Writing Tips for Papers
No papers with an abundance of the following errors will receive a grade of an ‘A.’
1. USUALLY affect is a verb and effect is a noun;
e.g., This variable affects several things.
e.g., That other variable produced a very large effect.
2. If the subject of your sentence is singular, the verb and subsequent pronouns referring to the subject must be also:
e.g., The participant then provided HIS OR HER (NOT "THEIR") background
e.g., The point of these studies WAS (NOT "WERE") blah, blah, blah ... (point is singular).
3. NEVER use the word "PROVE" in a psychology article. While psychologists do many things, proving is virtually never one of them.
INCORRECT: These results prove that Schmedley's hypothesis was correct.
BETTER: These results support Schmedley's hypothesis.
BETTER STILL: These results support the hypothesis that Schmedley should change his name ... just kidding.
4. BE SUCCINCT. Do not use a lot of words to make a point if you can make the same point with fewer words. If two papers make the same points, the one with fewer words is, by my definition, better.
BAD: Asch’s research on conformity is very interesting because it includes interesting research and has important ideas that are very meaningful.
BETTER: Asch’s research on conformity is interesting for several reasons.
5. AVOID 1st person and, especially, opinions (unless they are asked for).
BAD: I am writing a paper on conformity. In this paper, I will talk about how social psychologists have studied conformity and why I am so interested in this interesting topic.
BETTER: This paper will address conformity as it has been studied in social psychology.
6. DO NOT USE CONTRACTIONS:
BAD: Subjects were asked if they’d administer an electric shock.
BETTER: Subjects were asked if they would administer an electric shock.
7. It’s means it is (but you should not be using contractions anyway).
Its is a possessive pronoun referring to a noun that possesses something.
e.g., The frog grabbed the fly with its tongue. (here its means the frog’s)
8. Punctuation marks go INSIDE quotation marks (when at the end of the sentence).
BAD: Then the experimenter said, "Oh Boy".
BETTER: Then the experimenter said, "Oh Boy."
BETTER STILL: Then the experimenter said, "Golly!"
9. Always follow the word "this" with a specific noun. Otherwise, your writing will be unclear.
BAD: Changes will be made at all levels of management. The impact of this will be enormous.
BETTER: Changes will be made at all levels of management. The impact of this restructuring will be enormous.
10. i.e., means "in other words." e.g., means "for example."
e.g., These people are thought to be cerebral in nature (i.e., they tend to think a lot).
e.g., Their diet includes several kinds of flowers (e.g., roses).
11. Here are some helpful word substitutions for you:
Change from to
looked at examined
12. Only use the word "correlation" if you are referring to a specific relationship between two different variables. Do not just throw this word around because it sounds good.
GOOD: A positive correlation was observed between number of hamburgers eaten and the size of one’s bellyache.
BAD: A correlation between these different ideas can be found. (This sentence simply does not mean anything).