PS204 Summative Essay Assignment

PS204 Summative Essay Assignment

The written coursework is the summative assignment worth 100% of the PS5204 course mark. This is completed individually. The exact instructions are given in the Assignment Information sheet on the course moodle page. Below are some answers to frequently asked questions for further clarification.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How much should I focus on the background literature vs. the methods? 

The bulk of your essay will be about the different techniques or methods and their suitability for answering the chosen research question (RQ).

4,000 words: A suggested split

  • Briefly outline the research background (literature)– no more than 20%
  • Outline two techniques, and how they can be used to answer the RQ—30%
  • Then evaluate and decide which method (or combination of methods) is better and why —50%


Are an introduction and conclusion required?

A brief introduction showing how you will tackle the research question and which two techniques will be evaluated could help the reader follow your assignment.

You are asked to evaluate which technique would be most appropriate to investigate the research question; thus a conclusion is necessary.

How should I structure the assignment? Should I use sub-headings?

It is important to ensure your work is presented clearly and is formatted in such a way that the reader can easily follow it. You may find it helpful to use sub-headings in your assignment. You could, for example, have two main sections: the rationale for and background to the research question, followed by an evaluation of the techniques themselves. These could be further divided into subsections. The two techniques could be considered together, or one after the other but remember you are comparing and contrasting the two methods.

Consider how the structure of your assignment can best enable you to achieve the aim of evaluating which techniques would be most appropriate to investigate your research question.

Should I include a description of the two techniques?

The focus of the assignment should be on the evaluation of whether the techniques are appropriate for the research question, not on describing the techniques. However, it would be sensible to ensure that the reader can understand the points made in your evaluation and that you demonstrate that you fully understand the techniques. Therefore a brief description of the techniques could be appropriate, with a specific emphasis on characteristics of the techniques relevant for evaluating them with respect to the research question.

Should I include a methodology section for each technique?

This assignment is not a research proposal or a project write-up; methodology sections should not be explained in detail. For example stating exactly what the procedure would be or exactly how many participants would be recruited for a technique, would not be answering the assignment task.

However considering methodological details may help you to evaluate which technique is most appropriate. For example if one technique requires many more participants to be recruited to fully address the research question, this may make it less suitable than another technique because of the greater logistical demands.


How do I choose the two techniques to evaluate?

You are advised to choose any two techniques covered within the course lectures or you may choose a technique that wasn’t covered in any detail in the course.

Some lectures will have looked at one or two techniques in depth, and others will have covered a type of technique and mentioned several techniques within this. The evaluation is likely to be more straightforward if you pick specific techniques (thematic analysis versus interpretative phenomenological analysis) rather than overall types (e.g., quantitative versus qualitative).

Think carefully about which techniques could be appropriate to investigate your research question. Do not pick techniques which are clearly not appropriate; this would indicate a lack of understanding and limit the effectiveness of your evaluation. PS204 Summative Essay Assignment

Also, think carefully about picking techniques that can be sensibly evaluated together. For example, it would be difficult to evaluate whether interviews or thematic analysis was most appropriate because it is likely that thematic analysis data would come from interviews/focus groups. However, it would be reasonable to evaluate whether use of interviews or focus groups was most appropriate, or whether thematic analysis or
interpretative phenomenological analysis was most appropriate.

Don’t forget to discuss practical/logistical issues & ethical issues pertaining to the choice of method (see Lecture 1 for examples)

Can I conclude that a combination of two or more techniques should be used?

 Yes. Some questions allow do more options than others. For example, ‘Why do some British individuals feel that Muslims threaten British identity?’

This question can be potentially be addressed using multiple methods or techniques covered on the course:

  • Questionnaires (online or paper)
  • Qualitative analyses (IPA, TA, GT)
  • Systematic reviews/meta-analyses
  • Implicit v Explicit measures of attitudes
  • Experiments (online or lab)

However, you are not being assessed on which of these is the correct technique to use but how well you justify and argue the two techniques you have selected to use in your answer. Remember that some techniques may not be appropriate so you should ensure both techniques chosen make sense.

Do specific research questions have specific answers?

As advised in the previous section, the answer is no, all research questions may have several techniques that are sensible to use and you are not being judged on whether you are able to ‘select the right answer’ but how well you justify and argue your chosen answer.

What does the word count include?

The word count includes the main text of your assignment. It does not include the coversheet, title, or references list. It does include all in-text citations, sub-headings, and text in any figures or tables. Footnotes are not typically used in psychology assignments, and any text in footnotes would be included in the word count.

Do I need to reference information about the techniques?

The sources of the information given in your assignments should be appropriately cited. You should provide a brief background to the research question and your evaluation of the techniques using appropriate psychological references. This may include citing sources about the chosen techniques. You are strongly advised to cite appropriate psychological readings rather than lecture slides.

What not to do?

Its insufficient to merely describe the techniques. What you are being asked to do is argue theoretically why you would select method A over method B by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of both methods in the context of the research question. PS204 Summative Essay Assignment

Do not deliberately choose a method that is completely useless for a given RQ, and contrast this with a method that is far superior.

For example, if the question is about autistic face-processing, grounded theory and IPA would be completely inappropriate for that research question. This would naturally make it hard to build a strong discussion and answer around the utility of both methods to answering the research question (and whether one is superior), which is the aim of the essay!


Please note that throughout your MSc you should not duplicate submitted work. This means that you cannot re-use your own writing in multiple assignments, or from previous work (e.g. from your undergraduate degree). Please refer to the handguide and the moodle course ‘avoiding plagiarism’ for further information.

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