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About this book

Most people experience some difficulty with writing formal or technical papers. Students, in particular, can experience problems with the requirements of writing papers in psychology. This book is a comprehensive companion to the entire writing process, covering:
· thinking analytically and critically
· taking notes
· organizing information and ideas
· preparing and planning
· writing drafts and editing
It emphasizes the principles and logic underlying the thinking and writing process, so that these may be applied to a range of essays, literature reviews and research reports.

The book also includes advice and guidance on the reporting of statistics, and on the design, preparation, and use of figures and tables to illustrate research results. It also includes reference material on grammar, punctuation, spelling, abbreviations, and on typing and presentation.

For ease of finding relevant material it is organized into parts that relate to various aspects of writing and types of papers, and includes internal cross-references, a checklist of the writing process and examples of good and bad research reports.

The Principles of Writing in Psychology is suitable for use at all levels of study and beyond. It is consistent with the 5th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association but also covers deviations from this and includes material not included in the manual.

T.R. SMYTH held academic appointments at many of Australia's foremost universities, including Charles Sturt University, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of Canberra. He also authored The Psychology Thesis: Research and Coursework and Writing in Psychology: A Student Guide.

Table of Contents

Academic Papers

Frontmatter

1. Thinking and Writing

Abstract
It is true to say that often one does not know what one thinks until one has written it. Writing is a discipline that leads to analytical, critical, and logical thinking. A good paper presents a structured argument that is based on sound evidence, and that leads inevitably to a logical thesis or conclusion.
T. R. Smyth

2. Scientific Writing

Abstract
There are variations in the approach to writing papers in different disciplines. For example, there will be differences in the approach adopted when writing papers in history and in English literature. Psychology is a science, and so papers written in psychology must be written in a scientific manner.
T. R. Smyth

3. Style

Abstract
Style is usually thought of as that which is distinctive about writing, identifying it with the author. This should not be confused with the editorial style adopted by publishers. Writing style refers to the manner of writing, or the way in which information and ideas are presented. This includes the use of words, structure of sentences, variety, and rhythm.
T. R. Smyth

4. Academic Standards

Abstract
Plagiarism and academic dishonesty are regarded very seriously. The penalties involved can include loss of marks, failure in a subject or course, termination of candidature, or removal of a degree. Moreover, in a student’s future occupation or profession the consequences are no less serious. Careers have been ruined! It is important, therefore, to understand what constitutes plagiarism and academic dishonesty.
T. R. Smyth

Sources

Frontmatter

5. Evaluating Sources

Abstract
A reader will not be convinced by an author’s argument unless it is based on accurate information and valid ideas. Authors, therefore, must cite the source(s) of information and ideas included in a paper, and must support assertions made, by citing the source(s) of the information and/or ideas on which assertions are based. This allows the reader to refer to the source(s) to verify or to evaluate the information or ideas involved. Obviously, then, any source cited must be of good quality. It follows that authors must select sources with care.
T. R. Smyth

6. Citing Sources

Abstract
In academic books and journal articles, and often in other material, authors frequently refer the reader to the source of some information or idea. Most commonly, this is described as a reference. Technically, the source is the material to which reference is made (usually a journal article or a book), and referring the reader to the source is the reference. However, the terms “reference” and “source” are often used interchangeably and, for practical purposes, they may be regarded as being synonymous. To confuse matters further, referring to a source in this way is usually referred to as citing a source. Sometimes, therefore, referring to a source is described as a citation.
T. R. Smyth

7. Quotations

Abstract
Authors sometimes, although infrequently, quote directly from a source. It is important, therefore, to understand the circumstances under which a quotation is acceptable, and how to quote another author’s material.
T. R. Smyth

8. The Reference List

Abstract
A reader must be able to refer to any source cited in a paper or a book. The publication details of cited sources must, therefore, be provided. This information is provided in the reference list or bibliography that forms part of any paper.
T. R. Smyth

