Contemporary Debates and Methods in Psychology

Contemporary Debates and Methods in Psychology

Contemporary Debates and Methods in Psychology

Please see assessment task, guidelines and grading criteria attached

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    Grading Criteria:



    Introduction: / 20  
     Sets the scene of the essay    

    · ‘Signposts’ the reader to the overall shape of the essay

    · Clear definition and explanation of relevant terms / main discussion points


     Detailed description and understanding of key  
    psychological theories and/or constructs  
     Critical assessment and synthesis of relevant  
    psychological literature  
     Evidence of wider reading around the topic to support  
    discussion with a balance of seminal and contemporary / 50
    reference sources  
     Clear focus on answering the question  
     A coherent structure to the essay, presenting a concise  
    argument supported by examples from relevant  
    psychological literature  
     Ability to draw main points of discussion together / 20
     Linkage of conclusions to assignment title  
    Presentation & Referencing:  
     Correct use of grammar, punctuation and spelling  
     Appropriate writing style (use of “third” person)  
     The majority of references are from academic journals / 10
    and primary sources  
     References reported accurately in essay text  
     References reported accurately in attached ‘References’  



    Students should recognize that the marking criteria are weighted to indicate its importance in relation to the information required.

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    Please choose one of the following topics:


    Essay A: Using a range of contemporary empirical work, critically reflect on the validity of contextualist approaches as identifying factors on health.

    Starter paper: Bronfenbrenner, U., & Evans, G. W. (2000). Developmental science in the


    21st century: Emerging questions, theoretical models, research designs and empirical findings. Social Development, 9(1), 115-125. Contemporary Debates and Methods in Psychology


    Essay B: How relevant is social identity theory as an explanation for intergroup behaviour? Justify your answer with a detailed critical assessment of current research.

    Starter paper: Tajfel, H., Billig, M. G., Bundy, R. P., & Flament, C. (1971). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1(2), 149-178.


    Essay C: Critically appraise the evidence to explain why a person is motived to change his or her behaviour. Initially, you need to define a behaviour change with real life examples. Then you discuss the motivation with reference to current research based on at least TWO empirical studies.

    Starter paper: Williams, G. C., McGregor, H. A., Sharp, D., Levesque, C., Kouides, R. W., Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2006). Testing a self-determination theory intervention for motivating tobacco cessation: Supporting autonomy and competence in a clinical trial. Health Psychology, 25(1), 91-101.


    Essay D: Critically appraise the comment “money buys happiness” with empirical evidences.


    Starter paper: Kahneman, D, and A Deaton. (2010). High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ,107 (38): 16489-16493.


    Assignment Guidelines:


    The use of empirical psychological research evidence to support arguments made, and key discussion points, is an important requirement for this essay. Such evidence should come from primary sources (i.e.: peer reviewed journal articles) and referenced accurately using the APA system of referencing.

    The questions are quite specific and so make sure you answer the question set. For example, with essay (c), the question is asking for you to supply evidence to develop and support your argument. You must at least to provide two empirical studies. Your argument should be based a real study case, which is generally from a journal paper. Failure to answer the question set will negatively impact on your grade.


    Use of evidence

    You are required to formulate a clear argument – i.e. one which you then identify assumptions from and use evidence to evaluate those assumptions. You need to read sufficiently widely to assess your argument.


    The importance of critical analysis

    Just because something is written down, even if it’s in a peer reviewed journal article, does not make it accurate. So you need to steer away from what people claim, think, believe etc. and focus on what they find, what the results say etc. And then consider how valid the results are with reference to what you know/remember about how we do research. For example if we are suggesting recommendations, how do you know these would be effective? How might we evaluate them? Are you going to focus on one or two cognitive load approaches and if so would the efficacy of these be different depending on when and how they were used? If there are no data available which directly support your point, what sort of study would you recommend to test it? Could you draw in something from a different area to support the validity of your argument and then show how this might generalise across?



    Be clear and concise as this sets the scene for the essay, and let the reader know where this section starts and ends. The introduction should “signpost” the reader to the overall shape of the essay. It should clearly explain relevant terms and what the main points for discussion will be. It should demonstrate students’ knowledge of definitions of key terms in the title and briefly provide an overview of how the essay will be structured to address the essay title. It may be relevant to include some pertinent references within this section although lengthy discussions around such research should be in the main body of discussion within the essay rather than in the Introduction. As an aside, students may find it useful when editing their essays to come back to the Introduction and ensure that it accurately reflects what follows in the main body of discussion.



    This is the main body of the essay and students should demonstrate an in depth critical examination of basic and seminal research and theories within the core reading for this module. Furthermore, a very good essay will show in depth evidence of critical examination of more novel and/or advanced research and theories outside of the core readings which have been given. Students should ensure that only the inclusion of information/research evidence that helps to answer ‘the essay question’ is used and that links to the essay focus are evident throughout the discussion.


    Note that this is NOT a descriptive application of core areas of psychology to the issue at hand, but a critical discussion so all viewpoints or argument perspectives should be represented within the discussion, if applicable.


    Although students should not use subheadings for this academic essay, there should still be a clear structure to the whole essay (i.e. Introduction paragraph(s), Discussion paragraph(s) and Conclusion paragraph(s)) AND the Discussion component should also have a clear structure so that the reader can follow the line of the argument. In other words, students should try and present each paragraph in a logical order (e.g., key theories followed by empirical research that has tested these theories) and ensure that the first sentence in each paragraph captures the essence of the paragraph and that the last sentence summarises the paragraph. Paragraphs should make appropriate use of linking words and phrases.

    The content of this essay should go beyond descriptive material and key issues discussed in lecture sessions and incorporate additional reading and research carried out by students. Whilst the use of seminal work may be pertinent at points, students are expected to move beyond this and incorporate relevant contemporary psychological research from the area. Such research should be reported using the APA system of referencing. An appropriate, full and detailed reference section should be included at the end of the essay.



    It should be clear where the conclusion to the essay starts (e.g., ‘In conclusion, the essay focussed on…etc.). Students should also demonstrate an ability to draw main points of the discussion together and show that they are not simply repeating/reiterating points from the discussion section but are instead synthesising key themes/findings/recommendations. It is

    important to link the conclusion(s) to all components of the title and aims and it may be appropriate to consider recommendations for future research and improvements in the area.


    NB: Please note that the above headings / subsections (i.e. Introduction/Discussion/Conclusion) should only be used as guidance towards marking and content. This is an academic essay and subsections should not be used within the main body of work.



    Presentation and Referencing

    There must be consistent and correct use of grammar, punctuation and spelling throughout this academic essay. Furthermore the writing style should be in the third person. You should use the APA reference style for in text citations, use a dedicated “References” section at the end, and be consistent throughout the work (see earlier link to university referencing guidance). Please note that Wikipedia will NOT be accepted as an appropriate reference for this piece of work and marks will be deducted if it is used. If relevant, Appendices may be used to direct the reader to supporting material BUT these should only be used as such support to complement the main essay and not as a substitute for the main essay and its content. As previously mentioned, this assignment should be word processed double spaced, with numbered pages and the student’s name and identification number printed as footer on every page. Contemporary Debates and Methods in Psychology


    The Assessment Marking Criteria below shows the percentage grading system that tutors will use to mark and grade this assignment. Students are also advised to refer to their programme of study handbook for information on assessment grading.


    General guidance for Essay:

    Essays should be presented in Arial or Comic Sans font and 1.5 line spacing. Subsections should not be used within an academic essay.


    Word count should be 3000 words + or – 10%.