Good writing skills are essential for success in any academic work. This is
particularly true for organizational psychology, where writing is the major way
we communicate our ideas. Good writing is a skill that requires practice to
perfect. The two steps of your term paper are designed to give you practice at
writing and to provide you with critical comments so that you will know how to
improve your writing.
- Table of contents
- How to do well
- Deadlines and grading
- The Assignment
- Hints on getting started
While there is no "cookbook" formula for doing well on writing assignments,
there are certain norms that lead to success.
- Write clear, jargon-free prose. Read what you have written to make
certain it makes sense. It is also a good idea to let someone else read it
before you hand it in to make certain it also makes sense to someone other than
- Think critically about your subject. We are interested in description
(who, what and where) to understand the background of your ideas. But we are
particularly interested in your ideas. We want to know "why."
- Use the writing guidelines organizational psychologists follow. Refer to
the concluding section of any January issue of the Academy of Management
Review for the past five years for a style guide. For example, a style
guide is on page 67 of the January 1994 (Volume 19, Number 1) Academy of
Management Review. The Academy of Management Review is available in
the Business School Library. Contact your GSI for access to additional copies
of the Academy of Management guidelines.
- Don't Plagiarize! In academia, one of the worst sins you can
commit is to plagiarize. To plagiarize means claiming someone else's ideas or
writing as your own. When you don't acknowledge that you are using someone
else's ideas or writing, that is plagiarism. In academic writing you
acknowledge the ideas of others by citing them in the body of your paper and in
the bibliography. Please see the Academy of Management writing guidelines
referred to above for the proper citation format. The use of unacknowledged
ideas or writing is plagiarism. This includes published works, but also
includes using term papers written by other students.
- Pay attention to spelling, grammar and sentence construction. This is not
a writing course, but we do care about details.
- Ask for help if you need it. Professor Finholt and the GSIs are
available to assist you during their office hours. There is no penalty for
asking for help!
The combined worth of the first and final draft of your paper constitutes 40%
of your grade!
The first draft of your paper is due at the beginning of section during the
week of March 10-14, and is worth 10% of your final grade.
The final draft of your paper is due at the beginning of section during the
week of April 14-18, and is worth 30% of your final grade.
You will be penalized one grade for each day your writing assignments are late,
including papers handed in late the day they are due.
Please choose a familiar organization. Preferably this will be one in which
you have recently participated. You may choose a work organization, a service
organization, a professional association, and so forth. Since you will be
relying solely on your knowledge, make certain you are adequately familiar with
the organization you choose.
In the first draft of the paper, you will be asked to take an initial
step toward a critical examination of your chosen organization. You will do
this by using relevant organizational psychological theories to explore a
research question related to your organization. For example, if you worked in
a social service agency last summer, you may have observed that many social
workers had little patience with their clients. You might feel that a theory
about occupational burnout provides a good model for explaining your
observations. Therefore, in your first draft you would want to describe the
agency setting, identify your critical research question related to burnout,
document research findings relevant to burnout using 10 to 15 citations from
the psychological literature, and then show how the research literature
addresses the issue of burnout among the social workers at your agency. The
first draft should be from 15 to 20 typed pages in length, double spaced, and
written according to the Academy of Management guidelines. You will receive
written critical comments from us on the first draft, as well as a grade. As
much as possible, you should aim to make your first draft a complete statement
about your organization and about your research question.
In the final draft, you will be asked to revise your first draft based
upon the comments we will provide and upon additional thoughts you might have
as the course progresses.
Don't procrastinate! The due date for your first draft will arrive rapidly and
it will coincide with other demands in this course, such as the mid-term exam
on February 24, as well as demands in your other courses. Use these hints to
save effort and contact Professor Finholt or your GSI in office hours if you are
- Describe your organization: What is the nature and purpose of the
organization (what does it do, and why)? How large is it? How is it organized
(how does it accomplish its tasks)? What is your role in, or relationship to,
the organization? How does your organization relate to other people and other
- Determine what about your organization interests you: Are you interested
in the whole organization, or some part of it (a division, factory, work group,
supervisor, co-worker, families of workers, etc.)? What roles do people have
in the organization and what are the factors affecting their performance
(training, stress, gender, social attitudes, etc.)? How well does the
organization seem to accomplish its tasks?
- Think about what your organization does well and what it does poorly: What
are the strengths and weaknesses of the organization? What observations and
data can you think of that justify your claims about your organization? How do
these data and observations relate to the psychological literature?
- Apply the lessons you learned in the first homework assignment where you
observed an organization, framed a research question, and then used that
question to define a literature search.
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Revised - November 4, 1996