Course Syllabus

Psychology 101: Introduction to Psychology
Syllabus #1534
5 credits

James M. Orr, Jr., Ph.D.

Full Course Syllabus: Psy 101 syl 1534.doc



Psychology is the scientific study of human behavior.  Human behavior has been studied and talked about since the times of Plato and beyond, but it is only recently that the strict methods of science have been applied to behavior.  Psychologists seek to describe behavior in ways that lead to understanding and predicting the occurrence of that behavior.  Often it is also the goal of the psychologist to change or control behavior.

This beginning course is a survey of the many ways in which psychologists are working today.  The growing body of knowledge of human behavior is essentially the collected personal findings of the world's psychologists as they explore their chosen specialty area within the much broader field of psychology.  This course can only present a broad overview of the field of psychology, yet can certainly lay the basic foundation for anyone's understanding of human behavior.

This is a prerequisite course for almost every psychology course.  It is a broad survey of the field of psychology and an examination of psychological processes through the utilization of findings by researchers throughout the world and across time. 

This course will cover all the material presented in the text.  This is felt to be appropriate for two reasons: 

  1. Most Independent Learning students are not limited to completing their work within the academic quarter, and 

  2. The extra work is seen as partially compensating for not receiving the 40-50 hours of lecture that on-campus courses offer.


By completing this course of study the student will:

  • Become familiar with the terms and definitions in common use within the field of psychology.
  • Gain an understanding of the methods of inquiry used by psychologists to gather information about human behavior.
  • Be introduced to methods of self-perception and growth that may continue to influence his/her personality for many years to come.
  • Come to know that knowledge of human behavior is a source of personal power in one's own life. 


Psychology In Action, 12th edition

Print ISBN: 978-1-119-36464-1
eText ISBN: 978-1-119-39483-9

© 2018     Published by Wiley

The textbook may be obtained online through the WWU Bookstore eBook Options search VitalSource.  Always be sure you are purchasing the correct edition of the book for this syllabus. 

This book may also be purchased in an e-book for 2/3 the price at

A self-help book of the student's choosing.  Books on a variety of self-help topics are available.  Visit your local bookstore to see current popular books.  Many books will be available in your local library or a used bookstore. 


This course is set up so that student work is assigned a point value.   Points are used to determine the final course grade and are earned in the following activities:  

  • Students complete homework assignments on each chapter in the assigned text. 
  • Students write a book report on a “self-help” or popular Psychology book of their choosing. 
  • Students read and report on a professional journal article. 
  • There is no final exam.


Maximum points possible for each assignment are as follows: 

1.    Book report – 2-4 pages - 30 points possible

2.    Journal (research) article - 10 points possible

3.    Chapter assignments - 10 points possible for each of 16 chapters, 160 points possible.

Assignments are graded on organization of thought and completeness of answer.  Each question is worth 1 point.  Half credit is given for answers that are close, but in some way incomplete.  Most questions are adequately answered with one paragraph, double-spaced responses.

Total Possible Points:  200

Grades will be awarded according to the following scheme:

  180-200   A
  160-179   B
  140-159   C
  120-139   D
  119 or less   F

Students taking the course pass/fail must have a cumulative total of 120 points (D) in order to pass.


The assignments on the following pages are arranged by chapter.  They are one of the ways I will know if you are understanding the material presented in the text. 

The critical evaluation of your assignments assumes college level writing ability, including proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  The questions encourage original thinking and both inductive and deductive reasoning.  My comments are meant to guide you to a more thorough understanding of the material.  I also want to encourage you when you seem to be doing a good job of grasping the information. 

These questions are to be answered after you have read the chapter, unless you incorporate them into a list of questions you formulate.  To attempt to read the questions and work with the chapter material only for the sake of answering these questions is a weakening of your chance to really learn the material. 

I suggest the following method for covering the material presented in each chapter:

  1. SCAN.  Briefly look at the entire chapter.  See what it is about.  Look at the bold headings, the graphs, and the pictures.
  2. QUESTION.  Formulate questions in your mind that you expect the chapter to answer.  Use your SCAN of the chapter and the bold-printed words at the end of the chapter to make up questions.  Write them down.  It would be here that you include questions from the following pages.
  3. READ.  Now take the time to read the chapter, stopping to answer your questions.  Write your answers down.
  4. RECITE.  You have seen, you have written, now SAY what you are learning
  5. REVIEW.  Repetition helps learning 

The material presented in this course is directly applicable to your life and the lives of those around you.  It is worth learning well.

Turning in assignments

As I am sure you know, you have up to six months to complete this course unless you have other deadlines, in which case you must finish by the end of the quarter of registration.  I suggest you set a good pace for yourself to allow for timely completion.

I suggest you turn in only one chapter assignment at the beginning, to learn how I evaluate your work.  Thereafter you may submit more than one assignment at a time for grading.  When answering, personalize your answer wherever possible; relating it to your life and your experience.  If you are unsure that you are correctly doing the assignment, you may want to submit the first one by itself.  After that it is much easier bookkeeping if assignments come in 3 or 4 or more at a time.  You may always e-mail me if you have any questions. 


