Writing essays for ib SL psychology papers 1 & 2 Tips, Tricks, Advice and Warnings
Writing a good essay is a lot like baking a good cake. (And in the case of the IB tests, they want you to bake a cake from scratch.)
you need to have the right pieces. In a psychology essay, there are a few things that you absolutely HAVE TO HAVE. These are: There’s a lot more that goes into an essay, but these are the essential pieces. • Background knowledge • CEGM • Studies • Knowing the command terms
your essential pieces are like an ingredients list. You can’t cook even a basic cake without the essentials, like: • Flour • Eggs • Milk • Butter • Baking powder • Sugar In the same way, you can’t write an essay without your necessary pieces.
But what do these pieces really dofor an essay? A piece by piece breakdown.
Background Knowledge You should be getting your background knowledge from being in this class. You need to bring background knowledge into every essay you write – think of the things that you’ve learned this year and how they might apply to the question on your paper. Your background knowledge is like knowing what goes into a cake in the first place – for example, you (hopefully) know that apple seeds and raw garlic have no place in good cakes.
In the same way, these things do not belong in your essays: • Personal opinions • Swearing • Informal language (first or second person) • Cultural insensitivity • Unsupported claims
CEGM should provide a valuable framework to your essay Use CEGM to break up and organize your essay – this way, your paper is more readable and you cover essential topics that IB graders are looking for. The easiest thing to do is set up CEGM for your paragraphs – have an introduction, a paragraph about cultural considerations, ethics, gender considerations, methods, a conclusion, etc. Keep in mind that it’s OKAY to have more than one paragraph about a topic, and that sometimes parts of CEGM aren’t enough to make a paragraph out of.
Think of cegm like a recipe for your paper Having a recipe to work from makes baking a cake much easier, right? It also helps you to keep track of what you have and have not included in your paper – so you don’t run the risk of repeating yourself and ‘spoiling the recipe’.
Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). • 2 Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. • Frost. • Pour batter into prepared pans. • Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. • Heat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch pie plate. • Beat together white sugar, buttermilk, baking mix, melted butter or margarine, vanilla, and eggs until smooth. Pour filling into pie plate. • Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. • Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. • Cool completely. • Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. • Heat oven to 350° F. • Cool completely. • Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Here are the steps to baking a cake – out of order. Could you put these steps in order and cook this cake the right way every time?
Here’s what you didn’t know: That was actually the steps from two cake recipes and a pie recipe mixed together. In the same way, when you start writing a paper without using some kind of a framework, it’s very easy to accidentally drift into other topics – and start writing a different paper altogether. Using CEGM as an outline for your essay makes this much less likely to happen – it’s like cooking with your recipe on hand.
Studies Your studies are like flour. Flour is a necessary component to every cake, but if you use too much, the cake will be inedible. However, you can’t just leave out the flour altogether – without it, your cake will fall apart with no support. In the same way, your argument in your essay falls apart with no studies to support it. However, if you use too many studies, your essay can get muddled and hard to read.
You also need to use the right flour when you bake a cake Have you even eaten a cake that was made with the wrong type of flour? It tastes at best off, and at worst completely inedible. The same thing happens if you use the wrong studies to support your arguments: when they’re put into the wrong spot, studies can hinder rather than help a good argument. But…
Chances are, you’ve never had a cake made with the wrong kind of flour. You know why? There’s this wonderful, magical ingredient: ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR.
People everywhere have been saved from bad cakes by all-purpose flour. And your graders can be saved from reading bad papers by a few well-placed all-purpose studies. This is also advantageous to you – instead of memorizing thirty different studies, you can use a few good all-purpose studies in the same way that you would use thirty specific ones. Remember, though, that this doesn’tmean you can just learn four or five studies and jam them wherever you please – your all-purpose studies need to fit in wherever you choose to put them.
Command terms I know you don’t think you need to know your command terms, but here’s the thing: YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR COMMAND TERMS. They are essential to writing your paper correctly.
Let’s say you’re making a cake to enter into a contest You slave away, baking like crazy, adding in all the right ingredients and following your recipe and cooking what can only be described as beautiful food. You finally pull your creation out of the oven, lay it out before the judges, and let them eat. The judges eat, and they’re amazed by your food.The first one gets up and says to you:
“This is a pie contest.” …Oh. How could you miss that? I mean, it was right on the flyer. You get disqualified from the contest, not because you can’t cook – but because you can’t follow directions.
Command terms work the same way You could write the most beautiful essay known to mankind for your IB tests, but your grader can’t give you points if you don’t address the right command terms. Command terms work like guidelines about what you’re supposed to be making in the first place – and if you don’t follow them, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.
“but what’s the difference?” You might say. The difference is the same as the difference between a cake and a pie. Are both desserts? Yes. Are both delicious? Yes. Can you put fruit in them? Yes. Can you eat them with ice cream? Yes. But are they the same? Not at all.
Well, they can’t be all that different Trust us, they are. State: Give a specific name, value or other brief answer without explanation or calculation. Discuss: Offer a considered and balanced review that includes a range of arguments, factors or hypotheses. Opinions or conclusions should be presented clearly and supported by appropriate evidence.
