Many Psychology majors supplement their coursework with research experience. “Research experience” usually means working on research projects conducted by faculty and graduate students, performing tasks ranging from participating in discussions with faculty and graduate students to testing subjects, designing surveys, or coding data. This provides an opportunity to get to know faculty members and graduate students on a one-to-one basis, and to see the science of psychology in operation. Usually, students earn Research Projects (PSYCH 494) credits for participating in research. Not only can this experience enhance your understanding of the field of Psychology, it can have some other practical benefits:
- Up to 3.0 credits of PSYCH 494 or PSYCH 496 may count toward the required 12 credits of 400-level psychology courses. Any credits taken beyond this will count toward your electives (up to 12 credits total). Research experiences and independent studies enhance your transcript by demonstrating involvement outside the classroom.
- Working on research with a professor gives that professor an opportunity to get to know you well enough to write an effective letter of recommendation.
- Working on research or studying a specific topic in depth can help you decide whether a particular field of psychology is a good career choice for you.
So, how do I get started?
The best way to start is to identify professors whose research seems interesting to you, and ask them if there are opportunities to work on that research. Check the Faculty Research Interests , then start visiting those faculty members to talk about their research. The best time is usually the last few weeks before the semester in which you’d like to do a Research Project. Some current opportunities are listed on the Psychology web site. Searching faculty interests is also the first steps in identifying a professor to work with on an Independent Study (PSYCH 496).
Does the research have to be in my main area of interest?
Well, of course it helps to be interested in the research. But, any research experience can be beneficial both in enhancing your education and in preparing you for graduate school. So, don’t limit yourself to only clinical research, or only biological research, or (well, you get the idea).
Can I earn money instead of credit for helping with research?
Sometimes. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but if you’re looking for a paid job, be sure to make that clear when you talk to faculty. In general, paid research jobs are only available to students who have a work-study award as part of their financial aid.
Note: You may not receive both pay and credit. If you receive credit, tuition is charged like any other credits earned.