A term paper is a common format of academic writing psychology students encounter in college. It is a research paper of significant size (normally up to 6000 words) that is assigned in the beginning of a term to be written over its duration, either individually or in a group. It should contain original research and detailed discussion of its subject matter, providing evidence in support of the writer’s point.
Writing a good term paper will account for a large portion of your grade, so it pays to put every effort into it. In this psychology term paper writing guide, we will discuss the proper order of organizing your work on such assignments.
Unlike essays whose topics are normally simply assigned to you, you can usually choose a topic of your term paper yourself (albeit in collaboration with your tutor). As you are going to spend the better part of the next term working on it, it pays to tread carefully here. Don’t choose a topic without thinking, hoping to find the necessary information later on – when the time comes, you may find out that the job is too challenging, and it will be too late to ask your tutor to change the topic.
In the end, you should get a topic that is both sufficiently broad to provide a lot of source materials to build upon and narrow enough to let you exhaustively study it within your word limit. Here are some examples:
As a psychology researcher, you should learn to read and analyze sources critically for at least three reasons:
Here are some ways to find information sources:
Here are the questions you should ask yourself when reading and analyzing every information source you deal with:
Psychology writing has many similarities to what you have previously learned in expository writing: you are expected to study an idea, investigate the available evidence, produce a thesis, support it with convincing and well-founded evidence and be ready to objections and corrections from your audience.
However, there are differences. Psychology writing is based on the standards of American Psychological Association publication style. In addition to a host of formatting requirements (which you can learn on case-by-case basis using the publication manual), there are three general principles: clarity, conciseness and accuracy. As a result, psychology writing is supposed to be easy to read even for non-experts, straightforward so as to eliminate potential misunderstandings and devoid of redundancies. The main goal of psychology writing is information transfer with minimal distractions.
A thesis statement is a short summary of the main point of your paper (e.g., the claim you want to prove or disprove), usually limited to a single sentence.
Thesis statement is different from topic – a topic is a general area of your investigation. A thesis statement is a claim or a viewpoint related to the topic. For example, “Correlation between time of diagnosis and necessary depression treatment methods” is a topic. “Early diagnosis of depression may prevent the need for medication-based treatment” is a thesis statement.
Sometimes you have a basic idea of what you are going to write about and what you will try to prove before you do any research; sometimes you will have to review available literature before you can formulate your idea. Having an idea for thesis statement to begin with is useful because it limits the scope of your searches and motivates you to proceed.
However, don’t feel obliged to stick to it. Remember, you are a researcher, and your thesis should be supportable by empirical evidence. If you start finding evidence to the contrary, change your thesis statement accordingly.
A quality thesis statement is based on existing research done by other people but goes further than just summarizing and reiterating their findings. It should contain something new, something that is not immediately apparent from the topic itself. For example, “Bipolar disorder severely influences patient’s quality of life” is so obvious that writing a term paper about it has no sense.
Here are some good ideas for thesis statements:
Outline is a plan of your paper: here you jot down its basic structure, make notes of what you should mention at each moment and how to connect points with each other. It should contain the following:
Body of the paper is where you say what you intended to say. Usually students consider it the main part of their work, but it is only true for those who haven’t done proper research. If you’ve carefully studied your sources, made notes and prepared a detailed outline, writing the body paragraphs turns into simple putting of already prepared content onto paper in an orderly form.
It means that you should proceed in a uniform fashion: introduce a new point – provide empirical evidence to support it – address potential contradictions and objections – recap the point and relate it to the thesis statement of the paper or a current section.
There are a few other principles you should follow:
The first draft never turns out the way you’ve envisioned your paper. When you’ve finished writing the last line your work isn’t yet done, because revision is just as important a part of it as research and writing per se.
Only practice can teach you how to write excellent psychology papers consistently, but with this guide, you will have sufficient groundwork to get you started.