Abnormal psychology good research paper topics

Illustration of Schizophrenia's effect on the brain. (Credit: Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, M.D., Ph.D.)

Illustration of Schizophrenia’s effect on the brain. (Credit: Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, M.D., Ph.D.)

If your next research paper that’s due is on the subject of abnormal psychology, here are some tips for finding good research paper topics. You can consult scholarly articles on abnormal psychology or recent science articles; there are the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the Casebook in Abnormal Psychology and library databases. One trend in abnormal psychology you might write about is body dysmorphic disorder.

You can choose from many topics under the umbrella of “abnormal psychology” such as eating disorders, antisocial behavior, cannibalism, multiple personalities, narcissism, Oedipus complex, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-mutilation, separation anxiety, social pathology and suicide.

Journal of Abnormal Psychology

For research paper topics, you can consult some of the top scholarly journals on the topic. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology publishes articles on various topics including psychopathology, pathological or atypical features, experimental studies, sociocultural effects on pathological processes and tests of hypotheses from psychological theories. Some recent articles have discussed depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD symptoms and alcohol, age-related psychopathology, anorexia nervosa, suicide, genetic influences, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more.

The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, the publication of the International Society for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, includes articles on psychopathology in childhood and adolescence, major childhood disorders and epidemiology, prognosis and treatment. Recent articles covered the relationship between parenting and juvenile delinquency, childhood anxiety, early childhood intervention and childhood-onset schizophrenia.

Casebook in Abnormal Psychology

The book Casebook in Abnormal Psychology, 4th edition, 2010, by Timothy A. Brown and David Barlow, includes case studies, diagnoses, therapy and personal stories to illustrate DSM-IV categories of abnormal psychology. According to the authors: “The wide range of DSM-IV disorders discussed in the book is presented using an integrative approach that emphasizes how multidimensional influences that are interrelated and interacting (e.g., genetic, biological, social learning) combine into unified models of the causes and maintenance of the disorder and its treatment.”

Historical context of abnormal personality

One topic idea for a research paper is to present normal and abnormal personality in historical context: “Anthropologists and sociologists speculate that the behavioral consistencies we refer to as personality were recognized by the prehistoric peoples who formed the first stable groups and societies,” wrote Stephen Strack in the book Differentiating Normal and Abnormal Personality, 2006, found on Questia.com. Differences in human character were discovered 2,500-2,000 years ago in the times of Thales, Plato, Hippocrates and Galen, who developed sophisticated theories to explain normal and abnormal behaviors. Darwin’s (1859) discovery of evolution of species propelled the idea. “The process of natural selection provided an intriguing explanation for the development of complex behavior patterns as means for survival, adaptation, and procreation,” said Strack.

Body dysmorphic disorder

Another topic for your abnormal psychology paper could be Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD is “thinking too much about an imagined or slight flaw in a person’s own looks,” explained on the International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation Web site. “These unhappy feelings are consuming. … These can then harm all areas of a person’s life, such as their social activities and job.” Signs and symptoms of BDD include:

• Spending too much time staring in a mirror

• Avoidance of mirrors

• Compulsive skin picking

• Constantly asking friends if they look alright

• Unnecessary appointments with doctors, surgeons and plastic surgeons

Nonsuicidal self-injury

Another area of current research in abnormal psychology is self-inflicted harm to a person’s own body. In “Why Do People Hurt Themselves? New Insights into the Nature and Functions of Self-Injury,” by Matthew K. Nock in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2009, this pathology is described: “Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a prevalent but perplexing behavior problem in which people deliberately harm themselves without lethal intent. Research on the nature of NSSI reveals that it typically has its onset during early adolescence, most often involves cutting or carving the skin, and appears equally prevalent across sexes, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses. Less is known about why people engage in NSSI.”

University library database

Large college and university library databases have links to the top psychology journals. Some lists are ranked by Journal Citation Reports. Also consider searching:

• DSM Library – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

• CIRRIE – Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information & Exchange

• CINAHL – Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature

• SocIndex – Sociology topics found in 2000 full-text journals.

• Science Direct – the world’s largest scientific and technical database

Visit Questia.com’s Psychology and Abnormal Psychology pages for more information. 

What’s a topic in abnormal psychology you’d like to research? Share with us in the comments.

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