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Critical Thought Assignment on Empirical Research on Psychopathology Media Claims


People are exposed to information about psychopathology on a daily basis - through the newspaper, the internet, television, and radio. Most of this information is in the form of claims. For example, one might come across a headline in the Health section of a newspaper that states "spending time on your smartphone or other electronic device right before going to sleep causes insomnia." However, most people do not engage in critical analysis of such claims.


This can happen for a number of reasons: perhaps the claim substantiates a belief that one already holds. Perhaps the claim is one that is so widely accepted, that it almost seems like "fact." Or, perhaps, the claim seems logical and just "makes sense."


To encourage critical thinking, and to enhance your research skills, your task in this assignment is to select a media statement about any aspect of psychopathology, and to conduct empirical research on that statement. The statement can be from an article or advertisement found online, in the newspaper, or in a magazine. Assess whether the media statement is actually consistent with what research has demonstrated regarding the claim. If we return to the earlier example regarding the role of electronic device usage at bedtime in insomnia, we would perform a review of the research literature to determine whether scientists have examined the association between the two. Some considerations would be, what is the statistical correlation between usage at bedtime and insomnia? For example, do people with a diagnosis of insomnia report greater use of electronic devices at bedtime than do people without the diagnosis? Are there any experiments showing that increasing electronic device usage for a few days directly results in less restorative sleep? The body of the assignment consists of 5 double-spaced pages (not including the title page and references pages(s)).


The topic is open. Begin by locating a mainstream ad/article that is relevant to the topic of psychological disorders. Try to find an article that is interesting to you, on a topic you would like to learn more about. The ad/article may report on a new study or may simply discuss issues of interest around a particular disorder or form of "abnormal" behaviour. Place the media article at the back of your assignment and make sure to refer to it clearly in the body of your assignment. Think about a research question that may be drawn from the media article and use this question as a starting point for your search of peer-reviewed empirical articles.

Why Critical Analysis of Media Claims is Important?


Refer back to Module 3 and the associated readings regarding the research process. Empirical articles are different from newspapers, magazines and blogs in that they are reporting on an original research study that has been conducted. The typical structure of such a paper consists of an abstract, introduction, method, results and discussion. Look only for articles that are peer-reviewed, in that they have been submitted to a journal with a rigorous process of critically-evaluating all articles prior to publication. Typical search engines for psychology papers are PsychInfo and PubMed. Consult the Ryerson library and reach out to the experts at the library if you need assistance.


Find at least 10 scientific journal articles that address your question - this is the bare minimum. Most, if not all of you will need to research your chosen topic much more extensively than this. Get started early. In summary, your task is to research the claim(s) discussed in the media article you have selected as extensively as possible, and to write a paper that contains valid, logical arguments related to the claim(s).


Your paper must have a main theme or thesis that runs through it and gives structure to your review of the literature. Be especially careful NOT to conduct a biased review. You may have a pre-existing opinion regarding the media claim(s) but the whole idea is to allow the data to guide your conclusions. This means actively researching the claim from as many sides as possible. Your research does not have to support the claim; it may or may not provide conflicting evidence. Perhaps the evidence-base is mixed and needs to be qualified in some way.

Content and Critical Analysis (out of 80) Clear statement of the problem/question to be addressed in your assignment, accompanied by a clear concluding statement. Extensive peer-reviewed research into the media claim(s). Non-superficial literature review. The literature review must be rigorous. Accurate representation of the peer-reviewed research used for the assignment. Clear demonstration that you have read your research thoroughly, and understand it (e.g., the concepts described, methods).


Demonstration of high-level, mature critical analysis of the peer-reviewed research used for the assignment. Clear, coherent critical thinking throughout the paper and excellent command of the topic area selected. Writing (out of 20) Tidy paper consisting of a cover page with a proper title, your name and student ID number; double-spacing and 12-point font throughout paper. Excellent attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, and organization / flow Excellent attention to paraphrasing, citing and referencing throughout the paper. Reference list reflects citations used in the paper.

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