Honors Projects

The Honors Program in Psychology allows qualified senior psychology majors to participate in year-long, original empirical research. Working on an honors project with a faculty member is a privilege normally accorded to students with a record of strong performance in the major. Each professor has his or her own criteria for accepting a student for Honors research; students should therefore determine from direct conversation with each faculty member whether they qualify for selection.

An honors project is unusual in many ways.

  1. It spans both semesters of the senior year (Psychology 4050 in the Fall, Psychology 4051 in the Spring).
  2. Each project involves original empirical research on one current topic in psychology, conducted by one student and supervised by one professor.
  3. Each topic is chosen to be of mutual interest to the student and his or her advisor.

Specific procedures and prerequisites for senior honors projects vary among the academic departments. In Psychology:

  1. Any qualified major may approach any professor to explore the possibility of working together on a project. Each professor has his or her own criteria for determining a student's qualification for participation in the Honors Program. These criteria may include performance in the major as demonstrated by grades, performance in the professor's courses, a written proposal for an honors project, or other indications of a student's capability and a well developed research interest. Students should approach each professor they are interested in working with to determine his or her own criteria for selecting a student for Honors research.
  2. The decision to work with any particular student is made by each professor. There is no fixed calendar for these decisions, but they all begin with direct discussions between interested qualified students and appropriate faculty members. Qualified students should contact professors with whom they would like to work during the spring semester of their junior year to begin the discussion process. (Professors who are on leave should be contacted the first week of the Fall semester or prior to that by email). Any contact a student initiates does not guarantee acceptance into the Honors Program.

The specific activities and schedule of an honors project depend on the topic, the advisor, and the interests and resources of the student. However, some common steps are taken by all honors students. Typically, each student meets weekly with his or her advisor throughout the year. In addition, during the Fall term:

  1. All honors candidates and Psychology faculty meet together in September and again in October, to discuss each student's emerging interests.
  2. Each student forms his or her ideas into a formal written research prospectus (proposal), by the end of the Fall term. This prospectus takes the form of the "Introduction" and "Method" sections of a psychological research article, and is distributed to all Department faculty and made available to the honors students.
  3. Then, all honors candidates present their research prospectus to the other honors candidates and the Psychology faculty in the form of a formal oral presentation. The projects are discussed and possible improvements are suggested.
  4. Occasionally, the student, the advisor, or the Department as a whole decide that it is not advisable for the student to continue to pursue honors. In such cases, the project becomes a regular, one-term independent study course that is not considered for Departmental Honors.

During the Spring term, honors projects include the following common steps:

  1. Students arrange facilities, develop materials, recruit participants, collect data, and perform statistical analyses.They then prepare a complete written project report in the form of an APA-style research article.
  2. Then, at the end of the Spring term, all honors candidates present their research (especially its findings and implications} to the other honors candidates and the Psychology faculty in the form of a formal oral presentation.
  3. Projects receive a normal (ABCDF) course grade at the end of the year, which becomes the course grade for both the Psychology 4050 and Psychology 4051 independent study courses.
  4. Projects are evaluated for Departmental Honors that are awarded at Commencement.

In summary, the initiation of honors projects involves conversations between interested, qualified students and individual faculty members. The execution of honors projects involves close collaboration between each student and his or her advisor, supplemented by regular events designed to share the project with the full Department as it develops. The evaluation of honors projects involves the full Department faculty for the determination of Departmental Honors and the supervisor for the determination of the course (4050/4051 grade.

If you are interested in senior honors research next year, take the following steps:

  • Think about topics, areas, issues, theories that interest you. Consider whether they might be feasible areas for a year's dedicated research effort on your part.
  • Converse with appropriate Department faculty to determine if you qualify for honors research according to each professor's compatible with those of particular faculty.
  • In order to have an appropriately sophisticated background in a topic area, students who are considering pursuing honors should elect advanced courses during their junior year.

Recent honors theses include such topics as searching for negative vs. positive aspects of a future career, inferencing during text processing, an investigation into the process by which children differentiate comprehension and memory, children's understanding of truths and falsehoods, and personal problem-solving.