Writing a psychology essay can be tons of fun — especially if you are interested in the subject matter and are familiar with the essentials of academic writing. The planning and organization process is the same as with any other type of academic writing, which means that you will have to dedicate a lot of time for researching the material, analyzing your sources, coming up with a comprehensive outline, putting all of those ideas in writing, and, finally, formatting the paper in accord with academic writing requirements. Then, of course, you will have to dedicate some time to editing and proofreading, which — if approached correctly — can be quite time-consuming.
In this post, we will focus on all of the areas discussed above, as well as offer you some insight on how a psychology essay differs from other academic writing types. Let’s get started.
Create your strategy
As it was already mentioned, planning is a crucial stage of any essay writing project. Obvious as it may sound, you are to start with the assignment. You’d be surprised to know how many students fail to read their prompts carefully enough, which — sad as it may sound — loses them a lot of precious points on a final score. So, instead of just glancing at your topic and jumping to research, take some time to think of what the assignment is actually about. Do not just focus on the main keywords stated in your prompt; read a lot of the material on the subject — the result will be worth the effort. Think of this stage as the strategy for your psychology essay.
Analyze and research
If you have taken the first step seriously, you should already have some ideas on what your paper is going to be about. Now, it’s time for a more in-depth analysis of the topic. The best way to start here is the local database in your college or university. If you want to save time on this stage, you can read through abstracts of academic papers you are dealing with. There is a very good reason to start with an abstract — it is the condensed gist of the entire article/research in question, after all. If you find something of interest, you can come back to the full study later.
Online databases are another way to move your research forward. Remember, though, that google.com is not the best place to start searching. There are better resources for that, like Google Scholar, for example. In case of a psychology essay, though, allpsych.com may prove even a better, more efficient idea.
At this stage, it is also important to take notes on the useful material you find. The simplest way is to highlight the information you plan to refer to in your work. But, if you want to save even more time on the actual writing stage, you can make more comprehensive notes on the go. If you choose to go with the second option, make sure to include referencing information with each thought you are writing down.
Do you need an outline?
There is no definite answer to that; however, if you want to create a truly impressive psychology essay, having an outline is strongly advisable. It is true that some students never experience a writing block; still, a psychology essay is not just a free writing exercise. It is a structured and carefully organized research on the subject, where each new thought logically follows a preceding argument, thus, building up to a strong thesis defense.
Outlining the essay in advance helps to achieve this exact effect. Sure, writing an outline will take a bit extra time on the research stage; however, it saves plenty of it while writing — so you better give it a shot.
Writing and structuring the paper
You can make use of the following structure to work on your outline; or, if you decide against having one in your paper, make sure to stick to this structural skeleton as you write the first draft.
Introduction. This is the part that briefly describes the problem you are to analyze and — ideally — hooks the reader. That is why it would be useful to include any interesting facts or stats here. Another way to ignite the reader’s interest is to explain why the topic you are about to cover is important — maybe, few researches covered it; or, you simply have something valuable to add to the subject in question.
The main question. Also known as the thesis statement, this is the main argument you will be focusing on in your work. It is common to place your main research question at the end of your introductory paragraph — just as you would do with any other thesis statement. When dealing with more voluminous works, you can replace a thesis with a hypothesis. In this case, it will be placed in a separate paragraph that follows your introduction.
Literature review. When working on a relatively short (five pages or less) essay, you may not need this part. However, when dealing with complex notions that require a lot of research on the subject, the section becomes essential. A solid literature review offers a brief recap of all the sources analyzed during the research, with a strong emphasis on why these sources were relevant for your subject matter, and how.
Conclusion. By the time you start writing a conclusion, your main body sections (or chapters, depending on the length and extent of your work) should leave no questions without answers. Remember, a conclusion is a part that sums up the results and highlights your findings. This is not a place to introduce new questions. You may, however, mention the possibility of further research — as a rule, this will give your paper a better standing in the academic community.
Also, remember about academic formatting requirements. In case of the psychology essay, APA is an obvious choice — after all, it stands for American Psychological Association. However, you should still double-check this issue with your professor. Even though APA is an obvious, by-default choice here, some professors and educational establishments call for Harvard format. Formatting may sound like a trifle thing as compared to the paper contents. Still, the sad truth is, a poorly formatted paper will lose you points on the checklist, no matter how bright and engaging your research is.
Don’t underestimate editing and proofreading
No matter how great of a writer you may be, you are still not safe from typos and other mechanical errors. The obvious way to spot them is to come back to your psychology essay the day after you finish it. While dealing with lengthier, more complex assignment, you may even allow a couple of days for editing and proofreading.
Another tip here would be to focus on the contents of your paper first. Look for logical flaws and/or ways to improve the meaning of your work. Only when you are fully satisfied with the logic and structure, can you move on to spelling and mechanics.
While psychology essay follows the general rules of essay writing, you still have to remember one major difference: a solid psychology essay offers your interpretation of the subject in question. Even though you are to analyze other people’s work, you are still supposed to present your analysis.