• Psychology writing, like writing in the other sciences, is meant to inform the reader about a new idea, theory or experiment. Toward this end, academic psychologists emphasize the importance of clarity and brevity in writing while minimizing descriptive language and complex sentence structure. The best writers of psychology have the ability to make complex ideas understandable to people outside of their area of expertise.
When you write a psychology paper, you are, above all, writing to convey factual knowledge that is supported by research. You are striving to be precise, and thus you should expect every word you write to be read literally. Psychology writing can be very dense, with many references to previous research. Writers of psychology almost never directly quote a source. Instead, they distill the essence of the idea or finding, and cite the appropriate source. In the humanities, writers may repeat words or phrases for emphasis; in psychology writers rarely repeat words and phrases, and when they do so it is only to aid in clarity.
Common Types of Psychology Papers:
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• Research summary/literature review
• Empirical paper or research proposal
A Note on Evidence:
• In psychology, evidence for one’s conclusions should rely on data, rather than people’s opinions. For example, in order to conclude that Americans’ attitudes toward gay rights have become more liberal, you would have to rely on empirical demonstrations of the liberalization of attitudes. You might say something like “Previous research has demonstrated that attitudes toward gay rights have become more liberal over the last two decades (Jones, 2006; Smith, 1999)” or “In a 30-year longitudinal survey, Smith (1999) found that attitudes toward gay rights became more liberal.” On the other hand, a statement like “Smith argues that ‘attitudes toward gay rights have liberalized over the last two decades’” would not be considered evidence in a psychology paper because psychologists do not consider opinions or direct quotations to constitute evidence unless they are accompanied by substantial empirical evidence.
Further reading into psychology writings style
Freud’s “The Uncanny” – Key Points and Concepts
• Freud argues that the uncanny is evoked when something evokes a return of a repressed idea or experience. It re-establishes a primitive belief that has been “surmounted” or reminds one of an infantile phantasy (in the Freudian sense; relating to infantile beliefs, experiences, desires) that has since been overcome
• “Uncanny” is a word that describes a general type of dread, but still occupies a specific space (ie there is a difference between what is “uncanny” vs. “fearful”) (1)
o “. . . the familiar can become uncanny and frightening” (2)
o “Something has to be added to what is novel and unfamiliar to make it uncanny” (2)
o But that’s not the only reason (ie in Hoffman’s “The Sand-Man”) that there’s an “unparalleled atmosphere of uncanniness which the story evokes” (5)
o “. . . doubling, dividing and interchanging the self” and “recurrence of similar situations, a same face, or character-trait, or twist of fortune, or a same crime, or even a same name . . . ” (9)
o “It would seem as though each of us has been through a phase of individual development corresponding to that animistic stage in primitive men, that none of us has traversed it without preserving certain traces of it which can be re-activated, and that everything which now strikes us as ‘uncanny’ fulfills the condition of stirring those vestiges of animistic mental activity within us and bringing them to expression” (13)
o “Other situations having in common with my adventure an involuntary return to the same situation, but which differ radically from it in other respects, also result in the same feeling of helplessness and of something uncanny” (11)
o “Involuntary repetition which surrounds with an uncanny atmosphere what would otherwise be innocent enough, and forces upon us the idea of something fateful and unescapable where otherwise we should have spoken of ‘chance’ only” (11).
o Ie reoccuring number
o “. . . whatever reminds us of this inner repetition-compulsion is perceived as uncanny” (11-12)
o “The ‘uncanny’ is that class of terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar” (1-2).
o Refers to Jentsch’s example of “wax-work figures, artificial dolls, and automatons” arousing “‘doubts whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might not be in fact animate” (5)
Brought about by the presence of the looming “‘Sand-Man’ who tears out children’s eyes” (5)
o “We must content ourselves with selecting those themes of uncanniness which are most prominent, and seeing whether we can farly trace then also back to infantile sources. These themes are all concerned with the idea of a ‘double’ in every shape and degree. . .” (9)
Otto Rank – “the double,” Doppelgaenger
The double as at first helping to promote ideas of immortality, but then takes on a “different aspect”: “From having been an assurance of immortality, he becomes the ghastly harbinger of death” (9)
“The quality of uncanniness can only come from the circumstance of the ‘double’ being a creation dating back to a very early mental stage, long since left behind, and one, no doubt, in which it wore a more friendly aspect. The ‘double’ has become a vision of terror, just as after the fall of their religion the gods took on daemonic shapes” (10).
o Being too perfect (their every wish suddenly come true, suddenly no ailments, becoming “uncanny”) (12)
o Having “presentiments” (12)
o “Dread of the evil eye” (12)
o “Omnipotence of thoughts” (12)
• “If psychoanalytic theory is correct in maintaining that every emotional affect, whatever its quality, is transformed by repression into morbid anxiety, then among such cases of anxiety there must be a class in which the anxiety can be shown to come from something repressed which recurs” (13)
“This class of morbid anxiety would then be no other than what is uncanny, irrespective of whether it originally aroused dread or some other affect.”
o “In the second place, if this is indeed the secret nature of the uncanny, we can understand why the usage of speech has extended das Heimliche into its opposite das Unheimliche; for this uncanny is in reality nothing new or foreign, but something familiar and old–established in the mind that has been estranged by the process of repression” (13).
Regarding mortality: “no human being really grasps it and our unconscious has as little use now as ever for the idea of its own mortality” (13)
“Since practically all of us still think as savages do on this topic; it is no matter for surprise that the primitive fear of the dead is still so strong within us and always ready to come to the surface at any opportunity” (14)
“Animism, magic and witchcraft, the omnipotence of thoughts, man’s attitude to death, involuntary repetition and the castration-complex comprise practically all the factors which turn something into an uncanny thing” (14)
o “… our own fairy-tales are crammed with instantaneous wish-fulfillments which produce no uncanny effect whatever” (16)
“Fairy-tales frankly adopt the animistic standpoint of the omnipotence of thoughts and wishes, and yet I cannot think of any genuine fairy-story which has anything uncanny about it” (16)
o Real-life cases, he argues, could “fit perfectly” into this
o “We–or our primitive forefathers–once believed in the possibility of these things and were convinced that they really happened. Nowadays we no longer believe in them, we have surmounted such ways of thought; but we do not feel quite sure of our new set of beliefs” (17)
“He who has completely and finally dispelled animistic beliefs in himself, will be insensible to this type of the uncanny” (17)
o “. . . an uncanny effect is often and easily produced by effacing the distinction between magic and reality” (15)
o “As soon as something actually happens in our lives which seems to support the old, discarded beliefs, we get a feeling of the uncanny” (17)
• “Our conclusion could then be stated thus: An uncanny experience occurs either when repressed infantile complexes have been revived by some impression, or when the primitive beliefs we have surmounted seem once more to be confirmed” (17)