Grades for this course will be based on three equally weighted components:
  1. A paper either reviewing and evaluating a particular personality research program, or presenting an original theory of personality (15 pages).

  2. A midterm exam comprised mainly of essay questions on all material up to July 13.

  3. A final exam comprised mainly of multiple-choice questions on all material covered in the course, but primarily after July 13.


The writing assignment for this course is part of a goal-based scenario in which students write for the benefit of a larger audience and provide constructive criticisms of each other's papers. The paper can take either of two possible forms: (1) a critical review of the literature on a particular personality research program, or (2) an original theory dealing with a particular topic in personality psychology. (Each of these possible formats is discussed further below.)

During one class session your classmates will subject your manuscript to peer review; you will then have a few days in which to make the recommended changes. The final paper should be approximately fifteen pages long, in APA style (including a title page, abstract page, and references page[s]), and have no spelling or grammatical errors.

The best papers will be chosen for publication in the on-line repository of personality papers in the Great Ideas in Personality website. Once graded, the author of a publishable paper will be given some time to make revisions--which are always necessary, even in a good paper--before the paper is published. Thereafter, other students in class will be required to write peer commentaries on these papers as part of their overall paper grade. Finally, the author will write a response to the peer commentaries. The author response will be published alongside the target paper and peer commentaries.

Some common reasons that you might not obtain maximum credit on the paper are the following:

  1. you fail to participate fully in the peer review process,
  2. you include incorrect statements,
  3. you omit relevant material,
  4. you include irrelevant material,
  5. you commit errors in logic, reaching unsound conclusion(s),
  6. you use another person's ideas without appropriate acknowledgement,
  7. your writing is unclear or disorganized,
  8. you deviate from APA style, or commit errors in grammar, spelling, etc.

Remember that the key to good writing is rewriting. A valuable resource, even for good writers, is Strunk's Elements of Style (Strunk and White's enlarged version--which is still short--can be found in the library). Another valuable resource is Paradigm Online Writing Assistant. Further writing advice is also available.

Critical Review of the Literature

The goals of a critical review of the literature are to show an in-depth knowledge of a particular research program, to evaluate the "greatness" of the research program, and to communicate this knowledge effectively in writing. Optimally, the research program should be chosen from among those discussed in class. If you wish to write about a theory not discussed in class, you must obtain permission of the instructor; this will require that you show that a substantial amount of scientific research has already gone into testing the theory.

Original Theory Paper

In an original theory paper, you create your own original theory of personality. Your theory should explain some routine observations that you have made (e.g., what kind of people like to go to lively parties?), but should also be positioned within the multifaceted field of personality psychology. This will require that you generate some ideas, and then do some research to see what other people have said. While a critical review of the literature is organized by theory, an original theory paper is organized by topic. Some of the possible topics you might choose are the following.

  1. Personality measurement
  2. Heredity versus environment
  3. The biology of personality
  4. Personality development
  5. The person-situation debate: Do personality traits really exist?
  6. Motives
  7. The unconscious
  8. Personal efficacy
  9. Optimism/pessimism
  10. Creativity
  11. Sex and gender
  12. Control
  13. Self-awareness and self-consciousness
  14. Self-concept and identity
  15. Moral character
  16. Emotion
  17. Aggression
  18. Criminality
  19. Human sexuality
  20. Personality and relationships
  21. Stress and illness
  22. Personality, depression, and anxiety
  23. Personality disorders
Your theory should take account of existing research, make sense of your own observations, and make testable predictions. One way to make your predictions more testable would be to create a personality questionnaire that measures the constructs you describe. Grading criteria are similar to those for a critical review of the literature. In addition, your theory will be graded on (1) the extent to which it can be used to generate testable hypotheses, and (2) the extent to which it relates to existing scientific literature. This assignment is described more fully as part of the goal-based scenario.

Midterm Exam

The midterm exam, scheduled for July 13, will cover all material in the lectures and required readings up to that date. It will be mainly essay questions. Topics include factor analysis, intelligence, the PEN model, and humanistic psychology.

Final Exam

The (cumulative) final exam, scheduled for August 10, will cover all material in the lectures and required readings during the course, but primarily those after July 13. It will be mainly multiple choice questions. Topics include behaviorism, cognitive social learning theories, psychoanalysis, and the person-situation debate.

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