You do not have to submit assignments in any particular order. 

BOOK REPORT (Self-help book of your choosing): 

There are many self-help and popular press books written by authors wanting to educate and enlighten the general public and those who are dealing with abnormal behaviors or psychological conditions such as phobias, fears, schizophrenia, depression, etc.  There are also many how to books on reducing stress, parenting, relationships, social skills, etc.  These books are usually based on information the author has gathered from reading professional journals and doing investigative reporting into the subject.  They are the medium by which the general public is most exposed to the world of psychology.  While you are studying the science of psychology, I want to expose you to the information and media most accessed by the general public.  I believe both good and poor books can teach you something (and I hope you choose a good book!)  For this assignment, choose a book dealing with one of the topics mentioned or covered in the text.  The following are examples of classic, good self-help books:

Driven to Distraction (attention deficit disorder) by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey

A Time to Heal (adult children of alcoholics) by Timmen Cermak

Overcoming Binge Eating by Christopher Fairburn

Living Without Depression and Manic Depression by Mary Ellen Copeland

The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne

The Courage to Heal (childhood sexual abuse) by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

How to Quit Smoking by Martin Katahn

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin De Becker

The Good Death: The New American Search to Reshape the End of Life by Marilyn Webb

Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women by Deborah Blum

Awakening at Midlife: A Guide to Reviving Your Spirits, Recreating Your Life and Returning to Your Truest Self by Kathleen Brehony

The Road Less Traveled - A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck

Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel by Candace Pert

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher

Older and Wiser: How to Maintain Peak Mental Ability for as Long as You Live byRichard Restak 

This assignment is an opportunity to learn how to evaluate these general circulation self help books and to give you a reference point for selecting the most meritorious works available.  The book report will be a focused narrative of your reaction to the book and should seek to answer the following questions: 

What audience was the author trying to reach?

What research/information/sources did the author use to write this book?

Do the author’s conclusions differ from or support the information presented in the text?

How did the author’s presentation affect your opinion of the book?

Would you recommend this book? To whom? 

Use quotes and main ideas from the book to underscore your points.  Book reports will be typed and double-spaced.  Cover page will show title, author, publisher and publication date.

These papers will be returned to you, as will all other assignments.  REMEMBER TO KEEP A COPY OF EVERYTHING YOU SEND IN. 


Professional journals are where psychologists publish their research findings.  These articles are usually either reviews of all research on a given topic or research on some new aspect of human behavior.  Articles in these journals normally include sections on background/history of the problem (review of other journal articles), the author’s methods for approaching the problem/question, the results (and the statistical analysis can make this difficult to understand – don’t worry about it!), and conclusion and discussion sections.  You do not need to understand everything to do a good job on your report.  

Visit a college library and ask the reference librarian for help in locating the journals.  Look for an article that deals with some aspect of the topics presented in your text.  You may even want to read a journal article cited by the author; they are listed in the back of the book.

Focus on what the authors were studying, how they approached it, what they found, what they had to say of their findings and your comments.  Relate the article to what was presented in the text.  Submit for grading a 1-2 page (typed) reaction paper and attach it to a copy of the article.  Some possible journals are, among others: 

The American Journal of Psychology

American Journal of Community Psychology

Health Psychology

International Journal of Psychology

Journal of Applied Social Psychology

Journal of Abnormal Psychology

Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis

Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology

Journal of Community Psychology

Journal of Experimental Psychology

Journal of Personality

Journal of Human Stress

Journal of Genetic Psychology

Journal of Childhood Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Discipline

Journal of Clinical Psychology

Journal of Behavioral Medicine

Journal of Abnormal Psychology

British Journal of Clinical Psychology

Aggression and Antisocial Behavior in Childhood and Adolescence

Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 


ALWAYS make a copy of your work BEFORE submitting it.  If lessons are lost, it is far easier to resubmit a copy than to rewrite an entire assignment.  All assignments must be completed in order to receive credit for the course.  Under no circumstances may you submit all, or even most, lessons at one time. 

Time Considerations (a message from the Western Online office)  -  Organize your time so that you spread the work out over 10 to 12 weeks, just like a regular academic quarter.  Treat your Self-paced course as the serious learning experience that it is.  True learning takes time:  time for reading, time for processing new information, time for reflection.  When students get into trouble in a Self-paced course it is most often when they try to rush through a large part of the work at the end of the quarter or right before their own deadline. 

Holidays, Intersessions, and Summer Session - When the University is closed for scheduled holidays and between quarters, delay in return of assignments and examinations must be expected.  In addition, some faculty members are off campus during the summer months and delays may be unavoidable.  The Western Online office will inform students of instructor absences, but it is important for students not to wait until close to a deadline to submit work.


Your questions and discussion are welcome.  You can always write a note to me on your lessons and I will respond.  I also check my e-mail ( daily and will reply promptly. 



Course Summary:

Date Details Due