Peel Psychology Essay

Along with other useful composition acronyms, the PEEL (point, evidence, explanation, link) format is often introduced in English and or writing courses to improve students' paragraph structuring and formatting capabilities. The results of mastering this technique will be quite visible in the writing that is produced. This is because a well-crafted paper is one that pays careful attention to the format and structure of each paragraph, ensuring the adequate delivery of all major points addressed.

Strong paragraphs make for strong papers; so any advice in this area should be considered when formulating popular paragraphical writings such as essays and term papers.

Is PEEL limited to one form of writing?

The simple elements that comprise the PEEL format are the main ingredients of all great paragraphs. Regardless of whether you are writing a research paper, personal, expository, or argumentative essay, in most respects, your paragraph should model the PEEL design. Exceptions may occur for special paragraphs that are small and not fully developed, for instance short transition paragraphs or those that are simply added for emphasis and so on (in these cases the PEEL formula would simply be unnecessary). *Though should definitely decide if these types of paragraphs are really warranted or not as too many of them can definitely take away from the quality and efficiency of your work.

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So what is PEEL all about?

Each element in the PEEL format is a common one; known to writers and teachers alike. They help to strengthen your argument by allowing you to produce overall effective paragraphs that complement and connect to one another. Brief descriptions of each element can be seen below.

POINT

Your topic sentence is extremely important for providing fluidity and unity within your paper. Therefore the the first sentence of each paragraph should clearly state the point of the paragraph which in turn should be directly connected to the overall argument of the paper. When crafting your opening sentence (or two in some cases) be sure to be precise and clear about what you will be discussing so that the main idea can easily be extracted with little or no effort.

EVIDENCE

The evidence presented should be consistent with the type of work being written. For academic writings, such as term papers and expository essays, the evidence provided should be credible and verifiable such as statistics, concrete examples, illustrations as well as the results or findings of empirical studies. For more informal writings such as personal essays, or blogs, personal experience can be used as a evidence to support a particular point.

EXPLAIN

This portion of your paragraph may be the largest one as it involves interpreting, evaluating as well as providing additional details to accompany your main idea. By interpreting the evidence you will be analysing its strengths and weaknesses as well as examining the information that can be derived from it. Similarly this section may also include a judgment or claim being made in which you explicitly state an assumption based on the evidence provided.

LINK

When providing the link sentence at the end of your paragraph you are not only linking back to the bulk of the paragraph and the main idea but you are also allowing for a transition to the next topic or paragraph. In some cases, people may consider the link sentence to actually be the first sentence of the next paragraph. This can easily be perceived in this manner as all of the topic sentences in a paper or essay should relate to one another in some way to provide unity and coherence to the work.

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Sample PEEL paragraph: Education and technology

In today's society, more than ever, technology has greatly impacted the ways in which we learn and teach a multitude of topics. Among those making the most of e-learning platforms are topics which address employee performance. (POINT) According to a list of the top ten most popular e-learning courses, project management, time management, and customer service skills were among the top three listed.*(EVIDENCE) This can tell us many things about what e-learning has to offer. One is that the convenience it provides is ideal for continuous learning, short term courses as well as self-paced classes. Similarly, this platform works very well when the education needs of many people must be met in a time efficient and orderly manner (as is required by many large corporations and businesses). (EXPLANATION) With these and many other benefits, such as cost efficiency and time flexibility, we can expect to see many more courses presented in this manner as the advent of e-learning alters the way we learn; not only in the workforce, but also in academic and recreational pursuits. (LINK)

*The evidence you present should come from reputable sources and be cited accordingly. Therefore a foot or endnote may be entered here as well as parenthetical citations.

A breakdown of the above sample

In this sample paragraph we can see the implementation of each aspect of the PEEL writing format.

  1. The point of the paragraph here is explained in two sentences and goes from the broad to the specific; by first starting off with the impact of technology overall and then mentioning its specific influence on employee training and performance.
  2. The evidence of the main topic is presented in the form of a statistical report that supports the point of employee performance courses being in the greatest demand as well as provide an example of how education has been greatly impacted by technology.
  3. Afterwards an explanation is given that indicates exactly what can be deduced from the evidence provided. It incorporates interpretation by attempting to explain why e-learning is so popular with businesses. In the meantime it also evaluates it to be a positive means of educating others by highlighting its benefits.
  4. Lastly, the link sentence takes you back to the main point by reiterating that 'e-learning alters the way we learn' and it also summarizes and provides closure to the entirety of the paragraph. And though a second paragraph is not visible, this last link sentence also opens the door for a new paragraph that deals with e-learning's connection to 'academic and recreational pursuits.'

