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Final Paper



For this final paper, your will explore the history of a theoretical concept or issue.


Theoretical Concept: A concept is an abstract idea generalized from particular instances. Psychology is basically a set of theoretical concepts. Each concept has a history.  For instance, Freud developed numerous concepts around the ‘unconscious mind’, while later behaviorists dismissed these in favor of more observable concepts such as ‘modeling’ and ‘reinforcements’.


Issue: Issues are debatable perspectives on some topic. Below are listed some of the major issues that have dominated the history of psychological thought since the times of the ancient Greek philosophers. For your final essay, you MIGHT choose to address one of these issues:


  • The nature of human nature
  • The relation between humans and nonhuman animals
  • The relationship between the mind and the body
  • The nature of mental illness
  • Rationalism versus irrationalism
  • Consciousness versus unconsciousness
  • Reductionism versus non-reductionism
  • Nature versus nurture
  • Objective versus subjective reality
  • Mechanism versus vitalism
  • Determinism versus freedom
  • The foundation of human happiness


The final paper assignment is designed to allow you to delve deeper into a historical period, influential person, theoretical movement, or psychological discipline that interests you. The term paper must focus on something or someone from the material covered in class. Acceptable papers may take many forms.


Some specific examples of acceptable papers structures are:


  • A compare and contrast paper presenting evidence for two different theoretical views (issues).
  • A compare and contrast paper that summarizes and critiques the work of two major figures in the history of psychology, (in terms of their theoretical concepts).
  • A position paper, where you take a position on a historical debate (issue) and present evidence supporting your position.
  • A paper that takes a historical person or theory (concepts) and investigates the impact on modern psychology.


[NOTE: You can use one of your three previous writing assignments as a starting point if you wish, but it isn’t required.]


CO 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7


Papers are expected to be in APA style. All reference material should be acquired through your personal research. Acceptable references include, biographies/autobiographies, books or original research papers by historic researchers, peer-reviewed journal articles, review papers from scientific journals, historic textbooks, scholarly websites, and papers written by historians and philosophers of science. In general, unacceptable references include unsubstantiated viewpoints and encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia, although these might be used as a starting point to find more scholarly publications. A minimum of 5 scholarly references should be cited and listed.


Whichever issue, person, or concept becomes the subject of your final paper, you should make sure your essay includes the following: (a) an introduction in which you defined the topic and say why it is important; (b) a historical narrative that traces the history of the topic, the various positions taken on this question and/or the key figures that represent those positions; and (c) a conclusion in which you discuss the current status of the issue or concept in contemporary psychology.


Final papers are expected to be 10 to 15 pages (double spaced, 12pt Times New Roman font), excluding title page, abstract, references, figures, and appendices. Please see the Course Calendar for due dates.



  • Your paper should be 10 to 15 pages and should cover the directives already given.
  • You should follow accepted research approaches and citation format (APA).
  • Your paper should be well developed and convey your understanding of the readings and concepts.
  • Your paper should be organized, coherent, and unified.
  • Your paper should be free of spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Base your research paper on at least a dozen different research sources which must be listed in the concluding bibliography list.
  • Use an even mix of hardcopy and online sources because there is a definite qualitative difference between the two types.
  • As much as possible, avoid using our textbooks as “research,” except when absolutely necessary for background information.
  • Be sure to document all contentions and “facts” mentioned in an academically acceptable manner. (See writing resources below)
  • Encyclopedias – especially Wikipedia – and dictionaries are unacceptable sources.


If you have questions about the requirements of the paper, be sure to discuss them with your mentor well in advance of the final submission. Consult the Course Calendar for this paper’s due date. It must be submitted by the last day of the semester.



The following links provide online writing aids to help you with your paper assignments.


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