Drawing on at least two social psychology theories, critically evaluate your chosen theories on their ability to explain how an individual’s social identity is formed

“Drawing on at least two social psychology theories, critically evaluate your chosen theories on their ability to explain how an individual’s social identity is formed. When critically evaluating the theories and / or explanations you should refer to the methodological issues involved and alternative explanations given by them to explain the same phenomenon. You should also reflect on the historical and contemporary contexts of these two theories.”
o The question requires you to choose at least two theories. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your ability to demonstrate your grasp of the current research literature and in doing so, you should decide whether to demonstrate your depth of critical evaluation of 2-3 theories or your breadth of knowledge of 3+ theories. Whilst you have a generous word count, you still want to consider the overall structure of your assignment (more about structure to follow). Ask yourself, will I be able to write about 2-3 theories really well, or 3+ theories just ok? How much depth can I cover in more than 3 theories? Having chosen your theories, read, re-read and read them thoroughly to get a good understanding of the extent to which they can explain how an individual forms their social identity; what do they explain? What do they omit from their explanations? How do the two-three theories compare with each other?
o The question asks you to critically evaluate your chosen theories. Essentially, critical evaluation is about how well you construct and make your arguments and the extent to which you provide evidence (from your wider reading and appropriately selected journal articles) to support your arguments. This will require you not be merely descriptive about the theories, but to rather assess the value of the information provided by the theories (and your wider reading) regarding their ability to explain how an individual forms their social identity. You will develop your arguments by looking at multiple sources from your wider reading, comparing and contrasting the information to formulate your arguments. What do the journal articles tell you about the theories with reference to the assignment question? Do they support your arguments? Do they tell you something different? So, what precisely is an argument? It is essentially “a series of premises supported by evidence leading to a conclusion that convinces the reader of a point of view”. Please attend the next critical thinking skills workshop, taken place on Wednesday 10th June at 15:00 UK time (details are in the News & FAQs forum). If you cannot attend, don’t worry as a recording and slides will be made available following the workshop.
o The question also requires you to focus on methodological issues and any alternative explanations relevant to the assignment question. This gives you an opportunity to consider the methodology and research design that was used by either those who developed the theories and / or the researchers that subsequently studied the theories (further to your wider reading of appropriate journal articles). Are the theories and/or subsequent studies more qualitative or quantitative in nature? Do they adopt a cross-sectional or longitudinal approach? Are they from a more individualistic/western Anglo-America perspective? Do they account for cross-cultural differences? Do they provide any alternative explanations for the same phenomenon? How do they consider ethical issues?
o Also, consider the historical and contemporary contexts of these two-three theories; were there any particular develops within the field of social psychology that took place at the time that the theories emerged? What schools of thought within social psychology preceded the emergence of the theories? Do the theories stand up to scrutiny within our contemporary context? How has our world changed (or not) that might impact how an individual forms their social identity? What insights does your wider reading of the social psychology research literature tell you? Whenever you are developing your arguments, refer to the existing research literature to support your arguments.
• Structure – think about how you will structure your assignment, i.e., how will you present the sequential flow of your developing arguments, connecting from one paragraph to another so that your document makes sense to you and the reader? I have attached a structure technique (the PEEL technique), just in case anyone has any difficulties or is getting back into their qualitative writing after a period of academic absence. There should a clear and concise introduction, presenting your work and stating how you intend to answer the assignment question (what theories you will include, etc.); this is followed by the main body of your assignment and the conclusion, summarising and reaffirming the main themes and arguments of your assignment
• Construct your assignment essay on the evidence you can find to support your arguments regarding the ability of your chosen theories to explain how an individual forms their social identity; answering the assignment question is more crucial that picking a theme to which you will then fit the theory
• As simple as it sounds, allow enough time to check your grammar, spelling, formatting and use of language. Avoid colloquial and informal language.
• Towards the end of the assignment brief, you will find the assessment criteria. Don’t hesitate to use this as a guide so that you understand what is required within each marking band and what you need to do to achieve a pass, merit and distinction. You’ll notice that the higher marking bands refer to “independence of thought”. It is perfectly acceptable for you to demonstrate originality and your own thoughts; when doing so make sure that you refer back to the assignment question and use your wider reading as evidence for your arguments. Your opinions will come through your writing within the evidence-based arguments that you make; that’s how you get your voice and independent thoughts through your academic writing.
• Whilst it is a preference within the school to focus your research on articles that are no older than 10 years, this is not a hard and fast rule. As with everything that you do, it is more so a question of balance; newer references will enable you to demonstrate the progression of the research, particularly if you are referring to theories that were initially published in the 1980s or earlier. Try as much as you can to use newer references, but as with everything you do, argue and validate your rationale and reasoning for all the references that you use.

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