Midterm Exam Questions
I have two primary goals for this course. The first is for students to understand how social psychologists use scientific methods to learn about people’s feelings, actions and thoughts. This objective is assessed mainly by students’ individual research projects, but also by the individual laboratory assignments. The second goal for this course is to demonstrate how diverse social psychological theories may improve our understanding of social behavior and thought--in this case, religious behavior and thought. The following essay questions are designed to assess the achievement of this course objective. The exam will include at least one question based on the readings, and at least one question based on the text.
Psy 556, Spring 1997
Questions Derived Mainly From the Readings
- The dominant paradigm in social psychological studies of religion examines "religious orientation." Describe what religious orientation is, the general research findings regarding how the orientations correlate with each other, and how religious orientation appears to relate to other variables. Use our readings and the text as resources; where appropriate, cite specific studies that we examined.
- Of the various studies that we have read, which operationalizes religiousness in a way that is most compatible with your conceptualization of religiousness? What makes that study most like your view of religiousness, and in what ways do the other studies differ from your conceptualization?
- Describe research on [I will insert one of the following: attribution theory; attitudes; social cognition; altruism and prejudice; or mysticism]. How can this research help us understand religious behavior and thought? Be sure to use examples in your response to illustrate your points.
- What ethical problems may arise in social psychological research? Are studies involving different topics (e.g., political views, interpersonal relationships, or religious beliefs) also different in the ethical problems that accompany them? Why/why not? What strategies can be employed to deal effectively with these problems?
Questions Derived Mainly From the Text
- Chapter 2: According to Brown, how have social psychologists defined religion in the past? How do you define religion? Support your definition with rationale and examples, as appropriate.
- Chapters 3 and 4: Describe how our conceptualization of a variable influences the way that we measure that variable. Use examples from social-psychological research on religion to illustrate your points.
- Chapter 5: Brown suggests that some people believe "religion and psychology both focus on inadequacy, helplessness, and weakness; but when they are being applied they try to overcome these weaknesses in different ways, by a process of conversion or salvation on one hand, or by therapy on the other" (Brown, p. 86). Describe a research project that would enable you to examine this proposition. Specify the hypotheses, and describe how you would test the hypotheses.
- Chapter 6: Brown makes distinctions between five kinds of studies: those that focus on religious people; beliefs and knowledge; attitudes; experiences; and religious traditions & groups. Suppose that you have been contracted by a church to study the devotion of its members. Write a letter to the church administrators describing how you would incorporate each of these five elements into your study. Remember, the letter should be written to someone who is inexperienced with social psychological research, so you will need to provide simple and accurate descriptions of these areas of inquiry, along with rationale describing the kind of useful information that each would contribute to your understanding of its members.
- Chapters 8 and 9: Select one of the topics of these chapters (e.g., religious belief and personality; concepts about God; religious doubt) and summarize the research that has been done. Then, describe what you see as lacking in that research, and why it is needed. Finally, outline a study that would remedy that weakness.
Strategies for Answering Essay Questions
I recommend that students keep these points in mind while preparing responses to essay questions. Some of these are adapted from Drs. Ross Powell and Michael Ofsowitz’s thoughts on essay questions, which were shared on the "teaching in psychology" email discussion list.
- The main task is to answer the question. If a response rambles, wanders, or otherwise includes material (also known as "b.s.") that is not directly relevant to the question, it will be severely marked down. The key is to communicate your thoughts on the question. Don’t answer a question that has not been asked!
- Make your answer as thorough as time allows, without including extra information. This means that you should have a direct response to the question, you "get to the point" efficiently, and you support your point with relevant sources. You should know the material well enough to include citations to sources that we have studied (e.g., Donahue, 1985), and you faithfully represent that material.
- Use complete sentences in your response. Your response should demonstrate your knowledge in the best possible light, and your use of language should show that you do understand the concepts. Improper grammar, poor sentence construction, and other language problems impede communication.
- In an exam like ours, in which you know that the exam questions will be taken from a certain set of questions, I recommend that you write out an "ideal" response to each question. Fine-tune that response so that you are sure that you know the material, and that you convey that knowledge effectively. Rehearse your response so that you know it "inside and out" and can reproduce it without notes. It usually helps to compare answers with another student in the class. Doing so can tell you (a) if you are missing a concept or information that is important to that concept, and (b) if your response to the question is effectively stated.
- Use examples to illustrate your points, but do not use examples that are in the text or were part of class. Remember, your task is to demonstrate that you understand the concept, and not to parrot back to me something from class.
- To look at essay responses from a different perspective, you might ask yourself what you need to do in order to earn partial credit or no credit on a question. In order to receive partial credit, define the terms that are mentioned in the question, use an example or two to clarify terms, and attempt to answer the question. For no credit or for minimal credit, guess, or write something that you have memorized from your text, readings, or notes.
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