As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.
Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.
“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”
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The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.
“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”
But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.
“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?
“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”
Critique your own arguments
Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.
“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”
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Fine, use Wikipedia then
The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.
“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”
Focus your reading
Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.
Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.
You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.
“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”
There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.
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Look beyond the reading list
“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”
And finally, the introduction
The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.
“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”
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Content of this article
- Outline sample
- Tips on writing
- List of topics
How to Write a Psychology Essay
A psychology essay is an article that tackles a certain aspect of psychology.
Before writing a psychology essay, it is important first to understand the question at hand.
It serves the following purposes:
- To explain a particular concept: a psychology essay tries to explain a certain aspect like for example, what causes fears and phobias;
- To encourage creativity: a psychology essay improves the creativity of students as they are required to think out of their comfort zone and write an article that stands out;
- To give a diagnosis: the student can write a psychology essay to explain why they think that a particular diagnosis is necessary. It explains the reasons behind the diagnosis arrived at.
Outline for a psychology essay
Before writing an essay on psychology, it is important first to understand what the topic is all about. Reread general notes on the area before narrowing down to your area of interest. Doing this makes it easier to settle on a subject. Besides, follow the tips for a psychology essay writing to make your work easier.
Below is a sample of an essay on psychology
Personality and Character
In interpersonal relationships, various factors contribute to the sustenance of a relationship. Different people have different personalities and how they relate to each other is different. Understanding personalities lead to better interpersonal relationships.
Different circumstances shape personality traits and characters and therefore influence how they interact with others.
- Girls who grow up in violent homes have self-esteem issues. Seeing their mom being abused gives them a false understanding that being a woman is worthless.
- A person who grew up without siblings becomes more inclined to being self-centered as they are not accustomed to sharing.
- An introvert is more likely to have fun when staying indoors with friends rather than going out or hanging out in crowded areas.
Various factors shape personality and character and these factors should not be overlooked. The environment that a person grows greatly influences their future life.
The above outline for a psychology essay looks at effects and influences of environment on the character.
Good tips on writing
1. Tips concerning introduction for a psychology essay
- The first step to writing a good psychology essay introduction is to have a rough idea of what you are about to write. Having some previous knowledge on the topic ensures that you become more competent and research widely.
- Secondly, have a global structure- this ensures that you have a coherent sentence and flow of ideas. The psychology essay draft tells you whether your content will be enough and lets you know if you have the know-how on how to go about the topic. This method of psychology essay writing is very helpful.
- How to start a psychology essay is challenging for many writers. It is, therefore, necessary to follow the guidelines as shown by the lecturer or from copies found on the internet and various other sources. Start with a catchy phrase or a story. The purpose is to attract the reader from the very beginning. The rule of the thumb in the introduction is always to be creative. Readers should look forward to reading your essay and not just skimming through it.
- Write your introduction in short flowing sentences. They give your essay a touch of excellence. When writing very long sentences, use commas to allow the reader to breathe.
- Ensure your topic is written well and not too wordy. It should not have more than ten words. The topic sentence should show the reader what your essay discusses. Having a long topic sentence confuses the reader as they cannot pick out the theme to be discussed.
2. Psychology essay tips on thesis writing
- The thesis is the main point of the piece. Choose a topic that is relevant and has a case study to back up your theory.
- The thesis question and statement should not be too broad for you to cover. Narrow down on a particular topic to ensure quality work in research. The thesis statement should be well thought out to elude knowledge and mastery of content.
- Try as much as possible to paraphrase and not to copy and paste thesis from the internet from a pre-written essay on psychology. If researching, rephrase it to avoid plagiarism. Most people are tempted to copy directly from the web.
3. Tips on writing the body (length, paragraphs, and transitions)
- The body carries the weight of the thesis. Have knowledge and understanding of your topic- do not write a subject that you will have no content. Show that you understand all specifics of your research question and can relate them to real life situations.
- Have critical evaluation- your assumptions should have relevant evidence both in theory and application. It requires insightful and independent thinking. When mentioning any theory, ensure that you have a case to defend how to apply the theory. The body should be well written. When writing an essay on psychology, the body, and language is crucial.
- Avoid using too much jargon in your writing. In case you do use some technical terms, explain them. Complexities in essay writing make the reader bored. Explain your themes in well laid out independent paragraphs. Each section should carry a point or two. Ensure that the points do not run over to the next paragraph.
4. Tips on how to conclude a psychology essay
Like all other essays. How you write the psychology essay conclusion is critical.
- Introduce the conclusion in a unique manner.
- Avoid using words like ‘to conclude.’
- Your conclusion for a psychology essay sums up your arguments. Give the consequences of your study concerning your research.
- Do not introduce new concepts.
- Make sure that you cover all the topics in the body so as not to defend them in conclusion.
5. Sources for psychology essay
There are so many materials where the student can gather essay questions:
- Books on psychology are useful in getting the concepts.
- The internet provides various themes and psychology essay guides.
- Brainstorming from a general topic and narrowing down.
- A literature review is also a valuable source for ideas and other psychology essay writing help that you may need.
- Try to interact with teachers for more information and psychology essay writing guides.
6. Finalizing the essay
The final step of writing an article is proofreading. Proofread to correct spelling, punctuations, and other grammatical errors. Ensure you check out for plagiarism. Your work should be original and creative. Use citations and proper referencing of sources. There are different referencing styles like Harvard, Chicago or APA. The writer can also give out the written copy to friends for feedback. Be prepared to get both negative and positive criticism. Finally, ensure that you have a glossary of technical terms well defined for the reader to understand. The psychology essay outlining should be done as required.
7. Tips on topic choice
- Research widely on different disciplines before settling for a topic.
- Pick an area that you have an interest as this is a high motivation for research.
- Refer to other items to find out the outline.
- Be flexible that is, allow yourself to have room for change. After writing the body, your arguments might end up defending a different topic
- Have a list of keywords you intend to use
- Ensure you have the available material for your topic
Below is a list of available topics for a psychology essay prepared by team at our online essay writing service that the student can pick from for your psychology essay writing.
List of topics for psychology essay
- What are the different types of personalities?
- Discuss the relationship between dreams and reality
- Eating disorders
- Depression and stress management
- Attitude and attitude change
- Mental health
- Perception and the knowledge process
- Hypnosis and psychological unconscious