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You are asked to ‘evaluate the usefulness of the Strange Situation procedure to our understanding of attachment.Paper requirements *
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You are asked to ‘evaluate the usefulness of the Strange Situation procedure to our understanding of attachment.

The main difference between the type of essay which you will be writing for this assignment and that which you wrote for TMA 02 lies in what is expected of you. The essay for TMA 02 required you to outline the similarities and differences between two studies. This time you are expected to begin to engage in the more advanced activity of ‘evaluation’. The ability to evaluate material is an important skill, both in academic study and in many occupations. This part of the assignment gives you an opportunity to develop this skill.

Before you start work on your essay, you need to make sure you understand exactly what the question requires. This means identifying and understanding the process and content words.

Process and content words

In this question there is one process word: ‘evaluate’. It is this process word that directs you to more than just describing something. Evaluation involves constructing an argument about the importance and/or implications of the points being made. Further, evaluation requires you to consider arguments both for and against a certain question/claim; for example, in this case, whether the Strange Situation procedure is useful for understanding attachment. As with all academic writing, your points should be supported with evidence and referenced appropriately.

The content words are ‘the usefulness of the Strange Situation procedure for understanding attachment’. This means that the essay has a very specific focus on the work of Mary Ainsworth, which you came across in Chapter 5 of Investigating Psychology, as well as some of the more recent research on animals, which is discussed in Chapter 5 of Investigating Methods.

Relevant material

You will find relevant material in Chapter 5 of Investigating Psychology and Chapter 5 of Investigating Methods. There is a great deal of potentially useful information in these chapters, so you will need to be selective about which points you want to focus on.

Chapter 5 of Investigating Psychology: Section 4.2 introduces the Strange Situation procedure and discusses its development in the early 1970s. Section 4.3 is likely to be especially important, as it contains an evaluation of the use of attachment categories, while Section 4.4 introduces some recent work on attachment in animals. In evaluating the Strange Situation procedure, you may also want to draw on some of the points raised in Section 5 of this chapter, where the notion of flexibility of attachment is discussed.

Chapter 5 of Investigating Methods: Section 3 of this chapter introduces a study by Prato-Previde et al. (2003) which adapted the Strange Situation procedure to examine the relationship between dogs and their owners. As such, this material builds on some of the points raised in Chapter 5, Section 4.4 of Investigating Psychology. Because the focus of Section 3 is on the method (namely coding in observational research) not all of it will be relevant, but you may want to consider Sections 3.1 and 3.5. Also Section 4 provides an alternative way of studying attachment which you might find useful when evaluating the Strange Situation procedure.

You may also find the audio Mary Ainsworth from Week 15 useful as well as the video demonstration of the Strange Situation procedure, which you watched in the same week.

The content words specify that the focus is on the Strange Situation procedure and its usefulness for understanding attachment. However, in showing how or why the Strange Situation procedure is, or is not, useful for understanding attachment, you will probably need to draw on other studies described in Chapter 5 of Investigating Psychology and Chapter 5 of Investigating Methods. However, when mentioning any specific study, avoid lengthy descriptions which will not be directly relevant to the focus of this essay. Rather, you should use any additional material as a way of providing evidence in support of your evaluation of the Strange Situation procedure.

There is a lot of information which you could include, so you will need to be selective in what you choose to include. You cannot cover all of the possible points and you are not expected to. Therefore keep the precise wording of the essay question in mind and focus on selecting those points you consider to be most important and for which you can provide evidence to support your argument.

Below you will find tips for writing your essay, but before you start working on this part of the assignment, you should make sure that you have completed these online activities:

Online Activity 13.2: Constructing an argument. This activity deals with how to present material in an assignment in a logical and coherent way, so that it addresses the question. This is especially important when writing an essay that focuses on evaluation.
Online Activity 18.2: Preparing for TMA 03 (Part 1) takes you through the process of gathering, selecting and evaluating evidence.
Before you begin to plan this essay, it would be good to review the feedback you received from your tutor for your TMA 02 essay, to see if there is any advice about the essay structure/content etc. that you could apply to this essay.


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