Are you searching for a great topic for your psychology paper? Sometimes it seems like coming up with a good idea for a paper is more challenging than the actual research and writing. Fortunately, there are plenty of great places to find inspiration and the following list contains just a few ideas to help get you started.
Finding a solid topic is one of the most important steps when writing any type of paper. It can be particularly important when you are writing a psychology research paper or essay. Psychology is such a broad topic, so you want to find a topic that allows you to adequately cover the subject without becoming overwhelmed with information.
As you begin your search for a topic for your psychology paper, it is first important to consider the guidelines established by your instructor. In some cases, such as in a general psychology class, you might have had the option to select any topic from within psychology's broad reaches. Other instances, such as in an abnormal psychology course, might require you to write your paper on a specific subject such as a psychological disorder.
Focus on a Topic Within a Particular Branch of Psychology
The key to selecting a good topic for your psychology paper is to select something that is narrow enough to allow you to really focus on the subject, but not so narrow that it is difficult to find sources or information to write about.
One approach is to narrow your focus down to a subject within a specific branch of psychology. For example, you might start by deciding that you want to write a paper on some sort of social psychology topic. Next, you might narrow your focus down to how persuasion can be used to influence behavior.
Other social psychology topics you might consider include:
Write About a Disorder or Type of Therapy
Exploring a psychological disorder or a specific treatment modality can also be a good topic for a psychology paper. Some potential abnormal psychology topics include specific psychological disorders or particular treatment modalities, including:
Choose a Topic Related to Human Cognition
Some of the possible topics you might explore in this area include thinking, language, intelligence, and decision-making. Other ideas might include:
Consider a Topic Related to Human Development
In this area, you might opt to focus on issues pertinent to early childhood such as language development, social learning, or childhood attachment or you might instead opt to concentrate on issues that affect older adults such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
Some other topics you might consider include:
Critique a Book or Academic Journal Article
One option is to 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.
Analyze a Famous Experiment
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 a Paper About a Historical Figure
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.
Write About a Specific Psychology Career
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
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
Every year, psychologists publish a staggering amount of research—it’s impossible to read it all. Still, I gave it a shot—and here are the six papers I found most fascinating.
“Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science,” from Science
This paper isn’t really a study; it’s the outcome of an important movement in the field of psychology. In an effort called the Reproducibility Project, researchers at dozens of universities collaborated to replicate a hundred psychology studies that were initially conducted in 2008. They ended up replicating between a third and half of the studies.
Is that result bad or good? It’s inevitable that studies won’t always be replicable—if every study could be replicated, then every researcher would be right the first time; even legitimate findings can prove fragile when you try to repeat them. All the same, the paper concludes that there is “room for improvement” in psychology, especially when it comes to “cultural practices in scientific communication.” Specifically, the authors propose that “low-power research designs combined with publication bias favoring positive results together produce a literature with upwardly biased effect sizes.”
In other words, the desire for novelty drives researchers to overestimate the conclusiveness of their own work. It’s a fascinating and valuable effort to make sure that psychology moves forward in the best way possible.
“What Works in Inpatient Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation?,” from Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Finally, traumatic brain injury, or T.B.I., is becoming a topic of conversation. It’s a huge problem: in 2010, an estimated two and a half million people in the United States sustained such an injury, and between 3.1 and 5.3 million were living with long-term, or even permanent, disability due to its effects. Still, until recently, T.B.I. has been understudied. This issue of Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is entirely devoted to the topic, carefully examining the existing evidence regarding the effects of traumatic brain injury and possible future treatments.
Some of the findings are surprising: if you’re female or Asian, you’re less likely to be given a psychotropic drug, regardless of evidence for its applicability. Some are dispiriting: it turns out that we really don’t have a good sense of what works to treat these injuries, and a kitchen-sink-like approach remains the norm. At this stage, the best predictor of your eventual outcome seems to be the severity of the injury, rather than any particular treatment you might receive. But some evidence is promising. Rehabilitation therapy, especially therapy that requires demanding physical or mental activity, does seem to help patients regain function.
“Best Friends and Better Coping: Facilitating Psychological Resilience Through Boys’ and Girls’ Closest Friendships,” from British Journal of Psychology
This study shows that even a single close friendship is valuable in protecting children—even the most vulnerable—against multiple psychological risk factors. It’s not a new idea, but the research is an important empirical step forward.
“Nonpharmacological Treatments of Insomnia for Long-Term Painful Conditions,” from Sleep
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia! As I’ve written before, it’s hard to break the cycle of sleeplessness. This study offers evidence for one therapeutic possibility. It involves elements of a traditional therapeutic approach, including “psychoeducation, sleep hygiene, stimulus control, sleep restriction, cognitive therapy, and relaxation.” Some interventions consisted of only a series of three phone calls, between sixty and ninety minutes long, in the course of sixty days, while others were as intensive as weekly two-hour sessions for seven weeks. The methods seem initially promising for both sleep quality and fatigue—but only if administered face to face, not over the phone or the Internet. The effect isn’t huge, but insomnia is an increasing problem, and any possible cure is important to note.
“A Mechanistic Link Between Olfaction and Autism Spectrum Disorder,” in Current Biology
Autism is difficult to study, diagnose, and pin down. This study offers a new possibility: a way to use smell as a more objective marker of potential disorder. The connection also offers insights into some of the underlying mechanisms of autism.
“Fibroblast Growth Factor 9 Is a Novel Modulator of Negative Affect,” from PNAS
Depression is notoriously tough to handle pharmaceutically. We still don’t know how S.S.R.I.s work, for instance—or even if they work at all. This paper offers a previously untried target for treatment: FGF9, a neurotrophin (a type of protein) that appears to play a key role in regulating embryonic development and cell differentiation and seems also to be important in regulating our emotional state. In people with severe depression, it appears to be upregulated, or expressed at too high a concentration. In animals that experience chronic stress from social defeat, FGF9 expression in the hippocampus (the part of our brain involved in memory formation, which also seems to be closely connected to depression) increases—while a related growth factor, FGF2, which is tied to lower levels of depression, decreases. It could prove a dead end, of course, but at least it offers new hope in an otherwise difficult landscape.