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Psychology: Selecting Topic

This guide aims to help you with your psychology research.

Effective Research Strategies

Selecting a Topic

  • Browse your textbook, great place to start since it is the first source that you have available.
  • Browse articles relating to psychology in the popular press, such as Psychology Today, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek.
  • Listen to the news for reports regarding human and animal behavior.
  • Browse psychology related sites such as American Psychology Association at www.apa.org.
  • Browse psychology related books (e.g., Encyclopedia of Psychology), and journals.
  • Go over your class notes, since your professor and classmates will mention topics during class discussions that you would like to be more educated about.
  • Most important, select a topic that is interesting and will keep you motivated to do the research.

 Defining a Topic

  • Initially, your topic will be TOO BROAD. An example is Post-traumatic stress disorder (ask yourself, what about a topic that you would like to focus on).
  •  Once you have decided on a topic, do some background reading and this will help you to focus on a specific aspect of the topic.
  •  As you read more and more about your topic, you will be able to focus on a specific area of interest, which will help with narrowing your topic.  
  • You may need to modify your topic several times to get it just right.

Narrowing a Topic

 Focus on an event: Holocaust, World Trade Centre Disaster, Hurricanes, Iraqi War, Tsunami.

 Focus on a specific population: Abused Children, Survivors, Women, Men, Elderly, Rape Victim, Prisoners.

 Focus on a specific geographic and demographic areas: Asia, New York, Inner City, Foster Homes, Prison, Concentration Camps.  

 Focus on time period: Long-Term, Midlife, Neonatal Period, Postnatal Period.

 Documentation and Citation of Sources

It is very IMPORTANT to keep correct documentation of the sources used during the research process for the following reasons:  

  1. If the ideas and thoughts are not original yours, you must give credit to the owners of the works, otherwise this will result in plagiarism.
  2. Using the works of others without giving credit to the owners is also a violation of the copyright law.Proper citations enable your instructor and others to check the cited sources.

Selected Sites to Browse for Topics