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Schools of Psychology: Home

How to write an introduction

Start by Researching Your Topic

You can't start writing until you have an idea of what you are writing about! Find several articles that pass the CRAAP test.

Once you have located an article, look at the reference section to locate other studies cited in the article. This is a great way to find MORE articles. As you take notes, be sure to write down where you found the information. It is helpful to keep a working bibliography. Simply noting the author's last name and a page number in your notes allows you to keep track of where you got information from. 

Create a Detailed Outline of your Entire Paper

A typical outline for a psychology paper includes an introduction, a discussion of the research (papers) on the topic and an evaluation of the research.

Once you are ready to write your introduction:

Introduce the Topic

Your first task is to provide a brief description of the research question. What is the experiment or study attempting to demonstrate? What phenomena are you studying? Provide a brief history of your topic and explain how it relates to  the current research.

As you are introducing your topic, consider what makes it important? Why should it matter to your reader? The goal of your introduction is not only to let your reader know what your paper is about, but also to justify why it is important for them to learn more about.

If your paper tackles a controversial subject and is focused on resolving the issue, it is important to summarize both sides of the controversy in a fair and impartial way. Consider how your own paper fits in with the relevant research on the topic.

Summarize Previous Research

The second task of your introduction is to provide a well-rounded summary of previous research that is relevant to your topic. So, before you begin to write this summary, it is important to thoroughly research your topic. 

 Focus on hitting the main points and try to include the most relevant studies. You might describe the findings of previous research and then explain how the current study differs or expands upon earlier research.

Provide Your Hypothesis

Once you have summarized the previous research, explain areas where the research is lacking or potentially flawed. What is missing from previous studies on your topic? What research questions have yet to be answered? Your own hypothesis should lead from these questions. At the end of your introduction, offer your hypothesis and describe what you expected to find in your experiment or study. 

adapted from:


How do Psychologists organize their research and thoughts?

This assignment is designed to walk you through the process of thinking and researching like a psychologist.

Two Options:

1) Pick two schools of psychology to briefly research. You will then compare and contrast them as you complete a short essay, produce an Infographic or poster and present your findings in a Powerpoint.

2) Choose a famous psychological question to briefly research. You will then compare and contrast what different studies have found as you complete a short essay, produce an Infographic or poster and present your findings in a Powerpoint.

Students will:

  • Learn to conduct psychological research obtaining resources from a variety of sources
  • Evaluate sources for errors, bias and methodology
  • Organize information to thoroughly present a topic in psychology
  • Present information from a variety of sources in written, visual and oral formats
  • Cite sources according to APA style of citations

How to write a psychology paper

Evaluating Psychological Studies

Research question
The research must be clear in informing the reader of its aims. You as a reader should pay particular attention should to errors in logic, especially those regarding causation, relationship or association.

To provide trustworthy conclusions, a sample needs to be representative and adequate. Representativeness depends on the method of selection as well as the assignment.  For example, random assignment has its advantages in front of systematic assignment in establishing group equivalence. The sample can be biased when researchers used volunteers or selective attrition. The adequate sample size can be determined by employing power analysis.

Control of confounding variables
Extraneous variation can influence research findings, therefore methods to control  relevant confounding variables should be applied.

Research designs
The research design should be suitable to answer the research question. Readers should distinguish true experimental designs with random assignment from pre-experimental research designs.

Criteria and criteria measures
The criteria measures must demonstrate reliability and validity for both, the independent and dependent variable.

Data analysis
How is the data used? How is it represented? 

Discussion and conclusions
Does the study allow generalization? Also, limitations of the study should be mentioned. The discussion and conclusions should be consistent with the study’s results.

Last but not least, were the ethical standards met? For more information, refer to the APA’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (2010).

Taken from: How to Critically Evaluate a Research Article