If you have ever had to write a paper for one of your psychology classes, then you probably know that choosing psychology paper topics can sometimes be tricky. Fortunately, there are plenty of great topics to inspire your paper and help you finish your assignment.
In this article, find ideas that you can use for a psychology paper topic.
How to Choose a Psychology Paper Topic
If you are going to write a psychology paper, the first thing you need to do is pick a good topic. This is often easier said than done.
In some cases, your instructor might assign you a topic, or at least narrow your range of options by providing a general subject area on which to focus your paper.
But in many cases, choosing the topic of your psychology paper is entirely up to you—and that’s where things can get tricky. How do you choose a great topic? What if you pick something too specific and struggle to find sources? Or what if you go too broad and end up biting off more than you can chew?
Following a few simple steps can make the topic selection process a lot easier.
Choose a General Subject
Part of what makes picking a topic for a psychology paper so difficult is how overwhelmed by the information you feel. Make it easier on yourself by restricting your options to at least a general topic area.
Narrow Down to a More Specific Topic
Once you’ve chosen a general area, you can then narrow your paper topic down to something much more specific and manageable.
For example, you might start by deciding that you want to write your paper on a topic within a specific branch of psychology. From there you might further narrow your focus down to a much narrower subject area within that branch
So imagine that you’re writing a psychology research paper in your general psychology course. Your instructor has given you free rein to select any topic you please, so you begin by deciding to write your paper on a social psychology topic.
Now that you have a general idea, you drill down further and decide to research and write your paper on how prejudice forms and ways to minimize it.
General Psychology Topics
Because general psychology classes cover such a wide range of topics, you have a very large selection of subject ideas to choose from. Start by choosing a general topic, and then narrow your focus down so that you can fully cover the subject.
Some ideas include:
- An issue paper: Tackle one of the current issues in psychology, such as parity in mental health care or involving psychologists in military interrogations.
- Profile a famous psychologist: Select a well-known psychologist and then write a profile exploring his or her life, theories, and career.
- Explore a well-known psychology experiment: Write a paper on a classic psychology study, such as the Milgram Obedience Experiment or the Stanford Prison Experiment.
- Write about a topic within personality psychology: Personality psychology focuses on the traits and dispositions that contribute to overall personality. This is one of the largest topics within psychology so there are plenty of fascinating research topics from which to choose. Some specific topics that might interest you include whether personality can change, different theories of personality development and the Big Five theory of personality.
Okay, let’s just imagine that you’re having a bad case of writer’s block. You understand the basic approach for picking a good topic, but nothing seems to be catching your interest. You’re looking for some more inspiration to get you started.
Here are just a few great topics for psychology papers that you might want to consider:
Write About Psychology Controversies
The history of psychology is not always positive, and if you enjoy writing about controversial topics, psychology’s history is rich with material.
- The use of lobotomies to treat mental illness
- The history of mental asylums in the United States
- The use and effects of electroconvulsive therapy
- Conversion therapy and its damaging effects
- Attachment therapy
- Controversial experiments such as Milgram’s obedience experiment or Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment
- The debate over the nature of intelligence
- The impact of the eugenics movement on psychology
- Controversies surrounding the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
Write About a Mental Health Condition
Writing about the history, prevalence, and treatment of a specific mental condition can be an interesting topic for a psychology paper. Some options you might consider include:
- Eating disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Borderline personality disorder
- Substance abuse and addictions
- Developmental disorders
More Psychology Paper Topics
Here is a sampling of topics that you might consider:
- How attitudes form
- How bullying affects children
- How people use nonverbal communication
- Factors that can affect prenatal development
- How media violence influences children’s behavior
- How parenting styles influence child development
- How does intrinsic motivation influence learning
- How does mindset impact academic achievement
- What factors influence IQ and is it possible to increase IQ
- Factors that influence self-actualization
- Is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs still relevant today
- How does perfectionism impact mental well-being
- Different theories of personality
- How different leadership styles influence the success of groups
- Profile a specific career in psychology
As you can see, your options for psychology paper topics are really only limited by your own imagination (and the specific guidelines issued by your instructor, of course). Spend some time thinking about topics that really interest you, then narrow your focus in order to hone in on a specific idea.
Finally, always be sure to run your chosen topic by your instructor. He or she may be able to offer suggestions that can help you during your research and make it much easier to write an outstanding psychology paper.
Kendra Cherry, MS.Ed., is an author, educator, and founder of Explore Psychology, an online psychology resource. She is a health writer and editor specializing in psychology, mental health, and wellness. She also writes for Verywell Mind and is the author of the Everything Psychology book (Adams Media).
Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.