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PS1001 Psychology & PS1018 Basic essay writing John Beech

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1 PS1001 Psychology & PS1018 Basic essay writing John Beech

2 A couple of points Please switch off any mobile phones.
A register of names has to be kept of everyone attending as attendance is compulsory for all these practical classes. Please sign the sheet against your name when you get it. If you are the last one to sign it, please make sure you bring it down to me after the lecture.

3 First steps Attitude: Be positive. Writing is a range of skills.
Planning: Allow enough time words = 12 hrs minimum. Handy tools: Dictionary - see on the web Thesaurus or synonym finder – see Dictionary of Psychology. One or two on the web Reference style guide. A word processor. Instructions Note the word count. Fill in everything on the covering sheet. All work word processed.

4 Essay and paragraph structure
Essay structure Beginning, body and end Introduction gives frame of reference. Interpret the question, outline coverage and define key words and concepts. Body (a) description of evidence (b) analysis. Conclusion Summarises key points. No new information. Bring out main points relevant to the question.

5 Paragraphs A paragraph is usually a single topic. You can test this by attempting to summarize it in a sentence, and if you find this problematic, it might suggest that there are too many themes and it needs sub-dividing. The topic sentence the first sentence introduces the theme of the paragraph. E.g. “Furnham (1990) has argued that academics have reacted in two characteristic ways to being evaluated. One line of thought (the un-cooperative) holds the view that…” Body elaborates the first sentence. End linkage to the next paragraph or finishing off (optional – and not necessarily important)

6 Planning Understand the topic. Note the question. Search terms? Scope?
Address the question. Note the key word or phrase (e.g. “To what extent is it the case that...?”) Formulate the plan. Brainstorm. Use linear form or mindmap (see next slide) Stance. Develop one.

7 Mindmapping idea idea concept idea idea idea

8 Mind Mapping

9 Analysis Need a critical perspective
Descriptions are the building blocks. Analysis is the mortar. Evaluate evidence. Ask: why? Alternatives? Contradictions? Theories are important. Does a theory fit the evidence? Stance: develop clear argument. But evaluate other views. You must support with evidence. Types of evidence: (a) relevant (b) vague (c) ignored evidence because of your bias (d) reliant on only one author.

10 Gathering information
Use different WORD files or pieces of paper with headings and sections for each basic part Keep a references page. Distinguish primary and secondary sources Beware highlighting photocopies How much note taking do you need? Can take too little or too much. Try to be focussed in your note taking.

11 The draft Writer’s block: ways forward
Write quickly without self-criticism You may not have done enough background reading. Do more. Resolve to write something every day. Talk aloud about the problem. You may be too parsimonious in your writing and run out too quickly.

12 Main process Creation On the basis of your notes write the essay. Forget spelling, the best expression, self-criticism etc. During this stage you are using “messy writing”. Editing Leave aside for 1 or 2 days. Keep creation and editing as distinct processes as far as possible.

13 Further drafts Check through from different perspectives. Further drafts will get better marks. Look for: Sentence and paragraph structure. Do the paragraph divisions work? Check in relation to the word limit and spelling Develop your writing ‘voice’. Note you are addressing a psychologist. Put yourself in the marker’s position. Look at the department’s writing criteria. For instance, is there a good flow? Temporarily adopt an opposite stance Read it aloud Have you answered the question?

14 Criteria of good writing style
This takes a lot of practice and means having several drafts. Analyse examples from the psychology literature. Don’t be vague Don’t be emotional or overstate Write formally On the other hand, don’t try hard to impress by being over-formal Use the active, not the passive (‘it was suggested by Smith’ is passive)

15 Criteria of good writing style
Avoid tautologies (‘two twins’) Avoid slang (‘Freud is cool’) Avoid padding (‘owing to the fact’) No repetition (‘in other words, don’t say the same thing’) No cliches (‘or it will open a can of worms’) Don’t qualify absolutes (‘completely empty’) Avoid bullet points. (Do as I say, not as I do.)

16 Style guide Avoid sexism Sentences: verb and subject? Avoid long and complex. Provide variety Referencing in text (‘Smith (1999) found …’). These conventions are in the “Reporting style guidelines…” booklet which will be distributed soon. Abbreviations: avoid: e.g., i.e., etc in the text. This is OK: ‘their reaction time (RT) was taken..’ But don’t over-abbreviate. Abbreviations are allowed in brackets “(e.g. Smith, 2007)”. Practise (verb) practice (noun)

17 Style guide (continued)
Bad joke Husband on phone to doctor: Doctor, doctor my pregnant wife has just started shouting out “Can’t, won’t, couldn’t, haven’t, shouldn’t…” What does it mean? Doctor: Oh that’s all right she’s just started her contractions!

18 Style guide (continued)
Do NOT use contractions such as can’t. Note the distinction between “’s better now” and “the baby lost its bottle”. You would not use it’s anyway.

19 Style guide (continued)
Affect (verb) ‘the gas affected her’. Effect (noun) ‘the effect was weak’. Fewer and Less: ‘Fewer pints..’ ‘..less milk’ Capitalise names of institutions: ‘British Psychological Society’ Digits: if two or more digits (23, 456) write the digits. For one digit write the word

20 Style guide (continued)
Should be Table 1, Figure 5 etc Verb and subjects should agree in relation to the plural. ‘The data were…’ (is correct) The participant chose ‘between 2 buttons’ or ‘among the left, middle and right buttons’ ‘Try to’ not ‘try and’

21 Connecting between sentences and between paragraphs
Link words What they indicate As well as, also, and, again, consequently, furthermore, moreover Adding something similar to what has been said In brief, as a result, in other words, finally, accordingly Summarising But, although, however, yet, on the contrary About to make a contrast For instance, for example, to demonstrate, in particular Giving examples It can be seen, in fact You want to intensify this next bit So, therefore You’re about to conclude your argument and bring out its significance Because, since About to explain what has been said

22 Copying and collusion Copying from books ·   Do not copy notes verbatim (word for word). ·  If you don’t understand: 1. Try another source 2. Come back after a break 3. Try a dictionary 4. Ask someone. Copying from lecture notes · Quite common in exams. But supplement with other evidence.

23 Copying and collusion Copying from other students ·   Plagiarism: passing others work off as your own ·   If you are the copier the penalty is harsh ·   If you are asked to lend out an essay prior to deadline, this is risky ·   Collusion: where there is a secret association between people in which there is a division of labour. Team spirit is good, but there is a dividing line.

24 Summary First steps – Have a positive mental attitude, planning time, tools (e.g. dictionaries), instructions. Essay structure and paragraphing Essays have intro, body, conclusion. Paragraphs are about a topic. The process – deciding what to do and brainstorming. Being critical – asking why? Alternatives? Contradictions? Evaluating evidence and its relevance. Organisation – using computer or paper for planning? Dealing with references. How much note taking? Getting started – just do it! Don’t edit what you write – until later. Creation and editing are better separated. Revision and good style - Try looking at your essay from different perspectives. Be willing to write several drafts. Be precise and formal (i.e. not chatty). Use the active voice and write in a straightforward way. Copying - avoid copying notes verbatim. Take care not to plagiarise.

25 For further reading Beech, J.R. (2008). How to write in psychology. Oxford: Blackwell.

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