PSYC 217

Paper #2 : Methodological Critique

(Due on Tuesday, November 25)


The purpose of this paper assignment is to apply the methodological knowledge that you've acquired in this class so far – to apply it by critically assessing a piece of actual psychological research.

So here's the assignment:

Constructively critique the goodness of the methods used in the study reported in the following published journal article:

Pennebaker et al. (1979). Don't the girls get prettier at closing time: A country and western application to psychology.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 5, 122-125.

(I will hand out copies of this article in class; see me directly for your copy if you miss class on the day I hand them out.  Or you can get the article directly from its source in the library.)

Before you start writing your paper, spend some time thinking critically about the goals of the study, as well as the methods used.  You'll want to consider the conceptual hypothesis underlying the study, and you'll want to evaluate the methods according to the extent that they provide a good test of that hypothesis.   At a minimum, you should consider issues of internal validity, construct validity, and reliability.  (But don't limit yourself to just those considerations; think through all the things that influence the goodness of any piece of psychological research.)

When writing your paper, you don't have to talk about every conceivable methodological issue.  Focus your paper on the key methodological problems and weaknesses.  You should identify those aspects of the study that are weak, and you should explain clearly why those aspects are weak. (Good explanations are crucial; your mark on the paper will be based heavily on the coherence and convincingness of your explanations.).   And don't just be critical; be constructive as well.  Try to offer useful advice on how to remedy those weaknesses – how the methods might be changed so as to improve the study.  (The best papers do more than identify problems; they identify creative solutions to those problems as well.)

This is designed to be a short paper, so don't waste words. Don't give any overall summary of the methods; just identify those methodological details that are relevant to your critical remarks. Don't write any wordy introduction or conclusion; just jump right into your critical evaluation. Write clearly. Write succinctly. Your paper should be no longer than 3 pages, maximum (typed, double- spaced). 

You must hand in a hardcopy of your paper; do not email it.  And please hand it in on time.  Unless you have a very good, well-documented reason (see the syllabus), your mark on this paper will be reduced by 10 percentage points for each day that it is late.