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This Guide was created as a joint project of the Academic Resource Center and the William H. Hannon Library.

Writing in Psychology

Writing in psychology includes the following principles:

 Using plain language

  • Psychology writing is formal scientific writing that is plain and straightforward. Literary devices such as metaphors, alliteration, or anecdotes are not appropriate for writing in psychology.

 Conciseness and clarity of language

  • The field of psychology stresses clear, concise prose. You should be able to make connections between empirical evidence, theories, and conclusions.

 Evidence-based reasoning

  • Psychology bases its arguments on empirical evidence. Personal examples, narratives, or opinions are not appropriate for psychology.

 APA format

  • Psychologists use the American Psychological Association (APA) format for publications. While most student writing follows this format, some instructors may provide you with specific formatting requirements that differ from APA format. See other ARC handouts for APA·       

Prewriting note-taking and class notes

  • Notes from readings, class lectures, conferences and presentations, and other professional activities can help you formulate ideas.
  • Use note cards, a notebook, or even a text document to keep track of your ideas and findings.
  • Review class notes and citations from articles you’ve read.

Creating an annotated bibliography of articles and books

  • Annotated bibliographies can be excellent ways to summarize and organize sources you are drawing upon when writing critical reviews or experimental reports. Make sure you record at least the author(s) and title information as well as a brief description of how you might put the work to use in your own essay.

 Experimental report:

  • When writing an experimental report, think about how you can best explain why you performed the experiment, how you performed it, and what you concluded from it. Consider the questions:

                     1) What is the story you would like to tell?

                     2) What literature best speaks to that story?

                     3) How do your results tell the story?

                     4) How can you discuss the story in broad terms?

Regarding the literature review section:

  • You should discuss studies that are directly related to your problem at hand and that logically lead to your own hypotheses.
  • You do not need to provide a complete historical overview nor provide literature that is peripheral to your own study.
  • Studies should be presented based on themes or concepts relevant to your research, not in a chronological format.
  • You should also consider what gap in the literature your own research fills. What hasn't been examined? What does your work do that others have not?

Links to other resources