The purpose of this essay is to outline the main techniques used in psychology writing and research. Even the first course most psychology students take, often as a prerequisite to study the social science, shows that the body of knowlegde, rests mainly on psychological experiments and other research. Students undertaking an education in the field will doubtless encounter at least introductory level courses in research and quantitative methods, as well as, statistics. Indeed, basics such as probability theory and the normal distribution are crucial to understanding many experiments’ results.
When writing an essay in psychology, one is usually directed by the professor to cite academic sources. Such references typically include books, or journal articles; articles considered academic, those which have been published in peer-reviewed publications. Some of the best online databases for such scientific research offer options to restrict searches by title of the article and time of publication, recent scientific discoveries being preferable as a general rule, unless one wishes to consult classics. Proper referencing is key, and the appropriate style of referencing (APA, MLA, Chicago) corresponds to the discipline one is writing about (example: psychology papers use APA style, while political scientists tend to turn to MLA or Chicago, which uses footnotes). Detailed guides on all the finicky details should be consulted in order to avoid losing points when writing a paper for a class.
Experimenters first construct a hypothesis (a prediction about what will happen) and then design an experiment to test said hypothesis. Subjects are very often found on campuses, but other recruitment ways, such as newspaper advertisements, remain commonplace. Interestingly, one of the bias of psychology has beed pointed out, that much of psychological theory is based on experiments carried with college or university students (who often participate in research on a voluntary basis, but for additional credit), resulting in a sampling bias. Sampling bias might also occur when the random assignment requirement is not met.
Experimental groups are composed of the experimental group (administered the dependent variable to measure the outcome) and a control group (given the placebo). Furthermore, experiments can be blind or double blind (referring to the experimenters themselves ignoring which participants belong to which group until the experiment is over). Finally, the experiment is followed by debriefing the subjects (disclosing the purpose of the study and/or making sure participants are alright). Most often than not, the methodology section of scientific paper will demonstrate the methods used, in order for other scientists to be able to replicate the results, which validates the experiment.
The bell curve or normal distribution states that there will always be many more individuals within the general population clustering around the middle, than at extremes. Alternatively, another descriptor used in statistics is the inverted U curve - describing the fact that too much or too little of a good thing may be bad.
Several disciplines in the field interconnect to shed light on topics of interest to psychologists. For instance, abnormal psychology concentrates on mental illnesses, disorders and other conditions which may preclude one from functioning at one’s best and/or cause one distress. To illustrate, one may look at phobias. Phobias are irrational fears held by people, individuals with phobias usually know their fear is irrational, but the panic remains.
Neuroscientists cite the amygdala as the brain structure most often associated with fear and anxiety. Behaviourists may point to conditioning, whereas evolutionary psychologists stress the importance of survival of the fittest in the development of phobias. For example, people whose ancestors lived in areas where there were a lot of venomous spiders appear more likely to have survived if they feared, and thus particularly cautiously avoided, arachnids. Thus, fear and avoidance of spiders conferred an evolutionary advantage since these persons were thus able to pass on their genes to future generations. Indeed, the most common phobias are arachnophobia (fear of spiders), fear of snakes, fear of heights, fear of flying, agoraphobia (with or without panic attacks) and so on. Phobias are often treatable, with a method called desensitization, however little incentive exists to treat a phobia, of say rattle snakes, for those living in a Northern, urban environment.
Thus, the purpose of the present essay was to outline the main strategies used by psychologists and psychology students in writing, reading and analyzing theory. Alternatively, to make a long story short, evolutionary psychology rests on the premise of survival of the fittest. Pioneered by Darwin, evolutionary theory maintains that genes are passed on when they confer an evolutionary advantage in terms of reproductive success. Darwin initially based his theory on the differences of finches' beaks on the Galapagos islands.