Overall Purpose The purpose of this assignment is to familiarize students with psychological research and theory pertaining to a
research area in Adult Development and Aging, and to foster ongoing development of literacy specific to the discipline of Psychology.
Empirical articles pertaining to interesting and compelling topics in Adult Development and Aging are provided in Moodle. Students
should read each article carefully, and then prepare a written essay on the article, integrating with course material when
Essay Content and Organization. Essays should be organized as follows: ideas and theories relevant to the main topic
(background); the researchers’ goals; sample and measurement information (no more than one long paragraph here); results (in plain
English and as it pertains to ideas each student is focusing on); and a thorough discussion (including integrating with other course
topics and relevant research). Students should address the strengths and contributions of each study as it pertains to the research
article and to aging in general. Students are discouraged from preparing essays that repeat the limitation information included in each
article. The emphasis is on connections to other theories and research and contributions to scientists and/or the general public.
Students are encouraged to prepare essays that readers of the New York Times (for example) would find informative and well-written.
In addition, students should obtain and read every cited source. Instructions for pasting a snapshot of the article (after the reference
page) is provided in Moodle. (Note: headings should NOT be method, results, etc. – those headings are used in research articles – not
in short literature reviews.)
Formatting. Only essays submitted in Microsoft Word 2010+ will be accepted. Files must be editable, permitting the addition of
comments. Essays must be double-spaced, using Times New Roman 12, and margin settings of 1 inch. Minimum length: 1200 words.
Essays that do not meet the minimum word requirement will receive a grade of 0. Essays must include a reference section prepared
according to APA style (called “References” – not works cited or bibliography)
Submission. Students are required to submit essays via Moodle. Digital copies only – hard copies are not necessary. Name the
first essay “E1” before uploading and “E2” for essay 2, etc. Deviations from the requirements could result in a grade of 0.0, so
students are urged to review all the requirements before preparing and submitting these essays. Never email essays.
References. There are no minimum reference / citation requirements. A student could produce a well-written essay just using the
article provided and the textbook (note: use chapter citations for the textbook; no page numbers required). However, most of the
best essays will include a focused discussion on a topic related to the research results and ideas, and that often leads to the
appropriate inclusion of additional research articles (typically 1-3). For those articles, citations, references, and a snapshot of the first
page (to verify that the article was read), are required. The nature of each students’ discussion and the ideas developed vary, and
there are many potentially viable options for discussing the results in the assigned article. Because this is a short essay, students
should focus this discussion on one or two clearly related topics. The discussion should not be a list of possibly related ideas. Just
trying to include lists of weakly related ideas usually results in poorly written essays (which often occurs when essay requirements
stipulate minimum outside resources- like 10 or 15 – and I know that other professors assign that type of essay.) Hence, students
should be selective and then prepare discussions that are focused, thoughtful, articulate, informative, accurate and wellsubstantiated.
Questions. Questions about requirements and content should be received at least 48 hours before the due date: preferably at
least 1 week before the due date. Last minute questions do not provide enough time to provide substantive assistance. Questions
received on the due date are discouraged. Students are reminded that digital literacy is required of upper-division university students.
If a student has little experience preparing essays in word prior to this assignment, then getting assistance online and from OU officials
(who are trained to help students with digital literacy related to preparing and submitting essays), is encouraged.
Feedback. Extensive feedback will be provided for the first essay, enabling continued improvement. Students are encouraged to
review this feedback with the instructor if clarification about improvement is needed. In addition, students submitting consistently
improved essays will be awarded points for improvement.
Grading. Essays awarded the highest grades will be interesting, accurate and well-written; and will include a thoughtful discussion
of the theoretical perspectives and empirical findings, with a strong emphasis on the contributions and strengths of each study
assigned. In addition, each essay must be clear, coherent, well-organized, non-s superficial, and free of grammatical or spelling errors.
More specifically, to be marked as an A or B, essays must demonstrate (1) a mastery of college-level writing mechanics; (2) the ability
to comprehend and summarize the relevant theoretical and empirical literature; (3) the ability to evaluate this literature and to
integrate with other relevant concepts already covered in this course; and (4) the ability to engage in written expression that reflects
conventions typical in the psychological literature. Overall, good marks will be awarded when students demonstrate proficiency in
written expression that reflects sophistication appropriate for upper division students.
PSY 3230 Syllabus` – Page 2
Specific Recommendations for Essays
1. Writing Mechanics and Style
Writing Style: University Level. You should focus on writing an essay that an educated adult would find compelling. Cute
anecdotes, definitions (i.e., Webster defines … etc.), or simplistic and obvious statements should be avoided. Because the emphasis is
on describing the science rather than expressing opinions, your essay will not resemble papers submitted for an English Composition
or a Rhetoric course. Sometimes the transition from beginning university-level literacy to discipline-specific literacy is challenging. Do
make sure that you prepare an essay with an emphasis on the scientific evidence and interpretations of that evidence, rather than a
collection of opinions. Please note that all the readings for this course also emphasize evidence so those provide great examples of
written work that is based on scientific evidence rather than the author’s opinion.
