Tips for Writing Psychology Papers

Female student writing in a notebook in front of a computer

Hero Images / Getty Images

Students are often surprised to discover how much writing is required for psychology college courses. Those majoring in psychology are often expected to write a wide variety of papers, ranging from lab reports to research papers. In almost all cases, you will need to structure your paper in a specific way and follow the rules of APA format. 

Why Learning to Write Psychology Papers Is Important

The ability to write well is one of the most important skills you can gain as a psychology major. Most psychology courses require a significant amount of writing, including essays, case studies, research reports, and other papers. Learning effective communication skills will help you succeed in high school, university, graduate school, and the workforce.

How can you improve your writing skills? Start by viewing each class assignment as an opportunity to learn and practice. Check out resources offered by your school, such as tutors or writing labs, and learn more about the different types of psychology writing. The following resources offer tips, guidelines, and advice on how to write psychology papers. If you are struggling with how to start a psychology paper, following some of the guidelines below may help.

Basic Tips for Writing Psychology Papers

If you have never written a psychology paper before, you need to start with the basics. Psychology writing is much like other types of writing, but most instructors will have special requirements for each assignment.

Before you start a psychology paper, you'll need to learn more about what you should write about, how you should structure your paper, and what type of sources you should use. Always check the grading rubric for an assignment before you begin writing and brush up on the basics.

How to Write a Psychology Case Study

Students taking courses in abnormal psychology, child development, or psychotherapy will often be expected to write a case study on an individual—either real or imagined. Case studies vary somewhat, but most include a detailed history of the client, a description of the presenting problem, a diagnosis, and a discussion of possible treatments.

This type of paper can be both challenging and interesting. You will get a chance to explore an individual in great depth and find insights into their behaviors and motivations. Before you begin your assignment, learn more about how to write a psychology case study.

How to Write a Psychology Lab Report

Lab reports are commonly assigned in experimental or research-based psychology courses. The structure of a lab report is very similar to that of a professional journal article, so reading a few research articles is a good way to start learning more about the basic format of a lab report.

There are some basic rules to follow when writing a psychology lab report. Your report should provide a clear and concise overview of the experiment, research, or study you conducted. Before you begin working on your paper, read more about how to write a psychology lab report.

How to Write a Psychology Critique Paper

Psychology critique papers are often required in psychology courses, so you should expect to write one at some point in your studies. Your professor may expect you to provide a critique on a book, journal article, or psychological theory.

Students sometimes find that writing a critique can actually be quite challenging. How can you prepare for this type of assignment? Start by reading these tips and guidelines on how to write a psychology critique paper.

Remember to Edit Your Psychology Paper

Before you turn in any type of psychology writing, it is vital to proofread and edit your work for errors, typos, and grammar. Do not just rely on your computer's spellchecker to do the job! Always read thoroughly through your paper to remove mistakes and ensure that your writing flows well and is structured logically.

Finally, always have another person read your work to spot any mistakes you may have missed. After you have read something so many times, it can become difficult to spot your own errors. Getting a fresh set of eyes to read through it can be very helpful. Plus, your proofreader can ask questions and point out areas that might not be clear to the reader.

Know the Rules of APA Format

Not learning APA format is a mistake that costs points for many students. APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association and is used in many different types of science writing, especially the social sciences. Before you hand in any writing assignment, always double-check your page format, in-text citations, and references for correct APA format. If you need directions or examples, check out this guide to APA format.

A Word From Verywell

Writing psychology papers is an important part of earning a degree in psychology. Even non-majors often find themselves writing such papers when taking general education psychology classes. Fortunately, paying attention to the directions provided by your instructor, familiarizing yourself with APA style, and following some basic guidelines for different types of psychology papers can make the process much easier.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Willemsen J, Della Rosa E, Kegerreis S. Clinical case studies in psychoanalytic and psychodynamic treatment. Frontiers in Psychology. 2017;8:108. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00108

  2. Klein RM, Saint-Aubin J. What a simple letter-detection task can tell us about cognitive processes in reading. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2016;25(6):417-424. doi:10.1177/0963721416661173

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."