MS Program in Forensic Psychology PSY549 Capstone Course – Exam Guide Overview:

Congratulations on reaching the end of your time in our MS program! One of our primary is to ensure that you are able to find, read, understand, and communicate current research in forensic psychology. These skills are important not just for those of you interested in further study or research careers, but also for those of you who work in government, law enforcement, advocacy, or clinical settings where organizational or policy decisions could be informed by your knowledge of the field.

To evaluate your ability to successfully perform those tasks, this course will ask you to choose two topic areas from among a list of potential topics (provided to you on Canvas) and, for each topic area, write a 4 to 5 page (1200-1500 word) paper that summarizes and explains research findings and communicates recommendations based on those findings.

What your essay should contain:

Because we want you to be prepared to communicate scientific findings to a wide variety of audiences, we want you to write these essays so that the general public (who might not have a solid understanding of scientific research) could understand them. For each of your essays, here is what we would like to see you do:

 Each essay should be written in APA format, particularly with respect to the way you cite and reference articles. If you need a refresher, there is a link in the Canvas course to an APA guide.

 Imagine that a coworker, supervisor, or client asked you to report on and make policy recommendations about a forensic psychology issue. You should think of your essay as a report that you might write for this purpose.

o Example: A law enforcement agency wants to know what the current research says about how to conduct eyewitness lineups. You would conduct a literature search on recent papers that discuss, for example, whether possible suspects should be presented one-at-a-time or all-at-once. After reading those articles, you would in theory have an idea of what way is best. So you summarize all of that research and recommend what you then conclude is the best way to conduct the lineups.

 Each essay should start with an overview of the topic. Summarize and explain what the topic is that you are going to write about.

 Next, you should summarize the articles that we provided to you for your chosen topic. What did each article set out to learn? What did they do? What did they find? What conclusions did they make? Again, be sure to try and communicate this to a non-technical audience.

 In addition, you should find at least one additional article on your topic by conducting a literature search on Google Scholar / PsycInfo / etc. This article should be directly relevant to your topic and fit in with the theme of your essay. Summarize this article along with the others.

 Once you’ve done that, what might you say to people about what the research literature says about the topic? Thinking across all of the articles you’ve read, what are some common themes?

 Again, thinking across all of the articles, what are some future research directions or unanswered questions that you think are important? (If you were to be a researcher, this would be how to identify potential study / experiment ideas.)

 Finally, if an organization or agency wanted to develop some “best practices” based on scientific research, what are some recommendations you might make? You can either do this generally, or identify a specific organization (perhaps one that is part of your career trajectory) and make recommendations that would be relevant to that group.

 We would like your essay to be 4-5 pages double-spaced, which is about 1200-1500 words. You want to be sure to thoroughly explain the findings and recommendations, but do so in a brief way that stakeholders / organizations would not find to be too long of a read.



Essay Grading

The first thing to note is that we do not have a specific summary, recommendation, or anything else in mind for these topics. Each of you will be graded based on the quality of your individual essay. There are three possible grades for each essay:

 Excellent (A). A grade of excellent means that you have done a thorough and accurate job of summarizing the articles. You have identified good future research steps / unanswered questions and identified a centrally-relevant additional article. Your recommendations are clear and make sense given the intended audience and the articles that you read. You communicate your ideas clearly in the structure, tone, and organization of your writing.

 Satisfactory (B). A grade of satisfactory means that you have done a competent job with your essay. You summarized your articles well, your additional article was generally relevant, and your recommendations made sense. The writing was generally acceptable, and most stakeholders would be able to understand and use your essay to help make decisions. A satisfactory essay (vs an excellent one) might be lacking in the depth of explanation of the articles, the depth and relevance of the recommendations, and/or the overall quality of the written communication.

 Unsatisfactory (E). A grade of unsatisfactory means that we feel that your essay is lacking in critical areas. This might mean that your article summaries are inaccurate or misleading, your additional articles are not relevant, your recommendations don’t make sense or contradict the literature, or the structure, tone, organization, or clarity of your writing would make it difficult for others to understand and use your essay to make decisions.

Here are some additional grading policies for the essays:

 If you receive an unsatisfactory grade on your first essay, you will have one week (from the time you receive the grade) to resubmit it. We will be sure to provide feedback so you know what issues need to be addressed. You may only resubmit it once.

 Warning: you cannot resubmit your second essay. It must be at least satisfactory on the first pass.  If you receive an unsatisfactory grade on a resubmitted first essay or on the second essay, that

unfortunately means that you will not pass the overall course. Because this course counts as the culminating experience for our MS program, if you fail this course, you must submit a petition to retake it, otherwise you will not be allowed to graduate.

 Because these essays are part of an exam, we cannot review drafts of your essays or provide assistance beyond general clarifications.

Course Grading

The overall grade you will receive in this course depends on how well you do on each essay. The grading scheme is listed below. Please note that you must pass both essays in order to pass the course!

Essay Grades Final Course Grade Both As A

One A and one B A Both Bs B

Any Essay with an E E

Here’s the overall schedule and procedure:

Part I: The first three weeks

On the canvas site for this course is a module labeled “Part I – Weeks 1-3.” Inside is a list of topic areas that we have chosen from among the materials covered in the courses you’ve taken throughout our program. Inside of each topic area is a list of 3-5 articles that we’ve selected on that topic.

1) Start by choosing one of the topics. It might make sense to choose the topic that most interests you or that is of the most relevance to your career goals.



2) Read each of the articles listed for that topic. Read them carefully – the key will be knowing them well enough to be able to accurately explain them to others.

3) Then, you must obtain one additional article on the topic. Do this by conducting a literature search on Google Scholar / PsycInfo / etc. This additional article should help inform what you are going to write about.

4) Write your essay exam (see the “essay exam guidelines” section below for what this should contain) and submit it by the due date listed in the syllabus.

5) After a few days, the exam leader will give you feedback on your first essay along with a grade. a) If your essay was judged to be satisfactory, you can proceed with Part II. b) If your essay was not satisfactory, you will have one week to resubmit it.

Part II: The last three weeks

Once you have received feedback and received a satisfactory grade on the first essay, you will now need to do this again. Open the “Part II – Weeks 3-6” section of canvas. Inside will be a new set of topics. The general procedure for Part II is the same as for Part I.

6) Choose a new topic for your second essay. This topic must be chosen from the Part II section of the course. You may not go back and use one of the other Part I topics.

7) Again, carefully read each of the articles. 8) Obtain at least one additional article related to this topic. 9) Write your essay and submit it by the due date listed on the syllabus.

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