How to Write a Cognitive Psychology Paper

What is Cognitive Psychology?

Cognitive psychology is the study of the mind and the way humans think. If you major in cognitive psychology, you will study reasoning, memory, attention span, and other brain actions considered to be complex mental processes.

Cognitive Psychology Examples

  • Making judgment about an issue based on information received and then processed by the brain.
  • Learning is a form of cognition. How our brain connects as we learn new concepts in various ways to remember all that we have learned.
  • Our capability to reason logically is a good example of cognition. People reason in different ways if we think about why people act the way they do.
  • Our ability to resolve issues is related to cognitive brain functions. For example, if your car breaks down, you will go through a checklist of issues we are familiar with to enable you figure out the problem.
  • In school, teachers should be completely aware of a student’s cognitive development in various stages.

Cognitive Psychology and the Individual

Cognitive psychology differs from other psychology sub-fields.  For instance, psychoanalysis heavily focuses on an individual’s subjective views of the social world, cognitive psychology depends on scientific research methods to objectively understand and investigate mental processes. Whereas behaviorism studies the study of noticeable behaviors and their causes, focus in cognitive psychology is on the invisible processes and internal states of the mind. Furthermore, psychological counseling regularly focuses on advancing such distinctive phenomena as life-satisfaction and self-esteem, cognitive psychology may be useful in concrete applications and results such as advancing the accuracy of individual decision-making or improving one’s memory. Cognitive psychologists have also contributed to restructuring educational curricula to advance the learning experience.

Factors of Cognitive Learning

Cognitive learning is an authoritative alternative to the conventional classroom learning.  Instead of concentrating on memorization, learning through cognition focuses on past knowledge. The student learns to make connections and think about the material; these skills help them to be better learners.

  • Comprehension

Developing cognitive learning skills imparts to students how to study more efficiently. Students learn more than just repeating what they have learned. They can understand the “why” behind a subject and how it suits a larger picture.

  • Memory

Unlike the vigorous memorization techniques used, cognitive learning helps the student gain a more profound comprehension of a subject. In the long run, this improves recall enabling the student to build upon knowledge.

  • Application

The cognitive learning strategy enables students reflect on what they learn and how it relates to other material. It becomes helpful to students as it enables them gain problem-solving skills necessary to create new connections concerning what they are learning.

Benefits of Cognitive Learning in Psychology

  • Change undesirable behavior
  • Make better choices in life
  • Learn more efficiently
  • Reduce mood problems
  • Remember past experiences and relate them with your current life
  • Comprehend past traumas differently

How to Write a Cognitive Psychology Paper

Research your Topic

Search a journal database, such as ERIC or Psych Info to locate articles that relate to your subject. After locating an article, check the references section to find other studies cited in the article. While you take notes from the articles, do not forget where you obtained the information.

Create a Comprehensive Outline

This is among the most onerous and boring steps, so many students skip it and go directly to writing. It might seem unnecessary and tedious to create an outline, but this exercise can be a huge time-saver and make writing much easier in the long run. Start by going through your notes you wrote during the research process and think about how you will present all of your research and ideas.


The purpose of the introduction paragraph of a psychology paper is to validate your reasons for choosing to write about your topic. Your objective in this section is to present the topic to your reader, give an overview of previous research on your topic, and recognize your own hypothesis.

When you are ready to write the introduction, you should start by providing a brief description of your research question. What is the study or experiment trying to demonstrate? What wonders are you studying? Give a concise history of the topic and describe how it connects to your current research.

As you introduce your cognitive psychology paper topic, explain what makes it worth writing about. Why should the topic be of substance to the reader? Apart from letting them know about the contents of your paper, the objective of your topic is also to explain why it is essential for them to want to learn more.

Summary of Previous Research

The second objective of the introduction is to give a well-rounded summary of previous research relevant to your topic. Therefore, before you start to write the summary of your custom psychology essay, it is essential to research your topic comprehensively.

Locating suitable sources amongst thousands of journal articles is a very tiring job, but there are methods you can apply to simplify the research. If you have finished the first steps of researching and maintaining detailed notes, it will be much easier to write your introduction. It is vital to provide your reader with a good synopsis of the historical background of the issue you are handling. However, it is not obligatory to provide an exhaustive analysis of the subject.

Concentrate of talking about the major points, and try to include the most suitable studies.  You can define the findings of previous research and then expound on how the current study expands or differs upon earlier research.

Give your Hypothesis

After summarizing the previous research, explain areas of the research that are lacking or potentially flawed. What is absent in your topic from previous studies? Are some research questions that still need to be answered? Your entire hypothesis should direct to these questions.

