For the final project you are to write a paper on some aspect of the human mind and its relation to some major issue in the humanities, arts, or social sciences. Your topic must meet two requirements.
First, there must be a substantial body of empirical research on the topic consistent with the methodological standards of psychology in Human Mind Research Paper.
Second, the topic you select must be relevant to some issue in society, politics, the arts, religion, philosophy, education, law, or related fields.
You might scan your textbook to find a topic that interests you, or select from the following list of suggested topics:
- perception and the reliability of eyewitness testimony in court
- memory and the reliability of recovered memories of sexual abuse
- genetic influences on behavior and their possible abuses in eugenics
- the effectiveness of psychotherapy, how it compares to drug treatments, and whether it should be covered by health insurance
- the source of dreams and their relevance to psychotherapy, religion, and/or
- the nature of learning disabilities and whether they should be treated like physical handicaps in the university and the legal system
- the treatment of schizophrenia and its relevance, if any, to homelessness
- the nature of human rationality and its implications for social and political decision making (e.g., should genetic modification of plants be prohibited, because people's fears of their dangers are exaggerated?)
- the psychology of language and its implications for the teaching of reading
- language and thought and its implications for reforming the language (e.g., eliminating sexist terms)
- brain chemistry and its implications for drug policy (or for future drugs that might improve mental functioning)
- the sources of homosexuality and its implications, if any, for gay rights
- the source of male-female differences in some psychological ability and its implications for gender-based affirmative action
- the nature of child development and its implications for programs directed at children
- the causes of violent behavior and their implications for the insanity defense in court
- the causes of violent behavior and their implications for the control of various media
- the causes of violent behavior and their implications for understanding and responding to terrorist acts
Format for Human Mind Research Paper:
The paper should:
- summarize what we know about the topic you have selected, a bit like a brief encyclopedia article, a beginner's guide, or an introductory lecture.
- Imagine that you are writing it for an intelligent, educated person who is not an expert on the topic (and hence does not know the literature or any of the jargon) but who wants to be taught the fundamental facts and informed of the open questions.
Then the paper should raise some important question in:
- the arts
- social sciences
- There should be an actual question (a sentence ending in a question mark) in your paper which poses some important problem for our understanding or treatment of humans in society
- You should then indicate how the knowledge from psychological research answers, clarifies, reframes, or adds insight to the question
- The review of the psychological literature should take up about half of the paper
- the discussion of the problem and how psychological research bears on it should take up the other half (more or less)
- Your paper should be about six to eight pages, typed, double-spaced
Research for Human Mind Research Paper:
When discussing the research literature in psychology, you must base your summary primarily on articles or books written by people who do research on the topic you are reporting. The sources may include:
- trade books - these are the sort of good quality, non-fiction books you would find in the science section of a bookstore
- articles in the popular science press, such as Scientific American, Discover, or Psychology Today.
- review papers in literature review journals like Psychological Bulletin, Annual Review of Psychology, and Current Directions in Psychological Science
- empirical articles in the scientific psychology journals such as Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, The Journal of Psychology, The Journal of General Psychology, Psychological Science
- review chapters in edited volumes devoted to a topic (e.g., a collection of papers by different researchers on sleep)
- professional books devoted to the topic (e.g., a book on recent progress in sleep research written by a sleep researcher intended for other sleep researchers).
One very good sources for primary literature - journal articles written by psychological scientists - are PsycArticles (from EBSCOHOST database).
When discussing the psychological literature, the following general sources may be used to spark your interest in a topic or to suggest material that you want to cover, but they cannot be the only sources you use:
Articles that can be used in Human Mind Research Paper:
- the Globe & Mail,
- Myers' Psychology
- other introductory textbooks
- articles in general encyclopedias such as the Britannica or Wikipedia
- 'pop psychology' books by journalists or freelance writers
What about material on the World Wide Web? That depends on what kind of material it is. If a scientific journal or magazine is simultaneously published on paper and on the web, it is fine to use the web version (ensure that it is the full text of the article, not just a summary or abstract). A few journals are published only on the web and you can use those if they are written and selected by scientific researchers. Reprints of articles (e.g., on someone's home page) are OK if they have previously been published in one of the acceptable outlets listed above. However, material from home pages, informal discussion groups, company sites, and other sources without any form of quality control are not suitable sources for an academic paper. When in doubt, check with me (send me the URL and source description).
For the discussion of the implications of the topic for some larger issue, you should also refer to the primary research literature - to the writings of people who have done research and/or given thought to the question you are raising. You may supplement that discussion with references from more popular sources such as newspapers, magazines, and web sites if they are directly relevant to the question.
Whatever topic in psychology you select, you can be reasonably sure that many dozens of original research papers have been devoted to the topic. Before you go to the primary literature (articles that present research for the first time, primarily for the benefit of other researchers), you should try to get an overview of the topic from a secondary source such as a review article or book chapter.
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