Guidelines for the Advanced W

writing center students


The purpose of the "Advanced W" requirement is to encourage the student to continue to develop the writing skills gained in the basic W and use these skills within your major. These skills include an ability to: a) comprehend terms and theories used in psychology, b) use knowledge of psychology to present logical arguments, c) gather information from reliable sources, d) bring critical thinking skills and your own point of view to the discipline, e) gain knowledge in order to formulate answers to your questions about human behavior, and f) seek increased self awareness and understanding of others. Through your writing you can communicate to others your competence in these skills in the field of psychology. In addition, by using the method of writing described in the American Psychological Association's Publication Manual, you will learn to participate in the discourse of the discipline.


In order to graduate each student must successfully complete three of the following four types of papers: literature review, research report, position paper or a reflection paper.

  • The literature review

    The literature review is a comprehensive paper integrating important themes, research findings, questions, and controversies in an area of psychology. The paper should reflect your voice and intellectual engagement through your use of organization, informed criticism, portrayal of points of agreement and disagreement within the literature, and identifying future trends in the area. At the same time the paper should accurately reflect the professional literature in the area. A literature review is more objective and comprehensive when compared to a position paper. The author should assume an audience of educated peers. When evaluating this paper the readers will ask: Did you present the work of others clearly and accurately?  Does the paper present the major relevant findings and issues in the area being investigated? Is the paper written at a level beyond the introductory level? Does the paper contain independence of thought and a critical analysis? Do primary sources provide the main documentation for the paper and are they of sufficient quantity to adequately reflect the topic under consideration?

  • Research Report

    In the research report you will describe a question of interest in psychology, give a brief review of the relevant literature, specify a research hypothesis, define the variables, describe the research design, and include data and analyses if available. The author should assume an audience familiar with research methods in psychology. Evaluators will examine the structure of the paper to ensure that the following sections are present and contain the necessary information in a clear and logical way: abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, and references.

  • Reflection Paper

    A reflection paper allows you to use psychological constructs as tools for self-discovery. For example, you might use such constructs to reflect on your own life experience or enhance your understanding of social concerns. The author should assume an audience of educated adults. Evaluators check to see that the paper uses psychological constructs and/or theories; shows evidence of self-discovery, uses analogy, metaphor or examples appropriately, has substance, and is original.

  • Position Paper

    In a position paper you will develop and support a position on an issue in psychology. The paper should demonstrate your ability to select evidence and construct arguments with an awareness of your own purposes and alternative points of view. Assume an audience of educated adults. Evaluators check to see that the paper establishes a clear position, is persuasively supported, uses examples appropriately, and is sensitive to opposing points of view.

  • Case Study/Lab Report

    A paper analyzing and reporting observations taken of one person over a period of time.


  1. Save all of your papers from your courses; do not destroy them until you have your diploma in hand! Also, be sure to have backup copies of your papers.

  2. When instructors think a paper you have written has the potential for satisfying the Advanced W, they will "flag" the paper to identify it may be submitted for the Advanced W. The student is encouraged to work with the instructor when revising the paper to make sure the student understands the nature of the revisions. The student should also consult the technical guidelines in this document and the APA publication manual.

  3. When all of the revisions have been completed, the student submits a clean copy of the paper to the instructor along with the "flagged" paper from the course. ONLY PAPERS WHICH HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY FLAGGED BY INSTRUCTORS MAY BE SUBMITTED FOR THE WRITING REQUIREMENT. If you find that you have an insufficient number of "flagged" papers, talk to your instructors to see if your papers can be revised, talk to your advisor, or talk to the department chair. You must have at least one paper accepted by the end of your junior year and a plan for the completion of the other papers by the fall semester of your senior year.

  4. DEADLINES. Papers must be submitted the semester after they were written. The deadline for submitting papers is the FOURTH THURSDAY OF THE SEMESTER. Papers are submitted to the instructor of the course in which the paper originated. Papers will be evaluated by two psychology faculty members and returned to the student by the end of the seventh week of classes. Papers not submitted by the fourth Thursday of the semester will be evaluated the following semester.

  5. Do not delay in picking up your paper. If you have been asked to further revise the paper the DEADLINE FOR THE REVISION IS THE NINTH THURSDAY OF THE SEMESTER (the week after the semester break). When submitting revisions the student must submit both the revised version as well as the version containing the evaluator's comments.

  6. If you find that you are a second-semester senior just beginning a course with an Advanced W paper yet to be written, you obviously will not be able to make the fourth Thursday deadline. In this case you must speak to the course instructor to alert them to the situation and negotiate deadlines during the first two weeks of classes. Failure to make arrangements ahead of time will result in you participating in graduation ceremonies as a degree candidate - not a graduate.

  7. The requirement is complete when a student has earned a pass on three papers. The department chair will inform both the student and the Assistant to the Vice President when a student completes the Advanced W in psychology.



All students can check their progress by going to BlackBoard and logging in to their "Advanced W requirements" course. 



  1. The paper is typed, clean, complete and without handwritten corrections.

  2. The paper has a title page specifying the title of paper, student's name, date, course, instructor, and type of paper.

  3. The pages are numbered beginning with the title page which is counted and numbered as 1. A header is printed in the upper right corner of each page (E.g., see the words in the upper right hand corner of this document.)

  4. The main body of the paper is double spaced, without right justification, and has 1 inch margins on all four sides.

  5. The paper is free of typographical, spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors.

  6. The paper use psychological words and terms correctly, avoids ambiguous meaning, and avoids a sexist use of language.

  7. The paper establishes a clear thesis and is well-organized. Each part of the paper relevant to the whole paper. Each paragraph logically follows from the preceding paragraphs. The sentences within a paragraph are connected.

