Writing essays for ib psychology papers 1 & 2

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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:




Background knowledge
CEGM
Studies
Knowing the command terms
There’s a lot more that goes into an essay, but these are the
essential pieces.
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 DO FOR
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 inser ted 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
inser ted in center comes out clean.
HERE ARE
THE STEPS
TO BAKING
A CAKE –
OUT OF
ORDER.
C o u l d yo u p u t
t h e s e s te p s i n
order and cook
t h i s c a ke t h e
r i g h t w ay ev e r y
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 dif ferent 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 ever y 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 of f, 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’t mean 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 dif ference is the same as the dif ference 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 EVERY THING 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-ofthe-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 fluf f 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
A n d ev e r y b o d y
w r i te s
d i f fe r e n t l y. T h i s
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 suf ferers 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 suf ferer 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 dif ferences in the
presentation of symptoms and ef fectiveness 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 ef fective, considering
some of the behaviors common to those with mental illness?
ALSO:
 Some (most) psychological researchers are ver y 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 ef fort is often the
dif ference 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.)

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