Literacy in Psychological Science. Theoretical, empirical, and academic papers and journal articles written by psychologists use a
particular style. We are careful NOT to overstate our points in order to maintain a high level of accuracy. For example, if a treatment
for depression is effective in only 40% of the cases, then we do not say it is always effective. Words like “prove,” or “true” are never
used. We also avoid the first person, e.g., “I believe,” or “In my opinion.” In most student writings, these phrases can be eliminated,
making the editing straightforward.
APA Format. In short, essays should be double-spaced, using Times New Roman 12. Margins should be 1”. Do not use full
justification (left justification only). Cover pages are NOT required for these short essays. On the first page include your name and
“Psy 323: McGinnis” in the upper right; double space and put the title in the center; double space and start your text. Page numbers
are not required because the word count is provided in Word and because of the brevity of these essays. Students MUST use APA
formatting for citations – your textbook provides examples; or purchase an APA manual for the most thorough description of
formatting requirements. Essays must include a “References” section after the content of your essay: a separate page is not
necessary. Students should obtain and read every cited source. Instructions for pasting a snapshot of the first page of the article is
provided in Moodle. You can refer to the Concise Guide of APA Style for any question about style or formatting
Audience. Students often have a hard time imagining who the audience is. First, it is not your professor. It is my preference for
students to imagine that they are writing an article for the NY Times (with the exception that we must follow APA guidelines for in-text
citations, etc.). So, the essay should be articulate, accurate, clear, informative, well-organized, not redundant, and written as if the
audience is college educated. Be Informative: To be informative, each sentence and each paragraph should add information, explain
ideas, address the subtleties of the ideas, and strive to keep it interesting so the reader wants to keep reading. Avoid Vagueness:
Sentences that are vague or do not add ideas should be deleted (these are useless fluff, and educated readers have no patience for
these). Also, each topic should be fully explained and discussed, without the inclusion of other ideas that could be related (or not).
Avoid Jumbled Ideas and unexpected topic shifts: An essay that is just a jumble of topics is not well-written and confusing. One idea
leads to the next – the next idea is fully developed – then the next. I am not sure why students are preparing essays that are just a
bunch of disjointed ideas, but it is quite common. For each essay, I will provide suggestions for which ideas would be the easiest and
most relevant. I also suggest ideas not to include, so please pay attention to that. It is a good idea to listen to that information, and
not to be misled by lots of other ideas. If your textbooks were written that way or we as professors talked that way, students would be
incredibly confused. If a paragraph starts with a sentence, that is the topic of the paragraph. DO NOT switch to another topic. Fully
develop that topic. DO NOT write sentences where you try to include a whole bunch of ideas in the same sentence. It is difficult for
me to believe that anyone taught students to write this way – but I see it in a lot of essays. It is vague, confusing, and uninformative.
Always Consider your Audience: Please consider your audience – be selective about which ideas to focus on; be accurate; support
statements with evidence (in-text citations and references); be clear; address nuances and subtleties clearly and accurately; don’t be
repetitive; include interesting ideas; delete unrelated ideas (even if the researchers mention them, you do not have to); and imagine
you are writing a science article for the NY times.
2. Digital Skills
Students are expected to be proficient in the following: using Microsoft word (or equivalent, but save as .docx), backing up files
to another drive or to the cloud (e.g. Google Drive); appropriately formatting word documents (e.g., margins, paragraph functions;
indents; etc.); saving documents and spreadsheets; saving as pdf; converting to pdf (scanning or print to pdf); backing up to a cloud
(e.g., google drive); naming / renaming files; converting files to another format (e.g., word to pdf); using the snip function so that an
image can be included; inserting the image into a document; reducing the file size of a large file (often indicates that a phone camera
was used for images; or corrupted files); and scanning to pdf. and viewing comments provided in Microsoft word. Students who lack
digital skills needed for successful completion of the written work in this course should consult the Kresge Writing Center at Oakland
University for assistance. Feedback for essays is only provided in a Microsoft word document. (Note: OU has Microsoft options so
every student should be able to download a version of Microsoft office to his or her computer. Contact the help desk for assistance.)
Students are reminded that digital literacy is required of upper-division university students. If a student has little experience
preparing essays in word prior to this assignment, then getting assistance online and from OU officials (who are trained to help
students with digital literacy related to preparing and submitting essays), is encouraged.
PSY 3230 Syllabus` – Page 3
Skilled writing consultants are available for consultation at the Oakland University Writing Center. Students at all levels are
encouraged to use this resource to improve their writing skills and the quality of the papers required for this course. Visit the
writing center’s website to make an appointment with a consultant. You can visit as often as you like. Their advice usually pertains
primarily to writing mechanics (organization, sentence structure, grammar, and clarity) rather than content as the consultant may
not have experience writing in Psychology.
