Psychology Dissertation Topics

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Example psychology dissertation topic 1:

The role of play therapy for traumatised children: A study of its use in the NHS

The role of play therapy to assess the needs to traumatised children, particularly in cases of sexual abuse, is well known. This dissertation seeks to marry play theory with practice and does so through observing a series of play therapy sessions at a children's hospital in Manchester. Through relating the observations to theory, the author is able to make a number of valid assessments as to the quality of care provision given. This is a dissertation that contains a number of ethical dimensions and will need careful methodological work to ensure that all aspects of data protection and patients confidentiality are adhered to.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hanney, L. and Kozlowska, K. (2002), ‘Healing traumatized children: Creating illustrated storybooks in family therapy', Family Process, Vol. 41, pp. 37-65.
  • Perrin, S., Smith, P. and Yule, W. (2000), ‘Practitioner review: The assessment and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents', Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Vol. 41, pp. 277-289.
  • White, J. and Allers, C.T. (1994), ‘Play therapy with abused children: A review of the literature', Journal of Counselling & Development, Vol. 72, pp. 390-394.

Example psychology dissertation topic 2:

An examination of examination-related anxiety in final year university students

This is a qualitative research based dissertation that brings together theory and observation. Through interviewing 100 final year students within 4 universities (all of whom are studying within the social sciences) a range of responses are garnered relating to issues of stress and anxiety and how students feel they are coping. These responses are then analysed within the context of accepted academic opinion. Thereafter the results achieved will offer a range of treatment and preventative measures that will be useful not only to students themselves but also to student support service centres nationwide.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Andrews, B. and Wilding, J.M. (2004), ‘The relation of depression and anxiety to life-stress and achievement in students', British Journal of Psychology, Vol. 95, pp. 509-521.
  • Dewhurst, S.A. and Marlborough, M.A. (2003), ‘Memory bias in the recall of pre-exam anxiety: The influence of self-enhancement', Application of Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 17, pp. 695-702.
  • Gruzelier, J., Levy, J., Williams, J. and Henderson, D. (2001), ‘Self-hypnosis and exam stress: Comparing immune and relaxation-related imagery for influences on immunity, health and mood', Contemporary Hypnosis, Vol. 18, pp. 73-86.

Example psychology dissertation topic 3:

Cognitive processes in eating disorders

Using study groups of individuals with various eating disorders: normal restrainers, bulimics, non-normal restrainers and anorexics, this dissertation analyses the extent to which sufferers internalise their difficulties. Through using a case study approach and linking it to existing academic literature this study compares aspects of self-control within those who suffer from eating disorders and accordingly evaluates the extent to which issues of psychopathology differ between the differing groups. 

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bydlowski, S., Corcos, M., Jeammet, P., Paterniti, S., Berthoz, S., Laurier, C., Chambry, J. and Consoli, S. M. (2005), ‘Emotion-processing deficits in eating disorders', International Journal of Eating Disorders, Vol.37, pp. 321-329.
  • Cole-Detke, H., Kobak, R. (1996), ‘Attachment processes in eating disorder and depression', Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 64(2), pp. 282-290.

Example psychology dissertation topic 4:

The prevalence of body-image disturbances among middle-aged males

Using both secondary research and primary data collection techniques in the form of interviews, this dissertation investigates perceptions of body composition and physique anxiety amongst a group of 30 middle aged men. The responses received are then analysed using multivariate and hierarchical regression analyses to ascertain the extent to which issues relating to body image (and the need to be seen in a certain way) are as prevalent amongst middle aged men as they are amongst younger generations. This dissertation could also include comparative comments with regards to female body types and concerns amongst a similar age range.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cash, T.F., Thériault, J. and Annis, N.M. (2004) ‘Body image in an interpersonal context: Adult attachment, fear of intimacy and social anxiety', Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 23(1), pp. 89-103.
  • Heinberg, L.J. and Thompson, J.K. (1995) ‘Body image and televised images of thinness and attractiveness: A controlled laboratory investigation', Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 14(4), pp. 325-338.
  • Keel, P.K., Gravener, J.A., Joiner, T.E. and Haedt, A.A. (2010) ‘Twenty-year follow-up of bulimia nervosa and related eating disorders not otherwise specified', International Journal of Eating Disorders, Vol. 43, pp.492-497.

