Writing Psychology Papers

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

1. 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, references and discussion.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 an Abstract

Write your summary after the rest of the paper is completed. After all, how can you summarize something that is not yet written? Economy of words is important throughout any paper, but especially in an abstract. However, use complete sentences and do not sacrifice readability for brevity. You can keep it concise by wording sentences so that they serve more than one purpose. For example, “In order to learn the role of protein synthesis in early development of the sea urchin, newly fertilized embryos were pulse-labeled with tritiated leucine, to provide a time course of changes in synthetic rate, as measured by total counts per minute (cpm).” This sentence provides the overall question, methods, and type of analysis, all in one sentence. The writer can now go directly to summarizing the results.

Summarize the study, including the following elements in any abstract. Try to keep the first two items to no more than one sentence each.

  • Purpose of the study – hypothesis, overall question, objective
  • Model organism or system and brief description of the experiment
  • Results, including specific data – if the results are quantitative in nature, report quantitative data; results of any statistical analysis shoud be reported
  • Important conclusions or questions that follow from the experiment(s)