Writing

Frontmatter

9. Writing a Paper

Abstract
In a generic sense, the term “paper” can be used to refer to essays, literature reviews, and research reports (sometimes described by students as laboratory or practical reports); and to other documents, such as a proposal, a report of an investigation, or a journal article. Regardless of the form of a paper, the underlying principles involved in writing it remain unchanged. This chapter provides advice and guidance of a generic nature that is equally applicable to any paper. Further advice and guidance that are applicable to writing an essay, a literature review, or a research report are given in later chapters.
T. R. Smyth

10. Drafts and Editing

Abstract
Writing a good paper will always involve a number of drafts. This is an essential part of the writing process, and it should be looked on as akin to an actor rehearsing a part. A polished performance cannot be achieved without rehearsal, and a polished paper cannot be achieved without writing a number of drafts. Experienced authors write numerous drafts (about 15 or more is common), but about three or four should be adequate for an undergraduate paper.
T. R. Smyth

Essays and Literature Reviews

Frontmatter

11. An Overview of Essays and Literature Reviews

Abstract
A paper, whether written by a student or a graduate, is always written to present the author’s position on some subject matter. Moreover, it is written to convince a reader of the validity and value of that position. The author must, therefore, develop an argument — which is based on sound information and valid ideas — in support of his or her position. It follows that a paper must present an analytical and critical evaluation of information, ideas, and theories; and an examination of relationships within and between them. In particular, it should examine any similarities or differences between ideas, and consistencies or inconsistencies in research findings. Moreover, it should identify any apparent strengths or weaknesses, or flaws in thinking and/or research, and possible alternative explanations of findings.
T. R. Smyth

12. Preparation for and Planning of a Paper

Abstract
The most important, and time-consuming, part of writing a paper is preparation and planning. It is critical to allow time for finding and reading sources, noting, thinking, and planning. Moreover, it is important to adopt some systematic approach so that time and effort are not wasted.
T. R. Smyth

13. Writing an Essay or Literature Review

Abstract
The writing of papers was discussed in chapter 9, and the writing and editing of drafts in chapter 10. Both of these chapters are, of course, applicable to writing an essay or a literature review. This chapter provides additional advice that is specific to the writing of an essay or a literature review.
T. R. Smyth

Quantitative Research

Frontmatter

14. An Overview of a Research Report

Abstract
Not surprisingly, a paper reporting the outcome of a piece of research is written in the same sequence that governed the conduct of the research reported. It follows that, because research is carried out in accordance with the scientific method, it is reported in the same sequence.
T. R. Smyth

15. Preparation and Planning of a Research Report

Abstract
As for any paper, the most important and time-consuming part of writing a research report is preparation and planning. This chapter provides advice and guidance on the overall preparation and planning of a research report. However, the preparation and planning of the Introduction and Discussion sections involves the same considerations as are involved in any literature review, and these are discussed in chapter 12. They are not, therefore, duplicated in this chapter.
T. R. Smyth

16. Writing a Research Report

Abstract
This chapter is written on the assumption that the research being reported involves a single experiment that is designed to test a single hypothesis. However, the advice and guidance provided are equally applicable to research involving multiple experiments and hypotheses, and can be generalized to research of a non-experimental nature.
T. R. Smyth

17. Reporting Statistics

Abstract
There is some debate in psychology on the appropriate use and reporting of statistical analyses. This is recognized in the APA Manual, which allows for some discretion in the matter. The recommendations given here are somewhat of a simplification, and cover only common applications. In some instances it might be advisable to consult the APA Manual, and/or other sources. For most purposes, however, this chapter provides the necessary advice and guidance.
T. R. Smyth

