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Researching and Writing an APA Psychology Paper

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Psychology is a popular elective course. Many students are curious about the way our minds work. We often try to ‘psychoanalyze’ each other by looking at our behavior and coming up with armchair diagnoses of our teachers and fellow students. However, psychology is a broad field with many sub-fields, including clinical, cognitive and developmental psychology.

Student writing APA Psychology paper

Selecting Your Topic

Depending on your assignment guidelines, you may be asked to explore or compare and contrast topics such as gender identity and sexual orientation, the effects of prejudice and discrimination or any number of topics relating to social relations.

APA Citation Style

As you prepare your psychology paper, you should use the APA citation style guide. Your teacher may ask for a different style such as MLA but the American Psychological Association (APA) specifically developed this style to reflect research, writing and citation methods used in the field of psychology.

History of Psychology

One of the first things you will study is the history of psychology and the brains behind the development of this field of study. For the purposes of this article, we will narrow our focus down to the development of therapy. Although most people are familiar with the name Sigmund Freud, he was not the first to develop psychological theory. Freud changed the nature of the field but even in Ancient Greece, there was interest in human behavior. In the 1700’s Rene Descartes developed the theory of dualism.

Search for Reliable Sources

As Sigmund Freud is well-known for his work in the field of human behavior, this search will focus on Freud’s work and theories on development of psychoanalysis, a sub-field of psychology.

Look for General Websites About Psychoanalysis and Freud

Although websites such as Wikipedia are not authoritative, they can be a good starting point for your research. For example, this Wikipedia article is extensive, with references to authoritative and primary sources.

The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887–1904, (editor and translator Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson), 1985, ISBN 978-0-674-15420-9

The Sigmund Freud Carl Gustav Jung Letters, Publisher: Princeton University Press; Abr edition, 1994, ISBN 978-0-691-03643-4

This leads you to the title of an article written by Freud:

  • 1908 “Civilized” Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness

Source: Wikipedia

 Here other websites to gather basic information and links to other sources:

Brief History of Psychology

Simply Psychology

Search for Authoritative Sources

When researching and writing an APA research essay, you should always use authoritative sources to find primary material on your subject. This example will focus on Freud’s theories on the id, ego and superego.

This journal article provides an overview of Freud’s definition of the id, ego and superego as well as a glossary of terms. It is an authoritative source but not a primary one.

Id, Ego, and Superego

A simple Google Scholar search shows these two primary sources:

Keywords: Id, Ego, and Superego

S Freud – … XIX (1923-1925): The Ego and the Id and Other Works, 1961 – pep-web.org

… Freud’s views on mental structure and functioning. Indeed, the three newly presented
entities, the id, the ego and the superego, all had lengthy past histories (two of them
under other names) and these will be worth examining …

S Freud – TACD Journal, 1989 – Taylor & Francis

… THE TWO CLASSES OF INSTINCTS We have already said that, if the differentiation we have
made of the mind into an id, an ego, and a superego represents any advance in our knowledge,
it ought to enable us to understand more thoroughly the dynamic relations within the …

Freud, S. (1961). The ego and the id. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIX (1923-1925): The Ego and the Id and Other Works (pp. 1-66).

Freud File  is a website with links to primary sources about Sigmund Freud, including links to his Library of Congress collection.

Finding Other Sources

Once you’ve identified a few primary and secondary sources, you can continue your search within those documents to find more. On this particular subject, there is a wealth of information and you should be able to develop your psychology school essay easily. Check the databases available through your school and ask your librarian for help.

Remember to use APA citation and include as many primary sources in your reference list, as possible. APA style is author-date style so you need to include in-text citations that match with your APA reference list entries to create full citations.

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About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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