The “explain” command term in an Short Answer Question requires that you give a detailed account of a psychological concept, theory or model. For example, you might be asked to explain localisation of function from the Biological Approach, a model of memory or thinking from the Cognitive Approach or a cultural norm from the Sociocultural Approach.

To explain a model in psychology, you need to make clear the purpose of the model and  define its key concepts. As models depict dynamic psychological processes, you should explain how information passes through the various parts of the model. For example, you could explain how information passes from the Short Term Memory to the Long Term Memory. Using concrete examples can be an effective way to illustrate the model but avoid personal anecdotes.

You should also use a relevant study to illustrate your explanation. In this way you will be supporting your response with appropriate research. As you know by now, your description of any study you use in your writing must be detailed so that the examiner can understand how the study illustrates your explanation. After outlining the aim, procedure and results, make this link explicit.

When you are asked to explain, the focus on your response should be on the explanation and not the study. One rule of thumb is two-thirds of your answer on the explanation and one-third on the study. When you are asked to describe a study, you should write about one-third on the explanation and two-thirds on the description.


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