Tips for Writing Psychology Papers

JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

The ability to write and communicate well is an important skill for psychology students. There are several specific types of papers that you might be required to write at some point during your academic studies. Learn more about different types of psychology papers and find tips for planning, writing, and editing your papers.

Types of Psychology Papers

  • Lab reports describe the events and outcomes of a research project or experiment and have the same structure as a scholarly journal article. The purpose of the report is to explain how and why you performed the experiment, the results of your experiment, and your interpretation of the results. Sections of a lab report include a title page, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references.
  • Essays in psychology are similar to essays in other subject areas; the purpose of the essay is to clearly and concisely summarize a topic. A good essay will utilize logical arguments and will have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
  • A research paper explores a specific theory, concept, or topic in depth. The first section should summarize the goals of the paper, while the second section presents and summarizes the issues, topics, or arguments. The final section should critically analyze the information and research that has been presented and offer a conclusion.
  • A literature review should evaluate and summarize research that is related to a particular concept, theory, or topic. These papers are critical in nature and should present an overview of the field of research and a specific thesis. Arguments for the thesis should be presented in the main section of the paper.

    Writing Your Paper

    • Choosing your topic is often the most difficult step. Start by assessing your choices, whether you have been assigned a topic area or if you are free to choose the topic of your choice. Decide which topics interest you most, and then determine if there are enough sources available to support your topic. Be careful to choose a topic that is not too general, but not so specific that you have difficulty finding reference materials.
    • Researching your topic can be one of the most time consuming tasks. Look for a variety of sources, including books, journal articles, and online materials. Try to balance historical resources with current research to give your paper a breadth of information.
    • Organizing your paper may seem difficult once you have finished your notes. Simplify this task by dividing up your research notes by the issue or subject that is discussed. Create outlines to help structure your information and provide guidance and a formal plan for your writing.
    • Writing your thesis statement is one of the most important steps in the writing process. The thesis statement outlines your topic and provides a focused direction for your paper.
    • The first draft provides the opportunity to get your plans and thoughts down on paper. Doing this helps prevent procrastination and a last-minute rush to meet deadlines.

    Editing Your Paper

    • Editing may involve a drastic revision of the first draft or only minor corrections of grammar and spelling.
    • Revising your work allows you to refine your argument or research and help you see areas where improvements could be made.
    • Allow a classmate or friend to review your work. They may be able to offer helpful critiques or catch grammar and spelling mistakes that you missed.

    Psychology students are often required to write a wide variety of papers for their classes, so brushing up on the basics can be helpful. Familiarize yourself with some of the different types of papers that you will likely be expected to write, including lap reports, essays, research papers, and critiques. Pay particular attention to making sure that your APA formatting is correct according to the latest style guidelines. 

    Being able to communicate well in writing is an important skill for psychology majors. It may also come in helpful in your future career as you prepare case notes, prepare grant proposals, or write research reports. Developing solid writing skills now can boost your grades in your current courses. It can also help prepare you for future graduate study and make writing a thesis or dissertation much easier. Finally, these skills can even ensure that you have the writing abilities you need to succeed in your career, no matter what specialty area you end up choosing.

    Was this page helpful?