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School of Education, Health and Human Behavior
School of Education

Psychology Writing Resources

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General Writing Resources for Psychology Students

A. Carson, S., Fama, J., Clancy, K., Ebert, J., & Tierney, A. (2012). Writing for psychology: A guide for psychology concentrators.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard College. Retrieved from http://writingproject.fas.harvard.edu/files/hwp/files/writing_for_psych_final_from_printer.pdf

  • This outstanding (but short) e-book covers writing issues (and common mistakes) that psychology majors often confront.

B. Strunk, W. & White, E. B. (1999). The elements of style (1st ed.). Geneva, NY: Bartelby.com. (Original work published in 1918.) Retrieved from http://www.bartleby.com/141/

  • Everyone who plans to attend graduate school or to pursue a career that includes much written correspondence should study this book. More recent editions of this classic reference book are available from your library or favorite book retailer.

C. Pinker, S. (2014). The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. New York, NY: Penguin.

  • This highly-acclaimed book by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker is more advanced than The Elements of Style. It is available from your library or favorite book retailer.

D. http://www.apastyle.org/

  • This is the definitive source for questions about APA style.

E. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

  • This user-friendly, free resource provides advice on APA style and high-quality writing in general.

F. http://paperrater.com/

  • This is a free online scanner that does a pretty good job of checking for grammar, spelling, plagiarism, and word-usage problems. It won't identify all writing problems for you, but it's a good start. Turnitin scans for writing problems too (not just plagiarism).

G. Bem, D. (2002). Writing the empirical journal article. In Darley, J. M., Zanna, M. P., & Roediger III, H. L. (Eds) (2002). The Compleat Academic: A Career Guide. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

  • This classic book chapter, written by a psychologist, is very accessible and is widely-studied by graduate students.

Specific Writing Resources for Psychology Students

1. Plagiarism (SIUE Department of Psychology)

  • This page provides plagiarism definitions, examples, avoidance strategies, and Turnitin information.

2. How to Summarize Research Findings in Psychology Papers

  • In this YouTube tutorial, Dr. Rose describes one approach you can use to describe a research finding in about one paragraph.

3. How to Summarize a Psychology Research Article

  • This is a worksheet Dr. Rose uses to illustrate ways to summarize an empirical article with different amounts of detail while avoiding plagiarism and common pitfalls in student writing.

4. How Often Should I Cite?

  • In this YouTube tutorial, Dr. Rose shows when a paragraph needs a lot of citations and when a paragraph can have only one.

5. Common Errors in Psychology Writing (California State University-Chico)

  • This page provides a convenient list of common errors such as misuse of "affect" and "effect", "it's" and "its", "they're" and "their" and "there", and incorrect possessive and numerical words.

6. General Tips for Writing a Paper in Psychology (Muhlenberg College)

  • This "general" document actually contains many specific tips such as (a) write the method section first, (b) backup your paper in multiple places, (c) use active voice as much as possible, (d) write a little every day (instead of cramming), (e) revise relentlessly, (f) make clarity a top priority, (g) avoid "prove", (h) avoid quotes, and (i) proofread after taking a break from your paper.

7. Proofreading (Purdue OWL)

  • Proofreading is a skill that takes time and practice to improve. Purdue OWL's proofreading advice includes tips like this: "Take a break! Allow yourself some time between writing and proofing... The goal is to return with a fresh eye and mind."

8. Steps for Revising Your Paper (Purdue OWL)

  • This page contains tips such as "switch from writer-centered to reader-centered", "save only the good parts" and "tighten and clean up your language".

9. Improve Your Writing With Turnitin

  • This YouTube video explains that Turnitin (available in Blackboard) is not just a plagiarism scanner. It also alerts students to writing problems that can be corrected before the final draft is completed.

10. Write like a scientist, not an activist.

  • There's no link for this suggestion, but this is a common struggle for inexperienced psychology writers. If your paper has emotionally-charged phrases in it such as "prove beyond doubt", "devastating effects of", "enormous consequences for" and "totally unacceptable behavior", your paper sounds like it should it be in an activist's newsletter rather than a scientific publication. Scientists write cautiously (e.g., results "support" rather than "prove"; findings "may apply to" rather than "obviously apply to"). They also write respectfully (e.g., "people who have experienced discrimination" rather than "lives destroyed by discrimination") and they try to keep assumptions to a minimum (e.g., "people diagnosed as obese" rather than "people who greatly suffer from obesity").

11. Omit Needless Words and Empty Phrases

  • In a well-written paper, every word and every phrase should be vital. "Vital" means that if the word or phrase was deleted, ideas that are important to the paper's meaning and purpose would be lost. This "Omit Needless Words..." page lists many common phrases and words that are not vital: they are vebal clutter. When revising a paper, a useful test of the importance of a phrase (or a sentence or a whole section) is to imagine deleting those words to see if the text is genuinely diminished by the words' absence.
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