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Essay Writing Guide for Psychology Students

Saul McLeod published 2014


Before you write your essay it's important to analyse the task and understand exactly what the essay question is asking. It is possible your lecturer will give you some advice - pay attention to this as it will help you plan your answer.

Next conduct preliminary reading based on your lecture notes. At this stage it's not crucial to have a robust understanding of key theories or studies, but you should at least have a general 'gist' of the literature.

After reading, plan a response to the task. This plan could be in the form of a mind map, a summary table, or by writing a core statement (which encompass the entire argument of your essay in just a few sentences).

After writing your plan conduct supplementary reading and refine your plan and make it more detailed.

It is tempting to skip these preliminary steps and just write the first draft while reading at the same time. However, reading and planning will make the essay writing process easier, quicker, and ensure a higher quality essay is produced.

Now let us look at what constitutes a good essay in psychology. There are a number of important features.

  1. A Global Structure - structure the material in a way that allows for a logical sequence of ideas. Each paragraph / statement should follow sensibly from its predecessor. The essay should 'flow'. The introduction, main body and conclusion should all be linked.
  2. Each paragraph should comprise a main theme which are illustrated and developed through a number of points (supported by evidence).

  3. Knowledge and Understanding - recognise, recall and show understanding on a range of scientific material that accurately reflects the main theoretical perspectives.
  4. Critical Evaluation - arguments should be supported by appropriate evidence and/or theory from the literature. Evidence of independent thinking, insight and evaluation of the evidence.
  5. Quality of Written Communication - writing clearly and succinctly with appropriate use of paragraphs, spelling and grammar. All sources referenced accurately and in line with APA guidelines.

In the main body of the essay every paragraph should demonstrate both knowledge and critical evaluation.

There should also be an appropriate balance between these two essay components. Try to aim for about a 60/40 split if possible. Most students make the mistake of writing too much knowledge and not enough evaluation (which is the difficult bit).

It is best to structure your essay according to key themes. Themes are illustrated and developed through a number of points (supported by evidence). Choose relevant points only, ones that most reveal the theme or help to make a convincing and interesting argument.


Knowledge and Understanding

Remember that an essay is simply a discussion / argument on paper. Don't make the mistake of writing all the information you know regarding a particular topic.

You need to be concise, and clearly articulate your argument. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences.

Each paragraph should have a purpose / theme, and make a number of points - which need to be support by high quality evidence. Be clear why each point is is relevant to the argument. It would be useful at the beginning of each paragraph if you explicitly outlined the theme being discussed (.e.g. cognitive development, social development etc.).

Try not to overuse quotations in your essays. It is more appropriate to use original content to demonstrate your understanding.

Psychology is a science so you must support your ideas with evidence (not your own personal opinion). If you are discussing a theory or research study make sure you cite the source of the information.

Note this is not the author of a textbook you have read - but the original source / author(s) of the theory or research study.

For example:

Bowlby (1951) claimed that mothering is almost useless if delayed until after two and a half to three years and, for most children, if delayed till after 12 months, i.e. there is a critical period.

Or

Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to fullfil the next one, and so on.

As a general rule make sure there is at least one citation (i.e. name of psychologist and date of publication) in each paragraph.

Remember to answer the essay question. Underline the key words in the essay title. Don't make the mistake of simply writing everything you know of a particular topic, be selective. Each paragraph in your essay should contribute to answering the essay question.


Critical Evaluation

In simple terms this means outlining the strengths and limitations of a theory or research study.

There are many ways you can critically evaluate:

  • Methodological evaluation of research -

    Is the study valid / reliable? Is the sample biased or can we generalize the findings to other populations? What are the strengths and limitations of the method used and data obtained?

  • Be careful to ensure that any methodological criticisms are justified and not trite. Rather than hunting for weaknesses in every study; only highlight limitations which make you doubt the conclusions that the authors have drawn – e.g. where an alternative explanation might be equally likely because something hasn’t been adequately controlled.

  • Compare or contrast different theories -

    Outline how the theories are similar and how they differ. This could be two (or more) theories of personality / memory / child development etc. Also try to communicate the value of the theory / study.
  • Debates or perspectives -

    Refer to debates such as nature or nurture, reductionism vs. holism or the perspectives in psychology. For example, would they agree or disagree with a theory or the findings of the study?

  • What are the ethical issues of the research? -

    Does a study involve ethical issues such as deception, privacy, psychological and physical harm.
  • Gender bias -

    If research is biased towards men or women it does not provide a clear view of the behavior that has been studied. A dominantly male perspective is known as an androcentric bias.

  • Cultural bias -

    Is the theory / study ethnocentric? Psychology is predominantly a white, Euro-American enterprise. In some texts, over 90% of studies have US participants, who are predominantly white and middle class. Does the theory or study being discussed judge other cultures by Western standards?
  • Animal Research -

    This raises the issue of whether it’s morally and/or scientifically right to use animals. The main criterion is that benefits must outweigh costs. But benefits are almost always to humans and costs to animals.