Example psychology dissertation topic 5:

The encoding of second language acquisition within the framework of long term memory: A study of upper primary students (Years Five and Six - KS2)

Focusing upon Years Five and Six within the primary sector, this dissertation analyses the way in which children cope with the demands of learning a second language. Through so doing issues relating to limited-capacity processing within contemporary cognitive psychology are linked to practical issues of pedagogy. Accordingly, this dissertation relies not only upon secondary research in the form of existing academic literature but also the collection of primary research through interviews with practitioners, pupils and parents to provide a rounded analysis of the process of encoding second language acquisition within long term memory.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hulstijn, J.H. and Laufer, B. (2001) ‘Some empirical evidence for the involvement load hypothesis in vocabulary acquisition', Language Learning, Vol. 51, pp. 539-558.
  • Long, D.R. (1989) ‘Second language listening comprehension: A schema-theoretic perspective', The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 73, pp. 32-40.
  • Macaro, E. (2006) ‘Strategies for language learning and for language use: Revising the theoretical framework', The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 90, pp. 320-337.

Example psychology dissertation topic 6:

Indications of syllogistic reasoning among pre-adolescent children aged between 7 and 11 years

Although some studies have examined differences in the organisation of cognitive functions between adolescents and young children (for example, Shing et al., 2010), less research has been undertaken on the period immediately preceding adolescence. This study uses a sample of 100 children for research, administering tasks designed to highlight syllogistic reasoning. The dissertation compiles analysis using a variety of techniques, including a dual-process approach based on a mixed Rasch model. It is hoped that the study will contribute to better understanding of behavioural motivators in the age group and will be of particular interest to educators.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Fatima, S. and Rao, D.B. (2008) Reasoning ability of adolescent students. New Delhi: Discovery Publishing House.
  • Moutier, S., Plagne-Cayeux, S., Melot, A.M. and Houdé, O. (2009) ‘Syllogistic reasoning and belief-bias inhibition in school children: Evidence from a negative priming paradigm', Developmental Science, Vol. 9(2), pp. 166-172.
  • Shing, Y.L., Lindenberger, U., Diamond, A., Li, S.C. and Davidson, M.C. (2010) ‘Memory maintenance and inhibitory control differentiate from early childhood to adolescence', Developmental Neuropsychology, Vol. 35(6), pp. 679-697.

Example psychology dissertation topic 7:

A meta-analysis of on-going psychological disturbance in automotive accident victims

This study does not address specifically those victims who were determined to be ‘not at fault' in road traffic accidents but rather the wider range of victims, and across a broad spectrum of those who were both injured or not injured.  The sample will be drawn from both patients presenting at hospital, and those who respond to a survey conducted amongst the teaching and administrative staff of the university, as well as students. The dissertation evaluates levels of psychological disturbance in subjects over a six month period, with a smaller sample examined that takes into account victims of accidents over two years previously. Finally, it proposes recommendations for provision in the NHS on-going counselling needs for victims.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chossegros, L., Hours, M., Charnay, P., Bernard, M., Fort, E., Boisson, D., Sancho, P-O., Yao, S.N. and Laumon, B. (2011) ‘Predictive factors of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder 6 months after a road traffic accident', Accident Analysis & Prevention, Vol. 43(1), pp. 471-477.
  • Ryb, G.E., Dischinger, P.C., Read, K.M. and Kufera, J.A. (2009) ‘PTSD after severe vehicular crashes', Annual Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, Vol. 53, pp. 177-193.

Example psychology dissertation topic 8:

The efficacy of online cognitive behaviour therapy in the NHS: A review of one county's application of the programme

The costs of depression in the NHS continue to spiral, not only through the provision of medication but through counselling services such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). One solution for the long-term minimisation of costs is through online CBT programmes that sufferers can access from their home computers. This study considers the efficacy of such programmes with particular reference to its application in one county. The dissertation undertakes a critical review of the literature to date, and follows a small sample of patients (a maximum of twenty) to evaluate the perceptions of patients with regard to the programme's value to them.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Learmonth, D., Trosh, J., Rai, S., Sewell, J. and Cavanagh, K. (2008) ‘The role of computer-aided psychotherapy within an NHS CBT specialist service', Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, Vol. 8(2), pp. 117-123.
  • Purves, D.G., Bennett, M. and Wellman, N. (2009) ‘An open trial in the NHS of Blues Begone®: A new home based computerized CBT program', Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy (2009), Vol. 37, pp. 541-551.
  • Woodford, J., Farrand, P., Bessant, M. and Williams, C. (2011) ‘Recruitment into a guided internet based CBT (iCBT) intervention for depression: Lessons learnt from the failure of a prevalence recruitment strategy', Contemporary Clinical Trials, Vol. 32(5), pp. 641-648.

