A Personal Essay + Research Paper = Experiment #3

My experiment #3 may sound a little unconventional… but I want to combine two genres (is this allowed?). My Genre X for experiment 3 will look partially like a psychological research paper, but also including some personal experience. Since my origin piece was already a personal narrative, I don’t want to repeat what I’ve already done. Instead, I want to build on my own personal experience with complicated sibling relationships with some backup from the world of Psychology.

As a psych major, I’m already interested in everything about social relationships: how they develop, change, manifest in distinct personality types and distinct situations. So, I’d like to do a little psychoanalysis of my own relationship with my two brothers. I’ve noticed with my last two experiments that I have too many unanswered questions. With this next experiment, I want to actually begin answering the question: why are sibling relationships the way they are?

After experiment 2, it is clear that I can’t answer a question this extensive merely with my own personal stories, I need to do some real content research. I think by combining forces with psychology, I will be able to create a much more well-rounded piece, that will also perfectly combine my interests of psychology and writing.

As far as defining these two genres, I’ve discovered a few things. According to UW Madison’s writing center to begin content research for an essay I should:


  • Try to find a topic that truly interests you
  • Try writing your way to a topic
  • Talk with your course instructor and classmates about your topic
  • Pose your topic as a question to be answered or a problem to be solved


You will need to look at the following types of sources:

  • library catalog, periodical indexes, bibliographies, suggestions from your instructor
  • primary vs. secondary sources
  • journals, books, other documents


The following systems will help keep you organized:

  • a system for noting sources on bibliography cards
  • a system for organizing material according to its relative importance
  • a system for taking notes

Well, step 1 is complete. I have the topic that interests me, but I will definitely be using these pointers to begin content research for my paper.

On the other hand, I looked at some characteristics of personal essays. According to ThoughtCo, there are 6 simple steps to writing the perfect personal essay…

  1. Find Inspiration and Ideas (CHECK!)
  2. Understand the composition of the essay (intro, body, conclusion… yeah, yeah tell me something I don’t know)
  3. Use appropriate voice of essay and verbs (I’m not sure I need a grammar lesson but voice will definitely be important..)
  4. Be consistent with point of view and tense (but how consistent???)
  5. Use your own vocabulary (that’s a given)
  6. Edit, Edit, Edit (yep!)

In order to combine these two different genres, I plan on maintaining my voice in the essay and incorporating personal anecdotes to establish why I’m writing this and why anyone should care. However, I will also be including some outside research, so that the reader can learn something from reading my piece. I can’t tell you why sibling relationships are the way they are, but me, myself, and a little help from psychology can certainly try.