At the conclusion of your introduction, provide your hypothesis and explain what you anticipated to discover in your study or experiment.

Features of a Good Essay in Psychology

  • A Universal Structure

Structure the contents of your cognitive psychology paper in a way that enables a logical flow of ideas. Each statement/paragraph should sensibly transition from the previous one. The essay should ‘flow’. There should be a smooth transition from the introduction, to the main body, and the conclusion. Each paragraph should have a main theme or topic sentence illustrated and developed using several points and supported by evidence.

  • Understanding and Knowledge

Identify, remember and demonstrate an understanding on a variety of scientific material that precisely reflect the primary theoretical perspectives.

  • Critical Evaluation

Support your arguments with appropriate facts, theory and evidence from the literature. Evidence of independent insights, thinking and evaluation of the evidence.

  • Quality of Written Text

Writing succinctly and clearly with suitable use of grammar, spelling and paragraphs. All sources cited accurately and in accordance with APA guidelines.

In the body of the custom psychology essay, each paragraph should show both critical evaluation and knowledge. There also needs to be a suitable balance between the following essay components. Try to target about 40/60 split if you can. Most students write insufficient evaluation and too much knowledge.

It is advisable to structure your cognitive psychology essay in accordance with key themes.  Themes are developed and illustrated through several points and supported by relevant evidence. Pick applicable points only, the ones that most disclose the theme or help in making an interesting and convincing argument.

Cognitive Psychology Paper Outline

The following essay outline shows the standard format for a psychology paper and most academic papers, for that matter. No matter the required length of your paper, it should follow the format consisting of the introduction, main body, and conclusion. Read the guide below and know what typically goes into every section of the paper.

  1. Introduction

The introduction of your cognitive psychology paper should contain some of the following components:

  • Start with a hook or attention grabber, that is, a historical context, statistic, example, or short story that presents the paper topic
  • Provide a background of issues pertaining to the subject
  • Explain any key terminology necessary to comprehend the topic
  • Paraphrase or quote sources portraying the controversial nature of the topic (for argumentative papers only)
  • Emphasize background information on the topic necessary to comprehend the paper’s direction
  • Write a paragraph containing the antithesis, presenting the main opposing views (for argumentative papers only)

You must conclude the introductory paragraph with a thesis statement; one or two sentences in length:

  • Describe what the general paper will cover
  • Concisely outline the primary points in your work
  1. Main Body

  • Noticeably present the major points of your paper as stated in the thesis
  • Provide strong examples, explanations, and details to sustain each major point
  • If writing an argumentative essay, address any opposing arguments and refute them
  • If writing a research paper, apply strong evidence from credible sources; quotations, summaries, and paraphrases that support your main points
  1. Conclusion

  • Restate the thesis you presented in the introduction using different words
  • Concisely summarize each major point stated in the paper’s main body (try and explain each point in two sentences)
  • Provide a statement of the significances of not adopting the position (for argumentative papers only)
  • Conclude with a strong memorable statement, that is, a suitable, meaningful concluding sentence that connects the whole concept of the paper (you can refer to the hook)

Additional Tips

  • Start by deciding your thesis and major points
  • It is not obligatory to start writing your paper at the introduction
  • Try and start with the body and thesis, then go back and determine how best to present the introduction and conclusion paragraph
  • Apply transitions between examples and between primary points within the major points
  • Always have your thesis in your mind when writing your paper, everything in the paper must refer back to the thesis

The Significance of Flow

Obviously, the content of your paper is important, but the way you communicate your arguments or ideas has a major influence on your general grade. Some students may have similar content or information in their essays, but the best student will communicate the information articulately and concisely.

When you finish writing the first draft of your cognitive psychology paper, check if it flows. Good flow is an essential component of quality communication, along with grammar and spelling.

This means that paragraphs in the paper follow a rational order, the way chapters in a novel appear. Have a universal structure with themes organized in a manner that allows for a logical arrangement of ideas or points. You can rearrange your paragraphs (cut and paste) to another part in your essay if they do not fit in with your essay structure.

To improve the way your essay flows, ensure that the last sentence of each paragraph connects with the first sentence of the following paragraph. This will aid in the essay flow and make the essay easier to read and comprehend.

Cognitive Psychology Paper Topics

Choose a paper topic related to human cognition. You can explore potential topics in this area such as decision-making, intelligence, language, and thinking. Others include:

  • False memories
  • Speech disorders
  • Perception
  • Attention
  • Problem solving
  • Judgment
  • Dreams

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