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Writing in Psychology


Like any other discipline, the field of psychology requires students to think critically and write effectively. Writing assignments allow close investigation of the mental processes and behaviors of humans and animals. Students are expected to think about how the people in our lives display or mirror the various concepts and topics of study. Also, students will need to analyze other specific materials, journal articles and textbook chapters, for example. Instructors will measure how well student synthesize information obtained from other sources by how well students articulate their findings in their own writing.

Psychologists write for various audiences, publishing articles for their peers’ review; presenting research at conferences; lending expertise on public forums to perhaps influence public opinion; recommending policy changes; and, as professors, preparing lectures and course plans.

The challenge for students is to learn how to write in similar fashion, presenting data and analysis as cogently, logically, and neutrally as possible.

The Kinds of Questions Psychologists Ask

At first glance, the kinds of questions that arise from human behavior, human interactions, human development, animal cognition, etc., may seem limitless. Yet, with a narrow focus, questions become manageable and lend themselves to restricted investigations.

Though they cross a huge range of topics, the more specific the question, the more likely a workable hypothesis will evolve.

For example, a student may ask: How are veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan emotionally affected by changes in their personal relationships? Are their relationships affected by their experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and if so, how is their sense of self impacted?


How does blood flow in the brain affect the dopamine production of Alzheimer’s patients in their final stages of cognitive decline?

Writing Conventions in Psychology

Effective writing in psychology will ALWAYS demonstrate
•A clear and directly stated HYPOTHESIS
•Supportive, timely information
•Critical analysis and extended discussion of gathered material
•Suitable formatting (APA style) including correct citations within a paper and listed on a REFERENCE page.
•Appropriate language, including correct grammar, syntax, and locutions.