the argument has more support.

Also, you might like to suggest what future research may need to be conducted and why (read the discussion section of journal articles for this).

Don't include new information / arguments (only information discussed in the main body of the essay).

If you are unsure of what to write read the essay question and answer it in one paragraph.

Points that unite or embrace several themes can be used to great effect as part of your conclusion.


The Importance of Flow

Obviously, what you write is important, but how you communicate your ideas / arguments has a significant influence on your overall grade. Most students may have similar information / content in their essays, but the better students communicate this information concisely and articulately.

When you have finished the first draft of your essay you must check if it 'flows'. This is an important feature of quality of communication (along with spelling and grammar).

This means that the paragraphs follow a logical order (like the chapters in a novel). Have a global structure with themes arranged in a way that allows for a logical sequence of ideas. You might want to rearrange (cut and paste) paragraphs to a different position in your essay if they don't appear to fit in with the essay structure.

To improve the flow of your essay make sure the last sentence of one paragraph links to first sentence of the next paragraph. This will help the essay flow and make it easier to read.

Finally, only repeat citations when it is unclear which study / theory you are discussing. Repeating citations unnecessarily disrupts the flow of an essay.


Referencing

The reference section is the list of all the sources cited in the essay (in alphabetical order). It is not a bibliography (a list of the books you used).

In simple terms every time you cite/refer to a name (and date) of a psychologist you need to reference the original source of the information.

If you have been using textbooks this is easy as the references are usually at the back of the book and you can just copy them down. If you have been using websites then you may have a problem as they might not provide a reference section for you to copy.

References need to be set out APA style:

Books

Author, A. A. (year). Title of work. Location: Publisher.

Journal Articles

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (year). Article title. Journal Title, volume number(issue number), page numbers

A simple way to write your reference section is use Google scholar. Just type the name and date of the psychologist in the search box and click on the 'cite' link.

Next, copy and paste the APA reference into the reference section of your essay.

Once again remember that references need to be in alphabetical order according to surname.


Further Information

Writing Skills for Psychologists

Study Skills

Essay Writing Guide

How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2014). Essay writing guide for psychology students. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/psychology-essay.html

There is a special process that starts the day we are born and lasts for our whole life, which is called learning. By engaging in this process we explore the world around us, feeling, sensing, and perceiving things in our own special ways; we understand how to talk, walk, think logically, and express ourselves, improving physically, mentally, and intellectually day by day. At the same time, we obtain critical thinking in psychology. Thanks to learning, we grow into mature individuals who are able to take care of themselves and people around on their own, apply the gained knowledge to different situations using various methods, and, therefore, survive in diverse conditions, which is our main goal as species.

Even though all of the described processes are completely natural, and they take place in lives of generations of people for thousands of years, humans stopped taking them for granted and started questioning their reason and origin just recently. How do we learn to understand things, what are we driven by acting and thinking in certain ways, why do we feel and behave as we do, are we actually free to make the decisions or the free will is just an illusion? These and many other complicated questions are the ones humans tried to answer for decades with no definitive results so far. We have surely come a long way and are getting closer to the truth every single day, as we continue the exploration and research. With the fast world evolution and knowledge available now, more and more opportunities to study and get the answers appear promptly, and it is crucial to take the chance to learn, progress, and try to clarify everything we do not yet understand. Fortunately, there is a science that can make it all possible. When writing a psychology term paper, students can develop the above-mentioned opportunities to the full extent.

This is a discipline, which takes a closer look at the human mind, thoughts, and behavior, trying to see what stands behind every idea, action, feeling, or any other process that takes place in the main operating center - the human brain. In other words, this science endeavors to develop the human critical thinking. Psychology homework help, which is often required by students, can be rather useful when trying to understand psychological principles. Attempting to explain individual preferences, choices, and deeds made, people went from attributing these things to something supernatural to making logical claims and experimenting to get results that are more realistic and accurate. Hence, after the years of studies, we can now certainly say that many of things can be explained through the way our brains function. The environment and other major factors also play a great role.

However, the smallest hormonal outbursts and chemical reactions in our body can change the way we act and think completely, making our brains and dependent organs the rulers of the ball. Thus, the science is closely related to biology, but, as its focus is different, it is an independent field that helps to develop many others like nursing, medicine, marketing, health, and even programming. The given science is applicable almost in every sphere of human life, which makes it one of the most significant disciplines to learn. Therefore, it does not matter what your future degree is, this course is a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of yourself, other people, and the variety of things that control our mind. One more opportunity of this course can become the understanding of how to write a psychology term paper.

