Theoretical Article (essay) structure - rules and common mistakes

You are all fairly familiar with the basic layout of essays, so we'll keep this section fairly short. Just a few hints and common mistakes that students make.

The purpose of a theoretical article in psychology

There are a number of types of articles that are published in psychological journals, including reports of empirical studies (psychological reports), review articles, case studies and theoretical articles. When writing an "essay" in psychology, you are essentially writing a "theoretical article".

The purpose of a theoretical article is for the author to draw upon currently published research literature with the aim of furthering theoretical work in the field of interest. Often the author will present an original theory of their own, showing how their new theory links in with previous theories and literature.

Alternatively, the author may critically assess existing theories, identifying flaws or arguing for the superiority of one theory over another. This is often done through examining a theory's internal consistency and evaluating the level of empirical support for the theory (i.e. studies/experiments). This type of theoretical analysis is what we are expecting from students at undergraduate level.