18. Using Figures and Tables

Abstract
Illustrations such as graphs, diagrams, charts, line drawings, maps, and photographs are referred to as figures. Sometimes, a figure can be used to illustrate an idea. For instance, a figure in the form of a block diagram can be used to illustrate an information-processing model. Alternatively, a table, in the form of columns and rows, can be used to present an idea. For example, a stage theory of development can be presented in the form of a table. Most commonly, however, figures and tables are used to present information in the form of data. In this case, the figure or table is used to present information in support of some idea.
T. R. Smyth

19. Preparing Figures and Tables

Abstract
Although figures can be used to illustrate, for example, some piece of apparatus, and tables can be used to present textual material, most commonly they are used to present data in numerical form. The emphasis in this chapter, therefore, is on the design and preparation of such figures and tables. However, the principles involved apply equally to other figures and tables.
T. R. Smyth

Qualitative Research

Frontmatter

20. Qualitative Research Reports

Abstract
To a very large extent, the advice and guidance given in Part 5 of this book are applicable to research of any form. This chapter offers additional advice and guidance that is relevant to the preparation, planning, and writing of a qualitative research report. It is, however, important to understand that, because the nature of qualitative research varies widely, the content and structure of the resultant research report similarly varies. It is, therefore, only possible to provide general guidelines that can be modified to suit a particular set of circumstances. In addition, qualitative research can present a number of potential problems of a practical and ethical nature. Again, it is impossible to cater for every eventuality. This chapter has been written on the basis that the research involved will be in the form of a “teaching study” designed for students. It is, therefore, written on the assumption that any potential problems, in particular of an ethical nature, will have been catered for.
T. R. Smyth

Resource Material

Frontmatter

21. Grammar

Abstract
Grammar can be thought of as the set of rules that govern the use of a language. Most people are not familiar with some of the finer points, but an understanding and application of basic grammatical concepts is essential if an author is to communicate effectively in writing. However, everyone has to check some points from time to time. This chapter provides a source that can be used for this purpose.
T. R. Smyth

22. Punctuation

Abstract
Punctuation is important because it helps to make the author’s meaning clear. Even a relatively simple sentence can convey an unintended meaning if appropriate punctuation is not used. As an illustration, consider the following two sentences:
This child was not included in the sample, because his intelligence was well above average.
This child was not included in the sample because his intelligence was well above average.
T. R. Smyth

23. Spelling and Capitalization

Abstract
Sometimes errors in spelling can be amusing. There is, for example, the story of a parent who received a notice from a private school, advising that in future fees should be paid “anally”. The parent, in reply, wrote to the school inquiring why the previous practice of “paying through the nose” could not be continued. In other instances errors can be confusing, and obscure an author’s meaning.
T. R. Smyth

24. Abbreviations and Numbers

Abstract
Most people remember only common abbreviations, and there is some variation in their usage. For instance, sometimes punctuation is used in abbreviations — for example, B.A., Ph.D., i.e. — while sometimes it is not — for example, BA, PhD, ie. Similarly, there are variations in the manner in which numbers are given in text. When in doubt you should consult a dictionary or style manual. As in other matters, however, you must follow the style requirements of the publisher for whom you are writing, or the style adopted in your institution or organization. In any case, it is essential that you are consistent.
T. R. Smyth

25. Typing and Presentation

Abstract
First impressions count, and you do not want a reader to approach your paper with a negative attitude. A paper that is neat and tidy, and that conforms to given presentation requirements, gives an impression of care and pride. In contrast, one that is not, and does not, suggests carelessness, and this is usually reflected in the content of the paper.
T. R. Smyth

26. Marking Papers

Abstract
Students typically do not understand the process involved in the marking of their papers. A comment often made is something like, “I put a lot of effort into writing this paper, but I was given a poor grade.” The problem with this comment is that what one person thinks of as a lot, another does not. In any event, writing a paper is always time consuming and difficult. Students often do not fully appreciate this, and think that simply because they put time and effort into writing a paper, it should be given a good grade. A paper is marked on the basis of what is presented, not how much time and effort was involved.
T. R. Smyth
Additional information