Ideas for Psychology Papers

Where to Look for a Great Topic

So, you've got a big psychology term paper to write and absolutely no idea where to begin? While the process can be daunting, the first thing you need to do is remember not to panic. Finding ideas for what to write about is often the most difficult part of this type of assignment. Fortunately, there are plenty of great places to find inspiration and ideas for your psychology term papers. Explore a few of the following ideas or spend some time skimming your textbook or browsing the Web to find more possible topics.

Critique a book or academic journal article.

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If you're still looking for a great topic, consider writing a psychology critique paper of a published psychology book or academic journal article. For example, you might write a critical analysis of Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams or you might evaluate a more recent book such as Philip Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

Professional and academic journals are also a great place to find materials for a critique paper. Browse through the collection at your university library to find titles devoted to the subject that you are most interested in, then look through recent articles until you find what that grabs your attention.

Write a paper on a historical figure.

Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud in his office in Vienna, Austria circa 1937. Image: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

One of the simplest ways to find a great topic is to choose an interesting person in the history of psychology and write a paper about them. Your paper might focus on many different elements of the individual's life, such as their biography, professional history, theories, or influence on psychology.

While this type of paper may be historical in nature, there is no need for this assignment to be dry or boring. Psychology is full of fascinating figures rife with intriguing stories and anecdotes. Consider such famous individuals as Sigmund Freud, B.F. Skinner, Harry Harlow, or one of the many other eminent psychologists.

Analyze a famous experiment.

Milgram's original "shock box" displayed at the Ontario Science Centre. (C) Isabelle Adam (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr

There have been many fascinating and groundbreaking experiments throughout the history of psychology, providing ample material for students looking for an interesting term paper topic. In your paper, you might choose to summarize the experiment, analyze the ethics of the research, or evaluate the implications of the study. Possible experiments that you might consider include:

Write about a specific career in psychology.

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Another possible topic, depending on the course in which you are enrolled, is to write about specific career paths within the field of psychology. This type of paper is especially appropriate if you are exploring different subtopics or considering which area interests you the most. In your paper, you might opt to explore the typical duties of a psychologist, how much people working in these fields typically earn, and different employment options that are available.

Create a case study of an individual or group of people.

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One potentially interesting idea is to write a psychology case study of a particular individual or group of people. In this type of paper, you will provide an in depth analysis of your subject, including a thorough biography. Generally, you will also assess the person, often using a major psychological theory such as Piaget's stages of cognitive development or Erikson's eight-stage theory of human development. It is also important to note that your paper doesn't necessarily have to be about someone you know personally. In fact, many professors encourage students to write case studies on historical figures or fictional characters from books, television programs, or films.

Conduct a literature review.

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Another possibility that would work well for a number of psychology courses is to do a literature review of a specific topic within psychology. A literature review involves finding a variety of sources on a particular subject, then summarizing and reporting on what these sources have to say about the topic. Literature reviews are generally found in the introduction of journal articles and other psychology papers, but this type of analysis also works well for a full-scale psychology term paper.

Design a study or perform an experiment.

Designing an experiment
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Many psychology courses require students to design an actual psychological study or perform some type of experiment. In some cases, students simply devise the study and then imagine the possible results that might occur. In other situations, you may actually have the opportunity to collect data, analyze your findings, and write up your results.

Finding a topic for your study can be difficult, but there are plenty of great ways to come up with intriguing ideas. Start by considering your own interests as well subjects you have studied in the past. Online sources, newspaper articles, books, journal articles, and even your own class textbook are all great places to start searching for topics for your experiments and psychology term papers. Learn more about how to conduct a psychology experiment.

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