Psyc 129: Human Learning & Memory
Final Essay Guidance
Instructions: For a final project, you will submit a review paper. The topic of this paper is up to you, as long as it has to do with the psychology of learning and/or memory in some capacity. This should be written in APA-style. Papers should be approximately 7 pages, 12-pt. font, double-spaced, with appropriate citations.
The final paper will be due March 12 at 11:59pm, PT. Late papers will not be accepted, unless prior arrangements are made.
The purpose of this paper is for you to identify a topic in learning and memory that you find interesting, and investigate it. A review paper should describe the main themes of a particular body of research, and the studies relevant to those themes. Review papers may cover a very broad literature (e.g. retrieval induced forgetting has hundreds of papers), or a relatively narrow topic (e.g. HSAMs – people with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, who can remember every single day of their lives – are relatively rare, so there aren’t that many papers written about them). You should choose a topic that can be covered well in 7-pages, so a relatively tight focus. Steps to writing a review paper:
1. Identify the general topic you want to write about. This should be specific enough that you can address it adequately in 7-pages. For example, eyewitness memory, the testing effect, social contagion of memory, highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAMs), or something like overgeneralized memory and depression are good-sized topics. Recognition in general, retrieval, false memories, autobiographical memory in general, or mental illness and its impact on memory are too broad; there is no way you could fit those entire topics into a 7-page paper. A good strategy would be to identify a topic you think might work, then use PsycINFO and Google Scholar to get a sense of what the literature looks like. Look at titles and abstracts (usually scanning 10-20 abstracts will give you a good sense of a field). If you need help narrowing your topic, consult with one of the TAs or the instructor. Here, we will be looking to see that your topic is of an appropriate scope, and is reasonably focused. Tell us what the paper is about in the introductory paragraph.
2. Select your sources. For a paper of this length, 5-10 sources is a reasonable number. We are not counting citations; we are evaluating how adequately you use sources to talk about your topic. For example, are the sources selected relevant to your topic, do they come from quality sources (i.e. peer-reviewed journals), do you use them to build a clear story or do you just list them, and do you describe the studies in adequate detail – i.e. 1.) the experimental design 2.) results, and 3.) implications for the theory. I will post a paper that gives guidance for how to read cognitive psychology articles if you don’t have a lot of experience doing so.
3. Outline your argument. Have a good roadmap for what you want to address in the paper. You do NOT need to submit the outline with your paper. It is for your own benefit, to help keep the paper from rambling.
4. Write a first draft, then revise it, then revise it again, and so on. A first draft is almost always bad. That’s ok, it is expected to be. Becoming a good writer is about multiple revisions. I strongly encourage you to make a Writing Center appointment after you have written a second (or so) draft: https://ucsc.mywconline.com. In fact, I will give 2 pts extra credit for final papers if you submit it with a note that you met with a writing tutor. The Writing Center gets swamped at the end of the quarter, so try to set up an appointment early. We will be evaluating papers for clarity and concision. Be efficient with your language – clear and simple wins the day.
Based on this guidance, we will be evaluating papers based on the following qualities:
1. Is the topic appropriate in scope?
2. Are the sources selected adequate to address the topic?
3. Are the sources of good quality (i.e. from peer-reviewed journals)?
4. Are any studies cited described in appropriate detail?
a. Experimental design (or other design, if not an experiment)
c. Implications (tell us what these results tell us; i.e. so what?)
5. Is the paper written clearly?
The most important thing is it should be interesting!