Student Research in Psychology

Participation in research is an important component of Eastern’s Psychology Program.

PSY 401 Research (optional)

Students have opportunities to work on research with a faculty mentor and sign up for credit as PSY 401 (variable credits).  Typically, a student will spend about 3 hours per week during the term for each credit of research in PSY 401.  Students should consult individual faculty members to discuss opportunities for this type of research experience.

Psychology capstone requirement

Students also will have opportunities to conduct supervised research as part of their capstone requirement (PSY 461, Experimental Psychology, which has a prerequisite of PSY 460), or to conduct independent research while completing an optional honors thesis (PSY 403, Honors Thesis).

There are two possible options for the capstone.  One option involves the capstone course ( PSY 461 for on-campus students or PSY 441 for online students).  Each capstone course has a prerequisite course (PSY 460 on campus and PSY 440 online). The other option, which has a GPA prerequisite, is PSY 403, Honors Thesis.  This research is typically completed on campus over the course of a year.

  1. PSY 461 or PSY 441, Capstone courses:  Most students will complete their capstone requirement by enrolling in a prerequisite course and then a capstone course. In these courses, students will work individually or in pairs to devise and complete a research project and to present the completed project as a poster session at the end of the term.  These courses are graded and offered in the fall (prerequisite) and winter (capstone) terms (on campus) or winter (prerequisite) and spring (capstone) terms (online).  Students who have transfer courses that might satisfy the prerequisite course should check with their Psychology adviser.
  2. PSY  403, Honors Thesis:  Some students may request to enroll in Psy 403, Honors Thesis, as their capstone, if both of the following conditions are met: a) The student has a GPA of at least 3.33 in coursework in Psychology at the beginning of his/her senior year. b) The student has approval from an adviser who is a member of the Psychology faculty.  Note: The Honors thesis adviser does not have to be the same person as the student’s academic advisor.

Psychology 403, Honor Thesis, requires a significant individual research accomplishment by the student. These projects involve an extensive literature review demonstrating a command of previous, related research. The methodology employed should also represent a novel approach to a research problem, not merely a replication of prior work. Students completing an Honors Thesis are expected to work independently, but closely under the supervision of at least one on campus research advisor. The project should be viewed as a collaboration with faculty to ensure that the literature review is complete and accurate, that the mthods are carefully thought out, and that the results are appropriately analyzed and interpreted. Students completing an Honors Thesis are expected to write a full-length journal-style paper, submit their results to the EOU Science Journal, and should consider submitting a poster for a national or regional conference.  Honors Thesis students must also defend their research thesis in a presentation to the psychology faculty.
It is expected that students will work on their thesis project for more than one term. The options for this include (a) enrolling in PSY 403 for one term and then carrying a grade of “X” over until the project is finished, or (b) enrolling in PSY 401 Research for the first term, or terms, and then enrolling in PSY 403 during the term the project will be completed. Students should meet frequently with their advisor to ensure they are meeting deadlines and faculty expectations.

Frequently asked Questions:

  1. Can a student sign up for both PSY 461 and PSY 441?  No.
  2. Can a student sign up for both the capstone course (461 or 441) and an Honors Thesis (PSY 403)?
    If a student meets the GPA requirement for PSY 403, has the approval of a thesis adviser, and has a project in mind, he/she should probably take PSY 403 instead of PSY 461 and its prerequisite course.  If a student wants to enroll in PSY 461 and count it toward the upper-level requirements for the major, and then enroll in PSY 403, that  student should discuss the situation with their Honors thesis adviser.  The main concern is that the Honors Thesis project cannot be exactly the same research that was done for credit in PSY 461. Adding a follow-up study, increasing the sample size, or looking at new measures are some possible ways to connect the 461 project to the 403 thesis.
  3. Where do I get ideas for a PSY 403 research project?
    Finding ideas for a research project can be difficult. We suggest that if you are interested in completing an honors thesis that you begin discussing your ideas and options with a psychology faculty member immediately.  Often faculty have ongoing research projects that students can get involved with. In other cases faculty may have interesting suggestions or the outcome of a discussion may lead to interesting projects.
  4. What if I don’t complete my honors thesis before I graduate and leave campus?
    The faculty strongly discourage this! Projects that are not completed before a student leaves campus are rarely completed.  Remember it is the student’s responsibility to communicate with their faculty research advisor frequently to prevent this.  If the research credits are needed for graduation, they must be completed before commencement.
  5. What if my research project doesn’t turn out as expected?
    Not all research projects work out.  If the project was carefully planned, carefully executed, and completed it may still be used for your honors thesis.  In these cases we may not choose to submit it to the Eastern Science Journal.
  6. Can I use human or animal subjects in my research project?
    Yes.  However, all research using human subjects must be approved. Research involving animal subjects must be pre-approved by Dr. Ettinger.  If animals subjects are needed, you need to discuss this with your advisor early to ensure that animal subjects are available for your project.
  7. What is involved in defending my honors thesis?     Your thesis defense is a presentation of your thesis to the psychology faculty.  Faculty will often have questions about methodology, data analysis, and the significance of your research.  Be prepared to discuss these issues completely.