Departmental Honors FAQ

Departmental Honors Frequently Asked Questions

What should I be doing before my senior year?

In the first two years, students are encouraged to explore different topics in psychology through taking courses, talking to other students, and talking to faculty members.. You can learn more about faculty members’ research interests by visiting their websites or asking in the Psychology Office (100 PSYC) for a listing of faculty research interests. You are especially encouraged to begin independent study research with faculty members who share common interests. PSY 177 or 277 are ways to earn course credit for this research experience. During the junior year, you should focus on a particular area you would like to pursue for your honors thesis. Students typically meet with the most success when their thesis ideas stem from ongoing engagement in a lab or research group (for example, PSY 377). During the fall semester, you should identify a general thesis topic and a faculty advisor. By Dec 8th, complete the application for Departmental Honors. You can earn course credit for independent study in PSY 377. Many students also benefit by conducting independent research in the summer through the Undergraduate Summer Scholars program. 

How do I find a faculty advisor?

Visit faculty websites or consult the list of faculty research interests available in the Psychology Office (100 PSYC). Ideally, this process of becoming involved in research will occur in the first or sophomore year or early in the junior year, so that you can have some experience working closely with a faculty member before you embark on an honors thesis. Read some of the faculty member’s recent publications, talk to current graduate students, and formulate your own ideas roughly before meeting with the faculty member. When you meet with the faculty member to discuss your research ideas, be sure to communicate your goals for the project and how you see the project as fitting in with his or her area of expertise. If the faculty member feels that he or she won’t be able to serve as your advisor, ask for recommendations of other faculty who might be able to advise.

What is the PSY 400 class? Do I need to take PSY 400 in my junior year?

The PSY 400 class will provide more in-depth instruction about topics relevant to advanced study in psychology, including research methods and design, critical thinking, and scientific writing. We will also discuss professional issues relevant to senior psychology majors, such as applying to graduate school or attending professional conferences. Honors thesis students are encouraged but not required to take PSY 400 in their junior year (it is only offered in the spring semester). The course will provide a structure to facilitate your progress on your thesis (e.g., designing your study, filing an IRB application, writing a proposal). In addition, the course will provide a community of other students who are also completing theses, applying for graduate school, etc., which can be an important source of support! Students have been very enthusiastic about the course and how it has helped them progress on their thesis projects. 

My GPA is below 3.25. Can I still complete the honors sequence?

If either your major or overall GPA is very close to the requirement of 3.25, we will first delay a decision until fall semester grades are reported. If, after this point, your GPA is close to 3.25, you can petition to have this requirement waived. You should apply as normal, and if your GPA does not meet the requirement, your faculty mentor will be asked to send a letter of support to the Coordinator of the Honors Sequence. This petition is reviewed by at least two faculty in Psychology. In addition, please keep in mind that there are other opportunities to conduct a senior thesis outside of the honors sequence. Our goal always is to facilitate high-quality research experiences for motivated and talented students! 

I am planning on graduating in December. Can I still conduct an honors thesis?

It is possible to graduate in December with departmental honors. If you plan to do so, you will have to work closely with your faculty advisor and the Coordinator of the Honors Sequence to ensure the requirements for the thesis are met during the Fall semester. 

Do I need to be a University Honors student?

Students do not need to be affiliated with University Honors, although University Honors students may apply for Departmental Honors.

More Questions? Contact Dr. Heather Claypool