How To Start A Psychology Essay Introduction

Writing a killer first paragraph

Let's swap roles for a moment. You're a lecturer staring at a pile of 80 summative essays. Each one has to be carefully and fairly evaluated; the whole task is going to take days. You pick up the first essay from the pile and start reading. What's going to spark your interest? What's going to make the next twenty minutes or so enjoyable for you?

Successful writing is all about grabbing the reader's attention, and keeping it. Good writing is confident and sure-footed; it says, 'Listen to me, I've got something important to say.' A reader's impressions start being established in the very first lines. A professional marker will, of course, stick with an essay (good or bad) doggedly to the end, but if you don't get that first paragraph right, you're missing a chance to establish a good first impression.

So it's worth investing some time in that introductory paragraph. The introduction should encapsulate the whole essay and your arguments in a nutshell. It should sketch out the territory and give clear markers about where your essay is going to go. It should be a microcosm of the essay as a whole, and above all it should establish your authority in being able to answer the question in an interesting, informed, intelligent way. Ask yourself: if I had to answer this question in only a few sentences, what would I write? This should be your introduction.

Let's imagine that you're answering the following question: What can children suffering from autism and the case of Genie tell us about how typically developing children acquire language?

Here's a good introductory paragraph for this essay (with acknowledgements to my colleague Elizabeth Meins):
Acquiring fluency in their native language is something that most children do effortlessly in the first three years of life. Does this mean that the ability to acquire language is innate, or is the rich social and linguistic interaction that children experience from birth responsible for this rapid acquisition? Since ethical constraints mean that it is impossible to test these hypotheses experimentally, researchers have relied on language deficits in atypical cases to try to establish the mechanisms involved in normal language acquisition. The language skills of children with autism and those who have experienced severe early social deprivation suggest that there may be different developmental determinants and pathways for specific aspects of language (e.g., syntax and pragmatics). Data from atypical cases suggest that the early ability to engage in joint attentional episodes and to grasp symbolic representation may be essential for the full acquisition of the major defining feature of human development: language.
What's good about this introduction? For a start, it has a certain amount of academic gravitas. It is not wordy or jargonistic or obscure, but it nevertheless reads as though it were written by someone who knows what she's talking about. This author has engaged with her discipline, read lots of academic work in the subject, and is showing that she knows how to speak the lingo.

This paragraph also gives the reader a clear idea of where the essay is going. It doesn't needlessly duplicate information that is also given later, but it does provide a sort of gloss or commentary on it. It says: this is the kind of essay you're going to get, and this is why it's going to be interesting. It touches on the main points of the argument that is going to be made (i.e., that we can learn about typical language acquisition by looking at how joint attention and symbolic representation are affected in atypical cases) in a way that makes its agenda very clear.

Here, then, are a few tips for writing an intro:

1. Don't simply repeat the title. 
There's nothing worse than reading an essay that simply regurgitates the essay question in a boring way. Show how you intend to address the question, or point out some interesting fact about the question, or comment on it in some way—but don't just give the reader the question again. It's the classic opening gambit of he who does not know what to say.

2. Think 'funnel'. 
A good plan is to start with the general and move to the specific. Why is the study of language acquisition important? Because, for one thing, language is supposed to be a quintessentially human characteristic. Why should we spend time looking at atypical development? Because, generally speaking, the study of atypical psychology can tell us a lot about typical psychology. Move from general points to specific points that set up your argument, just as the mouth of a funnel narrows towards its base and gathers the material in. (See the clip below for more on the funnel metaphor.)

3. Don't waste words on banal, subjective or journalistic openings.
"Memory is one of the most fascinating aspects of human psychology." Well, excuse me while I yawn loudly. There are plenty of people out there who are willing to write bland pop psychology; don't let yourself be one of them.

4. If you need to define terms, then make it interesting. 
Another perennial switch-off is the essay that begins by defining, in a boring, kid's-encyclopaedia kind of way, the main terms and concepts that are going to be used. Now, it might be extremely important that you define terms, especially if common usages of those terms are ambiguous, or if the concept has a specificity in psychology that it doesn't have in everyday speech. But save it for later, or at least do it in a way that doesn't send your reader to sleep.

5. Don't repeat yourself.
Don't duplicate material that will appear later in the essay. You will give the impression that you are not in control of your material; that the essay is writing you, rather than the other way round. Comment on what is to come; sketch out the argument with a few deft strokes; point to a historical connection or an interesting quote, or a news story that is relevant to the issue. But don't waste words saying things twice.

6. Avoid the dull road map. 
Yes, your essay should signpost where your argument is going and tell the reader how you are going to get there. But avoid the intro that says 'First I will do this. And then I will do that. And then I will do the next thing.' Those essays are Dullsville. You can go there if you want, but don't leave your map for us to read.

Finally, you might find the following clip useful:

Content of this article

  1. Purposes
  2. Outline sample
  3. Tips on writing
  4. List of topics

How to Write a Psychology Essay

A psychology essay is an article that tackles a certain aspect of psychology.

Before writing a psychology essay, it is important first to understand the question at hand.

It serves the following purposes:

  1. To explain a particular concept: a psychology essay tries to explain a certain aspect like for example, what causes fears and phobias;
  2. To encourage creativity: a psychology essay improves the creativity of students as they are required to think out of their comfort zone and write an article that stands out;
  3. To give a diagnosis: the student can write a psychology essay to explain why they think that a particular diagnosis is necessary. It explains the reasons behind the diagnosis arrived at.