    Animal research also raises the issue of extrapolation. Can we generalize from studies on animals to humans as their anatomy & physiology is different from humans?


The PEC System

It is very important to elaborate on your evaluation. Don't just write a shopping list of brief (one or two sentence) evaluation points. Instead make sure you expand on your points, remember, quality of evaluation is most important than quantity.

When you are writing an evaluation paragraph use the PEC system.

  • Make your Point.

  • Explain how and why the point is relevant.

  • Discuss the Consequences / implications of the theory or study. Are they positive or negative?

For Example

    (Point) It is argued that psychoanalytic therapy is only of benefit to an articulate, intelligent, affluent minority.

    (Explain) Because psychoanalytic therapy involves talking and gaining insight, and is costly and time-consuming, it is argued that it is only of benefit to an articulate, intelligent, affluent minority. Evidence suggests psychoanalytic therapy works best if the client is motivated and has a positive attitude.

    (Consequences) A depressed client’s apathy, flat emotional state and lack of motivation limit the appropriateness of psychoanalytic therapy for depression. Furthermore, the levels of dependency of depressed clients mean that transference is more likely to develop.


Using Research Studies in your Essays

Research studies can either be knowledge or evaluation.

  • If you refer to the procedures and findings of a study, this shows knowledge and understanding.
  • If you comment on what the studies shows, and what it supports and challenges about the theory in question, this shows evaluation.

Writing an Introduction

It is often best to write your introduction when you have finished the main body of the essay, so that you have a good understanding to the topic area.

If there is a word count for your essay try to devote 10% of this to your introduction.

Ideally the introduction should;

  1. Identify the subject of the essay and define the key terms.

  2. Highlight the major issues which “lie behind” the question. Let the reader know how you will focus your essay by identifying the main themes to be discussed.

  3. “Signpost” the essay’s key argument, (and, if possible, how this argument is structured).

Introductions are very important as first impressions count and they can create a halo effect in the mind of the lecturer grading your essay. If you start off well then you are more likely to be forgiven for the odd mistake later one.


Writing a Conclusion

So many students either forget to write a conclusion or fail to give it the attention it deserves. If there is a word count for your essay try to devote 10% of this to your conclusion.

Ideally the conclusion should summarize the key themes / arguments of your essay. State the take home message – don’t sit on the fence, instead weigh up the evidence presented in the essay and make a decision which side of the argument has more support.

Also, you might like to suggest what future research may need to be conducted and why (read the discussion section of journal articles for this).

Don't include new information / arguments (only information discussed in the main body of the essay).

If you are unsure of what to write read the essay question and answer it in one paragraph.

Points that unite or embrace several themes can be used to great effect as part of your conclusion.


The Importance of Flow

Obviously, what you write is important, but how you communicate your ideas / arguments has a significant influence on your overall grade. Most students may have similar information / content in their essays, but the better students communicate this information concisely and articulately.

When you have finished the first draft of your essay you must check if it 'flows'. This is an important feature of quality of communication (along with spelling and grammar).

This means that the paragraphs follow a logical order (like the chapters in a novel). Have a global structure with themes arranged in a way that allows for a logical sequence of ideas. You might want to rearrange (cut and paste) paragraphs to a different position in your essay if they don't appear to fit in with the essay structure.

To improve the flow of your essay make sure the last sentence of one paragraph links to first sentence of the next paragraph. This will help the essay flow and make it easier to read.

Finally, only repeat citations when it is unclear which study / theory you are discussing. Repeating citations unnecessarily disrupts the flow of an essay.


Referencing

The reference section is the list of all the sources cited in the essay (in alphabetical order). It is not a bibliography (a list of the books you used).

In simple terms every time you cite/refer to a name (and date) of a psychologist you need to reference the original source of the information.

If you have been using textbooks this is easy as the references are usually at the back of the book and you can just copy them down. If you have been using websites then you may have a problem as they might not provide a reference section for you to copy.

References need to be set out APA style:

Books

Author, A. A. (year). Title of work. Location: Publisher.

Journal Articles

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (year). Article title. Journal Title, volume number(issue number), page numbers

A simple way to write your reference section is use Google scholar. Just type the name and date of the psychologist in the search box and click on the 'cite' link.

Next, copy and paste the APA reference into the reference section of your essay.

Once again remember that references need to be in alphabetical order according to surname.


Further Information

Writing Skills for Psychologists

Study Skills

Essay Writing Guide

How to reference this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2014). Essay writing guide for psychology students. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/psychology-essay.html

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