Most graduate schools, especially doctoral programs, are research-intensive places. If you are applying to the graduate program at Imaginary University, and you can show that you are capable of carrying out a research project, you have an advantage over another applicant that does not have that experience. Admission to graduate programs is very competitive. There may be 400 applicants for just a few positions! You must start planning now so that you have a competitive edge.
Our department has designed several ways you can get research experience. Of course we require you to take either Experimental (301) or Applied (305). But by themselves, these two courses will not be enough. You must be able to show a graduate school that you have been involved in a research project outside the classroom. This is evidence of motivation beyond what is required by the curriculum.
One way to become involved is to take the Advanced Research in Psychology I and II. This is a two semester sequence in which you propose a research project in an area of your choice in semester one, and then carry out and write up the project in semester two. You must have already taken the statistics and experimental courses to be admitted to this sequence. Students in the Advanced Research class typically present their findings at a local and national meeting.
You could also volunteer to become a research assistant. What your duties might be as a research assistant will vary depending on who you work with. Your faculty are engaged in a variety of projects. Read the faculty interest descriptions to get an idea of these areas. You may find yourself running rats, interviewing senior citizens, observing children, or testing your classmates' memories. It all depends on who you work with and the nature of the research project.
It is up to you to find a faculty member that is doing some research project that you would like to become involved with. Go see faculty. Ask them what research they are doing. Talk to your friends. Find out what is going on. Then go to the faculty member and ask if you can assist with the research. You may have your own idea for a project, or you can simply get on board an existing project.
It is also possible to do research as part of an internship. The internship process is described elsewhere. We have had several students over the years that have taken internships in research agencies.
What you get out of these experiences will depend, of course, on what you put in to them. If you truly become engaged in the process, you will find it one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have as a psychology major. There is nothing like the feeling of gathering data, doing an analysis, and finding that your hypothesis as to the relationship of the student variables was correct. We have had many students present their data at national meetings to psychologists from around the world. Not only is that an honor, it is fun. Secondly, you can present yourself to either an employer or a graduate admissions committee as a person that can think through a question, design a method of answering it, carry it out, and interpret the results. Get involved!
Examples of Student Research
Here are just a few examples of our students' research:
Human error: The principle of skydiving fatalities. Joe Harkins, with Dr. Griffith.
Interpersonal problems and affective experiences with parents. Catherine Beer, with Dr. Sato.
The Eysenck Personality Questionnaire - brief version: A factor analysis and reliability test. Catherine Beer, Lauren Hole, Laura Leady, and Casey Murray, with Dr. Sato.
Gender differences in feedback seeking. Stephanie Ficiak, Jonathan Harkins, and Daniel McGannon, with Dr. Bartoli.
Sports fans impressions of homosexual athletes. Denise Cothren, Ross Rogers, Lindsay Kistler, and Anne Osowski, with Dr. Campbell
Discipline strategies and family structure: Adolescents perceptions and attitudes. Lindsay Hicks, Jess Baxter, and Debbie Wolf, with Dr. Morin.
Continuing studies of unconscious perception: How masking can affect deterction performance. Chris Magaro, with Dr. Haase.
The orienting response in binge-drinking college population. Jonathan Herbert, Brian Traver, and Lucas Watterson, with Dr. Hale.
Vagal tone and binge-drinking in a college population. Eric Szelenyi, Christopher DiVito, Danielle Dougherty, and Julia Hubbard, with Dr. Hale.
Permission to use human subjects
If you intend to do research that involves using human subjects, you will need to complete and submit a form asking permission to do so. You can get the form from the Psychology Department, or download in in PDF form by clicking here.