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PSY 150 -- General Psychology

A guide to research methods in psychology and library based help with research assignments for the PSY 150 course at Central Carolina Community College.

Researching an argumentative essay

Before you write, research! 

Bright Idea Icon1. Refine your topic.

Think about the questions that you want to explore when you write your paper.  Try to think of questions beginning with Why, How, Should and Could.

Learn about the key concepts related to your topic.  Find information about significant theories related to it and common treatments. Identify subtopics you want to explore in your paper using Salem will open in a new window

Magnifying Glass2. Gather Evidence

To support your argument, you'll need evidence that backs up your claims.

Examples of good evidence include:

  • Data and statistics (make sure they're current!)
  • Results of scholarly studies or experiments

Get started searching for evidence using the Library's Summon Searchlink will open in a new window

Gears Icon3. Analyze and Synthesize

Is the evidence you've found:

You probably won't find scholarly articles that cover exactly what you're trying to say.  

Instead, break your argument down into specific points and look for evidence that support those points.  It will be up to you to put all of your evidence together to support your argument.

Check Boxes Icon4. Create an outline

An outline helps you to organize your thoughts.  It's also a great tool to make sure you have the evidence you need to back up your argument.  

For each section of your paper, and for every claim you make, you should have evidence to prove your point.  If you don't have that proof, go back to step 4 and find more sources!


Quotation Mark Icon5. Cite!

It's never too early to start working on your works cited list!  Create citations as you go so you're not stuck trying to build them at the end.  

Build citations and manage them all in one place using the Library's RefWorks tool!link will open in a new window

Remember, it's a cycle

Research doesn't flow from one step to the next.  

A good research strategy involves re-visiting each of these steps multiple times. Searching for and reading articles may cause you to re-think your topic.  An outline may highlight the need to find more articles.  Don't be afraid to move backwards!

If you need help with any step along the way, talk to your instructor or schedule an appointment with a Librarian.

For more help, check out the resources below...

Library Lingo

magnifying glass icon

Evidence: The information that supports your argument. This can be data, statistics, or study results. Good evidence can be corroborated.  In other words, if you see the same results in more than one study by different authors, you can probably count on it.


Bias Icon

Bias: Using only the evidence that points to a specific, favored outcome. When scholarly writing shows bias, it's usually an article that leaves out data or evidence that would contradict the outcome the author wants to see.  

Different kinds of sources

The types of sources you might use when researching questions in psychology:

Popular Psychologyarticle icon

Psychology concepts written for a general audience

Popular Psychology articles and books are not scholarly but they can be a good place to learn about your topic in an accessible and easy to read way.  Just be sure you back up anything you learn with a scholarly source!

**Be Aware: Many "pop psychologists" don't have the credentials of a real psychologist.  When evaluating popular psychology books and articles, look for authors with the same type of expertise that you look for in scholarly articles!



link will open in a new windo\

documents iconAcademic or Scholarly Articles **These are the best sources of evidence for your papers.**

Report on the results of a study or experiment.  They are written by the researchers who conducted the study.  This is called Primary Research.  

Scholarly writing takes time, so you may have trouble finding scholarly articles about very new issues or current events.  

To learn to spot scholarly and academic articles, visit the Evaluating section of this Guide link will open in a new window.

Some good academic or scholarly article sources in the library:

government building iconGovernment Publications 

Documents and data published by government agencies.

To find government documents, you can perform a Google search with the addition of tagged onto the end of your search.

For example: If you're looking for crime statistics, search Google for crime statistics​

Some good sources of government information:


Got questions? iconNeed a little extra help?

Contact your librarian. 

Or use the links below to get more in-depth help and information.