PSYC4032 Advanced Topics in Psychology

Bachelor Course Unit

PSYC4032 Advanced Topics in Psychology

Duration: One trimester

Level: 4th year

Credit points: 4 (out of total of 24 points)

Prerequisites: None

Unit co-ordinator: Professor Mike Innes

Unit description

The content of this unit will vary from year to year to take account of recent theoretical and research developments within psychology. It comprises a unit which can be described as a "capstone course" in that it enables students to study a unit in which facets of many different units which they have studied before can be brought together, critically analysed and evaluated and where skills learned in previous years can be augmented and put to use. Each year students will select topics that will provide a representational cross-section of the discipline of psychology, including its applications. The four domains of the biological bases of behaviour and experience, learning and cognition, and developmental and socio-cultural influences will be covered.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit students should be able to:

  • describe at an advanced level the theoretical underpinnings of research areas within the discipline of psychology and the methodological debates which affect the development of these areas
  • describe recent advances in a selection of research areas in the discipline of psychology
  • engage in discussion of recent developments in key areas within the discipline
  • evaluate research in the context of its theoretical and methodological underpinnings
  • evaluate the practice of science and psychology and the individual, social and organisational processes which influence that practice

Unit content

An example is listed. This is not intended to be copied or used by students. It is merely provided as a guide to the nature of issues that may be selected and the kinds of associated articles and papers that may be prescribed.

  • Mindreading: Is it a meaningful theoretical concept?
Lead article

Caruthers, P. (2009). How we know our minds: The relationship between mindreading and metacognition.Brain and Behavioural Sciences32, 121-138. doi:10.1017/S0140525X09000545

Learning and teaching process

The first two weeks of the trimester will be taken by the unit coordinator in which he will provide a set of criteria by which topics may be selected and paradigms may be considered within which the topics and elements are examined. The bulk of the work after the first two weeks will be done by students in the unit. Each member of the class will identify a broad topic for study and within that, different areas, theories, or views that can be considered. Each student is expected to identify a list of up to four related references from the contemporary literature that will support their contribution. Students will then be required to submit their choices and the associated reading list to their unit coordinator for approval. Upon receiving approval they will work on the assessment tasks as specified below. The topics will be circulated by the unit coordinator to all class members. Classes will be concerned with the presentation by members of the results of their investigations, so as to provide all class members with an overall picture of the contemporary research on their topic. The class will therefore cover a number of areas of current interest in the discipline. The coordinator will endeavour to ensure coverage of many different areas and paradigms in psychology, by negotiation with each student to maximise the student involvement in the topic to be presented and in engaging all members to provide an overall picture of the contemporary state of psychology.

While student members are researching the topics for further study and preparing their presentations the unit coordinator will present some orienting lectures and will lead discussion sessions on issues relevant to the development of theory and method in psychology. These will include the nature of the practice of psychological experimentation and survey research and the factors which affect the development and direction of research. Issues such as the biases and forces which operate upon institutions and individual practitioners, the nature of the publication process in psychology and in the sciences generally and the extent to which present day corporate and business forces operate to affect the way in which science and psychology are practiced will be examined.

Assignment summary



Word count


Review article: Structure and outline

Learning outcomes: a, b, c, d







Review article: This article is to be submitted in a format that would meet the requirements for publication in a journal.

Learning Outcomes: 
a, b, c, d

Note: Submission is in Week 12 (Sunday, 19th May) rather than at the end of the 10 week teaching trimester.







Graduate attributes

The material covered in this unit will contribute to the development of the following graduate attributes:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of core topics in psychology
  2. Research methods in psychology
  3. Critical thinking skills
  4. Values, research and professional ethics
  5. Communication skills
  6. Learning and the application of psychology

Special provisions

The topic selected for submission by an individual student must be in an area different from that in which the thesis is being undertaken.

Recommended text

There is no recommended text for this unit.

Other significant references

Reference will be made to significant articles which have appeared in the primary psychological literature of recent years. These will be the choice of the student presenter, but there will also be advice and feedback for the lecturer and the other class members.

Relevant journals

Journals which will be of particular help in sparking ideas about current trends and developments include:

American Psychologist
Review of General Psychology (American Psychological Association)
Current Developments in Psychological Science
Perspectives on Psychological Science
Psychological Science in the Public Interest (Association for Psychological Science)

The standard sources of reviews and theoretical developments include:

Psychological Bulletin
Psychological Review
Annual Review of Psychology

Although these latter journals tend to be more retrospective in content. Particularly exciting empirical papers will appear in the journals available through EBSCOHost.

Academic misconduct

Ethical conduct and academic integrity and honesty are fundamental to the mission of ACAP. Academic misconduct will not be tolerated by the college. This includes plagiarism of any nature. It is your responsibility to make sure that you understand what constitutes plagiarism in order to ensure that you do not engage in it. Please refer to for full details of the Academic Misconduct Policy.


This unit outline may be updated and amended from time to time. To ensure you have the correct outline please check it throughout the trimester. Your lecturer will advise when there are updates on the site and also when readings are available for class discussion.