PY 311—ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY


                                              INSTRUCTIONS FOR TERM PAPER

The purpose of the paper is to allow students to study in more depth a topic in abnormal psychology which they are particularly interested in.


Form:   Papers should be typed in a word processing program that can be easily downloaded by the instructor (Word is ideal.) Papers should be about ten pages long , though there will be no specific penalty for longer or shorter papers. This is an estimate of how long the paper needs to be for you to do a good job; I do not specifically grade on the number of pages. This estimate is based on normal typed, double-spaced pages .

Referencing MUST be in the APA style normally used in psychology journals and your textbook. At the end of your paper you MUST have a bibliography or reference list giving full information on your sources in alphabetical order by author’s name. Papers which do not have a reference list at the end will not be graded and given 0 points.


Topic:   Exact topic choice is up to the student. The only requirement is that the topic be clearly related to abnormal psychology. Any topic mentioned in the textbook is suitable, whether we cover it in class or not. Topics which are covered in individual discussion board assignments but which are not mentioned in the text are also suitable. Good papers generally answer specific questions, and questions starting with “how” or “why” lead to more interesting papers than those starting with “what”.

For example, suppose you are fascinated by Dissociative Identity Disorder (“multiple personality”). The whole topic may be too broad for a good paper. You can begin to narrow the topic by asking questions like “How does DID develop?”, “How is this disorder related to brain function?”, “Why was this disorder diagnosed more often during the 1980s than in the past?” etc. At that point, begin to gather references to answer the questions. You may discover that you aren’t able to find enough information on your particular question and will have to broaden it; or you may find you are able to narrow your focus still further. This depends on the research you are able to gather.

In writing your paper you should begin with a statement of your question and why you find it important or interesting. This should be followed by a summary and analysis of what you have found through your research. The paper should end with a conclusion that gives your own opinions on the question, backed up by evidence. Remember you will probably not find the definitive answer to your question in one ten-page term paper!

It’s important in this paper to give your own thoughts backed up by evidence . A paper which only states your opinions but doesn’t show how you arrived at your conclusions will also not be adequate. You should integrate your own ideas with what you have read.


References:   You must have at the very least six different references for this paper. You may use your textbook as a reference, but it does NOT count toward the six required references. It will be to your advantage if you’re discussing a controversial issue to find references on both sides of the question. A one-sided presentation will be much less effective.

In general you should use books by psychiatrists, psychologists, or neurologists, or articles from scientific journals such as The Journal of Abnormal Psychology or The American Journal of Psychiatry. Articles from newsmagazines like Time, Newsweek, etc. may be used, but they will NOT count toward the six-reference requirement .

No more than one-third of your references can be websites (though remember that you can find real journal articles through the Internet on Bellevue University’s library databases , and that’s not the same thing as referencing a “website”.) Remember that if you want to obtain articles through the Interlibrary Loan service you should ask for them as soon as possible. You may of course use appropriate materials found at other libraries anywhere in the world.

You can access appropriate articles through the Bellevue University library databases. When looking for an article in a database such as ProQuest or PsycArticles, please be sure to check the “peer reviewed” box, and then you will be sure that the article can count toward the six academic references requirement.

The Bellevue University library has many ebooks you can use for this assignment. You of course can also use a paper book. Those of you who live in the Omaha area can visit the Bellevue University library to find books. Those of you who live further away can ask the Bellevue University library to send you a physical book through the mail. Please contact Allie O’Connor, Document Delivery Co-ordinator, for that purpose: [email protected]


SUGGESTED TOPICS:  The following are a few suggestions for those of you who need them. They are just suggestions and not meant to exhaust the possible range of topics. These are general topic areas for which you could develop more specific research questions. As noted above, any topic which is mentioned in your textbook or in discussion board assignments is appropriate for a term paper, whether or not it is part of a chapter you have been assigned to read in this class. If you are in doubt as to whether or not your topic is suitable, please contact the instructor.


What one can learn from reading memoirs by schizophrenics and their relatives

The history of mental hospitals.

The use of the insanity defense in our legal system.

Sexual exploitation of clients by therapists.

Electro-convulsive therapy for depression.

Are gay men and lesbians at higher risk for suicide?

Psychosurgery (lobotomy).

Post-traumatic stress disorder and its treatment.

Is psychotherapy really effective?

Is alcoholism genetic?

Schizophrenia and the problem of the homeless.

Is religious fundamentalism or atheism a sign of neurosis?

Type A Behavior and heart disease.

Why women are more prone to depression than men.

Should transvestism be defined as “abnormal?”

Causes and treatments for eating disorders.

Therapies for sexual dysfunction.

Causes and treatment of anti-social personality disorder (sociopathy).

Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

Theories of Autism.

Hallucinations and Delusions in Schizophrenia

Nicotine Dependence as a substance abuse disorder.

Hypochondriasis and the modern health system.

Agoraphobia and panic attacks.

Explanations for witch panics.

Cognitive therapies for control of anger.

Cultural or biological factors in schizophrenia, depression, OCD, or panic disorder

Causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

Is “sexual addiction” a real disorder?

Treatment of compulsive gambling.

Diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.

Why has depression among young people dramatically increased in the last 30 years?

Body dysmorphic disorder

Controversies over Dissociative Identity Disorder (multiple personality)

Is Childhood Bipolar Disorder being overdiagnosed?

Controversial Changes in the new DSM-5

How Hoarding is similar to and different from OCD

Differences in therapies and outcomes between Bipolar I and Bipolar II




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