Grades for this course will be based upon (1) homework, (2) a final paper, (3) a group project or a final exam, and (4) a journal (optional--see below). Each aspect of your grade will be weighted equally in determining your final grade.


As the first aspect of your grade, you will be required to submit one homework assignment each week. The goals of the homework assignments are to assure that you know the content of each theory, to make you think about how each theory is internally organized, and to make you think about how to evaluate the "greatness" of each theory.

To accomplish the first and second goals, you are to submit an alternative representation of the ideas that comprise the theory before class on the day we talk about that theory. This representation can take many possible forms, such as text, list, outline, tree, map, graph, table, flow chart, structural model, network, questionnaire, exam, picture, Venn diagram, logical syllogism, or some combination of these. It is assumed that there are many possible ways to represent knowledge. Some are better than others: some are more easy to read (encoding), some are more easy to remember (retrieval), some help you to use the material better (problem solving). Try to represent the ideas in a way that optimizes these features. Your representation will be graded on how well it (1) covers all the major concepts of the theory, and (2) integrates them into a meaningful pattern.

To meet the third goal of the homework assignments, i.e., to make you think about how to evaluate the "greatness" of each theory, you will be required to submit a table that lists your top ten criteria for a great idea in psychology, in order from most important to least important (to you), and that evaluates the theory on each of the criteria using a scale from 1 (strongly agree that the theory meets that criterion) to 6 (strongly disagree that the theory meets that criterion). For example, if one of your criteria is falsifiability and you decide that psychoanalysis scores poorly on that criterion, you might assign it a 6. You should be able to defend your criteria and your ratings of each theory on those criteria in class. Note that you may decide to revise your criteria as you encounter new theories and new criteria during the course of the term.


The second aspect of your grade will be a final paper. The goals of the final paper are to show an in-depth knowledge of a particular research program, to evaluate the "greatness" of the research program based upon metatheoretical principles learned in class, and to communicate this knowledge effectively in writing. Optimally, the research program should be one of those discussed in class. If you wish to write about a theory not discussed in class, you must obtain permission of the instructor; this will require that you show that a substantial amount of scientific research has already gone into testing the theory.

In order to ensure the quality of the final product, and to simulate the process of real scientific writing, a rough draft of at least ten pages, worth 20% of the total paper grade, will be due 11-10-97. During two consecutive weeks your classmates will read and provide feedback on your rough draft(s) during class; you will then have another week in which to make improvements. The final paper should be approximately thirteen pages long, in APA style (including a title page and abstract), and have no spelling or grammatical errors.

Some common reasons that you might not obtain maximum credit on the final paper (or, for that matter, on the homework or group project) are the following:

  1. you include incorrect statements,
  2. you omit relevant material,
  3. you include irrelevant material,
  4. you commit errors in logic, reaching unsound conclusion(s),
  5. you use another person's ideas without appropriate acknowledgement,
  6. your writing is unclear or disorganized,
  7. you deviate from APA style, or commit flagrant errors in grammar, spelling, etc.

The final paper is due 11-24-97. It represents a sustained effort, and should be begun early in the term. Remember that the key to good writing is rewriting. A valuable resource, even for good writers, is Strunk's Elements of Style (Strunk and White's enlarged version--which is still short--can be found in the library). Further writing advice is also available. Because you will put a lot of thought and attention into your final paper, you may want to take the additional step of making it into a web page and including a jump to it from your group project. This will help to insure that your group project has depth as well as breadth.


The third aspect of your grade will be a group project. The goals of the group project are to integrate the alternative represenations of all the group members into one all-encompassing alternative representation of the major ideas in all of the theories, to incorporate into this alternative representation an evaluation of the theories that reflects what has been learned about metatheory during the course, and to make this alternative representation available to the public on the World Wide Web. (The instructor will teach you how to make web pages--no prior knowledge is presupposed. Tutorials are also available.) What you will end up with is a taxonomy of ideas about personality. This aspect of the class will simulate the large extent to which science is a collaborative endeavor and the importance of disseminating information.

Two (or possibly three) people will be assigned to each group at the second class meeting of the course (or you can choose with whom you would like to be in a group). One strategy for completing the group project is for each group member to assume responsibility for a certain number of the topics to be covered, and for the group to combine each member's contribution at the end. A small amount of class time may be made available for members to meet as a group.

At the finalization of each project, each member of the group will turn in a page explaining what each of the other members contributed. Grades on the project will reflect 20% individual contributions, and 80% overall quality of the project. Grades will be based on the following criteria: (1) the extent to which all of the ideas comprising each theory are represented, (2) the extent to which students make use of metatheory in evaluating the "greatness" of all theories, and generally (3) depth, breadth, integration, and creativity of representation. The group project is due 12-13-97.


Some students may have more computer anxiety than others. For students who do not wish to create a website having to do with the topics covered in class, the option of instead taking a final exam is made available. The exam will be mostly or completely comprised of essay questions that focus on themes in the lectures and the readings. The diagnostic quiz given early in the term is a good indication of the type of questions that will be on the final exam.


The fourth (optional) aspect of your grade will be to keep a journal. The goals of the journal are to give you a chance to get your ideas about personality down on paper, and to give you credit for writing about issues that interest you.

If you decide to keep a journal, you will need to buy a bound journal with blank pages from the bookstore. You are to write a total of seven pages per week on any topic(s) related to personality. (If you choose to use a word processor, then you should use use double spacing, one-inch margins, and 12 point font, and you are only required to write three and a half pages per week, which is comparable to the hand-written assignment.) You should date all of your entries, although you will not be graded on how much (or how little) you write per entry. The most important criterion for grading the journal will be that you fill the requisite number of pages. Journals will be collected at random times throughout the term, so bring your journal with you to every class meeting. The best policy is to keep up by writing at least one page per day. This is your chance to show what you have learned in class or have thought about on your own in any format you desire.

Here are some other creative ways you could fill your journal (adapted from John Johnson):

  1. Create your own "theory of personality" by putting together ideas from the course. You should define personality, describe important factors that affect personality, and describe important factors that are affected by personality. How would you rate the "greatness" of your theory using your own criteria?
  2. Keep a dream diary for at least one month. At the end of the month, read over your diary and work with some of your dreams. Write about your dreamwork. Include both your actual dreams and a description of the technique(s) used in interpretation.
  3. Keep a diary of meaningful coincidences for one month. At the end of the month, read over your diary and write about how the events are interconnected. Does this interconnection reflect the actual "psychological situation" that ties the events together, or does it only reflect your own retrospective bias?
  4. Describe your own family in terms of one or more of the theories we discuss in class.
  5. Write an autobiography of your psychological development from early childhood to the present.
  6. After one of the class discussions, write a report describing your experience as a participant in the discussion. Include your perspective on what others expressed and what you learned from others.
  7. Take a personality test (the Keirsey Temperament Sorter is available on-line; others are available from the instructor) and write about whether you think the results accurately describe you. Describe any problems you see with this test, or with personality tests like it.

Back to the Great Ideas in Personality Reading List.