Outline for a psychology essay

Before writing an essay on psychology, it is important first to understand what the topic is all about. Reread general notes on the area before narrowing down to your area of interest. Doing this makes it easier to settle on a subject. Besides, follow the tips for a psychology essay writing to make your work easier.

Below is a sample of an essay on psychology

Personality and Character


In interpersonal relationships, various factors contribute to the sustenance of a relationship. Different people have different personalities and how they relate to each other is different. Understanding personalities lead to better interpersonal relationships.

Thesis statement

Different circumstances shape personality traits and characters and therefore influence how they interact with others.

  • Girls who grow up in violent homes have self-esteem issues. Seeing their mom being abused gives them a false understanding that being a woman is worthless.
  • A person who grew up without siblings becomes more inclined to being self-centered as they are not accustomed to sharing.
  • An introvert is more likely to have fun when staying indoors with friends rather than going out or hanging out in crowded areas.


Various factors shape personality and character and these factors should not be overlooked. The environment that a person grows greatly influences their future life.

The above outline for a psychology essay looks at effects and influences of environment on the character.

Good tips on writing

1. Tips concerning introduction for a psychology essay

  • The first step to writing a good psychology essay introduction is to have a rough idea of what you are about to write. Having some previous knowledge on the topic ensures that you become more competent and research widely.
  • Secondly, have a global structure- this ensures that you have a coherent sentence and flow of ideas. The psychology essay draft tells you whether your content will be enough and lets you know if you have the know-how on how to go about the topic. This method of psychology essay writing is very helpful.
  • How to start a psychology essay is challenging for many writers. It is, therefore, necessary to follow the guidelines as shown by the lecturer or from copies found on the internet and various other sources. Start with a catchy phrase or a story. The purpose is to attract the reader from the very beginning. The rule of the thumb in the introduction is always to be creative.  Readers should look forward to reading your essay and not just skimming through it.
  • Write your introduction in short flowing sentences. They give your essay a touch of excellence. When writing very long sentences, use commas to allow the reader to breathe.
  • Ensure your topic is written well and not too wordy. It should not have more than ten words. The topic sentence should show the reader what your essay discusses.  Having a long topic sentence confuses the reader as they cannot pick out the theme to be discussed.

2. Psychology essay tips on thesis writing

  • The thesis is the main point of the piece. Choose a topic that is relevant and has a case study to back up your theory.
  • The thesis question and statement should not be too broad for you to cover. Narrow down on a particular topic to ensure quality work in research. The thesis statement should be well thought out to elude knowledge and mastery of content.
  • Try as much as possible to paraphrase and not to copy and paste thesis from the internet from a pre-written essay on psychology. If researching, rephrase it to avoid plagiarism. Most people are tempted to copy directly from the web.

3. Tips on writing the body (length, paragraphs, and transitions)

  • The body carries the weight of the thesis. Have knowledge and understanding of your topic- do not write a subject that you will have no content. Show that you understand all specifics of your research question and can relate them to real life situations.
  • Have critical evaluation- your assumptions should have relevant evidence both in theory and application. It requires insightful and independent thinking. When mentioning any theory, ensure that you have a case to defend how to apply the theory. The body should be well written. When writing an essay on psychology, the body, and language is crucial.
  • Avoid using too much jargon in your writing. In case you do use some technical terms, explain them. Complexities in essay writing make the reader bored. Explain your themes in well laid out independent paragraphs. Each section should carry a point or two. Ensure that the points do not run over to the next paragraph.

4. Tips on how to conclude a psychology essay

Like all other essays. How you write the psychology essay conclusion is critical.

  • Introduce the conclusion in a unique manner.
  • Avoid using words like ‘to conclude.’
  • Your conclusion for a psychology essay sums up your arguments. Give the consequences of your study concerning your research.
  • Do not introduce new concepts.
  • Make sure that you cover all the topics in the body so as not to defend them in conclusion.

5. Sources for psychology essay

There are so many materials where the student can gather essay questions:

  • Books on psychology are useful in getting the concepts.
  • The internet provides various themes and psychology essay guides.
  • Brainstorming from a general topic and narrowing down.
  • A literature review is also a valuable source for ideas and other psychology essay writing help that you may need.
  • Try to interact with teachers for more information and psychology essay writing guides.

6. Finalizing the essay

The final step of writing an article is proofreading. Proofread to correct spelling, punctuations, and other grammatical errors. Ensure you check out for plagiarism. Your work should be original and creative. Use citations and proper referencing of sources. There are different referencing styles like Harvard, Chicago or APA. The writer can also give out the written copy to friends for feedback. Be prepared to get both negative and positive criticism. Finally, ensure that you have a glossary of technical terms well defined for the reader to understand. The psychology essay outlining should be done as required.

7. Tips on topic choice

  • Research widely on different disciplines before settling for a topic.
  • Pick an area that you have an interest as this is a high motivation for research.
  • Refer to other items to find out the outline.
  • Be flexible that is, allow yourself to have room for change. After writing the body, your arguments might end up defending a different topic
  • Have a list of keywords you intend to use
  • Ensure you have the available material for your topic

Below is a list of available topics for a psychology essay that the student can pick from for your psychology essay writing.

List of topics for psychology essay

  • What are the different types of personalities?
  • Discuss the relationship between dreams and reality
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression and stress management
  • Attitude and attitude change
  • Mental health
  • Perception and the knowledge process
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Hypnosis and psychological unconscious


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