It is a very interesting subject, and you can get a lot of theoretical knowledge and practical experience while studying. As paper writing is considered as a great way to learn something new, you will have to work on numerous essays during the course. Sometimes, you will lack time to produce a nice psychology coursework. It may happen because your topic will be way too complex, or the work itself will not be of a big value for you. In such situations, it is important to remember that you do not have to fail the class because of obstacles that do not let you complete the task properly and timely, as a professional psychology assignment help is always at your service. Pro-Papers.com is here online 24/7 to back you up and provide you with an excellent paper within any time. Hence, you may stop worrying about assignments that pop up in the most unsuitable moment, as the superior psychology essay writing service is here to cover your back whenever you need expert help.

Even though you may be familiar with essays, papers on different subjects require different writing approaches. Hence, when writing a psychology research paper, you have to consider peculiar properties of the discipline in order to complete the assignment qualitatively. Luckily, knowledge of a few simple rules is all you need to spend less time preparing to write and create a nice paper faster and better.

  1. Be careful with the sources.
    The study is constantly changing and improving, which is great as there is always an opportunity to learn something new and use numerous available sources to accomplish a good case study. Psychology is a very broad subject, so you will definitely have enough sources to look through when preparing a case study and contribute to your field of studies. However, not all literature you will review is going to be credible and reliable enough to use. Many of methods psychologists use for their studies today are not approved internationally, and, hence, books and articles they write may not include the solid data for your psychology thesis paper. Some sources can be too old to take the information from, and others can be brand new, which means specialists have not assessed and proved them to be trustworthy yet. Therefore, your main goal while searching for the literature is to scan every piece you look through to understand whether it can and should be used when writing for psychology class.
  2. Check terms and abbreviations.
    One of the biggest mistakes students make while writing papers is using wrong terms. Even some of the best articles may have words with typos, and it is important to check at least those you want to put down in your work. Also, some terms can be used in certain contexts only, and your paper will sound foolish if you are not aware of such unique features. Students face even more issues with the abbreviations, as a missing or a wrong letter may completely ruin the work, making it senseless. Therefore, it is always better to check twice whether any words you want to use exist, fit the sentence, and mean what you want to express.
  3. The more facts - the better.
    It certainly does not mean you have to put the set of random facts into your paper. What you should actually do is to make sure all claims you state are logically derived from facts you have acknowledged from the reliable sources. The given psychology dissertation help will allow you to complete your task more successfully. If you want your readers to understand your flow of thoughts, it is crucial to explain how you have reached certain conclusions in details so that your teacher will have no doubt that the paper was written by you, and the research and analysis were accurate enough to be trusted.

One more thing you should not forget about while working on your psychology research paper is to proofread it afterward. You have probably been told about editing and proofreading hundreds of times. No matter how hard you try to create a perfect paper, there will be a few typos, mistakes, or inconsistencies when you finish. If you do not want to be graded badly for all efforts you have made, you need to either take the advice and edit your papers every time you finish writing, or hire a specialist to do it for you. As Pro-Papers.com is the best research paper writing and editing service, you already have an expert to help you out. Pass paper requirements to our professional team, indicate parts you want the writers to focus on and let our team make you work clean, neat, coherent, and impeccable. Taking into account the above-mentioned information, there is no more need to use different search engines typing such phrases as "write my psychology research paper."

Nowadays, most of the teachers and professors are adapting the concept of not imposing their preferences on students. Therefore, they rarely give topics for papers that are being assigned, leaving students the right to choose something they like, but what has to do with the course. It seems great, as you will not have to work on papers you do not find interesting. The main problem is that you will spend a lot of time searching for a good topic for the paper. Hence, Pro-Papers.com has decided to ease the research process. So, if you feel like writing tips did not answer your questions such as "how to write a psychology paper", here are a few options that will turn into a great support for you.

