TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students
2019 Essay Contest
A submission database will be posted to this site by early 2019.
Students are invited to write an essay of no more than 3,000 words that addresses the topic of research with nonhuman animals in psychology. The essay should describe the role and relevance of nonhuman animal research in psychology, by referencing peer-reviewed research with nonhuman animals. Students will describe a hypothetical study that complies with and references nonhuman animal research guidelines. The essay should also address the implications of not conducting psychological research with nonhuman animals. The submission deadline is March 8, 2019.
- Address the three essay sections provided below.
- Include in-text citations in APA format and a references page. For more information, please consult the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association®" (6th ed., 2nd printing).
- Document credible and peer-reviewed sources throughout the essay.
- Include a cover page and an abstract of 120 words minimum to 250 words maximum.
Plagiarism is prohibited. Essays with evidence of plagiarism will be eliminated from the competition.
Section One: Demonstrate that psychological science has benefited from nonhuman animal research
For this section, students should explain how nonhuman animal research has contributed to our understanding of behavior, cognition, neurophysiology or other psychological process. Potential ideas to consider include (this is not an exhaustive list): neuroscience, neural prosthetics, epigenetics, clinical or counseling psychology, behavioral science, cognitive science, learning/memory, mental disorders or regulation of fear.
Note: There should be at least three sources used to support the ideas in this section. At least one of the sources should be from a peer-reviewed journal. Students should be able to concisely explain the research that is given as evidence. Students should use proper format when citing these sources. Students should choose one area of research rather than multiple topics. Students should clearly explain the results and the discussion section of the article from the peer-reviewed source.
Section Two: Adherence to nonhuman animal research guidelines
For this section, students should read and refer to the APA Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in the Care and Use of Nonhuman Animals in Research. Students should describe a hypothetical study that complies with and references these guidelines. The hypothetical study should demonstrate the student’s knowledge of research design by including standard research terminology (e.g., independent variable, dependent variable). A well-written essay will explain how the sources cited in Section One and these guidelines informed and shaped the aims and design of the hypothetical study.
Note: Students may model their study on previous research but should not simply replicate a previous study. Students should appropriately cite this previous research in the description of their hypothetical study and highlight how their proposed research study is unique.
Section Three: Conclusion – The future of psychological research using nonhuman animals
For this section, students should discuss the ethical implications of not conducting psychological research with nonhuman animals. Offer a supported opinion on the future use of nonhuman animals in psychological research. Possible avenues of discussion are: Do the guidelines need to be revised, if yes, how and why? Should certain species of nonhuman animals be excluded from psychological science research? Should the importance of the results allow for a change in the guidelines governing how the subjects are treated?
Entrants must be high school students.
Entrants must complete the project individually, not in teams or groups.
Entrants must have been enrolled or be presently enrolled in a high school psychology course. No more than five (5) entries per school will be accepted.
Papers must be no more than 3,000 words in length. Papers exceeding this length will be disqualified. Students should be aware that essays will be screened for originality.
No more than five (5) papers per school may be submitted.
All cover pages must include the following information (all required):
- Student's name, address, phone number and email address.
- Student's school name, school address and school phone number.
- Current or past psychology teacher and teacher’s email address.
- Psychology faculty at the college and high school level will serve as judges.
- Plagiarism is prohibited. Essays with evidence of plagiarism will be eliminated from the competition.
Out of 65 points:
Formatting (15 points)
- An essay of no more than 3000 words. Cover page, abstract and reference page do not count toward word limit. (3 points)
Papers must be in APA format (see the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association). This includes:
- A cover page with running head. (3 points)
- An abstract, not to exceed 250 words. (3 points)
- In-text citations in correct APA format. (3 points)
- A reference page in correct APA format. (3 points)
Section I: Demonstrate that psychological science has benefited from nonhuman animal research (15 points)
A well written section will:
- Demonstrate how studies using nonhuman animals have contributed to our understanding of psychological science in one specific domain. (5 points)
- Students should use at least use three sources to support their ideas. One of those sources must be from a peer-reviewed academic journal. Students should cite these sources properly. (5 points)
- Students should be able to clearly describe and explain the content of their supporting sources. Specifically, students should explain the results and discussion section of the article from the peer-reviewed source. (5 points)
Section II: Adherence to nonhuman animal research guidelines (25 points)
A well written section will:
Describe a hypothetical study, highlighting unique aspects of the study. The study should focus on using non-human animals and adhere to the APA guidelines. (10 points)
- A well-written essay will explain how the APA guidelines informed and shaped the design of the hypothetical study. Also, references should be made to peer-reviewed research in Section One. (10 points)
Throughout this section, students should demonstrate the ability to accurately use and explain key terminology, concepts and methodology, as well as highlight compliance to and reference of the guidelines. (5 points)
Sections III: Conclusion – The future of psychological research using nonhuman animals (10 points)
A good conclusion will:
- Discuss the ethical implications of not conducting psychological research with nonhuman animals. (5 points)
- Offer a supported opinion on the future use of nonhuman animals in psychological research. (5 points)
Winning Essay Samples
Teachers and students should contact Yvonne Hill, (202) 336-6076, with questions.