4. Various Dos and Don’ts
Maintain a Clear Focus: Do not write about lots of disjointed topics – find a way to focus your essay on one topic or a collection of
ideas that are inter-related (e.g., death is not automatically related just because we are talking about aging).
Outlines Help. Do write an outline – and revise your outline later if you need to. Do use conceptual headings that identify how your
paper is organized. These may come from your outline. Do NOT use method, results, and discussion as headings.
Revising. Do not worry if you find yourself editing and rewriting dozens of times – the articles that you are reading went through 20-50
revisions before publication. Do worry if you don’t find yourself revising at all.
NO last minute questions. All questions about requirements and content should be received at least 48 hours before the due date. Last
minute questions do not provide enough time to help or resolve issues. Questions received on the due date are discouraged. And
remember, digital literacy is a requirement. If a student has not prepared essays in word prior to this assignment, are encouraged to get
from OU officials trained to help students with digital literacy related to preparing and submitting essays.
Common APA Errors to Avoid. No author first names. The article title goes on the reference page (not in text). Forgetting to us APA intext citations (always when citing). APA – the reference section is called “References,” not bibliography or works cited. Don’t use these
headings (methods, results, etc.) – those are for research – when the author performed the research.
Defining Terms. Do not use undefined terms that reasonably educated readers would not know. Do not give an example without
explaining why your example is an example – explain concisely of course.
Avoid Unneeded Words. Do not use unnecessary words – be concise. It’s easier for readers who are interested in your ideas. For
example, phrases like “It’s a fact that.” should be deleted. Excessive verbosity will reduce the grade assigned.
Thinking is Preferred. Do not be afraid to have what seems to be a novel idea. As your teachers, we expect that students are more
informed as juniors and seniors than when they were in their first year. Be sure to clarify and justify your arguments and ideas with
Do Not Try Out New Words. Do not use words that you are not familiar with to impress readers – use vocabulary you know. Do not
pretend to understand information that you do not: get assistance before the due date and focus on what you understand.
No Anecdotes. Do not include cute anecdotes or definitions – those are unsophisticated devices that K-12 instructors promote and are
not typical of scholarship in Psychology.
Organization Matters. Disorganized essays will not get good grades. One sentence leads to the next, with each sentence adding
information. Jumbled essays that go all over the place are hard to read. As readers, we expect essays to be organized. Imagine a
discussion with someone where their ideas are all mixed up and you cannot figure out why one sentence comes after the one preceding.
Mostly we find that hard to listen to. Same with essays. Jumbled essays are just awful (but I get them every semester). Please read your
essay out loud and make sure every sentence leads to the next sentence. Maybe have someone else read your essay. Disorganized essays
will not receive good grades.
Avoid Redundancy. Please do not repeat the same idea over and over. Repetitive essays will not receive good grades.
Avoid Dumb Lists. Some students summarize the research and then provide a paragraph with 5-20 ideas. Like depression might be due
to ____ and then the list. This is like writing nothing. Please pick an idea – develop it in 1-4 paragraphs, and then move on to the next idea.
Lists count for 0 – they are uninformative and uninteresting.
Avoid Using Questions. Do not use questions. Effective use of questions is challenging, and most students do not have the experience
and expertise to do so effectively. Students are encouraged to turn questions into statements.
Avoid Being Overly Critical. Essays that are overly critical of the research summarized will be marked down. Students are discouraged
from including methodological limitations and are encouraged to highlight the contributions and strengths of each article and of this small
body of work on your topic.
Use Feedback. Do not get angry when people give you feedback – try to see it from their point of view – particularly if they have more
experience than you do.
Remember your audience. See the audience section earlier in this document. It is important.
BIG DON’T: Quoting, Copying and Plagiarizing. Because these papers provide various opportunities to practice and improve writing,
students are urged to submit papers that they have written entirely on their own and to avoid any type of copying from textbooks or other
sources. Copying sentences or paragraphs from sources may constitute quoting. Quoting, even when the citations are provided, is
unacceptable because it does not represent student work. Any paper utilizing quotes (or copying verbatim) from cited sources will be
marked down substantially. Even more egregious is plagiarism: copying without quotes and citations. Plagiarizing a sentence, a
paragraph, a page, as well as plagiarizing an entire paper, is unethical and unfair to fellow students. Oakland University policies necessitate
a review by the Academic Conduct Committee (ACC) when plagiarism is suspected. If a student is found responsible for academic
misconduct by ACC, a grade of 0 for the course will be recorded, in addition to the sanctions deemed appropriate by the ACC and the Dean
of Students. Students are encouraged to refer to Oakland University’s academic conduct policies published online in the Student