  1. Experiment overview.
    Psychology uses numerous methods to find or understand issues, and one of the most effective is, of course, a good old experiment. It may involve people or animals, and can be either purely observational or require a specialist to intervene the natural processes and make surgeries, remove or add some tissues, etc. Nevertheless, professionals, who work on the experiment, usually take a lot of notes and save data obtained or derived from the implementation, so that it would be possible to describe everything step-by-step after the completion and have an opportunity to recreate the experiment later. Hence, you can easily access the information on popular experiments that have been published and, afterward, produce the work, which describes and analyzes some of them. As data is very detailed in most of the cases, you can think through steps that have been taken, indicate decisions that have led to failures, if there were any, suggest the better methods, and point out limitations or the bias.
  2. Phobias.
    It is natural to be afraid of something, and all humans have their own fears. Studying them, scientists realized that people could be scared of almost everything, whether abstract or real, and these fears are called phobias. People can live their whole life with certain phobias and barely experience any troubles out of having ones. However, there are some individuals whose lives are dependent on their fears as they constantly face them and cannot engage in any activities due to the experienced discomfort. It is important to look for the source of the problem, examine situations it occurs in and suggest some ways to treat a patient who is facing such issues. The paper on this topic can be based on the exact example from someone's life, or simply discuss primary causes of different phobias. The topic is easily researchable and interesting, so you can write both an excellent research paper and a great essay on it.
  3. Learning disabilities.
    If you think about working in educational sphere in the future, this topic will suit your paper perfectly. As there are thousands of students with learning problems coming to the schools each year, there is a need for effective methods of teaching and treating such children at the early age to facilitate their lives and make sure that issues of this kind will not cast a shadow on their future. Also, there are special facilities for the kids with serious disabilities, and the programs used there should be improved or new methods suggested. Thus, there are plenty of areas that can be covered and numerous disabilities you can discuss and propose the treatment methods for.
  4. The art of persuasion.
    If you have ever had a feeling like buying something after watching the commercial, it means that the advertising team did not skip psychology classes. The marketing sphere and media work successfully and influence people in such a great way because they play on basic needs and instincts using them to promote products and services. Mix some of the 'deadly' sins with Maslow's needs hierarchy and you will sell more and better than all your opponents. Why are commercials so productive, how do they address specific audiences, what kind of tricks work the best? The number of questions that you can give the answers to in your paper is countless, and their actuality will barely fade with time, which makes this topic ideal for future marketing specialists and any interested individuals.
  5. The 'classic four.'
    Smoking, gambling, alcohol, and drug addiction are the four most frequently addressed issues in essays, and, therefore, can be referred to as classic ones. These topics are more suitable for school students or freshmen in colleges who do not have much time to bother about paperwork. Even though you have heard about all of the above-mentioned problems a lot, you can try to look at them from another viewpoint and create a paper, which will differ from the usual ones about these issues. You can focus on processes that happen in the organism during rehabilitation, or discuss the disposition to alcoholism in teenagers from different regions; just make sure your paper does not look like a typical sample from the web.

Whether you are pursuing a degree in psychology or just taking the additional class, all five mentioned variants are suitable for both research papers and essays on the subject. If you are looking for a special topic, which is rarely used in other papers, our experts will gladly advise you a few worthy ones. We definitely know how to make case study in psychology. Leave the burden of choice to the best psychology essay writers, and impress your teacher with a professional and creative work!

Psychology is one of the most popular sciences learned in the world, as specialists in all fields have to have at least a basic knowledge on the subject. It is a very interesting, valuable, significant, and useful school and university course unless you have to write a lot of psychology research articles. With tons of homework for other classes, job, and all activities you have to be involved in every day, it is hard to find time to devote to psychology essay writing and complete it properly. Luckily, you do not have to cancel any of the plans as you can simply pass the writing burden to specialists.

Pro-Papers.com is one of the best customer service coursework writing websites and, at the same time, psychology essay writing services, which is always ready to help you with any writing task. All our writers are experts in the field who have received the degrees in psychology and are now successfully practicing it. Therefore, they have the expertise and experience needed to produce a great paper on any topic in the sphere, even a psychology resume.

All works we deliver are 100% original and error-free as we check them with the software of the high accuracy, and carefully proofread afterward. Our specialists follow all requirements provided; they adjust psychology articles to the important standards so that you can be sure that the delivered work will look highly professional and meet expectations of your teacher. You will be able to exchange messages with a writer who works on your assignment anytime if you need to ask a question or clarify an issue. Hence, you can control the whole process and check on the progress made whenever you want. Our support team is available 24/7 and ready to assist you on the first call. Buy college term papers at Pro-Papers.com and receive an excellent psychology essay writing help for the affordable price today!

LevelUndergraduateBachelorProfessional
Writing from scratch
14 days101518
10 days141720
7 days151922
5 days172124
3 days182328
2 days202430
24 hours222634
12 hours242737
8 hours252838
6 hours303543
Editing/Proofreading
14 days6911
10 days81012
7 days91113
5 days101214
3 days111317
2 days121418
24 hours131520
12 hours141621
8 hours151722
6 hours182126

0 thoughts on “Critical Thinking Essays Psychology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *