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How to Write a Psychology Essay

How to Write a Psychology Essay

You may write psychology essay to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases. Another reason to write psychology essay is to understand specific terms or concepts. Experiments and papers in this field essentially have four main objectives:

  • To describe what has occurred, to explain why it has occurred
  • To predict if it’s going to occur again
  • To prevent or change possible outcomes or behaviors.

Whether you’re writing an essay on psychology for school or university, the steps are essentially the same. The process goes as follows:

  • Understand The Purpose
  • Decide On A Topic
  • Gather Information
  • Craft An Outline
    • Introduction
    • Body
    • Conclusion
  • Understand The Format
  • Create A Rough Draft + Edit
  • Write Your Final Copy

Purpose

A Psychology essay might be written to explain or describe a certain concept
Here are some examples:

  • What causes anxiety and phobias?
  • Hallucinations
  • Autonomic Nervous System
  • Behavior Analysis

Another reason students may write a psychology essay is to give a diagnosis. It might be necessary to give a detailed explanation of why they think that person has especially this disease or disorder.

Psychology Essay Topics

If the topic was not assigned by your teacher or professor, you can write about one of these themes.
psychology essay topics

Write About A Topic Within A Particular Branch Of Psychology

The secret to selecting a good topic for your psychology paper is very simple. Choose a topic that is narrow enough so you can focus all your attention on the subject, but not so narrow that you can barely find any sources or reliable information to write about. For example, you might start thinking that you want to write a paper about a cognitive disorder, but as this topic is too broad, you may narrow it down to something like the Cognitive impairment in Parkinson's disease. This particular topic fits the happy medium.

Write About a Disorder

Mental disorders are patterns of behavioral or psychological symptoms that have a strong impact on multiple areas of life. You can write about one of these:

  • Bipolar disorders ( a brain disorder that causes rapid mood and energy swings)
    • Mania (characterized by feeling over excited)
    • Depressive episodes (characterized by feeling of deep sadness, guilt, fatigue, and irritability)
  • Anxiety disorders (these type of disorders involve continuous and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities)
    • Agoraphobia (fear of public places)
    • Social Anxiety Disorder (people with such disorder have powerful anxiety and discomfort about being embarrassed, rejected or humiliated)
  • Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders (commonly caused by a stressful or traumatic event)
    • Adjustment disorders (causes as a response to a sudden change such as divorce, job loss, end of a relationship with someone close, or other disappointment or loss)
    • Post-Traumatic stress disorder (can develop after a person has experienced a stressful life event)
  • Dissociative Disorders
    • Dissociative amnesia (temporary loss of memory. Memory loss may last for just a period or even for many years)
    • Dissociative identity disorder (just imagine somebody except you in your body)
    • Derealization disorder (may be characterized by experiencing a feeling of being outside of your own body (depersonalization) and being disconnected from reality (derealization)
  • Eating Disorders
    • Anorexia (characterized by restricted food consumption that leads to serious weight loss and very low body weight)
    • Pica (craving and consuming non-food substances such as soap, glass, dirt, etc.)
  • Sleep-Wake Disorders
    • Narcolepsy (irrepressible need to sleep)
    • Parasomnias (abnormal behaviors that take place during sleep)
    • Insomnia (unable to get enough sleep)
  • Disruptive, Impulse-Control
    • Kleptomania (inability to control the will to steal)
    • Pyromania (when a human being feel fascination with fire and with things that burning)

Choose A Topic Related To Human Cognition

It is a study of mental function, including learning, memory, attention, perception, reasoning, language, conceptual development, and decision-making.

  • Dreams
  • Perception
  • Moral judgement

Think About Topics Related to Human Development

In this field of study, you might decide on a topic connected to early childhood such as language learning, social learning, etc.
Some other topics you might find interesting:

  • Child abuse
  • Bullying
  • Gender roles

Write About a Book or Academic Journal

You can write a psychology critique paper on a book or an academic journal. For example, you might write a critical analysis of a Karen Horney, The Neurotic Personality of Our Time book.

Analyze One Of Famous Experiment or Study

Famous studies: Some revolutionary experiments have given a lot of insight into the field. When you write a paper on one of these experiments, you can pick an aspect of the experiment or describe it and explain how it works and how it contributed to the field.

  • Milgram Obedience Experiment
  • Robbers Cave Experiment
  • Stanford Prison Study
  • Pavlov’s Conditioning Experiment
  • The Asch Conformity Experiment

Common Questions & Prompts And How To Answer Them

common questions and prompts

Nature-nurture

The nature vs. nurture question is one of the most fundamental questions of the social science. Are we the way we are because of our biology and heredity (nature) or because of our environment (nurture). Many psychologists agree that it is a mixture of both that makes us who we are.

Is psychology a science?

There is no simple answer to this question either, as many debates that psychology should not be seen as a science because of the often-disproved theories and abstract concepts. The counter-argument is that much of the field is based on hard sciences like chemistry and biology. All it comes down to is that the subject can explain Depression and Anxiety with brain scans and blood tests, but it can not explain why teenagers slam doors when they’re angry.

Why I chose psychology?

Often, this question can be asked when you pick Psychology as your major for university study or when you choose to take that class in high school. In your response, show your enthusiasm toward the subject by listing what you genuinely hope to learn and take away from the class.

Child psychology

This topic has to do with developmental psychology. It is a specialized branch used to understand the development of the mind from infancy to adolescence. For this kind of essays, you might want to research Erik Erikson, Vygotsky, and Piaget. You can explore an extremely wide range of topics such as language acquisition, attachment theories, or critical periods of development.

Personality

This essay prompt deals with what makes people different as individuals. Common exploration topics are type theories, psychoanalytic theories, and humanistic theories.

Psychology in everyday life

Psychology in everyday life uses practices from a field of study called applied psychology. This field is an umbrella term for these types of psychology: counseling, education, clinical, and medical. There is a lot to choose from here, so if this topic was assigned to you, pick an area that you are most interested in.

Forensic psychology

Forensic psychology is an intersection between psychology and the justice system. People who work in this field deal with law and trials. Possible broad subjects could include testimony validity, antisocial behavior, and sexual harassment.

Where To Gather Information For Psychology Essay

Read Reliable Literature

Read literature that focuses on the criteria or assignment from your professor to fulfill the reader’s expectations about the quality and the trustworthiness of your paper. There are a lot of literature available online, or in public or university libraries.

Primary Sources

Articles published in Academic Journals deserve special attention they are the primary sources to collect information from for your psychology essay. These articles report on original research which may be at the cutting edge of knowledge production in their field of study. Such materials are usually the best to collect information from.

Other sources

Depending on a topic you are writing about, there might be a wide range of sources which might be relevant: interviews with experts, films, documentaries, museum exhibitions, newspapers, etc. These are examples of sources which might be relevant.

APA Format in the AP Psychology Essay

When writing an essay about psychology, the American Psychological Association or APA citation style is probably the right referencing format to use for your essay. You can find an extremely detailed overview of the APA format.
Some general guidelines of the APA format essay (psychology) are:

  • A clear font (Times New Roman 12pt);
  • Double spaced;
  • 1” margins;
  • An APA style heading on the top of every page (shortened title of your essay: >50 characters);
  • Insert a page number on the right.

Keep in mind that for longer essays (+5 pages) the APA essay format suggests you divide your essay into four parts: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.

AP Psychology Essay Requirements

AP psychology essay questions, otherwise called the “free response” questions constitute 33% of your AP Psych exam grade. These prompts are designed for people who took the AP Psych course and know the material, so do not expect them to be easy. Below are some examples prompts and some tips on how to write an essay during your exam.

Questions

AP Psychology exam questions usually include the same kind of structure. You will be given a topic with several subcategories. In the exam, each subcategory must be addressed to score maximum points. Here is an example of a question:
Example: Annie babysat a 5-year-old child one day. She and the child had some pecan pie. Annie was unaware that the child was allergic to most types of nuts and the child’s parents didn’t warn her prior. Annie drove the child to the hospital, but on the way she panics and gets lost. Annie takes a couple of wrong turns. Gladly, the child survives, but months following the accident Annie can’t get behind the wheel, and she no longer likes pecan pie.

  • Part A: Explain how each of the following helped Annie drive to the hospital:
    • Motor neurons,
    • Retinal disparity,
    • Heuristic,
    • Procedural memory.
  • Part B: Explain how each of the following has lead Annie to have a negative experience:
    • Anxiety and panic,
    • Conditioned response,
    • Aversion Therapy.

When you begin to address this prompt, you will want to look at each aspect of the question. Define the vocabulary words (in this case, Heuristic, Motor neurons, Anxiety, etc.) and then explain how they relate to the example. On the exam itself, you would want to write something like this: “Annie experiences anxiety around driving because she had a stressful experience while driving the child to the hospital” instead of something like “Anxiety is a worry, nervousness, or unease about something” without an explanation or a connection to the prompt. To get full points, strive to address every single bullet point. Again, don’t forget to write in an essay format. Do not answer in bullet points.

Create An Outline

  • Introduction
    • Topic
    • Thesis
  • Body
    • Theme 1
    • Theme 2
    • Theme 3
  • Conclusion

psychology essay outline

Polishing It Up & Submitting

Congratulations, you are almost there. The last step you need to take is to write a rough draft, edit it, and then turn it into a well-written psychology paper. To ease your life and save you time here are some tips you may use while checking.

Give Yourself a 2 Hours Rest.

It’s hard to be actively involved in writing for a long time, and even harder to spot mistakes after hours of unstoppable writing. That is why it is recommended to leave your paper for an hour or two.

Read It Aloud For At Least 2 Times

This is a very good practice that will allow you to catch all your mistakes such as, mispronounced words, grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, etc.

Find a Second Pair of Eyes

Ask your siblings or your friends to help you with this. You can ask them to read your essay and give you a feedback whether it’s positive or not. You can even take someone who is not aware of what you are writing about and ask that person to read your paper and grade it.

final step

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

AP Psychology, although considered a moderately easy AP class, has a tough examination. My advice for you while you’re taking the exam is to read the question thoroughly and answer it fully. By paying attention to each part of the prompt, you have a better chance at getting a better mark. Psychology classes are full of essential vocabulary, so always define these terms in your essay. This will demonstrate your knowledge on the topic. To improve upon that, add examples of those terms. These can be ones you can find in your textbook, online, or from your personal life. Giving examples will prove that you know the material, are able to recognize concepts, and operate them on your own. To show even deeper understanding, you can compare it to other terms or concepts. Be sure to include all other information that pertains to the prompt. Otherwise, your answer cannot receive full points.

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