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Research Focused Honors

The Department of Psychological Sciences has a research focused honors program for students interested in developing their independent research skills beyond what is currently required for majors. Their work is highlighted at the annual Undergraduate Research Conference. This year's Conference was held on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in the East PMU Faculty Lounge from 11:00 a.m to 1:00 p.m.

Description of the Program

Q: What is the goal of the program?

A: The program is designed to provide independent research opportunities to exceptional undergraduates who have a strong interest in research. For more information about the program, watch this InfoSession video.

Q: What is the deadline for the program?

A: The deadline for submitting your application is Saturday, November 15, 2014.

Q: What does participation in this program consist of in terms of courses and credit hours?

A: The program consists of 12 hours of coursework across three semesters. A combination of seminars (PSY 404 and PSY 405) are paired with independent study courses (PSY 391H and PSY 498H) beginning the spring semester of a student’s junior year and continuing into the spring of the senior year. The credit hour load is lightest (2 hours) during the last semester of the senior year. The seminars will provide a structured learning experience to help students further develop research skills learned in PSY 201 and PSY 203. Students must have passed PSY 203 in order to be eligible to apply to the program. The independent study portion (PSY 391H and PSY 498H) allows students to apply these skills as they develop and conduct a research study under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Your academic advisor has more detailed information about these courses and when they should be taken.

Q: Can I satisfy my other requirements and still participate in this program?

A: Yes; the program was developed with an awareness of other requirements for the major. In fact, it is not necessary to even be a psychology major as long as the specific prerequisites are met.

Q: What makes it an “honors” program?

A: What makes it an honors program is the GPA eligibility requirement (3.5 in psychology and overall GPA of 3.0 or higher) as well as the level of academic rigor that is required.

Q: What will the final product of my efforts be?

A: Students will complete a bachelor’s thesis and will showcase their research in a departmental poster session at which time an award (Hadley Award) will be presented to the student with the best research as judged by the undergraduate committee. The poster session will be open to all students who do an independent study, thus eligibility for the Hadley Award will not be restricted to those in this program. Students who complete this program and who continue to satisfy the GPA requirement through the fall of their senior year will be given a certificate signed by the Head designating that they have received “Distinction in Research Psychology.”

Benefits & Challenges

Q: What can I expect to learn from participating in this program?

A: Students can expect to learn more about how to do psychological research. Doing an independent study is a unique opportunity to see how all of the “pieces” of the research puzzle fit together.

Q: Will participation in this program help me get into graduate school?

A: It will definitely help, and more importantly, it will help prepare you for doing research once you are in graduate school. Most graduate programs view independent study experiences very favorably when evaluating applicants. The fact that it is an honors program with GPA requirements will also help. In addition, because many research skills generalize across topic areas, the specific research topic you choose is not as important as is the research itself.

Q: If I don’t want to go to graduate school, could this program still be of value to me?

A: Absolutely! Research skills are valuable for almost any job where you will be expected to think critically and write clearly. Data analytic skills are also extremely valuable for many types of jobs. In fact, what often distinguishes psychology majors from those in other majors is their knowledge of statistical and methodological techniques.

Q: What is the hardest part of this program?

A: Because students vary in their strengths and interests, each may be challenged by a different aspect of the program. Many people find research difficult because it requires a great deal of focused commitment to a narrow topic. Conducting research also provides another set of challenges as it does not always go smoothly. Equipment malfunctions, research participants do not show up, and one’s data may be just uncooperative. Those who are able to maintain persistence despite these challenges have the best odds of enjoying and learning from this experience. This is not intended to dissuade you, but to encourage you to think about your interests, strengths, and goals before enrolling.

Preparing for the Program

Q: How can I know whether this is something I want to do?

A: Your experiences in PSY 390, 201, and 203 will give you some indication about what various parts of the research are like; however, statistics and methodology courses focus on helping you learn the basics and do not give one the opportunity to see the “big picture.” Similarly, PSY 390 experience often gives students a glimpse of only part of the research process (often some of the more routine and monotonous parts). If you want to see how all of these pieces fit together while doing a project from beginning to end, then this program may be for you. Another question to ask yourself is whether you enjoy digging into a topic until you become an expert on it. Doing research requires this. If, on the other hand, you prefer learning a little bit about a lot of different things, you may be bored by the thought of studying one thing for any length of time. This is a very important thing to know about oneself as it is essential to be able to sustain commitment to this project over three semesters.

Q: What should I do now so that I have this option available to me when I am a junior?

A: Students do not need to do anything radically different than what is currently suggested for majors: 1) follow the suggested course planning provided by your academic advisor so that you have met the course prerequisites, 2) become involved in PSY 390 to begin your involvement in research, and 3) do your very best in your courses so that you have not only the GPA to get into the program (3.5 in psychology and overall GPA of 3.0 or higher), but also the skills and knowledge that will prepare you.

Q: What are the eligibility requirements?

A: Eligible students must meet these prerequisites by the end of the Fall 2014 semester: a) Junior standing; b) Credit for PSY 12000, PSY 20100, and PSY 20300 (grades of B- or higher in the latter two courses are preferred); c) Credit for two other 3-credit PSY courses (excluding PSY 39000 or PSY 39100); d) Psychology index of at least 3.5; e) Graduation index of at least 3.0; f) PSY 39000 experience (not required, but highly recommended).

Q: How do I go about finding a faculty member to serve as my advisor?

A: This is something that you must lay the groundwork for well in advance. Begin by spending some time before your junior year (the sooner the better) learning about the research being conducted by each faculty member in the department. Most faculty include on their homepage a few references to guide you to their published research (much of which is in the psychology library in various journals). While you are doing this background research, learn about PSY 390 opportunities that are available and explore these. It is also important to be a conscientious and committed research assistant when enrolled in PSY 390.

Q: What faculty members are willing and available to supervise an honors student?

Note: This list will be updated periodically. Check out the 390 listings for additional faculty mentors.

Q: Where do I find an application?

A: Right here!

Q: What if I can’t find a faculty member doing research on the topic I want to study?

A: While personal interest should play a part in a student’s decision to do research, it is better to consider many potential topics to maximize the chances of finding a faculty advisor. It is also a good idea to consider your interests when selecting your first PSY 390 experience. In any given semester some faculty will have commitments to other students or they may have responsibilities that prohibit them from taking a student. For this reason it is wise to find out whether this faculty member would be willing and available to supervise an honors student. Ultimately, the decision to collaborate should be a mutual one that is rewarding to both parties.

Related Questions

Q: If I don’t want to participate in this program can I still be involved in research (PSY 390) and independent student courses (PSY 391, PSY 498)?

A: Yes; every option that is currently available to students will still be available. All options that are currently available for students and faculty to work together will still be available. This program merely provides a more structured and advanced option.

Q: Whom can I contact if I want more information about this program?

A: Professor Susan Swithers is currently serving as the program director. Professor Margo Monteith will be teaching the seminar portion of the program and she can be reached at mmonteit@purdue.edu or 49-69461. Your academic advisor can also answer some of your questions and help you with course planning and preparation so that participation in this program fits in with your other courses.