OPTIONAL ESSAY ASSIGNMENT
How the Essay Factors Into Your Final Course Grade
You can choose to write a short assignment, potentially worth 15% of your final course grade. If you decide to write an essay, each exam mark will be reduced to 37.5% of your final course grade, and the essay will count for the remaining 15%. In other words, your final course grade will be calculated as follows:
Midterm Exam: 37.5%
Final Exam: 37.5%
Optional Essay: 15%
General Format and Deadline
The essay should be 6-7 pages long and will include a title page, 3-4 double-spaced essay pages, a references page, and an appendix wherein you paste the abstracts of articles used in the assignment. The specific details/instructions for the assignment are described in the section below.
Please use APA 6th edition formatting (e.g., 1-inch margins, double-spaced, 12-point serif font like Times New Roman or Garamond, etc.). Copies of the APA 6th edition publication manual are available in the Western bookstore. You can also find more information about APA formatting at the following websites:
Essays are due to Turn-It-In on Sakai no later than 11:55PM Sunday, March 13. If you have problems when submitting to Turn-It-In you may e-mail your assignment to your TA (email@example.com for students with last name A through L, firstname.lastname@example.org for students with last name M through Zmailto:email@example.com). Late essays will not be accepted.
To complete the assignment, you must do the following:
The first thing you should do is find two primary, peer-reviewed, empirical research articles (published in scholarly journals after 2007) on a topic from class that interests you.
A primary, peer-reviewed, empirical research article is one in which the authors have conducted a research study (correlational or experimental) and collected data. You can often identify empirical articles by their use of Method, Results, and Discussion sections. Be careful to avoid theoretical or review articles, which do not contain data/results from a new study. Some appropriate scholarly journals where you may find articles are listed below. You are not limited to these journals by any means, but they provide an idea of the type of publication you should be looking for. Your articles must come from scholarly journals, as opposed to something like Psychology Today, magazines, or newspapers.
Some general academic journals (this list is not exhaustive!):
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Social Psychological and Personality Science
Some specialized academic journals (this list is not exhaustive!):
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations
Motivation and Emotion
Self and Identity
Western libraries carry hundreds of relevant journals in electronic and/or in hard copy format. Here are some suggestions for finding appropriate journal articles:
? Search one of the databases that the library has access to (PsycInfo is best) using keywords that relate to the topic you are interested in. For instance, you may search for “conformity and altruisim,” “prejudice and self-control,” or “attraction and romantic relationships.” If there is a particular author you are interested in, you can search by author. The Advanced Search tab in PsycInfo will give you a full range of search options.
? You may also search Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.ca) using relevant keywords and/or authors. Note that a Google Scholar search is different from a regular Google search!
? If there is a particular author you are interested in, he or she may have articles available for free download on their personal or academic website.
? Browse through various scholarly journals like those listed above, either online or in person, until you find articles that seem interesting to you.
? Follow up on one of the references from the textbook. For example, if you are interested in a topic from Chapter 12 (e.g., assessing prejudice), then you might want to start with the article by Clow and Olson (2010), described on p. 378. All textbook references are listed alphabetically in the References section at the back, so you will be able to find any reference you want (the Clow and Olson (2010) reference is found on p. 514).
After you have found two empirical articles on the topic that interests you, write an essay that accomplishes the following:
1. First, describe the topic you have chosen and its importance in your own words.
2. Next, describe one study from each article you have selected (some articles contain multiple studies). If the study is experimental, describe the independent and dependent variables. If the study is correlational, describe both variables of interest. Remember to also describe the outcome of the study!
3. Then describe one example of the topic in real life, taken from your own experiences. This does not necessarily mean that you were personally involved, but the event must be from your life. For instance, the event might have involved someone in your family or a friend.
? You must explain how your example illustrates the topic you have written about. Why is your example a good one? It may help to choose an experience that was interesting or significant, as opposed to a mundane, “every-day” type of event.
4. After that, include an interesting visual (e.g., a photo, painting, etc.) that represents the topic. Explain briefly how the visual is representative of the topic you have written about.
5. Finally, finish by creating two “Assess Your Knowledge” multiple choice questions (similar to those used in class and exams) relating to the topic you have written about. Be sure to make the questions relevant to the topic you have discussed in your essay, and include the correct answers.
Essay marks will be based on (a) the clarity and accuracy of the explanation of the topic and the two relevant empirical research studies; (b) the appropriateness and creativity of the real life example, the visual chosen to represent the topic, and the suggested “Assess Your Knowledge” questions; and (c) the overall quality of writing.
Other Important Information and Hints
Your aim is to write at a level appropriate for an undergraduate textbook—not too casual, but not too technical. Try not to box yourself in by thinking of the assignment in terms of “essay” vs. “report” or any other kind of category you may have learned about in other classes. You are allowed, for instance, to use “I” when writing the assignment; however, this does not mean that the essay is a blog entry in which you can just talk off the top of your head about the topic. At the other extreme, the essay is not a technical report for NASA, so it shouldn’t be a rigid, boring piece. One way to avoid the rigid/boring extreme is your strategy for citing articles. For example, you do not need to repeatedly cite a source within a paragraph if it’s obvious that you’re discussing the same source. In other words, you don’t have to write “Smith and Jones (2009) conducted a study on physical attractiveness and relationship satisfaction (Smith & Jones, 2009). In their study, Smith and Jones (2009) showed that…” Instead, you can simply write, within the same paragraph, “Smith and Jones (2009) conducted a study on physical attractiveness and relationship satisfaction. In their study, the researchers found that… They concluded that…” and so on.
Do not quote directly from your research articles or the textbook. Write things as simply as possible and rephrase everything in your own words. The reader of your essay may not have read the original research articles that you have, so it’s up to you to translate the complex, scientific terms in the empirical articles into easy-to-understand English. Imagine that you are translating a topic in the textbook for a family member; do not assume that the reader has the same specialist knowledge that you have.
You should be citing ideas, results, etc. from only the two empirical articles you read. Try not to cite the textbook. Your articles likely cite dozens of other articles, but many of you know already that it’s not appropriate for you to cite those articles unless you have read them yourself. If you find that you really want to cite an article referenced in your empirical articles, then you should either (a) find it and read it yourself, or (b) acknowledge that you haven’t actually read it by saying something like “Thompson (2002, as cited in Smith & Jones, 2009) argued that…,” where Smith and Jones (2009) is one of your two articles. Cite like this very sparingly; not more than twice, if at all. The reason you cite a source referenced in another article this way is that it is possible that Smith and Jones (2009) did not accurately represent Thompson (2002), in which case you could be perpetuating an error by discussing it based solely on Smith and Jones’s interpretation. Additionally, remember that you are not quoting from your articles, but citing them for their ideas, results, etc. which you then should paraphrase.
Feel free to discuss the essay with me or the TAs as you write—we are happy to help!