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Essay Tips

1. THE INTRODUCTION
Even though it is an essay, your introduction still needs to GET TO THE POINT. Also because
the psych questions are worded so vaguely, you need to identify the factors and behavior that
you will be speaking about. Do this right away. Then, those are the things you describe or
define (not the general terms in the question).

Example Question: Discuss 2 ways environmental factors affect physiological processes.

What your DO NOT need to do: What you DO need to do

Define Environment Identify 2 environmental factors you will discuss


Define Physiology Identify 2 physiological processes you will discuss
Start with a vague statement or fluff Define and Describe those factors and processes
Turn the Question Around (TTQA) to answer
immediately

Example beginning of introduction: Example beginning of introduction:

Physiology refers to the systems of the body and One environmental factor that can affect the body is
the environment is any external factor that can stress and it will increase the bodys stress
influence behavior. There are many ways that response (a physiological process). A second
behavior is affected by things and learning an environmental factor is learning a new skill or
new skill can influence physiology. This essay practicing that skill daily. This will lead to more
will talk about stress and neuroplasticity. neural connectionsa physiological process known
as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity occurs through
dendritic branching
The Problems:
You dont need to define physiology and The Good Things:
environment and even if you did, the definitions Sentence one is already answering the question
are incorrect. to the point
Even though stress and neuroplasticity are It is clearly labeledone environmental factor, a
mentionedit is not clear whether they are second environmental factor
environmental or physiological factors. The physiological processes are also clearly
identified.

To Do: Check your own introduction. How did you do? Where can you make
improvements next time?

2. BUILDING AN ARGUMENT
An essay is making an argument paragraph by paragraph. The way you build an argument is by
using Topic Sentences that make a claim. Your research studies are support for this claim but
should not be the claim.
Example of the WRONG way Example of the RIGHT way
(where the research is the claim) (where the research supports the claim)

Another study related to neuroplasticity and Learning a new skill can increase the neural
environment is the study of Draganski et al. connections in the brain. An example would
The aim of this study was to see if the brains be what Draganski found in a study about
of people would change after juggling. juggling.

Why it is wrong: It isnt saying anything Why it is right: This is specific. It says
specific about the environment and learning increases neuroplasticity. Juggling is
neuroplasticity. only 1 of many examples that supports the
claim.
Paragraph 2: Paragraph 2:

Another study that supports the idea of Although learning can induce neuroplasticity,
neuroplasticity is Maguires taxi driver study. regular practice of a behavior can also have
an impact on the structure of the brain. This
is seen in the study Maguire did with taxi
drivers.

To Do: An easy way to test this is to check the first sentence of your body paragraphs.
You should NOT be talking about a study. Check your essay to see how you did.

3. APPLYING CRITICAL THINKING


After you make a point (topic sentence) and support it with research, you must demonstrate
your ability to think critically about that point. You do this by adding strengths and limitations.
Be sure that you choose the best strengths and limitations for each study. Once you include
them, explain how those strengths or limitations influence your overall argument.

An example of strengths and limitations that are An example of strengths and limitations that
NOT APPLIED to the argument ARE APPLIED to the argument

One strength is that there is a strong One limitation is that an MRI machine can be
correlation in the number of years as a taxi expensive to use which means that replicating
driver and hippocampus size but a limitation is Maguires study with other groups of people might
that an MRI machine is expensive. be difficult to do. This would limit the extent
their findings could be generalized to other
people. However, a strength is that there seems
Another study is.
to be a strong correlation in the number of years
as a taxi driver and hippocampus size. Therefore,
their conclusion about learning a new skill
leading to neuroplasticity in the hippocampus
seems to be correct.

To Do: Check each paragraph where you make a point and support it with research. Do
you include strengths and limitations? Do you say the implications of those on your
bigger argument?
GENETICS OUTLINE

Q: TO WHAT EXTENT DOES GENETIC INHERITANCE INFLUENCE 1 BEHAVIOR?


(Purple =Critical Thinking Opportunities)

Introduction
TTQA to answer the question/Thesis

Identify the behavior

Argument 1

Topic Sentence:

Research Details that support the claim in your topic sentence:

Why the research/theory is believable (Strengths):

Backed up by any other supporting research?

Poke holes in the research studies or concepts (Limitations):

Argument 2

Topic Sentence:

Research Details:

Why the research/theory is believable (Strengths):

Backed up by any other research?

Poke Holes in the research studies or concepts (Limitations):

Argument 3

Topic Sentence:

Research Details:

Why the research/theory is believable (Strengths):

Backed up by any other research?

Poke Holes in the research studies or concepts (Limitations):

Conclusion
What are the main ideas of your essay?
EVOLUTION OUTLINE
Q: Examine 1 evolutionary explanation for behavior

Introduction

TTQA/Answer the question (Thesis)

Identify the behavior

The Command Term Examine=Underlying Assumptions and Inter-relationships


What are those assumptions and inter-relationships?(give 3 or 4)

Argument

Topic Sentence 1:

What are the details of the research to support your claim (study 1)

Why is this believable research (strengths)?

Can you poke holes in this research (limitations)?

Can you support this claim with other researchWhat will your topic sentence be:

What are the details of the research to support your claim (study 2)?

Why is this believable research (strengths)?

Can you poke holes in this research (limitations)?

Can you poke holes in the overall argument about evolutionary psychology?

Conclusion

How do your 2 studies work together to make your argument?

How do your 2 studies support the assumptions/inter-relationships you talked about in


the beginning?