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As Psychology 333 is a senior-level course, it is assumed that most students have experience with writing term papers. Students who are unsure of their writing ability should ask their tutor for assistance and for suggestions of helpful reference materials. Be sure to review the Course Resources section below for further guidance with research, and to help you with the course in general.
The term paper should be 3500 to 4500 words in length, which is roughly 12 to 15 double-spaced, word-processed, pages. Note that this does not include the title page, reference pages, figures, and appendices. The typical type size is 12 points (minimum acceptable type size is 11 points). Finally, use one-inch margins all around. You are expected to submit the paper electronically in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx) or Rich Text Format (.rtf) through the online drop box (found on the main course page). Please contact your tutor for further instructions or to make alternative arrangements. Your paper should be written according to the style described by the American Psychological Association (APA): American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. A tutorial has been created to show you how to use the APA publication manual.
To assist in your literature review, the following scholarly research sites are helpful: Pub Med, Google Scholar, Pro Quest, ERIC, and PsycINFO. Look for scholarly, peer-reviewed papers from the last five years. Of course, the AU library is accessible for you to start looking for primary research articles on your topic.
Characteristics of a Quality Term Paper
A well-organized term paper will consist of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. It must include a title page and a reference list, and may include figures and appendices. The introduction must provide relevant background information, and should contain the rationale and scope of the paper. It should be concise, and contain a clear thesis statement. The body of the paper is based on the review of the literature, and should support the thesis proposed. The conclusion should summarize and integrate the main points presented in the paper, reinforce the thesis statement, and provide recommendations for further study.
Cite authorities (i.e., authors of research) to back up your statements. Unfounded conjecture (i.e., statements by you or an author that are not based on research or logical extrapolation from empirical or experimental research) has no place in scientific writing. Avoid citing exhortative literature and non-scientific authors or sources. Your supporting citations should be dominated by current journal articles (i.e., primary sources). While textbooks, other books, and Internet documents can be used as references, these should be minimized and are considered secondary sources. In particular, minimal reference to Goldstein’s text is expected and acceptable, but a significant reliance on it is unacceptable. Keep in mind that you can also include sources from the Supplementary Materials List given in this Course Manual. As a guideline, a reasonable number of sources to include in a paper of this nature would be 10 to 15.
Your term paper should have a structural theme. You can order it chronologically, logically, or in accordance with some paradigm, such as the thesis you have proposed. The structure should give unity and coherence to your paper. An overall system permitting infinite variation would include the following general structure: Introduction, Background Information, Review of the Literature, Summary, Conclusions (or Discussion and Implications), and References. Considering that the largest portion (i.e., the body) of your paper will be the literature review, it is recommended that it be organized into appropriate subheadings, relevant to the specific material.
Your term paper should demonstrate your ability to integrate a specific body of research rather than just a synopsis of the subject matter. This assignment is intended to develop your skill in analysing, synthesizing, and evaluating scientific research. It should also serve to further develop your skills in writing scholarly papers.
An additional feature of the paper might include a figure or diagram to enhance discussion of complex anatomy, circuitry, or mechanisms of specific physiological processes.
The citation system outlined in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed., 2010) is the most easily used and economical system currently in use in psychological circles. This manual may be borrowed from the Athabasca University Library, or from another library at which you have borrowing privileges. Please consult with your tutor for additional information, including the most up-to-date edition. Briefly, the system requires on-the-spot citation of the source of information. An example is given below:
Another indication that flow information is not always necessary for navigation is that we can find our way even when flow information is minimal, such as at night or in a snowstorm (Harris & Rogers, 1999). Also, Jack, Loomis, and coworkers (Loomis et al., 1992, 1996; Philbeck, Loomis, & Beall, 1997) have used a “blind walking” procedure to show that subjects can locate nearby targets with their eyes closed. (Goldstein, 2004, p. 309)
The American Psychological Association (APA) system includes the names of authors of supportive research as part of the text. The reader who wishes to locate a source turns to the reference list or bibliography where, arranged in alphabetical order, the complete reference is presented, listing the author, the article title, the journal, the year, the volume, and the page number. For example:
Harris, J. M., & Rogers, B. J. (1999). Going against the flow. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 3, 449–450.
In the case that two articles published by an author in the same year are used, the first one noted is designated “a” after the date and the second would be designated “b,” as illustrated in the example below:
Certain cases of insomnia are related to abnormalities of biological rhythms (MacFarlane, Cleghorn, & Brown, 1985a, 1985b). (from Kalat, 2004, p. 279)
In the first quotation above (Goldstein, 2004), you will have observed that since more than three lines were quoted, the quotation is slightly indented, bears no quotation marks, and is single-spaced. Also, note the procedure of putting the page reference after the quotation. Quotations of less than three typewritten lines in length are incorporated in the text, set off by a comma and quotation marks, and followed by the page number, as in the following example:
It has been found by Wallins (1970) that “unrelieved fear arousal retards inventiveness or flexibility” (p. 81). On the contrary, some investigators (e.g., Rogers and Thistlewaite, 1970; Much, 1963; Frost, Green, Pass, and Moro, 1969) report that no straight linear relationship exists such as the Wallins study implies. Rather, they, as does Rabins (1968), indicate that a “configuration much like a curve” is descriptive of the phenomenon (pp. 96–112). Frost et al. (1969) provide the strongest support, however, with their controlled study of 132 subjects under stress.
The use of quotations is uncommon in scientific writing. When citing research, use your own words to describe the particular study. Quotations should be used only when you wish to point out some specific aspect of the actual writing of the authors. Do not use quotations to introduce general information from the source you are using.