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Thigpen Library Research Guides

PSYC 1030 - Dretchen: 1. Choose topic

guide for finding articles for "Research Review Paper" assignment for Professor Dretchen

Choose a Topic

The key to selecting a good topic for your psychology paper is to select something that is narrow enough to allow you to really focus on the subject, but not so narrow that it is difficult to find sources or other information. Potential research topics can be within the six categories below. The topics within the research categories are suggestions and not an exhaustive list of potential research topics. 

Branch of Psychology

One approach is to narrow down your focus to a subject within a specific branch of psychology. For example, you might start by deciding that you want to write a paper on a social psychology topic. Next you, might narrow that down to how persuasion can be used to influence behavior.

Suggested search terms for that topic: persuasion and behavior

Other social psychology topics to consider:

  • prejudice and discrimination
  • social cognition
  • attitudes
  • social control and cults
  • persuasion, propaganda, and marketing/advertising
  • attraction, romance, and love
  • nonverbal communication
  • prosocial behavior
  • leadership

Disorder or Type of Therapy

Exploring a psychological disorder or a specific treatment modality can also be a good topic for a psychology paper. Some potential abnormal psychology topics include specific psychological disorders or particular treatment modalities, including:

  • eating disorders
  • depression
  • phobias
  • borderline personality disorder
  • seasonal affective disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • antisocial personality disorder
  • profiling a type of therapy (i.e. cognitive behavior, group therapy, psychoanalysis)


Some of the possible topics to explore in cognition include thinking, intelligence, and decision-making. Other ideas might include:

  • dreams
  • false memories
  • attention
  • perception
  • language
  • speech disorders
  • problem-solving
  • judgment

Human Development

In human development, you might choose to focus on issues pertinent to early childhood, such as language development, social learning, or childhood attachment. Or, you could concentrate on issues that affect older adults, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Other ideas:

  • bullying
  • language acquisition
  • media violence and children
  • learning disabilities
  • gender roles
  • child abuse
  • prenatal development
  • parenting styles
  • aspects of the aging process

Psychology Book or Journal Article

Consider writing a psychology critique of a published psychology book or academic journal article. For example, you might write a critical analysis of Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams or a more recent book such as Philip Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

Professional and academic journals are also a great place to find materials for a critique. Browse through the library's psychology databases or print periodical collection to find an article that grabs your attention.

Famous Experiment

There have been many fascinating and ground-breaking experiments throughout the history of psychology, providing ample material for students looking for an interesting paper topic. In your paper, you might choose to summarize the experiment, analyze the ethics of the research, or evaluate the implications of the study. Possible experiments to consider:

  • The Milgram Obedience Experiment
  • The Stanford Prison Experiment
  • The Little Albert Experiment
  • Pavlov's Conditioning Experiment
  • The Asch Conformity Experiment
  • Harlow's Rhesus Monkey Experiments

Choosing Keywords

The keywords you use in your search directly relate to your search results. Watch this video to learn how to select the best keywords for your search.

Ask a Librarian

 Stop by the ASK desk at your campus library
 Call 615-230-3400
 Email for research assistance
 Email with other library questions
 Meet with us by requesting a Research Consultation Appointment 

Background Information

Before searching for your three professional articles, look for general, background information about your topic. This can help you determine what professionals are saying about a subject and decide what keywords you want to use in your search.

When selecting keywords, be sure to focus on your main ideas. Only search for 2-3 keywords at a time and focus on nouns.

Search the websites listed below for background information on psychology-related topics.