APA Essay Contest Official Page


APA TOPSS Scholars Essay Competition

The APA Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) is pleased to announce the topic for the 2012 APA TOPSS Scholars Essay Competition. There will be four winners, each of whom will receive a $250 award. Submissions must be made by March 5, 2012.
TOPSS Essay Submission Form

2012 Essay Topic

Each year, natural disasters affect millions of people worldwide. Natural disasters include earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, floods, landslides, mudslides, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, avalanches, and extreme weather (such as droughts and blizzards). People respond to natural disasters in a variety of ways. Psychologists seek to understand these responses by identifying generalized behavioral patterns. This knowledge helps psychologists better explain and more effectively deal with individuals’ specific experiences following a disaster.
This essay competition requires you to describe specific psychological concepts as they relate to the various ways a person might react to a natural disaster. You are asked to relate these specific psychological concepts to a person’s potential behavior and mental processes following the disaster. Be sure to include definitions and specific examples related to the experience of living through a natural disaster. You can include an example that is as small scale or as large scale as you would like. You should use four of the topics listed in Section II to address the case, and use research findings on these topics to support your writing.

Directions

Submit an essay of 3,000 words maximum that addresses each of the three sections below. Use the //Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association// to write your paper. Papers must include a cover page, an abstract of 120 words maximum, citations in correct APA format, and a references page.

Section I: Describe how people are transformed by the experience of a natural disaster

As an introduction, describe how a natural disaster can affect a person psychologically, citing at least one peer-reviewed journal article and describing both short- and long-term psychological effects the survivor might be experiencing as a result of the disaster.
See suggested websites on the right for information on natural disasters.

Section II: Apply Principles of Psychology to a Disaster Survivor

Select four of the seven psychological topics listed below and describe them thoroughly. Then, explain how they relate to a survivor’s experience after a natural disaster. Be sure to use research findings on these topics to illustrate your understanding. You must cite a minimum of one reference for each of the four topics you choose to write about. Textbook citations are acceptable.
  • Biological components related to memory, emotions, and/or stress
  • Learning principles of classical conditioning, operant conditioning, or observational learning
  • Attribution theory
  • Learned helplessness
  • Individually coping with grief/loss
  • Social and cultural reaction to trauma
  • Positive Psychology

Section III: Conclusion

Summarize how psychological science informs us about human behavior and mental processes as they relate to how a natural disaster can affect a survivor. Be sure to explain the importance of applying specific psychological principles to people’s experiences with similar natural disaster situations. In addition, consider the positive role psychological science can play in the recovery process of a natural disaster survivor.

Rules

Eligibility
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.
The Paper
Papers must be no more than 3,000 words in length. Papers exceeding this length will be disqualified.
Papers must be in APA format (see the //Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association//). This includes:
  • A cover page
  • An abstract, not to exceed 120 words
  • Citations in correct APA format
  • A references page
Students should be aware that essays will be screened for originality.
The Procedure
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 e-mail 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.
The paper must be submitted online through the APA Web site by March 5, 2012.

Rubric (Out of 100 points)

Section I: Describe how people are transformed by experiencing a natural disaster. (20 points)
A good introduction will:
  • Describe the effect a natural disaster can have on an individual, citing at least one peer-reviewed journal article (10 points)
  • Describe some of the short-term and long-term psychological effects on the survivor (10 points)
Section II: Applying principles of psychology to a disaster survivor (60 points)
A good answer will:
  • Define each of the four chosen topics, and then discuss how that topic applies to someone who has survived a natural disaster. Each of the topics discussed will be worth 15 points (60 points total)
Section III: Conclusion (20 points)
A good conclusion will:
  • Summarize how psychological science informs us about human behavior and mental processes in relation to how a natural disaster can affect a survivor (10 points)
  • Explain the importance of applying specific psychological principles to help people who experience similar natural disaster situations (7 points)
  • Briefly discuss the positive role psychological science can play in the recovery process of a natural disaster survivor (3 points)