Research Opportunities for Psychology Students

Independent study and research

Independent study (PSH 499, 599 and 699) offers undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to do psychological research. For undergraduate students, most independent study assignments involve working in faculty laboratories assisting with faculty and/or graduate student research. In this context, students acquire experience in a variety of research activities, including the design and construction of experiments and research stimuli, the gathering of data from research participants (human or animal), the analysis of data, and even the writing of formal research reports for publication or presentation at scientific conferences (students sometimes even earn the privilege of being included as co-authors on such efforts).

In special cases, undergraduate students are permitted to conduct research projects of their own design, with the careful supervision of a faculty member. This is often true in those cases where students are doing honors theses, but the opportunity is not limited to honors students.

Nor is independent study limited to laboratory work. Some students use independent study as a means for studying in depth some topic that is not covered in formal courses, but in which the student has a particular interest. For example, a student might want to learn more about hypnosis or about tactile perception among the visually disabled. We do not offer course work on these topics, but they could be explored via independent study.

In all cases, if you want to do independent study, the first thing you should do is find a faculty member who is doing the kind of research you are interested in or is willing to supervise your research or reading in your topic of interest. If a faculty member is willing to assist you, or to have you work in their laboratory, they will help you enroll formally in independent study. Incidentally, you do not have to be a psychology major or minor to take advantage of independent study in psychology. All you need is to find a psychology faculty member who is willing to supervise your work.

The following are some examples of the kinds of research projects in which undergraduate and graduate students have been involved recently:

  • Studying the effect of capitalization on work-family enrichment
  • Research on the impact of team interactions on motivation and performance
  • Computational modeling of associative learning
  • Research on stereotype threat and math performance
  • Reviewing the literature on flextime in the workplace
  • Research on minority students’ sense of belonging and academic success
  • Using eye tracking to study the role of attention in associative learning
  • Measuring changes in pupil diameter during expectation of emotional images
  • Studying the validity of the concept of social intelligence; and examining the emotions of awe and elevation.
  • Research on factors that impact reactions to pride displays by marginalized groups
  • Research on the impact of bullying on individuals with visual impairments
  • Studying the effect of negative text on reading comprehension
  • Research on impulsivity in children
  • Examining the effects of television on exercise
  • Evaluation of self-management procedures to increase students’ pro-environmental behaviors
  • Using technology to teach parents behavioral strategies to increase desirable behaviors with their children with autism

Master’s thesis

An important way in which graduate students in psychology gain research experience is by doing a formal master’s thesis. For specific requirements and details regarding this option, graduate students should consult their graduate study materials and the Coordinator of Graduate Studies.

Research participation and SONA

Frequently, faculty and graduate students who are doing research advertise for people who would be interested as serving as participants in that research. In many cases, undergraduate students can earn credit in certain courses (usually PSH 110) by participating in such projects. Such opportunities generally are advertised on SONA, which is a website that manages recruitment and scheduling of participants and awarding of credit to participants. If you are enrolled in PSH 110, please check the SONA website. Additional information about SONA and the research participation assignment can be found in the research participation document in your PSH 110 syllabus. If you have any questions or concerns about SONA or the research participation assignment, please email If you have any questions or concerns about the research studies that you completed, please contact the participant pool coordinator (Jim Witnauer, or the IRB administrator at For more information, please read the documentation about SONA policies and procedures in PSH 110. These projects are wonderful opportunities to acquire an insider’s view of research in psychology, so be sure to look for them.