The History of a Topic Assignment

Many of the topics in the social and behavioral sciences begin with a chapter of the “history” of the topic.  One of the easiest assignments that I’ve found to introduce students to the history of psychology is to ask them to choose a well-known psychologist, either from the textbook, or from research that they have done on-line.  They are then to find 10 things about the psychologist that are not found in the textbook.  However, if you take a look at the assignment, if can be changed to accommodate almost any topic.  For example, a Nursing student could be asked to find 10 pieces of information from a current nursing topic, while a Paralegal studies major could be asked to find 10 changes in the law effecting a topic.  Of course you don’t have to choose 10 topics, however you might want to keep in mind that if this is the second or assignment that you will be giving, you might want to keep the assignment simple, and of course you could have students work in groups should you prefer.  Below is the text from the assignment.

 Assignment 2: Introduction and Research Methods

This second assignment is also pretty simple and in addition to giving you more practice with using the discussion board will provide you with the opportunity to learn more about a specific psychologist.  Below are the guidelines you will need to follow to successfully complete this assignment.

First, Pick one of the famous psychologists discussed in Chapter 1, or find a famous psychologist who is not mentioned in Chapter 1.   Explore one or more websites for that particular individual and list ten things about that psychologist that were not found on the PowerPoint slides.  For those of you who choose a famous psychologist who is not listed in your book or on the PowerPoint slides, simply list 10 interesting facts about that individual.

Below is an example, of how you might post the information, but I do not use the name of a famous psychologist.

While the Powerpoint slides provide several interesting facts about the life of M. A. Castillo, other interesting facts can be found.  For instance:

1.  According to Parnes (2008), M. A. Castillo liked to be spanked.
2.  Catapano (2007) notes that his dog Buddy was the inspiration for his theory of policy psychology.


Parnes, M.  (2008, August 18)  Bibliographic facts for use in assignments.  RetrievedJanuary 25, 2010from the World Wide Web:

Catapano, J. W.  (2007, February 10)   Nichols’ Secret Page of Biographical Facts.  RetrievedJanuary 25, 2010from the World Wide Web:

You’ll notice that you are required to reference the site where you found the information.  You will also notice that the information is all obtained from theWEB.  Therefore you may NOT use your textbook.

The second thing you have to keep in mind is that once someone posts his or her 10 facts about a psychologist, no other person may use that psychologist.  Therefore, it is to your advantage to post early, and to choose someone who is not super famous like Freud.

I should also make it clear that you cannot post the name of a psychologist and not post his or her information.  You must have your 10 facts, and then post your information.

Additional Information Regarding the Assignment:

The purpose of this assignment is to allow you to see what others have to say about some of the famous psychologists that typically are discussed in introductory textbooks, and to allow you to become an “expert” on one of them.

What I will expect to see is a list of ten biographic facts about the famous psychologist that your PowerPoint slides does not mention.

These do not have to be earth-shaking revelations.  They can be birthdates, dates of death, titles of books written, where the person went to school, who they studied under, the names of parents, children and spouses, their hobbies and interests, major and/or minor accomplishments, etc.  Just be sure that the Powerpoint slides did not also contain this information.

Finding ten things may be easier for some famous psychologists than for others.  However, as a LAST RESORT, you can use more than one psychologist to get to the total of ten new facts.  For example, you can list five things about psychologist 1, two about psychologist 2, and three about psychologist 3.  However, I think this might involve more work than finding ten facts about one person.

Be sure to properly cite the source of each of the ten biographical facts.  Failure to provide proper references will reduce each grade for that fact by 5 points.


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