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How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay in Psychology - Research, Analyze, Criticize, Write It Down

Psychology is the science of our inner world, and this makes it a difficult discipline to write a critical essay. Each person subconsciously transfers his personal experience to paper, so in order for your essay to be as objective as possible, you need to partially turn off your inner world and turn on a researcher, critic, and analyst. In this article we tell how to cope with this task, observing the canons of academic writing, the requirements for critical thinking essays, plus the correct argumentation of your thoughts.

How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay in Psychology – Getting Started with the Subject of Your Research

In fact, a critical essay represents three types of student papers combined into one. And yes, this, unfortunately, does not facilitate this task, and you will also have to work in three stages to get the best result. As for the subject of critical thinking essay in psychology, in 90% of cases, it will be a certain psychological theory that you will need to study, analyze and then criticize.

Here are some interesting theories to choose from:

  • Driving Forces Of Personality Development According To A. Adler;
  • Theory Of Personality By K. Rogers;
  • Theory Of Personality’s Self-actualization By A. Maslow;
  • Theory Of Personality Types G. Eysenck;
  • The Structural Theory Of Personality Traits By R. Kettela;
  • The Dispositional Theory Of Personality Of G. Olport;
  • The Main Provisions Of The Epigenetic Theory Of Personality By E. Erickson;
  • The Sociocultural Theory Of Personality By K. Horney;
  • Typology Of Personality In The Theory Of E. Fromm;
  • The Humanistic Theory Of Personality By E. Fromm.

If You Had to Choose a Theory Yourself

Well, if your professor gave you the right to study psychology in the direction that you like, this is a good chance to deepen your knowledge on a certain topic. However, you should still be wary of choosing a theory or concept for your criticism. Try not to choose something too controversial and having a lot of pain points – to analyze and criticize such theories, you need to have very strong critical thinking skills and be very careful with the choice of words so that your criticism does not sound too harsh. Try to choose something neutral, but interesting and giving opportunities for thought. Let this topic be interesting to you, but it should not cause any painful associations for you personally – otherwise, you risk making your critical thinking essay on psychology too subjective and personal.

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?

Stages of Work on a Critical Essay in Psychology

So, we have already said that work on a critical essay should be carried out in three stages, and the first stage is a study.

Study

Obviously, in order to be able to evaluate the theory critically, you need to thoroughly study and understand it. To do this, you need to take a few steps.

It All Starts with the Theory

  • Start with the origins and identify the causes and prerequisites for the development and emergence of this theory. Analyze the life path of a certain scientist, find the factors that influenced him and the development of his theory.
  • Analyze the concept that the author of the theory introduces or uses to argue his views. Perhaps he uses generally accepted terms, or vice versa offers his new unique concept. In the latter case, you need to recall the rules for determining concepts from the point of view of logic and determine how the definition of a given concept is clear, concise, understandable, comprehensive and suitable for the phenomenon that it characterizes.
  • Analyze who is directly concerned with this theory. Perhaps this is a theory about children, young parents, or people suffering from certain mental illnesses. Determine how much a given theory really characterizes a particular type of person.
  • Trace the evolution of theory. Start with the origins and then analyze the train of thought of the author over time. Most likely, the theory has undergone many changes under the influence of various factors — you need to find these factors and analyze them.
  • Determine the time and place of origin of the theory. Why did it arise at that very moment, what problems did society and people who lived at the same time as the author of the theory have?

Now, before you begin to study the opinions of other scientists regarding this theory, try to honestly answer questions about the strengths and weaknesses of this theory from your point of view. For now, let it be your personal opinion – but you still need to formulate it, firstly, so that your essay resonates with your inner perception, and secondly so that you can accurately understand what arguments you need to look for to reinforce your opinion.

Important! Do not be alarmed if at the next stage, when we move on to additional scientific sources, your opinion will change. It is a normal practice to start looking at things differently under the influence of other people’s arguments. Your task in this essay is to do the same. Moreover, the quality of your essay will not change in any way depending on the opinion you will justify – most importantly, adhere to the rules of scientific criticism and back up your words with reliable sources and evidence.

Scientific Materials

And now let’s move on to these sources, with the help of which you will further shape your vision of a certain theory. If you have chosen a well-known psychological theory for criticism and analysis, then most likely many scientists before you also worked with this task. However, the views of scientific minds tend to change under the influence of current realities, so in this case, it definitely makes sense to filter out your scientific sources of information and leave only the most recent and relevant ones.

