Honors in Psychology

WHAT IS HONORS?

The honors program is designed to provide qualified and interested students with an opportunity to engage in independent study and research under faculty supervision. As described below, the honors program involves a sequence of three semesters, typically beginning in the spring of the junior year (upon occasion, qualified sophomores are admitted).

The honors program offers several benefits to participants. First, it offers advanced students the opportunity to develop their skills in a number of areas: reading and understanding psychological research; writing literature reviews and research reports; and designing, conducting, and analyzing original research studies. The emphasis is on the development of high-level research, analytical, and methodological skills through direct involvement in the research process.

Second, students in the honors program work one-on-one with a faculty advisor as they design and conduct their own research studies. Students find this valuable, both as an educational experience and as a way of getting to know faculty members personally.

Third, participation in the honors program is a plus for students who are interested in going to graduate or professional school. Admissions officers and corporate representatives report that they are impressed by honors students because the department thought enough of them to select them into the program, the student was motivated enough to carry out a high-level independent project, and honors students acquire a wealth of knowledge and skills that are useful in a number of contexts. Further, faculty advisors are good people for letters of recommendation because they know the student well.

GETTING INTO HONORS

Junior psychology majors who are interested in being considered for honors may apply to the honors program late in the fall semester. Application forms may be obtained in the Psychology Department Office. After fall semester grades are recorded, the faculty review the applications and select a maximum of 10-15 qualified students into the
program.

The primary criteria for invitation are grades and expressed interest in research. The grade requirement for graduating with honors is 3.2 overall and 3.5 in psychology. In general, all students who have or can achieve the required grade point averages in their last three semesters are eligible to apply. Because PSY 311 is a prerequisite for honors, only students who have taken 311 are considered. (Sophomores who have completed PSY 311 are also eligible to apply.)

Participation in the departmental honors program is not restricted to those who plan to pursue graduate training in Psychology. Many students who have gone to medical school, law school, MBA school, or who have gone into the business world have participated in the program and have reported that the experience was valuable. Students learn to formulate questions, to pursue answers to those questions independently, and to experience the excitement of discovery.

PSYCHOLOGY 381: SPRING (JUNIOR) HONORS SEMINAR

This seminar is normally taken by juniors in the spring semester following PSY 311. The seminar requires writing a literature review and a research proposal. These are distributed to members of the class and discussed by the class. The course grade is based on the quality of the written papers, the student’s knowledge of his or her paper as indicated by the ability to answer questions and discuss the papers with the group, and contributions to class discussion on other students’ papers.

Students are introduced to ongoing faculty research by having faculty members discuss their work in class. Each student is then assigned to work with a faculty member in formulating the final honors research project. This assignment is made on the basis of joint faculty-student interests. A proposal for the project is completed, with input from the faculty advisor, so that the project may begin in the fall of the student’s senior year.

PSYCHOLOGY 383: FALL (SENIOR) HONORS SEMINAR

This seminar is taken during the fall semester of the senior year, following completion of PSY 311, 312, and 381.

The course focuses on expanding student’s knowledge of research design and statistics as well as having students carry out their own research projects. Texts and handouts are used to teach advanced research design and statistics. Students are expected to learn when certain analyses are appropriate and the assumptions of the analyses. Students are responsible for presenting course material to the class. A weekly lab for most of the semester gives students an opportunity to practice new statistics on the computer.

SPRING (SENIOR) HONORS Colloquium

During the spring semester of the senior year, honors students complete their projects. At the conclusion of their research, students make brief oral presentations about their research to the faculty and others at a special honors student colloquium. A written, journal-style paper is given to the faculty advisor. If the student’s research and participation in honors program are approved by the faculty, the student is recommended for graduation with honors in psychology.

To obtain honors, a student must take both honors seminars and complete the independent research project. If a student completed the Junior Honors Seminar (PSY 381), but does not complete the program, the seminar simply carries elective credit.