Setting your essay apart from others Critical thinking and inventiveness are key.
Don’t just follow the recipe Remember, IB graders go through hundreds of essays – don’t be generic! You want your paper to stand out – be inventive and creative in your thinking. IB wants to know that you can be thoughtful and contemplative when it comes to your essays. They don’t want regurgitation – they want synthesis.
Use critical thinking • Critical thinking is about asking questions. Never accept what you’ve been told – explore, learn, be curious! • When it comes to psychology, curiosity will get you far – the whole subject came into existence because of it. • Never be afraid to ask questions or be skeptical of claims. Remember, even the most famous researchers and theorists are just people – they’re not always right.
You need to combine everything you’ve learned this year into something new. Mrs. Savoia has spent the whole year giving you the necessary pieces to write your own essay – but she can’t do it for you. You need to take the raw ingredients and make something great – you need to bake a cake.
So your cake is baked But wait! You forgot something…
Always poke holes in your cake before you add any finishing touches You have not finished your essay until you have poked holes! Your cake isn’t finished until you’ve poked a toothpick through the middle to make sure that it’s cooked all the way through. Sometimes cakes that seems perfectly cooked can be raw in the center – and in the same way your essay can look perfect, but have a poor argument at it’s heart.
Having trouble poking holes? It happens to the best of us. Sometimes you can’t think of any arguments to poke holes through – or the argument is too solid for you to poke any holes.
Here’s a few things you can do: • Learn a few weak theories that you can trot out in your papers. You can bring them up as opposing viewpoints, refute them, and carry on. • Even little holes are still holes.You don’t always have to completely destroy an opposing viewpoint in your paper – sometimes just pointing out their weaknesses is good. • Every viewpoint has a weakness. Yes, even yours. Sometimes they aren’t obvious at first – but this is where critical thinking comes in. • Think outside the box. If you use a popular study in your paper, creative responses give you points with graders – they like seeing that you can be thoughtful and considerate when you evaluate theories and studies.
Putting it all together Why not all cakes are created equal.
So, you’ve got your cake together But something’s missing. Right now, you just have a cake. But you could have something world-shattering, career-making, the kind of cake that people would kill to eat and die to know the recipe for.
“I should make my cake look great.” Lots of people think this – but it’s not necessarily true. You only need to work on your essay’s more superficial parts – word choice, flow, grammar, spelling, etc. – if they are bad. And when I say bad I mean the-essay-is-unreadable-because-of-the-errors bad.
Ib wants something with substance, not something that looks good Just because you can make it look like you know something doesn’t mean that you do – and no matter how much fluff or how many big words you pepper throughout your paper, IB graders will be able to tell that you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t spend all of your time decorating your cake – keep it simple. Graders don’t care as much about what your introduction or your conclusion look like as you think they do – they want to see you demonstrate what you know.
A Few things to remember Some general advice.
Everybody cooks differently And everybody writes differently. This isn’t a bad thing!
Don’t stop writing after putting down a few paragraphs Would you eat a cake that had only been in the oven for five minutes? No, it’s gross. Don’t turn your essay in after writing only two or three paragraphs – it’s not done, and it’s not going to be pretty to read.
Write what you know When you get the option to choose your topic, don’t pick one just because it looks easy or like something the grader won’t see a lot – pick a topic that you think you can write an essay on.
A few things to keep in mind when writing about abnormal psych • You can have sympathy, but not empathy for sufferers of a mental illness. You can understand symptoms, but not how the illness actually feels – don’t act like you do. • Don’t generalize. Not every sufferer experiences certain symptoms, and not every treatment works for every person. • Be considerate of other cultures. This is almost doubly true for abnormal psych, because of the huge differences in the presentation of symptoms and effectiveness of treatments. • When discussing treatments for different illnesses, remember that real people have to use them. This is a great opportunity for poking holes and/or ethics – would you want to use a certain treatment? Would treatment be effective, considering some of the behaviors common to those with mental illness?
Also: • Some (most) psychological researchers are very strange and their research reflects that. Some of the most innocuous seeming studies are actually very unethical or downright racist/prejudiced/sexist. • Researchers are products of their time period, as are theories. Remember to put things into context. • Dates on your studies earn you crazy brownie points with graders. If you can’t remember a specific year, at least learn a decade. • Go above and beyond. Putting in that extra effort is often the difference between a 6 and a 7.
We’ve all heard that phrase “made with love” But obviously love isn’t an ingredient that you can actually use in a cake – or an essay.
But a little enthusiasm can go a long way Let’s face it: papers that sound engaging are more fun to read than papers that don’t. People that genuinely enjoy a topic tend to have a lot more fun writing an essay than people that don’t – and that enthusiasm bleeds into their writing. I know it sounds like completely ridiculous advice, but get comfortable when you write. Don’t stress yourself out on the day of the test – just relax, sit down, and have a little fun while you write your papers.
Thanks for listening! (And sorry for making you hungry.)