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What are PSY 390, PSY 391, PSY 392, PSY 492 and PSY 498, and how do I register for them?

PSY 390: Research Experience in Psychology

This is a highly recommended course for all psychology students. PSY 390 involves assisting faculty and graduate students in their research. Student involvement can include the preparation of experiment materials, conducting experiment sessions, scoring data, or any other research-related activity. Students often will be required to read a few articles related to the research, attend lab meetings, or complete a written assignment. Based on departmental guidelines, during the fall or spring semester students are expected to work three hours per week for every credit earned. Thus, students who enroll in a three- credit PSY 390 must work nine hours per week. During the 8-week summer session, however, students are expected to work six hours per week for every credit earned. Therefore, students who enroll in a three-credit summer PSY 390 must work 18 hours per week. Students must complete missed hours if a project begins late, ends early, or experiences interruptions.

The experience gained in PSY 390 can have multiple benefits:

  • helps develop insight about how psychology research is conducted
  • teaches research skills and provides valuable hands-on experience
  • builds a variety of other skills, depending on the project (e.g., analytical, computing, or interpersonal skills)
  • allows evaluation of whether research might be a desired component of a future career
  • makes students more competitive applicants for graduate school in psychology and related areas
  • makes students more competitive candidates for employment in various fields (e.g., marketing, pharmaceutical sales, human resources, etc.)
  • creates contacts for great letters of recommendation (for jobs or graduate school) due to closer contact with a faculty member than is possible in most classroom settings

Lists of PSY 390 opportunities are available each semester at the Undergraduate Advising Office (MTHW 118), on bulletin boards in PRCE and PSYC (e.g., the Psych Club board), and online. Students must contact the faculty members with whom they hope to work and have a registration form signed by the faculty member.

Before signing up for a specific PSY 390 position, make sure that you know what your most common duties will be and with whom you will have close contact. PSY 390 activities vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and the person in charge. Some might involve mostly scoring data and involve little regular contact with the faculty member. Others might involve conducting experiments and meeting with the faculty member very frequently.

Either situation provides useful experience, but the more you know about your duties, the better prepared you will be. For example, if you have contact primarily with a graduate student working in the faculty member’s lab, you might be able to get a letter of recommendation only from the graduate student, and that is not worth as much as the same letter from a faculty member. If you do little but score data, the kinds of things that the faculty member can include in a letter of recommendation will be more limited than if you have done a good job in a greater variety of duties. You might not care about anything other than getting 3 hours of a good grade with no lectures or tests, but if you have other goals, make sure your particular PSY 390 will help you reach them. Faculty are encouraged to provide all this information prior to registering students. If that does not occur, do not be afraid to ask.

Students may take PSY 390 at any time in their studies, but many begin taking PSY 390 in their sophomore year or at the beginning of their junior year. PSY 390 may be taken several times so that you can gain more experience. Some students choose to work with different professors each time to gain more varied experience, while others will stay in the same lab and help with the various phases of one project. You may take 6 hours for graded credit; additional hours may be taken on a Pass/No Pass basis. A PSY 390 can be used toward the major requirements if taken for three credits and a grade and subject to the restrictions listed on the Psychology Major bingo sheet.

PSY 391: Readings in Psychology

In this course, the student does an in-depth study of a topic under the supervision of a faculty member. The student may want to explore thoroughly a topic addressed in a previous course or in a PSY 390 experience, or to explore one not available in regularly offered courses. The student will read extensively in the research literature on the topic, discuss these readings with the faculty member, and complete a written assignment on the readings. This course is an excellent way to develop an idea for research to be carried out as a senior research project (PSY 498).

Six hours may be taken for graded credit, with additional hours taken on a Pass/No Pass basis. Students must contact the faculty member with whom they would like to work and have them sign a registration form obtained from an academic advisor.

PSY 392: Special Topics in Psychology

Faculty often “try out” new courses under the listing of PSY 392. The specific topics offered in PSY 392 courses vary each semester. Each specific topic will have a different title and a letter as a suffix to PSY 392. PSY 392 may be repeated for credit. Students normally do not need special permission to enroll, but some courses will have prerequisites. Watch the Psychology Club bulletin board on the third floor of PRCE and the web for course announcements.

PSY 492: Internship in Psychology

Psychology internships offer students the opportunity to bolster their classroom education with experience in an applied setting. Internships involve performing work related to your area of interest in an outside organization. Rather than focusing on what you know, internships emphasize how you can use that knowledge. Credit-bearing internships also involve an academic component that is supervised by a faculty member. Internships generally last for a semester or summer. You can earn one to three credits, depending on the number of hours you work. However, full-time students are discouraged from working more than 10 hours per week during a regular semester, and no more than two credits will be awarded. All internships must involve specific responsibilities and learning objectives. Internship credit will not be given for experience that is unrelated to your education and career goals.

Psychology students are preparing for careers in a variety of areas such as counseling, education, human resources, law, management, medicine, public relations, and social services. Consequently, a wide range of internships are available. Opportunities exist at corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, hospitals, government agencies, etc. Students should select internships that are consistent with their interests and goals. Many students use their own resources to locate an appropriate internship (e.g., family, newspaper listings, etc.). Alternately, the Department of Psychological Sciences has made arrangements with numerous organizations. Details about these internships are available from the Lead Academic Advisor for Psychology.

If you are planning to attend graduate or professional school, internship experience can strengthen your application. Most programs are highly competitive, so prospective students must have credentials that will set them apart from other candidates. Combined with a strong academic record, an internship in your chosen field can provide a competitive advantage.

If you are planning to go directly into the workforce, an internship can increase your marketability. Previous work experience in your area of interest can boost your chances of finding suitable permanent employment.

To qualify for PSY 492, students must:

  • complete PSY 120, PSY 201, and PSY 203
  • have a graduation index of at least 2.5
  • have a major index of at least 2.5.

Particular internships may impose additional requirements. Students who do not meet the requirements for PSY 492 can still complete internships, but they are not eligible to receive Purdue credit for the experience. In most cases, students must apply for the internships in which they are interested. If you are selected for the position, you must complete an internship registration form and obtain the consent of a faculty sponsor.

For additional information about psychology internships, please contact Dr. Janet Proctor (jproctor@purdue.edu).

PSY 498: Senior Research

This course allows seniors to develop an independent project which serves as a senior thesis. Although a faculty member provides guidance, students develop projects of their own. Quality research can set a student apart from other students and might lead to a publishable article. Prior to registering for PSY 498, most students should have taken PSY 390 (an introduction to research) and PSY 391 (a thorough examination of a specific research topic) and will have developed a specific research idea, all under the direction of the faculty member sponsoring the PSY 498 project. For PSY 498 to impact applications for further education, it should be taken no later than the semester before applications are due (e.g., the fall semester of the senior year).