Example psychology dissertation topic 9:

Transgender issues: A study of adolescent coping mechanisms

This study develops three focus groups, each of ten members: one group featuring adolescent males who identify as females, one of adolescent females who identify as males, and one group of mixed gender. The issues explored in the groups cover vulnerability to abuse or violence at school, family pressures, support received from friends, and community reactions. The aim of the study is to determine existing coping mechanisms used by transgendered youth, with a view to the formulation of counselling programmes to be used in the school environment, in order to assist youth during a vulnerable period of emotional development.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Grossman, A.H., D'augelli, A.R. and Frank, J.A. (2011) ‘Aspects of psychological resilience among transgender youth', Journal of LGBT Youth, Vol. 8(2), pp. 103-115.
  • Grossman, A.H., Haney, A.P., Edwards, P., Alessi, E.J., Ardon, M. and Jarrett-Howell, T. (2009) ‘Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth talk about experiencing and coping with school violence: A qualitative study', Journal of LGBT Youth, Vol. 6(1), pp. 24-46.
  • Nadal, K.L., Wong, Y., Issa, M-A., Meterko, V., Leon, J. and Widerman, M. (2011) ‘Sexual orientation microaggressions: Processes and coping mechanisms for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals', Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, Vol. 5(1), pp. 21-46.

Example psychology dissertation topic 10:

A meta-analysis of the efficacy of cognitive behaviour therapy in depressed adolescents

Given the increased risk of suicide with the use of selective serotonin reuptake-inhibitors (SSRIs) amongst adolescents (Olfson, Marcus and Shaffer, 2006), this study explores the efficacy of other models of therapy, most particularly cognitive behaviour therapy, as an alternative to pharmacological interventions. Conducted primarily through a literature review, with some primary research in the form of one-on-one interviews over a three-month with a small research sample (fifteen adolescents), and in-depth interviews with two CBT practitioners, this dissertation evaluates whether alternative measures to address depression should be pursued more vigorously in the NHS. It is envisaged that the sample will include adolescents suffering differing levels of depression.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Gau, J.M., Stice, E., Rohde, P. and Seeley, J.R. (2012) ‘Negative life events and substance use: Moderate cognitive behavioral adolescent depression prevention intervention', Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, not yet published.
  • Katz, L.Y, Fotti, S.A. and Postl, L. (2009) ‘Cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy; Adaptations required to treat adolescents', Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Vol. 32(1), pp. 95-109.
  • Olfson, M., Marcus, S.C. and Shaffer, D. (2006) ‘Antidepressant drug therapy and suicide in severely depressed children and adults: A case-control study', Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol. 63(8), pp. 865-872.

Example psychology dissertation topic 11:

The validity of the NEO Personality Inventory-Revised: A review

Some scholars, such as Vassend and Skrondal (2011) have questioned the validity of the NEO Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO PI-R) with particular regard to extraversion, agreeableness and narcissism. The popularity of NEO PI-R continues amongst the defence forces of various countries and in the United States Air Force especially. Accordingly, further academic investigation is warranted to confirm how valid the test is and whether updates and modifications are due in order to ensure that those deemed fit to protect us are indeed suitable to the tasks given them. This dissertation undertakes a comprehensive review of the literature on NEO PI-R and determines not only the level of concern for this test academically, but whether those concerns are consistently in one area of the NEO PI-R, thus calling for overhaul of that section.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chappelle, W.L., McDonald, K., Teachout, M.S. and Salinas, A. (2011) ‘NEO Personality Inventory-Revised normative data that distinguish U.S. Air Force AC-130 Gunship Sensor Operators from enlisted airmen who fail training and peers in the general population', Report to School of Aerospace Medicine Wright Patterson AFB, OH,  
  • Vassend, O. and Skrondal, A. (2011) ‘The NEO personality inventory revised (NEO-PI-R): Exploring the measurement structure and variants of the five-factor model', Personality and Individual Differences, Vol. 50(8), pp. 1300-1304.
  • Witt, E.A., Hopwood, C.J., Morey, L.C., Markowitz, J.C.; McGlashan, T.H., Grilo, C.M., Sanislow, C.A., Shea, M T., Skodol, A.E., Gunderson, J.G. and Donnellan, M.B. (2010) ‘Psychometric characteristics and clinical correlates of NEO-PI-R fearless dominance and impulsive antisociality in the Collaborative Longitudinal Personality Disorders Study', ‘Psychological Assessment, Vol. 22(3), pp. 559-568.

Example psychology dissertation topic 12:

Gender differences in sibling rivalry: An analysis

Although there has been considerable academic interest in the phenomenon that is sibling rivalry, less work has been undertaken with regard to the prevalence of sibling rivalry (SR) related issues amongst specific genders. For example, do sets of sisters experience more SR issues? Are problems more prevalent among siblings of mixed gender? These are matters which could assist in family therapy, as well as in schools. This dissertation offers an opportunity to work in secondary research as well as primary research, as the extensive literature review is backed by a small sample of one-on-one in-depth interviews between twelve sets of siblings, focussing on the 15-35 year old age group: four all-female, four all-male, and four mixed gender.    