Working with fresh information, you will receive many new insights about a certain theory that will be dictated by modern reality. This will allow you to talk about the applicability of the psychological theory in a given era and will provide even better opportunities for criticism. For example, you can say about the strong point of the theory if it is applicable in modern reality, or vice versa, indicate that the author could not take into account something while developing his theory.

How to Work with Scientific Materials for a Critical Essay on the Example of One Article

So, suppose you choose a specific article with which you want to start your research. Now proceed according to the following algorithm.

  • Read the article (the first time you can read fluently, diagonally) and pre-read the contents.
  • Now you need to find the main idea of the author. As a rule, this is contained in the first or second paragraph of the paper. Write this thought down as a quote.
  • After that, you need to isolate the author’s argumentation, with the help of which he reinforces his thesis statement. Write these arguments in a list.
  • Now go to the end of the article and find out what the author offers to improve a certain theory, what weak spots he sees, and how, in his opinion, a certain psychological concept fits into modern reality.
  • Repeat all these steps with each article that you plan to use.

Important! Organize your notes very carefully. Write down the title of the article and the name of the author, year of publication, and the pages on which you found the most valuable thoughts. Also, add the article URL to your favorite pages. So you get quick access to them when you draw up a reference list. And by the way, as soon as you work through several articles in this way, you will get a very strong skeleton for criticism. All that remains for you is to choose the most suitable arguments and develop your own unique thesis based on them.

Analysis

Now you have a complete picture of information. On this basis, you need to conduct your own analysis and find strengths and weaknesses in the complex – based both on the theory itself and on the development of other scientists on its basis. Here you need to make a small comparison between the theory itself and its interpretation by other scientists. Here’s how to do it.

  • Divide your piece of paper into two columns, and in the first write down the weak points of the theory. In the second column, write down the opinions of scientists who support the idea that these places are weak.
  • Write down the strengths of the theory and do the same.
    Now compare the theory itself and its analysis from the point of view of other scientists.
  • Are there any weaknesses in their argument?
  • Does everything seem logical to you?

Once you answer these questions, you will have room for your own criticism based on the most complex data.

Criticism

If you have taken all the steps from the previous stages, now you already understand what exactly you will criticize and how. So, it’s time to start writing the essay itself, or rather its first version.

Start Writing Your Essay

We are sure that now you already know what you will write about, and we just once again will walk you through the structure that you need to follow. By the way, you can start writing from anywhere, and then just fill in the blanks.

Introduction

Most likely, the theory that you will criticize is based on a key phrase that forms the foundation for its further evolution. If this phrase causes contradictions in itself, then your theory is an excellent object for criticism. Feel free to start your introduction with this phrase and further develop your thought in the thesis statement.

Thesis

The thesis is your personal opinion that you have developed based on your personal research, analysis, and critical thinking. The thesis should not occupy more than two sentences and look like a positive statement that you will argue.

The Body

  1. In the first paragraph you can allow yourself to describe the whole picture, but make sure that you do not begin to retell the theory itself from beginning to end. Start with how and when the theory was created, how it developed, and briefly tell what modern scientists say about it.
  2. In the second paragraph, you can proceed to direct criticism. Start with the strengths of the theory. Write down the first sentence that will indicate a strong point. Next, make a smooth transition to the argument. In the third sentence, write down your proof — the scientist’s opinion on this subject, plus support it with a quote from a scientific paper. The last sentence of the paragraph is its brief conclusion in essence.

Important! Do not forget to fill out the quote correctly, according to the academic style of which you need to follow.
And one more important point! If you find several strengths of the theory, describe them in separate paragraphs. Do not mix everything in one pan. The “one paragraph, one complete thought” rule continues to apply to your critical thinking essay in psychology. Therefore, you will have as many paragraphs as many strengths you will find.

  1. In the third and fourth paragraphs, you need to go on to describe the weaknesses according to the algorithm that we used to describe the advantages.

Conclusion

This is the easiest part of your job, especially since you have already managed 90% of your work. Just write down briefly everything you talked about above, and make sure that the volume of your conclusion does not exceed the volume of paragraphs of the main part.

Final Touch

Set aside your essay and let it mature. Return to it in a few days if time allows you to do this. If the deadline for essay delivery is tomorrow, then just return to it in a few hours, and for now, allow yourself to relax. You did a great job!