  8. The paper provides appropriate acknowledgement and documentation of the works of others. This means that necessary citations are present, citations follow APA style, each citation has a corresponding reference, the references follow APA style and references not cited in the paper are not included in the reference section.


  1. Failure to write or revise as previously instructed. Too often students make one or two small editorial changes (add or delete a word here and there) but do not really REVISE the paper as needed. You need to make sure you understand what the revisions involve and make changes throughout the paper without the teacher having to make every instance of the problem. Failure to follow the above technical guidelines (particularly the one about references) will also result in us sending the paper back to you for further work.

  2. Awkward presentation of your ideas. What IS your thesis? The reader wants to know what the focus of the paper will be in the first paragraph. Also, make sure you don't contradict yourself later in the paper. Are your ideas consistent? How do your ideas relate to material that has been presented in class? Each paragraph needs to make one point and should be between 1/3 and 3/4 of a page long. Two sentences does not make a complete paragraph. One paragraph should not run on for more than one full page - if it does you are trying to accomplish too much in that paragraph.

  3. Failure to communicate clearly. The college mission states that students will learn to communicate with "precision and style". Precision means to use the best word to convey your meaning. Imprecise writing leaves the reader confused as to your intended meaning. The following are all common examples of a failure to use precision.

    1. a. Unclear referent. Use of this, that, they, her, or it without making clear who or what this, that, they, her, or it is. E.g, "Hey! Look at that!"

    2. b. Overuse of general words such as "issue". Do you mean problem, concern, question, topic of importance, condition of the world?

    3. c. Failure to clarify which meaning you intend for words that have more than one meaning. e.g., "significant". Do you mean statistically reliable, clinically important, or noticeable?


The Cushwa-Leighton Library has a number of books on how to write. Two highly recommended books are:

  • Rosnow, R. L. & Rosnow, M. (1995). Writing papers in psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

  • Sternberg, R.J. (1988). The psychologist's companion:A guide to scientific writing for students and researchers.New York: Cambridge.

The APA publication manual is available at the reference desk for use in the library. This manual is also available at the bookstore for purchase.

  • American Psychological Association. (2001). Publicationmanual of the American Psychological Association,fifth edition, Washington, DC: APA.

The WRITING CENTER is located on the Library Mezzanine and has tutors available to help students with their writing assignments. Sample papers which have successfully passed the Advanced W in psychology have been placed in a file at the writing center for students to review.


Essentially, plagiarism is presenting someone else's work as your own. Plagiarism not only involves using the exact words of another without using quotation marks or indicating their source, but it also occurs when the writer borrows the sequence and patterns of ideas of someone else without giving credit to the original author. Although defining plagiarism is easy, students have a harder time knowing if a particular instance constitutes plagiarism. Consider the examples given below.

The following quote is from Loftus, E. F. (1993). The reality of repressed memories. American Psychologist, 48, p. 533-534.

The 1990s brought a blossoming of reports of awakenings of previously repressed memories of childhood abuse. One reason for the increase may be the widespread statistics on sex abuse percentages that are published almost daily: … "If it happens so often, did it happen to me?" is a question many women and some men are asking themselves now more than ever before. The appearance of abuse statistics is one battle in the war waged against an earlier tendency on the part of society to disbelieve the abuse reports of women and children- a tendency that we should all deplore. …Although women's anger is certainly justified in many cases, and may be justified in some repressed memory cases too, it is time to stop and ask whether the net of rage has been cast too widely, creating a new collective nightmare.

Repressed memories of abuse often return in therapy, sometimes after suggestive probing. Today, popular writings have been so fully absorbed by the culture that these too can serve as a source of suggestion that can greatly influence what happens in therapy and outside of it (Guze, 1992)… Despite lack of corroboration, some of these recollections could be authentic. Others might not be.

…First, we need a renewed effort at research on the problem of repressed memories. This should encompass, in part, a reexamination of some of the widely cherished beliefs of psychotherapists. Is it true that repression of extremely traumatic experiences is common? … If so, how do we explain findings obtained with children who witness parental murder and other atrocities? In one study (Malmquist, 1986), not a single child aged 5 to 10 years who had witnessed the murder of a parent repressed the memory. Rather they were continually flooded with pangs of emotion about the murder and preoccupation with it.

  • First example of plagiarism.

    The Need to Study Repressed Memory

    Today there are many cases of people suddenly awakening to a previously repressed memory of childhood abuse. Because sexual abuse of children is so common many women are asking themselves: "If it happens so often, did it happen to me?" These repressed memories of abuse often return in therapy, sometimes after suggestive probing. Although some of these recollections could be authentic, others might not be. It is therefore important for the student of clinical psychology to study the phenomenon of repressed memories in more depth.

    Commentary: Without citing Loftus and using quotations around the end of the first sentence and the third whole sentence this paragraph would constitute plagiarism. Although some of language has been altered, the ideas, pattern of ideas as well as specific word use are essentially copied from Loftus.

  • Second example of plagiarism.

    The Need to Study Repressed Memory

    Psychotherapists have seen an increase in the number of clients who have reported being sexually abused as children. Sometimes these memories seem to appear quite suddenly, often after a secure therapist-client bond has been established. Research studies in human memory however, suggest that at least some of these memories are in fact false. The time has come to examine some of the beliefs of psychotherapists. For example, is it true that repression of extremely traumatic experiences is common? Recent research indicates that it may not be.

    Commentary: Although more original that the first example, the fourth and fifth sentences are straight out of Loftus and should be cited. In addition, citations should be given after the third and last sentence where the findings of research reports are indicated.

    It is instructive to note how Loftus makes extensive use of the works of others in her review of the literature on repressed memory. She always gives credit to the works and ideas of others and yet the final product (her thesis and argument) are clearly her own.