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Connidis, I.A. (2005) ‘Sibling ties across time: The middle and later years', in, Johnson, M.L. (ed.), The Cambridge handbook of age and ageing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 429-436.
  • Garg, A. and Morduch, J. (1998) ‘Sibling rivalry and the gender gap: Evidence from child health outcomes in Ghana', Journal of Population Economics, Vol. 11(4), pp. 471-493.
  • Scharf, M., Shulman, S. and Avigad-Spitz, L. (2005) ‘Sibling relationships in emerging adulthood and in adolescence', Journal of Adolescent Research, Vol. 20(1), pp. 64-90.

Example psychology dissertation topic 13:

The coalition of beliefs in abductions by UFOs and the incidence of meteorites colliding with Earth

Those who believe that they have been the victim of abduction by aliens who have landed in a UFO may be responding to personal experience of, or news about, meteorites colliding with the Earth. This study examines whether there is a link between such collisions and increases in reporting of alien abduction, and considers how much belief that a person has been abducted by aliens is a reaction to fear. Drawing upon news reports, previous psychological studies, and surveys as well as interviews, this dissertation seeks to determine whether the need for counselling services for those who believe they have been mistreated by aliens could be successfully predicted by the monitoring of meteorite collisions.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Clancy, S.A., McNally, R.J., Schacter, D.L., Lenzenweger, M.F. and Pitman, R.K. ‘Memory distortion in people reporting abduction by aliens', Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 111(3), pp. 455-461.
  • Hall, R.L. (1996) ‘Escaping the self or escaping the anomaly?' Psychological Inquiry: An International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory, Vol. 7(2), pp. 143-148.
  • Sparks, C.G., Sparks, C.W. and Gray, K. (1995) ‘Media impact on fright reactions and belief in UFOs: The potential role of mental imagery', Communication Research, Vol. 22(1), pp. 3-23.

Example psychology dissertation topic 14:

‘It just makes it worse…' Why victims may not report bullying

This year, in the state of New Jersey, new legislated anti-bullying measures are estimated to cost the state in excess of US$2,000,000. However, it is debatable whether the increasing moves to build anti-bullying programmes will be successful in the face of persistent reluctance amongst victims to report incidents of bullying. This study explores the unwillingness of child bullying victims to report the perpetrators and initiates a survey of 400 children aged between nine and thirteen to determine not only how many feel that they have been bullied in the past, but what their response was and whether the incidents were reported. It makes recommendations on how to encourage increased levels of reporting, particularly for teachers and school administrations.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Lecannelier, F., Varela, J., Rodríguez, J., Hoffmann, M., Flores, F. and Ascanio, L. (2011) ‘A self administered survey to assess bullying in schools', Revista Medica de Chilé, Vol. 139(4), 474-479.
    Rigby, K. and Barrington Thomas, E. (2010) How schools counter bullying: Policies and procedures in selected Australian schools. Camberwell, Vic: Australian Council for Educational Research.
  • Sawyer, A.L., Bradshaw, C.P. and O'Brennan, L.M. (2008) ‘Examining ethnic, gender, and developmental differences in the way children report being a victim of “bullying” on self-report measures', Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 43(2), pp. 106-114.

Example psychology dissertation topic 15:

Procrastination amongst Master's level students: Starting and completing the dissertation within a month

This study undertakes an in-depth examination of forty Master's level students across several different subject areas and considers how many students leave crucial research and writing until the last minute. The study explores why procrastination is such a difficult hurdle for many students and evaluates different methods students utilise to overcome the reluctance to start work and complete it within a clear timetable. Furthermore, the study observes how much stress is added by procrastination, and whether the act of procrastination itself has contributed to the rising phenomenon of agencies that will write dissertations for a fee.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chow, H.P.H. (2011) ‘Procrastination among undergraduate students: Effects of emotional intelligence, school life, self-evaluation, and self-efficacy', Alberta Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 57(2), pp. 234-240.
  • Klassen, R.M., Ang, R.P., Chong, W.H., Krawchuk, L.L., Huan, V.S., Wong, I.Y.F. and Yeo, L.S. (2010) ‘Academic procrastination in two settings: Motivation correlates, behavioral patterns, and negative impact of procrastination in Canada and Singapore', Applied Psychology, Vol. 59, pp. 361-379.

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