Thesis Opportunities | Department of Psychology

Thesis Opportunities

psychology Thesis (PSYC 4950)

As a psychology major, you may conduct a research project under the direction of a faculty member through a senior thesis program. This program is aimed to help students wanting to enter a doctoral program in psychology. Our undergraduate students have published research in major psychology journals and have won undergraduate research competitions for their work on their thesis project.

What is a Thesis?

A Psychology Thesis, Psychology 4950, is designed to give undergraduate students their first experience with conducting their own research project in the field of psychology similar to what can be anticipated at their graduate level. It is recommended that before signing up to complete a Thesis, students have an idea of a research topic of interest and and have contacted a faculty member who will act as their mentor.

*Students should begin working with a faculty member at the beginning of their junior year or preferably earlier if possible.*

Minimum Requirements to Apply

Time Commitment for Completing the Psychology Thesis

Engaging in the Thesis project requires a large amount of time, effort and a strong commitment. The typical length to complete a thesis can vary due to the complexity of the research topic and a students' course load. However, on average, the project takes about a year to complete after the student has selected a faculty mentor and chosen an acceptable research project to complete. Typically, student should anticipate spending approximately 8‐10 hours per week on the project. Keep in mind that this is just the average amount of time which will vary considerably depending on in which stage the project is and the various activities involved in the project.

Role of the Faculty Mentor

The primary function of the mentor will be to assist the student with the research project. The mentor will assist the student in formulating a research project, analyzing the data, writing up the results, and writing the Thesis proposal. The mentor will also serve as the chair of the student's thesis committee and selecting faculty members to serve on the committee to which the student will present their project. Another important role of the mentor is that they will get to know the student in a professional and personal manner and may be an important person to ask to write a letter of recommendation for graduate school admittance.

How to Select a Mentor

1. Student should decide on a general topic that they would like to study.

  • A search of the literature on the topic may assist a student in understanding more about the research done in that area to provide students ideas for their thesis.

2. Seek out a faculty member to act as their mentor.

  • The undergraduate advising office has a list of current faculty members and their research interests, which may be helpful in deciding who to approach and ask to advise the Thesis.
  • Students can also visit the Faculty Page to read about faculty research interests​
  • Often times students will ask their professors they have for a class to act as their mentor whose research and interpersonal style are congruent with the student's.

3. If the student experiences difficulties in finding a mentor he or she may seek out suggestions or guidance from an undergraduate advisor. Although advisors are not responsible for finding a mentor for the student, they may offer advice on how to approach and ask a faculty member.

What to Expect When Preparing to Present Your Thesis

1. Students are required to initially present their ideas for a research project to a panel or committee of experts. This presentation is called a "Thesis Proposal."

  • This panel is usually composed of 2 or 3 faculty members in that student's department. Oftentimes, but not always, the student will request a faculty member from another field or department to sit on this committee. Some reasons for this is that a member from another department may have skills which other members of the panel may not (e.g., extensive statistical background) or have a different perspective on that person's research interests.

2. Once the project is completed, the student normally presents their findings to that same panel again. This is referred to as the "Thesis Defense."

  • At this time, the panel's responsibility is to evaluate the quality of the project and make recommendations for ways to improve the study if not approved.

3. The final step is to write a manuscript, adhering to the current APA style. The manuscript must be a minimum length of 15 double spaced pages, including the (1) title page, (2) literature review, (3) results section, (4) discussion section, and (5) references. The normal length of the manuscript is usually 15‐30 pages.

Is a Thesis Necessary to Get Into Graduate School?

No. In fact, many students from the university and other schools are admitted into a graduate program in psychology who have not completed a Thesis. Many doctoral level programs in psychology, especially those offering the Ph.D., prefer students who are interested in and have had some experience with research. Therefore the chances of being admitted into a graduate program in psychology may be higher if a student has completed an independent research project like an Honors Thesis. It is also possible to obtain research experience by working on ongoing research projects in the department, but approval must be received from the appropriate professor conducting the research.

How does PSYC 4950 psychology differ from psyc 4951 honors college capstone thesis?

The PSYC 4950 Psychology Thesis is strictly for the Psychology Department. Students majoring in a B.S. Psychology Degree are NOT enrolled in the Honors College. Instead, students usually enroll in PSYC 4950 if they want to complete a thesis to help them be more competitive for graduate school, law school, or medical school. Thus, a Psychology Thesis must be completed according to the guidelines within the Department of Psychology.

However, the PSYC 4951 Honors College Capstone Thesis is strictly with the Honors College. A student must be enrolled in the Honors College to complete it. A student who has a BS with a Major in Psychology with membership in the Honors College must complete a thesis according to the guidelines within the Honors College. Visit the Honors College Website to learn more about joining the honors program.